Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together




I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together" by Carol Burnett is just as witty and funny as her television show. I was actually lol at one point reading it and the kids asked what I was reading.
" A book by Carol Burnett."
"Who?!"
"I'm so glad we had this time together..." and I sweetly sang them the song, complete with ear tug at the end (o.k. admittedly my voice cracked at the "and before ya know it"  part, but still.

They looked at me with their mouths hanging open. Not because I broke into song. I do that more often than you might think. But because I acted like the song should be somehow meaningful. And it was. To me.

See, we seriously need NetFlicks cause then I could bring old re-runs of The Carol Burnett show  into our home and we could all laugh together at the antics of Tim and Harvey and Eunice and Momma. That didn't really work when I showed them old Steve Martin King Tut routines on YouTube but then that was 80's humor. They just stared at me as I lol with their mouths hanging open asking, "Why is this funny?!"
Carol's humor was more decidedly 70's. And honestly, I don't mind laughing last, or alone. So, yea, we need NetFlicks. I just haven't convinced Viking Man of the need yet. I think I should approach it from an educational pov, like, say, we could stream NOVA. Working out a strategy here....

It's a fun and satisfying read but a true blue funny lady who is just as warm in print as on the small screen.

The God Who Is There

I finally finished The God Who Is There by Schaeffer. His 99th birthday, btw is today. You can read about it at George Grant's blog here.   This book has provided a lot of food for thought and taken me a couple of weeks to get through.  Schaeffer is called "the Great Prophet of our age" (Colson) and has clearly distinguished himself as one of the great 20th century Christian apologists. Reading his book there is little wonder why. Not only does he have a firm grasp on his own doctrine, theology and belief system, but he has a brilliant ability to understand other's, a sociologists understanding of culture and an uncanny ability to weave it all together.
Schaeffer asserts that  Christians must resist the spirit of the world "in the form it takes in his own generation." Otherwise he becomes a useless museum piece and not a living warrior for Jesus Christ." Young people are being brought up in Christian homes within an old framework, but they are being confronted and subjected to a modern framework. Perhaps this explains the youth of the church fleeing from it's shelter.



The book is divided in to 6 very powerful and packed sections:
1: The Intellectual & Culture Climate of the 2nd half of the 20th Century
2:The Relationship of the New Theology to the Intellectual Climate
3: How Historic Christianity Differs from the New Theology
4: Speaking Historic Christianity into the 20th Century Climate
5: Pre-evangelism is No Soft Option
6: Personal & Corporate Living into the 20th Century Climate

Schaeffer bases his apologetics on the following presupposition: that there really are such things as absolutes. "Because they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though people might have disagreed as to what these were, nevertheless they could reason together on the classical basis of antithesis. They took it for granted that if anything was true, the opposite was false. In morality, if one thing was right, its opposite was wrong. The little formula, "A is A" and "If you have A, it is not non-A" is the first move in classical logic. Absolutes imply antithesis."

All of that being said, Schaeffer covers a lot of territory in this not so huge volume and it's worth a read for anyone concerned with the propagation of the Christian faith, apologetics, culture or sociology.

My main critique of it is that I find it a bit outdated already. As we delve deeper and deeper into post-modernism and the deconstruction of meaning logic doesn't demand attention or a solution. When pushed to logic conclusions, discussion break down into name calling or simply the antagonist disappearing rather than holding themselves accountable to logic. And I wonder, are people really asking questions of faith as they were 40 years ago? It seems that overall there is a "deplorable lack of curiosity" about matters of faith and salvation. Perhaps this is because, as Schaeffer states, all too often, "evangelicals are paper people." The witness of the church is not winning souls to the Kingdom.

Schaeffer's solution is to become human people in our culture. The Christian is called to "true humanity" Human because we are different from plants, animals and machines, and personality is native to what has always been. "This has always been important, but it is especially so today because we are surrounded by a world in which personality is increasingly eroding...People should see a beauty among Christians in their practice of the centrality of personal relationships- in the whole spectrum of life and in the culture." Sounds simple enough but it's the rare person who is fully engaged, truly humble, myself included. Nevertheless, it's something I'm constantly aware of, frequently pondering and prayerfully considering.

A beautiful, challenging book and one I'll be mulling over for a long time to come.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Miss Flower!


Cub came to visit us in the hospital, 8 years ago, just hours after Flower had been born. He marched his little 3 year old self into the room and looked at me, holding her. "Whose baby is that?" he demanded.
"Ours."
"Where'd you get it?"
"From my tummy."
"Do we get to keep it?"
His big question for the rest of the year was, "Is she awake? Are her eyes open?" (this question was always accompanied by his poking her in the eye).
He left countless action figures (his prized possessions) in her bassinet, "in case she wants to play."
Then she started crawling and actually acquiring his action figures on her own and the blissful year of sibling love morphed into a state of irritation.

Miss. Flower  was our "tie-breaker baby" and when she was born several of the nurses (our CNM had invited the maternity ward nursing staff to witness a natural birth since none of them had) shouted, "The girls won!" Small town living squeezes the excitement out of every opportunity.

As the youngest of 5 opinionated children, one might think that Flower would be quiet and unassuming, a little wall flower. Au contrair. She is just as bossy and opinionated as every one else. She loves to clean and put things right, organize and manage and she'll be happy to direct you to the correct way to arrange things. She clearly has gifts of administration.

She is also snugly and adorable, with a charming dimple. And she really, truly loves to pick flowers, which she does all the time. Our front porch is constantly full of weeds and pods and flowery-type things that she's drug back from the far corners of the property, and often insects and reptiles as well She went through a short season of capturing flies and grasshoppers and pulling off their wings and legs, in order to "keep them as pets." We finally convinced her that she was torturing them. 

She lives to find someone to "take a walk down to the river"with her, loves to swing through trees and eat mulberries out of them in the spring, happily plays in the decrepit barn for hours and can never have enough play time with other little girls. She would rather play Barbies and Polly Pockets, but puts up with hours of Bionicle and Lego play just so that Cub will hang out with her. This doesn't always work out so well as he considers a game well played when everyone is blown to smithereens and dead at the end. This is the equivalent of a catastrophe for Flower.

She kind and generous and inquisitive and loves, loves, loves math and science and numbers and drawing and coloring and reading not so much. But let her count, oh baby. And she would really, really like to be on stage, can sing countless songs and has a wide repertoire of stories to tell. Modified clone child of our oldest.

She is herself. Demanding and little and shy and outgoing and confident and kind and generous and thoughtful.

She is a beautiful and sweet blessing.
Happy Birthday, to our Girl!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Books, Education, Faith & Gender

*1*
School this week consisted of math. I am loving Singapore Story Problems- they are quite challenging but short enough to not overwhelm. Thinking Skills from the Critical Thinking Co, worksheets, drills, and Cub dug into Life of Fred Fractions. Writing and copywork and history. Science this semester is the Human Body with Mrs. G- R.N. and teacher terrific. Cub also has her for writing. He told me last week that, "Tutoring Center is just not working out for me." Too bad we don't agree. His writing has improved dramatically and yesterday he sat down and wrote a page and a half retelling without blinking an eye, complete with quality adverbs and strong adjectives. Made his IEW loving Momma proud.
 Feche is still wading through Life of Fred Algebra. Algebra; my nemesis. Chemistry and Poetry, American Lit- on to Edith Wharton this week, Oral Interp, and as much reading as he can squeeze in.

*2*
KB started Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters and I started Unplanned at B & N this week during our weather house arrest break out. Viking Man heard Johnsons' testimony on the radio last week and thought it was fantastic. A definite addition to the library list, along with Unchristian. Gabe Lyons  is a former researcher with Barna and his findings unnerved him to the point of starting Q. Bottom line. Church is not relevant. The good news? Christians aren't called to be. We are called to be counter culture. Hey, I can do that! How do you live that in a way that is counter culture and pro Christ?

*3*
Feche, KB and I went out for breakfast this morning and discussed singularity, revelation, personality, free will and other lite topics. Talk to me and I don't sound like a geek. Talk to my husband and you know before the first minute is up that he is one. That, along with the lifetime subscription of Science News, gifted to us by our uber nerdy silicon valley engineering geek friend, Paul, explains many of our conversations. I really think KB was looking for more fluff. Anyone want to breakfast with my lovely daughter and talk about something girlish? (term provided by my uber non-geek adorable and highly pinkish 7 year old).

*4*
I am sick of crying. I am sick of being sad. I don't like feeling hammered by emotions and torn up about partings and relationships. I also don't like how death shines a magnifying glass into the corners of my life and causes me to examine things. Seriously. I am so.not.kidding.

*5*
I can make fantastic lattes and espresso's at home. Not as well as Miss. R and KB but still. We repurchased a stove top espresso maker at World Market for a whopping $24. Foamy milk is easily produced by whisking as you scald. Inexpensive, easy and ohlala.

*6*
Claritin D is our new best friend. Why, with sub-zero temps for days on end and everything frozen solid, why is over half of our family allergy riddled?

*7*
My baby turns 8 years old tomorrow. I firmly believe that every Dad should  have a son and every Momma should have a daughter, or 2 or 3. When I was pregnant with my first child, almost a quarter of century ago, I was terrified that I would have a girl. Gender is powerful, is it not, and the morays and expectations that go with it, just as much. Gender is the only attribute that we come in to this world with and can be a gift or a curse, a blessing or a trail. God, in His wisdom, gave me three beautiful girls, 2 of them woman already. I am blessed. Truly.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

She Looks Just Like You

She Looks Just Like You; A Memoir of (Non biological Lesbian) Motherhood by Amie Klempnauer Miller was a quick read last week-end. Maybe I picked it up because my friend Michelle mentioned on a FB thread about pastors (who buy on the average 12 books a year and read 3) that she doesn't buy books she agrees with, "What's the point?" she queries. Maybe I picked it up because of my irl friend who was restored from a lesbian orientation, (which included a committed on-goingrelationship and multiple failed attempts at ivf with her lesbian partner) after an encounter with the living God.

Miller recounts the difficult first year this couple has when they introduce a child through ivf. By her own admission the lesbian community relates more like a roving encounter group, very much self focused. But isn't that the crux of homosexuality. At the most intimate moments, one looks into a mirror. Ultimate narcissism. Introducing a helpless baby into the mix, well, it's no wonder that Miller and her partner struggle to come to terms who is who and what is what. They are deconstructing and redefining. Schaeffer asserts that homosexuality is philosophical and indeed, it is post-modernism in living color.
"If reproduction has traditionally defined the culmination of the straight experience, the childbirth education class is graduation practice." Well, yea. Traditionally you can't really get there without a sperm and an egg and traditionally sperm wasn't readily available at Stuff Mart. It's ironically funny isn't it, that as a group I would wager, homosexuals adamantly defend evolution, yet they will defy it to reproduce. Miller states the obvious, "pregnancy slaps you in the face with the knowledge that much of who we are is defined by our bodies." Yea, but we are getting to the point with medical technology that that is no longer as true as it once was. Technology without ethics is going to change the world, as it already is.

Miller spends a lot of the book talking about her angst as she struggles to define who she is within the relationships and family that she and her partner have created. She struggles with who she is as a parent in a family that is redundant to another parent, including what should she be called. The power of Naming. They eventually decide on Mommy and Momma. Redundancy. She struggles with her value.

The reader slips easily into understanding the crisis that a newborn forces this dink couple to confront. It almost all sounds normal- the decisions about staying at home, activities for the baby, daycare or no, the stay at home mom struggling with a sense of self.  And then the author talks about participating in one of the countries largest Gay Pride parades and the reader remembers once again that this is not merely a couple transitioning from couplehood to parenthood. It's 2 women who are raising a child within the context of a lifestyle that would preferably redefine family in to whatever we want it to be for the moment. Homosexuality, by it's own admission, is not monogamous. It is not even physically safe. It is not a legal contract, as much as homosexuals would like to change that. What is it then? Sex with someone of the same gender. Adding a child to the mix does not a family make.

A personal memoir of the struggles lesbians go through to find acceptance,  this book is just as much about deconstruction of the meaning of "family." The author address this early on in the book, "It's an odd thing in the gay community that family is both devalued and hyper valued...it is the ties of family, the ties of blood and marriage, that are seen as irreversible, supposedly inescapable. But in our (gay) world, the line between friend and family are blurred, making both simultaneously essential and extraneous."

Exactly so.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Grief Observed

KB bought this for me for Christmas, which I thought was a bit cheesy, but I found it very good and poignant and relevant to the array of thoughts I've been wrestling with since over a year ago. Lewis writes, as always, as a theologian and a scholar, as well as a man who has lost his wife to a tragic illness. He doesn't spare the reader his doubts and fears about loss and death and faith and hope.

He states so many of the thoughts I've had this year such as:
No matter what anyone says it's not the right thing. "You can't really share someone elses weakness or misery or pains."
Is this whole God thing/life of faith the real deal or made up rot. "Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms."
I am hurting and struggling and pitiful and I know it. Shoot, other people know it too. "Feelings and feelings and feelings." and, "Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process."
Heaven and heavenly reunions and how to make sense of the divide? "When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of "No Answer. It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not impassioned, gaze." As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the questions. "Like, Peace, child.; you don't understand."
God is good, regardless of what I know or don't know, feel or don't feel. Truth stands despite my self. "My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence?"

If, as Schaeffer asserts, a thesis must have an antithesis, working to make sense of death causes us to look hard at the thesis' we've built our lives upon because it is the ultimate antithesis of life. If we believe in a benevolent God, one who is on our side, yet allows the pain of loss and grief, is he really good? Does he really care? Is heaven truly all that we hope for or merely an opiate we use to soothe our wounded hearts in the face of devastating loss. I always joke that Walmart and McDonald's are life's great equalizers, but no jest aside, death is. Death is really where we are all alone, where we met God or not, where our theology is True or Deceptive. And, I've found this year that the deaths of people I love has caused me to consider the truth of my faith, the realness of my theology.

Brilliant insights, lovingly written by master wordsmith C.S. Lewis. Last year, "Living a Life of Kaddish" really helped me get over a hard time as I grieved through significant losses. A Grief Observed" spoke to me profoundly this past month as I struggled through a deep valley of sadness. I recommend it highly for anyone working to make sense of a loss.

(Thanks, KB. You are a sweet blessing!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Extremes

*1*
Extreme Sports: In response to our rock climbing adventure, my sil sent us this:



Don't try this at home (or Yosemite). Osman died in 98' free-falling.

*2*
Extreme Differences: Reading What The World Eats - fascinating. Detailed descriptions of families throughout the world, what they eat, how much they spend, fertility and literacy rates  and other facts about their corner of the world. Check out the videos: http://www.whattheworldeats.com/


*3*
Extreme Culture: The kids have finished the audio production of Huck Finn, narrated by Norman Dietz. Flower gave a beautiful rendition, complete with accent, of Jim telling abut  his shame and humility over punishing his daughter for disobedience when in fact, she had gone deaf. KB continues to despise Tom Sawyer. I continue to think Twain was brilliant.

*4*
Extreme Fantasy: LOTR Winter Reading Fest continues with The Two Towers. KB had a nasty cold/ flu this past week  so her LOTR loving Dad has stepped in to tell the tale. It's one of his favorite sagas and he is going above and beyond the call of duty with innovative and dramatic voices and sound effects; and he calls me dramatic!

*5*
Extreme Parenting: More to read on Chua's parenting style:
Parents like Amy Chua are the reason why Asian-Americans like me are in therapy (!) by Betty Ming Liu, who recommends Tony Hsieh's book Delivering Happiness as a more inspiring read on Asian Americans
Amy Chua: Chinese Conceit, Chinese Ignorance, and the $24,000 question in which the author of the article wonders why, if the Asian way is so great, Chua is married to a non-Chinese guy, and wonders why her husband's Jewish traditions were smothered
And in this article about it, A Chinese mother explains why being a hard-ass Asian parent is better for your kids than Western coddling, along with in the others just listed, there are links to Asian American bloggers' responses, including some who agree with Chua

Can I just say it again- this woman knows how to market. The lesson here, more than on how to parent,  is this:  if you want to make money selling books, p*ss people off.

*6*
Extreme Dislike: Things I have to get done that I don't want to get done:
1) renew by long-expired drivers license. I haven't driven since November. It's actually been a very nice break. There will come a day however, soon I think, when I will need to drive and have no driver available to me. My husband brought home a DL manual for me to study last night. Joy.
2) Sort. Books to be sent to 2 different places and stuff to pack up and send to R in Ky.
3) Neaty box all of the Christmas decor which is, as we speak,  is lounging in an unused bedroom currently referred to as "The Christmas Room."
4) Plan Flower's 8th birthday party and make sure other parents know about it in time to get their kids to it.
What's on your list of must but don't want to dos?

*7*
Extreme Temps: Sub-zero temps most of the week. Flower and Cub keep making attempts at playing in the snow. The rest of us don't even bother. The RR tracks are so heavily rutted it's making it difficult to drive over. My good friend Laura, warm and securely ensconced in her mild and temperate GA winter states that winters in SD are a far cry from winters almost anywhere. Hoping you are warm, wherever you are!



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crafting the Extraordinary from the Ordinary

Someone asked recently what my blog was about which honestly made me laugh. I've read several books on blogging and web-sites and they all recommend having one theme. If more are introduced then it's probably time for a second blog. I've thought about a second blog a few times, but managing one consumes more time than I'd anticipated.
As a result this blog looks like it is about all sorts of things- faith and family and reading and homeschooling. But it is, truly, while inclusive of all of those things, about one thing primarily. And that is this: crafting the extraordinary from the ordinary. For the most part, all of us are fairly ordinary people, living ordinary lives. And that is a blessing. Given the "normal" throughout history the fact that we can live "ordinary" is rare indeed. So, my starting point is that we are, for the most part, starting with ordinary. But then, how do we go from that- the ordinary- to beyond...to the extraordinary.

I resonate deeply with going above and beyond the ordinary, the normal, the expected. And that is what ties all of the pieces of this blog together- the reading, and the faith, homeschooling, the family. These are the ingredients that we have in our hand, to create something beyond the average, something extraordinary. Something rare and precious and inspiring- like grass- something we assume will be ordinary and average that we expect to have to contain and control and consumes time and energy we'd rather invest elsewhere. But what would happen if we discovered that the grass in our front lawn was gold. Precious and rare, a commodity rather than something that consumes our free time on week-ends. Our attitudes would be different indeed.

I'm proposing, in many ways, that we realize that our "ordinary," our "normal" is really not so normal after all. That the spouse and kids that are ours are no mistake. That the life that we live, no matter how boring, how stressful, how irritating or painful it might be, is the one that we need in order to become the person we are intended to be. And if we believe enough, if we hope and dream wildly, we can see the glitter and shine of gold beneath the tarnished surface of our ordinary. And the common, every place, every day ho-hum will become something we cherish and nurture, rather than something we struggle to get through.

I write all of this, in the midst of a season of feeling beat down and hurt. A season where I have been more discouraged about our "ordinary" than ever before. A season when I've questioned how we've lived and why, where I've felt stuck and wedged so tight that the thought of unstuck doesn't even seem like a possibility. A seasons on top of another season of grief that brought a whole nuther slew of emotions to sort and inventory and late night crying so hard I thought my head would burst open and feelings from decades ago bubbling to the surface to accuse and cause confusion. The though of extra ordinary is great, but not somewhere I'm at. I can't even get to ordinary most days. We still sleep in the living room and I still struggle with my own burn-out in motivating the kids to do school. I'm watching too many movies and letting the kids spend way too much time on the x-box and computer and in front of Dvd's, reading StarWars and Strawberry Shortcake stories instead of inspiring words that will stir their souls.

But still. I have a hope that one day the feelings of being overwhelmed and hurt and struggling will subside. It will be spring again soon. And the kids and I, and even my husband, will go into the yard and pull weeds and plant seeds and watch something grow from nothing, and water and harvest bountiful goodness. And we'll sit at our table, in the prairie evenings, with soft breezes wafting and flowers on our table form the yard, yarrow and lilies and peonies and sage and daisies and lilacs and we'll eat what we harvested that day, vegetables and herbs, and we'll look at each other and smile. Full up of warm sunshine and fresh food that nourishes and know that we've played a part in creating something extraordinary. That in the ordinary, something golden shines through.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ordinariness

"There is potent ordinariness in how we seek to fulfill our callings. In Mary's* day, few held to a faithful hope in the Messiah's coming. Those who had that hope knew little about how God might fulfill it. They only knew that their calling was to live faithfully in a challenging context."
R.C. Sproul Jr.

*(Mary, the mother of Jesus)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

TA DA! The Kitchen and Dining Room

I was chatting with someone yesterday about kitchen remodels and thought I had some good pictures to show them of our finished kitchen. Alack, there were none. To remedy the situation, here they are. The walls are painted "Apple Cinnamon" - a warm yellow. It's very bright and peaceful. Apologies in advance for the glare on the pictures.

 This is looking into the kitchen from the living room. Cupboards are poplar with honey wood stain. Dark wood trim is poplar with espresso stain. The floor in the kitchen is new red-oak. The floor in the dining room is 80+ year old fir. Cleaned up beautifully and unless I point out the match to people, you can hardly tell the old from the new.

 And from the back of the dining room. We have wood shades on the windows that match the cupboards.

Where the peninsula is located is where the old wall, complete with heavy wood door and built in buffet used to be. We hated taking out the built ins but  the one downstairs was too water logged and warped to salvage and the one upstairs was too smoke damaged. The door to the left of the peninsula goes downstairs to a family room, bedroom, laundry room and full bath; currently dorm central.

At the peninsula looking into the kitchen. The cupboards to the right of the refrigerator sit on a wall that used to house an outside window, which we took out. We extended the footprint by 3 feet and put in a powder room behind that wall. It's lovely. (That's the door to it t the left of the block window- it's a pocket). Unfortunately I didn't get very good pics of the powder room. The very glarey window in the back is a block window and sits where an old 6 foot long window used to be in  the old enclosed (uninsulated) porch that housed a sink and toilet and very little privacy.

 Bookshelves on the end of the peninsula and beautiful crown molding.
The cupboards were all hand made and the quality is fantastic.

I might write a song, "Ode to Counter space." The long counter to the left of the sink is the one Viking Man took out, had re-cut and replaced himself due a glaring defect at the seam. Not easy with the corner piece glued. He did a fantastic job- as usual!

From the back of the kitchen looking into the dining room. The dining room is 6-sided. The windows are each on their own wall- would that be an "eyebrow wall?"

 Close up of the upper cupboards.

Close up of the lower cupboards. The pulls and knobs are brushed nickel.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reading & Sorrow

True Confessions. I did not finish The God Who is There by Schaeffer, hence no write up. It's deep and wide. Well worth it but not something read quickly (at least not by me).  I started Byzantium, too,  but somehow the 800 pages seemed more like a threat than a reward of rich words and ideas by a master storyteller.

I'm not sure if I'll make the 52/Yr this year. I've been in a slump since Dad's funeral. It's just been hard to read. Which is weird. He taught me to read. When I was 4. He taught Sue that year too, in the fall. He got a phonics program from somewhere and would sit down with her each night. She had a chart with stars on it for progress made. How I envied her those stars- gold and blue and red- just beautiful! The chart was on the side of the fridge and I passed it several times a day, taunting me with her progress. So I begged and pleaded and was irritating, I'm sure, and Dad finally showed me the program. Short "A", then lists, "at, bat, cat, fat, mat," etc. I didn't get a chart, or stars. Bummed me out.

The first book I ever read, just days after my short "A" list was about a witch. She was not creepy or odd, just silly and a bit uncoordinated. I resonated cause while I have killer eye-hand coordination, foot coordination is not my forte. I imagined that this was the silly little witches problem as well, which was why she couldn't steer her broom correctly. I ran across that book in the library lately and felt reunited with an old and important friend.

I've read thousands of books since then. Maybe millions of words. It was a great gift Dad gave me, reading. Once I cracked the code there was no holding me back and Sue and I read fast and furiously, sharing books, trading them, stealing them from each other on vacations, pilfering adult fiction as well that really had no place on our reading lists at all, reading cereal boxes and magazines and pretty much anything with print on it, sharing the gift of reading and words well into adulthood. And Dad, too. Always recommending a book, or an author, or a web-site or an idea.

Now, somehow, for the first time ever, reading just seems like tedious work. Hard and difficult. sigh.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dead of Winter

*1*
We didn't get to the gingerbread houses before Xmas so we did them (well) after. Still loads of fun. Food as craft, which is an appeal to both genders cause you get to create and eat at the same time.

*2*
True Confessions: That feeling of being burned out and just not wanting to do school with the kids continues. It doesn't help that they don't want to do school either (and that's not always "normal" around here). My fall back- after all these years- has been reading. So that's what we've been doing: KB finished up The Lord of the Rings.On the days that she worked Cub would impatiently wait for her to return and take the quest up again. The night after LOTR was over they started right in to The Two Towers.

Feche is finished with Huck Finn so the notsolittles started the book on tape one day when Cub was sick and they've been listening non-stop ever since. The narrator of this book does accents in a particularly engaging way.  We've been having fun working in "dasn't" and "waren't" into our conversations.

I'm still wrestling with The God Who Is There by Schaeffer (review to follow tomorrow). Schaeffer was brilliant and his ability to summarize the philosophy and current culture is mind-boggling. A must-read for any one committed to the Gospel as well as anyone who wants a deeper understanding of why post-modernism is so prevalent inside and outside the church.

*3*
We've been watching videos too (This is what happens when it's bitterly cold outside).This week: Sweet Land about a mail order bride and new-world prejudice. It sums up the upper Midwest; Persepolis about the Iranian War; an animated graphic novel. The art work is incredible as is the animation but it is dark, intense and crude. The Special Relationship about Tony Blair and Bill Clinton covers the war in Kosovo as well as how world leaders struggle to manage friendship when there are political needs to be met. Very interesting perspective.

*4*
Put Miss R on a plane this week yet again. Grandparents surprised her the next day back in the land of temperate climates with a lap-top. She is thrilled.

*5*
Miss Flower has been on a lego building craze, constructing a "Jedi Temple" as well as several "holograms." When I asked her what a hologram was she gave a fairly decent explanation.  This from the child who has been on a Charlie Brown tangent and wants Barbies complete CD collection for her birthday. 

*6*
The Chinese Mother article  has been everywhere. Not to be outdone the NYT did a follow up debate. One thing is for certain, Chua knows how to sell a book. What are your thoughts on her parenting style?

*7*
Seed catalogs are coming in fast and thick. As Miss R said, the weather has us on house arrest. We were literally acreage bound on Tuesday and seriously wondered if we'd be able to get to the "oil" (paved roads) in time to drop Miss R off on Wednesday.   Can't wait for warmth, sunshine and a good reason to go play in the dirt.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MIB (& woman, too)


Nerf wars. Bring it on. 





 The weapon's cache.
Be afraid. Very afraid. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Leaving

Years ago, decades actually, when my oldest was a toddler, my husband was in graduate school. It was a competitive program, in the heart of L.A., an expensive school an expensive city, and so he was gone. Working so many jobs coming and going and studying, doing clinicals, up late, up early, sleeping 3, maybe 4 or 5 hours a night and R and I would spend each evening alone, together. I would pick my little elf child up from day care and we would eat dinner together- something cheap- and then we would snuggle in her bed to read  stories and I would sing her songs and rub her back until we were both asleep, tired from long days and over stimulation.

Last night we were talking past bedtime so she climbed into bed and we snuggled together, cocooned under down quilts, surrounded by sub-zero temps and I marveled at this child, who is now grown and independent and traveling hither and yon but still my little one.  She'll be boarding a plane again tomorrow and flying back to a life that we are so far removed from, due to distance among other things. And we will miss her.

I used to wonder at the saying, "blood is thicker than water," since I was raised with little family beyond our 5. It just didn't compute. But it's becoming clearer to me as our kids become adults and go out into the world; as we've gone out into the world. Feche and I were talking this afternoon and we both agreed that seeing extended family more - any amount of more- would be far preferable to our current situation. And he mentioned the desire to be with our tribe. Our people. The "thickers" of our world.

And tomorrow when we put Miss R on the plane our little corner will be thinner, a bit emptier, certainly quieter and without as much sparkle. Funny how each one in a tribe contributes their piece. Their personality. Their pizazz.  And leaves a hole when gone.

It's been a year of holes and thinning tribe. And I am homesick again. Heart sick for home. Aching, at times literally for something not even tangible.. But I find myself, once again, imagining the scene in Narnia, where the tribe is gathered, the whole motley, dazzling crew of them, gathered and feasted and full. And they settle in around the fire, snuggled together, cocooned by the warmth of each other's sparkle and familiarity and love. And there is no more going away....

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snow Day!

What to do when it's cold and snowy and you've been inside one day too long.

 Resting between sledding runs.

 10 degrees and 5-10 mph winds. KB kept commenting that she and Miss R were the only females over the age of 7 going down the hill....

 It's more fun with Daddy! (Flower almost flew off backwards going down alone).

There they go!

 Ready to roll.

 Thar's the hill. In the middle are bumps that will send you air born.

 Taking a breather.

 Cub is all about higher, faster, farther.

Official photographer.

Last run and then home for hot tea!


Jenny's having her weekly LENS photo contest over at Home Is Where You Start From. Check it out for other great weather pics.
A blessed Sabbath!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Radical 1/52

There is not much new in the slim volume, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. It is a basic book and could just as well be titled:

BSC XIAN LVG/DYNG 101

If you've been in the church any length of time, you've heard all or most of it before. Maybe you've been compelled to respond to the Gospel at some point- raised your hand to accept Jesus, tithed, supported a Compassion Child. Good stuff. But not enough according to Platt.

Platt describes the American Dream, a phrase coined and attributed to James Adams in 1931 who described, "a dream...in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are."
I like that. I resonate. I'm American. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and become who it is you are destined to be. If you are of average or above intelligence, a moderate to hard worker, the sky's the limit.

But what happens when one accepts the Gospel as Truth and recognizes the authority of the Bible? Submitting to the Living Christ as Master and Savior automatically creates a schism between our faith in Him and the American Dream. "Lay down your lives" (John 5:13), "Count it all joy, when we suffer" (James 1:2); "Take up your cross" (Mark 8:34-35) and many other commands in the Bible don't exactly line up the American Dream. Many of us do what we heckle late night T.V. evangelists for. We compromise. We say that the giving that we do is enough. We say that we are not called to missions. We say that "God loves me" is the essence of the message of Jesus, the Living Christ. And in the process of making the Gospel about ME, we have
"unnecessarily (and un- biblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligation of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all."

Platt goes on to expound on "Romans 1:14-15, Paul talks about being a debt to the nations. He literally says, "I am in debt to Jews and Gentiles." The language is profound. Paul is saying that he owes a debt to every lost person on the face of the planet. Because he is owned by Christ, he owes Christ to the world.Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell"

In other words the 4.5 Billion (out of 6.7 billion) people who will die without ever having heard the Gospel message become people we are in debt to.
In other words, the 26,000 children who die each and every day, from cureable disease and hunger, around the world become people that we are in debt to.
Our 401K, bigger house, better car, professional advancement become dwarfed by the reality of something bigger than ME, someOne bigger than my dream.

Of course, Platt is making some assumptions. He is assuming that if you are a Christ follower that you accept the authority of Scripture. He is assuming that if you are a Christ follower, you accept the reality of a heaven and hell. Platt is assuming that if you are a Christ follower you believe that you will stand before the Master of the Universe and be judged by His Righteousness and His Purity and that Jesus will be your Advocate. If you believe none of those things, or are just wholly committed to the siren song of the "Dream" -health, wealth, comfort and satisfaction, then Platt is just another religious right winger, tangentially exhorting those who hope to transcend the lure of the world in hope of something more profound, more relevant, more real, more pure and Holy and True than we can imagine. If so, this book is probably not one that will make much sense, or cause you to question how you live and what your motives are.

Platt's whole point is to live Radically, not shrouded in a Dream, like Dorothy in the green fields in Oz. To put feet and money and time and soul into working out your faith, with fear and trembling, not because works will save you, but because faith without works is dead.

Platt presents a Radical Challenge at the end of the book that consists of a one year commitment to:
1. pray for the entire world (http://www.operationworld.org/)
2. read through the entire Bible
3:sacrifice your time and money for a specific purpose
4: spend time in another context
5: commit your life to multiplying community

A challenging book and highly recommended. But it would be easy to just let this book be a challenging "moment" in our lives, something that causes us to think for a minute and then go about business as usual. What Platt is suggesting is that we let the message of the Living Christ permeate our souls, our lives, our families, our dreams and take us where He will. The whole, "control, control, I must have control," auto-pilot that a lot of us live on fades away as God defines, manages, leads and directs. Scary stuff. Adventurous, crazy, Radical.

"Real success is found in radical sacrifice. Ultimate satisfaction is found not in making much of ourselves but in making much of god. The purpose of our lives transcends the country and culture in which we live. Meaning is found in community, not individualism; joy is found in generosity, not materialism; and truth is found in Christ, not universalism. Ultimately, Jesus is reward worth risking everything to know,experience and enjoy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Week 1

*1*
Best of 2010.
Best Book:  Having a hard time deciding between them all. What was yours?
Best Movie: Mostly Martha or Loving Leah. Can't decide. I like Voyage of the Dawn Treader, too, but why, oh why do they have to add in creepy, stoopid stuff, just because?
Best T.V. show: (Disclaimer- we don't watch T.V.- we haven't for years and years, but we do watch videos and Miss.R has brought back a T.V. series pr 2 on DVD's from college. Stargate Atlantis has been our brainmush activity since summer. She also brought back NCIS-and while I love the regular cast and their relationships, some of the plot lines were just too creepy for me- I've been around mental health professionals my entire life, so my objectivity is skewed, perhaps.) All of that being said, Duet, Stargate Atlantis. Rodney is co-inhabited by a women. Excellent comedic timing on the part of Canadian actor David Hewlett. Sure, Flanigan is cuter, but Hewlett's acting is par excellence!
Best Family Activity: Rock Wall Climbing. Much more fun than dry-wall sanding!
Best Food: Scampi, part of our yearly Christmas Seafood Feast. It was perfect this year though KB says it can't ever compare to fresh shrimp caught by her friends Stephen and Mr. Morrison freshly caught off the coast of GA and served up fresh!
Best music Moya Brennan and Todd Agnew.
Best Homeschool Curriculum: Story of the World CD's, 3rd year in a row. Peace Hill Press rocks.
Best "Ah ha" Moment: Adding 3 feet to the footprint of our home and creating a powder room off the kitchen. It's powder blue and very pretty.
Best Success: Moving back to our home in August after being gutted to the core.
Best Vacation: 6 days gone to the Black Hills, including Ingalls' DeSmet Homestead and  the Badlands.

*2*
This is my dd being bored, potentially destroys means of communication." and "textinb like a red-neck" using terms like "innards."

*3*
Cub turned 11 and received the Lord of the Rings trilogy. KB has been having long-winter reading fests with Cub and Flower that last for hours. They are mostly done with The Fellowship of the Ring.

*4*
The above mentioned reading rendezvous has wrecked havoc with school work, though we did fit in history and writing. Cub will be starting Life of Fred on Monday. Flower asked for a math book for Christmas and I got her "One Minute Math." It took her 76 seconds to do her first page and she cried. She wasn't interested in trying again. She vehemently did.not. see the value of speed computation.

*5*
New ad for Tim Ferris' latest book. Seriously?

*6*
Apples are my new best friend. Apples are also Cubs main food group. He'll eat 4-5 a day if I let him. When we run out he wanders around, lost and scrawny.

*7*
Good Reads:
Miss R has been reading Byzantium before she goes back to KY and LOVING it.
I finished Radical by Platt. Review to follow tomorrow.
Feches been listening to his daily does and got through House of 7 Gables last week and Huck Finn this. We all had a chance to listen to 2 chapters of Huck Finn and found ourselves lol in the car. The man is brilliant and ohsofunny.
 KB's been reading Mere Christianity.
Cub's been reading Horned Helmet.
Viking Man picks up whatevers around, Paleo Judaica and The Jerusalem Post daily, along with Science News weekly and
Flower reads the directions to her homework and has been quite content with Charlie Brown specials from the library.

Quick Takes hosted by Jen, who is detouring through the hospital this week. I'm sure she'd appreciate prayers for healing.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Word of the Year

STEWARD

I've been hearing about a book called The Happiness Project. (I haven't even looked at the book so I'm only going on review). From what I understand it's about discovering and doing/implementing the things or experiences in life that make you happy. Being happy is good. I like being happy. I like it when the people I love are happy. But it seems to me that being happy is a lot like always having 2 positive choices, which I wrote about here.  In the end, it seems like a shallow and theologically dubious way to live. There's been things I've done in life out of commitment to Christ that don't make me happy- they are an act of obedience and sacrifice. And, hopefully, the rewards run deeper and go farther than happiness can ever take me. I'm looking for joy rather than happiness. An emotion that isn't dependent on circumstances or others reactions or my personal preferences.

"Counting it all joy," goes way beyond being happy. For instance, Stephen being stoned. Happy? No. And, did he have a Momma, was he married? Were the women in his life happy at his stoning? I think not. But, joyful? Stephen's description of the heavens opening up is one of pure joy. He radiated it, basked in it, reflected it.
Bring it on. The Joy of salvation. When everything is willingly lost, willingly submitted, willingly given away because of the LIGHT that awaits- that's joy!

Last year my word was DREAM, for so many reasons.  This year it's STEWARD. Cause I want joy in my life and when I steward well joy seems to flow. I stop living like a stingy, stoopid poor person and act in ways that are generous and good, despite myself. For instance, when I steward the house and it is picked up and neat and orderly and people can find the things they need, there are different attitudes and interactions in our home. When I'm stewarding well the various areas of my life I get more done, with more excellence, with less stress and "cheating" - in other words certain areas aren't excelling while others are growing anemic, which is my natural MO.

I'm writing down the areas and specifics of what I'm hoping to steward this year. I believe that what you write/envision/speak draws you to it. Not because there's anything magical in the writing, but because writing cements the thoughts and beliefs in one's own head, creating a compass to follow.

 The 4 areas that I am deliberately stewarding this year:
(and it's not that I'm not responsible for these areas anyway, it's that I'm being deliberate).

Physical -Plan food and meals, work the plan. Get a work out routine that skips knee usage (if you know of something, please lmk.
Mental - 52 books/Year, Writing
Spiritual - Read the Bible, Pray for the Nations, give generously.
Social -Kids/Homeschool. Writing/blogging. Getting together with a friend once a month (more difficult than it might seem). Time alone with hubby twice a month (again, more difficult than it might seem).

The last year has emphasized to me, more than ever, that "the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of the Lord stands forever." What my life counts for, the legacy I leave, is dependent on my stewarding well the resources I have in my hand. Happiness along the way; bonus. Joy? Worth it all.

What about you? Do you have a Word of the Year? 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How to Memorize a Timeline

Who: You and your mighty home school students
What: Memorize a Timeline
When: the Time is NOW
Where: The Dining Room Table, your School room, the car, park, etc
How: I’m glad you asked!
1.       The first step in memorizing a timeline is to decide the era that you want to memorize. There are so many options! We memorize timelines in conjunction with the historical period that we are studying, the Bible, or in general to give us a good sense of what took place when. We have memorized the entire stack of Veritas Press cards. While they are not entirely exhaustive, our kids have a significant enough sense of what happened when to plug pretty much any other historical event into- understanding what took place and the time frame within a very short amount of time.
2.       Purchase or create timeline cards. We have used and appreciate Veritas Press’ excellent timeline cards for several years. You can also create your own, using Amy Paks homeschooling in the Woods CD (http://www.homeschoolinthewoods.com/) google image or other resources. As I mentioned we chose to use VP’s pre-made cards. The artwork chosen is excellent, the explanations good and dates are on the cards. I modified my cards by writing the date on the front of each card (they come with the dates on the back) as well as laminating them. I had originally hole punched them, putting each historical period on a ring, but I found them difficult to manage that way and now just have them standing up, in order, in a plastic shoe storage box.
3.       Memory experts state that memorizing in groups of 7 is best for retention. I divide my cards for the year, or semester, into weekly groups of 7. On Sunday of each week I write the name of the cards on our school white board. During our memory time I use the cards as flash cards. When the cards are first introduced we take time to read the back of the cards, look at the pictures and make observations. Once we are familiar with the cards we simply repeat the title and dates of the cards several times a day. If I were going to make my own (and we have for timeline notebooks) I would take time to color and cut out the images, read about each person and create a card that was sturdy enough to use frequently. After a couple of weeks you’ll have several cards memorized. Don’t forget to review previous week’s cards! We do this by mixing the cards up and having the kids put them back into order, leaving out cards and having them identify which card is missing and other games.

WHY: Why memorize a timeline at all? Regardless of your homeschooling pedagogy carrying a timeline around (in your head) allows you to orient and make sense whatever historical events you may encounter. It provides immediate satisfaction, rather than having to laboriously look up events, gives the kids a sense of mastery and allows them to build upon their knowledge. It also gives one a historical perspective, realizing, often with surprise, at what events took place during the same time period.

It’s a New Year. Now’s the Time to Memorize a Line!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Cub!


This is my adorable, newly turned 11 year old. At birth he weighed a whopping 10 lbs.2 oz. and was 24 inches long. You read that right. They boy was 2 feet long at birth. No, I did not have gestational diabetes. I just birth gargantuan babies who turn in to scrawny chicken children. He entered sunny-side up sans  pain meds. The nursing staff literally came in to my room later and called me the paragon of motherhood.

It's hard to tell he started off toddler size given his current  lack of stature. He is lean and mean and sports a 6 pack, can scale a 35 foot rock wall in seconds flat, loves the highest slide at the water park and has an entire arsenal comprised of nerf guns, sticks and light sabers, which he will happily  fight storm troopers or slay dragons with.

Lest you think he is given the moniker "Cub" because he resembles a bear I will clarify that he is dubbed "Cub" because he is mine-  a scrawny, scrappy little lion cub, my child, through and through, conceived just weeks after my Mom passed away. He has her eyes- clear and beautiful, light blue- more than any of her grandkids and I see her eyes when I look at my Boy.

He is a info geek and a history buff- having memorized almost all 4 volumes of the Story of the World. He is an actor and will happily perform verbatim scenes from scores of movies, books or his own wild imagination He is totally serious and really funny. He is an arteest and draws and draws and draws. Mainly sci-fi or prehistory- his 2 favorite time periods.

He loves Jesus with all of his heart. Last month he was distraught, mainly in the evenings, and spent night after night starting out in bed with Viking Man and I, who talked and prayed and talked with him about what he was afraid of- we didn't know that he was reading The Revelation to himself each night before bed. He'd come upon the passage that said brother would rise up against brother. The end of the world as we know it didn't really phase him but thinking that his beloved older brother might turn against him broke his heart. His a sensitive soul, and no, he doesn't seem thick skinned.

 I prayed for this boy. Longed for him for years before he was conceived. He is one of my very favorite people in the world.

Happy Birthday,
Dear One!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

All Things New

2011
It's a new year, like a new daytimer- clean, fresh pages that are crisp and unblemished. I like new. Untarnished and problem free.
I've been thinking a lot about this year and what my hopes are for it. I'm hesitant to write them down, admit them out loud, because I'd like to address some areas of failure and fear in my life.
When I start writing them down, they take on a life of their own and I start imagining what they could possibly morph in to and then all of a sudden, instead of paddling down the Little Sioux in a dinghy I've leased, I'm building my own steamboat, shoveling the coal that creates the steam myself and sailing down the length of the Mississippi at record speed.
The Dream Big that sound so bold and impassioned, courageous and free ends up being a ball and chain that condemns  me to drown in the seas of Big Dreams. Inch by inch is about all I can really tackle right now. One thing, not the whole. Which is a challenge for the global, big picture, tackle it at once, do more than is reasonable person that I try to deny that I am.

My goals this year are simple but difficult. Simple because any one can do them. In fact, the one grand poombah goal I have, which I actually dreamed I failed at last night, I only have courage to tackle because of the courage of someone else in my life conquering their own grand fear of failure in a situation that was overwhelming, possibly even life and death. If they can conquer the BIG THING in their life, perhaps I can as well.

God makes all things new. I see it over and over in my life. Take my kitchen. 15 months ago I hated my kitchen. I'm tall. The counter tops, 85 years old and all, were 6 inches below standard height. There was a total of  6 feet of counter space, 3 of it blocked by an outside door that led to a cramped and pitiful porch, re purposed but not insulated as as bathroom, the other 3 blocked by the refrigerator. It was dark and dingy and had hideous green linoleum on the floor. Today it is new and beautiful and shiny and clean, new red oak floors and 18 feet of counter space, shiny silver appliances and gorgeous period cupboards and a deep sink and a dishwasher with a sweet little powder room off to the side, light and beautiful with a door that actually closes all the way. It's a miracle. They are all around us, maybe not so big and obvious, but there.

I'm hoping He does the same for me this year. I'm hoping I have the courage to let Him take the dingy, grimy places in my life that don't fit together well, that are long past serving their purposes, and make something new and clean and beautiful.
I'm hoping I have the courage to let Him get past my defenses, excuses, failures and fears and hit the mark. I'm hoping I can get out of the way enough to let bigger things succeed.

 

Behold, I make all things new.  Revelation 21: 5

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43: 19