31 March 2006

Help Meet: Who Am I Cooking For?

A couple months ago, I prepared a very cheap meal for my family. The main dish consisted primarily of rice, and the side dish was a simple salad. I thought that this would be acceptable because the rice dish was one that the members of my family often enjoy as a side dish. But not only did I try to force a side dish into the role of main dish, I also made a mistake when measuring the spices for the rice recipe. So now I had a main dish that was previously expected to be a side dish that didn't taste quite right.

At the end of the meal, there was much rushing around because it happened to be the night of my monthly Keepers at Home meeting. Si is an extremely polite and unoffensive man, so he simply told me that he preferred that we not eat rice as our meal from now on. I think he presented that truth in the best way a person could, but I was still angry at him. I verbally agreed to comply, but I still had an attitude about me that I'm sure he picked up on.

So you can imagine my surprise when the teacher for Keepers that night posed the question, "Who are you cooking for?" The context was concerning women whose husband's like burgers and fries, but they ignore that and try to feed them tofu and salad against their wills. But I felt like everyone should be looking at me, for I was guilty of such an attitude that very moment.

Needless to say, I went straight home after the meeting and apologized to my husband. I told him that I wanted to cook the types of food that he wanted to eat. I wanted him to look forward to eating dinner with us, and I never wanted to give him cause to want to eat away from home.

Now, the woman who taught me this important lesson is the same woman who handed out Created to Be His Help Meet as her gift to the class {as I mentioned here}. And I have been faithfully studying this book and the Scriptures it points me to for a few weeks now.

The book includes a letter from the author's cousin that details a disappointing dinner experience that took place early in her own marriage. This woman's heart response to the situation gave me a vision of the kind of woman I want to be. Here is an excerpt:

I'll never forget that hot afternoon. We lived in an apartment in the back of an old Victorian-style house, which consisted of a living room/kitchen combination and a bathroom. We had no air conditioning, and that far down south could get really miserable in the summer. One sultry summer day, I worked hard to prepare a home-cooked meal for my husband, and had it ready when he came home from a hard day of construction work. When he walked in the door, he was so hot and sweaty, he took one look at that hot meal and said in despair, "This is not a day for a hot meal; this is the kind of day you need a cold meal!" My heart was just crushed. Hot and sweaty myself, I had slaved to serve him the best way I knew how. I had never even heard of a cold meal. What on earth was he talking about? At that point in my life, a tomato stuffed with tuna or chicken salad was totally foreign to me. I must tell you, my story wasn't very funny thirty years earlier, but as I finished telling it to my friends, we were all laughing about how "crushed" I was that day.

I was surprised to see that one of the younger women at the table didn't think it was funny, as she huffily retorted, "Did you throw it at him? I would have!" This stopped me in my "memory" tracks. Was I angry? Did I want to throw the meal in his face? I really don't remember ever having that thought. I do remember being hurt and sad. But my most compelling thought was to figure out how to prepare cold meals. When I married, I became MRS. Lansing. His life, his agenda, and his desires became mine. I considered my marriage to be my career for the rest of my life, and I intended to be successful at it. If he didn't like the food that I cooked, rather than refusing to cook anymore, saying that he was just too hard to please, I learned to cook the food he liked!! I just WANTED, and WAS DETERMINED, to please him. . . .And so I have worked at it from that perspective for almost 33 years. It is still my GOAL to be pleasing to my husband. I am pleased to tell you that he delights in me. I was determined to earn his delight. {Frieda Lansing}

When I read this, I felt two things, the first being a bit of shame. Considering my recent encounter with my own gentle husband, though I had repented and apologized for my response to him, I was reminded of what my heart had revealed about me in that moment. Who was I, to be created by God to help this man and then reward him with anger when he is honest with me and lets me know I wasn't a help? Do I really want my husband to pretend? Or do I want to do an honest good job?

But I also felt hope. I learned that it is possible to rise above the mire of angry, bitter women in this culture and learn to be a true delight to my husband. It is possible to live within the will of God, and to please God by fulfilling my role as the helper He created for this man. I am excited now to be an even better student of my husband.
As wives, our life's work should be to perfect how we may please our husbands. {Debi Pearl}

30 March 2006

Lessons From the Park

I took the children to the park yesterday after lunch {before their 1:30 nap}. I always have mixed feelings about the park. Our backyard has yet to be landscaped, and is an effectual wasteland, save the small plot of rye grass Si thoughtfully planted for us {we are renters, so we are trying not to spend our money on someone else's property, especially when that someone else promised to put in a backyard over a year ago}. So the park, with its perfect grass and exciting toys, has its appeal.

It also has a generous supply of bratty children, negligent mothers (typically, these mommies run in packs, which tends to be the cause of why they do not keep an eye on their children), and so on.

Hence, the mixed feelings.

Anyhow, the park is always a good place for lessons, and today was no different. For instance, A. learned not to eat the bark. And poor E. learned that all children are not as delightful as they look.

There were these two beautiful little children. The youngest was a girl about E.'s age. Perfect skirt, perfect shoes, perfect hair, etc. She was a bit overdressed for the park, but it didn't seem to deter her from playing. Her older brother was at least five, but probably six {he had on a kindergarten T-shirt advertising a local parochial school}. They both had perfect blue eyes. Did I mention I thought they were beautiful? Well, on the outside, they were.

E. was playing on the new jungle gym, and I was following A. around while she learned to walk on a new surface {the bark that looks like food to her}. After about 10 minutes, E. walked up to me and informs me that Beautiful Boy doesn't like babies. I try not to talk about people in front of them, so I just acknowledged what he said, and considered myself warned.

Beautiful Boy proceeded to run past A. and me, and brush against A.'s shoulder. She teetered a little, but did not fall. This happened again. And then again, but on the third time he actually bumped her a bit harder, causing her to falter once more.

I am always cautious about correcting children whose mommies I do not know, but here was a kindergartner deliberately trying to knock over a 13-month-old girl! So I very sternly turned to him after the third pass and said, "You do not knock her over. Do you understand?" He stood there with his back to me and did not move. So we walked away, and that was the end of my trouble with Beautiful Boy.

But Beautiful Girl was just beginning. She claimed the main tunnel of the jungle gym as her own, and rudely told the other children to go away. Beautiful Girl wasn't much of a prize, either, though her behavior was a bit more within the realm of "normal." Later, Beautiful Girl's little friend was helping her form a club so that they could hurt the feelings of a little 2-year-old girl by excluding her. The little child seemed confused, cried, and ran to her mommy.

And I still have no idea where the mommies were as this was going on, though there was a Mommy Clique meeting nearby, ignoring their children, which is their tendency.

On the walk home I asked E. how he knew that that little boy did not like babies, and he said Beautiful Boy had volunteered that information, shortly before beginning his attempt to hurt A. And so we were granted the opportunity for a lesson.

We talked about how much God loves little children, even little babies. I reminded him that even grownups have to become like children when they come before God. We talked about how the boy's problem was not that he didn't love babies, but that he didn't know and love Jesus, because if he did, Jesus would be teaching him to love what God loves, including little baby girls.

E. was quiet for a while after our talk, probably rethinking it all (knowing him). And I was, too. I wondered what the home life was like for this little boy, that he had learned to dislike sweet little babies. I wondered what kind of father he had, that he would aim his aggression at a tiny, barely-walking baby in a pink dress, instead of another little boy more his age. Why did he seek out the weakest person on the playground? Why did his sister seem to do likewise?

I think that the weaknesses a child reveals in a public place like a park are very telling. I often see my own flaws, magnified about 10 times, display themselves in my son. But sometimes I just see gaps in teaching, lessons I forgot to cover {like the time I realized he didn't know how to introduce himself or shake hands}. Either way, I've learned that when there is a larger crowd on the playground, the closer I must watch, because it is even more likely that I will see a character issue I need to combat.

But today I saw a strength, and that satisifies my soul. I could tell by his body language when he came to me that this was not E.'s typical tattling. He felt protective of his sister. He stood by, on alert, pondering what to do about this big boy's harrassment of his sister. And I saw in him the glimmer of the fine man he will grow up to be.

29 March 2006

The Lunch Menu

This is the first week in three years that lunch is an official menu item. Of course, it's really only Si's lunch. But I must plan ahead now, if I am to adequately and consistently perform my new morning lunch-making task.

So I thought I'd share a menu item from this week. Monday night for dinner, I made a big Quick Chinese Chicken Salad, and then divided up the leftovers into containers for Tuesday Lunch and Wednesday Lunch. Cook once, feed people three times! This, of course, will only work for parties of two {since A. can't chew it and E. pretends he isn't hungry when this dish is on the table}. For parties of one, you will end up eating this for a week. And for bigger groups, this may be more of a side dish!

This is another recipe I got from my mom and then tweaked to fit Si's tastes. I will share it, on the condition that you all try to think of a recipe to share with me, too! Post those comments!

Quick Chinese Chicken Salad

2 pkg Top Ramen {chicken flavor}
1 head of cabbage, chopped into tiny pieces
1 or 2 bunches of green onions, chopped {6-10 onions total}
1/2 cup sesame seeds {raw is best--more calcium!}
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp sea salt {or a salt substitute like NuSalt}
1-2 cups slivered almonds
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken

1. In a large soup kettle, boil the chicken. When done, drain, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Leftover, precooked chicken is fine. Use about 4-6 cups.
2. Crush Ramen noodles. Boil some water {tea kettle} and pour it over the noodles in a colander to soften them a bit. Drain the noodles and mix them in an extra-large bowl with the cabbage, green onions, and sesame seeds.
3. In sealable jar, put one Ramen seasoning packet, balsamic vinegar, white vinegar, sugar, olive oil, pepper, and salt. Seal jar and shake vigorously. Pour over the cabbage mixture and toss until everything is completely coated. Cover bowl and chill in the fridge. You can marinate this for hours if you like.
4. Before serving, toss in the almonds and cooked chicken.

28 March 2006

Our New Life, Day One

Well, our little three-year joyride as an at-home family has officially ended. Yesterday was Day One of our new life, with Si working for someone other than himself. The new job is a perfect fit for him. He will get to expand his resume. He has the stability of a traditional paycheck, which has always been appealing. And we are all happy for him, as well as proud of him.

But we miss him already, the kids and I do. Don't get me wrong. When he worked at home, he worked at home. It wasn't that we saw him all day. But we did see him throughout the day. He had lunch with us. We drew pictures for him and brought them to him in his office. When he didn't have work to do, he spent that time with us. We loved that. We miss it already.

But the old job wasn't a perfect fit, and the industry was beginning to spiral downward. It was time to end the era. I know that. But I think a part of me will always long for our small life lived peacefully at home, and hope for another chance with another business someday.

NOTE: Technically, we didn't "get rid of" the business. It was so slow, we decided there was no reason to close it, and leaving it open would give me the opportunity to earn a little income and help some friends or family if they needed it...

25 March 2006

"You're so lucky..."

[Birth Control] is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands; it is ignorant of the very existence of real households where prudence comes by free-will and agreement. {G.K. Chesterton, 1927, emphasis mine}

There are many things that, over the years, I regret having said. But some of my bigger verbal regrets tend to be the things I should have said, and didn't. One of my regrets took place in the last couple months of my pregnancy with A. I was at my OB's office, and the nurse was leading me back to some obscure corner of the building to find a tiny office where C-sections are scheduled for incompetent birthers such as myself.

As we walked, the nurse informed me that the woman who scheduled C's was also in charge of filling out the State Disability paperwork, and I could have her help me at that time. I told the nurse that no, I didn't work, as this was my second child and I had been home with my first for two-and-a-half years. "You're so lucky you get to do that," she replied. I think I nodded in the affirmative. I don't remember saying anything.

You're so lucky...

It's not the first or last time I've heard that phrase in regard to staying at home with my children, but it is the one time I regret that I did not respond and tell her that luck had absolutely nothing to do with it.

You see, just weeks before, we had sold our house in order to make it all possible*. We call this "living from conviction."

The line of thinking goes something like this: we have a conviction {actually, we have many of them, but I will stick to a mommy nurturing her own children for now}. Given this conviction, we live and make choices, and trust that God will provide. He has yet to fail us, though we have faltered in our faith and worried at times.

We have moved cities, sold a home, gone months without professional haircuts, years without new clothes or shoes. We have eaten rice as a main dish {though Si would rather we not repeat that little stage} and bought children's clothing second-hand {when it became absolutely necessary that we buy them at all}. We spend little time in restaurants or movie theaters, though we do confess to a once-weekly Starbucks habit {we like to share a decaf venti mocha frappacino, if you're interested}. I decorate our home using the points from our credit card. Or we use said points to replace our broken weed-eater.

This is not luck; this is a lifestyle.

It's not that I wish I had taken credit for it all when the nurse told me that I was lucky. It's not that at all. It's just that I wish I could have told her that she was capable of it, too. Each excess expenditure is a step into slavery to a job and a life away from family. But each act of discipline, each debt paid off, each time one uses what they already have or decides to go without is a step toward the freedom to stay at home.

I wish I would have sat her down and told her that it is so much better to help your own man and raise your own children than to assist some doctor and leave your kids with a virtual stranger. I wish I would have encouraged her to stop coloring her hair, getting pedicures, getting fake nails, and paying for that gym membership. I could have told her to clean her own house, cut her own grass, and prepare her own food. I could have told her that she doesn't really need a big fancy house, two beautiful cars, cable TV, or a dog.

I could have told her that when she is 90-years-old, any career accomplishments she might have had, and all the stuff she managed to afford because of it, will be utterly and completely forgotten, but a woman who has invested in her family will be remembered for generations.

Following Christ in the calling of motherhood is not the stuff of luck or magic. It is the result of living deliberately, knowing that the joy found in obedience far surpasses the temporary happiness offered to me by this world.

*I do realize that we are also blessed by God. After all, things could have gone wrong and our house not sold, and then we would be bankrupt! My point in this post is that our lives often result from the choices we make, the priorities we have.

22 March 2006

Help Meet: On the Indulgence of PMS

No woman has ever been happy and fulfilled who neglected to obey God in regard to her role as a help meet. As you read the following example, you will recall some woman you know who is in her forties and has a few "emotional issues." Her excuse might be menopause, but you will find that bitterness is the real source. A hormonal change doesn't change a woman's soul; it just tears down her carefully constructed defenses against expressing the carefully guarded content of her heart. {Debi Pearl, emphasis mine}

Sorry, but I'm not going to include the "example" she mentions. That is for folks who want to read the book in its entirety {see the sidebar for the link}; it is far too long to quote.

Our culture sends the message that women are a certain way when they are having PMS, or are in menopause, etc. The metamessage is that this behavior is normative and acceptable, and that a "good" husband, or a "good" family will stand by quietly and be accepting of the abuse.

There have been times when I, in the midst of PMS, have been exceedingly rude and disrespectful to my husband, or terribly impatient and unloving toward my children. Once, when I admitted to this in a small crowd of women, the response surprised me. There was no implied need for repentance on my part. Everyone was quite understanding. Too understanding, if you ask me.

I have come to consider PMS {and pregnancy, with its major hormonal effects} to be the Great Revealer. It shows me who I really am. It shows me where I need to grow. It shows me the parts of my life that are a grief to my Lord, and to my family.
By the time many women are entering their fortieth year, they are teetering on the edge of mental instability. They have spent several years of their life irritated at their husbands, daily feeling hurt and responding with coldness and bitterness. Instead of practicing being thankful and merry, they are practicing bitteness. As practice enables the pianist to find the right keys without effort or thought, so a woman who practices discontentment will, without thought, hit the notes of bitterness when her chain is pulled. Practicing, always practicing, perfecting her bitterness and discontentment. {Debi Pearl}

I don't want to be this woman. I think any woman can be tempted to become her, especially during the harder portions of life's journey. But this is not the mark of a Christian woman, a woman deserving of the title "Follower of Christ." When I look to the Bible, I see admirable women.

They are unselfish:
A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. {I Timothy 5:9 & 10, emphasis mine}

They are described as being chaste and respectful, gentle and quiet, adorned not by flashy clothes, but by a spirit of submission:
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands... {I Peter 3:1-5, emphasis mine}

In future moments of weakness, I do not want darkness to come pouring out of my heart. I hope to be so transformed by Christ that His righteous work in my life is all that is revealed. I hope to practice deliberately submitting to Him in the matters of the day, to learn more of Him and grow to love Him more, that I might not shame Him in my old age.
Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. {I John 3:7 & 8a}

16 March 2006

And God Saw That it Was Good

Can sun exposure cause skin cancer? Absolutely. However, appropriate sunlight actually prevents cancer. Exposure to the sun provides many benefits such as promoting the formation of vitamin D. {Dr. Joseph Mercola}
In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, "That is mine." {Abraham Kuyper}

I don't put sunscreen on my kids. At least, not with any regularity. I think I put it on them twice a year, for the 4th of July and Labor Day, both of which involve celebrations where the children will be out in the sun longer than they are accustomed. I tend to avoid talking about sunscreen with other mothers because there are a lot of opinions about it and, believe it or not, I prefer not to cause a stir.

Oh, but I do love to think about things, and so, in honor of the warm sun that is outside my window after a week or more of rain {yes, we basked in its glory without sunblock for a good thirty minutes yesterday afternoon--gasp!}, I thought I'd analyze sunblock a bit, just for fun.

I must give the disclaimer that though I have recently read some research that supports me in my aversion to sunscreen, it was not research that originally influenced this behavior.

Sunscreen, and the excessive societal pressure to use it, bothers me because it contradicts what God said about His own creation. On the fourth day of creation, God made the great lights, with the greater light (the sun) to rule over the day. He saw that it was good.

And it is amazing to see this play out within creation as we learn more about how things work. God created man, and when man worked in the garden {in the sun} the sunlight interacted with his skin to produce Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is not the same as what you find in fortified milk and cereals {that is D2, a synthetic vitamin, much harder to break down into a usable form}.

When Vitamin D3 is broken down and transformed by the liver and then the kidneys it becomes 25-hydroxyvitamin D. And this fancy word symbolizes much that is good: natural protection again cancer {especially female cancers}, depression, fatigue, infertility, osteoporosis, some autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis, and the list goes on.

I think when God says something is good, He means it! Now this doesn't mean we should spend excessive amounts of time in the direct sunlight. {Sometimes I think sunscreen was invented as an attempt to avoid the consequences of two behaviors: immodesty and excess.}

And we do know a man who is allergic to the sun, and so the sun doesn't seem to be good for him. But a person being allergic to peanuts doesn't mean that peanuts are actually bad, and the fact that our friend gets a rash from the sun doesn't make the sun bad, either. Sunlight is a good thing.

It is always interesting to me that we can glorify God in literally every square inch of our lives. Sometimes it is as simple as rejecting society's assumption that something is inherently bad when Scripture explicitly says it is good.

15 March 2006

Life Changes Again

Well, he did it. He went out there into the big bad world. He applied for a job. He got dressed up and interviewed for that job. He borrowed a suit from a pastor-friend of ours and interviewed again. Now we have to go buy him a suit because they hired him!

Yes, Si is now the proud Communications Specialist at one of our local hospitals. Last night, we used the remainder of our CPK giftcard to buy dessert as a family to celebrate his accomplishments.

E. and I are saddened to give up the daily routine we have enjoyed the last few years, with Dad working from home and eating three meals a day with us. But we understand that this is an opportunity for him to use many of his gifts and talents and we know he is going to do a great job!

14 March 2006

When He Doesn't Want One {Yet}

I had a friend approach me recently concerning her husband's desire to wait to have children. They've been waiting. But he wants to keep on waiting, and she wants to start trying. She doesn't read this blog. She's never read my birth control writings. She was simply a friend without children asking a friend with children what to do.

I decided to post my answer because I realized that my birth control series, along with my long list of opinions on issues such as the dominion mandate could leave some readers in a similar predicament. Or at least it could if anyone chanced to agree with my analysis.

Anyhow, my suggestion to this friend was two-fold: submit, and then study motherhood. As much as I have previously argued that it is a woman's design to bear children, Scripture makes it clear that it is also a woman's design to submit. I'm not sure that usurping a husband's authority in this matter would be cause for long-term marital happiness. And constantly nagging a husband isn't going to cause him to warm to the idea of the pitter-patter of little feet, since the mere debate over having them creates in some women a combative attitude toward said husband.

Anyhow, the submit part, in my opinion, is a given, and very sensible. But the study of motherhood part is what I hope this friend takes to heart.

I am not old enough nor experienced enough to teach this friend or any other friend to be a good mom, because two young children does not begin to make one an expert. But I've reflected enough to have a couple regrets.

In my opinion, my friend has a unique opportunity. She feels the calling of motherhood upon her, and she knows with certainty that it is at least two more years away, if not more. There are so many books on parenting, so many tasks she can master before her children are born. And I can't help but think that if her husband begins to see all the positive aspects of her transformation into motherhood, he might acquiesce to her request sooner than planned.

The question I asked her in my reply was simple: What kind of mom do you want to be? And then I told her to pursue it now. If she wants to sew her daughter's spring dress, she needs to learn to do it now, because there is little time with a newborn to learn these things. If she wants to bake 100 different kinds of cookies, experiment with them now.

Giving birth does not magically make a woman the kind of mother she pictures herself being. Character and skill do not happen by accident. But a couple years of hard work could bring about both, and when that baby is finally born {or adopted}, the title SuperMom could well be an understatement, and I will be the one clamouring for lessons from her!

10 March 2006

The Darndest Things {03/06}

Here it is...the beginning of the Amusing Antics List for the month of March!

30 March 2006: Asking the Right Questions
E.: "Dad, when are you going to stop getting up in the morning and going to work?"

29 March 2006: E. in Conversation
"I used to want to marry that other girl--yes...Naomi--but now I want to marry Natalie. I like them both, but I want to marry Natalie."

29 March 2006: Our Prayer Warrior
Remember how I was sick about a week ago? Well, I'm not entirely better. I'm just able to go about the day. I was having an especially difficult time yesterday. Last night, before he was heading off to bed, E. asked me again how I was feeling. I told him what I had told him all day long: "I'm still sick. Please pray for me, that I will feel better."

When I said it that time, he climbed up on the couch next to me, took my hand, and said he would pray for me. It was a long prayer, and I couldn't understand most of the logic behind it. I do remember, "Thank you for Mommy's health, that she will feel you better."

And when he was done, he immediately asked me, "How do you feel?" And I felt ashamed--for still being sick, and also for having so little faith in comparison with this little boy.

28 March 2006: Itinerary Man
I have had people make fun of how scheduled I am with my kids, and my reply is usually that I would have no trouble being a bit more flexible {which probably isn't true, but I like to think that it is}, but that E. could never handle it. Well, the little guy becomes more rigid every day. Just think what a crotchety old man he will grow up to be! He has gotten to where he gives us an itinerary for everything. Taking a bath? "Okay, Mommy, first I will turn on the heater, then I will get undressed, then I will use the toilet, then I will get in the tub, then you will wash me, then you will set a timer and I will play for 10 minutes--no! 11 minutes--and then I will get out and you will dry me." No joking about the 11 minutes part, by the way. We are learning that sometimes we must alter the little schedule he makes for our family, and he inevitably throws a fit about it. Poor guy. He really thinks he's in charge!

26 March 2006: Needs Less Sleep
Ever since he started wearing underwear at night, E. has been getting up very early in the morning {for him}. Yesterday morning, it was 6:15am! I think maybe the need to go to the bathroom is waking him. Anyhow, the cute part is that he is still respecting the 7am rule {he is to remain in his room and play quietly or read until 7am so as not to wake his sister}. So we hear him make him way to the hall bathroom, head back to his room, and then read to himself. He became so engaged in his books that he didn't leave his room yesterday until almost 7:45!

22 March 2006: No Playing with Mommy's Undergarments
We have the strangest rules in our house. This new one was inspired by E. this morning, when I turned around to find him attempting to strap my bra on himself. I tried not to make a big deal out of it and requested that he take it off. He did. But then he tried to put it on his sister. Hence, the new rule.

22 March 2006: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
This morning, Si left to visit his new workplace for a few hours. He still has not completed all the paperwork, but will be closer to the end after today. Poor E. I heard him follow his dad out into the garage. The last thing I heard him yell was, "Hey, Dad?! I love you!" It was so precious. And I was so sad for him when he ran back in the house with tears streaming down his face, and looked out the window crying, "Daddy...Daddy...Daddy..."

16 March 2006: Bathroom Phonics
I think that as a little boy nears the age of 4, he finds that the bathroom, and all that it implies, is something worthy of much thought. This belief was reinforced today when I discovered that words such as "food, "moon," or "room" used to illustrate the "oo" sound are not very helpful teaching tools, while "toot," and "poop" {as well as "scoop" if used in the context of discussing how a certain grandma scoops dog poop with a paper cup} can bring about an almost instantaneous enlightenment and appreciation for said "oo" sound.

Ah, the raising of boys.

15 March 2006: Innovation
This morning I wandered into E.'s room. He has been "making" his bed for about half a year now, and some days he does it better than others. Today wasn't one of the better days, but I could see many evidences of effort.

Mom: Hi, sweetie! Did you try to make your bed?
E.: {makes thoughtful face for a long while and then} Yes. This is a new way.

14 March 2006: Mean Daddy
Well, I told you that someday I'd use The Darndest Things List to highlight some of the bad things my children had done. Well, lest you think little E. is perfectly scrumptous all of the time, you should know that he likes to criticize my cooking. Eating has been his chosen battleground, and he has been fighting the war fiercely the past few days. We have tried numerous tactics, but now Daddy has officially put his foot down. Perhaps he is imagining E.'s interaction with his future wife, whereby she slaves all afternoon making the meal E. has told her is his favorite, but because he is in one of his moods, he sits down and declares how much he hates this meal and doesn't want to eat it at all.

So the new rule is, "One negative comment about the food, and you don't eat." It's simple, really, though today it was interpreted to mean, "One negative comment about the food, and you shall run to your room, sobbing, and fling yourself across your bed, all the while screaming about how hungry you really are and how you just remembered that you really do love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after all." That's not what Daddy said, but this is generally what he was taken to mean.

Perhaps tomorrow there will be consensus concerning how great my meal preparation skills really are.

11 March 2006: What will you do when you grow up?
This evening at dinner, E. explained to me that when he grew up, he would be a grownup, and then he could help Dad and Mom keep A. from touching the fireplace all of the time.

11 March 2006: E. the Hero
This afternoon, E. found A. choking on a piece of his toy. As I came running to help, he calmly popped the toy out of her mouth and told her everything was okay, and then he made sure the toy made it to the tabletop out of her reach, which is where it was supposed to be in the first place. Isn't he sweet?

11 March 2006: How old is Daddy?
I don't really have a conversation to document concerning this issue, because there really is an ongoing string of conversations that have taken place over the last couple of weeks. Suffice it to say that E. is convinced that his dad is 17-years-old, and will say things like, "When I'm 17 like you, Dad, I want to..."

10 March 2006: Bathroom Humor
Tonight, we did what bad parents do, and took our sick kiddos to Chili's to console ourselves concerning the disruption of our plans. E., of course, made the inevitable trip to the bathroom. I didn't mind; I needed to use it, too. Another woman in the restroom found us completely amusing. Perhaps you will, too. Here is what I said and what he did:

Mom: E., okay, now just wait a minute there and don't touch anything, okay? Do you hear me?
E.: {immediately shows signs of an attempt to touch the little trashcan for sanitary napkins}
Mom: No! Don't touch that--especially that. Honey, I'm trying to keep your hands clean so that we don't have to wash them. Don't touch anything, okay.
E.: {seems amused and reaches for the handle for flushing}
Mom: Don't touch that! No!
E.: {heads for the changing table and touches it, even picks it up and tries to close it}
Mom: E.! I told you not to touch anything. Now we will have to wash your hands!
E.: {decides that since he has to wash his hands anyway, he might as well touch everything and heads back for the sanitary napkin yucky trashcan}
Mom: E., no!
E.: (is now distracted by mom grabbing purse and getting ready to leave bathroom stall and decides to speak with the wisdom of a child) Mom, can I see your [name for male body part]? (this includes an impish grin because he knows about these things and just enjoys testing my response)
Mom: You know I have no such thing.
E.: Well, let me see if you don't have one!

Woman in other stall laughs hysterically.

10 March 2006: What a Good Sport
We had a big disappointment today. Everyone was disappointed, save A., who is characteristically 12-months old {i.e., oblivious}. You see, tonight was the Big Night. E. and A. were going to spend the evening at Granddad and Grandmama's house while Si and I went to a gathering with a group of friends from church. We try to have an event of this kind about once a month, however our kids have been sick since...well, about the end of October. So let's just say we've missed a few of them.

Well, disaster struck again. E. woke up from his nap with a nasty cough. Due to issues in our family that don't need to be discussed, sickness means quarantine. It is that simple. So quarantined we are. Unfortunately, I had let E. in on the evening's plans this morning, which gave just enough time for him to become really excited.

When I told him he was sick and wouldn't be going to go to his grandparents {he was even going to get to spend the night! Only A. was getting picked up after the evening's festivities were over}, I could tell by looking at him he was crushed. And then ensued a long explanation. He educated me using his logic skills that his nose was not running, and he was only coughing because he had a bit of phlegm {"fem"}, which might just be poop. {?? I have no idea why he thought that...}

Anyhow, I dialed the number so that he could share his frustrations with Grandmama, who tried her best to comfort him, though she was obviously disappointed too. He grunted and groaned a bit, and he told her of his distaste for this new plan. But you know what? He never cried. And he only complained for a little while, and then he let it go.

9 March 2006: Discussion Concerning our Heavenly Home
This week's Bible reading has been primarily concerning our Heavenly Home, and how Jesus is "preparing a place for us." Ever the philosopher, E. finds this concerning. He likes to tell Daddy how he doesn't really want to go there, because he likes his home here "with Dad and Mom and A." I thought he was worried generally about the issue of heaven, but Si assures me that E. just really likes our house, and if he could take it with him, then he would be fine with the whole Heaven thing. Do you think I should tell him it's a rental??

9 March 2006: Perfecting Her Walk
Little A. has been going at it for over a month now, so today I thought I would let her make the trek to the mailbox with me. It is a short walk, but I knew I'd end up carrying her eventually. I made sure E. came also, so that he could carry the mail. Going down the driveway was the first challenge. I caught her about halfway down as she was picking up significant speed, and looking like she was ready for take-off.

Help Meet: A Lesson on Taking the Reins

"If you successfully do the job of leading the family, you will not find satisfaction in it. It is far better that the job be done poorly by your husband than to be done well by you. Your excellence as a help meet to him may very well be God's plan for improving his leadership role in the family. Your female nature cannot be retrofitted to the male role without permanent damage to the original design." {Debi Pearl}

My son loves our white board. I bought it for the playroom, also known as the room in which I give him formal lessons {which is also known as the dining room}. He loves formal lessons. In fact, the main reason why I give them so often is because he begs for it. I am blessed to have a boy who loves being taught.

Now, our white board is only so big. This means that, throughout lesson time, it needs to be wiped clean to make room for new information {or for him to draw stick-men when we are finished}. For a long time, I wiped the board myself, because I was superior at the task. You see, it takes an almost-four-year old an eternity to wipe a white board clean, partially because he is slow, and partially because his technique is the most inefficient ever conceived to perform the task.

My first reflex is always to take the task back into my own hands. I can be impatient with such things, a flaw I am more than willing to admit needs correction. It is in the moment before grabbing the reins that the thought comes to me: I do not need the practice for this. He does. And if I ever want him to be quick at it, I am going to have to let him stumble through doing it slowly.

This story is not to compare my relationship to my husband to that with my son. I have authority over my son, while my husband has authority over me. And though I do things differently than my husband, it doesn't mean I necessarily do them better. So there is not a direct correlation. And yet when I read the above quote from Created to be His Help Meet, I couldn't help but think of the similarity.

After all, how is my husband supposed to ever be great at leading the family if I am constantly sending him the message that my way is the best {and therefore only} way?

We see this sort of attitude throughout our culture. It is often implied in the media that there is something wrong with our president because he doesn't do what so-and-so or such-and-such wants him to. As if the definition of a leader was taking orders from the right person or group instead of being the one to give orders!

It used to be like that in my marriage. There were these little {domestic} areas in our life where I had convinced myself that I performed better than him, was better-read in the subject than him, or was better equipped for the job. I then rationalized resisting his authority or contradicting him in subtle ways. I thought being right {or more informed} justified being subversive.

I think I should have repeated the bolded part of the above quote like a mantra for awhile: "It is far better that the job be done poorly by your husband than to be done well by you."

When I get out of his way {and this is an ongoing process, fighting those remnants of Eve inside of myself}, I become able to support him, to be his partner in the issues at hand. And it lets him {finally} practice and perfect his authority in the areas where I had previously challenged him.

After all, one can't get good at cleaning the white board if someone else is always trying to take over and do it herself.

09 March 2006

Time for a New Book

With Raising Maidens of Virtue in the rearview mirror, it seems appropriate to announce my next good read, which has been linked to the sidebar for a while now: Created to Be His Help Meet. As an initial disclaimer, I must claim ignorance in regards to Debi Pearl {the author}. Please do not think that my owning this book is an endorsement on my part. I am saying this not because of a negative perception of the Pearls, but because of my own ignorance.

With that said, how I came into possession of this book is an interesting story, and this introductory post seems to be a good place to share it. In the past, I read a number of positive and encouraging reviews of this book, and so it soon found its way to my booklist. I didn't have a good reason to purchase it, but I was wishing that it could be my next read...and now it is!

I've written before about the Keepers at Home program at my church, where older women in my church set up one seminar a month devoted to the training and instruction of the younger wives. February's speaker was a woman who I respect so much. A mother of eight who always has a smile on her face {and so does her husband, by the way}, I have always wanted to know her better.

Well, she not only spoke, she brought 20 copies of the book to hand out as a gift to the younger women. Lucky for me, I am a younger woman. It was truly a blessing. And it is already apparent, in my brief overview {I couldn't resist skipping through!}, that much of what I found to be inspiring and uplifting about her instruction is elaborate upon in this book.

Not unlike Raising Maidens of Virtue, Created to Be His Help Meet has study questions and Bible passages to read. I think I will use a similar format as before, sometimes sharing quotes or my own journal entries, sometimes sharing what the Lord has been teaching me through Mrs. Pearl's words. And I will try my best to remember how important it is that I read it slowly!

08 March 2006

Scrapbooking My Gratitude

Grace called me up recently and told me that she had heard a profound statement while listening to Dr. Laura in her car. I'm sure I'm about to butcher it, but it was something along the lines of, "Coveting steals our joy." Grace told me she might blog about this. I think she should {hint hint}.

What we talked about on the phone is a subject that is often our topic: the Grass Is Greener Syndrome. Grace and I couldn't have two more different lives {well, I guess we could if one of us was a man}. We are the same age, and we are both German {inside joke}, but I am the married mother of two living in a town full of extended family, while she is the still-single daughter of missionaries who live half a world away. And yet we both have to continously groom the garden of our lives, plucking out the weeds of discontentment. What made the quote above so profound was the idea that discontement is a fruit grown from the seeds of coveting, the wanting of someone else's life.

But this isn't really what this post is about. It's about scrapbooking. I spent yesterday's naptime catching up on the family scrapbook. I am currently about 15 months behind, which I think is a record for the most caught-up I've ever been. I value my position as Family Historian, and though I spend a lot of time and energy on the aesthetics of my pages, my heart is in the journalling. It is the written recording of memories that, in my mind, sets a scrapbook apart from the average photo album.

I remember things pretty well, so I am capable of sufficient story-telling from a distance of 15 months {or more}. The scrapbook is the capturing of our family's history, and the jounal entries are all the beautiful details I'm afraid we might forget.

What I noticed today, 15 months away from when the photos were taken, is that all the pressure of that time was gone, and what I was left with was the happy memories of E. digging holes in the dirt in the backyard or constantly moving our sprinkler so that it never watered correctly. It isn't that I don't remember the negative aspects of our life {the miscarriage, the bed rest, the morning sickness that lasted for seven of the eight-and-half months of my pregnancy with A.}. It's just that those dark spots, seen in retrospect, were much smaller than they seemed at the time. And I admit that life still must have had some brilliance, for there were memories we deemed worthy of capturing on film.

Sallie once wrote that she kept a journal of thanksgiving, and I guess the scrapbooks are mine. Sure, I want them to be the textbooks by which I teach my children where they came from. But while crafting them, I am encouraged to remember all the ways in which God has led us through the darker times, where He has adorned a sad day with beauty, and then followed them with weeks of gladness. I have become grateful for what I do have, and the desire to look around and wish for something else is muted.

Life may not always be what I expect or think I deserve. But it is what God has given to me for my best, and every precious memory is a reminder that He is not only sovereign, but He is good.

2/15/07 Update: Fixed links to reflect Sallie's new blog.

06 March 2006

The Evolution of a Family Recipe

As a teen, I avoided cooking as much as possible. I liked doing things I was good at, and since I had never practiced cooking, I wasn't very good at it. It wasn't until my college years, when my paychecks were conspicuously lacking in zeros, that preparing my own food became a necessity.

I started with foods that came in boxes. I couldn't afford much meat, but Top Ramen was a bargain, and I soon learned that other titles, usually ending in the the words "a Roni" were also economical, and a bit more flavorful. When I married, it was my desire to take good care of my husband. We both worked, but every Wednesday, on my day off, I made sure that we had a big, satisifying meal. As I practiced, I became confident, and our menu became much more exciting.

I'm not too sure about practice making perfect, but I do think practice can make one good at something, or at least better than before. I wasn't able to cook from scratch right away. But simple directions on a Top Ramen box led to a bit more complicated directions on a Bisquick box, which eventually led to the discovery that following directions isn't really that difficult after all, and so I made pancakes from scratch.

There are a number of good reasons to cook from scratch. Meals tend to be more healthful and economical. Another benefit that I have recently discovered is that when a meal is broken down into its parts, it is much easier to modify. I can discover how to make a meal just the way my husband likes it {or my son, for that matter}. A meal that was only so-so can become a favorite by utilizing spices that I know my family has an affection for.

This is how recipes become family recipes. Something that is standard {for instance, a basic formulation for a common soup} is modified over time until it fits the taste of the family. A family's identity can reveal itself through this final, personalized recipe. A meal in a box can never do this for a family.

Please don't think that I never cook from a box, because I do. In fact, morning sickness is the number one cause of box-eating around here. This is quickly followed up by the "emergency" cause {i.e., I didn't plan a meal because we were supposed to be eating with another family, but one of us became ill, and we were uninvited at the last minute}. Lastly, there is the bad day cause. Some days are just a bit much {not that this happens with great frequency}, and I ask my husband if he minds if we run get something somewhere, or eat from a box, instead of me cooking, and he usually humors me {or breaks out the Bisquick box himself}.

So how does a family recipe evolve out of a regular recipe? I'll use one of our family favorites as an example. Here is the original {great way to get little people to eat their spinach, by the way}, as my mother cooked it when I was growing up:

Spinach Roll-Up


-cooked bacon, sausage or pepperoni
-10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drained
-6 oz. shredded provolone cheese
-small can of sliced black olives
-1 egg
-minced garlic, minced onion, dried basil, and pepper to taste
-1 egg white
-1 t. sesame seeds
-10 oz. package refrigerated pizza crust
-jar of pizza sauce

-preheat oven to 350 degrees
-combine meat, spinach, cheese, olives, whole egg, and spices in a bowl
-roll out the pizza dough on a sprayed baking sheet and form a 14"x10" rectangle
-spread the spinach mixture onto dough within 1" of edges
-start from the long end and roll it up, seal the ends and seam
-place the roll seam-down, brush with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds
-bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes
-let stand 5 minutes before cutting; serve with pizza sauce

This was a recipe I recently chose to break down and play with. It was important, however, that I master the recipe in its original form first. I needed to know what pizza dough was like and how it behaved. I needed to discover which type of meat Si and E. preferred {it's bacon, by the way}. I needed to know that no one around here really likes minced onions.

The next step is to actually make some of the store-bought "ingredients" on the list myself. Here are a couple recipes for them:

Homemade Pizza Dough
Homemade Pizza Sauce

I choose one of the two recipes above, and master it. Then, I add in the second recipe. I have found there is no sense in overwhelming myself by trying to learn too much at once. Besides, everyone gets hungry while waiting for me to figure it out!

The last step to personalizing the recipe is to get creative. Maybe someday we'll grow our own spinach, and use it straight from the garden. Maybe we'll toss in some other favorites {like red and yellow bell peppers}. Most likely, we'll first decide that the above pizza sauce recipe would be much better without the rosemary because we just don't like rosemary all that much.

And in the end, we'll have our very own family recipe, the stuff that legends are made of. What was once possibly clipped from a magazine somewhere can have such potential. And perhaps this is the biggest lesson I've learned in this area. In my desire to follow the recipe rules, and make it perfect every time, I was not unlike those strip malls that look exactly the same, no matter what city or state one is in. The meals had a personality belonging to a stranger, rather than a loved one. And so I'm on a journey to make our meals become less of an inconvenient task I perform between four and five almost every afternoon, to an expression of who my family is and what they like, a tangible and tasty labor of love.

04 March 2006

Learning to Read Slowly

Wisdom is the principal thing;
therefore get wisdom:
and with all thy getting get understanding.
(Proverbs 4:7)

Were speed reading an Olympic event, I'm not sure I'd win a gold medal. I might not even make the team. But as far as the average person goes, I think I'd win the race as long as my contacts weren't giving me vision problems.

This was a very convenient talent in college. I would stay up late reading for a test {sometimes a month's worth of reading}, and then I could somehow get it to stick long enough in my short term memory to pass the test. Sometimes I did more than pass.

This ability allowed me to cultivate within myself a bit of disrespect for what it really means to read a book, even what it means to be educated. There has been much discussion on some of the blogs I read concerning institutionalized education {for instance, here and here}. I used to be the type that thought a college degree qualified one as an educated person. And sometimes I teased my husband that my 2/3 of a Master's degree made me more educated than him! {Of course, I knew that wasn't true.}

As I was reading Raising Maidens of Virtue, I did something I hadn't done in a long time {or ever}. I read it slowly, meditatively even. Part of the reason for this was the topic. I cherish my sweet little daughter, and I was hungry for some words of wisdom in regards to training her. So I decided to not just browse the questions at the end of each chapter {as is my usual way, if I glance at them at all}, but get out my journal and answer most of the questions by hand, forcing myself to think through the answers. And the result was that this book got into my soul in a way that most books never have.

As I reflect on the effect this had on me, I realize the significance of slowing down when I read. In choosing to see the book as a chance to learn instead of a box to check on my ever-expanding reading list, I was able to absorb its message, compare it with Scripture, discuss it with my husband, and allow my life to change accordingly. Rather than becoming enlarged with all the random facts that I quickly filed away for future easy use, I was humbled to realize how much more this author knew than I did, how great was my need for instruction.

This is not to say that everyone who reads quickly is like me, rushing to the end so as to gain a sense of completion, often forgetting the merit of what was read. But I will say that I have learned a lesson, that it is the depth of learning that has more importance than the breadth. I am now trying to discipline myself to remain unhurried in my approach to reading, to make a habit of gleaning the most I can from what is at hand. Instead of speeding down a freeway, so to speak, I'm going to be taking some country roads and enjoying the scenery a bit. Sometimes, one good book read slowly can enrich a soul more than a thousand read with thoughtless speed.

01 March 2006

Lessons on Virtue: The Finale

Almost exactly two months after receiving this book {from my beloved} for Christmas, I have finally finished. And there are about fifty freshly handwritten pages in my study journal to show for it! I would absolutely suggest this book for any mother desiring to discover a divinely-inspired plan for raising daughters. For me, it was an introduction to a whole new way of thinking about the purpose and design of a young woman.

I read through the end of the book with sweet anticipation. The latter portion contains mother-daughter projects that are at least ten to twelve years off for us. And yet I am excited at the prospect of building a scrapbook together to document A.'s own study of maidenhood, which will encourage her in her devotion to our Lord and her commitment to purity and virtue, not to mention build a sturdy foundation on which to build the beginnings of my relating to her as more of a grownup than an immature child.

Below is an index for those of you wishing to explore a little of my Lessons on Virtue series. Please note that the majority of these postings were inspired by questions from the study guide portion of the book. They represent my own thoughts and ideas, however, and are not meant to speak for Mrs. McDonald.

Lessons on Virtue Index:
  1. Lessons on Virtue {Introductory Post}
  2. Lessons on Virtue: Contentment
  3. Lessons on Virtue: Modesty
  4. Lessons on Virtue: Humility
  5. True Virtue is Timeless