Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Resolve To...

I feel myself being drawn back to the Elizabeth George books that helped me so much when I was beginning as a mom of three. I had to set them aside for awhile, because it got to where I was legalistic about the systems she recommends in her books. (I'm sure she wouldn't have any of us be dedicated to her systems to the exclusion of the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But that is what happened to me.) I have a Tennyson quote in my sidebar that talks about how our little systems are but broken lights that reflect the Lord for a time, and then cease. When systems cease to reflect the Lord, or when they begin to take their own form as god, they must be discarded.

Awhile back, I got very frustrated with systems and did away with a lot of them, until I realized how scattered and ineffective I was becoming. I don't want to live in fear that we will fall off of a system, but we do have to meet goals and deadlines in this life.

I am seeking the balance of planning and awaiting the leading of the Holy Spirit. This requires constant prayer, rather than the seeking of systems. I have tried many, and they all have their good points. What does the Lord want me to do?

Funny thing about the Lord: very often He only shows us the very next step. So I have become wary of making one time of year the Designated Time of Resolutions.

I like a good resolution as much as the next person, though, so here are some things I am aiming for:

1. Read the entire Bible this year. I have tried this for two years and failed.

2. Stay connected with my husband and kids. And I don't mean cell phones.

3. Less ordering and more communication (from me to the kids)

4. To see a renewal of joy (not that I think I will be in charge of making this happen, but it needs to go on the list so I can pray about it and aim for it)

5. More decisions made on the basis of what is best for our family in particular, or our kids individually, rather than based on what we think other people expect.

6. Continued focus on getting out of debt, even if 2009 turns out to be as much of a challenge as many seem to think it will be.

I really don't know what else to write-- I'm in more of a listening and waiting mode right now. Or it could be that I just don't feel good. I have a pretty bad cold.

I can write a book list, though. I have some books I want to read in the next few months. (I finished Watership Down today, in between sleeping and blowing my nose. A very good book. The AO Advisory did a great job picking it for Year 7. I'm still thinking of Woundwort's final decision to go for power at all costs rather than what was best for his warren, and how amazed they were when they found Thlayli was not the chief rabbit. They just didn't get the idea of liberty, did they?)

Anyway, here are some books I want to read:

1. Seeking the Face of God by Gary Thomas

2. Poetic Knowledge by James Taylor

3. Mothers and Daughters at Home by Charlotte Lyons (a book of projects-- I want to do some of them)

4. The Voyage of the Armada by David Howarth (I am halfway through this)

5. From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun (through Part 1-- I started it this summer, and then restarted it this fall with Triss)

6. I want to reread Wind in the Willows with Cornflower (it will be her first time through)

7. I want to reread Kim by Rudyard Kipling with Mariel (it will be her first time through)

8. Hard Times by Charles Dickens (I really need to read something Dickens besides A Christmas Carol. Something I read in the first part of Poetic Knowledge yesterday evening reminded me that he is making more of a statement about society than just how badly off are the poor. Something about how terrible it is to assume man is similar to a machine. Or some such thing. I need to see if I agree. But I find Dickens off-putting.)

I know the list will continue to grow as the year goes on. I usually have a huge stack of books I want to get through by the middle of summer, the result of me trying to quickly read through all of Triss' schoolbooks before the new school year starts. But I am not ready to look at those yet. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, you know.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Perceive/Think: Definitions

perceive: to become aware of through the senses

think: to reflect on; to exercise the powers of judgment, conception or inference

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Books

I got some good books for Christmas this year--_Seeking the Face of God_, _Poetic Knowledge_ and _Mothers and Daughters At Home_. I have already dipped into each of them, and I'm very excited about each for different reasons. I will blog about them later.

I just wanted to say one thing about _Poetic Knowledge_: I have read the introduction, and oh, boy, am I going to have to think hard to understand that book. Just reading the introduction, I kept thinking, "Wow, this is great! Oh, this is hard. Yes, this is just what I need to be reading! But it is so hard!!"

Some of you ladies who are more familiar with educational philosophy and the study of humanities may need to give me several extra boosts on that one. I can tell it will be just the thing, but it is such a challenging read, I'm afraid I will just let it pass over me to no effect.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Just Some Thoughts on Reading and Commentaries

(Update: oops, it published before I meant for it to. Sorry about that for those of you on feeds.)

I was thinking about critical thinking today, and thinking about reading literature. I was thinking about literary criticism, and about reading a book and coming to your own conclusions first. And I was thinking about homeschooling my kids through high school using great literature, and how to utilize literary commentaries, and whether we should touch them at all.

I came to the conclusion that the best way to handle critical thinking about literature is to read the book yourself, first. Think about it, interact with it by jotting down notes, thoughts, little narrations. Don't look at the commentaries yet. If the book is so difficult you cannot get past the thought that it is so difficult, write that down.

(Write that down, write that down-- where is the man with the paper?)

What thoughts is the book bringing up in you? How does this jibe with what you already know of truth? What connections are being made within you, between this book and other books, or experiences you have had in life?

Do you need to look up some Scripture? Do that. And write it down.

(Where is the man with the paper?)

Think a little more. Reread some parts. Decide what you think.

After you have decided, or at least once you cannot think about it effectively anymore, then pick up a commentary and read someone else's thoughts about the book. And read another commentary. And maybe another one. Are they all saying the same thing? What do you think about it?

Do you need to look up some Scripture? Do it now. Write down your notes.

Don't be afraid to admit that you think the Emperor has no clothes on. Perhaps he hasn't. Or perhaps there are subtleties you don't understand yet. But a great deal of commentary is sound and fury signifying nothing, so don't just accept it without thinking hard. What is the background and history of the person writing the commentary? Does he or she have an agenda, or is he or she fairly balanced?

Talk about the book with others who have read it. What do they think? Do they have viewpoints that are different from yours? Different from the commentaries and study guides? Have you missed some side of the mountain?

Put the book aside for awhile. Let it simmer in your mind. Read something else.

Come back later (maybe a year or two later) and read it again. What do you think now?

(I don't think I would start this before at least 7th grade, perhaps not until high school. Before that time, just reading and narrating is best, I think, and maybe some listmaking, compare/contrast, and notetaking, perhaps.)

(Also, I am no expert. These are just my own flawed thoughts.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

You know what's funny? I sat down to write a blog post this morning, and realized my ideas are used up for the moment. Or rather, I am filled, but with Christmas things that I want to hold close for awhile.

So I don't know if I will post about Christmas, or if I will wait until next week to post again, when I begin earnestly to lay out plans for the rest of Term 2. I guess it depends on if something 'sets me off'! But I have nothing to declare at this point. All is comfort and joy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Menu 12/27 through 1/5

Updated 12/28 to add: When I went out, I decided not to drive the 15+ miles to Sprouts, so I looked for unadvertised meat deals close to home and ended up not purchasing chicken at all! I got beef (roast and stew meat) and pork chops that were on clearance at Kroger. So my menu plans will change a bit.

Tonight I used some of the Christmas leftovers to make a cheesy vegetable cream soup. I lightly sauteed the raw vegetables (broccoli, carrots, celery, green onions, pressed garlic), and left them out until just before serving, so they would stay crisp, and added mashed potatoes to thicken the soup. I used a little Velveeta and parmesan for the cheeses, which I wasn't sure would work out, but it tasted great.

Now I'm working on menus and a shopping list for the rest of Christmas break. We tried to take it easy on the meat for Christmas, since there were only seven of us eating, and as of this evening we have only enough meat left for a couple of sandwiches. Sprouts is having a nice sale on boneless chicken, so I will stock up on that.

I don't know why we didn't think to go easy on sweets for Christmas, though-- we still have cookies, candy, cake and pie in abundance!

Here is my recipe list:

1. Pasta and White Beans in Light Tomato Sauce (I'll use navy instead of cannellini beans)

2. Pollo Bianco (I'll probably cube the chicken and add extra spices)

3. Cream of Tomato Soup from the More-With-Less Cookbook, page 198, and toasted garlic bread

4. Leftover Sausage Ball Omelettes (I'm making this one up as I go-- and these are not left over from the CM book club party, in case you are wondering. I just made these this week for Christmas morning, and have popped them into the freezer until we want them again. ;o)

5. Pinto beans slow-cooked with a ham bone (Yum! Can't wait!) and cornbread

6. Enchiladas

7. Meat-Potato Quiche from the More-With-Less Cookbook p. 158

8. Hummus and crackers. We have two boxes of crackers and half a bag of chips left from Christmas.

Shopping List:

parmesan cheese (?)
frozen vegetables (3 lbs)
olive oil
tomato juice (16 ounces)
1 can enchilada sauce
cheese for enchiladas, and 1 cup for quiche

The Beach Boys - Little Deuce Coupe

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

...and I do mean Merry. Like she said...

(How much we lose when we do not understand the meanings of words. I learned that one for the first time today, I think.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Life and Work

Triss and I were talking the other night about how much pressure she feels to be specific about what she is going to do when she grows up. I expect I am somewhat to blame for this, and I am sorry. So I told her how so many people make large plans about their adult work, and then once they graduate from college they work in an office for some corporation or other. Sometimes people are regretful, but sometimes they have come to enough maturity that they realize it is not the career or job that matters in this life, but the actual *living* of life.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we shouldn't plan. (In fact, it is probably my emphasis on planning that has stressed out my sensitive daughter.) But career or job ought not to be what defines anyone as a person, nor what determines happiness.

I've been hearing lately how the economic downturn is going to cause crises for many (indeed, already has) in this area, and I am not talking about financial crises, but psychological. (There will be financial as well, and that is another post.) Yesterday on the radio, I heard a man warn that the need for psychological counseling is going to go way up, due to people whose identity is wrapped up in their careers losing their jobs. It is easy to stand at a distance and see that this is wrong-- what is a job compared to health, or family, or the love of the Lord? But when Triss started talking to me last night, I began to understand where this imprinting of career-as-self begins. We start grooming them for it as soon as they are old enough to show aptitude for something.

As a young adult seeking employment, I looked for jobs that would make me satisfied. I switched around, trying first one thing, and then another, seeking something that would keep me interested long-term. I never expected to marry, being aloof, considered unapproachable by young men. (Mr. Honey tells a funny story regarding this and the night we met. He says the other guys were gutless. My brave hero!) I served as a recreation leader, a nanny, a barista, while working toward my dream of being a singer.

(I had thought of going into opera, but the networking and politics of it was so intimidating, I switched to more pop-style music. The necessity of networking and formulaic songwriting was too much. What I really wanted to do was to sit at a piano and play and sing, then go home at the end of the day. I wouldn't even need a lot of applause. A lounge singer, yeah, that's it. I did do some auditions for a lounge singer, but didn't succeed. I would still love to do that.)

Then, behold, somebody loved me! And plans changed. I *was* to be a wife after all. I continued working after marriage. (We didn't have children and didn't have money either.) I worked in an office, feeling that perhaps the child-related jobs were too isolating. I enjoyed proofreading physician and hospital lists for the insurance company, but despised having to 'grade' my coworkers on how well they keyed in information. So demoralizing. And the tediousness and artificial lighting and air of the office soon wore me down. Also, I was surprised at how very childish adults could be-- and I didn't even have the authority to put anyone in time-out until they cooled off! I worked nights at a dinner theater to keep my singing dream alive and entertain myself while Mr. Honey worked long retail hours.

Then we discovered I was going to have a baby! As soon as Triss was born, I quit the office and stayed home with her. (The dinner theater had closed a few months earlier, being rather more eclectic than audiences in Nashville generally enjoy.) I gradually segued into home daycare. I was glad to be able to stay home and love on my baby, as well as other people's, but it *is* lonely sometimes staying at home with kids. I longed for a companion that could complete sentences. I read a lot.

One day after my second child had been born, as I sat in my home watching very small children and contemplating homeschooling, I realized that it isn't the job that brings satisfaction, but how I do it-- that it is better to 'be happy in what you do' than 'do what makes you happy'. Think about the difference between those two attitudes. (And think about how long it took me to realize this!)

Many times as adults, we are called on to do needful things because it is best that we do them rather than someone else, or because there is no one else at all to do them. We can whine that these jobs are not what we have aimed for or trained to do, but, in the larger scheme of things, that really does not matter. And we ought to be educated, if not at school then on our own time, in such a way that we are capable of thriving in a good many environments.

How, then, should we be educated? School-to-work is not the answer. That is what produces despair in a person who must change careers.

We say, "What is the good of knowledge? Give a boy professional instruction, whether he is to be a barrister or a bricklayer, and strike out from his curriculum Greek or geography, or whatever is not of utilitarian value. Teach him to play the game and handle the ropes of his calling, and you have done the best for him." Now, here is a most mischievous fallacy, an assertion that a child is to be brought up for the uses of society only and not for his own uses. Here we get the answer to the repeated question that suggested itself in a survey of our educational condition. We launch children upon too arid and confined a life.

Pursuing dreams and passions is also not the answer (although it comes closer). Many times children, and even adults, do not receive the education they need to live their lives to the fullest, because they focus solely on the aspect they have achieved a little success in. This results in a narrow view of gifting, and a similar attitude to the school-to-work crowd. Rather than saying "I can't because it isn't in my job description," they say, "I can't, because it isn't part of my gifting."

(This is a pet peeve of mine. Perhaps you have been placed in the situation you are in to develop a gift for this thing, did you ever think of that? Even adults grow and change, you know. We were not meant for stasis.)

"I must live my life!" said the notorious bandit who before the War terrorized Paris; and we have heard the sort of cant often, even before The Doll's House gave to "self-expression" the dignity of a cult; nevertheless, the brigand Bonnot has done an ill turn to society, for a misguiding theory neatly put is more dangerous than an ill-example.

We are tired of the man who claims to live his life at the general expense, of the girl who will live hers to her family's annoyance or distress; but there really is a great opportunity open to the nation which will set itself to consider what the life of a man should be and will give each individual a chance to live his life.

The pursuing of a gift or passion, for good or ill, can then be defined as 'I must live my [narrow, selfish view of] life'. Or the living of a person's life can be defined differently, as broad, complete, encompassing many interests and duties, the setting of a person's feet in a large room. With this, we can endure the tediousness of office, store or home; we can find happiness in serving even in the most menial tasks; we can step outside the comfort zone of resumes and dreams, and steep ourselves in real life.

I believe the answer to living the life we are meant to live lies, not in a well-chosen profession, but in a well-rounded education, full to the brim with ideas as well as information. It is a challenge to achieve this, especially with all the pressure to 'be' something when you grow up. However, a person who has captured wisdom and understanding can be quickly and efficiently trained to do just about any worthwhile task, and what's more, is content to do the task as long as necessary, and move on when it is time rather than complacently remaining in a useless position.

Our goal should be knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Not a job, not a dream. But a whole person, well-equipped to honor God and serve her fellow man in whatever capacity lies open to her.

"Think clear, feel deep, bear fruit well," says our once familiar mentor, Matthew Arnold, and his monition exactly meets our needs.

(All quotes are taken from Chapter 4 of the second part of Charlotte Mason's Volume 6: Toward a Philosophy of Education)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To Our Weakness No Stranger

The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

from "O Holy Night", written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure (translated by John Sullivan Dwight)

Reminds me of Psalm 103:

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;

To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.

Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.

Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

On Sunday afternoon as we drove down our street and turned into the driveway, I saw a strange bird swoop down from the roof of a neighbor's house, skim the lawns, bob up over a bush and a tree, and then skirt the corner of another neighbor's roof, disappearing out of sight. It was large for a bird, but small for a raptor, and had a long, barred tail. Something in the way it behaved reminded me of a hawk. I looked it up this morning, and I believe what I saw was a sharp-shinned hawk. I thought at first it might be a young Cooper's hawk, but if memory serves, the head was small compared to the body. Notice how much the sharp-shinned hawk resembles a regular bird rather than a bird of prey, especially around the head. I've never seen a raptor fly so low in a yard in our neighborhood.

I wish I could properly upload a picture here, but the ones in public domain are too big for my posting.

The scientific name for sharp-shinned hawk is Accipiter striatus.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

--Robert Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

In The Bleak Midwinter

This poem has been continually in my thoughts this month. My favorite singing version of it is by Jars of Clay-- just the right tempo, straightforward, understated vocal technique, nothing to detract from the beauty of the words:

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

--Christina Rossetti

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Big Day for Cookies

When I realized I had the Saturday before Christmas practically unscheduled, I developed a minor cookie-baking obsession, and took the children (and some of their friends) with me. Here are some pictures:

We used this recipe for the icing, and it turned out beautifully! (I improvised on the amount of confectioner's sugar, adding it until I liked the consistency rather than using measurements; and I left out the lemon extract.)

Cookie decorating genius abounded. I mentioned several times that the M & M's were for snacking on as we worked, but the children had other ideas.

We had dolphins, ducks and fish, as well as rounds, hearts, gingerbread people and Christmas trees. Doesn't it look like the dolphins are doing flips?

The kids finally reached the limit of their tolerance for cookie decorating and went outside to play. (A couple of the girls returned later to help me with snickerdoodles while I drank tea and visited with a friend. I wonder why I didn't snap a pic of the snickerdoodles?)

Some of our friends had to leave before dinner. After dinner the rest of us watched a movie and opened Reese's peanut butter cups for these scrumptious morsels. (I still have two more cookie recipes to make, but we were winding down after dinner.)

All ready to go!

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Twilight

Triss decided to go ahead and read the first Twilight novel after I gave my opinion of it. She inhaled it in one evening. Today she was comparing the Cullens to a rabbit-group in Watership Down, and she provided insight into my "there is a problem here" feeling.

The Cullens aren't like gods in the sense of Tolkien's elves-- they are not 'more human than humans', as C.S. Lewis might say. They are less human than humans. Despite their superior beauty, knowledge and talents, they have essential noble qualities missing. And this is not a good thing.

Triss said she would post on this at her blog, and I hope she does. I haven't read Watership Down, and now I need to in order to understand what she means when she says the Cullens are like the rabbits in Cowslip's Warren.

And can I just say how much I love this girl? She makes such good points! She is better read than I am-- despite my best efforts, I have not read every book in every Year she has studied-- and her insight is a blessing. She even said she didn't think the writing was great-- enigmatic, cryptic, definitely keeps you reading-- but not great. It is amazing to watch a young mind blossom.

(Oh, and Triss-- don't get a big head, girlfriend: there are still dishes to wash!! ;0)

Sandwich Songs

People who live outside of our home probably don't realize that I sing an inane ditty when I make Mr. Honey's sandwiches. I can't remember where I learned it, but putting Miracle Whip on bread always brings out this song in me:

Sandwiches are beautiful!
Sandwiches are fine!
I like sandwiches
I eat them all the time
I eat them for my breakfast
And I eat them for my lunch
If I had a thousand sandwiches
I'd eat them all at once!

Sometimes, for a change of pace, I sing this one:

I'm a little acorn brown
Lying on the cold, cold ground
Everybody steps on me
That is why I'm cracked you see
I'm a nut
I'm a nut
I'm a nut, I'm a nut, I'm a nut.

Sometimes I think I have 'way too much fun making sandwiches. ;o)

(I get this characteristic from my mother, who, as we all know, is her own best entertainment. Love you, Mom.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Victorian Cottage

Cornflower's dollhouse came home from Goggy's today. She and her granddad did a smashing job, didn't they?

Other dollhouse posts here and here.


It is an entertaining truth that children will attach themselves and hold tenaciously to traditions year after year, those mainstays of joyful habit that provide extra assurance of loving care and highlight the kids' special place in their world.

The kids have been talking about our Star Night tradition ever since Thanksgiving, wondering when it would be, admonishing one another not to guess (they were not surprised last year, and surprise is a large part of the tradition).

We sprung it on them last night after church. Mom had given me a Starbucks gift card as a pre-Christmas gift, and I pulled it out of my pocket while we were stopped for gas on the way home and said, "Hey, what's this? It says we should have Star Night TONIGHT!"

The kids went wild. They were completely surprised. Mission accomplished.

It's a lot of fun to take older kids to look at lights. We were treated to Christmas poetry, occasional sing-alongs with the songs on the radio, and amusingly inane comments such as:

"The other day I sang,'Instant frankincense and myrrh..."

To which her youngest sister replied,

"All I want for Christmas is instant oatmeal!"

(I accidentally bought instant oatmeal at the store the other day, and the kids have loved it. I usually buy whole oats-- superior nutritive value, you know. Looks like the whole oats tradition in our house is not as tenacious as some others...)

We listened to one of the local radio stations, which plays all Christmas all the time in December, interspersed with calls from listeners answering whatever question they have put forth for that day. Last night's question invited folks to explain their favorite Christmas tradition. The kids hushed whenever callers came on, and after each cherished tradition was explained, someone was sure to reply, "That's so neat! We should do that!"

This was my favorite:

Every year, the members of a family draw names out of a bowl at Thanksgiving so everyone has one person to focus on. Then in the month between the two holidays, they all write a letter or a story or a poem illustrating how much they love the person whose name they drew, and why they are thankful for him or her. The family has been carrying on this custom since their children were little, and now the children are married and having kids of their own. And they each have extensive collections of sweet reminders that they are loved.

And isn't that the blessing of tradition?

Updated to add: It was very important to Cornflower this morning that she be allowed to make Daddy's sandwiches for work. This is the kind of relational inclusion that is vital for young ones, and so easy to overlook as lives get busier and simple loving customs give way to convenience. Mr. Honey wouldn't think of making his own sandwiches, because we provide them with 'twue wuv' every morning. (Having a specific task to do also gives me more incentive to get up early and tell him good-bye.)

What simple traditions cement family life at your house?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Churchill is Funny!

"Their sturdy and youthful invective shows a robust and relishing consciousness of the possibilities of English prose."

Hee hee.

(And who were these prose-relishing young people? The Puritans of Elizabethan England.)

The Mythology of Twilight

(Updated a second time to actually change the title, lol, and to add my third review.)

(Updated to change the title from "Twilight, The First Few Chapters", and to add my ideas on the next few chapters. I'll update this post at least one more time.)

::Spoiler Alert::

Second Update:

When I started reading _Twilight_, I assumed it was a teen romance novel with vampires thrown in for the benefit of postmodern, desensitized young adults. Surprisingly, it is not. It is a myth.

I don't know why I didn't see it before-- the superhuman strength and other extraordinary talents of Edward, the story location (the Olympic Peninsula), Bella's lack of power to resist. When I realized the story is a myth, all those things fell into place.

(I finally got it as the Cullens played a family game of baseball, with Bella watching. They wait until there is a thunderstorm to play, because their power is so great that on a regular day, the noise of their game disturbs the humans around. Duh, right?)

A myth is for organizing principles and beliefs about God, self and the world around us. So how does Stephanie Meyer do that in _Twilight_?

As Edward gave Bella the history of each member of the Cullen clan, I saw fiery sanctification of a base, evil nature. Each member of the group has been ashamed of what they are, and they have moved from active engagement in evil to redemption through love and self-control. For instance, Carlysle, the father, was the son of a witch-and-vampire fighting Protestant minister in 17th century England. In taking up his father's cause (with reluctance and great discernment, I might add), he was attacked by a vampire, but not finished off. (Being attacked by a vampire but not finished off is how people become vampires in Stephanie Meyer's parallel universe.)

He wandered, forlorn and terrible, his compassion compelling him to starve himself rather than give in to the blood lust that seized him; until one day he came upon a herd of deer and, unable to help himself, feasted. And realized there was hope for him. He then began the practice of only hunting animals and trained himself to resist the temptation of humans. Down through the centuries, he furthered his education, eventually becoming expert at many things, including medicine. In Forks, Washington, he is employed as a doctor.

As the ages passed, he gathered around him his adopted family and taught them his ways. Two of the clan, his wife Esme as well as Edward, he "helped" to become vampires as they lay dying.

You guessed it, this is a problem for me. At one point, as Bella begs to be made one of them, Edward finally says to her, "I refuse to damn you to an eternity of night!" This is the crux of the matter. They have been accursed, condemned to this existence. None of them is happy about it, and they continually work to make it better.

Kind of reminds me of the Apostle Paul saying "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Can't we all identify with people attempting to control their evil nature, to overcome it with good? But no Messiah is in sight in this tale-- which fits in with Greek and Roman mythology. There was Zeus, but he had assorted human-type foibles just like the rest of those gods and goddesses. No Christ figure he.

However, I can't deny that the Cullen family is highly motivated by love and kindness. They use their powers for good. During the baseball game, as evil approaches Bella in the form of baser vampires, the entire clan encircles and protects her, placing themselves in danger and uprooting their lives for her benefit. This is where it gets exciting. The Cullens' love for Edward and Bella is repeatedly illustrated in the tense and terrible saving of her. The dramatic and violent climax is completely necessary to the plot, containing key character elements-- especially for Edward. (And just fyi-- the violence, in the first book at least, is much less graphic than something you would see on CSI or E/R.)

In Greek drama the hero frequently had a tragic flaw-- a trait that clouded his judgment, and eventually caused his demise. It remains to be seen whether _Twilight_ is comedy or tragedy, but at this point, I expect Bella's irrevocable love for Edward is her tragic flaw. This one point is enough for me to be extremely cautious in recommending the series for any teen not firmly grounded in truth. A thoughtful reading *with* discussion is advisable.

Edward may also have a tragic flaw in that he is very used to doing all things amazingly well and has spent this first book realizing his strength of resistance where Bella is concerned. (He doesn't only love her for her-- he also loves her for her blood, the smell of which is very tempting to him. I know, gross. But he's a vampire.) I can see him getting arrogant and slipping up in a future book. He constantly reminds Bella that he is very dangerous to her. (She, for her part, feels very little fear, poor foolish child.)

I see the myth of the Cullens teaching a great deal about love and self-control, which is fine as far as it goes. It doesn't go far enough for me-- I would like to see an eternal God come forward to guide and redeem these folks. Also, I am concerned about some of the love-teaching in this book. Bella still worries me. It is not okay that she is willing to be damned in order to follow her lover. I wonder how that plot-line develops through the other books. I guess I will have to read the whole series.

(And wow! American teens are excited about a well-written book with a complex moral. That's kind of neat.)

(And updated yet again to add this link to Chuck Colson's talking points on the series. h/t DHM)

First Update:

I have gotten through the next five chapters, and also discussed the book with a brother in our church whose daughter is Triss' good friend. We laughed when we realized that I had a lowish opinion of Edward for the same reason he has a lowish opinion of Bella: there is danger, and neither one of them has any sense. He thought it was Bella's job to run the other direction, while I thought Edward ought to get far away before it was too late. We chalked it up to gender differences, and decided both of them are rather foolish.

Continuing my previous comparison of _Twilight_ to the novel _Jane Eyre_, I can now see that the two Edwards have more in common than I first thought. Both are haunted and driven, both attempt to resist the draw of the woman they love, both finally give in after putting forth a huge effort. Edward Rochester attempts to trap Jane into an illegal marriage, and she escapes narrowly, actually runnning away from the mansion to wander in and out of villages in the dead of winter until rescued by a kind family. I do not yet know what Edward Cullen will do, but it doesn't look like Bella will do any running-- at least not any time soon.

It is ironic that Bella picked up Austen's _Sense and Sensibility_ to read as she contemplated (and tried to escape) the news that Edward was a vampire. She is obviously Marianne in this romance, and there is no Eleanor anywhere to be seen.

She keeps analyzing her feelings, expecting to feel at least some fear at the news, and at the fierce yet controlled intensity that Edward goes through at times, but only feels a sense of loss when she thinks of distancing herself from him. She finally decides that she cannot escape her feelings. This is a major flaw in the book, imho. Do we really want to teach our daughters that they must follow their hearts without any common sense? I realize I am not taking the romantic view, but I am a parent. I appreciate the romance and falling in love, but we are called to use our heads as well as our hearts, and this girl needs someone else to talk to about her situation. The adults in her life have abandoned their responsibility to guide her. I do see one possible light in the Native American friends, who know about the Cullens being vampires, or 'cold ones'. The father of Jacob Black may be the one adult who attempts to give Bella the benefit of his wisdom, but he has no developed rapport with her, no cherished shared memories, and, at this point at least, I think she sees him as a possible threat.

Triss' friend's dad commented during our discussion that the storyline offered him an opportunity to discuss how to make decisions like this in light of scripture rather than simply following our feelings, though the feelings may be strong. That is a good point. There are definitely discussion opportunities for the involved parent-- but it is important to make sure the child has reached a level of maturity that will enable her to benefit from discussion, rather than become mesmerized or even lost in the compelling drama of the plot.

So that is where I am in the book. I can see that I might have been hasty in my judgment of Edward, but I think they are both foolish.

Original post:

Last night, while waiting for Triss to finish a Girl Scout gift-wrapping fundraiser at Barnes and Noble, I picked up the first Twilight novel to see what all the hype was about. Triss doesn't want to read the book, but several of her friends are so enamored of the story that, in their presence, it seems the only lively topic of conversation.

(Our taste in books doesn't generally run to vampires, although we have been known to take in a good murder mystery novel, and we went through a Lemony Snicket phase last summer. Rather funny, he is.)

I read around five chapters before we left last night, and it is definitely a page-turner. I think it is pretty well-written, but I am not the best judge. I really like Bella so far, though I am sad at her aloneness. (I can't really call it loneliness, because she seems to want her life to be that way.) I've gotten to the part where she refuses to ask anyone to the girls' choice dance.

I admit I want to kick Edward every time he makes an appearance, and I don't expect that to change. He seems to be selling Bella a bill of goods. I know, I haven't read the whole thing, but I have read a lot of reviews, and can see where it is leading. Sorry, not impressed with the noble-bad-boy-I'm-no-good line. If he's so noble, why doesn't he go far, far away before it is too late? Anyone who wants to see real selfless love in the face of evil and injustice needs to read Jane Eyre's refusal of her Edward when it is discovered that a very real and scary impediment exists to their marriage. Girls, it's all been done before, and usually with higher principles than what's being written now.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fifth Month: Be Prepared and Don't Be Scared!

(Go here to read all my updates on our attempts at gazelle intensity, or click on the label, "Personal Finance" in the sidebar.)

This month was a pretty big challenge financially. We spent over $700 on car repairs, and still have a few hundred dollars' worth of maintenance to take care of. (Thanks to the buckets, we have the cash for it. I'm just waiting for the right time to take the van back to the shop.) Also, Mr. Honey, who is in sales, has received instructions to redouble his efforts on the job, Or Else. Anyone who has been in sales will understand the challenge of making quota at any time, and in this economy it can be downright difficult. Mr. Honey is working all the hours he can to produce the additional sales needed. He has been given the beginning of February as a deadline.

As Triss' Brownie troop leader used to say, "Be prepared, and don't be scared!" That's our motto, with the Lord as our provider. This morning, while thinking about our situation, I realized what a huge blessing Mr. Honey's employment has been throughout our marriage. He has worked for this particular company for eleven years, and was steadily employed before that, too, with only short times of unemployment. The Lord has provided for us thus far, and will continue to do so.

Thus far the Lord hath led me on
Thus far his power prolongs my days
And every evening shall make known
Some fresh memorial of his grace.

(I just want to say here that I really don't think they will let him go if quotas aren't met. He will just move into a less lucrative position. And the man is working like the dickens-- if anyone can make the numbers, he will.)

We have decided to pour all our money (after bills, buckets and credit card minimums) into the emergency fund, just in case. We plan to take it all out and put it toward one of the credit cards after February comes and goes and the Lord continues to bless Mr. Honey with work and a sufficient income. If He has other plans, we will change ours accordingly.

Other than the van and the scary job news, our month went well. We paid over $1100 on our debt (this was before our van had its breakdown and we had to go into the emergency fund to pay for it-- this month we will replenish and add to our emergency fund, while paying only minimums to our debt). In spite of van woes, I had a sense of surplus the whole month, what with gas prices being so low.

I took Triss to The Picture People to get her portrait made with her bunny-- her belated birthday gift-- and it ended up costing us only $5 for a sitting and three sheets of pix, after our Portrait Club discounts and coupons. That was pretty nice! We had cookies at the Nestle store in the mall with some of the extra.

I am just about done with the Christmas shopping, which hasn't been extensive. I had a great idea for a gift for Mr. Honey the other day, although we hadn't planned on doing gifts for each other. I'm still going to do this for him, but I can't tell you what it is because he reads the blog occasionally. He is going to love it, though, and it will be a comfort while he is out on the road every day seeking sales. Hee hee! I can't wait for him to open it.

(I have a few project-gifts I am almost done with too, but I can't say what they are because I don't want to spoil anyone's Merry Christmas.)

We had an amazing gift arrive anonymously last week for the girls. I wrote about it here. (They are still going strong with it, wanting to examine *everything* under the light of the micro/magnascope! Hmm, there's an applicable scripture there somewhere...)

My mom told me today that she heard the gas prices are starting back up. I trimmed our gas budget by a couple hundred dollars last month (Mr. Honey drives a lot for his job), and was thinking of trimming it more this month, but now I think I will hold it here and see what happens in the next few weeks. We got a gallon of milk for $2.15 today at the store, and I assume it was so inexpensive because of the lower gas prices. (I thought they had the gallon jugs sitting on the half-gallon shelf at first!)

That's about it on the financial front. Thanks for reading this far. I know I am long-winded.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Notes on Service

We are following the focuses suggested by Mama Squirrel this Christmas season, which she took from the book _Celebration of Discipline_ by Richard Foster, and this week's focus is Service.

(*UPdated to add this article about Gary Sinese, a good example of a true servant [vs. someone who only acts like a servant]. [h/t Bookworm Room] You may remember him as Lt. Dan in the movie, Forrest Gump.

[There are several verses and stories in the Bible about how the humble will receive honor. The funniest part of that is truly humble people don't need the medals. But it is a good reminder for the rest of us. A little list, taken from the Doorposts reference book, _For Instruction in Righteousness_:

Joseph (Gen. 41:14-44)
David (Ps. 78:70-72)
Ruth (the book of Ruth, Matt. 1:5)
Abigail (I Sam. 25)

And on a punctuation note, I wonder if there is a limit to the number of times a person can insert parentheses on top of brackets on top of parentheses...])

Our L.M. Alcott story for this week will be "Roses and Forget-Me-Nots" (it's online!), the story of a poor orphan girl who ran errands for a florist, and who awakened the charity of a young privileged girl. They each were able to serve the other in both small and important ways.

(Update: Oops, she ran errands for a *milliner*, not a florist.)

One thing I like about the Alcott stories is that the girls are never paragons of virtue-- they are girls with very real good and bad points, who are trying to be good. Kind of like the girls I know. :o)

(On a side note, my copy of Alcott is an anthology-- ISBN 0517371464-- that my brother gave me for Christmas when I was in junior high. The binding is breaking apart, but it is still a favorite. It is so mine that it felt weird to realize there are people selling this book online. Surely mine was the only copy! Isn't that funny? But I read it over and over throughout junior high and high school. It contains Little Women, Little Men, and a collection of short stories.)

We will use some of the ideas in Mama Squirrel's original Advent post, including making a list of small, seemingly insignificant ways we can serve one another here at home.

I'm planning to call the volunteer coordinator for one of our local charitable organizations tomorrow morning. They run the angel trees at two of the malls in our area, and they are running low on volunteers for one of the locations, so I will see if we can volunteer for one or two time slots. But I also want to talk to the kids about the difference between acting like a servant and actually being one, as Mama Squirrel discussed in her post. There is a picture book that addresses this, The True Princess, and I think I might read that aloud one day.

(Updated to add: I want to say that I am not denigrating the idea of *acting* like a servant. How does one get to be a true servant, but by acting like one? The reason for bringing up the distinction is to help us press on toward the mark-- to not be satisfied with occasional random acts of kindness, but to reach toward consistent, sustained acts of kindness.)

('Nother update: The idea of contrasting acting like a servant with being one is taken from Richard Foster's book, _Celebration of Discipline_, which I have never read, nor even held in my hands. But the more I write about it, the more I think I need to add it to my unwieldy and out-of-control Amazon wish list. ;o)

The question of Zebedee's mother, and the indignation of the disciples, and Jesus' response, apply:

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Matthew 20:24-27

I love this Twyla Paris song:

Oh, let me be a servant
A keeper of the door
My heart is only longing
To see forevermore
The glory of your presence
The dwelling of the Lord
Oh, let me be a servant
A keeper of the door.

Taken from Psalm 84:

How amiable [are] thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!

My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, [even] thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.

Blessed [are] they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.

Blessed [is] the man whose strength [is] in thee; in whose heart [are] the ways [of them].

[Who] passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.

They go from strength to strength, [every one of them] in Zion appeareth before God.

O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.

Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.

For a day in thy courts [is] better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

For the LORD God [is] a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good [thing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

O LORD of hosts, blessed [is] the man that trusteth in thee.

The most interesting thing to me about that psalm is that even in giving, we receive so much more.

A hymn:

Help us to help each other, Lord,
Each other's cross to bear;
Let each his friendly aid afford,
And feel his brother's care.

Help us to build each other up,
Our little stock improve;
Increase our faith, confirm our hope,
And perfect us in love.

Up into Thee, the living Head,
Let us in all things grow
Till Thou hast made us free indeed,
And spotless here below.

Then, when the mighty work is wrought,
Receive Thy ready bride;
Give us in Heav'n a happy lot
With all the sanctified.

--Charles Wesley 1707-1788

I'd love to hear other ideas folks have on the theme of Service.


"A comprehensive study of child success, conducted in 2002 by researchers Karen Mapp and Anne Henderson, looked carefully at high-achieving students from all backgrounds. It found that the common denominator was relationship.

"'Their parents encourage them, talk with them about school, help them plan for higher education, and keep them focused on learning and homework.' The activity of relationship mattered more than money, more than other 'college prep' activities, more than electronics, more than material comfort.

--from _Nurture the Nature_ by Michael Gurian, emphases mine

I Am Made Worthy

An unworthy sinner
Is all that I am
But I am made worthy
By the blood of the Lamb.

from a song by the Primitive Quartet

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our Merry Mess

Cleaning has not been high on the list of priorities this week, as we attempt to get in a full week's worth of school and also make the season bright. But there is plenty of cheerful chaos, and you know what scripture says:

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. -- Proverbs 14:4

Here are some word-snapshots of the merry mess that is my house this morning:

I sit at my dining table in the great room (our kitchen flows into our dining room which flows into our family room) at the laptop. The table is covered with old Christmas cards, as Cornflower makes a birthday card for one of her friends. My own Christmas cards, needing addresses and stamps, rest on the tall counter to our left, among recipes, ads and bills. Sitting next to the pile is a little Nativity. (We have another in the entryway, and one on the piano.) Our sloppily endearing gingerbread house is the centerpiece of the table. (The girls have asked repeatedly if they will be allowed to eat it.) At my right hand are several forms for Girl Scouts, which I should be filling out rather than blogging, and Cornflower's math workbook, science journal and photo album rest in front of the laptop, relics from yesterday's schoolwork and today's search for a friend-pic. Cornflower quietly sings "Silent Night" as she works.

In the schoolroom just off the kitchen, Triss sits at her computer, making changes to digital images using Paint and photos. On the table in the middle of the room are Spanish textbooks, a little boombox, and The Wonder of It All . Also my winter gloves, and the computer-to-camera cable for our digital camera.

We are all in our jammies.

I hear the dryer spinning Mariel's clothes, and realize that soon we will have to pull those out and move Cornflower's darks to the dryer. She is waiting for some casual-yet-festive options for the ballet performance we are going to this afternoon.

I need to iron my nice jeans and get out my heeled boots.

To my right, we have Santa Claus pictures from 2000 to the present, sitting atop our kids' chapter books bookcase. (I love this bookcase. It is a low, rolling school bookcase I bought at a garage sale when Triss was two. I painted the blond wood a deep green. It needs a new coat of paint after twelve years.)

Mariel walks in, trailing blankets and looking as if bed is the best place to be. She popped out awhile back to make the comment, "Very snug," and announce that she was going back to bed. Triss admonished her: "That's no way to run a retail establishment!" (That's kind of an obscure Beatrix Potter reference. I can't remember which story it is from. The kids think it is hilariously funny, but it tends to leave folks in the dark rather than amuse.)

Mariel pulls out "The Princess Diaries" DVD and asks if she can put it on. The answer is, not until everyone is festively dressed and ready to go watch ballerinas.

My bookcase is untidy, with stacks sitting on the floor. We prop the kids' Sketch Tuesday assignments in front of the books each week so we can enjoy them. Triss' contribution to the 'something that lives in the desert' assignment was a very sweet prairie dog, sketched from a photo in one of our Nature's Children books.

Cornflower finds a Christmas card I didn't mail last year. This is an unfortunate habit with me. I'm really good at writing Christmas cards and thank-you notes, but mailing them is another thing altogether.

She is now humming "Joy to the World". I love it when the kids hum as they work on projects. Such a happy sound. And the consistent tapping coming from the schoolroom indicates to me that Triss has switched from editing images to composing a story.

My piano sits to the right of me just inside the family room. It is surprisingly neat, the result of having had a piano student and then a run into town and then movie night in quick succession yesterday. The only music on the stand is Mariel's copy of "Angels We Have Heard On High". On the upright lid, we have photos of the girls, and a photo of my grandparents. (We probably have too many photos of the girls displayed in our house for the kids' own good. Humility and all that. But I love seeing pictures of them at different ages.) Mariel's violin rests in its stand to the left of the piano. To the right of it is a slender bookcase containing piano music, Bibles, and reference materials.

Mariel has ensconced herself in one of the easy chairs, blanket over head. She sits next to the Christmas tree and the dollhouses in the family room. Scattered on the floor are reminders of last evening's movie-viewing excitement-- a jacket dropped in one girl's haste to see "A Charlie Brown Christmas", several throw pillows, Mariel's math book and notebook shoved under the dollhouse table. A load of mine and Mr. Honey's laundry that must be folded.

Mr. Honey had to work this morning, and left with sandwiches, coffee, cookies, and plenty of hugs and kisses.

The dryer has stopped. I suppose that's my cue to spur the troops to action.

How about you? What does your merry mess look like?

Friday, December 12, 2008

In Which I Stream My Consciousness About Books

This is a repost of something I wrote a little over a year ago, about how I love books. It popped up on my Bloglines feed for some reason this evening, and in rereading it I noticed that my feelings are still the same. Love those books. (Haven't kept up with Library Thing, though. Books migrate around my house too much for me to keep track of what I have and haven't entered.)


We joined Library Thing last week, and I have had two enjoyable (yet short) sessions at the computer typing in titles.

I have entered pretty much all the kids' current schoolbooks, my current reads, and the bottom shelves of our three Ikea bookcases. But I have already entered 105 books! I have 18 more shelves on our Ikea bookcases, two long bookshelves filled with picture books, a bookshelf in Mariel's room and the many books that have taken up residence on Triss' bed. (You may not think a bed can hold very many books, but believe me, it can... Or maybe you do understand.)

I know we do not have nearly as many books as some folks we know. That's fine. I have always thought that for a book-lover, I was not really very good at stockpiling books. I have even gotten rid of a lot of books in the last couple of years (as well as purchasing quite a few). But I really didn't think we would approach a thousand books in our house, and it looks like the Ikea bookcases alone may contain at least that many. Golly.

My thoughtful, excellent husband and children gave me Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman for my birthday (thank you, DHM, for recommending it!) and I have been enjoying an essay or two before I go to bed each night. I especially enjoyed the essay, "Never Do That To A Book."

During the next thirty years I came to realize that just as there is more than one way to love a person, so is there more than one way to love a book. The chambermaid belived in courtly love. A book's physical self was sacrosanct to her, its form inseparable from its content; her duty as a lover was Platonic adoration, a noble but doomed attempt to conserve forever the state of perfect chastity in which it had left the bookseller. The Fadiman family believed in carnal love. To us, a book's words were holy, but the paper, cloth, cardboard, glue, thread, and ink that contained them were a mere vessel, and it was no sacrilege to treat them as wantonly as desire and pragmatism dictated. Hard use was a sign not of disrespect, but of intimacy.

I, sadly, am carnal. To me, the words really are the most important. I want the words, and the ideas contained therein, and will own (and devour) the most threadbare copy of a book if that is the only one I can find. And I am also greedy for books, so I will own the less expensive paperback in order to be able to get two books instead of just one. (More books, more ideas!) I figure the really nice copies can be given as Christmas presents somewhere down the line, once some (or all) of us are enamored of the words in the book. I want the words!!

It bothers me a little to be on the carnal side. I do think material possessions have value and I ought to be a good steward. So, I shamefacedly admit (don't be too hard on me, Javamom!) to dogearing books; marking books in pen; placing open books down on the table, chair, floor; purchasing torn copies; bookmarking a book with another book; and even shelving broken books in ziploc bags (and reading those books in pieces). In fact, my beautiful brand-new Ex Libris is sitting on the floor at my feet, open and face downward, awaiting its usefulness.

(My first copy of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn came apart in the middle and about thirty pages fell out after I had read it maybe 15-20 times. I continued to reread it and reread it, simply pausing at the break each time to remind myself of what happened in those pages before going on to the next available page. When I finally purchased a whole copy years later, it was refreshing to be able to actually read through those pages instead of reviewing my memory.)

If I were afraid to damage my books, I don't think I would get as much out of them. There is always a book within reach at our house. An open, face-down book invites me to pick it up and read just one more page. When I see a tired copy of a book I think, now there's a book that has delivered up its ideas!! Imho, the covers, pages and print are the means to the end of communicating ideas.

Yes, I know, we want to preserve these things if we are going to expect them to offer up ideas in the future. Sigh. I admire that position. Really, I do. I hope someday to achieve the balance of respecting the material aspects of the books as much as I desire the words and ideas inside. I am working toward that goal. Perhaps by the time I am eighty. Meantime, I have three up-and-coming bibliophiles whom I am training to care about ideas. How to simultaneously teach them good stewardship? My friend, Lindafay, would say one step at a time...

I tend to agree with her.


The fish that swallowed Pagoo.

"He's slimy."


Away in the Manger

(You have to imagine this as sung a capella, slowly, with tight harmonies and achingly beautiful passing tones, by the choral group Anuna.

Away in a manger,
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side,
'Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there
The believing we do something when we do nothing is the first illusion of tobacco.


I think we could adapt this to say:

"The believing we do something when we do nothing is the first illusion of the Internet."

(Pointing finger at self-- I'm feeling a little ridiculous for spending an hour of perfectly good sleeping time looking at flair on Facebook last night.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Giving in Secret

"Mom, we got a package! It's from a science company!" the girls hollered as they carried a box into the house yesterday afternoon.

"Hmm, I wonder what it is?" I figured it was a gift from one of the kids' aunts or uncles, who all live states away from us.

Triss got out her pocketknife and we all stood around watching as she slit the tape on top.

"Maybe it's a Christmas gift. Should we hide our eyes?" Mariel asked.

"Um, okay. Let me open it, and I'll tell you in a minute." The label on the box simply said, "American Science and Surplus". I peeped inside and saw a microscope.

(Oh, yes! A microscope! I didn't think we'd ever have a nice microscope! So perfect. And it has the capability of magnifying solid objects! I can't wait to use this for nature study!)

"Yes, I think it *is* a Christmas gift," I said, spiriting the box away from the kids and into my room. As they excitedly talked about what might come from a science company, I closed the door of my room and looked at the invoice to see who had sent it.

There was no name but the children's on the invoice.

I contacted 'the usual suspects'-- grandparents, aunts and uncles. But no one knew anything about it.

We wondered all last evening and all day today. I wasn't sure whether to give it to the kids, or wrap it for Christmas, so it stayed hidden in my closet.

Finally, someone told me they thought they might know who sent it, and that if it was this person he/she would prefer to remain anonymous. We were to thank the Lord alone for the gift.

(Thank you, Lord! What a wonderful present! This will help a lot!)

I showed the kids the microscope this afternoon, and we are all agog with the excitement of finding things to examine with it.

(And wondering how to pay it forward.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Come, Behold the Works of Jehovah

We read this article as part of our Solitude and Stillness focus this morning.

We also read Luke 5, which is part of our regular New Testament reading, and discussed how the people acknowledged God's power (or didn't) in that chapter.

The kids also worked on envelopes in which to place their worries and requests to the Lord (I had hoped for boxes, but we could only manage envelopes, and that is fine). On the front, they wrote the verse, "Be still and know that I am God."

As they worked, they began to hum, which was kind of neat. I heard "Be Still My Soul" and "Wonderful Jesus, Glorious Friend". I hadn't even thought of those two songs as good ones for our focus this week.

Wonderful Jesus! Glorious friend!
He will be with me unto the end,
Cheering, upholding, keeping me strong,
Fearless and loyal, shielding from wrong.

Wonderful Jesus! Showing the way
Into the blessed kingdom of day,
Guiding my footsteps, holding control,
Making me happy, making me whole.

Wonderful Jesus! All through the night
He will enfold me, giving me light;
Then, when the morning breaks on the shore,
This He will whisper, "Mine evermore."

Wonderful Jesus! Marvelous king!
Ever his praise my spirit will sing,
When I behold His glorified face,
How I shall praise His wonderful grace!

--James Rowe, 1865-1933

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

--Robert Frost

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Merry Christmas, Hold the Santa?

Someone on one of the homeschool lists I read raised the Santa question last week. I finally composed my thoughts enough to get them down on paper. I know my view tends to be a minority in the Christian community, but here it is, for what it's worth:

I don't have a problem with Santa infringing on Christmas, because
our family's religious tradition does not include Christmas. We actually
celebrate it more as a family holiday than a religious day. We have
people within our religious tradition who don't celebrate any kind of
Christmas at all, and we don't allow Christmas trappings in our church building.
We worship the Lord very simply, and icons and more elaborate rituals tend to be frowned upon. We actually had pangs as young parents about "doing" Advent and putting
out nativity scenes. (Mr. Honey and I finally determined, through prayer and
patience, in agreement with the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1, that we are just glad that Christ is being mentioned in our culture whenever He is, and
that we can honor Christ with these symbols in our home).

Santa is simply a fun mythology we engage in as part of
our Christmas tradition. We haven't lied to our children. Very matter-
of-factly, and without talk of real or imaginary, we took them to see
Santa Claus from the time they were little, left out cookies, gave gifts 'from Santa', and wrote a little thank-you note 'from Santa' on Christmas morning.
It was similar to the practice of the tooth fairy ("Oh, you lost a tooth! You need to put it under your pillow for the tooth fairy!")

As each child began asking, "Is Santa Claus real?" we replied, "What do you think?" thus inviting the child to continue the game, or to take the next step in growing up. As each child came out of the fantasy, she was invited to take part in the
setting out of presents for the other children. This has caused an increase in tenderness of heart where giving gifts is concerned.

(We also never told the children to look out because Santa was watching and might not bring toys if they weren't good.)

All three of my children now understand the myth that is Santa, and not
one of them have had their faith in the Lord shaken because of it. We celebrate Christ every day of the year, with a reverence and humility that sets Him apart from every little mythology we may indulge in as fun. I think this has kept our children from questioning their faith when they were finally ready to grow into a more utilitarian and less imaginative knowledge of Santa.

I'm not trying to persuade anyone to 'come over to the Santa camp'.
It really isn't that important-- it's one of those things addressed in
Romans 14:

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

I'm not going to tell anyone that they ought not to keep Christmas Day as more sacred than another day, either. But I wanted to present an alternate point of view, one that I hope is still Christian.


"IN 1829 Andrew Jackson, the great soldier, became President. All the presidents up till now had been well born men, aristocrats, in fact. But Jackson was a man of the people. He had been born in a log cabin on the borders of North and South Carolina. He had very little schooling, and all his life he was never able to write correct English."

--from This Country of Ours by H.E. Marshall

Monday, December 08, 2008

Love Cover

There is a love that never fails
There is a healing that always prevails
There is a hope that whispers a vow
A promise to stay while we're working it out
So come with your love and wash over us

--Sara Groves, "When It Was Over"

Wait and See

So far, every time I hear about something President-Elect Obama has said, or done, or a person he has nominated, I have thought, "Well, that's not so bad." Apparently, it isn't my imagination:

Obama’s post-election rhetoric on Iraq and choices for national security team have some liberal Democrats even more perplexed. As a candidate, Obama defined and separated himself from his challengers by highlighting his opposition to the war in Iraq from the start. He promised to begin to end the war on his first day in office.

Now Obama’s says that on his first day in office he will begin to “design a plan for a responsible drawdown,” as he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. Obama has also filled his national security positions with supporters of the Iraq war: Sen. Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize force in Iraq, as his secretary of state; and President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, continuing in the same role.


“My economic team right now is examining, do we repeal that through legislation? Do we let it lapse so that, when the Bush tax cuts expire, they're not renewed when it comes to wealthiest Americans?” Obama said on “Meet the Press.” “We don't yet know what the best approach is going to be.”

That caution sounds a bit conservative to me. I have to adopt a wait-and-see attitude because, like John Isaacs points out in the article, "He hasn't had a first day in office."

But still..

More here.

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, on the Separation of Church and State

Found here.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.

(Emphasis mine.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Week 2: Solitude and Silence

We are going into week two of Mama Squirrel's Advent ideas, which she culled from Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. This week is about solitude and silence, prayer. I'm so glad it is about prayer. Lately, I seem to spend most of my prayer life praying that the Lord will bless me to *pray*. I've been pondering the practice of the presence of God, trying to seek it. My own will is so strong in other directions. Or weak, as Charlotte would say. Something unlawful has the ear of the prime minister, if you know what I mean.

At any rate, I plan to read aloud Ann's beautiful post tomorrow (thanks, Mama Squirrel!), and we will sing a song each day that reflects solitude and stillness.

Being still is so difficult at this time in history. That cannot be an excuse. But it is hard. So many things vie for our attention, so many noisome distractions clang in the mind.

Several years ago, when I was going through a rough time, a friend gave me a little porcelain boxes. On it were the words, "Be still and know that I am God." She suggested that I write out my prayer requests (they felt more like desperate demands at that time) and slip them into the box and leave them there for a few months, then come back and read them and realize how the Lord provided. I'm planning to do that with the children this week.

We can be still because our help comes from the Lord.

We will read Psalm 121 together:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

One of our favorite little picture books is the story of The Big Green Pocketbook. In it, the little girl collects mementoes and treasures from a morning in town with her mother. After she gets home, she discovers that her pocketbook, with her whole morning in it, has been lost. She is distressed. But the very next picture shows her sitting quietly in the center of the living room, very still. I'm not sure what she is supposed to be doing, but I like to think that she is praying the Lord will return her treasure. Later, the bus driver stops by their house again, with her pocketbook. (She makes sure to give him a present as a thank-you-- a picture she drew using her new crayons.)

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost is a good poem for this week.

There is a Louisa May Alcott Christmas story that goes along with being alone and still, praying and hoping. (You knew I would find one, didn't you?) I think this week we will read Patty's Place, the story of an orphan girl who goes from an orphanage inmate, to servant-girl, and finally, through the help of a special "aunt", finds her place in a family.

Mama Squirrel has some very good ideas in her original advent post, scroll down to Week 2.

(On a somewhat silly note, I have been listing our Advent activities under "Life Skills" in the Homeschool Tracker. Triss thought that was amusing. I'm not sure it is a perfect fit, but Simplicity, Stillness and Solitude are life skills, among other things.)


The kids' current project is dollhouses. The green and blue farmhouse is Triss', which she built this past summer. The cream-colored Pointed Gothic cottage with purple and green trim is Mariel's. Her Goggy helped her build it last month. Cornflower's dollhouse is still under construction at Goggy's house, so it isn't pictured.

(The kids and I built the gingerbread house this week. I thought it looked cute with the dollhouses.)

This is the inside of Mariel's house. She is still working on getting furniture.

And this is the inside of Triss' house. She has some old furniture from a toy dollhouse, but plans to get some nice furniture, too. Right now, though, she is focusing on getting the lights on-- she just finished wiring the house for electricity, and is going to purchase some lamps soon.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Without Controversy

And without controversy

great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifest in the flesh,

justified in the Spirit,

seen of angels,

preached unto the Gentiles,

believed on in the world,

received up into glory.

1 Timothy 3:16

Dinner Menus for December 6th through 12th

(Not necessarily in this order, and most likely with modifications!)

Man's Way Sausage Casserole here

Cream of Broccoli soup from the Saving Dinner cookbook, p. 108

Asian Honey Chicken from the Saving Dinner cookbook, p. 34

Sloppy Joes here

Pork Chops, rice, okie gravy...that's tonight, yum...

Basic Baked Beans, from the More With Less cookbook p. 99 (and I'm thinking about the rice pudding on p. 268)

Caribbean rice and beans, from the More With Less cookbook p. 103

Groceries to buy:

5 lbs potatoes
1 butternut squash
2 heads of broccoli
1 head of garlic
1 bunch green onions (I may skip this and just use a portion of a regular onion)
1 pound dry pinto beans
1 pound dry navy beans

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Philippians 4:6-7

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

noise, excitement and occupation vs. Quiet

"...alone before God, we stand naked and vulnerable. We won't be able to pretend anymore; before God, we will have the choice to obey or to disobey, but pretending will no longer be an option. If we are miserable, we will have to face our misery. If we are sad, we will have to face our sadness. When we dwell in God's presence we must dwell in truth; we cannot control the outcome."

The Queen has been sharing quotes from a book I need to read, _Seeking the Face of God_ by Gary Thomas. Chapter 6 is called "Cultivating the Quiet: Simplicity".

"The difficulty of simplicity is that it will, at times (especially in the early stages as we break our addiction to diversion), lead us into soul boredom, gloom, depression, and possibly even to despair... I would be less than honest if I suggested that one day our lives are filled with diversions and the next day we walk hand-in-hand with God in glorious rapture... We who have been drugged by diversions cannot expect to enter the quiet without a struggle. Our souls will roar for diversion, the fix that saves us from God's presence."

Read her post here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Notes on Simplicity

The kids and I were joking around today as we talked about what simplicity means. We got a little silly and came up with this:

I got food, I got clothing, I'm happy. Anything else is frosting.

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. I Timothy 6:8

Here are some links that relate to the topic of Simplicity:

The Story of the Elves and the Shoemaker deals with giving gifts in secret.

He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity. Romans 12:8 (a portion)

We are reading Tessa's Surprises by Louisa May Alcott (she has several excellent short stories that are set at Christmastime), and are going to follow-up with Mama Squirrel's excellent recommendation, Why the Chimes Rang. Both of these stories illustrate an humble gift given from the heart that is honored by heaven, a poignant and familiar theme that is echoed in the words of The Little Drummer Boy, and also in the scriptural instance of the poor widow casting her mite into the treasury:

And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. --Luke 21:1-4

Update: Okay, the Chimes story was actually *just* referenced in the Erma Bombeck essay, not in Mama Squirrels post. Fact is, I am just too busy to blog-- I need to make verifications before I hit post, but I keep posting and running! Gotta stop doing that.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti (I found this over at Dominion Family). This beautiful poem realizes our poverty in relation to the Lord:

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Music here.

The Chimes story is referenced in this essay by Erma Bombeck, which is also mentioned by Mama Squirrel in her Advent post. The essay is a reminder to all of us as parents not to despise the day of small things, lest you find one day it is gone, and you miss it.

(The story actually reminds me of my mother, who used to leave one-year-old Triss' handprints on the windows of her house for weeks after we had come across two states for a visit. And when I was going through old photos at her house on Thanksgiving, I came across a whole album of little scribbles and paintings by my then-tiny girls, lovingly placed in page protectors.)


(lyrics by Bebo Norman)

On a day like this I want to crawl beneath a rock
A million miles from the world, the noise, the commotion
That never seems to stop

And on a day like this I want to run away from the routine
Run away from the daily grind that can suck the life
Right out of me

I only know of one place I can run to

I want to hide in You
The Way, the Life, the Truth
So I can disappear
And love is all there is to see
Coming out of me
And You become clear
As I disappear

I don't want to care about earthly things
Be caught up in all the lies that trick my eyes
They say it's all about me

I'm so tired of it being about me¦

I would rather be cast away
Separated from the human race
If I don't bring You glory
If I don't bring You glory
If I don't bring You glory

I want to hide in You
The Way, the Life, the Truth
So I can disappear
And love is all there is to see
Coming out of me
And You become clear
As I disappear