Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Last Week

The box for our seed maze.

We had a lovely week last week. So lovely, in fact, I couldn't be bothered to blog. We took one week off Saxon math and began every day with an hour of Math-It. There were races and two timers going. There was addition and multiplication. And there was mom, begging to move on to the next activity and the kids begging for more math.

We started seeds for our garden. Today we discovered the first seedlings, just peeking above the soil. We converted a box to a plant maze. The kids dreamed of impossibly hard mazes, but aside from my concern for the plants, I was concerned for my own sanity. We have a simple design.

Arden bought wood at Lowe's and built a bedside table with Dad. A very simple woodworking project, but Arden was very proud. Now he can store all his stuff beside his bed.

Then, of course, there were coloring pages and read alouds. There were bike rides and hours of outdoors fun because the weather here has been beautiful. We've been digging in the dirt and raking leaves. We've been to the park.

And we've been falling into bed exhausted every night. A perfect spring.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What I Want Jesus To Do

I’ve always been outraged at the sheer audacity of James and John. Unbelievable. They came to Jesus and prefaced their question: we want you to do whatever we ask. They had an inkling the Kingdom was coming and they were about to jockey for position, to sit one on His right and one on His left. Jesus began the conversation, asking, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36)

I’ve always been put off by James and John. But what do I want Jesus to do for me? Well, I have a few things that come to mind. Quite a few. And I start out very much like they did: Jesus, do whatever I want. Only I don’t wait to hear His response before I begin reciting my list of cares and pleasures.  Oh yes, I’m guilty of that attitude.

Just a few verses farther along, helpless, blind Bartimaeus also called out to Jesus. Through the dust and the crowd, above the noise of a host of followers, he called out: “Have mercy on me.” Even for that humble plea, he was reprimanded by those around him, shushed and pushed aside. It is unthinkable that he would approach the Messiah yelling, “Do whatever I ask you to!”

Bartimaeus was desperate for mercy and would not be quieted. He called again and Jesus heard him. Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”It is no accident that Jesus asked the same question of both supplicants. It is striking.

Lately I’ve found this a helpful guide to my prayers. Sometimes I catch myself approaching the Throne of Grace with an attitude expecting Jesus to answer my every request. I’m not turned away, though I’m thinking only of myself, not His Kingdom, not His glory. 

Better to see I am blind and helpless. Better to cry out for mercy. Better to cry out again and again. Better to hear the words of a merciful Savior say, “Your faith has made you well.”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Love Note on the Wall

We're having internet issues at home. For a week or two I am packing up the computer and working in my husband's office. It is remarkable how my days change when suddenly I can't just pop on and off the internet whenever I feel like it. I think it is good for me. But I hate to admit it.

Here, beside his desk, Bryan has taped up a note from Kara. I am encouraged. She has learned at least one fact in school this year. All of our hours of work and I can claim one success. Here, in unedited glory, is her love note to Daddy:

dad I love you cant wait to see you at Lunch I miss you have a good morning your dear daugter kara
 (Just like Jhon hancock nice and big)
I may not have managed to drill into her head the right use of capital letters. Punctuation seems unknown. Spelling skills, in this student I consider my best speller, have been set aside. I could be tempted to despair.

If nothing else, she has at least learned that John Hancock signed his name with a large hand. And so does she. She signs her name with a big hand. She lives her life the same way.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hearts at Home

Friday was our Valentine crafting day. Just as I thought, Arden was a mad potato stamper. He completed ten pages of hearts and stars lined up in row, after row, after row. He has a logical mind, everything in order, that one. The rest of us made tissue paper hearts. Some out of obedience (Sam). Some genuinely enjoying it. Some enjoying the process then giving up in disgust half way through (me). And, of course, my plans to get the Valentines in the mail Friday afternoon were way too optimistic. I ought to have factored in the drying time of a quarter inch of glitter glue. Which is a long time. Silly me.

Yesterday we baked our brownies and the little ones frosted them. I stayed home in the afternoon with the sick one. I made soup and bread. She cut out hearts to hang from the chandelier in the dining room. I hurried dinner preparations. The bread almost had enough time to rise. I rushed around picking up the living room, which had been the sick room all night Monday night. I quickly decorated the table. But the little exclamations of pleasure when the kids walked in the door from soccer practice made it all worth while. They love a little surprise.

When we sat down to eat I had a moment to look at myself. Unshowered. Cruddy jeans. Frosting spilled on the front of my shirt. Water spots. I blushed. Women who advise you to change clothes and put on make-up before your husband comes in from work could have had a hey-day with me. Bryan just laughed and said, "Good thing it's not our first date." Then he ate another piece of bread.

Sometimes an old, comfortable love is the best love of all.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Cabbage is a Thrifty Vegetable

On the Stats Page I notice one frequently read post is The Cupboards Were Bare. Maybe, out of curiosity, you're hoping to hear a tale of desperation and woe: me and my starving children. Which certainly isn't the case. Or, I think it possible that, like me, though you scrimp and save on every side, you feel your budget pinched tighter and tighter. The cost of living raise hasn't come through for a couple of years now, but the cost of milk rises steadily higher.

This winter we've been eating a lot of cabbage. I'm adamant that a veggie or fruit be on the table at every meal. With six of us, and a chronically under-performing garden, the cost adds up. So I have fixed my sights on the cabbage. It is high in vitamin C, with a bit of vitamin A, calcium, iron and fiber. Beyond that, there's not much to recommend it. Flavor wise, I know, it leaves much to be desired. But at the price of $1.50 a head, I can have a veggie on the table for two meals. So here's a brief cabbage recipe round-up, and if you have a favorite way to eat this thrifty vegetable we'd love to try it!
  • Traditional Cole Slaw. Try Top Secret Recipes: KFC Cole Slaw.
  • Asian Cole Slaw. I have the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. Here's someone who has adapted the recipe, though it's nearly the same. I sweeten mine with brown sugar.
  • Red cabbage and apples with an apple cider vinegar dressing. I don't really have a recipe, but I like it quite sweet and use honey for that.
  • Warm Cabbage Salad. Yummy.
  • We were surprised by loving this Stir fried cabbage with cumin seeds. Naturally, I had to adapt it. Cumin powder seems to work fine. We eat this with Cuban Black Beans and rice. See, we're thrifty and eat our legumes too.
  • And my mom's old Cabbage Soup recipe. Come back next week. I'll post it for you.
But in the end, no matter how you fix it, it still tastes like cabbage. You can do, but don't over-do or you'll look around the table and see nothing but disgruntled faces.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Holidays always catch me off guard. Not Christmas, a holiday so massive in our culture it overwhelms three months of the year. Even more if you listen to budgeting gurus who have you save cash toward Christmas expenses all year (it's a good idea, but is the final proof that Christmas has become too much). But other holidays, to which we give a token nod, sneak up on me. I usually think about Valentines on the 13th, which is too late to put a little card in the mail. Or rather, too late to put a card in the mail and have it arrive on time.

This week I've looked ahead, and have planned some time in our school day tomorrow to make some Valentines and put them in the mail. A timely enterprise. I won't bore you with detailed how-to's. Either these are so simple you don't need them or you can Google it. Here are the crafts I'm planning:
  • Potato stamping. Easy and fun for the six year old.
  • Torn tissue paper hearts added to a card. Trace heart shapes on stiff paper. Tear tissue paper in bits. Mix half glue and half water. Paint glue mixture over hearts, and add tissue paper. Then paint glue mixture over tissue paper hearts. Allow to dry and cut out hearts. I'm thinking, for the detail oriented among us, a bouquet of flowers made this way might be really pretty.
  • Paper cones for Valentine's candy. All the candy my kids need will fit in these. I'm thinking they would be cute in a mason jar on the table as our centerpiece.
  • Brownies or Rice Crispie treats cut in heart shapes with a cookie cutter, with sprinkles. Sprinkles seem to make everything taste better. We'll actually make these on Valentine's Day.
I only have to buy the candy and some sprinkles. Simple and cheap. Next I'll think of a family favorite for dinner and a little something special for my husband, a little something free but thoughtful. He and I go for a Valentine's date after Valentine's Day. We hate the crowds of star-struck lovers in the restaurants.

So it is here. We hate pricey-trashy gifts. We hate crowds of people. We hate the notion that love can only be expressed monetarily. Time, thoughtfulness, and kindness are nourishing soils in which love grows.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Life Not Dear

Consider Paul's selfless service to the Ephesian church, as he described it in Acts 20:

I was with you the whole time...
with tears and trials...
I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable...
from house to house...
I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself...
It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Invest in people, teach, train, pray, plead, sacrifice, wear yourself out for the sake of the gospel. I know it. Yeah, yeah, invest in people not hobbies or treasures. Okay, sure, self-sacrifice. Die to self, life not dear, all that. Uh-huh. Got it. That's what I say, I've got it in my head.

The words I speak belie the words I think. The words I speak reveal my heart. "I need a break, a vacation, a little peace. I need time to myself, time to string five words into an uninterrupted sentence. I need a little consideration, thoughtfulness, attention. It's too much effort. I can't do it. I just want to be left alone." Do you think I sound anything like Paul when he says, "I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself?"

My first reaction after realizing how far short I fall is to manage my sin. Plan A: Die to self, to be accomplished by working my fingers to the bone and never offering a word of complaint. Plan B: give up chocolate. I want three easy steps to kill the flesh. Five simple tips to end selfishness. A ten point checklist to give my life for God.

But I am brought up short. There are no easy steps (of any number), no simple tips, no checklist, no how-to article. There is no sin management, only the mortification of sin. There is only the cross.  

I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself. The writer of Hebrews quietly begins chapter 3, "consider Jesus." Yes, consider Jesus. I Corinthians 6:20 reminds us of the cross when battling sin, "you have been bought with a price." Romans 6:5-6 say we have become united with Him in His death and our old self was crucified. Or Galatians 2, "I am crucified with Christ." Jesus calls me to the cross, again and again. Come and by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body (Rom.8:13). Consider Jesus.
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”   - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Revenue of Joy

Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.
Proverbs 14:4

Tomorrow our kids are participating in a small homeschool science fair. We are preparing four science fair projects, and keeping up with our core school subjects. I am committed to letting my kids make their own display boards for the science fair. Our boards aren't flashy, just card board boxes. Our boards aren't technically amazing. Nor are they works of art. I don't expect to impress anybody, but my kids will have created it by themselves. 

Well, almost by themselves. The kindergartner doesn't write by himself. The third grader needed guidance knowing which topics about comets she should include, and help with the experiment. The sixth grader hemmed and hawed, after an hour of looking at ideas online and days of contemplation; I finally chose a topic for him. But my ninth grader only needed to hear me say, "I think that's a great idea."

Tuesday we had a great day of school. One of those days when everybody was busy. Everybody was working hard. Everybody had a good attitude. There was math on the table. Science papers scattered over every flat surface. Tiny bits of cut paper all over the floor. Books on the couch, and the coffee table and the rug. Half empty hot cocoa cups, abandoned hours ago. I had loads of clean laundry waiting to be folded and dishes stacked beside the sink. It was a great day.

When Bryan came home for dinner I was extolling our day. We got so much done on our science fair projects, we might actually be ready. And the house looked like it: utter chaos. There was a mammoth effort just to clear the table to eat dinner.

Wednesday morning I picked up the placemats, crusty with day old spilled milk. Coffee in hand, breakfast dishes cleared, we began family Bible time and read Proverbs 14. By that time I was ready for a clean manger, a clean house. Instead of perfection and beauty, I had received a revenue. "Too bad kids don't bring in real money," I joked with my family. Sam says, "It's a revenue of joy." So it is! A revenue of joy. I might rephrase the Proverb, Where no little ones are the house is clean, but a revenue of joy comes from children.