31 July 2006

African Problem-Solving

One cannot go visit a zoo or aquarium anymore without being inundated by certain political messages. A particular message that was repeated to us throughout the Big Trip was, "Poaching is bad."

Variations on this theme were repeated constantly {in each animal park}. We were often informed that such-and-such an animal was endangered and that there were "less than 1000" left in "The Wild." I find it fascinating that these zookeepers have actually been to every square inch of creation and verified that, in fact, there are truly less than 1000 of a certain animal left!

Annihilating a Species is Bad
Though I believe that humans have the right to kill animals and eat them and use other parts of them to make tools or clothing {I once inherited a very lovely leopard coat, by the way}, it is inappropriate to annihilate a species.

We Americans tend to romanticize tribal cultures as some sort of simpler, "back-to-nature" sort of existence. But all cultures are not created equal. I have mentioned before that it is my conviction that a culture is "good" to the extent that it reflects God's vision for society. Each culture will have details where they vary {musical styles, dress, overall personality, etc.}, but God has given instructions to which each culture is obligated to conform.

When one studies Genesis, especially the first four chapters, one sees that God did not begin history with what we typically think of as a tribal culture. The description was more one of gardening/farming than anything else. It was not until after the Deluge {during which God chose a family to preserve not only humanity but animal life as well} that man was specifically given meat to eat. At that time, God put the fear of man into the animals {Genesis 9:2-5}. I presume that putting fear into the animals was a way of making sure that man did not obliterate them. It is, after all, quite simple to butcher a domesticated animal.

As early as Genesis 4 is the idea of a man having a flock mentioned. When one puts together the idea of tending a flock of sheep with the gardening and cultivation of the land mentioned in the prior three chapters of the book, the picture is one of sustainable food sources.

Man is not called to be a locust upon the earth, consuming whatever is before him and leaving a path of destruction behind. And yet, this is precisely the lifestyle of some tribal cultures {including some past Native American cultures}. The tribes hunt until there are no more animals to eat. They migrate and "gather" food much in the way an elephant does {an elephant herd, we learned, can destroy an entire forest in a short amount of time}--until there is nothing left.

The Problem of Africa
It is hard to isolate the various problems of Africa, because many of them stem from a refusal to bow the knee to the Creator. The area of poaching is just such a problem. The poachers see potential value in the animals--their skins, their tusks, their meat {for food known as Bushmeat}. But they do not follow the Creator's guide. They do not cultivate the ground and tend a herd. They kill and kill until the population drops into what many call the "endangered" level.

So then the government, often pressured by Americans, steps in to "save the animals." And we were astounded by the "most effective" way they have done this. We were told this by a tour guide, and I am assuming this is true. Some African governments hire poachers, arm them, and pay them to kill other poachers. That's right. Africa has chosen not to elevate man back to his position of steward of the land and life, but rather turn him on himself. And now there is a situation where a dead poacher is more valuable than a dead animal.

Problem solved, in the opinion of Africa. And the San Diego Zoological Society seems to also accept this solution. After all, they exist not to put creation back together again, but to preserve animals in the name of preserving animals. So, San Diego breeds endangered animals, ships them back to Africa, repopulates their land with fresh meat, and accepts the idea that the animals won't be killed, but the hunters will be.

And they believe all is right with the world, when it is in fact turned upon its very head.

30 July 2006

The Boastful Pride of Life

Well, it's not everyday that someone can say what I'm about to say. That's right. Our big fifth anniversary trip? Smack in the middle of Gay Pride Weekend in beautiful downtown San Diego!

Thursday morning, I kept wondering why all the rainbows. Why the rainbow flags {paid for by the city, I'm assuming} and balloons and streamers? And then I realized what was going on.

But not to worry. Apparently, the crowds weren't expected until Friday {and I don't know that they ever came, for we deliberately avoided downtown over the weekend}. We had a delightful time and were glad to have never witnessed any of the debauchery.

I am preparing for company {arriving Thursday}, but as I have time I will share some of our delightful adventures, interesting new insights into the animal kingdom, and a few of our vacation-inspired philosophical musings. It should be a great week.

26 July 2006

Childrearing #7

Use a timer or a race to combat dawdling. Dawdling can be caused by rebellion {my husband often says that delayed obedience is really disobedience}, or by daydreaming. Sometimes it is hard to decipher where perhaps rebellion started the problem, but then daydreaming prolonged it. Or vice versa. But needless to say, children {and even some adults} can develop habits that cause a task to take far longer than necessary to be accomplished.

As a disclaimer, I must say that I do not think I yet have a true dawdler on my hands. I don't know if this is because dawdling is in fact a bad habit that parents allow to develop into a character flaw, or because we simply haven't encountered that personality in our family. However, all children will dawdle from time to time. The question is what to do.

Of course, there is always discipline. But I have found that setting a timer has often worked. If there is a task that I know my son will be tempted to delay completing, I don't even allow him to entertain the thought. I will introduce the task by saying that I am setting the timer and he needs to be done with said task before the timer goes off.

As a helpful sidenote...I use the timer on my microwave {which is really what our microwave is--a big, expensive timer!} because it has buttons to adjust the time without the child knowing. "More" adds ten seconds, and "Less" will subtract the same amount. I cannot say how much this has saved me from the possiblity of being tempted to discipline a child for my own miscalcuations in how long a given task should take.

Another tactic I use is The Race. There are certain chores that E. and I both have. For instance, every morning we both make our beds. E. doesn't always want to make his bed. When he is in That Sort of Mood, I tell him I think I can make my bed faster than he can. He tells me he thinks he is faster. Both beds are made in a hurry!

I think the book Bringing Up Boys was where I first heard of this tactic. The example given was a son who refused to drink his milk, and it was a constant battle. But then he and his father started racing to see who could drink it fastest, and it became Great Fun. Since I want my child to enjoy having responsibilities, making something more enjoyable {by making it a race, for instance} is a solution I find more than acceptable.

25 July 2006

Good Character to Ease the Situation

Everytime I read a book on marriage, I am overwhelmed by gratitude that I married a truly good man. I don't mean that he's perfect. He would be the first to tell you that he isn't. But I know his heart seeks to obey the Lord, and this can cover a multitude of silly imperfections. {To my readers who are not yet married: the character of a man matters!}

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about forbearance. Being that forbearance is a Christian virtue, its object should not determine its expression. To be more clear, if forbearance is a reflection of Christ, who died for even the worst of sinners, then being married to someone who seems to be the worst of sinners is no excuse from practicing forbearance.

However, good character helps. A good friend and I were recently discussing this. Our husbands both value providing for their families. We know that we can trust them to work hard, and we love that about our men. We both also realize that this does not mean all will always go well with them. They may experience failures in their lives. But knowing that they have the character we admire, knowing that with all their hearts they want to provide for their families, makes it much easier to forgive and have grace for a failure. Consider the woman married to a lazy, unmotivated man. She, too, is obligated to forgive and extend grace for, say, a sudden job loss. But how much easier is it for the woman married to the man with a good work ethic?

Now, a woman is not the only one who has to practice forbearance. Obviously, a wife is not perfect, either. Nor is a daughter or son. We all have our faults. And yet, with good character expressing itself in one's life, it makes it much easier for one's family to forgive one's many flaws.

Conversely, bad character obstructs the free flow of grace and forgiveness in the home {and the workplace and the Church, for that matter}. Granted, the one that learns to forgive a person of bad character will certainly grow from the experience, but the questions that I have been angling at are these: Do I want to be a difficult person to forgive? Do I want to be the sort of person who is a challenge to others?

The answers should be obvious.

Though one should seek good character out of love for Christ and a desire to display His glory to the world, it is wise to also notice the benefits. It is a delight to know that not only are His commands not burdensome, but that they also reap a harvest of peace and blessing!

24 July 2006

Forbearance as an Attribute of Marriage

Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines forbearance as, "The exercise of patience; long suffering; indulgence towards those who injure us; lenity; delay of resentment or punishment." When we were in premarital discipleship, our pastor defined it a bit more simply. He said that to forbear is to forgive in advance.

I have mentioned before that Si and I are very involved in a Sunday School class for newly married couples. Oftentimes, the discussions within the class-time bring back memories for me of lessons we had to learn, too.

When we were first married, there were many lessons to be learned. Oh, one would think most of them should have been obvious, but sometimes one must learn through experience.

One lesson I had to learn was that a man mostly means what he says. Female types like me will sometimes engage in discussion at different levels, with words perhaps having layers of meanings. This is why a female will quickly retort, "What did you mean by that??" while the male is thinking that he meant precisely what he said, and nothing more.

{I also, by the way, had to learn not to try to use said layers of meaning when speaking to my husband. He assumed I was like him, and meant what I said. Trying to artfully use my feminine wiles in speech only complicated our communication, and frustrated us both. Now I try my best not to play games, unless I really mean it in fun. Games are not the best framework for a serious discussion, anyhow.}

Yesterday's discussion in Sunday School intersected with this a bit. It was suggested that it would be beneficial for men to frame their conversations. Some of the men in our class like to debate issues, but this puts the wife on the defense, and, next thing the husband knows, a debate over politics becomes personal, and he is baffled as to what happened. So framing was suggested. Something like, "Let's debate the war in the Middle East for the next fifteen minutes."

I had an immediate aversion to this, but mainly because I despise the idea of interactions with my husband needing to sound like a business meeting, which also seems remarkably similar to how a 4-year-old needs to be addressed. Everything must be spelled out, nothing taken for granted. This is, perhaps, a personality issue more than anything else.

But I also think that the idea of forbearance can be very helpful, not only in this area, but in all areas, if it permeates the marriage. I have never heard anyone teach on this quality in our five years of marriage, so I can only say that I feel very fortunate that we were discipled in it before we even took our vows. It has made much peace for us already, in this short time.

Forbearance is, really, founded on an acknowledgement of reality. It is grounded in the idea that other people are not perfect. If one is to forgive in advance, one necessarily recognizes that the members of one's family are sinners, and though one hopes that they do not sin regularly or grevously, one expects to forgive them for any future trespasses.

Forbearance is a reflection of the Father, who planned salvation through His Son before His children were even born, before they committed their first infantile acts of rebellion. God forgave in advance, and a Christian can follow that example.

Another aspect of forbearance is that, though it firmly believes in sin, it also seems to believe the best about the other person. I mentioned that I had to learn that my husband means what he says, and nothing more. Underscoring this is a certain amount of trust that something he said that sounded unkind to my ears was not meant in meanness. Sometimes, our mouths make mistakes. But wrapped in the angry reply of, "And what was that supposed to mean??" is the assumption that the other person really meant to do evil. It assumes not a sinful mistake, but an evil intention. Forbearance is exactly the opposite of this. It accepts and forgives the worst, but, in doing so, it tends to assume the best, or at least give the other person the benefit of the doubt. To reiterate Webster, it is the "delay of resentment or punishment," the act of refusing to rush to conclusions.

In all, though "framing a conversation" may be helpful for a man {or a woman...I know that some marriages do not neatly fall into these categories} early on in his marriage, I think that a better solution is for the woman to first pray God fills her soul with grace for her husband, and then teach her to express that grace through acts of loving forbearance.

20 July 2006

The Art and Practice of Self-Denial

I love reading about the Amish {and traditional Mennonites as well}. I remember taking a trip during the summer after my junior year of college to visit a roommate of mine who lived in Missouri. We spent a day driving into the middle of nowhere in order to reach a secluded Mennonite community. Coming from California, I had never seen such a lifestyle in person. And I admired it...especially after tasting Mennonite-made rhubarb pie!

This morning, I happened upon a posting over at Amy's Humble Musings that I loved. Let me share a brief snippet, in which an Amishman responds to the question, "What does it mean to be Amish?":
The Amishman thought a bit and then he asked a question of his own. “How many of you have TV in your homes” Fifty-two hands went up. “Now, how many of you feel that perhaps you would be better off without TV in your homes?” Again, fifty-two hands went up. “All right. Now, how many of you are going to go home and get rid of your TV?” Not one hand went up!
Talk about a total disconnect! This type of question could be about anything, really. How many of you have/do x? How many of you think it would be better if you didn't have/do x? How many of you are going to eliminate x from your lives? There seems to be a great, vast chasm between belief and action in Christian culture, overall.

There are cultures all over the world {though fewer than there used to be} that have some of the external disctinctions of the Amish. Maybe they do not use electricity. They are not industrialized, and tend to work with their hands. But usually these people groups are referred to as tribal cultures, and it is often assumed that they will assimilate into industrialized culture given enough time and exposure.

The Amish/Mennonite cultures, however, {though I do not deny that they keep quite separate} are well aware of industrialized culture, but choose to do differently. I remember the first time I read that the Amish do not so much reject the automobile as they do the insurance which necessarily accompanies vehicle ownership. There are certain beliefs/principles within their culture {in this instance, that the community, and not a private third-party, should bear each other's burdens}, that they choose to live by, regardless of the inconvenience the decision entails.

The Amishman who questioned a group of tourists about their TVs concluded by writing,
Now that is what it means to be Amish. As a church, if we see or experience something that is not good for us spiritually, we will discipline ourselves to do without. The world in general does not know what it is to do without!
And how sad is this fact! I firmly believe that industrial society is unnecessarily complex and impersonal. I believe it has many more negatives than it does positives on the proverbial Pro/Con List. If this is the case, then doing without some or all of it becomes paradoxical. In having less of the stuff and the demands on time, life itself becomes richer and more peaceful.

At the outset, sacrifice isn't easy. But I think one can be emboldened by the fact that choosing what is best is just that: choosing what is best. What is best is necessarily above all other options in value and benefit. And so, even though one might approach sacrifice and self-denial with great trepidation, one can be assured that what will be attained in the end is worth all of the effort required by the process.

18 July 2006

Preparing for Childrearing

A few years back, Si and I helped found a Newlyweds ministry at our church. Don't worry. We don't teach it, we just help keep it organized for the people who do teach it. From time to time, couples in the class are asked to share on a certain topic. Recently, our teacher began a series on transitions. The idea is that statistically, divorce occurs more often at certain points in a marriage {like within the first two years, at year seven, when the nest becomes empty, etc.}. So right now we are trouble shooting what could go wrong at those points in the marriage, and looking to the Bible for answers on how to prevent or get through those problems.

Si will be talking a bit about pregnancy in a couple weeks. Sometimes it seems that couples don't realize that pregnancy is where it all begins to change, not the birth of the baby. Especially when it is a difficult pregnancy. Since I am famous for somewhat difficult pregnancies, we have some experience in this area. All pregnancies are not rosy. My second pregnancy included nine months of nausea and almost four months of modified bedrest.

As I was helping Si brainstorm a bit on all that pregnancy entails, we remembered that we spent much of the nine months of the first pregnancy discussing childrearing. I read parenting and infant care books aloud to him in the car on long drives {we lived in LA and lots of drives were long}. When we went places, we deliberately observed the parenting of those around us and talked about what we liked and didn't like and what we would do differently. This was a great way to iron out an agreement on how to approach parenting at the start.

We have continued to read and modify throughout the years. Through recent discussions, we have decided there are three basic categories when it comes to the discipline side of the parenting equation. However, we know a number of couples who do not seem to have these distinctions, and it seems to muddle the childrearing decisions a bit.

I know that the majority of my readers do not have children. I also know that, in the coming years, that will be changing for some. So I share these categories in the hopes that they will be helpful in preparing for childrearing.

Standards, Verbal Instruction/Correction, and Discipline
Let me begin by differentiating between terms. Standards refer to behavioral standards. Verbal instruction is how those standards are communicated to the child. Correction is a bit tricky, because when it occurs seems to vary between families. This is verbal correction, and usually involves a reiteration of the standards, a reminder to do or not to do something. This may come before and/or after discipline. Discipline, of course, refers to the consequences of bad behavior. So far, I have observed spanking, time-outs, loss of privileges, and sending the child to his room as ways that different families discipline their children.

Discussing Standards
When discussing standards, these are some questions one could ask of their spouse:
  • What were good or bad rules you were raised with?
  • What sort of behavior will we tolerate or not tolerate in our children?
  • What are the standards held to by the families in our church that you admire? Would you like to emulate them in those standards?
  • What areas do you expect to be "strict" in (i.e., good eating habits, good table manners, how the child addresses adults, etc.)?
  • What are the standards the Bible obligates us to hold our children to?
Discussing Verbal Instructions
Here are some possible questions regarding verbal instruction:
  • How were the rules communicated to you as a child? Did you like the way your parents communicated them?
  • How would you like our rules to be communicated to our child?
  • Do you know any families who communicate their rules in a way that you would like to emulate?
  • What does the Bible say about instructing our children?
Discussing Correction
Here are some possible questions regarding verbal correction of the child:
  • In what tone of voice did your parents correct you?
  • What does the Bible tell us about correction? How does God correct His children and how can that affect our approach to correction?
  • When would you expect our children to be corrected {i.e., before and/or after being disciplined, or in place of being disciplined}?
Discussing Discipline
Here are some possible questions regarding discipline:
  • What does the Bible teach about disciplining children?
  • How were you disciplined as a child?
  • What method{s} of discipline is acceptable or unacceptable to you and why?
  • Think of the well-behaved children we know. How are they disciplined? Would you want to emulate that? Why or why not?
Differentiation is Important
One of the reasons why I think that differentiating between these categories is that sometimes, in parenting, it is tempting to think one has done one's job, when one hasn't. There have been times where I used repeated correction {this is code for "nagging"} in place of discipline. In neglecting to discipline promptly, we actually ended up with more problems around the house. There have been times I disciplined a child, and subsequently realized that I had never actually verbally communicated the standard to the child. This means that the discipline came as a complete surprise to the child, and was truly unfair. It wasn't until I started to think in these categories {which I didn't identify by name until recently}, that I was really able to analyze what I was doing with the children, and where things needed fixing. Thinking in categories, it seems, allows for a certain clarity of mind...

15 July 2006

"If I Was President"

Every time my mother-in-law visits us, she brings a bunch of magazines with her for us to peruse. I always enjoy this, because she brings publications I do not have the opportunity to read on a regular basis. Along with the likes of Country Woman and Time, she often brings a copy or two of The Tennessee Magazine, which is published by the Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation.

The Tennessee Magazine is always enjoyable to read, if one likes magazines with a more local {rather than national or worldwide} focus. Every month, the magazine sponsors an art contest with a different theme. There are two age categories: 1 to 9 and 10 to 14. Each group has their own first-, second-, and third-place winners.

The theme for the July edition was "If I Was President." There were six winners, three for each age category. First, I will describe the winners, with their explanation in the words of the artist.

1- to 9-Years-Old
  • First Place: The picture contains a background of a blue sky with a yellow sun, and brown ground below. Floating in the air are little strips of grass on which there are a cow, a baby chick coming forth from an egg, a pig, a horse, and also what appears to be a set of four little unhatched eggs. Written on the piece is, "HELP THE ANIMALS," and the quote from the artist relays the same by saying, "If I was president, I would help the animals." This was drawn by an 9-year-old.

  • Second Place: The picture contains a background similar to the first, a blue sky, complete with little white clouds, and brown earth below. Depicted is a magnificent jungle gym, and a little girl sipping water from a drinking fountain. The caption reads, "If I was president, I would build more parks for children." This was drawn by a 8-year-old girl.

  • Third Place: Once again, we have a blue sky with blue clouds and a yellow and orange sun, and this time a green hillside beneath. On the left, there is what I assume is supposed to be an American flag atop a flagpole with a blue square in the top left and red, white, and blue stripes. Beneath the flag stands a mommy holding a baby carrier containing an infant. Next to her is a little girl, and then a man in uniform. At the top is written, "Bring home our troops." The caption reads, "If I was President, I would bring home our troops." This was drawn by a 9-year-old.

10 to 14 Years Old
  • First Place: This appears to be a 9-11 inspired picture. Against a green background, the bottom has grey angular pieces I assume to be broken metal. A man dressed as a firefighter is hoisting a {correctly drawn} American flag up a makeshift flagpole. The caption reads, "If I was President, I would show more pride." This was drawn by a 13-year-old boy.

  • Second Place: The background shows a blue sky and green grass. There are two flagpoles reaching into the sky, one flying the American flag, and one flying the Tennessee state flag. There is a woman {well-drawn, by the way} standing behind a podium atop a platform. The podium has a "seal" that says "U.S. President," though it is not the actual presidential seal. To the right of the woman is a gas pump and on it is written the price for gas this year and last year. To the left of the woman is a whiteboard on which is written the words, "I will lower gas prices. April: $3.19/g May: $1.10/g." The caption reads, "If I was president, I woud lower gas prices." This was drawn by a 12-year-old girl.

  • Third Place: The central figure in this drawing is a man in a blue suit, black shoes, red tie, and white shirt, standing with his hands on his hips. Far behind him is a hazy crowd of people interspersed with a black background and large yellow star-like shapes. Closer to him, but still behind him, is a table covered with red rectangles. Hanging from the table is a sign that reads, "FREE! LIFETIME SUPPLY OF CHOCOLATE FOR EVERYONE." In the forefront is the head of a reporter raising his hand, presumably to ask a question, and three microphones reaching toward the man in the suit. The caption reads, "If I was president, I would give everyone free chocolate." This was drawn by a 13-year-old boy.
What is wrong with this picture?
Since the aforementioned winners were not extraordinarily young, I was shocked that out of the six winners, only two depicted a presidential action that was legal according to the Constitution, one of those because it was not an action as much as it was a sort of character and attitude that the President would display {"I would show more pride"}. The other "legal" drawing, which concerned bringing home the troops {and whether one is for the war or against it, one must remember that the President's primary job is commander in chief, and so this was an appropriate drawing, Constitutionally-speaking}, was the drawing that contained an inaccurate rendering of the American flag. I don't mean to be too hard on the kids, but shouldn't a 9-year-old know that the stripes of the flag are two colors, red and white, and perhaps even have an understanding of the symbolic nature of the colors?

Enumerated Powers of the Presidency
One of the ingenius methods of the Consitution is that it enumerated the powers of each branch of government, and then effectively draws a line in the sand, declaring, "Here, and no further." In other words, each branch has a specific job {or grouping of jobs} detailed out in the document, and that is to be the whole extent of the power accorded to them.

I remember having the "balance of powers" drilled into my head as a youth. No one branch of government is to have unchecked powers, or absolute power. No one member of government had an influence that was too far-reaching, not even the President. In fact, when rereading the Constitution this afternoon, I would have to say that of the three branches, it is actually the legislative branch that seems to have the most power. But of course that is a group of people, and not a single person.

Wikipedia has a nifty little chart that attempts to list out each power of each branch of our government, and then also explain how the other branches "balance out" that power. For convenience, allow me to list out the powers and responsibilities of the President in the order they appear in Article II of the Constitution as simply as I can:
  • He is to be commander in chief of the army.
  • He may grant pardons for offenses, except in cases of impeachment.
  • He may, with the advice and consent of Congress, make treaties.
  • He may, with the advice and consent of Congress, appoint ambassadors, public ministers and consuls, Supreme Court justices, etc.
  • He must regularly give Congress information on the state of the union and make recommendations to them.
  • He may convene both Houses if they are in disagreement, or he may adjourn them until what he deems to be a proper time.
  • He is to receive ambassadors and other public ministers.
  • He must ensure that the laws of the land are carried out faithfully, and he commissions all the officers of the United States.
  • He can be removed from office if he is impeached and convicted of treason, bribery, or any other high crime or misdemeanor.

Where, may I ask, is the right to decide on the prices in our supposed free-market economy? Where is the right to own a chocoloate factory, produce chocolate with American tax dollars, and give said chocolate away "free?" Where is the right to spend American tax dollars building playgrounds for children in the separate, free states? Where does it say that the President governs both American citizens and the animals found within our borders? Nowhere.

Excessive Ignorance Isn't Cute
Children are notorious for misunderstanding situations and expressions in our language, and we adults rightfully delight in their childish expressions. A little boy who thinks he has a "three-head" instead of a forehead because he is three-years-old can cause adults to giggle. And then his mother can kindly and gently explain the truth of the matter to him..

The fact that a 12- and 13-year-old remain ignorant of a basic knowledge of the powers and restrictions accorded to our nation's highest office is not cute. It is a disgrace. And though I have enjoyed The Tennessee Magazine in the past, I think they should be ashamed to have rewarded such ignorance with cash prizes.

Art Judged on Skill Alone?
Since these pieces were well-drawn, I couldn't help but wonder if the winners were chosen based on their skills alone. Where do we draw the line, though? If the subject in a few months is what one wishes to be when one grows up, and a budding young female artist draws a beautiful picture of herself dressed up as a stripper, should she win because she was the best artist?

I think that the magazine, due to their family-oriented nature, would never award a prize to a little girl aspiring to the position of Pole Dancer. The same is true in this situation. It is unwise to separate the skill involved in the art from the content of the art.

If the child draws a nice picture, he should be applauded for his skill, but his ideas should nonetheless be corrected. This is a great teaching opportunity! This is a chance to discuss spheres of authority. And, unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity.

Prevention is Key
Perhaps the best solution is prevention. I am glad to have seen this before my child is old enough to be interested in a contest of this sort. I have now resolved that I will study a given subject with the child before setting him free to draw. We could read the Constitution together and I could explain it, for instance.

Parents could have taken the opportunity to teach their child about the Presidency before they drew. But they didn't. And so their drawings were informed by societal complaints {"Gas prices are too high, still!" sighs their mother} and fairy tales. Fairy tales? Of course! If they do not understand the Presidency beyond the idea that it is the nation's highest office, they will define it by what they have read concerning kings in magical lands, effectively assuming him to have the power to create chocolate out of nothing and give it free to his citizens.

Our nation rebelled against a tyrant king over two centuries ago. Must we place our children back in bondage by allowing them to remain ignorant? It is not so much that they are ignorant that is the problem; it is that no one has appeared to correct the situation. Shame on us all for accepting such folly in our society.

06 July 2006

Help Meet: A Final Analysis

I meant to spend a lot more time on Created to Be His Help Meet than I did. I thought I would end up with a series of posts not unlike Raising Maidens of Virtue. But time and circumstance interrupted, and I am unwilling to go back through it all again.

With that said, I would like to share a few of my parting thoughts as I bid this book adieu.

Negative Aspects of the Book
There are two groups of women I would never suggest this book to. Single women who are tempted to date and/or marry nonChristian men is one group. {I know it is a "marriage" book, but I am also well aware that some single women read these sorts of books in an effort to prepare for a future marriage.}

This book states that it desires to help a woman build a "heavenly" marriage {"heavenly" seems to be a Southern slang word or sorts, and I am unclear as to its exact meaning}, and the author seems to believe that this is just as possible with a Christian as it is with a nonChristian. Though I completely agree that there are many things a Christian woman {who is "unequally yoked"} can do to greatly improve her marriage, I think it is a far stretch to say that a marriage between a Christian and a nonChristian could ever begin to compare with the Christ-centered marriage between two believers. And I would never want an unmarried Christian woman to ave an excuse to think that the kind of man she marries doesn't matter. A good man may be hard to find, but experience tells me he is very much worth waiting for.

I would also be wary of suggesting this book to women who are physically abused by their husbands. The book sends some mixed messages on the subject, though I think I
God's will for all married couples is that they walk life's path hand in hand. Many husbands and wives are running circles around each other, seldom meeting in the middle.
--Debi Pearl
figured out why:
To those of you who are enduring verbal and physical abuse, we realize that statistically, you are likely to remain with your husband. It is therefore important that you understand how to speak and conduct yourself in a way that will maintain your physical and emotional safety and ultimately win your husband. {page 270}
I believe that some women have habits or behaviors that can escalate violence, and I suppose that if a woman is insisting on remaining in a dangerous situation, it is helpful to learn to behave in such a way that peace is encouraged. However, in every other situation in the book, when the husband is breaking the law, the wife is encouraged to report it and even testify, and then be a sweet wife to him {extending grace} while he is behind bars. So I find it a bit strange that domestic violence is not treated with the same plan of action.

The last negative I will mention is that some of the language seems a bit gruff to me. Words like "stupid" and "idiot" are sprinkled a bit too liberally on some of the pages for my taste. Every time I read such a word, I cringe.

Spunky has covered these issues {and more!} on her blog, so that is all I will say here. Though she seemed to get a bit fiesty as her reviews went on, she is passionate about truth and I appreciate that. Her name is Spunky, after all! The reviews are here, here, here, here, and here.

Positive Aspects of the Book
I can say without a doubt that reading this book has encouraged me to be a better wife, and Si would agree! As with any book, it is not the Bible, so one must read Scripture, compare, and come away with the good that is there. I wouldn't say that I "struggle" with submission, in the sense that I have a natural respect for spheres of
A good marriage, just like anything worthwhile, takes doing the right things every day...every hour...every moment....
--Debi Pearl
authority. However, this book showed me many ways in which I was unsubmissive and didn't realize it. It is much easier to correct bad behavior if one is aware of it!

In a world where feminist thinking has permeated even the Church, it is refreshing to read an author who truly tries to teach the Bible, regardless of what the culture says.

Part two of the book is organized in such a way that there is one chapter per each trait named in Titus two: be sober, love their husbands, love their children, be discreet, be chaste, be keepers at home, be good, and obey their own husbands. Mrs. Pearl went to great lengths not only to define each trait and apply them to the life of a young wife, but she also encouraged her readers to read the Bible for themselves {she also did this in part one} and discover much of what is said about these traits elsewhere in Scripture.

Perhaps my favorite part of this book was reading the stories of women who bravely faced marriages to very difficult men. I was shamed and humbled by their gracious responses to their men. And then I saw how a woman's response to her husband could be a reflection of Jesus, who bore up under many sorrows and still took joy in His Father.

Missing a Detail

Yesterday, I posted the Darndest Things List for July and included a description of our celebration of Independence Day. I left out a very important detail. I don't know why, because I was so excited about it at the time. Anyhow, since I know Si reads this blog from time to time, I thought I'd honor him with an entire posting all about the new tradition he tried to start.

Midway through the meal, Si stood up and read Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech to the table. He cut it down just a tad out of respect for those at the table who are not accustomed to such things {He wanted to make sure he'd be able to read something next year, too}.

Patrick Henry delivered his speech in the year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and it sheds a bit of light on the historical context at the time. The King was building up an army and navy in the colonies, and there was mention of a threat of being disarmed {hence the eventual second ammendment, I'm guessing}.

In the words of my mother, "How quickly we forget the reason for our holidays."

Indeed. And I love that my husband seeks to recover the meaning of such days, that we might not practice a mere empty shell of tradition, but that our celebrations be full of a remembrance of real events.

As a final note, I thought I would mention that this speech and many more historical documents are collected together in a great resource, The Patriot's Handbook by George Grant.

05 July 2006

The Darndest Things {07/06}

It is definitely time to get this month's Darndest Things List off and running. There isn't an extraordinarily long list yet, but I do have a cute story about A. to start the month off properly. And then I figure this is as good a place as any to store a record of our Independence Day memory for the year...

25 July 2006: E. Meets the Little House
Whenever I read a suggested books list for children, The Little House is on it. But we'd never read it...until today. I have never seen E. so moved by a book. I found it delightful, actually. When we got to the part where the house has been essentially forgotten, and no one lives in her, and her paint scratched, windows broken, shutters crooked, E. actually exclaimed, "Oh! How sad!" And he was very relieved that someone decided to love her again, even if they did paint her a distasteful shade of pink. Our future builder seems to have an emotional connection with what has been built!

23 July 2006: Delightful New Words
The little people are steadily increasing their vocabularies, and what fun it is. Little A. refers to me as "Ah-mee," and Si as "Daddy" {but a bit slurred}, and she seems to have it all straightened out as to who is who. Besides attempting E.'s name, she also tried for "Granddad" this morning at church. E. is working on some new words, too. My personal favorites are "location" and "actually." There is nothing like a 4-year-old starting his sentences with "actually..."

14 July 2006: Up Close and Personal with our Garbage
Besides becoming a "tractor-man," E. has the career goal of driving a garbage truck. {Yes, there is a heavy machinery theme here.} Si is friends with a man whose family owns and runs our local garbage company, along with a repair shop and body shop. He arranged with this friend for my mother-in-law and I to take the kids on a field trip of sorts to see the action.

Now, E. talks a lot at home {too much sometimes}, but out in public, he bottles up quickly. This was the most uncomfortable I have ever seen him, and yet I could tell he was very happy we had made the trip. But he did not want to talk to our gracious tour guide {and this man is quite good with children}. He was stiff, and he heart was pounding, poor thing!

We took a tour, where we learned about three types of garbage trucks {one comes to residential homes, one picks up mid-sized metal boxes, and one picks up huge metal boxes at construction sites and huge stores}. Next, we headed to the body shop, where we saw repairs being done on big trucks, police cars, and fire trucks. Lastly, we watched a real, working garbage truck as it gassed up at their private filling station. We even got to talk to the driver a bit.

E. never said more than three or four words. I felt badly for our guide, because I think he thought it was a negative experience for E. But it wasn't. He still talks all about our trip to the "garbage place." His favorite part was the badly crumpled garbage truck that had recently been in a major accident.

12 July 2006: I Think She Likes Cake
We celebrated Si's birthday early so that his mom, who was visiting us from out of state, could attend the festivities. We, as is our tradition, had the cake table nicely set, with the cake in the middle on display until time to cut it. After cutting, we all found places to sit and enjoy dessert. Except A. She decided that there was no better way to enjoy cake than to eat the actual cake. She is so quiet that we didn't notice at first, but, after tasting and seeing that it was good to eat, she grabbed a plastic fork and headed for the Real Deal. We caught her as she was gingerly digging in and taking bites. {We didn't even know she could use a fork!} She did this not once, not twice, but three times! This girl loves chocolate cake.

4 July 2006: Tactile Stimulation
They say babies learn a lot by touching different textures and comparing them. I've read numerous books and articles that encourage parents to always be naming these textures {"soft," "rough," "bumpy," etc.} to encourage the baby to make verbal connections to what they are feeling with their hands.

E. never showed a lot of interest in touching things. A. is much more typical in this regard, I think. Her newest habit started when she discovered Si's facial hair one evening when he was due for a shave. She was wide-eyed as she rubbed her hands all over his face and oohed and aahed about it.

Tonight, she decided to add some comparison. Dad was a bit scruffy again, but Mom was not {of course}. Dad was holding her before she went to bed, and she carefully ran her hands over his face. Then turned to me and ran her hands over my face. She went back and forth numerous times, each time saying her little baby words to herself quietly, and obviously thinking about the difference in our faces.

Children are just fascinating.

4 July 2006: Beginning a Tradition
I have often bemoaned the fact that we often travel to visit out of town family on holidays. Though I love to see family, I feel that we lose the chance to build our own family traditions. Growing up, all of my family was in one place, and all of our holidays had a certain consistency {not rigidity, though} that I liked. Certainly predictability is a foundation for tradition.

So this year we made sure we were home for Independence Day. We really didn't want to drive in traffic anyhow. But it also mattered to us {especially me} that we put into action what we had thought would be a good tradition for the 4th. No one else had had any ideas as to what to do, so Si and I were able to take charge of the plans a bit. We included all the necessary components: family, food, and simple, inexpensive fun that can easily be recreated from year to year.

We started out the morning by bringing all the grandkids to my parents' home for lessons in making homemade ice cream. A. didn't pay much attention, but the three boys were very excited, and enjoyed a chance to take a bite or two before we put it in the freezer to save for dessert after dinner.

The evening brought a gathering of family at my parents' house. My grandparents were there, as was my sister's family. There were twelve of us in all--eight adults and four children. It was fun. We ate the traditional hot dog-centered meal, followed not only by the yummy homemade ice cream, but also S'mores made from marshmallows that Si had cooked up on the gas stovetop.

At dusk, we headed to a major local intersection. That's right, a place where two major streets meet. Trust me, it was a good idea. On one corner of this intersect, there is a large, grassy hillside. This is where we all sat {except the great grandparents, who apparently turn into pumpkins at eight instead of midnight}. This hill just happens to face a very ritzy country club with a very expensive fireworks show {which is for members only, by the way}. The large intersection means that there is a large, treeless space, making it easier to gain an unobstructed view of the fireworks there than it would be inside a nearby neighborhood.

This was A.'s first fireworks show {last year she was napping}, and she was both delighted and terrified. She did well once she was able to recline on her daddy. I could hear her talking softly to him as she pointed at the sky. E. wanted to sit on Granmama's lap, one of our nephews sat with his dad, and our littlest nephew made sure he sat next to {or on!} everyone there at least once. The boys were so excited, and screamed a lot. It was great.

Update: I left out a very important detail. I don't know why, because I was so excited about it at the time. Midway through the meal, Si stood up and read Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech to the table. We are hoping this begins a new tradition of reading an article of American history at our Independence Day celebrations.

04 July 2006

Art for Two

Now that he is four, E. has been devising many plans for his future. Besides becoming a garbage man and a tractor man {which reveals a heart's desire to drive heavy machinery!}, he tells us often that he wants to be a builder. He wants to build "lots and lots of houses, and one church!" Couple this with the fact that he often shows dissatisfaction when he is drawing {because he wants things to look "real"}, and maybe it can easily be guessed what new subject we are adding to our studies in the fall.

Or, one could simply read the title of this post.

Either way, I am pleased to announce that I have my very own copy of Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes in my hot little hands! The great thing about Mona Brookes is that she invented a method for teaching realistic representational drawing to very young children because she didn't know that it was taboo in the art world to instruct children in art at all. Many "experts" considered it to be stifling a child's creativity to offer any sort of formal instruction.

Now, Brookes did not seek to replace what she calls "symbolic drawing" {i.e., stick
Everyone loves to draw if they are given a nonthreatening environment with enough structure for success and enough freedom for creativity.
--Mona Brookes
figures and scribbles}, but rather she recognized that children show a desire to also draw realistically, but they do not know how. When I read this about her, I thought of my son and how often he reveals frustration with his scribbles because he wants to make them look like something else.

The only problem is His Mother. Though she can be considered "creative," she is a far cry from actually being "artsy." When compared with art majors in college, her hair and clothing was always considered quite normal.

So Mom is going to have to learn first. Already, two hours have been spent studying Brookes' "alphabet of shape." It is an adventure I never had a deep desire to undertake, but that is perhaps an interesting aspect of homeschooling. I find myself {already!} delving into subjects because my son shows an interest in them, and I respect his developing personality too much to squash it simply because the subject is intimidating.

So I find myself with a good six weeks to study and prepare before our official "school year" begins sometime in late August or early September...