25 May 2006

Happy Birthday, E.!

Four years ago today, God intervened in our life and gave us a son. He made us parents. And May 25th never goes by without me thinking about that fact. All the birthday planning and indulging {so far we have played in three different backyards, and the day is only two-thirds finished!} has never blurred the fact that this is not only a birthday, but also an anniversary of an event that changed our lives.

I think this is why there are always "more" pictures of the firstborn than the others. It is because the parents are documenting themselves, not just the child. Just as little A. made E. into a brother {whether he liked it or not!}, E. made us parents. Her birth was more significant {in some ways} for him than for us, because she gave him a new role to play in life.

Si and I have looked back in awe many times and wondered at God's mercy on our lives, to give us a son, in spite of ourselves. How true is the Scripture that says, "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,/The fruit of the womb is a reward." We feel very fortunate, indeed!

And so I felt like today, this fourth anniversary of my motherhood, might be a good day to announce the real reason I haven't blogged much in the past two weeks:

19 May 2006

Adult Conversation

I have recently encountered some women who have returned to the workforce {after bearing a child or two} because of a professed need for "adult conversation." Now, many women return to work, and for a variety of reasons, and I do not mean for this posting to address every possible reason for such a return. I mean it only to address the situation of a mother whose primary motivating factor for a return to work is adult conversation or interaction.

I was tempted at first to address this situation from the Bible. Titus 2 is where I I love to start when I need to remind myself that young women are expressly commanded to be learning how to be homemakers and to love their children and husbands.

But actually, if I had to narrow it down to one verse, I am more motivated by one nestled in the Proverbs 7 context of the adulterous woman:
She is boisterous and rebellious,
Her feet do not remain at home...
{Proverbs 7:11}

When one reads the entirety of Proverbs 7, and other passages that describe this married woman who is a trap for young men, one can easily see that she is restless at home. She is discontent while at home, and she leaves home often.

I do not deny that I have felt just such a restlessness in my own heart from time to time. I remember more than one occasion when I told Si, "I quit! I'm going to go get a job!" In those moments, I felt my life at home was a burden to carry, and I was anxious for something "more." But as I read Proverbs 7, I realized that the woman in the Bible who shared such a quality with me {a restless desire for something "more" than home} was one I cared not to imitate.

My observation of women I've met who profess to "need" adult conversation is that, really,
If you were to say to the grown-ups: "I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof," they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all. You would have to say to them: "I saw a house that cost $20,000." Then they would exclaim: "Oh, what a pretty house that is!"
--Antoine de Saint-Exupery
this is actually a confession of discontent. Sometimes, she has been negligent in disciplining her children, and created monsters she can't stand to be around. Sometimes, being at home is simply not enough for her, because she is a feminist at heart. Caring for children is a burden rather than a high calling. A successful career can offer a woman a lot of praise, but motherhood can be thankless at times. This is not a need for anything. This is disdain for mothering.

I do find it ironic that in using the phrase "adult conversation," one can almost be lessening the important of children. Do adults really have amazing conversations on a regular basis, and during work hours? And are children really so dull? I remember some inspiring interactions from when I was working, but the daily grind consisted of small talk and office politics {and getting the job done, of course}. But at home with my children, I am asked important questions all day long. Can you hear the clouds move? Why are three bulldozers parked over there? How does a crane work? The questions are only irritating when I do not have a ready answer!

Now, granted, there are days when something serious is on my mind, and I do need a friend to share with. But I don't think I would
Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, "What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?"
--Antoine de Saint-Exupery
qualify that as a cause for leaving my children to be raised by a stranger while I pursue a career. It just means I need a friend to call on. I also think that motherhood is not a reason to stop growing and learning. This means I should have a book available to stretch my mind, a Bible to convict me, and a blog on which to sort out all my thoughts.

I recently read a long excerpt written by Elizabeth Elliot posted here. My favorite part was the reminder that I have been assured that it is in losing my life that I will find it. Sacrificing my children on the altar of a career is nothing less than pursuing myself with wild abandon. In that moment, I would be truly lost.

And whenever I begin to think that adults are superior to children, or more worthy of my time, I pull out my weathered copy of The Little Prince, and let it set me straight once more.

15 May 2006

The Socialization Question {Part IV}

I am constantly tempted {through a great swinging of my ideological pendulum over the years} to simply dismiss the socialization question. After all, I find a certain amount of weirdness endearing, and I admit that I myself become increasingly eccentric as the years go by.

But the fact remains that Man was not created in isolation. He was given a wife to love, and, later, children to rear. He was designed to have dominion over every facet of creation. A Christian child must grow into an adult that is able to make disciples of nations. The circle ever widens: man, marriage, family, community, nation, the world. To the extent that "socialization" implies that a child is trained to interact with other people in such a way that he is respectful and loving toward others, socialization is an important facet of education.

Notice I said facet.

I think one must be careful not to let it become the driving force. Socialization is a huge motivator for some Christians I know when they decide to put their children in institutionalized schooling. After all, a lot of kids like kindergarten. They like making friends, and feeling "big" by being away from Mom a bit.

I am here to tell you that my son likes cookies and ice cream for breakfast {um...and lunch and dinner!}. He likes to avoid certain healthy foods. He likes to stay up late. He likes to disobey sometimes. He likes to yell when other people are talking. He likes to knock his little sister over. The fact that my child will like something far from guarantees that it is best for him. He likes a lot of things that are outright bad for him.

Really, this is what it means to be a child. The Bible says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, so one shouldn't be shocked to witness it firsthand. In an institutional setting, there are sometimes up to 30 foolish children per classroom. Professionals will call this a "peer group," and will mention "peer influence" or "peer pressure."

Depending on the child's personality, an insitutional education will influence him through some combination of these three vectors: the curriculum and its accompanying ideology, the teacher, or the peer group. It is this triad of influence that is why we homeschool.

We are not filled with a spirit of fear. We simply believe that God has entrusted a
Because all education is inescapably religious, it can never take place in an ideological vacuum.
child to his parents and not a state-sanctioned curriculum, certified teacher, or neighborhood peer group, and it is a shirking of our responsiblity to burden someone else with the majority of the child's education, even if they are more than willing to do so.

There are a million benefits that we think could potentially be realized through homeschooling, but the idea of taking responsibility is the actual reason we have chosen this path.

In 1828, Noah Webster defined "education" in this way:
The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties {emphasis mine}.
The book of Proverbs says over and over that the fear of the Lord is the source of wisdom and knowledge, and it leads to life. Nothing can really be known outside of its relation to the Lord. So education is rooted in discipleship. And the discipleship of a child is perfectly expressed in God's commands to fathers in Deuteronomy 6:6,7:
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
In other words, it is all day, every day. It is deliberate. It encompasses all of life. And it is part of what it means to be a parent. There is no room for the Baby-as-Purse mentality in Biblical parenting. Sometimes, I need a topic like this to remind myself of that.

13 May 2006

The Socialization Question {Part III}

Equivocation, I have learned, is a fallacy dependent upon a certain level of ambiguity. In other words, the fact that the majority of the population actually uses the secondary definition of socialization {which I mentioned in Part I as being, "To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable."}, leaves the door wide open for midsentence equivocating on the term. The experts can "worry" about a child's socialization, and leave the public thinking they are concerned about a child's friendships or ability to be a productive citizen.

I propose that the experts are in actuality using the primary definition of socialization: "To place under government or group ownership or control." The concern is not with the amount or quality of the child's friendships. The concern is who gets to control the child.

I think that the best way to judge this situation is to look at the legal proceedings that surround education and, specifically, home education. For instance, our very own Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found unanimously that
there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it. We also hold that parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students... {emphasis mine, see Spunky's post for more, and this post for the Mann pullquote}
And then yesterday, "the California state Senate today passed a bill that removes sex-specific terms such as "mom" and "dad" from textbooks and requires students to learn about the contributions homosexuals have made to society" {source}.
We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause.
--Horace Mann
These laws and judgments are not passed because "experts" and judges and legislators are concerned that a child's test scores are low, or that a child needs help getting accepted to a better college or aquiring a higher-paying job. These laws and judgments are passed in an attempt to influence the worldview of the child.

Another great place to look around is the archives of the HSLDA. It is filled to overflowing with examples of the schools harrassing parents, teens' driver's licenses being suspended, and mothers being incarcerated. The list goes on. And the issue is control.

Once upon a time, homeschooling was very typical. The parents were the primary influence over the child's life, and this was seen as their responsibility. Granted, some parents carried out their responsibilities better than other. Perhaps the experts tremble at the thought of homeschooling for this reason:
They say that man is mighty,
He governs land and sea,
He wields a mighty scepter
O'er lesser powers than he;

But mightier power and stronger
Man from his throne has hurled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world
{W.R. Wallace}

Is it any wonder that the greatest, most powerful nation in the world would like to rock my child's cradle for me? For Monday: why socialization should not be the primary determining factor when choosing a child's educational methodology.

12 May 2006

The Socialization Question {Part II}

I think I need to admit that the socialization question {as asked by the average person, not the academic "expert"} is asked because there are certain homeschooling families that are really odd. Sometimes these families are disliked because their community values conformity, and they just don't fit in. In fact, I would say that conformity is often an underlying concern when the socialization question is asked. Will they fit in? Will they be liked everyone else? But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Cindy recently wrote a series on the Gestapo Homeschooling Mom. I would say that the homeschoolers I've met that concerned me were raised by women who fall into this category. Actually, they tend to be boys raised by Gestapo Moms. They are very feminized, and I have a hard time imagining them ever separating from Mommy enough to have a healthy marriage someday.

But please notice the cause of this: the mother. This is not caused by the methodology of homeschooling per se, and not all homeschoolers will reap the same results.

There are other homeschoolers who are exceptionally smart, or exceptionally...um...not smart. They may not seem to fit in, but I've learned not to be quick about attributing that to homeschooling. They are what they are, and I'm not sure they'd "fit in" any better if they were thrown to the cliquish wolves in the public school system. And if they did muster the strength to conform, what qualities that are virtuous and noble would be gained by such an endeavor?

I have two basic points here. The first is that boys {or girls!} raised by the
Your children might not exactly fit in with the other children on the block, but that is precisely the point.
--RC Sproul, Jr.
Gestapo Moms will have their issues regardless of the method of their schooling. The second is that conformity is not a virtue.

Our culture values conformity more than ever before. This even reveals itself in our architecture, which has become quite formulaic. When one travelled the country even as recently as the 1980s, one could observe distinct personalities in different geographic areas, even within a single state. Today, strip malls with virtually identical archetectural styles fill every formerly vacant lot. For good or ill, every town looks the same. Couple that with the fact that digitized media means that a kid in Alaska can be entertained in the exact same manner as a kid in Florida, and we end up with cookie-cutter kids.

The homeschool families will stick out and make the families drowning in the culture
And do not be conformed to this world...
--Romans 12:2a
uncomfortable by virtue of their lack of conformity. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, to my mind, this is a very positive thing to the extent that their conformity is to Christ and His commands rather than culture.

There is a cultural tendency to dismiss homeschoolers as weird. And the experts-at-large encourage this overgeneralization. Tomorrow, I think I will write a bit about "experts," specifically their expertise at the logical fallacy of equivocation. But I think that today it is important to note that there are a number of elements that go into the making of a homeschooling culture, and there is a lot of diversity out there. And my own past habits of judging them as "odd" were actually using the world's standards rather than God's.

11 May 2006

The Socialization Question {Part I}

Our son is finally getting to that age where people ask us about school. Usually, the question is concerning sending him to preschool, though sometimes it is more along the lines of private schooling versus public schooling. More recently, as homeschooling has gained in popularity at our church, the discussion has turned to where we will homeschool {as in, through a Christian school, a public charter school or by registering our family as an independent private school}, and whether we will join a support group.

Whenever we discuss the issue of homeschooling, it seems inevitable that the question of socialization is raised. Honestly, this was {initially} my biggest concern as well. I mean, I went to college and met peers who wanted to be teachers, but didn't love reading. I've met teachers who chose their vocation for the primary purpose of enjoying the time off during summer and Christmas. I have never felt that my child would get an inferior education by being at home with me as his teacher. But I've met some really strange homeschoolers, and so the socialization issue was a real issue for me.

The decision to homeschool was made, for us, before E. ever said his first word. So we've had some time to think about all the issues and plan a course of action. Our initial solution was two-fold: first, get involved in a homeschool group and, second, play sports.

Neither of these solutions is a bad one, though I must admit that the idea of trying to go to a homeschool group with any regularity doesn't sound as enticing as it used to. This appealed to us more when we were living in Los Angeles County and didn't have any friends with children to speak of.

But now I find myself second-guessing the question itself. And I am asking new questions: What does it really mean to be socialized? What is the average person asking when they raise socialization questions? What does an "expert" mean when they use the word "socialization?"

I do not deny that the average child educated in an institutional setting sets the standard for what our society considers to be normal in regards to the socialization process for children, but what is average does not tell us what is best, nor does it reveal God's standards for a person's conduct.

Dictionary.com has some very interesting definitions for the word socialization. Honestly, I was surprised by what I found to be the primary definition. What most people who raise this question mean when they use the word actually appears as the secondary definition: "To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable." But I find the primary defintion much more interesting: "To place under government or group ownership or control."

When I have asked myself the socialization question, what I have always meant is something along the lines of: Will they have friends? Will they get along with others? Will my shy child be able to speak up in a job interview and get hired? Will they be able to function in society, get married, and create a God-honoring family? And I think that this is what is meant by the average person who asks me, "What about socialization?"

And I think they ask the question out of genuine concern. I know I did. And now I laugh that I once thought a child would be better socialized in the public schools than he would be at home!

The reason for my laughter is because I've been analyzing my own behavior (past and present). I am, after all, a product of institutionalized schooling, so I'm as good of a case study as anyone, and a little self-criticism is always helpful. So please allow me to share my observations.

When we became parents, I became thrust {for the first time} into a situation where
A true mix of age groups is, sadly, one of the scarcest commodities on a university campus.
--RJ O'Hara
we didn't fit. Up until that point, I had {since kindergarten} always been around people who were pretty much exactly like me. After all, most schools divide the children by age. It had already been a bit difficult because I was the first of most of my friends to be married. But then when we had the baby, everything changed.

Now, there is a natural and beneficial break that occurs whenever a person marries. After all, a new family is being created.

But we really struggled beyond that with the idea that our friends weren't exactly like us anymore. In fact, we felt like some of them were uncomfortable with the situation, too. We met other parents where we lived at the time, and I remember discussing with Si how much older than us they were, as if that was a bad thing. When we moved to our current location, we were happy to meet others our age who were married and had children. And they became our friends.

Now, we are recovering from all of this. We have managed to keep in touch with old friends. And we have learned to have friends that are in different life stages than us. But what I have noticed that I can observe these negative qualities in my own life. And I believe them to be directly related to the fact that I was segregated by age for the first 17 years of my education.

I contrast this with a little 11-year-old homeschooler that I know. I am always astounded by her ability to love everyone around her. I have seen her greeting visitors at our church. She can talk sweetly to our tiny daughter and interact in a friendly manner with an old widow. She seems to be able to have relationships with such a variety of people, something I was completely incapable of at her age.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the ties between the concept of socialization and the drive for conformity, but suffice it to say that I found myself asking a new question today: Who is more socialized?

10 May 2006

Frugal Moment: What My Credit Card Can Do for Me

In less than two years, Si and I have received over $600 in giftcards to our favorite stores and restaurants. I remember the first time I was able to order a giftcard, and how excited I was to have "earned" a free-to-us date at Chili's. Later, I obtained my dream shower curtain {too expensive for me to consider buying with our family money} for a shipping fee of five dollars, because I had "earned" a $50 giftcard to Pottery Barn to cover the majority of the cost.

Now, I am well aware that credit card debt is a plague in our society*, and I would Credit Card Imagenever suggest this method to a person who tends to spend too much, or who is tempted to spend more when using a credit card. But our family habits are to pretty much literally {with a couple exceptions for dates and hobbies} not buy anything we don't need. And our definition of the word "need" is quite narrow. But in a world where grocery stores and gas stations and even second-hand stores take credit cards, it is easy for a thrifty person to rack up some serious credit card points.

If one is to earn the maximum amount of points, one must be creative. For instance, I learned that I could pay our health insurance bill by credit card if I inconvenienced myself by calling the company and paying the bill over the phone rather than writing a simple check. That earned us over 400 points a month until Si got the new job.

I also learned that if I went to our credit card's website and used their link to jump to the likes of a site like Amazon, I could buy a gift I was going to buy anyhow, but earn three points for every dollar instead of one, just for using their website first! There are a world of ways to "earn" points without ever increasing one's monthly expenses.

In fact, one can actually use credit card points decrease one's monthly expenses. I have done this before. I used points to "purchase" a giftcard to Target where I bought our regular household items like toilet paper, shaving cream, and even ink for the office printer.

I must note that we have never paid interest to our credit card company. Ever. This is a very important element of our point-gathering habit. If we ever paid interest, we would instantly turn this situation around, and it would become the farthest thing from frugal. But if one has the self-discipline necessary to make this work for one's family, it is, in my opinion, a very nice "bonus," especially to a person such as myself who hasn't earned a regular paycheck in four years.

*Of course, I haven't yet read Usury: Destroyer of Nations by S.C. Mooney. I plan to someday. And once I do, I might be writing a very different sort of post.

09 May 2006

The Darndest Things {05/06}

I believe we have officially recovered from our technical difficulties. Of course, in the meantime, I have lost my "flow," so-to-speak. In an attempt to get back in the groove, I thought the most logical place to start {especially considering that it is already May 9th!} is this month's Darndest Things list.

Now, I know that "Darndest" implies that all of this is cute. And most of the time it is. But really, "Darndest Things" is a cute name for "Brandy's Online Baby Book" {can I call it a baby book when the Boy is almost four??}, so sometimes, like today, part of the subject matter will be more on the serious side.

30 May 2006: Klepto
Well, E. has of late been in a habit of sneaking toys into his bed at naptime. I, of course, magnanimously overlook such offenses because they are such Great Fun for him. Well, this afternoon, when I turned back his bed, I found a hairclip I had been missing for a couple days. Apparently, toys aren't the only thing he is taking into bed to entertain himself as he falls asleep! I guess I know where to look next time I'm missing something!

29 May 2006: Little Bird
I remember that when E. was an infant, someone gave me a journal that asked different questions to keep a mom from getting writer's block. One of the questions was concerning nicknames. I hadn't thought of if in that way before I read the question, but children do seem to aquire nicknames for various stages. Like when we used to call E. Senor Stinky Pants. Well, A.'s latest nickname is Bird. There are a variety of reasons. The most obvious is the way she opens her mouth for food: just like a baby bird! And she is like a grownup bird in that she is sure to flock to you and beg for food if you are eating something starchy. And we could probably get her to eat stale bread, too!

23 May 2006: The Evolution of Bravery
My son has been consistently timid around water. This has always been somewhat of a disappointment to me, considering the blistering heat of our summers. Being in a pool or running in sprinklers is about the only way a person in our area can bear to be outside in the middle of summer! Now that he is almost four, we have decided that swimming lessons are a must. Last night, we took him to his great grandma's house for an introduction (she has a pool). It was actually quite cold, and he didn't really want to get all the way in. Neither did the adults, so we decided not to force the issue. To our surprise, he played on the steps without any coercion! And to our great delight, he even spent time sitting with his feet in, kicking and splashing as high as he possibly could. This would never have happened last year. Previously, he had to be physically forced to even come near the water. Our boy is growing up a bit!

20 May 2006: A Short Lesson on Life and Death
This evening was my birthday party with our larger family. It, as is our tradition, took place at the home of my parents. It was a very exciting evening for the little boys of the family because there was a baby bird in the backyard that had just been pushed out of the nest. With excitement, the boys ran outside when they heard the news. I followed quickly behind, to supervise...and check it out for myself, of course.

Our oldest nephew decided to enter the flower beds and chase the poor creature out. He had great success, and we were much impressed by its poor attempt to fly. And then it happened. My parents' decrepit old dog, a dog that hasn't killed anything worthwhile in a number of years, came quickly around the corner, and caught our poor baby bird in its mouth with one gulp. The dog proudly carried the dead bird to the porch, a gift to present to my parents. The women screamed. The boys fluttered with excitement. I ushered them inside while Granddad cleaned up the mess. It was almost time for dinner, and I had quite lost my appetite!

19 May 2006: Mother's Little Helper
Today I caught Baby A. pretending to clean our living room tables with a burp cloth. She was very diligent and thorough.

18 May 2006: Another First
Tonight, Baby A. ate pizza for the first time. She even decided she likes Italian sausage.

17 May 2006: Let's Get Digital
I am sure my father was baffled when {as a child} a neighbor and I took a large carboard box and fashioned it into...a personal computer. I am sure he was thinking about the fact that such contraptions had only recently begun to exist, and he had never even heard of such a thing when he was my age. I am sure of this, because that is how I feel when my son plays with his toy camera. It is a toy camera made to use film, but that is not how he plays with he. He "takes" the picture, and then always turns the camera around to "show" me what a great photo he took! This is digital play at its best...

10 May 2006: Other People's Kids
I know this is supposed to be about my kids, but I couldn't pass up relaying this one. Today is my birthday. While I was out, my nephew {5-years-old} called and sung to me on the answering machine. He sung "Happy Dirt-bay!!" What a doll...

9 May 2006: Food Progress
A. has gradually been increasing her food repertoire over the last couple of weeks. I am happy to announce that tomatoes {peeled, to make them easier to chew} and avacados are both fully integrated into her menu as of today. We have also been thrilled by her first successful attempts at self-feeding with a utensil. Her preference is to have us spear the bananas, hand her the fork, and let her put it into her mouth. It's a pretty good system, and is offerring her some good practice at civilized eating.

7 May 2006: When a Help Becomes a Crutch
I'm not sure what parenting is if it is not a constant transition. Kids never arrive, and they don't stay in one place as long as we adults do. What I mean to say is, there is always a ton of change going on. I remember last Sunday, and how I sat in our church's Cry Room with A. and wondered if she was getting too old for this routine. I used to bring her to the Cry Room because we attended night church, which technically ended at her bedtime, and she was very tired and stayed peaceful when I rocked her. But now her bedtime is half-an-hour later, and here I am still visiting the Cry Room because she insists on being loud.

Now, granted, I sometimes wonder if she understands me when I tell her to be quiet. She has never given me any reason to think that she understands. But tonight I had to come to the conclusion that she understands another thing, and that is that Making Lots of Noise is a sure ticket to a rocking chair!

I was completely dismayed when she started acting up during Communion, but I was not about to flee to the Cry Room until I had partaken, so I simply shifted our seating arrangement a bit...at which moment she proceeded to turn around, look me in the eye, give me that Miss America smile, clap her hands, and rock her little body a bit, a sure sign of anticipating that rocking chair!

And though I love to take my baby to the rocker and hold her during church service, this little act told me that she was old enough to learn to stay, that her actions were deliberate. So I suppose we now begin to try to teach her to stay put. Lesson one was tonight, where I held her in the rocking chair, but refused to rock!

6 May 2006: Do Not Touch Strange Dogs!
Like most Saturdays, E. spent the morning helping Dad mow the lawn and battle the weeds in our Wilderness of a backyard. And like most Saturdays, the gate to the Dog Bitebackyard was left open while they mowed. A dog wandered into our backyard, and E. followed it back out into the front yard. In his words he "just wanted to pet it very gently," and the dog bit his leg! Thankfully, not with enough force to break the skin, and thankfully, only once. I was feeding A. inside, and shocked when E. entered the room apologizing all over the place for getting hurt and telling me that he thought a dog had bitten him! And so we had another close-call {not unlike last month's shopping cart incident}, and I was reminded that we are all reliant upon the Lord's constant mercy and protection.

03 May 2006

A Scrapbooking Philosophy

I've mentioned before that one of my positions here at the house is Family Historian. This means that I organize our photos and journals into neat little scrapbooks that tell the story of our family. I think I mentioned before that I am consistently one-year to one-and-a-half-years behind, which I consider a Good Thing. I remember things well enough, so it isn't a problem, and the distance from events allows me to cultivate a sense of gratitude for what we have been given.

I try to scrapbook as cheaply as possible, and it also helps that folks have learned that this is a hobby of mine and tend to give me supplies as gifts {which I love}. But I must confess that I have a weakness for Creative Memories. I really haven't found a system that works quite as well, nor proves itself as well over time.

Now, Creative Memories is one of those Multi-Level Marketing organizations, which means I don't go to a store, but rather to my "consultant" to purchase albums, pages, and page protectors (that's pretty much all I buy from CM). Anyhow, all of these details are simply to explain that I have a consultant in the first place.

My consultant knows that I have children, and she is constantly encouraging me to do separate albums for them. She shows me examples of albums others have done {with themes like "Ashley's 01-02 School Year" or "Bart in 2005," etc.}. I always remind her that I only do family albums. This seems to bother her, so I also remind her that I do have individual baby books that detail the first year {mainly in words--first tooth, first step, that sort of thing}. Of course, then I have to explain that I buy those at Hallmark. But I digress...

The point is that I have a different scrapbooking philosophy than my consultant. One of the reasons is purely practical. If I do an album for E. and an album for A., I will spend more money, and have practically the same photos in both of them anyhow because they are always together and most of my photos are picturing them both.

But really this isn't the reason. The real reason is that I greatly value context. We are a family, and we exist in the context of each other. I don't want a scrapbook that tells me about E.'s third and fourth years of life without explaining how that fits with A.'s first and second years. In fact, I couldn't rightly understand much about those years in E.'s life without mentioning the introduction of A. into our family, because those years have been, for him, all about giving up his only-child throne and learning to be a good big brother.

Along with this is the idea that I think the family rightly exists as a unit and I think that individual scrapbooks could encourage my children to be separatists. I don't want E. to have a book that is all about him. I want to turn a page and remember how we all cheered for E. when he had his Underwear Party, and then turn it again and cheer for A. learning to crawl. I want our family to have a book that celebrates the whole family.

Esentially, in my mind the individual scrapbooks leave the impression that the individual is the end product of the family, rather than the family being the end product of the individuals. My children are different from each other, and I'm sure they will be different from any future children we have as well. And I love and celebrate those differences. But I do it in such a way that they understand that they are unique individuals who belong to a whole--to a family.

01 May 2006

Frugal Moment: The Best Advice of My Life

I've made it no secret that I was a bit panicky when I discovered I was pregnant with our first child. There were so many levels on which I felt inadequate and unprepared. One of those levels was financial. Si had his first "real" job, and mine didn't even quite qualify as "real," since I was on staff at the university where I had been in school for the previous five years. We lived in Los Angeles County in a breezy one-bedroom, one-bathroom, less-than-six-hundred-sqaure-foot apartment that was built in 1915. I just didn't see how it was going to work.

I didn't know much about pregnancy, but I had a vague notion that there were "rules" in regard to eating and nutrition that I should probably be aware of, so I called one of the nurses from the University Health Center {her name was Ann} and asked if we could meet for lunch.

Now, Ann is one of those people that one can pour one's heart out to upon first meeting her, and that is precisely what I did. She was so gracious, assured me we would do just fine, and told me everything I needed to know about my eating habits. She also helped me decide how to break the news to my boss {I was very nervous about that one}.

And then Ann gave me the advice of my life. Actually, this ended up being the advice of our life. She said, "Don't think that because you're pregnant you need to go out and buy everything for the baby. Let God show you that He will provide for you." She told me a story about her first child, how she got pregnant at an equally "inconvenient" time, and how she and her husband went into debt creating the perfect nursery. I remember her telling me the crib cost $400. I remember calculating her age and thinking the equivalent would cost nearly $1000 in current dollars. This woman had learned her lesson the hard way, and cared enough to help other families avoid such follies.

So, I went home and told Si all about it. It felt so freeing to us, this notion that we didn't have to do it all. So we prayed, and waited. And everything we needed showed up by the time E. was born. Relatives helped a lot, of course. They purchased a changing table and a playpen that doubled as a bassinet. But the most astounding part is how we aquired our crib.

I must have been about five months pregnant, when Si's old roommate called us. He explained that he had been working at a pregnancy center's donations center, and someone wanted to give us a crib. The center had been accepting end-of-the-year donations, and they literally didn't have enough space for all of the goods they had received. We were amazed, but we said yes because we weren't sure how else to get a crib. This old roommate drove two hours to bring us that crib...and the mattress to go in it...and a giftcard to buy us some groceries after the baby was born.

I was near tears. I was so overwhelmed that we would ask for a crib {not even remembering that they required mattresses!}, and God truly provided more than we could ask for or even imagine. We were very humbled by the whole experience. We were also greatly encouraged to trust in God for our needs.

The months went by, and E. was born. And then more months went by, and all we ever
The nursery is a magical place where you and your new baby will spend precious time together. --Pottery Barn
bought for him were diapers, wipes, etc. It wasn't until after he turned one that I ever needed to buy him a single article of clothing, and it was only socks! God continued to provide even after we felt "secure," using people in our church to give our son hand-me-downs. He didn't outgrow all the clothing until after he was two, we had been given so much.

God never gave us a designer nursery {rather, He taught us we didn't really need one}. E. shared a room with us {out of necessity} until he was about 13-months-old, and his sister followed suit for the first five or six months as well {and this will probably be our habit}. Babies only really need a place to sleep, clean diapers, clothes on their back, and food in their tummies, and that is what God has provided. Whether it was the doctor's office that would give us a month's worth of formula "samples" or the family that gave us the extra diapers their babies had outgrown, God provided the necessities time and again.