Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
- A condition where you are eager to spend as much time assisting the Franciscan Brothers in their vocation and ministry.
- A condition that forces you to spend much of your free time with the Franciscan Brothers.
- A brown malaise comes over you.
- Your kids whine & weep when they can't go to morning Mass
- You catch yourself making a meal and think 'how could I stretch this for 15 or 20 men?'
- Brown is the new black.
- Shivering, getting into your car you think about men with a thin wool cloak and thank God for your warmth.
- The knees of your jeans start to wear through (AND YOU'RE AN ADULT!) it's from kneeling on wood floors
- Every time you see the snow you think of men walking in open-toed sandals and socks.
- Saturday night youth group is as much of a social time for you as a parent as it is for your kids.
- You're struggling and striving and WORKING to develop more of a relationship with Mary before and after the consecration.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I love the color (beige -- it goes with any mood) and the texture (not at all rough, but not completely smooth) and the weight of this cup. I love the prayer ("Oro et laboro" = "Pray and work" by St. Benedict). That's to say nothing of the steaming, strengthening liquid inside! I LOOOOOVE coffee mugs!! I used to buy myself a new one every school year. It made me too sad when the kids broke them, so I quit buying cool mugs. This was a gift from my friend, Ursula!
Monday, November 29, 2010
We have instituted some new traditions in our household over the last few years in regards to Advent and Christmas that I'd like to share with you.
First, we have changed our thinking about Advent. It used to be a fun time preparing for Christmas with parties, gift buying and wrapping, cookie and goodie making, decorating the house, etc. Now we look upon Advent as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ. In some respects, this is a rather solemn time for us. We don't party or do any of the things mentioned above. We don't sing Christmas carols (though we do sing Advent hymns). No decorating the house, except for an Advent calendar and wreath (and some lights). Each day we try to do some simple, yet out-of-the-ordinary special spiritual preparation as a family (usually connected with Advent wreath lightings or readings or our Advent calendar). I have all the "Christmas" shopping (and wrapping) done well before Advent. We (most of our family) do not go into stores from Thanksgiving on to avoid the secular thrust of Christmas. We have Dad or one of the oldest kids (who can drive) do grocery shopping and/or stop and pick up anything else we might need, and we try to limit those trips to as few as possible. During Advent we tend to stay home much more. We keep meals quite simple and plain (except Sundays).
Our Advent calendar consists of a felt banner about 6' long with glued on felt houses for days Dec. 1 through Dec. 23. These houses follow (line) a winding path towards the church for Dec. 24th. Each family member (including babies in utero) are represented by a felt person; and each day the family is moved up a house closer. (The babies we have lost through miscarriage are represented by stars up by the church- i.e. with Jesus. The family members who have moved out and/or are married are also represented. So was the dog one year!)
We decorate the house with dozens of strings of light, on St.Lucia Day, Dec. 13. (Traditionally, the eldest daughter in the house serves coffee cake made early that morning in bed to her family whilst wearing a braided wreath made of bread dough and studded with lighted candles on her head! Needless to say, we adapt this a bit and use a wreath of bread with candles -on the table- and have that and coffee cake - a once a year treat in our house- for breakfast.) St. Lucia is the patron saint of light.
We have a tradition of making "Advent Stars". Each child gets a large plain heavy cardboard star (12"?- you can buy these at stores) of a different color. Each day during Advent, they can earn "decorations" to adorn their starts with as a gift to Jesus on Christmas Eve. Points are listed on a chart -so many points for each act of charity (the longer and harder the act of charity, the more points it is worth), for doing your job or schoolwork well, for extra prayers said and so forth. Points are kept track of on a clipboard for each child (sometimes Mom records them, sometimes the kids are on the honor system). Every other day or so, a big production is made out of redeeming your points for the decorations. These include glitter, colored ribbons, stars, stickers, bells, pipe cleaners, all sorts of craft things. The "nicer" the "decoration" the more points it costs. The children decorate their starts, aiming for a beautiful gift for Baby Jesus. This really motivates them to do those things. Though this may take some effort the first year, after that it is easy. I have a small box with all the decorations for their stars in it, so that takes but 5 minutes every other night to "sell". The glue, etc. is also all right there. We even use the same starts two years in a row (other side). These are hung up in the house during Advent to remind everyone to prepare yourself (your star) now. Adults can do this also. We make a little ceremony about presenting these to Jesus Christmas Eve- they are placed over the manger at this time.
Anticipation builds as we head towards Christmas Eve.
Dad and some of the kids go out on Christmas Eve Day (sometimes the 23rd) to get our tree. (More than once we got it for nothing, as they sometimes have an abundance of surplus trees, some very nice. One year he came home with about a dozen trees we propped up all over the yard!) We set up the tree and decorate it. We have a very primitive, non-rehearsed Nativity play. Jesus is placed in the manger. We have a simple humble evening meal, and end with Midnight Mass. No presents that day or evening. No extended family gatherings. Just our family trying to reflect and celebrate the awesome mystery of Christ's birth.
And then Christmas Morning! Some fancy, but prepared ahead breakfast, like frozen mini-quiches that can be popped into the oven quickly and easily. This is the beginning of the glorious Twelve Days of Christmas. I have previously picked out one present for each family member that is a "nice" one, particularly enjoyable. These are opened Christmas morning. All other presents (from relatives, family members, etc.) have been wrapped and numbered. I have throughout the year purchased many close-out items at a significant discount or other inexpensive gifts (yet not junk) like coloring books, crayons, markers; the Sorrel boots I picked up on clearance for $25 last spring, the Mickey Mouse underwear that was $2 for a three-pack; balls, etc. Anything big or small has been wrapped and numbered. We end up with a BIG pile of presents (hidden way up high in a closet). Remember, though, many of these items are inexpensive or clothing or other necessary items we would have gotten throughout the year anyhow- we just save them all up for Christmas. Or grocery items I don't usually buy like "Crunch and Munch" or Pop-tarts. We divide the number of presents by 11 (except the Christmas Day presents because that's one of the 12 days,) and then put numbered slips into a jar. Each day we open that many presents. For example, if we have 45 presents (not counting the Christmas Day ones) we'll open 4 a day and 5 on the last day. These are randomly drawn from the jar. One person may not get a present for 2-3 days in a row. Many of the gifts are family gifts. Each morning, everyone is eager to rise, eat breakfast, pray, and pick the presents. The whole twelve days is time of rejoicing. The house has been cleaned and spruced up during our preparation period of Advent, so for the next 12 days, housework is minimal. No schoolwork. Every day we have a very special meal or treat. Often we make ethnic foods. Dad tries to take a bit of extra time off. We just spend this time celebrating and enjoying each other. Often we have friends over (like every other day sometimes). We invite a family over and each person decorates a small gingerbread house and we have a village of houses (usually including a church). We invite another family over and make popcorn balls, another and the girls make fancy h'or dourves.
Our celebration generally begins to wind down with an Epiphany party on Epiphany Sunday, to which we invite all the Catholic families we know who would like it (this means LOTS of people and children and LOTS of fun and LOTS of good food). Sometimes we go a few days longer until the actual historical Epiphany, and we keep Christmas in mind until Candlemas Day (Feb. 2). So, while everyone else (except the church) is long done with Christmas, we are still pondering the Christmas mysteries.
Anyway, these ideas help us to keep Christ in Christmas and to remove ourselves somewhat from the secular aspects of it that seem so prevalent in our world today.
May God bless you and your family,
Yours in Christ,Kathy
GTH & BYB: Get to Heaven and bring your Brother
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Meditating on who God is asking me to become, I reflect on motherhood. Christ's mother is my example and from her this is what I am grateful for...
I am thankful for all the people who have helped me become this person God has molded me into today ... my sister, Sara Arnold / my sister Laura Arnold / my mom / my dad / my step-dad / my grandparents / my aunts and uncles / my cousins like Amy Gaerte / my husband / my children and all the people who helped along the path
I am thankful for all my friends who are sisters in Christ to me. These are women I would pour out my heart to. They are Mary to my Elizabeth and I pray that I would be such a blessing to them, in return. There are too many to mention, but I pray for God's blessings on Kerri / Cari/ Katie Elder / Stacy Gill / Patrice / Nancy Bequette / Kathy Fean / Ursula Rost / Tomara Kern /and many others
I am thankful for everyone who has served me ... my priests, The Franciscan Brothers Minor, Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, the checkout lady, the lady at Tom's Doughnuts, the man at the gas station, the person who lets me go ahead in line, my librarians, the workers who are out in the weather so I can have what I need. Most importantly my husband, Dave MacDonald, whose gift of service requires tremendous patience and whom I suffer a consistent lack of gratitude about.
I am thankful for all the soldiers who have died for our beautiful country. I am thankful for all the civil servants who try their best to serve with good will and the common good in mind. May God grant them His wisdom. May God bless me with obedience -- even though that feels yucky, sometimes.
I sorrowfully pray for those who are in the midst of torture that the Holy Spirit would comfort them; people whose family members are dying, parents who have lost their children to drugs, evil, abduction, death; children who have lost their parents to selfishness, war, death; those who are in the middle of violent situations like war, domestic abuse, gangs or abortion. I am thankful of all those who try to keep me from torture; policemen, firemen, medics, doctors, nurses, safety inspectors.
Thank you, thank you, thank you God, for giving me Christ's mother as my own at the cross (John 19: 25-27) and I pray to inherit her spirit of gratitude to You, Lord, for what You do and who You are to me.
Friday, November 12, 2010
I just made Daddy's fish tank BLUE!Running into the family room, I found the 55 gal. tank full of bright blue water. It looked like the blue of toilet water. I called Dave who rushed home from work to do a 50% water change. 2 days later, the fish are still living.
Daddy was quite less excited than his 3 year old son.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Saturday, November 06, 2010
My oldest son's first time serving at Mass. My beautiful blond boy looked sooooo cute serving at Mass on Saturday, I couldn't even pay attention to the Mass. My eyes were FIXED on how ADORABLE he was and how WONDERERFUL it all was to have him so reverent and do such a good job. I almost cried!
THANK YOU, Brother Leo and Brother Lawrence for all your time and effort in teaching them!
Friday, November 05, 2010
Me (on the phone)
Hold on, I think I hear the sound of pretzels being thrown against the chandelier.
My friend who has 1 girl and 1 infant boy (on the phone)
WAIT! You KNOW what the sound of pretzels being thrown against the chandelier sounds like?
You will, too, someday.
Friday, October 29, 2010
I'm slowly replacing my more cultural Christmas decorations with religious ones. I'd like to have these ornaments on a lighted garland on my stairway railing, so I'd like them all to "coordinate."
- I honestly don't care what material each person decides to make theirs of : glitter gold, glitter silver, glitter any color, white, muted colors, hues of blue and purple, fabric, wood-looking...whatever.
- I think the shape can be ovals for the O's. Hobby Lobby online has 3x5 wood oval plaques for 50 cents each and a bag of screw eye hangers for $1.50 (it's 36/bag).
Background information on the O Antiphons
printable coloring pages
meanings, verses & music of O Antiphons
a series of podcasts with reflections on each of the O Antiphons
PDF of O Antiphons Booklet Advent O Antiphons.pdf- if you tell your printer ("Print" "Properties" "Finishing") to print on both sides of the paper (click the box "print on both sides manually") then it will print in booklet form.
Other options you can do for your own family :
Monday, October 25, 2010
I went with the non-creative, but standard wording...
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
Hey, diddle, diddle!
We can tell by Sara’s middle,
Baby Henry is coming soon;
You can bring them gifts
At the shower, an hour after noon.
We made a tent card with the nursery rhyme that goes with each dish
- Sandwiches : Roast Beef Roll-ups w/ toothpicks - This Little Piggy
- Salad : Em's Casa Salad - Contrary Mary's Garden
- Cheesy Potato Soup - The Winds
- Hot Beef Dip & Crackers - Over the Water
- Veggie Tray - Peter Rabbit's Garden
- Fruit Tray - Curly-Locks
- Chocolate Covered Strawberries - Curly-Locks
- Emma's Cookie Basket - A Tisket A Tasket
- Pumpkin Pound Cake - Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater
- Kate's Cake was based on this cake - Twinkle Twinkle
- Em's Cake was based on this cake - Mother Goose
- Apple Cider - An Apple A Day
- Tea - Polly Put the Kettle On
- Coffee - Coffee and Tea
- lots of fresh spring water in a decorated bucket from Jack and Jill
- cheese tray that also has cheese curds for Little Miss Muffet's Curds and Whey or 3 blind Mice
- deviled eggs Humpty Dumpty
- Pat-a-cakes cupcakes
- Little Boy Blueberry muffins
- muffins for the Muffin Man
- Low fat trifle for Georgie Porgie’s pudding
- Little Gingerbread Men
- Avacado Boats - put sails in them and make guacamole
- An apple a day Sends the doctor away Apple in the morning Doctor's warning Roast apple at night Starves the doctor outright Eat an apple going to bed Knock the doctor on the head Three each day, seven days a week Ruddy apple, ruddy cheek
- Nuts -
- Hot beef dip =
- Ice cream, a penny a lump! The more you eat, the more you jump. Eeper, Weeper, Chimney sweeper, Married a wife and could not keep her. Married another, Did not love her, Up the chimney he did shove her!
- figurines : little boy -- Little Boy Blue / Girl - Mary Contrary / bath toys puppy, cat, cow - Hey diddle, diddle / pigs -- boys need to build a house of sticks / sheep --
- popsicle stick house & fence w/ paper pigs
- hanging from chandelier: cow jumping over the moon paper - bath toys cat w/ paper fiddle taped on / plastic spoon & construction paper dish holding hands (chenille sticks) / dog
- Create a Hickory Dickory Dock centerpiece using a clock and a toy mouse
- Use children's books opened to various nursery rhymes to decorate tables around the party space & Bear reading - http://baby.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Storybook_Baby_Shower have all books w/stuffed animals
- Peter Rabbit
- Put prints into cheap frames and spread around room or tape onto walls
- Create a 'goose nest' for guests to deposit baby shower gifts
- decorate your shower venue with nursery decorations.
- One table could have a black sheep (for Ba Ba Black Sheep)
- If you or someone you know has one of those big, white, garden geese statues handy, tie a bonnet or a large hat to the statue's head to create your very own Mother Goose
- Wooly Sheep ornaments, then use as party favors
- – We list 20 short phrases included in popular nursery rhymes. You may think it’s easy to fill in the rest of the rhyme along with the title, but we’ve found a few that are pretty challenging. Don’t worry, we also provide an ans wer key!
- Nursery Rhyme Jeopardy
- Mad Libs story about the guest of honor I wrote based on this one.
- Meanings of Rhymes
(we didn't end up using these...but some ideas on the theme I collected)
- star-themed book marks (twinkle, twinkle / star light, star bright / when you wish upon a)
- $20/4 Nursery glassware
- Individually wrap hot cross buns or muffins in pastel cellophane and tie with a contrasting ribbon. Attach a computer generated thank you note bearing an image of Mo ther Goose. Write the name of the nursery rhyme that the favor represents on the card and a thank you for the Mom to Be. Let her hand out the favors when the party is over.
- bulbs or plants from Contrary Mary’s garden
- miniature pie from Sing a Song of Sixpence
- beeswax candle – Jack Be Nimble
- copy a quote from your favorite nursery rhyme and have it printed on coffee mugs, or potholders for everyone
- Personalized candles in baby food jars
- "Polly Put the Kettle On" tea bags or “I’m a Little Teapot”
I just HAVE to show what my friend, Jackie, made for my sister.
jaclyn at simplyelegantfw.com
I was so glad she had the gumption (and skill) I didn't so i could give my sister some beautiful things all from Jackie's hands. Everything was soo well made! I absolutely LOVED the blanket and the wipes cover that matches her diaper bag was so sweet!
Friday, October 08, 2010
Homeschool Connections Online has recorded courses. (Click on the link and at the top of the page click the tab "Courses", then scan down to "Subscription to Online Catholic Courses". Scroll down past the paypal buttons to read the FAQs, How To, & available courses.)
I knew they were a great resource -- many are taught by college professors and Ph.D.s -- especially once we tried their 7 days for $1 deal. (Follow the instructions above and click on the paypal "Subscribe" button.) During our 7 day trial, Dd#1 chose a literature class on Tolkein and did the week's worth of homework and all the recorded class each day for the week. I gave her a quarter's worth of high school credit for her intensive week and we were HOOKED! Once you subscribe to their recorded courses, you have access to any and all courses that were previously taught live through Homeschool Connections Online.
Her live teacher through Homeschool Connections Online, Alicia Rollings, has been sooo patient with Dd#1 and genuinely encouraging. Maureen Whitman, who started Homeschool Connections Online has been helpful when I messed up our computer and had to find a substitute. Everyone's been great to work with. When I was looking to put Dd#1 in a Latin class this year, it was $500 - $650 for classes in town and those online. Homeschool Connections has been GREAT for the cost (~$360/year) and the learning that's going on has been excellent.
It's $30 per month for their recorded courses. So for the cost of one course, we can have access for a year's worth of unlimited learning. ($30/month * 10 months = $300)
We've already chosen all our classes for her 9th grade year, so I was looking for next year. Since we knew the recorded courses were excellent learning opportunities and a great cost, I just had to figure out how we'd use them. I made the spreadsheet below to help me sort it all out in my brain. (Am I the only mom out there who thinks better with a spreadsheet??) It's hard to see online, but if you download or print it, you can see what recorded classes I think would fit with our school plan for Dd#1. There's not a grade level on the recorded classes (just "high school" or "middle school"), so your child may do them in a completely different order than we will. The grey classes are live classes this year, 2010-2011, so they'll be available as recorded classes at the end of 1st or 2nd semester this school year. I'm not sure how many we'll end up using -- but I KNOW we'll do some (many?) of the recorded classes.
Homeschool Connections recorded classes allow me to teach as much or little as I deem prudent while giving her the well-rounded education we're striving for. It's also REALLY reassuring to know we've got a resource that will be academically challenging, interesting, is easy for all of us AND is SUPER INEXPENSIVE!!
Home School Connections
"Mama, what temperature do I cook tomato soup on?"Me
"O.K. Thanks" -- swish, swish, swishMe thinking to myself...that sound seems familar...
..."WAIT! You can't cook at the stove with ROLLERSKATES on!!"
Sunday, October 03, 2010
...not freaking out when your 2 year old wants to kiss and cuddle and breathes on you while he has a bad cold knowing you're probably going to catch his cold.
...picking him up and holding him even though he just threw a fit in church and he doesn't feel so adorable right now.
...letting your 8 year old snuggle with you in bed even though he didn't clean his room the 3 times you reminded him and you're still pretty miffed at him.
...admiring his artwork that you really don't care about that moment, just because HE cares about it.
...letting your 10 year old have an extra 20 minutes of a computer math game even though he tends to obsess about computer games because he has to have room to practice SELF-discipline.
...letting him try and struggle to read in front of a group of people because he thinks he can do it and you don't want to tell him otherwise.
...listening to your 12 year old's story of what happened at youth group even though your head hurts after catching the 2 year old's cold.
...pushing through the tears and yelling and being patient and encouraging while she discovers what you already knew -- she really IS capable of doing hard school.
...including your 14 year old in the talk you're having with your friend because she wants to feel like she's growing up.
...hosting a high school literature class for all your daughter's friends, even though it's her strongest subject and she doesn't need the help and it's costing you many hours of extra study to prepare it just because she loves it so much.
...feeling stretched in everyway but Tuesday because each of the kids have a different passion and enjoy different activities, but the desires of each child is just as important as the others.
...ironing the kids' clothes for Mass week after week so your husband doesn't have to.
...doing all the mom stuff you don't want to like meal planning, sorting clothes for the season change, cleaning the house for the 3rd time that day.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
I'd been feeling like the boys haven't gotten the fun out school that I was able to invest in the girls. This year another family hopped in with our lesson plans for Religion, History, Science & Literature on almost every grade level. We're meeting once a week to do group activities. It was really important that the kids not just have fun, but are genuinely progressing in their studies on that day. I have been sooo pleased with how well it's going. Between us we have 1 toddler (who really gets in the way, but enjoys the variety), 3 elementary boys, 2 jr. highers, and 2 high school (for Lit & Sci.)
We're using RC History's lessons combined with SOTW for history and Great Adventure for Religion. My friend is in charge of science using RS4K Biology for 1 semester and various human body books for 2nd semester. She's also doing Bible while I do Ancient Literature with the big girls and history for the rest of the kids.
The history lessons rival the Prairie Parties we had monthly for the girls when they were young while we read the Little House on the Prairie series throughout the year. Those were fun! (Weren't they, Jennie?)
I have to say...these are even better. It's somewhere between goup lessons and parties each week (for the kids, not necessarily the moms.)
Week 1 we discussed Creation. Week 2 we were sick and didn't meet for history, but the girls Skyped for literature. Week 3 we covered the agricultural revolution, moving away from a nomadic culture and it's implications and Hammurabi's laws. Week 4 - Whoa : I did a lesson about the plagues of Egypt and how they each cooresponded to an Eyptian god. Then, we made oragami frogs. Then, after they understood all the concepts we threw tiny ripped pieces of black paper at each other for flies, hopped origami frogs everywhere, threw rice at teach other for lice, red silly string for hail & fire...they seemed to enjoy their Bible/History lesson.
How am I going to match the fun of silly string for Week 5?????
Monday, August 30, 2010
I've been thinking of my "Bucket List," lately.
I don't know the people in the picture, it's just a kewl picture.
- (My friend Stacy cured me of wanting to jump out of an airplane)
- I'd like to learn to be a better kisser
- I'd like reassurance that my kids will be ok (I know, trust in God. That's faith, I want assurance -- this is MY list, yours can have anything you'd like.)
- I'd like to loose 8 sizes (I'm a women's 20 and I'd like to be a 12.)
- I'd like to make out on a beach (do you see a theme, here?)
- I'd like to write a "How To" book for my kids to read (how to love, how to live...)
- I definitely WANT to become a saint (I don't need canonization, just the reality of heaven.)
- I think I might want to have another baby, but it's up to God (and Dave) and I'm not really sure I even want to but I might want to and the idea of another little girl sounds sooo sweeeet and all my girlfriends have been telling me all the things I made them swear they'd tell me during my last pregnancy for when I wanted another baby.
- I'd like to go para-sailing
- I'd like to learn to like cooking
- I'd like to get more energy
- Well, for that matter I'd like to learn to like cleaning, but really I have no desire to clean, EVER
- I'd like to end abortion and have world peace, but I'm thinking those may not happen in my lifetime
Some of these seem in conflict (skinny, clean house & more energy vs. another baby) Just random thoughts...
What does your list look like?
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Doesn't that sound nice? Academic and high schoolish. One problem. I can't read it. I mean...I CAN sound out the words and put meaning to the words. But all of it together...nope. (It doesn't help when I set aside 1 hour of reading time and I counted 13 child-interruptions in that hour before I gave up. That's 13 times they CAME to me to interrupt me. That doesn't count the thumps, bumps and cries from the other room they didn't bring to me but I heard regardless.)
We just started. Right now, we're struggling through the Iliad. Dd#1, having been immersed in a Classical Education for the previous 8 years is doing the best. I am doing the worst.
Here are my HELPS TO TEACH THE ILIAD :
- Heroes of the City of Man: A Christian Guide to Select Ancient Literature, Peter J. Leithart - although this isn't a Catholic work, this is a FANTASTIC christian author who makes reading pagan authors much more palatable by his world view. Rather than encouraging his young readers to divorce themselves from their Christianity in reading these B.C. authors, he helps students read with an understanding of a lack of Christ in these characters. This purchase will help us with Homer's Iliad, Odyssey & Virgil's Aeneid. It also contains information for reading Theogony, Eumenides by Aeschylus, Oedipus Tyrannus by Sophocles, The Bacchae by Euripides, and Clouds by Aristophanes.
- A Companion to The Iliad by Malcolm M. Willcock - This is keyed to Lattimore's translation, which is closer to the Greek. My library had a copy of this. It's all the footnotes that you wish were in the Iliad to explain places, literary references, cross-references, character information, historical perspective, etc.
- Iliad of Homer, translated by *Lattimore - It seems funny to use the book itself as a help to read the book. It's because Lattimore's introduction, while fairly boring, gives INVALUABLE help to read the book. Thematic, character and historical summaries as well as where the book fits in the literature cycle of the Trojan war...this was a BIG help and I've been referring back to the introduction over and over again as I read/teach.
*Another option would be read Fagles translation of the Iliad. It isn't as academic, but gives a good feel of the story. In the end, digesting and enjoying what is read is more important than having an erudite experience that was lifeless. Homer meant for his audience to enjoy his stories and Fagle allows you to be swept away in the story!