30 April 2008

Thirty by 30: Installment Four

I wrote earlier in this series about modesty. I didn't realize that I used the word so much around here. Actually, I think I only use it on Sundays, when little girls have to learn to keep their bloomers up and their dresses down. That has apparently been enough for A. to pick up on the word. Last week, she brought me a gorilla, which was, of course, unclothed.

It was a wild gorilla.

So anyhow, she apparently thought it was a man, and brought it to me saying, "Mommy, he need be modest." She knew the word, but had a hard time getting it out. So she practiced by saying this twice. Finally, I explained to her that the toy was a small gorilla, not a man. She instantly threw it across the room, declaring that he was "scawy" {scary} and was going to get her.

She thinks everything is going to get her.

On with the list!

  1. You become what you are practicing to be. Have you ever had delusions about what you will be in the future? I have. When I first began college, I was a voice major {you know, singing}. Due to some health issues, I ended up changing my major. It is hard to practice operatic singing when you keep losing your voice. Oh, and your voice coach is pushing you to sing anyhow, when your doctor is telling you that could ruin your voice for life.

    But one thing I really remember is that my coach once pointed at one of the senior singers. Her voice was gold. He said, if you want to sing like that, you practice every day.

    Singers practice singing. Runners practice running. I know, for instance, that I will never be a marathon runner because I have never practiced running on purpose. I rarely practice running on accident.

    This is also true of negative character qualities. How does a person become a liar? He tells a lie today, and then again tomorrow, and soon he has practiced telling enough lies that he is, without doubt, a full-fledged liar. I find myself asking myself if I am practicing negative qualities. Do I practice being a slob? Do I practice being cruel? Angry? Rude? Insensitive? If I don't want to be these things, I shouldn't practice them.

    I try to view the things I want to be better at this way. I no longer take the giant plunge and get in over my head. Instead, I try to practice slow baby steps.

    So when I think about what I want to be when I am turning, forty, I have to look at what I am now, and decide what I need to practice between now and then to accomplish that goal.

    Reminds me of Charlotte Mason. She said that education was, in many ways, the building of habits. And I suppose, as adults, we are educating ourselves. Mason wrote:
    [T]he actual conformation of the child's brain depends upon the habits which the parents permit or encourage; and that the habits of the child produce the character of the man, because certain mental habitudes once set up, their nature is to go on for ever unless they should be displaced by other habits. Here is an end to the easy philosophy of, 'It doesn't matter,' 'Oh, he'll grow out of it,' 'He'll know better by-and-by,' 'He's so young, what can we expect?' and so on. Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.
    Every day, I am becoming what I am practicing to be.

  2. Sometimes, you have to let some things go. We all have our silly vanities. I, for one, used to take much pride in consistently writing thank-you notes. I am terrible at remembering birthdays and other special events {though I recently programed my computer to remind me, since I am trying to build new habits this year}, but thank you notes were something I was good at.

    This year, something happened...

    Morning-noon-and-night sickness.

    It struck right around the time I needed to throw Q.'s first birthday party. I barely made it through that party, and I completely forgot about the thank you notes until they would have been embarrassingly late. At the same time that I remembered, I was still feeling quite ill, and A.'s third birthday party was upon us.

    So I decided to just forget it. Forget writing the cards. Forget the other piles of things undone. I was choosing to start afresh.

    This is probably an important contrast to the above. We have to balance practicing being the kind of person we want to be with the fact that we are not perfect, life is not perfect, and sometimes health and finances have a compelling interest in disrupting our habit-building.

    After A.'s birthday party, I knew writing individual cards was still going to be a challenge. I was feeling better, but I was also feeling the pressure of keeping up with my primary tasks like cooking, cleaning, schooling, etc. There wasn't much energy leftover. So I decided, that day, to send out an e-card thank you to all the guests. In one way, I feel this was tacky, in another I feel that not acknowledging them at all was my only other option.

    E.'s birthday is coming up. I am a bit better than I was during the winter birthdays, and I also have the advantage of E. being old enough to be of significant help in making the cards. So we will start anew with his birthday, and only occasionally will I look back in shame.

    So, sometimes, we have to let things go and start over.

  3. Baking soda is a girl's best friend. This might not sound like a life-lesson to you, but it certainly has revolutionized my daily cleaning routines! Let me explain. I have a limited wardrobe. And I have been devastated more than once because I used a cleaning product that stained my shirt. And I was cleaning in a decent shirt because I wasn't deep cleaning. I was doing maintenance.

    Baking soda is the answer, my friends.

    Baking soda can be used to scour that pot that has something stuck to it. It can cleanse a kitchen sink. It has been a lifesaver for cleaning the bathtubs in our home.

    We have those fiberglass bathtub/shower combinations that come in one big piece. They are textured in the tub area, which serves the purpose of a sort of built-in anti-slip mat. However, that textured area collects grime in the tiny hole, and I have tried everything to make it look clean, but to no avail.

    Until I met Mr. Baking Soda.

    For whatever reason, baking soda and a good scrubber gets our shower looking cleaner than any other product I've ever used. And it's nontoxic, which is good for sensitive children.

    Baking soda can replace chlorine in a swimming pool. It can help your bread rise. It is like the secret magic wand I've been waiting for.

    So, yes, baking soda can be a life lesson.

Installment One
Installment Two
Installment Three

29 April 2008

Thirty by 30: Installment Three

A few of you have concurred that these are good lessons {so far}. They are probably good because they are, for the most part, the lessons every woman learns along the road. I do not claim to be original. That is why the blog is call Afterthoughts and not Forethoughts, or even just Thoughts.

The majority of this blog is a composite of what I have read and, therefore, thought about. And if I read it, that means someone else thought about it long before I did.

And so, as I've been lying on my couch trying to rid myself of a three-day headache, I've had more time to think about what I learned before thirty. {I promise that was the last woe-is-me health complaint of the series.} Here are a few more:

  1. The grass really is always greener on the other side. In other words, there is always someone out there that you can envy, and also there is probably someone envying you. In fact, I look at womanhood sometimes as this circle-shaped cycle. There is the single lady looking at the married woman who she thinks has it all. But that married woman has no children, so she is looking at the woman with not just a husband, but also children, and thinking that that woman has it all. I am the woman with children. In fact, come August, I will have three children aged three-and-a-half and under, plus a six-year-old.

    I am tired, and possibly insane.

    And I guarantee you that that lady with all the children, on her very worst days, looks at both the single lady and the married lady without children and thinks they just might have something there.

    Don't get me wrong, I love my children. And they are mine, and so I am determined to pour myself out for them, even on bad days.

    But other people's lives hold a certain charm. We don't often see the pain. We see the perfect picture. We see the beautiful children and all their perfect toys, not the marital stress from all the debt. Or, we see the loving marriage, but not the struggle with the difficult child.

    We are, after all, outsiders looking in. So we see whatever is put in the windows and nothing more.

    And so I have learned the best way to enjoy some truly green grass is to grab some fertilizer and tend your own lawn.

  2. Forbearance is perhaps the greatest gift you can give your marriage. Actually, it is probably the greatest gift you can give any relationship you have, but since marriage is the most basic human-to-human relationship, it is where I tend to apply the concept first when I think of it.

    I think that God gave Si and me a great blessing when he gave us two wise counselors, Steve and Roxanne, who met with us weekly before we were married. We were being married in a church in my hometown. That church required premarital counseling. However, we lived too far away to participate in the counseling offered by the church. So we were granted permission to obtain counseling from our local senior pastor and his wife, who happened to also be a co-worker of mine.

    We went through a wonderful workbook called Preparing for Marriage God's Way. We also went through some other material that our pastor had created himself. But the best lesson we learned was the concept of forbearance.

    What I took away from that session was basically this: This man that I love is not perfect. He will sin at some point in our marriage. I will see him at his worst. And I can make the choice, right now, to forgive him in advance. {Because Christ has forgiven me, it is actually my Christian duty to be prepared to forgive many people in my path throughout my life.}

    My heart was softened by this lesson. In that moment, when we were not at odds, I was able to see him clearly, to see that he did, in fact, have faults that would one day hurt me. {I most certainly had faults that would hurt him!} And I could also know his heart, that he really, truly loved me. And so I could forgive him now, and be prepared to offer him grace when the time came.

    Forbearance. Forgiving in advance. It is foundational for a life of grace and mercy.

  3. You can have integrity without being perfect. Integrity implies wholeness. Think about another word that shares the same root: integrated. This world is a very fractured place. Post-Industrialism's focus on having specialties has created a people that are very limited in their scope. We lack a certain singleness of heart, so to speak.

    Integrity in the Christian sense implies a certain level of moral uprightness. We can't limit integrity to being only wholeness or consistency, for a person could be wholly corrupt or consistently evil, and this would be far from what we call integrous. So integrity is wholeness, steadfastness, consistency, but in a sense that is good rather than bad.

    Perfection is a little bit different. For instance, I fully believe that a Christian can love God, try their best to follow Him, and still make mistakes. This is because, though they are being made perfect, they are not yet actually perfect. Perfection requires a level of existence that transcends godliness and becomes godlikeness.

    We are limited by our own imperfect humanity. We are limited by our inability to know the future and all the possible repercussions of our actions. We are limited by our own knowledge {think of things you would never do now, but did in the past, not because you were deliberately sinning, but simply because you were ignorant in some way}.

    The lack of perfection, however, doesn't make integrity impossible. Integrity is seen in a consistency of {good} character over time. People of integrity will still make mistakes, and perhaps another hallmark of integrity is its willingness to own up to those mistakes and resolve to make other such mistakes in the future.

    Perfection, on the other hand, seems to be limited to God and perhaps His sinless angels.

    I think that learning to make this distinction has kept me from putting wonderful people on pedestals they do not deserve {or even wish to be put upon}, which also keeps me from condemning them when they, inevitably, reveal themselves to be less than perfect.

Installment One
Installment Two

28 April 2008

Thirty by 30: Installment Two

I've been feeling less than well for about a week now. Pregnancy just doesn't seem to give me a glow like other women. There are some ladies I know who are never more beautiful than when they are pregnant. They are just beaming all the time. And they do cool things like all their housework and all their homeschooling with time leftover for socializing.

This is so not me, which is unfortunate since I have been pregnant at least part of every calendar year since 2001.

But feeling under the weather puts me in a reflective mood. I spend more time resting, which gives my mind leave to wander. This is good when it comes to this series, which requires a certain level of determination if I'm actually going to finish it by my birthday, which is in less than two weeks.

So...on with the list!

  1. Men are different from women. I know that everyone has to learn this eventually, but it took about two years of marriage for some of the more profound differences to become evident to me. Perhaps the most striking to me was that men typically say exactly what they mean. Now, as I say this I can also think of a couple men I have met in life who are exceptions to this rule, so this isn't hard and fast, but I have talked with enough of my friends about it to know that it generally seems to be true.

    Women aren't like this. Women begin as girls, and girls can be quite devious. They don't say what they mean, and sometimes what they say can mean exactly the opposite, while other times what they say means what they said, plus some other meaning that was meant to hurt the hearer. Women express themselves in a veiled manner. Women use various types of social maneuvers to punish others.

    I knew all of this because I was a woman and, even though freed by Christ from bondage to these sorts of behaviors, it's not like I've been perfect or left untempted.

    But this lesson I learned wasn't about women. It was about men.

    I think that more than half of our "adjustments" {I don't like using the word argument because I like to reserve it for the real deal} to marriage were escalated because I didn't trust what my husband said. I imagined him as a woman, imagined what I would have meant had I said what he had said. Which, of course, had nothing to do with what he had actually said, but everything to do with what my evil female brain could have conspired to make such a sentence mean.


    So, to recap: If he says dinner was a bit too cold {I don't think my husband has ever actually said this, but it is a nice, neutral example}, that's what he means. He doesn't mean that you can't cook, or that he hates your recipe, or that you look fat in your apron. He just thinks it would have tasted even better had it been warmer.

  2. The essence of modesty is found in not drawing attention to yourself. When I first starting considering the idea of modesty, a lot of what I read was caught up in dress codes. Not that each book or article ascribed to the same code, but each author had their own guidelines for what they would consider modest and what they wouldn't. For some, this meant always wearing dresses. For the more strict, this meant very specific dresses at very specific lengths. And then there were shirts. They could be cut too low, pulled too tight, or have patterns or seams on them that accentuated body parts they shouldn't.

    When I read these things, I felt, to be honest, too poor to be modest. It wasn't that I had this totally immodest closet full of clothes, but almost everything I owned seemed to fail in some way according to some author. And yet, it would be asking too much of my family to revamp my entire wardrobe just because I was feeling some sort of pull to a certain ideology.

    Around the time that I was struggling with these things, I saw a family out and about. All of their girls were dressed perfectly. They would have met every modest dress code out there. And yet, many of those same girls had, in my observation, something flamboyant about the way they carried themselves, the way they talked, the way they walked.

    It was then that I realized that modesty is, first and foremost, an attitude of the heart.

    There are definitely some clothes that I used to wear that I will wear no longer. And part of that has to do with changing lifestyles. When I was single, I didn't have children to bend over and care for or pull at my clothes. I learned my lesson about wrap skirts the hard way when my oldest was a toddler!

    But there is one thing about modesty that anyone can afford, no matter the budget, and that is the direction of the heart. Some hearts are screaming, "Look at me! See how wonderful I am!" No amount of clothing can cover that up.

  3. Girls shouldn't call boys. My mother taught me this when I was quite young, and I found it to be true. Boys in this modern world have too much access to girls as it is. And now, with the overwhelming adoption of the cell phone, kids are walking around on their phones all the time.

    Girls, there is no amount of mystery left when you are available 24/7 to those boys. There is no challenge in attaining your company if you are calling them daily, nonstop. At the end of the day, you are not a prize to be won, a treasure to be sought. You can, through phone calls, text messages, and other such behaviors, become easy without being all that that word might entail.

    This age of feminism has told us that girls can propose to boys, initiate dates and relationship-defining conversations, without any repercussions. And, frankly, now that I am an old married woman, I can say that I think the ease of access and the aggressiveness that has been encouraged in these girls makes them quite dull to most of the male species.

    In my opinion, girls do best when they are responding, rather than initiating. So, can a girl return a phone call? Well, my mother typically allowed it. And she also allowed the occasional "necessary" call. {Of course, those calls were to be limited in time because they were to serve a purpose only, and that purpose was informative, not social in nature.} A girl can also return a smile, return a greeting, and so on. I don't think these sorts of things should be taken too seriously.

    However, comma...

    At the end of the day, a girl won't know what kind of man she's marrying if she is the aggressor. After all, he hasn't proven he can lead. He hasn't proven he can make decisions. He hasn't, perhaps, even shown he has initiative to decide when and if he wants to go on a date at all.

    I suppose if all a girl wants is a one-time date to the prom, this doesn't matter. But if she's looking to be married, things like this matter a lot.

First installment is here.

24 April 2008

Thirty by 30

Back when Sallie was still blogging at A Gracious Home, she did a series called Forty by 40 in honor of her fortieth birthday. Basically, she listed 40 things she thought she had learned in the first four decades of her life. I really liked the series, and I loved the idea of reflecting a bit on the lessons life had brought her.

I suppose I don't want to wait another ten years before writing a list like that. I'm feeling the urge to reflect since my thirtieth birthday is about fifteen days away or so.

My other thought is that I will write a list, and then look back on it with wise amusement when I turn forty. And that could be interesting. It'd be like those lists you write when you're a teenage girl. You know, lists about what your wedding will be like, what kind of man you'll marry, etc. And then you look back and laugh.

Was blue eyes really in the top ten? Lucky for Si he has blue eyes, I suppose...

So I suppose a few disclaimers are in order. First, this is not an exhaustive list. Second, this is not necessarily the most profound list you'll ever read. Sorry, but some of my life lessons have reinforced those little cultural sayings that we've all heard our whole lives. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch. That sort of thing. Third, I am not writing this list to teach anybody anything. I am simply reflecting on what I learned and why or something like that.

I will elaborate on possibly every point because I like it when Si comes home and tells me my post was too long.

So...here goes. I will dispense the list in bits and pieces partly because I really don't have time to write thirty lessons in one day, partly because the list isn't totally complete yet, and partly because I like to drag things out.

  1. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder. For three years of our marriage, Si worked from home. I think I will always look back on those days as the best in our lives. Because he was at home, our worlds were completely combined, and because they were completely combined, there was a sense of understanding that just isn't possible with a job-away-from-home. Sure, I try my best to visit him at work on occasion, touch base with him once a day, and become familiar with the people he works with. But I have to face the fact that his work world is totally separate from me. And my daily happenings at the home are totally separate from him. This is the way life is, and though it doesn't necessarily have to be this way, I am totally aware that life in Post-Industrial culture tends to demand it. So I guess my life lesson could also be stated in reverse: Presence makes the heart grow fonder. Presence knit together not only our hearts, but our worlds. Working side by side {even if not at the same tasks}, gave us a common purpose. Reminds me of a quote:
    Then we shall be so close that it would be impossible--unthinkable--for either of us to suppose that we could ever recreate such closeness with anyone else. And our trust in each other will not only be based on love and loyalty but on the FACT of a thousand sharings--a thousand strands twisted into something unbreakable.

    -Sheldon VanAuken in A Severe Mercy
    By the way, I have found that this also goes for kids. Spending too much time away from my children causes me to build a life without them. Then, my attitude upon their return is that they are in my way. Learning to live life well together with them is my goal, and I believe it will have the same results that working with Si once had: a knitting of hearts and lives together.

  2. There are things you'll do for your kids that you'd never do for yourself. For instance, I completely gave up soda. I read one too many stories about its detrimental effects. I became fearful that sodium benzoate would completely undo my DNA over time {Google that one sometime!}. I became convinced that drinking soda {something I loved to do} was bad for me. But I would never have quit drinking it just for me. I did it for them. I want them to have a long-lived mother. More importantly, I want to be healthy in my old age.

    We are seeking to build a family culture that takes care of its own. We consider it important to care for our elderly in our own homes {though we haven't actually had to put this into practice yet}. However, old people who didn't take care of themselves in their youth are much more difficult to take care of. So, along with other life changes, I gave up soda. It was symbolic in a lot of ways. I wanted to do what was best for me because it could potentially ease their future burdens.

  3. Don't fly through Vegas if you can help it. We have never had a positive experience in the Vegas airport. It starts, of course, with the soft porn advertisements on the walls. Not exactly a view for children in the place. But it is more than that. If your connecting flight is on another airline, sometimes you have to go out and go back through all the security checkpoints. And they don't tell you this in advance and you end up running to your flight and then your husband's backpack flies open and paper goes everywhere, and yet you get up and run again hoping against hope that you will make your flight.

    But you don't and they lose your baggage as a bonus.


    But wait, there's more! If, upon your return, you have a long, nighttime layover in Vegas, you will find it impossible to get any sleep at all. This is because there are casino lights everywhere {yes, inside the airport}, and there is this constant electric sound: slot machines, in every gate. So even though it's 2am and you're trying to sleep, some gambling junkie is out there making those machines go ching ching ching.

    I'm just saying.

23 April 2008

On the Disappearance of Catechism

If you have been reading Afterthoughts for very long, you know that the old template, right at the very top, had a section entitled This Week in the Westminster Shorter Catechism and it contained that week's question and answer that we were memorizing during our school time.

I neglected to discuss its abrupt departure when I was writing my reflections on kindergarten, and yet we really have dropped learning the catechism for the time being.


I know. I know. Let me attempt to excuse explain myself.

A wise blogger who no longer blogs but I wish she did once said that one of the biggest enemies when giving your children a rigorous education was hubris.
Hubris: [hyoo-bris, hoo-]
excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance; presumption.

My trusty Dictionary.com says that the word's Greek roots imply a "presumption toward the gods" and, in fact, the word is linked to wanton violence and insolence.

In other words, hubris is quite the opposite of cultivating wisdom. And wisdom is the ultimate aim of our school. Knowledge seems to lead us to two places: pride or, alternately, humility. In fact, one of my bigger concerns about secular schooling is that the knowledge is so divorced from the God in Whom it is rooted that it cannot bring about humility.

Humility, after all, rests in the fact that all that we know is but one drop compared to the wisdom of the Creator.

And this is connected to the Catechism, but actually reaches farther back, back to the time when my son was barely 2-years-old and knew his shapes and colors and most of his letters.

People were impressed.

I was always a little uncomfortable with showing him off {even to family}, but at the same time, I can't say it wasn't helpful. After all, we had told folks we planned to homeschool, and his early success was a bit of our defense. He seemed to help justify our choice. He was part of our "evidence" for why we thought we could pull it off.

By the time we got to the Catechism, people were amazed by his ability to rattle off the answers to question after question. I started out concerned with his heart, so we really did spend a bit of every day not just learning the words of the questions and answers, but the meaning of them.

Then, the words got a bit bigger. As we began to wade through difficult questions concerning, for example, justification by faith I found myself spending sometime two or three weeks per question in an attempt to help him understand. I was committed to not moving on without understanding, but at the same time, I began to wonder if there was a better way to spend our time.

At the same time, I began to suspicion that he was losing his grasp on the meaning of the parts that he had learned early on. Though he still knew it by heart, it didn't seem to be as attached to his heart as it was previously.

And my main weapon against hubris had been to help him understand.

So are we done with Catechism forever? No. I consider us taking a break. When we return, I would like to see it be more of a family secret. No more showing off. No more putting our son {or any other children who have learned it--I certainly hope to teach them all in time} on display to justify our ability to homeschool.

I like academics. But I am well aware that too many folks have told my son how smart he is. The worst thing in the world would be for him to be born with so much potential, but fall flat on his face due to pride.

Hubris. Presumption toward the gods. As I let that one settle in my mind, I can see the arrogant man shaking his fist at those who are above him, scolding them for sitting in his chair. This is the most twisted way to look at life, and I can see how it would be connected to violence and insolence.

Hubris is the enemy that must be guarded against in all forms of education. Delaying the Catechism is one way that I am battling it, though I'm not sure that would be necessary for all families. We thoroughly enjoyed it in the beginning. It answered a lot of difficult questions my son had been asking. But somewhere along the way I think we lost our way a bit.

So the Catechism will be back. Someday.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom.
Proverbs 11:2

22 April 2008

GFCF Meal Plan for Apr 21-28

I just read a report stating that the State of Texas has officially taken the nursing babies away from their FLDS mothers accused of abuse. This really breaks my heart. Nursing holds such a dear place in my heart, and I feel the pain of these other mothers, even though we are separated by serious theological differences. I became even sicker when I read some of the Court's rationale:
Here are the judge's reasons for denying breastfeeding mothers the right to stay with their nursing babies:
"But every day in this country, we have mothers who go back to work after six weeks of maternity leave," she said.
"The court has made a determination that the environment those children were in was not safe," said Walther, adding that there is a shortage of suitable placements for infants in Texas.

So now what is normative in society justifies ripping an infant from its mother's arms? An infant who has known no other nutrition?

In my opinion, since the State has yet to prove any actual abuse {and I'm not even saying there wasn't any, but I thought things had to be proven in this country}, the State's actions are far more abusive than the actions of the mothers in question.

Nourishment begins and ends in the home. Nursing is the ultimate starting place for this mindset. Nothing packaged even begins to compare with the milk made by Mom. I say this, even though I have had to supplement with formula for each of my children. The world isn't perfect, but I have always known that my milk, as much of it as I could give my children, was what was best.

In a country where eating out is well-accepted, we sometimes forget that home is the best place to make sure a child is truly nourished. As I have learned to cook GFCF for the sake of my children's severe food allergies, I have begun to realize that only I can insure that my children are well fed. When I begin with simple ingredients, like fresh vegetables, raw meats, and freshly-ground gluten-free grains, I can know that the meals are truly GFCF.

And I can also save a bundle. Folks, there is nothing more expensive than packaged GFCF foods. I know that regular packaged food can actually be cheap {or free}, but getting GFCF in a package is something people pay a premium for, especially if you are also avoiding soy.

So here is this week's menu:

Monday, April 21
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Baja Fresh, our Monday tradition with Granmama
Dinner: Breakfast foods {fried eggs, country potatoes, etc.}

Tuesday, April 22
Breakfast: Brunette GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Homemade rice & beans at a friend's house {YUM}
Dinner: Spagetti in a simple meat sauce, side salad featuring E.'s homegrown radishes {for GFCF, use Pad Thai rice noodles or brown rice pasta}

Wednesday, April 23
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover spagetti & salads
Dinner: Lentil burgers and homefries dipped in GFCF catsup

Thursday, April 24
Breakfast: Brunette GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover lentil burgers & fries
Dinner: Savory cabbage & pork soup {Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook p. 22: Instead of pork meat I use nitrate/nitrite free kielbasa or nitrate/nitrite free chicken chorizo from Trader Joe's. Watch for caseinate in those sausages! That is a common hidden source of casein and can totally undo your progress for a week, especially if you child is as sensitive as my older child. Also, if you are using the chorizo, cut out all the spices except perhaps the salt. Chorizo is very hot all on its own.}

Friday, April 25
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover soup
Dinner: BBQ brisket over artichoke linguine {Eating for Excellence p. 147: use Pad Thai noodles for GFCF, and be sure to buy SAFE horseradish...please don't give these kids sodium benzoate and/or EDTA.}

Saturday, April 26
Breakfast: Brunette GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover brisket dish
Dinner: Spinach frittata {Eating for Excellence p. 90: I use sheep's milk romano cheese. Sheep's milk contains casein. However, many sensitive kids are only producing antibodies to cow's milk. Take kids completely off and then test sheep's and/or goat's milks once the children are clean. Do not try both milks at a time or you will be unable to determine which milk they had a reaction to if they end up being intolerant.}

Sunday, April 27
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and fruit slices
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Tacos with homemade seasoning blends, topped with lots of raw veggies, also vegetarian refried beans {if you are using canned beans, be sure to check those labels}

Monday, April 28
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Baja Fresh, of course!
Dinner: Leftover tacos & beans

21 April 2008

First of Many, I Hope

The first review of Culture Makers was published today! Here's a teaser:

As a new Christian, I remember sitting in author Josiah Vencel’s class on worldviews. I was intrigued by the thought that since now I was a follower of Christ, I was called to think “Christianly” about the way I thought, acted, spoke, and participated in the culture around me.

The Darndest Things: Associations

Every Wednesday, the girls go to my parent's house and my mom always gives them a bath before they come home. Today, my mom brought us lunch. So I was practicing with Q. before my mom came to see if she could learn to say my mom's name. I thought it'd be a nice surprise.

Me: Can you say Granmama?

Q.: Baf.

Me: Q! Can you say Gran-ma-ma?

Q.: (walks into the bathroom and points at the bathtub) Baf.
Looks like Granmama got herself a new name.

20 April 2008

The Darndest Things: Emergency Emotions

The first phone call we made after our tire blew out was to my mom's cellphone. My mom was at my sister's house. So was my grandfather, who is our Official Family Mechanic. {All of this took place before I recalled that our car insurance included roadside assistance.}

My sister, apparently, was horrified that we were stopped on the freeway. I suppose it didn't so disturb her that we were stopped as it did that the other cars were moving along nicely at roughly 75 miles per hour. So she did what any sane person would do. She called 911.

I am so glad we didn't know this at the time. We thought the nice officer just happened to show up and check on us because that is what nice officers do when they see cars broken down on the freeway.

Our daughter A. was trying very hard to be brave. She was doing a very good job, but it bothered her when we moved the car {policeman's orders} and the tire bumped and bumped. She has informed us many times that she generally disapproves of bumpy roads.

So, as I was saying, she was nervous about moving the car. But she bore up bravely, and we assured her that the nice officer knew exactly what he was doing and was trying to keep us safe. When we got to the place he directed us, which was, admittedly, much safer than where we had been, she was visibly relieved.

The officer came up to the window and chatted with Si once more before he left, and when we walked away, I turned to her and said, "Wasn't that nice of the officer to help us like that?"

Si also told her what a good policeman he was.

She was filled to bursting with emotion and exclaimed with all sincerity, "I love him!"

We Don't Travel

We really don't travel. Or, at least, we try not to. Every once in a while, we travel out of obligation. For instance, this June, Si's youngest brother is graduating from high school. We will make the 8+-hour {round-trip} drive because we love him.

We would love him more if he moved in, say, next door. We could see him all the time, and never drive 8 hours again.


If you have been reading here the past few years, then you have already been told some of our worst traveling tales. There are more. I only tell the worst here, folks. No need to complain about everything. He he...

So, as a refresher, there were the severe flight delays {in both coming and going directions} when I took a trip {sans children} to D.C. with Si for his Centurion commissioning when A. was an infant. And, of course, there was this past January, when we and our {sick} three children suffered a flight cancellation and we only survived because Si's mom drove half an hour to drop off hypoallergenic foods for our oldest two babes. And I never mentioned it, but once we visited some friends of ours {you know who you are} who lived in a beautiful mountain community. On the way home, our then-two-year-old Saturn lost its transmission for the first time {never buy a Saturn Ion, by the way}.

The only traveling that seems to be safe for us is to head west and hit the lovely central California coast. We love it there, and part of that probably has to do with the fact that we can drive there and drive home again without having anything bad happen.

However, if I am going to tell this story properly, I have to admit that things begin to go wrong for us before the traveling part even gets off the ground. Take Saturday, for instance. We were making a day trip {7 hours of driving total} for my nephew's seventh birthday party. So, naturally, the night before the ants that we have been battling made a huge strategic move and nearly won the war.

They found the dining table. I wanted to cry, and I could not stop them, try as I might.

So we ate dinner at the kitchen island.

And then, when we were doing the dinner dishes, the sink backed up. As I type, it still isn't draining properly.

So we left feeling stressed, and dreading coming home to ants doing a victory dance and a pile of dishes that we were unable to conquer before heading out.

The drive over was so smooth I almost got confidant. I told my mother that this experience made me feel better about making the even longer drive for the aforementioned graduation in June. The kids did well. There was no crying, no wet pants, nothing. We read a Little House book, and it was great. Sort of like having school right there in the car.

We left my sister's house at 7pm, a little later than planned since we knew the drain needed to be snaked upon our return, but it was nice to be with their family again.

Forty-five minutes into our drive, one of our back tires blows out. On the infamous I-5 freeway in Orange County. In the dark. In Saturday evening traffic.

And we're on the left-hand shoulder.

A very nice policeman followed us with blinking lights while we moved to a wider part of the left shoulder. Thump thump thump went my poor Suburban's tire.

And then we sat there with our three patient children who I love more than ever while we waited for the tow-truck to come. I gave the baby her bottle {we were protected by a concrete wall at that point}, and then I read aloud again to keep everyone calm.

The boy thinks having a vehicle break down is just about the most exciting thing that can happen. Little A. was terrified of all the traffic noise. Baby Q. stared at all the cars flying past out the window and waved bye-bye to them all. All one million of them.

We got home close to midnight.

We fell into bed.

The ants are still on our table.

The dishes are piling up.

The end.

18 April 2008

Debrief and Reflection on Kindergarten {Part IV}

I am well aware that I played hooky yesterday. When I get an invitation to visit Mrs. MPL and her wee one, I don't ignore it. Especially when she promises GFCF brownies for my babies! There is always something special about friends that have held over since childhood. I think it signifies grace. She probably remembers my ugly stage, my clumsy stage, and my socially inept stage {that last one I never quite got over}. I remember The Perm. And yet we still love each other. It's a beautiful thing.

Did I ever mention we first met at Rachel's 12th or 13th birthday slumber party? Those were the days.

So anyhow, this is not to say that I haven't continued to ponder kindergarten. It is, after all, the only thing I know. Please don't ask me about third grade. I would be the absolutely last person to know anything about it.

So let me jump right in.

Birding Was Seasonal

I really thought that birding could be a year-round event for us since we have such mild winters here. I thought that as the Usual Suspects left town for warmer climates, some bird from Alaska or the Arctic Circle would show up and enjoy our homemade orange-peel bird feeders filled with seeds and peanut butter.


I don't think a single bird ever gave those feeders the time of day.

We were still taking walks every day the first half of the winter, and we found that one day, all the birds were simply gone and the streets were eerily silent.

So we put our birding binder away and declared it a seasonal activity, though we did keep our eyes open for surprises.

Now, even though I was hoping for this to be a year-round thing, I actually think the children learned a valuable lesson about seasons. They were able to feel and hear the seasons change. Winter was a bit more dramatic when our fine feathered friends disappeared. And that's okay.

Morning Walks Were Seasonal

As in, the season of morning-noon-and-night sickness, overruled my hopes for physical fitness. I have been slowly trying to pick it back up, but I definitely took three full months off. I like feeling more toned from walking, I like the "adventure" that the walks feel like to the children, but sometimes I know that I either have enough energy for a walk, or doing some other homemaking task, and I have been choosing the homemaking.

Quelling the chaos comes first.

The English Language Notebook Was Seasonal
This was due to the fact that we completed the assignment, and though I am keeping samples of copy work, I am not keeping every single day's assignments. We have enough clutter around here as it is.

The notebook, however, is only taking a sabbatical. There might be more lessons next year, and, if so, we will add them to our binder. However, my hunch is that it'll wait until two or three years from now, when E. is older and we start formally beginning our study of grammar as a subject {learning parts of speech, etc.}.

That's All, Folks!

At least, it is all I can think of. E. was a very easy first student, and it was nice to have a confidence-builder like him to ease me into teaching. Learning together as a family is really a lot of fun, and I look forward to many more years of these endeavors, elaborate or otherwise.

Next year makes me a bit nervous, as I will be learning to balance Year One with a newborn. I keep wondering if I am a strong enough person for this, but I am learning that Elisabeth Elliot's advice on hard days can apply to this situation: Do the next thing. I will plan, and then I will follow my list, and I will pray that God will give me strength to do it all.
At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, 'Do the next thing.'

Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Do the next thing.

16 April 2008

Debrief and Reflection on Kindergarten {Part III}

To me, kindergarten isn't much more than reading, reading, reading. If the child doesn't know how to read himself, then I would try to teach him in kindergarten. In our case, the child was already proficient, and so part of the day was often spent with the student reading aloud and the rest of us listening.

Reading and Building Vocabulary

The real question here is, Why reading?

Because the early years are meant for gathering the basic building blocks upon which everything else rests. These blocks would include skills of self-care {like getting dressed, eating with utensils, putting on shoes, etc.}, gross motors {like running, jumping, skipping, climbing, etc.}, fine motors {using a pencil, buttoning a shirt, etc.}. We can find this out just by watching what a baby naturally does.

One of the most overlooked and yet most basic of building blocks is vocabulary. Oh, sure, when Baby is very little we will teach them the names of their body parts. We touch her hair and name it, touch her toes and name them, and so on. We will also name objects around us. This is a chair, this is a tree, this is a garbage truck, and so on.

And then the children's books come to a screeching halt.

See Spot run.

I'm sorry. What? See Spot run? They have got to be kidding. I mean, yes, I understand that early readers will feel a sense of triumph when they are able to read the first Bob Book on their own. Mat sat, they read, and they jump for joy that they did it themselves.

I get it.

What I do not get is why we, as a culture, insist on reading books of limited vocabulary to children when we read aloud. After all, the purpose of Bob Books is to feed the children tiny scoops of words that they can actually read themselves. But when we are reading to them, there is no reason for limiting their vocabulary in this way. They don't have to know how to read the words, because we, the teachers, are reading the words. Moreover, they don't always have to know what the words mean.

After all, how did they learn every other word they know? By inference. And in a well-written, rich story book, children will usually be able to infer the meaning of the bigger words.

Have you ever seen a teenager struggle to describe something? We think that they can't speak because that is how they are. I, personally, think that they can't speak because they can't think. And they can't think because they have too small of a vocabulary, a vocabulary that isn't suited to great and important thoughts.

If we want our children to think great thoughts, to enjoy great ideas, we must, must, must expand their vocabularies.

We are big believers in the Trivium of classical education. The "first" stage of learning, called the grammar stage, begins around ages eight to ten. Think about grammar. This would be when children begin to learn the basic rules of every subject.

Before learning the rules of a subject, they must know the vocabulary of a subject. Knowing the language precedes any sort of understanding of a subject, even the most basic.

What to Read

Reading aloud to our children is one of the easiest ways to build vocabulary. We are constantly shocked at the gigantic words that escape our son's lips, and 99% of the time, these words were introduced to him in the pages of some book we once read. Books give us the opportunity to learn words that are outside our daily experience. For instance, if we only learned about birds while looking at the birds in our yard, we would only know of starlings, robins, mourning doves, and killdeers, with the occasional Western scrub jay thrown in. But because we have a birding field guide, we know the names of many, many more birds than this!

I would highly suggest starting to read chapter books aloud at the earliest age possible. I am hard-pressed to read to my children for hours each day if each book is only 20 pages long with three to ten words per page. Plus, when reading a number of short books aloud, we end up skipping from subject to subject. A chapter book allows us to linger on one subject, one character, for a longer period of time.

I don't yet own it, but a book I intend to acquire someday is Hand That Rocks the Cradle: 400 Classic Books for Children by Nathaniel Bluedorn. The book contains summaries of 400 books that are divided by age-appropriateness. When I begin to run out of ideas for additions to the family library, I intend to buy this book!

In our house, preschool really means that Mommy sits down and reads The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales, and The Wind in the Willows just for you. Before, these books were for your older sibling. Now they are for you.

These are always the first chapter-type books we read aloud.

We read nonfiction. We are learning a lot about pioneers by reading all the books in the Little House on the Prairie series. We are reading tons of historical biographies {written for children, but with a big enough vocabulary} from the Signature Series. This has included The Story of Davy Crockett, The Story of Benjamin Franklin, The Story of George Washington, and The Story of Daniel Boone, just to name a few.

We have read silly little books, like Mr. Popper's Penguins, and more serious books like Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.


Some books, we began only to decide that they didn't belong in our school, at least not right now. I had to expel one of my own favorite books from our school in the first few weeks.

Another one of my all-time favorites, my own childhood copy {hardback and beautifully illustrated} of Johanna Spyri's Heidi, ended up being dropped before completion. The first half went well. E. loved Peter the Goatherd. This was where we first developed our infatuation with all things goat. However, in the middle of the book, Heidi is moved to the city, where she spends lots of time crying and being homesick.

Let's just say little boys get bored with this. Where is Peter? he wanted to know. Where are the goats?

I put the book away. Even I began to think Heidi cried too much. And I learned that it is okay sometimes to change direction and leave a few books unfinished.

Coming Tomorrow

Because I keep going on and on. Oh, when will it end? When I'm done thinking it all through, I suppose. The natural place to head tomorrow is to what ended up being seasonal. What I mean was, what did I think we would do all year, but we really only did part of the year, but which I foresee picking up and doing again in the coming year, in the same season? {Hint: part of it has to do with nature.} And also, what did I totally flake out on for no good reason?

15 April 2008

Debrief and Reflection on Kindergarten {Part II}

Ah, morning sickness. The poetry I could write. The songs I could sing. I mean, seriously. If all goes as it has gone, by the time I am thirty-and-one-quarter-years old, I will have spent approximately thirty-six months feeling like I was going to vomit. {This is not counting the times I got the stomach flu.}

That's three years, people.

And if I make it through this one, and God chooses to allow us to have even more children, I am sure I'll be adding to the tally.

Now, this is not to say that each pregnancy was the same. With E., I was able to control it as long as I had a constant supply to pretzels. I think I spent $200 on salty starch during working hours alone! With A., there was nothing I could do and I was bed-ridden for about seven months. Q. was a little better, with me being able to keep up on basic tasks better than with A. And this time is even better. After all, we not only eat every single day at regular times, but occasionally the toilets are clean.

This is huge for us during a pregnancy.

I can also vacuum this time without going into labor. God has had mercy on us.

However, the first two months of this current pregnancy were of the lay-on-the-couch-and-don't-get-up variety. A woman I know recently asked me how we survived, what we ate, and it dawned on me that I was so out of it I couldn't quite remember. And it was only like two months ago!

I have a vague recollection that we ate lots of homemade popcorn and apple slices.

Scheduling Flexibility

One of the reasons I am big on a schedule is that our oldest is sort of neurotic if we don't have one. But the other is because I believe that God is a God of order, and learning happens best in an orderly {rather than chaotic} environment.

This, however, does not mean that our whole house has to be perfect and our actions must be governed by the tick of the second hand on our clock. I am talking about my philosophy concerning the usefulness of a schedule {or rythym, if you prefer the term} as compared to flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants.

Perhaps I just degenerate into sloth without a plan?

With this said, our normal routine of reading for one to two hours in the morning during Q.'s nap was just not going to happen in January and February. One of the side-effects of morning sickness for me is that I have trouble talking. It makes me feel worse. In fact, I tend to not answer the phone and generally avoid speaking to people. My body just can't handle it. I can't handle it.

Thankfully, I am not a very social person.

Anyhow, we really rearranged reading. Some of it, like our evening reading, either went to the wayside or Si read instead of me. And some of it was moved around. For instance, I would read in the morning until I couldn't read anymore. Then I sent the children outside and went to sleep right there on the couch, setting a timer so that I didn't get carried away with my nap.

Sleep seemed to reset my body a bit so that I could survive.

Then came lunch. Instead of small-talking during lunch like we usually did, I picked up a book and continued our reading. This was helpful because I couldn't keep my mind on the chatter anyhow.

Sometimes, in the afternoons, E. received a Lego or other building project instead of copy work because I would die if I didn't take a nap right then. {More on naps later.}

In the end, we were probably averaging a half-hour to an hour less reading per day, but we kept it up at that slower pace, and when we were ready, we went back to our old ways.

The Importance of Naps

Repeat after me: The first trimester is for sleeping. Chant this like a mantra. I know very few women who feel like doing much of anything in the early months of a pregnancy, even if they don't get morning sickness. There is a lot going on with turning a single cell into a person, and it is a bit wearing on Mommy's body.

So take a nap.

Daily. Twice daily. Whatever it takes.

If I don't take at least a short nap on some days {even now}, making dinner or finishing the day well is near impossible. Well-rested mommies do a better job. In the first trimester, you probably noticed that I slept in the morning as well as the afternoon. I felt really lazy about this, but I felt even more lazy calling Si on the phone and asking him to spend his entire day's wages on dinner because I just couldn't move anymore, or to come home and cook for us even though technically I had the time {just not the energy}.

My first job is that of wife. Without the naps, I couldn't do it well. So I sleep, and then try to work hard when I'm awake. This is what works for me.

Coming Tomorrow

This is getting long, so I will save the rest for tomorrow. The rest, if you don't recall, is analyzing what we dropped or changed, what we pared down. I was also thinking about what ended up being more of a seasonal activity than I had anticipated. That might be worth exploring a bit, too.

The Darndest Things: One-Upping

There was an interesting conversation in our car on the way to the grocery store last night. I'm not exactly sure where it came from, but it ended up in one-upping mode. You know how it works. One person tries to make their situation or skill or quality or whatever better than the previous person. That sort of thing.

So our son declares, "My ears are better than your ears."

Instantly degenerating into childishness, my husband and I declare, "No, they aren't!"

To which our son replies, "Yes they are! Right now, I can hear lady bugs."

So there.

14 April 2008

Debrief and Reflection on Kindergarten {Part I}

I know, I know. It's only April and school shouldn't get out until June. However, I am mentally making the transition because we are starting first grade {which I actually call Year One} in July. We're not exactly letting out early, but we are definitely beginning to wind down and prepare for next year's stepped-up academics.

The Necessity of Kindergarten?

I don't think that kindergarten is necessary for all, or even most, children. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that delaying formal academics until the age of seven {and delaying formal math until even later} is of great benefit. You can read articles and discussion on this here, and here, and here, and here, and here, etcetera.

The case for beginning formal schooling at the age of five is not exactly closed.

Kindergarten for the Advanced Child

All of the above was to say that the general idea of and philosophy behind delaying education appeals to me.

However, comma...

I think the parent has to decide, child by child, how to meet the needs of those individual children. This is the luxury of homeschooling, and it should be taken advantage of to its fullest.

Our oldest son is what some would call academically gifted. I say this not to brag, but as a simple statement of fact. While public school kindergartners are learning their shapes and colors and letter-identification, he began kindergarten already reading at a first grade level and has now progressed to third grade level.

I cannot imagine delaying a child like this. In fact, I think it would be a disservice.

Actually, we did delay formal math because of some evidence of early math exposure's connection to tic disorders. However, he still managed to teach himself to count to a hundred and do basic addition.

We will start formal math in Year One to be in compliance with state law.

But back to my point, which was that we have to work with the child's gifts and abilities, not against them. I am hesitant to push a child too much {though some children truly need to be pushed, and this would call for parental wisdom}, and I am also hesitant of holding a ready child back.

Some birds are ready to fly. If we clip their wings, flying would be impossible not just for the time being, but permanently. This is my fear in holding back children that are ready. What if I miss that opportunity with that child and it doesn't present itself again?

Carving Out Time

I am a big believer in protected time. My house will not run smoothly if all of my time is always up for grabs. This doesn't mean that all my time is always protected, no matter the circumstances. However, it does mean that I take my position here in the home seriously. I treat it like a job in that regard.

One of my jobs is that of Headmistress {not to be confused with being THE Headmistress, a position which is already filled}. And I make sure I have protected time to perform the necessary tasks for the job. I make sure my son also has protected time to perform the necessary tasks of his job as First Student.

So, where do we get the time? Baby Q.'s morning nap is the first protected time. We occasionally give this up and have a playdate or go visit friends or family members, but the average day finds us with our phone ringers turned off, reading together as a family.

Yes, Second Student {also known as A.} is always welcome at school time. We do not discriminate.

This reading involves several types. I read aloud. E. reads aloud. I read aloud and E. narrates back to me. I usually end by reading a chapter of one of A.'s books to her for "preschool". This time lasts for 1-2 hours depending on the day and the reading we have planned.

The second regularly-carved-out time is during the afternoon nap. During this time, E. has free art time, re-reads his favorite biographies, and also does copy work that is planned for him by yours truly. We used to do this every day until he told me he was tired. So now we do it every-other-day, and on off-days he takes a nap.

Little boys need their rest, and that is an important part of education, too.

The third somewhat-regularly-carved-out time is evening reading. Sometimes, if we are headed to the grocery store {we go as a family}, I read in the car while Si drives. Some evenings, we do not read at all {and often, on these nights, Si and E. pull weeds in the backyard}. This is regular without being daily, and is the most flexible of the three times.

Reading aloud in the evenings as a family is a great alternative to watching television as a family, by the way.

Coming Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I plan to think a bit more about kindergarten as we have experienced it, including what we changed, what we dropped, and how we "handled" the two worst months of morning sickness. I use the term handled loosely as there were many tears on my part, and perhaps on the children's part as well.

Requiéscant in Pāce

I know that many of my readers share my history with Biola University. And so I thought I would share the unfortunate news, for those of you who haven't yet heard, concerning the death of Dr. Clyde Cook on Friday evening.

Apparently, he suffered a massive heart attack. You can read the details of his life {including his family's stay in a concentration camp during his youth} and the blessing of his work at Biola in this article by Michael Ireland.

In my personal opinion, though I will remember Dr. Cook as the last of the straight-man comics, the rare university president who will dress up as a biker {with his wife's assistance} for the school yearbook photo shoot, I think his legacy of preserving the doctrinal integrity of the school is his gift to all of us. In an age of so many schools that "used to be Christian" or were "founded by Christians," Biola seemed to become more devoted to Christ with each year that I was there.

Not that it didn't have its problems, but then again every human-run organization does.

Scriptorium Daily will be running a series of essays and articles. The university homepage should be updated with funeral information once it is available.

All that remains is to pray for the comfort of his sweet wife Anna Belle.

Update 1:40pm: Memorial services are scheduled for Saturday, April 19 at 11 a.m., Evangelical Free Church, Fullerton. There is also a candlelight service tonight on Metzger Lawn for those of you in the La Mirada area.

Update 4/15 10:38am: A second memorial service, will take place Monday, April 21, at 9:30 a.m. {during normal chapel time} in Chase Gymnasium.

11 April 2008

Musings on Child Labor

It was a time under a shadow, and yet
I remember being happy, for I had responsibilities then,
and I knew that I was useful.

-from Jayber Crow

The boy has been trying my patience lately. Life with him sometimes feels like a wrestling match. I try to be above it, but really I let him rope me into it too often. I forget that, as a mother of a son, I am not bound by the rules of logic.

So I have been observing him. I see a lot of factors contributing to this situation, but one thing stands above the rest: when all is said and done, I don't give him enough work to do.

And I don't just mean school work, though of course that is part of it.

I think that I expect a five-year-old to want to run and play all day. I forget that I am raising a little worker bee. I can't relate to him in this area, because, though I do my work, I like to relax. He, on the other hand, really seems most relaxed if he is working.

Idleness makes him restless.

I have told Si more than once that this is part of why I think we need chickens and possibly a nanny goat.

And maybe a yak.

He needs creatures to care for. He would thrive in a situation where there was something real and meaningful for him to do right when he got up, instead of waiting for Mom to finish preparing breakfast. {This would also get me out of milking said nanny goat.}

Yesterday was his best day of the week, and I think it was because I constantly kept him busy. This is, by the way, different from keeping him "entertained." Entertainment tends to breed self-centeredness. Remember the contrast between modern and Amish parenting?
The Amish think modern children are spoiled by being driven from club to club and lesson to lesson in hopes that they will find and express their true selves. In contrast, Amish children are washing dishes by hand, feeding cows, hauling manure, pulling weeds, and mowing lawns. They are learning to lose their selves, to yield to the larger purposes of family and community.

He seems to feel more attached to the family when he is actually helping with the family. And I don't mean made-up work. Some kids fall for made-up work. I remember reading of a woman once who had her twin boys put away the laundry. They took each shirt, each sock individually up the stairs, and then came back down for the next thing. And they were totally wasted by the time the laundry was settled in the appropriate drawers.

My son would never fall for this! He would know that I was wasting his time. He puts up laundry by taking the biggest pile of folded clothes he can, running to the room where it belongs, and then running back before I have had time to fold another armload for him.

He doesn't just like to work. He likes to do lots of work.

And as I was thinking about this, it dawned on me that part of this problem we've been having might be due to my own laziness. There are some things I don't let him do because I would have to train him to do it. Or I would have to supervise him too closely.

In other words, I would be inconvenienced.

Shame on me.

So yesterday, the day I let him work all day, was his happiest. And he was never happier than when his sister became offended that he got all the work.

"Why E. get a knife?"

We both ignored her because we were cooking.

She insisted, "Why E. get a knife?"

While I was pondering my answer {something about how we don't allow knife-wielding in the house until you are four}, he told her how big he was, and how little she was by comparison.

"I want a knife," she said. "I want to cut the fwuit."

That's when I told them that, once she was four, they would make dinner and I would read on the couch and drink tea. They both looked at me, aghast. Can't anyone take a joke around here?

But now I realize that I have not one, but two little workers, ready and willing to contribute. This is making me rethink how we do things, when we do things, and how I can change it so that the children get to participate more.

If there is one thing about life with people, especially growing people, it is that it is never stagnant for long.

10 April 2008

The Late Great Purge of 2008

Last night, Si was working in the office, and I was antsy. I did the dishes, prepared breakfast for the morning, and tidied up a bit. I am usually beat by the end of the day, so it was unusual for me to feel like I could keep going. But I did. I've had the urge to purge, so to speak.

It all started when my mom and I marked out a day on the calendar for a garage sale. Si and I are hoping to buy a home soon. We're even meeting with a realtor tonight. And if I even think about moving, my mind ends up pondering all our junk, and do I really want to take it with us?

I use the term junk loosely.

And then there was one blogger, Jeana, with her children waxing eloquent about how much richer their life is now that they don't have any stuff holding them back.

And then there was the bickering of this week, where even though our house often looks like Toys R Us became quite ill and vomited its contents into my living room, two certain children who will remain nameless can both manage to pick up the same boring toy, like an oversized plastic spoon, and yell at each other over who had it first.

A house full of toys and they argue over a spoon!

But still...

I have held back from really purging the toys. Oh, sure, I often toss a small box whenever we have a garage sale. But, people, we acquire a lot more than that through the course of the year, which is ironic since I can't even remember the last time I bought them toys.

Maybe I never have.

But they have generous family that give them things for Christmas, birthdays, Easter, Fourth of July...you get the picture.

{Just kidding about Fourth of July.}

Because the toys are all gifts, I find myself plagued by guilt over getting rid of them unless they are truly damaged beyond repair.

But does my almost-six-year-old really still need his stacking toy from when he was nine-months-old?

Another issue is that I save things. Oh, yes, because, you know, I am always pregnant. So I am always plagued by the constant questioning of whether the next baby really needs this toy right here, and then won't we regret getting rid of it?

And meanwhile the toy boxes in two rooms and the three toy baskets, and oh! the toy shelves overfloweth.

Something had to give.

When Q. was born I noticed something interesting: Babies with older siblings need fewer toys than firstborns. They aren't nearly as interested in toys as they are in all the people that are constantly popping into their line of vision.

So last night, I took the plunge. I dug through the toys and I did a serious purge. And, to be honest, I am not sure I'm done. I might just do another go-round tonight if I'm feeling a little crazy.

I felt that tug of guilt when I picked up a toy phone that operates well and even entertains Q. from time to time. I almost put it back down. And then I counted. Yup. We had six toy phones in the toy box. So I did a mental head count. Yup. So far, I don't have six kids. I bet we could get rid of a phone or two or five.

I started with one. Baby steps, you know.

I went back later and tossed another one!

And so it goes.

Usually, when I do a toy toss, even a very small one, the children harass me about it. But today was unusual. I had organized some of the remaining toys so that the parts were all together, and they played nicely with those.

No bickering, either.

It is amazing how stuff can tie us down, but getting rid of it is a source of freedom in a way.

Now I just hope people buy it at the garage sale so that I can have some serious {as in more than zero} decorating money in the event that we actually get a house.

08 April 2008

GFCF Meal Plan for Apr 7-14

We have an extra-busy week ahead, and I can't explain how helpful a meal plan is when busy times set in. If a meal plan means anything, it is that I do not have to think about meals other than once a week. I sit down on Monday, come up with a menu, come up with a shopping list, go grocery shopping, and, except for our Wednesday evening trip to Trader Joe's, the work is done.

At least, the thinking work is done. As long as I plan for enough food and follow my own written instructions, everything flows freely.

Unless I get extra morning sickness. But that is another story.

Did I ever mention that I often get morning sickness for the whole nine months? But really, it is so much better this time that it must be a boy. I think I am allergic to girls.

Again...another story.

So, before I post the plan, I need to add some instructions for the newbies. Since I am trying not to endlessly repeat myself, it would be helpful for you to read all the meal plans in the GFCF label. I tried to offer a few instructions in the beginning, and if you are just starting out, they will answer some of the questions you have.

For those of you who have no clue what I am talking about, GFCF is short for gluten-free, casein-free. The meal plan is also soy-free, artificial-everything free (two of my children are allergic to preservatives, colors, and flavors), and it is low on corn since corn is easy to build up an intolerance to.

One final note: Goat's milk does contain casein proteins. They are a bit different from cow's milk, but they are casein nonetheless. A child on a GFCF diet may or may not be able to tolerate goat's milk. Our children do fine with it, but you must test your own child in a controlled environment to find out for sure. I would highly suggest not giving a child goat's milk when you are just beginning the diet.

The plan for this week:

Monday, April 7
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Baja Fresh, our Monday tradition with Granmama {Si took leftover spaghetti from the weekend}
Dinner: lentil burgers, oven fries, salad

Tuesday, April 8
Breakfast: Brunette GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Egg salad with lettuce and tomato {no bread, of course}
Dinner: Taco salads

Wednesday, April 9
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Lunch out with Daddy! What a special day...
Dinner: Oregano-lemon chicken, salad, rice if I'm feeling motivated

Thursday, April 10
Breakfast: Brunette GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover chicken and salad
Dinner: Italian roast beef, sauteed carrots and onions, GFCF mashed potatoes

Friday, April 11
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftover roast beef, salad
Dinner: Homemade chicken patties {Nourishing Traditions p. 362, modified to be GFCF--I will post instructions once I figure it out!}, gelatin fruit salad {NOT made from a box. Please do not give a sensitive child Jello. It is bascially a bunch of chemicals mixed with gelatin, and highly toxic for these sorts of kids...What I am making is old-fashioned gelatin mixed with real fruit juices and fruit slices. Recipe is in The Kid-Friendly ADHD and Autism Cookbook p. 188}, salad

Saturday, April 12
Breakfast: Brunette GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Leftovers {I get to eat GLUTEN and DAIRY at a baby shower!!}
Dinner: Leftovers {I can already tell I planned too much food during the week}

Sunday, April 13
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and fruit slices
Lunch: More leftovers
Dinner: Pot luck! I am making Ol' Settlers Beans {chemical-free bacon from Trader Joe's, no ground beef, all 4 qt. of beans are northern beans because that is how we like it} and Picadillo {from Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook} and Si said he will make peanut butter-chocolate goat's milk ice milk for the kids to have as dessert

Monday, April 14
Breakfast: Blonde GFCF Blender Batter Pancakes
Lunch: Baja Fresh, of course!
Dinner: Leftovers if there are any, otherwise simple breakfast foods like fried eggs, country potatoes, etc.

07 April 2008

Jayber Crow and "The Call"

Persons attempting to find a "text" in this book will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a "subtext" in it will be banished; persons attempting to explain, interpret, explicate, analyze, deconstruct, or otherwise "understand" it will be exiled to a desert island in the company only of other explainers.


The above is the "notice" posted in Wendell Berry's novel Jayber Crow. This is strikingly similar to the "notice" which precedes Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:


Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.


Do you think Wendell Berry will attempt to exile me for correctly identifying his thinly veiled literary allusion?


I think it was back in college that Si and I first started discussing the sacred/secular divide. I think we've all experienced this sort of thinking, in one situation or another. For instance, "the ministry" is sacred while being a butcher is secular. Being a missionary is sacred while being a businessman is secular.

This divide has a couple effects. First, it elevates "the ministry" to the point where its members stand somehow higher than the laity. On the one hand, being a teacher or elder is a call, and it is a grave task to gently and carefully lead God's people. On the other hand, since not many men are even to aspire to such a position, calling everything else "secular" seems to lessen normal life.

And yet normal life is exactly what most of us will lead. And this is part of the natural order. God, after all, did not originally create a pastor and teacher, but a gardener. God's greatest creation, in whom lay His own image, worked the soil with his hands, managed entire ecosystems with his wisdom.

And yet we despise manual labor.

Later, as society had need, God inspired artisans and musicians. If these tasks are so secular, why is it that God had a hand in bringing them forth into the world?

Which brings to mind the idea that dividing life into sacred and secular categories might just tempt us to believe that only the sacred must be submitted to Him, while the secular might perhaps remain under our own authority, to do with as we please.

Jayber Crow encountered this divide in his own experience:
But for as long as I could remember, I had been hearing preachers tell in sermons how they had received "the call"; this was often the theme of Brother Whitespade and the many visiting preachers who spoke at The Good Shepherd. Not one of those men had ever suggested that a person could be "called" to anything but "full-time Christian service," by which they meant either the ministry or "the mission field." The finest thing they could imagine was that an orphan boy, having been rescued by the charity of the church, should repay his debt by accepting "the call."

Taken to its logical conclusion, this divide has many disastrous consequences. It permits missionaries to devote their lives to unreached people groups while sending their own children off to boarding school. {As the church appropriated the family's tasks of training children and passing the faith from generation to generation, family lost its position as a "sacred" institution and so was subsequently cast off as a secular hindrance.} It allows women feel spiritual while attending multiple Bible studies, but burdened by the doing of dishes, the washing of laundry, and the many other tasks that, once upon a time, Thomas More declared to be sacred.

Once, the world was seen as a great whole. Indivisible, it stood in glory, infused with much meaning. Laundry wasn't just laundry. It was a sacred rite, an expression of love, submission, service. Cooking food wasn't just cooking food. It, too, was love, and also nurture, caring, kindness, and warmth.

Declaring most of the world to be secular has emptied it of much of its meaning. And because it is empty we seek stimulation not just through entertainment, but the endless parade of church activities that cause to feel that our lives have spiritual significance.

But they already do have spiritual significance, for the people in our lives are spiritual beings. We ourselves are spiritual beings. And our daily activities are, just as they were in days of old, infused with meaning. After all, it wasn't women's Bible studies that were declared to be spiritual worship. It was presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice. A living, breathing, sacrifice.

As Jayber Crow discovered, we really can be called to a supposedly secular task:
Surely I was called to be, for one thing, a barber.

05 April 2008

Why Catholics Produce Better Movies

The movie review in the December 2007 edition of Biblical Worldview Magazine was by far the best I've read in a while. I wish I could link to it, but it hasn't hit their online archives yet. Si and I had a particular fondness for the piece because the bulk of it consisted of a quote from Dr. Thom Parham, a professor we studied under at Biola. He even came to our wedding.

His Ph.D. consisted of an analysis of Star Trek {the longest running theme in TV and movies ever}, and he looked a lot like Jordy from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But I digress.

Last weekend, Si and I watched Time Changer. Now, this movie wasn't nearly as bad as some Christian movies we've seen. You know the ones. Cheesy is a good descriptive term for those films.

And, as a Christian who takes my faith seriously, it is painful to watch films like this--films where we can respect the message, but not the art.

Time Changercontained some historical mistakes, the most important being its complete disregard for the history of eschatology. The main character is a professor from the 1890s who has a well-formed theology of end times events that includes a pre-tribulational rapture. These sorts of beliefs weren't prevalent until Dispensationalism became popular in the 1900s. I am not saying that no one believed these things at that time, but I think the chances of them being taught at a respectable Bible college during the 1890s was slim.

Moving on...

Time Changer has a science fiction feel and a much more interesting plot than many Christian movies. It was truly refreshing that it contained these elements. And yet, it had its painful, awkward moments as well.

And I didn't understand why until I read the article on Bella I mentioned above, in which Eric Rauch writes:
One of the primary hurdles that Protestants have when it comes to any visual medium is their word-based faith. Protestants generally think in terms of words, while Catholics think in terms of image, or experience. The Protestant faith is centered on the written Word of God, a good thing to be sure. But this word-focus often makes for dry, preachy, and surface-level films. Catholics, on the other hand, understand the depth and effectiveness of symbolism and ritual and actually believe and act on the principle that "more is caught that what is taught." {emphasis mine}.

I remember that, in media class, there were often urges from professors to the film students to "show me, don't tell me." Film was a series of moving images, and the goal was to train the students to think more like a painter than they expected. Dialogue is key, of course, and bad dialogue {and bad acting} can kill a film, but saying too much can also be the death of a movie.

Rauch quotes Dr. Parham, explaining the Catholic advantage:
Three tenets of Catholicism informed their craft and equipped them to excel. First, an intuitive understanding of iconography gave them a strong foundation for crafting visual images. Next, they seemed to grasp the incarnational function of art, which allowed them to give tangible form to intangible concepts. Finally, their understanding of the sacramental nature of life helped them relate divine patterns through everyday minutiae.

I think a great mental exercise would be to watch Time Changer and then follow up the next day by watching Bella. Compare the beauty of Bella's subtlety with the pointed conversations in Time Changer. Discuss. Think about it. And consider the importance of grasping the incarnational function of art and the sacramental nature of life.