Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Numbers, Pips and Index Cards

     Arden and I used our math hour to play number games.  Normally the math hour is the time we spend creating battle scenarios with Cuisinaire Rods, but, frankly, I'm starting to get a little bored with the destruction and mayhem.
     Arden is slowly, very, very slowly, working his way through Saxon K.  He's not big on writing, he's a man of action, so Bryan (the math teacher here) wisely doesn't require writing.  Arden is good with numbers and easily masters the concepts in Saxon K.  This is a huge benefit of homeschooling.  If your boys can't sit still and hold a pencil to save their life, but they can add 14 and 13 in their head, you can work with that and don't need to drug them to sit in a chair.
     Arden began by counting forward to ten and back, then to twenty and back, standing on the living room rug and twisting his torso.  Then Arden used index cards with the numbers 1-20 and laid them out in order on the floor, while Bryan got ready for work.  Then the games began.  Arden would turn around and hide his face and Bryan would take a number away, then Arden would guess the missing number.  Bryan would take away another, and Arden would guess.
     After Bryan left for work, Arden and I used the number cards 1-9 and dice.  We learned this little game at my mom's house, thanks to a Christmas catalog and a magnifier.  My mom wrote the numbers on paper and used pennies to cover them, we used number cards and some pattern blocks (because they were out anyway, yesterday they were part of a sea wall beside the forts) to cover the numbers.  Begin with all numbers uncovered.  On the first person's turn he shakes the dice.  Let's say he rolls a five and four.  Using the pattern pieces Arden can cover either the 9, or the 5 and 4.  Arden continues rolling until he misses and there are no more numbers he can cover.  Then it's my turn.  We uncover all the numbers and I roll until there are no more numbers I can cover. 
     Arden can easily add all the numbers on dice.  We didn't drill this into him, we just played lots of games and after counting the pips on the dice over and over he could add.  Truly, the dots on dice are pips.  It's the technical term.
     When Arden became restless I hid all the numbers in the living and dining room and Arden had to find them, in order, and lay them out on the floor.  This is a game that can easily be made harder and easier.  Years ago, when Ally was about 4, someone gave us this idea using sticky-notes, but today we had numbers on index cards and were good to go.  While Arden was searching, I had time to sweep the floor and clean toys out from under the couch, check on Sam and his math lesson and still give "hot and cold" clues.  The only problem was by the end I couldn't remember where 19 was in the third round, but I could remember where I hid it the first time.
     Arden learned a little.  He kept busy and therefore left his siblings alone.  I accomplished some housework,  and didn't have to fight a naval battle.  It was a good math hour.  Nineteen is still lost, by the end four of us were searching and it was too well hidden to be found.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Geographica: The Pacific Coast States

     Sorry, I am late to post today.  We arrived home last night after a wonderful week long visit and feeding frenzy with my family.  There are five of us kids, three spouses, five grandchildren (notice, most of them are still mine), one Great-Grandma and a whole host of cousins.  My mom is a great cook, so we're stuffed.  We're all exhausted today and slowly unpacking and easing back into our schedule.  I did force my kids to do school today, employing the familiar refrain, "You'll be glad in June."  So I am late to post Ally's GeoQuiz, and she was late to write it, but here it is and we hope you enjoy!

Quiz:  The Pacific Coast States
1.  Denali National Park surrounds Mt. McKinley, the highest point in the U.S., in what state?
2.  Honolulu and Hilo are major cities in what state, with its highest point at Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet?
3.  In what state would you find Redwood National Park in the north and the Mojave Desert in the south?
4.  The Coast Range, the Cascade Range and Crater Lake National Park are in what state?
5.  The Space Needle is in Seattle, the largest city in what state famous for its apples?

The Answers:
1.  Alaska
2.  Hawaii
3.  California
4.  Oregon
5.  Washington

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Geographica: The Rocky Mountain States

       Upon meeting Mr. Tumnus, the faun, in the woods of Narnia, Lucy attempts to give him a geographical description of her entrance into Narnia.  Lucy wandered through the wardrobe in the spare room and found herself in the snowy woods of Narnia.
 "Ah! said Mr. Tumnus in a rather melancholy voice, "if only I had worked harder at geography when I was a little Faun, I should no doubt know all about those strange countries.  It is too late now."
"But they aren't countries at all," said Lucy, almost laughing..."
    Have you ever watched a movie, like The Terminal,  and wondered where on earth that strange country Tom Hanks came from is located on your map?  Avoid regrets and embarrassment,  work harder as a little Faun, learn geography.  

The Rocky Mountain States

1. Rocky Mountain National Park and Pikes Peak are in what state, nicknamed the "Centennial State"?

2.  The Snake River which runs through Hell's Canyon, the deepest gorge in the United States, is in what state also known for it's potatoes?

3.  Custer's last stand, also known as the Battle of the Little Bighorn took place in what state that has Glacier National Park?

4.  Hoover Dam which provides Las Vegas, a famous gambling city, with power and water; and the Great Basin Desert are in what state?

5.  In the least populated state in the United States, you will find Yellowstone National Park and Devil's Tower.  This is in what state?

Editor's note:  Punctuation sticklers will expect to find an apostrophe in the name of Pikes Peak.  I did and had to look it up.  Originally it was Pike's Peak, and rightfully should be except for the creation of the US Board on Geographic names.  In 1891 the Board recommended against the use of apostrophes in any geographical names.  There you go.  Pikes Peak is correct.

The Answers

1.  Colorado
2.  Idaho
3.  Montana
4.  Nevada
5.  Wyoming

Monday, November 22, 2010

Road Trip

     On a London street this summer I overheard a group of twenty-somethings discussing the "American road trip."  Following along behind them, the sidewalk wet with rain, I was amused by the conversation.  It became hilarious when  the knowledgeable one traced our road trips right back to their beginnings.  "They get the idea from their movies."
     Aha!  Now I know why I spend so many hours in the car with four kids and a dog.  It has nothing to do with the cost of airfare or the size of this country.  Nor, really, anything to do with poor public transportation infrastructure and limited options.  No, it's not that we're a mobile generation, a family without a home town.  It's just me living out my Hollywood dreams.
     Before a trip I love to have the laundry baskets empty and the floors mopped.  Bryan likes to tidy up his office (please don't ask what that involves!) and rake the yard.  We both love searching Librivox and choosing an audiobook to download for the ride.  Be careful about finding the real site, we've often forgotten the address and found there are several that look alike but aren't quite the same.
     What's so great about Librivox?  Well, it's free.  You could have guessed that was coming.  The site is full of books in the public domain, which means they're old, read by volunteer readers.  They are volunteer, and remember you're not paying, so some readers are better than others.  One man was painfully hard to listen to, we mimicked him as we sped along the interstate, but the book was good so we persevered.  One reader had a strong foreign accent, but it suited the subject matter nicely.  I often find audio versions of the school books I've assigned my kids.  They are, surprisingly, uninterested.
     On a recruiting trip this weekend my men are listening to stories from Sherlock Holmes.  And for the long, family ride, we'll have The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery to while the hours away.  What's it about?  I don't know, never heard of it.  We chose it based on a love affair with Ann of Green Gables.  Maybe I'll tell you in December.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hard Words

     On the daily disciplines of our Christian life:
"It is enjoined upon us by Our Lord; and since they are His commands, I believe in following them. It is always just possible that Jesus Christ meant what He said when He told us to seek the secret place and close the door."
                  C.S. Lewis in Seeking the Secret Place: The Spiritual Formation of C. S. Lewis

     Some days I am hungry and ready to feast on the Word of the Lord.  I am willing to learn from Him and speak to Him.  My time is His.  Other days I would just as soon not do it at all.  By a sheer act of the will I will discipline myself to pick up that Bible and encourage myself that just small portion will do.  Even just a few verses are better than none, therefore just a few will do.  That half-hearted glance at His word, those five minutes before I pick up that novel are hardly time spent in a secret place with Him.  And Lewis has hard words for fickle people like me,
"our Lord's teaching allows no quarter." 

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Tongue

"Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."
     I lead off our family Bible memory time with these words from James 3.  James 3 filled with God's wisdom on the tongue and its destructive power.  After only a few lines I am yelling at the four year old beside me, "Sit still and say these verses."
     Bryan and the kids are all quiet for a minute, then gently laughing, because it is so very wrong of me, but funny too, to be yelling during this memory work.  And me?  My conscience is stricken.  I'm tucking these words away in my mind and not letting them travel down and grab my heart as well.  Out of all the members of the family it seems to be me, most of all, in need of James 3.  I am longing, powerfully longing, for the day the beauty Christ is forming in me is not constantly marred by sin.
"And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Giving Good Gifts

     I've finished my Christmas shopping, all except one small gift.  Why do I mention it?  Certainly not to make you feel bad if you haven't started, nor allow you to feel smug if you finished in October.  I still have lots of work to do on my handmade gifts.  I just want to share our simple way of giving gifts to our kids.  Now, I know, some families don't celebrate Christmas, some don't give gifts, and some just go shop at the dollar store, and they all probably spend less than we spend.
     Our gift principle is based on the basic fact, as Jesus acknowledged in the gospels, that a father does love to give good gifts to his children.  We love to see their smiles as they open their gifts.  Just as God has lavished His love on us in Christ, we lavish love on our little ones and a Christmas gift is a small tangible way to love.  Yet, our children have so very,very much "stuff," that in truth they don't need anything at all.  Our compromise has been to give each child one gift at Christmas.  (We also do stockings, but don't do Santa, with very small items; and gifts between siblings.)
     Twelve years ago, when Ally was one, we bought her a $10 Bible story book.  Back then it was all we could afford.  But we used that little book through four babies and she was happy.  By the time we factored in gifts from Grandparents and Great Grandmothers there were more than enough gifts.  Then as the years went by, we just stuck with our one gift principle, even in years when we could afford more.
     A month ago, Bryan and I sat down and wrote, on paper, the one gift we wanted to buy for each kid.  We try to think of really useful things.  Things they'll use long term, but seem interested in at the time.  We try never to buy toys with batteries.  The principle isn't just about the lowest cost, we pick high quality items that we'll be happy to have around.  We pick toys that allow open-ended play, think of Legos or dolls.  Then armed with a thoughtful, specific list, we begin shopping.  This is sort of like making a list before going to the grocery store; it keeps us from getting carried away.  Now, this is a little flexible.  Our girls are getting new bedding this year, and we let them choose it with us, so strictly speaking, there is more than one item.  Someone else is getting more than one item - but I can't reveal why.  But all in all, it's pretty simple around here.
     We don't buy the popular toys, or the gift of the season.  We don't shop Black Friday.  In fact, I make it my mission to hardly go to the store at all in December, not even for groceries.  I hate the crowds and the Christmas displays.  Best of all, we don't pay for those Christmas gifts in January, or February, or for the next three years, in credit card payments.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scriptio Continua

     Copywork is a corner stone of our curriculum here.  It’s nothing fancy.  I don’t buy copywork books.  Copywork, at our house, strictly involves a pencil  and lined paper.  My kids have tried pen.  I’ve found an easy way to discourage that is to make a pact.  We agree ahead of time that if there is even one mistake they will recopy the entire selection.  There’s always a mistake.  They quickly realize the wisdom of the common pencil.   Then we select something to copy.  They copy Bible verses, usually the passage our family is memorizing at the time.  They copy their own narrations.  A little one will tell me all about what they have just read.  I write it down in proper English, they copy it.  Often my kids choose to copy poetry.  Sam is working his way through Hiawatha’s Childhood by Longfellow.  In the past they’ve copied selections from Plimouth Plantation or George Washington’s Rules for Civility.  I hunt these up on the internet, print them out in a readable font and it’s free school work.  Often, when I’ve read advice on copy work, the experts advise short selections from a book the child is reading to teach grammar, or the punctuation lesson of the week.  I think that’s too much work.  Who has time to read through a book, pick an especially fine section, make sure the reading and copying and teaching all fall in line in the same week?  I don’t have that kind of time.  We fit in a bit of grammar, usually in conjunction with spelling, thereby grouping two random approaches to language together.  We hit punctuation as we correct their copy work. 
     For some reason, though I give clear instructions, “Copy this exactly,” punctuation marks are often left out.  Before 1000 AD, in Latin transcriptions of classical and Biblical texts, a system called scriptio continua was used.  The letters all ran together without spaces at the ends of words or punctuation marks to aid the reader. 
     Wikipedia tells me that often the readers, and there were fewer, mind you, had the text memorized and already knew where all the stops were (in Britain the period, as we know it, is called the full stop).  These readers, though it’s not reading like I think of it, read the text aloud to an audience and the text was a sort of “cue” sheet. 
     I have one child who would like to resurrect the idea of scriptio continua and regularly employs it in her copy work.  While I despair over the difficulty of a classical education, and think I might just settle for an education, she’s embracing even the most ancient forms.  Once, when I mentioned how very much it does matter to transcribe the letters just as they are on the typed page, capitals and spaces included, I was regarded with a look of shocked incredulity.  Sam, coming quickly to his sister’s defense, points out that she can fit more letters on the page.  We’re nothing if not thrifty here!  Although I struggle to make sense of these pages of scriptio continua (and this child does love to write) she can read it just fine.  I suppose she has it all memorized in readiness for an appreciative audience. 
     Be advised:  I didn’t know what scriptio continua was until I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.  My knowledge base is rather limited, but I read and do so regularly.  Also, my very clever brother is a grad student, studying these sorts of texts.  In Latin, presumably.  I’m waiting for him to offer some sort of correction.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Post on Postman

     I was mad on Saturday.
     Right now I am reading Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.  Though dated, his ideas have been the cause of a lot of thoughtful self-evaluation.  One proposition he puts forward is that the abundance of irrelevant information we are continuously presented with changes our information-action ratio.  
"You may get a sense of what this means by asking yourself another series of questions:  What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East?  Or the rates of inflation, crime and unemployment?  What are your plans for preserving the environment or reducing the risk of nuclear war?...I shall take the liberty of answering for you:  You plan to do nothing about them."
     I've certainly felt this to be true.  I know too much, I know of all the problems of the world (knowing of them being a distinct idea from knowing about them).  And armed with all this knowledge, I can do little. 
     So what happened Saturday?  A good hearted woman wrote a plug for the ministry she's involved in, and I read it.  In two paragraphs I was fully informed of the gravity of the problem and, lest I try to turn the page without deciding to do something, at the end she admonished me:  Everyone may not be called to be directly involved but everyone must do something for this cause.
     Oh,  the guilt.  One minute I'm flipping pages of a magazine, the next I am guilty before God because I don't want to adopt the cause.  Is this right?  Here is how I arrived at my answer.  I asked myself, what ministries have asked for my help, or more to the point, my money, this year?
    Well, let's see.  I've been asked to help victims of earthquakes (2), floods, and tsunamis.  Jewish evangelism, Muslim evangelism.  Evangelists on bikes and in airplanes.  Short term mission trips and summer camps.  Orphans, foster children, the homeless, battered women and firefighters.  Campus ministries at universities and after school programs.  Bible translation, Bible smuggling, and curriculum development.  I've been asked to give Thanksgiving dinners, health care, toys, goats, a year of schooling,  or a soccer ball.
     I cannot possibly give to each of these in a meaningful way.  Which leads me to believe that no one ministry stands in a position to unequivocally declare that I must do something.  This is based on the assumption that because I have a context free knowledge of the problem, I'm required to act.  I disagree.  I don't fully understand how to live this out; I can't give my time or money motivated by guilt.  But God calls me to give.  I want it to be cheerful, well-informed generosity marked by thoughtfulness and sacrifice.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Geographica: The Southwestern States

     I think Ally is doing such a good job writing these geography questions that I've asked, more than once, to be sure they are really her own words.  They are.  Are they too easy?  Don't worry.  When she has worked her way through the US, we'll have her write harder questions.  We are addicted to quizzing each other around here.  Only now, it's not as much fun.  Ally knows really obscure facts and we can't keep up. Yesterday I missed every question on Brazilian states.  I do realize, if you live in Rio, these aren't distant places.  But, well...I don't.  And rivers?  I know two in South America.  It would appear there are a few more.  I'm just saying, watch out.  It's all fun and games until someone asks you to name the third largest city in Ecuador.

Quiz: The Southwestern States

1.  The Rio Grande River cuts through what Rocky Mountain state, nicknamed the "Land of Enchantment"?

2.  The Alamo, the armadillo, and the city of Amarillo are in what state?

3.  This state rich in oil and home to the largest population of Native Americans, is also the end point of the 'Trail of Tears?"

4.  The Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon are in what state, also home to the Petrified Forest National Park?

5.  Big Bend National Park is on the Rio Grande River in what state, nicknamed the "Lone Star State?"


1. New Mexico  2. Texas  3.  Oklahoma  4.  Arizona  5.  Texas

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I am His Own

"[Christ] has good right to you, and has God's warrant to have you.  Has Christ fought a battle with the Devil and sin, and hath He won you?  Then He hath better right to you than you have to the coat on your back.  Be glad ye are His own; He won you with the sweat of His brow.  It is true, ye deserve not Christ, but indeed He deserves you; therefore be glad and humble, for Christ will not want His own.  Who can rob, spoil, and oppress Christ?  I know well He is able to hold His own with the best of them.  Then fear not that ye be lost, for Christ's right cannot be broken, God must give Him justice and law, and by law you are His; for open market-right is a good right, and Christ has that of you."
Communion Sermon 1 by the Rev. Samuel Rutherford, died 1661

Today and tomorrow I will rest in this: Christ has fought the battle with the Devil and sin and death and has won.  He has won me.  He won me with the sweat of His brow.  I wonder, why?  It is true, so very, very true, that I do not deserve Christ.
But Christ deserves me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Around our House

borrowing autumn's splendor

    There are some days when the math hour at our house doesn't go the way I would like it to.  There are tears or groans.  There are extended bathroom breaks or overwhelming hunger pains.  Our children have sometimes cheated.  They've confessed: they copied the answers right out of the answer key.  Some days they won't listen to our instructions or check their work.
     We don't just have one child brandishing a sin nature at math time, they all have, at times.  All of our children are sinners.
     This is one reason we homeschool.  We are in the business not only of education, but of discipleship and character formation.  Math is about much more than completing thirty problems, solving for x, or the three ways to write a division problem.
     Sometimes I forget.  I think that my work is all about what I can see, that my success is quantifiable.  That is not the nature of my work.  My work is by faith and success is measured not by math scores but in human hearts.  And ultimately it's not my work at all...it's God's.
     Some days I need to slow down and remember.

strolling friends

a girl's knitting - beside her mama's

an Ally-made owl

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Conversation with the Chef

     This morning I've fought the requisite naval battles.  I built my boats.  I focused on color combinations in my ship construction, while Arden went for structural ingenuity.  I lost all my men.  Twice.  I've discussed the Pilgrims' naming practices.  If you're seven, a boy named Love is cause to giggle.
     Now I'll show my mettle as a cook.  There will be eleven of us around the dinner table tonight.  We'll have the leaves in, and two kids will crowd together on the old hope chest pulled up to the dinner table.  I don't have a table cloth long enough so I'll have to use two, a multicolored approach. Nor do I have enough plates in one set to create matching place settings.  Orange mums are just starting to bloom in the yard; I'm considering what sort of vases will be suitable.  And we'll eat.
     We'll eat meatloaf.  I've adapted Julia Child's recipe for veal.  Plain old ground beef is affordable.  I'll borrow her seasoning suggestions and pop it in a loaf pan (or three), like usual.  Last time the meatloaf had too much basil, so I'll use a little less.  When Bryan and I watched the movie "Julie and Julia," he thought it would be funny if I tried to do the same thing: cook through Julia Child in a year.  It would be Julie, Julia, Bria and four kids.  It would not be funny; I'd be exhausted.  The food wouldn't taste good; I've seen some of those recipes and I'm not eating them.  And, frankly, we can't afford it.  Still I love Julia Child's cookbook and the process of adapting it for our table.  When I made "Julia's" green beans, which still only involve salt, pepper and butter, the family complemented them.  Which leads me to believe Julia knew what she was doing.
     We'll eat potatoes.  Real potatoes, not the instant kind, because our Irish guest knows the difference.  I've also hoarded my last two real English tea bags for her and I'm hoping she appreciates my sacrifice.
     We'll eat salad and rolls and apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.
     Today we'll cook.  We'll clean.  The dining room floor is covered in crumbs, dried soup and pomegranate seeds.  I'll try to order my day so that I have time to sit with the friend I've invited to come early and teach her to knit.  I think it will be a good day.  I'll be tired at the end, that's okay, it's one proof that I've done what I'm meant to be doing, and my kids have joined me in the work.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Season of Thanks

     I have three books I  love to read to my children before Thanksgiving. 
     Every year, until last year, I took time out from the current history study and read aloud, Stories of the Pilgrims (notice, you can buy used for only a penny).  Ally and I knitted with vigor after reading of wee pilgrim girls knitting as they walked to school.  I love that the author realizes that the Pilgrims left Holland for the sake of their children.  If you think, like I did for so many years, that the Pilgrims landed on these shores only for religious freedom, you've only heard part of the tale.  This year I'm having my kids read it on their own and learn to love it for themselves.
     The other two books we love, I have to love reservedly.  Alice Dalgliesh's  The Thanksgiving Story is a 1954 classic, simple and clear.  Yet, I'm always disappointed to read her conjecture that the Indians may have understood the Thanksgiving prayer, because they had a prayer of their own, giving thanks to their "God" for the harvest.  If only she hadn't felt it necessary to capitalize that! 
     Cheryl Harness' Three Young Pilgrims is a visual feast with astonishing detail.  Learn the Indian tribes, the name of every Saint and Stranger on the Mayflower, which ones died they first winter, and the exact point they landed in the New World.  You can spot William Bradford's home in the drawing of Leyden Street, or, of more interest to the boys, the fort.  I read it yesterday with Arden.  Of course, my little naval hero was in rapture over the details of the ship.  The disappointment is that in a book dedicated to the Pilgrims, and in which the author acknowledges the "life and writings of William Bradford," someone was notably absent.  William Bradford's God was mentioned only in passing, and it is my suspicion that Bradford would be disappointed.  I read to Arden that the Pilgrims invited the Indians to feast and "offer prayers of thanksgiving to the Maker...."  I pause and ask, "Who do you think the Maker is?"  Thoughtfully, he answers, "The Indian."  The reference is just a little too veiled for a four year old.  And I answered, "No, who made the Pilgrims?"  That was easy, "God."  Bryan thought it was funny to recommended I just read aloud, Of Plimoth Plantation.
     And so we prepare for Thanksgiving, as Margaret Pumphrey wrote, a time to
"... rest from our work and spend the time in gladness and thanksgiving.  God has been very good to us."

Monday, November 8, 2010


David McCullough in his biography of John Adams wrote,
"As a branch of knowledge, geography was 'absolutely necessary to every person of public character,' and to every child, Adams declared.  'Really there ought not to be a state, a city, a promontory, a river, a harbor, an inlet or a mountain in all America, but what should be intimately known to any youth who has any pretensions to a liberal education.'" (p. 149)
     By John Adams standards even our little GeoBee Queen (who writes these quizzes) needs to gain quite a bit of "intimate knowledge," as we do, indeed, have "pretensions to a liberal education" here at our house.  The standards are high and, at times, the goal seems insurmountable.

The Quiz:  The Midwestern States
 1.  Herbert Hoover's birthplace is in what state, nicknamed the "Hawkeye State," and famous for its hog farming?
2.  The Model T Ford was produced in what state?  This state was also home to Charles Lindbergh, an aviator hero born in Detroit.
3.  St.  Louis, the Gateway to the West on the Mississippi River, and the Ozark Plateau are in what state?
4.  The Badlands National Park and Lake Oahe, on the Missouri River, are in what state, nicknamed the "Sunshine State?"
5.  Milwaukee is a busy, commercial port city in what state, that also has the Superior Upland in the north?

The Answers:
1.  Iowa
2.  Michigan
3.  Missouri
4.  South Dakota
5.  Wisconsin


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Splendor of Life

God says of His children, the people of Israel,
"Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law, they are regarded as a strange thing."         
                                                                   Hosea 8:12

God has written ten thousand precepts for me and I don't want to be a stranger to them.  I'm reading Contending for Our All by John Piper, a book with biographical sketches of three worthy heroes of the faith.  Athanasius was an early Church Father, bishop of Alexandria, and the hero who stood fast for the doctrine of the Trinity at the Council of Nicaea in 325.  Speaking of his formative training, Piper quotes Gregory of Nazianzus,
"From meditating on every book of the Old and New Testament, with a depth such as none else has applied even to one of them, he grew rich in contemplation, rich in splendor of life."
"The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces."  Psalm 119:72
Hoping you take a day to contemplate the precepts of God, gathering treasure and splendor.

Friday, November 5, 2010


     Bryan leaves the Westminster Larger Catechism lying open on his dresser, beside the bed.  He reads a question or two a day.  Someday he may finish.  The book is not really in the way.  I moved it once to dust. Clean laundry, conveniently, can rest on its pages.  I do know he's working on it, because the pages change.

     Yesterday, on a laundry run, the italics within Question 121 caught my eye.  "Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the fourth commandment?"  As in, "Remember the sabbath-day...." This is a thorough document, isn't it?  When you've read through Exodus, or seen a Ten Commandments sign in someone's yard, have you ever paused and asked yourself, "Why did God include the word Remember?"  Me?  Never.

              How am I helped by the commandment of God?  I read that there is a great benefit to me in Remembering the Sabbath.  The work of Remembering helps me to prepare and keep it, with an ongoing "thankful remembrance" of God's creation and my redemption.   But God also reminds me to Remember the Sabbath, because I am so ready to forget. The Westminster Divines wrote, " it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it."  (If you can't read the language of the seventeenth century, that can be remedied, but that's a subject for another day.)  I do a lot of washing, folding, correcting, cooking, sweeping, cleaning, reading, calling, and yeah, I might not think about the Sabbath much.  But I'm thinking about it today.

     Confession:  I'm not a strict Sabbatarian.  So when I think of "keeping the Sabbath," my mind jumps right to the rules I may or may not keep.  Right there is my first mistake.  God has blessed me with a day in which I can delight in worshipping Him.   I can rejoice in knowing Him.  Do I want to miss that?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Maritime Adventure

     The most common question I am asked about homeschooling is what Arden, four, does all day.  I like to joke that he runs around like a wild man.  He is usually in the way, absorbing knowledge, keeping busy, and always looking for someone to play with.  The current craze, two weeks running, involves fighting naval battles with cuisenaire rods.  Cuisenaire rods are a math manipulative, but with a little imagination are also good for free play.  When you're four life should be made up of hours of free play.


  Add grappling hooks and ladders      

Red sailors on full alert   

     A life at sea is filled with constant danger and adventure.  The men are in danger not only when the enemy crosses the boarding planks, but also from rogue waves and Great Whites.  There is no chance of survival, yet men continue to enlist.  The lure of adventure at sea is irresistible.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Conversation with the Chef

     I cook dinner every night.  Does that make me a throwback to the "olden, golden days," as Kara calls them?  Through conversation I've learned that most women I know don't cook dinner every night.  I can't claim conviction and a concerted effort to change my background.  No, Bryan and I both have mothers who cooked dinner; they served real food around the table with the family.  That's quite a blessing to pass on to your children.  In turn, that's what we expect dinner to be, and I see a lot of goodness in serving dinner.
     First, we eat lots of real food.  This is not fast food or take out.  We generally don't eat food from the frozen foods section, or slopped out of a can.  We eat vegetables chopped on the butcher block.  Cheese freshly grated when we need it.  Meat sliced raw, cooked and seasoned in our own pan.  I'm not a health nut, but this is what food is meant to be, and it tastes good.  If I don't cook dinner, what will my kids eat?  I'm pretty sure it won't involve a vegetable.  Dinner is good for the body.
     Second, serving dinner discourages picky eaters.  My kids have all tried to be picky, but we won't let them.  We cook one dish and a side or two and that is what we all eat for dinner.  We may not love it, that's okay, we eat it.  Even I am discouraged from being a picky eater.  I ate fish in Florida, despite a lifelong prejudice against it.  I enjoyed it.  Dinner is good for our attitude.
     Third, and this is all sweetness, we sit together at the table.  All six of us (sometimes five, one's missing but the rest of us still show up) sit and eat.  There's no TV, computer, or cell phone.  The sweetness?  We talk.  There's lots of silly laughter, monologues on the inane, and the occasional fuss.  There's a whole lot of ordinary strung together to make it extraordinary, and I love it.   Dinner is good for our family.
     I work hard for dinner.   Yes, there are travel days and soccer days.  Maybe a cereal-for-dinner day.  Yes, we go out to eat or order pizza.  I try to make the restaurant dollars we spend be deliberate choices.   I invest lots of thought into making home cooking do-able. I invest hours to nourish bodies and hearts.  So what's for dinner this week?
Homemade pizza. 
Ham and Potato Quiche. 
Chicken Tortilla Soup (frozen leftovers from the last time we ate it). 
Roasted Poblano and Black Bean Soup (I'm making up a recipe). 
Baked Macaroni and Cheese (made from butter, flour, cheese and milk). 
Bean Enchiladas. 
Chicken and Dumplings.
     Kara says, "yum."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Reflection

     I realize it might be nice to find a place free from election news today, but it what's I'm thinking about today too.  I'm opting for a little non-partisan encouragement.  First, Agatha Christie:
     "Politicians don't have time to look at the world they're living in.  They see the country they're living in and they see it as one vast electoral platform.  That's quite enough to put on their plates for the time being." 
      Or, at the risk of sounding jaded, no matter the results of the election today, "People never mind spending a great deal of money.  It impresses them.  It's when you want to do things nice and economically, they won't play."  It's not all death and mayhem in Agatha Christie's mysteries.
     Are you proud of your candidates, how much money they've raised and spent?  Or do you feel all the money spent is billions of wasted dollars and your discouraged?  Freakonomics offers a good perspective.  (Am I allowed to love this book the way I do?  I don't always agree.  The book makes me ask questions and, even better, it makes me laugh.)  According to Levitt and Dubner, Americans spend no more per year on democratic elections than on chewing gum.   Which do you love more, democracy or gum?
     And God?  Last night at Bible Study we were discussing Isaiah 10 and Assyria's pride in their accomplishment.  God says, "Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it?  Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it?"  Let's put our pride in American exceptionalism to rest and remember God is the Master Craftsman using men and governments as tools is His own hands,  according to His own wise counsel.
     Psalm 2 tells us God sits in the heavens and laughs as rulers take counsel together against Him.  He says, "I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain."  The reign of Jesus Christ is the unchangeable plan of God, and He directs us to show discernment and reverence.  And He closes the Psalm, in verse 12, "How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!"
     I bore that in mind as I cast my ballot.  And, yes, I did read far enough in Freakonomics to know that my vote doesn't matter.


Monday, November 1, 2010


     Our Malay friends tell us that at home there are snow rooms.  Rooms filled with man-made snow that you can play in for an hour, for a fee.  I found a BBC website with temperature averages in Kuala Lumpur and for all 12 months of the year the average low temperature is between 22 or 23 degrees Celsius, or about 71-73 degrees Fahrenheit.  The chart had a column titled "Discomfort from heat and humidity," and it was "high" all twelve months of the year.  Of course, the BBC is British, making their comparison point a little different than mine in Arkansas.
     I thought that was funny, then I read about Ice! this week and realized Americans do funny things too.  Stay at the Gaylord hotel in Grapevine, TX and you can see 2 million pounds of ice carved by forty international artists, complete with two story slides.  It's all kept at 9 degrees.  Now in December, Grapevine's average low is 34 degrees, but the average high is 57.  And 57 is not exactly frigid, even if I do think I'm dying when the house is that cold. 
     And now...the geography quiz by Ally.
1.  Harriet Beecher Stowe's home and Yale University are in what state, which is the southernmost of the New England States?
2.  West Quaddy Head, the easternmost point in the US, is in what state, nicknamed the "Pine Tree State?"
3.  Plimoth Rock on Cape Cod and Harvard University, in Cambridge, are in what state also famous for the Boston Massacre?
4.  Concord, the state capital, is located on the Merrimack River, in this state, home to the White Mountains.
5.  Long Island and Niagara Falls are in what state, nicknamed the "Empire State?"

As an aside...do you, like me, find it ironic that our easternmost point is West Quaddy Head?
1.  Connecticut
2.  Maine
3.  Massachusetts
4. New Hampshire
5.  New York