22 November 2008

DecemberTerm

Recently, one of the Yahoo groups I subscribe to asked the question of how the holidays change our morning time together. My first thought was that they didn't. Then I thought that perhaps they should. Then, after an endless stream of obsessive thoughts with which I will not burden you I decided to take us on a six-week break. Basically this is one-week off for Thanksgiving. Three weeks off of Ambleside, during which we will have extended Circle Time in the mornings instead. I want to focus on holiday learning, fun winter activities, and basically all the stuff I have always wished were incorporated into our lives but never have been. And then there is a week off for Christmas and New Year's, during which time we will also throw a party and celebrate Q.'s second birthday.

I call it DecemberTerm, and I'm hoping it'll become a tradition through which we build better, warmer holidays. Below are my plans for this year. Please note that all cookie recipes can be found in this wonderful little cookie cookbook. Also, if you have traditional books you or your family read during the holidays, leave the titles in the comments! I want to build a list from which I can draw new titles each year.

What are you planning to make this year extra special for your family?



Circle Time Weekly Schedule {DecemberTerm}


Week 1
Monday

  • Holiday Manner: Don’t compare gifts.
    • Note: We should all be content with what we have and not do anything that could cause disharmony in the family. Each gift might not be the same, but it was picked out with exactly you in mind.
    • Verse: Hebrews 13:5: Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
  • Review Awana verses
  • Poem: G. K. Chesterton’s A Christmas Carol
  • Read Aloud: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Tuesday
  • Review manner & verse
  • Christmas Hymns: Good Christian Men, Rejoice; Good King Wenceslas
  • Review Awana verses
  • Read Christmas story from Luke 2
  • Poem: Reread Chesterton’s A Christmas Carol
  • Read Aloud: The Little Match Girl

Wednesday
  • Review manner & verse
  • Art study: Petrus Christus, The Nativity
  • Review Awana verses
  • Poem: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, A Christmas Carol
  • Read Aloud: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Thursday
  • Baking Day! Bake Rasberry Brownies. Drink herbal hot tea. Listen to Christmas music. Enjoy each other. Make plates of cookies to give to the neighbors.

Friday
  • Review manner & verse
  • Composer Study: Handel's Messiah
  • Review Awana verses
  • Poem: Reread Coleridge’s A Christmas Carol
  • Read Aloud: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol


Week 2
Monday
  • Holiday Manner: Show gratitude for the food.
    • Verses: Luke 22:17-19 “And when [Jesus] had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the Kingdom of God comes.” And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” (emphasis on repetition of Jesus' example of giving thanks)
  • Review Awana verses
  • Poem: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Three Kings
  • Read Aloud: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Tuesday
  • Review manner & verses
  • Christmas Hymns: Good Christian Men, Rejoice; Good King Wenceslas
  • Review Awana verses
  • Read Christmas Story from Luke 2
  • Poem: Reread Longfellow’s The Three Kings
  • Read: Gingerbread Baby…take note of the house at the end as we’ll be making one with Daddy soon.

Wednesday

Thursday
  • Baking Day! Bake chocolate-pistachio sandwich cookies. Drink herbal hot tea. Listen to Christmas music. Enjoy each other. Make little plates to take cookies to the neighbors.

Friday
  • Review manner & verse
  • Composer Study: Handel's Messiah
  • Review Awana verses
  • Poem: Reread Rice’s The Story of the Christmas Guest
  • Read Aloud: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol


Week 3
Monday
  • Holiday Manner: Say “thank you” for your gifts.
    • Note: Don’t forget that someone cared enough about you to give these things to you. They spent time and/or money buying or making you this present. Please make sure you thank them and tell them how much to appreciate what they have done for you.
    • Verse: Colossians 2:6-7: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, …overflowing with gratitude.”
  • Review Awana verses
  • Poem: L. M. Montgomery’s The Christmas Night
  • Read Aloud: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Tuesday
  • Review manner & verse
    • Additional verse: Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…”
  • Christmas Hymns: Good Christian Men, Rejoice; Good King Wenceslas
  • Review Awana verses
  • Read Christmas story from Luke 2
  • Poem: Reread Montgomery’s The Christmas Night

Wednesday

Thursday
  • Baking Day! Bake Christmas cookies. Drink hot cocoa. Listen to Christmas music. Enjoy each other...

Friday
  • Review manner & verses
  • Composer Study: Handel's Messiah
  • Poem: Reread Bronte’s Music on Christmas Morning
  • Read Aloud: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

21 November 2008

Reading Lists, Blog News, and More

In the comments, I was asked for the list of books that Dr. Linda suggested to me if I really wanted to understand her philosophy and methods. Just so you know, I had asked her a general question along the lines of, "So...is there a book I could read about this? You know...Energy Medicine for Dummies or something?"

I really couldn't tell if she thought I was funny or not.

She asked me if I had read such-and-such a book. Too bad I was too sleep deprived to realize that I should have been writing them down! But what she did tell me directly, I managed to remember long enough to import them into my PBS wishlist. She told me that there were some great books that I could read to gain a thorough understanding. They are not easy reads, they are not necessarily for laypersons, but they will tell me what I want to know.

I adore people who aren't afraid to suggest a difficult book.

Dr. Linda is a big fan of a doctor {Ph.D., not M.D.} named James Oschman. She suggested his Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performanceand says that she rereads this often because there is so much to be gleaned from it.

Sounds promising.

Oschmann also wrote Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis of Bioenergy Therapies. Sounds like between the two books, they will answer my two major questions: How does this work? and Why does this work?

There is also Dr. Larry Lytle's Healing Light: Energy Medicine of the Future.

Dr. Linda is also a contributor to the book The Healing Power of 8 Sugars: An Amazing Breakthrough in Nutrition, Sciences and Medicine. She didn't suggest this next book, but there is a book I've been wanting that goes along with this called Sugars That Heal: The New Healing Science of Glyconutrients.

That is the short but helpful book list.

Please be warned that reading about energy medicine can sometimes lead to false philosophies and theologies. Our doctor takes great pains to take the science and leave the blasphemy, so if you are wanting to read further than this, please do so with care.

In other news

Si's mom will be here with us for this upcoming Thanksgiving week. If I have time, I'll be scheduling some autoposts, but who knows. Cleaning the bathroom and making up the guest bed take priority, no?

Christmas Shopping

Just a friendly reminder that if you are planning to shop Amazon rather than braving Black Friday, I offer you my humble Amazon search box. This is how I finance my book addiction, as many of you know.

I would highly suggest Amazon, and the internet in general. Last year, I purchased all of my bought Christmas gifts without leaving my house! The rest of the gifts, I made by hand. Since I am not much for shopping, this worked well.

Linky Love

One last friendly reminder, and that is about my Mutual Affection links or whatever I call them right now. I still can't think of a truly clever name. Anyhow, if you link to Afterthoughts and would like Afterthoughts to link to you in return, please let me know via comments or email. I reserve the right to say no, of course, but that has never happened.

Happy Thanksgiving

We just read the story of the First Thanksgiving today in Margarey Pumphrey's Stories of the Pilgrims. Back before football and parades, Thanksgiving was a way of thanking God for his provision during the harvest months, of being grateful for all the food one was able to store up for the winter. The existence of grocery stores minimizes the impact of this, but the fact that there is much to thank God for remains. Let us not forget it! Truly His grace is abundant!

20 November 2008

Healing Allergies: The Things We Take Away

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction
so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction
with the comfort with which we ourselves
are comforted by God.
-II Corinthians 1:3&4
I spent most of my adolescence battling Lyme Disease. The problem had gone undiagnosed because Lyme Disease "does not exist" in our area, according to the likes of government agencies like the CDC. Or at least, it didn't then. And so my parents spent years seeking out not just treatment for me, but a diagnosis.

In early college, when I was finishing up my final rounds of antibiotics and beginning to feel healthy for the first time in a decade, I began to ask questions, which is what nineteen-year-olds and three-year-olds both specialize in. My biggest question was, naturally, why?

I'm not sure the whys and what fors of life will ever truly be answered. But still, we can see the silver linings, the good things that have come. The verse above became my theme verse in those years. Was the point of suffering to be able to comfort others? I'm not sure that it was, even though the verse uses the phrase "so that" as if it were answering the question of why.

But the verse does explain what can be taken away from a situation of suffering. As the person suffering learns to receive comfort from God, he learns to comfort others.

We have received the ultimate comfort because our trials in this area have mostly been removed. However, there were all the little comforts along the way. There was the friend who paid extra to buy gluten-free casein-free brownie mix so my children could partake of dessert. There were my parents and grandparents, who didn't let the learning curve intimidate them and cooked food for our children. There was the friend who managed to arrange GFCF meals for us for three weeks after O.'s birth while I was recovering from my C-section. She sent out a huge list of what the children could not eat, and somehow managed to convince people to cook for us anyhow. There were folks who understood that we would rather them come to our house so we could more easily control what was eaten. There were the mommies that, over the years, agreed to meet at a park during a time where food wasn't necessary, so the children could simple roam around with water in a sports bottle and feel completely normal.

So much comfort. So much generosity towards us. I could fill this blog with the good deeds I have seen.

And now I know. I was never very good at comforting others. I always felt awkward. I never knew what to do. But now I have their example. I know what they did. I know that the best thing you can bring a GFCF family as a gift is a tub of Spectrum Shortening and a bag of millet flour! God has taught me unlikely lessons through all of this, and the biggest is how our family can now comfort others who are struggling with allergies coupled with the know-how it takes to actually do something without hurting anyone.

Of course, there are other things we take away. There are really good, healthy habits that we have built. These will benefit us for a lifetime. They will benefit our children's children.

There are hidden talents we discovered. It was really this journey that brought about E.'s desire to be a farmer. It brought about the love for gardening. A whole world opened up to us as I was doing my research, and we now have so many ties binding all of us together.

It was also through this journey that we began to see A. for who she was. She was so tired and beaten down from her allergies. Sometimes I think it was more so for her than E., as far as how she felt daily and how it changed her personality. I feel like I'm getting to know her all over again. One thing I do know is that somehow, she has grown a heart of compassion coupled with a morbid interest in health problems. I don't know if this was always there, or if her excitement over finding a doctor who heals somehow inspired her, but it would not surprise me if A. pursues health care training that benefits the whole family someday, including the family she is yet to create.

We also take away a different approach to health when it comes to our infants. Our younger two have reaped the benefits of this. They have never taken antibiotics. They have never had a vaccine. We have also taken other precautions, like keeping our toddler on goat's milk instead of cow's and not feeding her processed wheat products. And, so far, there are no signs of allergies. Our younger two seem so much stronger, so much more vibrant, than the older two were at their respective ages.

This is a short list of the things we take away. What we have suffered becomes part of who we are. This is true for anyone. The question is whether it becomes an asset to our person, or a weakness that forever dampens the future. I like to think that this is an awful thing that brought about a lot of good.

We have seen the grace of God, and we know firsthand that it is good.

19 November 2008

Healing Allergies: The Hope of a Little Girl

We had expected it to take longer to get E.'s health under control. Of course, I'm not saying it is perfect now. We are still working on healing his body, which had a lot of damage considering his young age. He also has the disadvantage of being a boy. Did you know the Y-gene may cause physical strength and weakness at the same time?
The Y chromosome appears to convey some sort of genetic vulnerability that the X does not have. Many diseases disproportionately affect males throughout life. A number of studies have indicated that male embryos are more vulnerable to pollutants and disease. Workplace studies indicate that men who've been exposed to certain pesticides, mercury or solvents, father significantly fewer baby boys. Other modern chemicals that mimic estrogen or disrupt hormones may also be involved. In the small Japanese city of Minamata, for example, heavy mercury pollution during the 1950s caused neurological damage in many residents and severe birth defects and mental retardation in babies exposed in the womb. More boys than girls were born with Fetal Minamata Disease {FMD}, as these birth defects came to be called. In the times and areas of heaviest exposure, fewer boys were born at all. The reason may be that males are more susceptible than females to damage from contaminants like mercury. When exposures were heaviest, the males that would have been born with FMD were so severely affected that they did not survive to birth. Studies of children exposed to lead have found that boys suffer greater IQ deficits than girls exposed to the same levels. {source}
Now, I'm sure that was way more than you wanted to know, but there is something important I took away from knowing this, and that is that my sons need to be more protected from toxins than my daughters, for the simple reason that my daughters are innately more efficient at removing toxins from their bodies.

All of this is to say that my story doesn't mean that E.'s health is perfect. We still have a few mystery tics that we are thinking stem from environmental allergies, but might also be bad habits that he will need to break over time. But over all, this process has been a miracle for us.

I thought it might take a year of regular visits to solve E.'s problems. So imagine my surprise when most of them were gone after two visits!

Well, our benefactor, who I have mentioned before, was a bit surprised also. So, while we were planning on using money we received as Christmas gifts to pay for A. to go to Dr. Linda, our benefactor decided that it was better not to wait. This method had proven itself so obviously effective, the sooner we tackled A.'s health, the better.

And so we went, just a few weeks after O. was born. There were three basic issues uncovered: massive candida overgrowth {which I knew since she had struggled with yeast-type diaper rashes since her first birthday}, severe undermineralization, and allergies to wheat and casein.

I had actually suspected all along that yeast {candida} was the underlying problem. I had even tried some of the same supplements Dr. Linda suggested. However, A.'s situation was so serious that she needed adult-level doses, something I had never been comfortable with giving her without a more knowledgeable person suggesting it.

Yeast is an interesting thing. In my studies, I have learned that candida overgrowth can actually trigger food allergies. Depending on where the yeast is growing in the body, it can also inhibit vitamin and mineral uptakes. In my mind, A. was a case study on what happen when yeast has run rampant for a couple years.

Dr. Linda asked me if A. had ever been on antibiotics, since that is the primary means through which the balance of intestinal flora is upset {a certain amount of yeast is natural in the body and exists in balance with other microorganisms to maintain healthy digestion}. I told her about A.'s ear infections starting around her first birthday. I had been uncomfortable with giving her antibiotics, but she was crying from ear pain. She had been given one round of antibiotics. And then another.

And then the doctor suggested a third time.

This is when I discovered that most ear infections can actually be waited out. So we tried this method, and she has never had another ear infection again.

But the damage was already done. The antibiotics had caused intestinal issues. I assumed that her allergies had just appeared around age one because that is what happens. But this isn't so. It is no coincidence that she began to complain about her tummy shortly after her first round on antibiotics.

In the first visit, Dr. Linda was able to eliminate the gluten allergy. She also sent us home with heavy doses of supplements to battle the yeast problem, and also higher-than-normal doses of vitamins to combat the undermineralization.

By her second visit, Dr. Linda eliminated the dairy allergy. A.'s doses were lowered to normal, and some things were no longer necessary at all.

We are planning a third visit. A. is allergic to something either in our new house or outside of it. We will have these environmental allergies eliminated, and hopefully we will be down to normal maintenance: just one little multivitamin each day, like many normal children.

A. was beaming to know that she could eat her favorite foods again. I think most of us find bread and cheese to be an amazing comfort.

I can't believe how happy both children are to have their food issues in the past. Food is such a big part of life, and their dietary limitations separated them from others. It kept them from birthday parties. It changed their experience at a family holiday feast.

And now all of that is gone.

One night recently, Si went into our church to pick up A. from Cubbies. The teacher stopped him and explained that the class had been given animal crackers for their snack. Apparently, A. had been thrilled.

The teacher said she had never seen a child so excited about animal crackers.

18 November 2008

Healing Allergies: Big Bad Voodoo Doctor

I was present at E.'s first visit. This is significant because I was so close to having Baby O. In fact, I had already arranged that my parents would be helping with E.'s follow-up visits because I knew I wouldn't be able to swing it after a C-section. But I wanted to be there and witness what it was this doctor did in her little clinic downtown.

And I can't even begin to describe it. There's a reason that all of her patients jokingly call her the voodoo doctor. Her methods? Effective? Yes. But make sense? Not to me. Not all of it.

And I have never been more aware of my own ignorance. After all, something that can cure allergies in a short amount of time without any invasive methods is significant. And yet I hadn't heard much about such a thing in all my months of studying and attacking allergies.

This doctor uses muscle tests for allergies. She also uses a technique called Neurolink:
NEUROLINK's philosophy is rooted in the neurophysiological principle that the brain governs optimum function of all the body's systems. Unless the neurology {brain} is communicating appropriately with the physiology {body} a patient will never have complete wellness or recovery.
She did various other tests, and also chiropractic adjustments.

Her allergy testing revealed what I already knew, and then some. My trial-and-error methods of testing had worked, and I was correct in thinking him allergic to gluten, casein, soy, artificial everything. But she also discovered allergies to corn, chocolate, caffeine, and coffee. There were also environmental allergies like almond blossoms, citrus blossoms, and bee pollen. {Since we live within walking distance of a very large almond orchard, this was definite cause for concern.}

Other tests revealed mercury toxicity {something I had suspected}, a virus, candida overgrowth, and a need for a chiropractic adjustment.

On that first day, all the environmental allergies were cleared, and we were sent home with a homeopathic follow-up protocol for those. In addition, she detoxed the mercury {still not sure how that works}, taught his brain to fight the virus using a blood sample and something that looked like acupressure that also utilized a laser, and came up with a protocol of supplements to use in fighting the yeast.

His tics were shortly back under control because I knew what additional foods to remove from his already strict diet. For two days after, he was quite tired, something I had been informed could happen as his body cleared out the dead virus. After that, his energy levels began to soar {this was a six-year-old who still required very long afternoon naps every day}.

A couple weeks later, he returned {my mom took him, I think}. The other food allergies had disappeared as his health had radically improved.

I was shocked.

And it bothered me that she hadn't had to do anything. I didn't trust it. I didn't have any faith. And so I did what came naturally: I fearfully continued to avoid all the foods to which he had been allergic. Slowly, we introduced one food. And then another.

I was shocked that there were no reactions of any kind.

Soon, he was eating everything. He had one setback along the way, and that was a severe tic reaction to some oatmeal we had purchased. We crammed some of it into a plastic container and sent him to the doctor, who cleared the allergy on the same day. The next day, we served the oatmeal again, and he ate it without reactions.

I am still trying to wrap my mind around this. I actually requested a book list from the doctor. How could something this effective be virtually unknown in our culture? More importantly, how does it work? Why does it work? That is a question I plan to get answered in 2009 if I can find these books and read them.

Ironically, this doctor shares a building with an allergist. The last time I was there, I saw a young mother bringing in a couple boys. I cringe at the thought that they are probably receiving painful weekly allergy injections, like my sister did when we were young. If this mother turned left instead of right when she entered the building, the health of her children would probably be recovered within one or two visits.

As E. began to eat bread and cheese and popcorn and all the food previously forbidden, his little sister looked quietly on with sadness in her eyes. Unlike E., A. does not have tic reactions. Instead, she gets painful stomach aches. Over time, she developed the inattentive subtype of ADD, which basically means she sat around sucking her thumb, almost completely lethargic.

For almost a year, I had mistakenly labeled her "cuddly," failing to realize that it is not normal for a two-year-old to spend many hours sitting around doing nothing.

When I had removed foods like wheat and milk from her diet, and added supplements that I had spent hours researching, her energy levels had greatly increased and she had an explosion of vocabulary and other intellectual development {she had been behind before this}. But she still couldn't eat these things without stomach pain.

She looked at me hopefully. We call our doctor Doctor Linda. A. would say over and over, "When I go Doctoh Winda, I eat cheese? When I go Doctoh Winda, I eat bwed (bread)? Doctoh Winda feel me better!" She couldn't wait for her chance, which ended up coming along much sooner than we expected.

17 November 2008

Read Alouds for Term One

Term One of school actually ended for us over a week ago. Everything went pretty well. I still want to fine-tune a few activities in Circle Time. Especially our artist picture study. I'm just not that good at doing picture studies yet, but I've subscribed to a couple blogs where the mothers seem to excel at that, and I'm going to attempt to incorporate some of their methods into what we are already doing.

Our education approach is a fairly decent blend of Charlotte Mason and Classical Education. Those are the philosophies that tend to have the greatest influence over our days. Teaching the Trivium placed an emphasis on reading aloud two hours each day. I would say that we average this on weekdays. On weekends, if we read at all {we spend daylight hours gardening on Saturday, and Sundays are for church, of course}, it is probably thirty minutes per day.

Two hours each day probably does more for us than any of the formal study. This is the stuff dreams are made of: reading anything and everything we like. In addition to reading aloud, E. also spend significant time reading books he chooses from a stack that I have set aside for him.

Below are the books we finished reading aloud during Term One. I typically have one book going that we read as an entire family {including Si}, and another going that is just the children and I. Toddlers are not required to sit still during the reading, nor even stay in the room with us. Acutally, no one is required. I choose books the children like, and they are more than willing to sit and listen, sometimes doing a quiet activity like playing with blocks.

To clarify, two hours doesn't mean that it is two hours in a row. I just mean that fifteen minutes here, twenty minutes there, tends to add up to about two hours by the time everyone goes to bed at night.




16 November 2008

Healing Allergies: A Little Background

Health is a funny thing. Some of us seem born with it, others have to work for it. I like to think that my understanding of health is holistic. I like to think I understand that certain things are connected. The foot bone is connected to the leg bone, after all.

Now that's a brilliant place from which to begin.

I've made a lot of comments over the years that probably seem very anti-allopathic/Western medicine. I chose, after all, to treat our children's problems myself using a special diet. And, mostly, I was successful. By eliminating certain foods {those containing gluten, casein, soy, and artificial anything} and also stepping up the children's nutrition using various special supplements, I pretty much had the situation under control.

Until I didn't.

We took a trip in early June. Our son's tics returned with a vengeance. I reread labels on all of our foods. I couldn't figure it out.

And so I came to the end of myself.

But before I go on, I need to reach further into the past. About this time last year, we were at the home of one of the elders from our church. I was still trying to figure out how to navigate the social aspect of having food allergies. Those of you who do not have allergies might not fully appreciate how allergies can complicate life. Whenever anyone we didn't know well invited us over for a meal or a birthday party, I was filled with anxiety.

What do I do? Do I tell them our children probably can't eat what they serve? Can I trust them to make special food without accidentally including forbidden ingredients? Is it rude to bring my own food, and if I do do I tell them in advance or do I just do it and inform them when we are there? Do we just say no and avoid the whole situation altogether?

Allergies are complicated.

As I was saying, we were visiting with one of our elders from church and it became evident that the children had allergies. I don't remember how exactly, but it came up. And then the wife says something I'll never forget: "Our son used to have allergies."

At the time, this child was about six-years-old {the youngest of eight, for those of you who might be concerned that our elder is younger than he should be}, so it wasn't that he'd grown out of it. The wife begins to explain that they go to this chiropractor that performs an allergy elimination technique that worked for their child. I was dubious, to say the least, but she was pretty convincing as she detailed their child's horrendous experience of years of bleeding eczema. It was slightly grotesque, so I won't share more than that.

This family became desperate, and they searched everywhere they could for a cure. Nothing helped {which sounded familiar to my ears, since drug intervention for tics promises little other than ineffectiveness over time plus side effects}. And then they found a chiropractor in our local area who viewed allergies a little differently than the average person.

And this doctor, over the course of a few months, not only identified the root causes of their son's health problems, but eliminated them altogether. And so now he eats ice cream at a birthday party like a normal person.

So why did I wait so long, you are asking? The first was cost. Alternative medical approaches aren't exactly covered by insurance, even if they work. The second was disbelief. Since I believed that both E. as well as A. showed signs of being on the autism spectrum, and since many autistic-type children have severe food allergies, I assumed that their allergies were somehow "different."

In fact, I wasn't even sure that they were traditional, in the sense that allergy is generally defined as a histamine reaction to something that shouldn't be fought by the body. Instead of fighting a cold, my children's bodies seemed to spend more time fighting wheat and dairy.

To be honest, even though my mind is "open" when it comes to medicine, this usually involves nutrition. In other words, health is built over time through a combination of good food, clean water, and sunlight.

I suppose the truth is that sometimes I don't recognize an answer to prayer, even when it is staring me in the face. I was looking for a different sort of miracle, the kind where I wake up and all the problems have mysteriously disappeared.

So, as I said, I had our son's tics completely under control using dietary and nutritional intervention...until June. I now know that our son's body had begun reacting to corn, chocolate, caffeine, and coffee {not that I ever gave him the latter} in addition to his other allergies. What became clear to me at that time was very important: Dietary intervention was not a cure.

It seems so obvious now, but it was so easy for me to think of diet as the solution. This was still very Western-medicine in nature in that it treated symptoms rather than the root problem. In other words, I knew what was causing the tics {food allergies}, but not what was causing what was causing the tics. And was there an infinite regress here? Might I never get to the end of the causes of the causes?

By the time a generous benefactor offered to pay for E.'s treatment, I was feeling helpless. I was no longer in control, and I had spent over two months trying to solve the problem on my own without success. Si and I decided that the only reason we would say no to such generosity was pride {wanting to take care of our children ourselves}. We didn't want to let that get in the way of our son's good health. We also figured that success with E. would be a sign that we could start saving to have A.'s allergies treated as well.

So we headed off to the chiropractor. E. was pretty excited and hopeful. I, on the other hand, was a desperate, very pregnant, tired mommy.

15 November 2008

Practicing Gratitude: A Good Year



And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

--Edward Winslow
{speaking of the First Thanksgiving in Mourt's Relation}
It isn't that our life together has been full of bad years. I'm not sure that anything that has happened to us is all that uncommon. However, many years I have come upon Thanksgiving Day with a bit of heaviness in my heart. We've had so many years where we were worried about something or other. Selling our home because our business dried up. Pregnant and then finding out about a job loss. Those sorts of things.

This year stands out to me as an uncommonly good one. I can't say it started out particularly well, what with the food poisoning combined with the Ultimate Traveling-With-Three-Kids Nightmare. But the year has been filled with one blessing after another.

Yes, the year was great. In January, I already knew I was pregnant with Number Four {aka Baby O.}, having taken a test right before the New Year. In February, we were able to replace my broken mixer with a great tool when you consider all the gluten-free everything-free cooking I was doing {gluten-free breads don't knead well, so a good mixer comes in handy}. In March, Si's book was released from the publisher, a long-awaited dream-come-true. In April, we were attacked by ants and our Suburban broke down on a major freeway, but nothing's perfect, right?

Ahem.

In May, I turned thirty. I like being thirty, so it was great. And we also celebrated our seventh anniversary, Mother's Day, and our son's sixth birthday. May is fun around here. In June, we bought a home, a wonderful, perfect-for-us home! In July, Si turned 30 and on his birthday we signed the paperwork for our house and prepared for The Big Move. By the end of July, we were in our new house. In August, our son was born! True, he almost died, which was tramatic. But here is the clincher: he didn't. He is here with us and we get to raise him and I for one am completely in love with him. In September, we were bleary-eyed from not getting sleep, but we were so grateful to have our son alive that it didn't bother us as much as usual. Plus, we began putting in our backyard. And that, by the way, is pretty much what October focused on: renovating that half acre of weeds. In fact, here it is November, and we spent the day working on the same thing. I myself used a hula hoe for at least an hour this morning.

And it looks beautiful out there. Today, we plant grass and also a cover crop in the garden bed. Our plans for the microhomestead are coming together.

The final blessing, the details of which I will have to share with you in some other post in the future, is not only significant, but also miraculous. As we prepare for Thanksgiving this year, we are free to add copious amounts of wheat and dairy to the food because...our children's food allergies have been cured

No kidding.

This year, it feels like God has smiled upon us. We have a home of our own, something I feared would never happen when the prices really started soaring in our area. We have four beautiful children. Like the quote above, I know that life isn't always so plentiful. But this year, I will be thankful that my cup runneth over.

14 November 2008

Finances, Humble Style

A couple nights ago, Si turned to me and said, "Do you know how blessed we are to have no debt other than the house?" For some reason, this caused memories to come rushing back to me: the tiny apartment in Uptown Whittier where we lived, the shock of being pregnant so soon, the fear of trying to make it on one small income in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I remembered scrimping on everything in order to make $400 payments per month on our school loans. The minimum payment was less than half, but we couldn't imagine trying to live on one income when we owed money on our educations, had a car payment.

And then we ended up with expensive NICU bills from the hospital.

Someone, somewhere had whispered in our ears in the earliest days of our marriage {and probably during our engagement} that debt was a burden marriages often have trouble shouldering.

Amy the Humble is at it again, this time explaining how her family has gone, over the past twelve years or so, from living on $318 per week to owning their own 40-acre farm in Kentucky. And here I mean owning: no mortgage. {They also have no mortgages on any of their horrible rental properties, but I'm not sure that's something to brag about.}

I am putting this in a post, by the way, because it is all too evident that most of you completely ignore my Assigned Reading in the sidebar.

I forgive you.

Ahem.

Now, being as Amy is a Humble sort of bear, you aren't going to find directions on how to be debt free while owning all the goodies you ever wanted. But if the good life to you means a simple piece of land where your children run free and there is room enough to practice old fashioned Christian hospitality while also grazing your very own cow, Amy has some posts for you.

And if you just want to get out of debt, I think you'll find some motivation there, too. If you want to live below your means {significantly below, maybe} so that you can practice more generosity, this series is also for you.

I am starting to sound like the proverbial used car salesman.

Part of her second installment, Strong Beginnings, reminded me of a conversation I recently had with our oldest. Amy explains that her husband's first job out of college gave him a salary plus a car and maid service. He had no out of pocket expenses, from the sound of it:
In life, there are forks in the road. What you choose at this moment is significant. Greg made an important choice here that we–his wife and six children –benefitted from many years later. I can’t take credit for any of this good thinking because I was still in ninth grade worrying about important things like my hair.

Greg put one year’s salary in the bank. He didn’t treat himself to a vacation, a new car, or a gadget. Everyone gets these choices and what you do with them are the reason you are where you are today.
Here is how this connects to my son. E. is addicted to Howard Pyle, and evidently has been reading too many fairy tales where the father dies and leaves all this property to his oldest son. E., in case you've forgotten, wants to be a farmer more than anything else. As we've been working on our backyard {which is a half-acre of dirt in the process of getting a facelift}, he has gotten it into his head that all of this is going to be his someday! I finally pointed out to him that his father has to die for that to happen, and doesn't he want his kids to have grandparents?

Then what will I do? he practically screeches. How will I ever get land to farm?

I told him I didn't know. Land in California is very expensive, and I didn't even mention the cost of buying water in this desert. But what I told him was simple. He is free to live here at home until he is 20 or 21, and during that time we expect him to be working, saving, going to school, or doing whatever else it takes to prepare for becoming provider for his own family. {He can't stay here forever; the Bible makes it clear that a man leaves and takes a wife.}

And then I told him he better start saving. This was when his eyes got wide. It hadn't dawned on him that he'd have to bankroll his own life someday. This is the fun part of parenting: Shock and Awe.

And maybe, I said, that means that it's time for you to stop frittering your money away on trail mix at the grocery store.

If he's lucky, he'll make the right decisions when he reaches his own forks-in-the-road.

11 November 2008

Narration Through Conversation

There have been a lot of politics around here the past week or so. It has been fun reading all the contributions in the comments sections. I so enjoy a good comment! But it's time to move subjects a bit as far as new posts go. I don't like to focus on one aspect of life for too long or I start to feel like it's dragging me down. Politics, after all, have been a cause of depression for millions of people for thousands of years.

Ahem.

Now, education, well that's different. Learning is something to get excited about! To take it one step further, homeschooling is how we parents rule the world from the comfort of the family nursery. This is why the politicians fear us so.

Charlotte Mason's method of narration {where I read something to the child and the child tells me back the same story in his own words} is a cornerstone of our educational methodology here at Whetstone. {Yes, California requires us to name our school when we file the affidavit. Our school's name is Whetstone Academy. Whetstone is meant to refer to the sharpening of our little ones that can occur when they are thoroughly and properly educated. It represents our hopes for their future.}

This year, my oldest is kicking at the goads. Since he is only six, it's not like I'm an expert, but I was still surprised by this because narration had come so naturally to him in kindergarten. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it. So it felt like I was thrown a curve ball when suddenly he decided he wasn't going to comply with narration.

This rebellion took many forms. There was outright refusal, of course. But there was also dragging of feet, slow talking, attempts to change the subject, and, my personal favorite, claiming inability to remember. {Remember, this is my child that can quote verbatim books I read to him when he was three.}

For about eight weeks, I have simply been forcing him to do this. I really thought that this resistance was something that we could just get through. Charlotte Mason also talks about building habits and I just figured that if he always knew he had to narrate, he would get used to it and stop fighting.

But he hasn't.

I have other goals for our school than just narration ability and retention of the subject matter. These other goals are primary. They include, but are not limited to, a love and passion for learning, a subjection of all subjects to the Holy Scriptures, creating a lifestyle of both learning and doing, maintaining a peaceful learning environment for all of our present and future students, etcetera.

I'm sure you can imagine how peaceful the learning environment was when our lead student was refusing to narrate almost daily.

I'm sure you can also imagine what a wonderful example this was to the preschool student.

On Monday morning, I decided that things were going to have to be different. I feared that I was not only losing the pleasant learning environment for Student Number One {which could also lead to a distaste for learning over the long term}, but that Student Number Two was studying up on how to openly rebel against the teacher.

This is the Trickle-Down Theory of Rebellion, and the main reason why it is of the utmost importance to tie the allegiances of the oldest child to the family and to Christ as soon and as effectively as possible.

I say this while fully admitting that I am a young mom who may or may not be accomplishing these things effectively. I know our needs without yet seeing much fruit or knowing the true power of our methods. I am often as one who fumbles in the dark.

But I digress.

This week has been a change in approach, and so far it has been 100% effective in eliminating narration difficulties.

You see, I turned narration into a conversation. With this particular child, I can take for granted {most of the time} that he was not only listening, but pretty much memorized the exact text I read to him. Now, instead of having him retell, I try to think of an interesting question with which I can start a conversation about the story. I try to allow the conversation to develop organically while also keeping in mind that I need to ask enough questions that I am sure he has managed to narrate the story through his answers.

And we have been having some wonderful conversations!

Yesterday we were able to discuss the relations between Rome and Britain and Scotland. Today, we discussed the defeats and victories of Robert the Bruce. We learned the lessons of Aesop's The Ants and the Grasshopper and discussed the moral considerations of refusing to help another person. These discussions have been lively while also containing all the details I would desire in a narration.

The important part is that my son is relishing the chance to discuss {and even debate} the material. Gone {for now at least} is that groan at the end of the story where he declares his dislike for narration and wonders aloud why we cannot simply read a story and move on.

In the past, I have also used art as a form of narration {mainly for simple stories--Kipling's Just So Stories are good for this}. In the future, I plan to use essays and reading journals as a form of narration. But right now, narration is conversation here at Whetstone.

10 November 2008

Change.gov: Infringements on Liberty

flacius1551 said...

OK--I will now out myself as a college professor: what O. is proposing is more or less simply a formalization of a situation that I see as relatively common among students these days. That is: the only kind of paid work they can get is in in the various lowpaid service sector--retail, fastfood, waitressing, etc.--so they can't use their work experiences as effective resume fodder. Particularly if they are majoring in something without a direct application {e.g., most liberal arts majors, but also some of the social and natural sciences, esp. psychology or sociology} they have to find a way to get some sort of para-professional experience if they hope to find an entry-level job. I welcome that someone in a leadership position in public life {as opposed to private life} is willing to say that service work with people in an area of interest to you is important. Hopefully this will lead to broader recognition of this situation and benefits for those who participate.
The above is a comment left on my previous post, Change.gov: The New Slavery. {Surely, I will run out of clever titles during this presidential term. Good thing recycling is en vogue.} I told the commenter that I'd be replying in a full post. Part of this is because my reply would be so long that it would be like a post in length. But another part is because this is representative of a trend I see in the culture. In fact, Martyrologist said something similar in his comment:
As far as the required, mandatory service in the schools, I honestly don't see a problem with it. To have community service be a part of the public school curriculum/program is OK with me...High schools in California seem to geared toward one thing right now: exit exams. The quality of education offered has dwindled...And these younger generations are lazier, more apathetic; they could use some hands on experience. Private schools tend to have some sort of community service/ministry credit requirement already. I know in my public high school we had a community service requirement in one of our senior classes {can’t recall if it was government or something like that}; if we didn’t complete it, we didn’t pass and didn’t graduate.
Before going any further, I would like to note that Change.gov does not say that this would be for public school students only. You can see my full comment here.

There are two main issues underlying America Serves. One is lawlessness. The other is liberty {or the lack thereof}. On the side of the citizen, there is a third issue, which I will cover at the end.

Lawlessness

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
-I John 3:4
As a disclaimer, I will say that the lawlessness of our time isn't something that begins with this election. I mentioned lawlessness back when I wrote a bit about Bush's No Child Left Behind during Obamarama 2008. What I said then is still true:
The Constitution makes no room for the President to be involved in the education of individual children. The Founders would be appalled. We need a President who recognizes God's design for society--a President who begins not by referring to "our children," as if children were community property, but by referring to "your children" and "my children," children who belong to a family.
I also mentioned this when I discussed why our family doesn't charter school. Back then I wrote:
The 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America says this:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
There is no portion of the Constitution that grants the federal government any say in how the nation's children are to be educated. This means that the No Child Left Behind law is patently unconstitutional.

Our government is breaking its own laws while quoting one of the framers in their defense.

Now, let's review the 10th amendment again. If a power is not specifically delegated to the federal government, it therefore belongs to the states or to the people. Obviously, I would prefer it belong to the people since governments never run things well, but I would have to admit that the law leaves open for the states to run the show.

I suppose one would have to read each individual state's constitution to give a thorough analysis of the situation, which is something I'm not willing to do. All I want to do is point out that all of the burdens placed upon public schools (including public charter schools) by the federal government are illegal.
All of this is to really say that President Carter's invention of the Federal Department of Education was an act of lawlessness.

Lawlessness is the state of being unrestrained by law. Usually, we refer to criminals when we use this word, but in this case it must be applied to the government. Presidents, who swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, are breaking it every day. And every time we accept it because we think it sounds reasonable. We can think of a reason why their idea is a good one. However, this truth remains: these are acts of lawlessness. Our Presidents have made a habit of breaking the very laws they swear to defend!

At the very least, we should be amending our Constitution. Though I think the Constitution to be sufficient for its purpose in this area, this would least bring about the habit of abiding by laws. Respect for law is foundational to the success of any nation. If these laws, these restrictions on government are so wrong for our time, we should still as a culture have enough respect for law to change the laws rather than break them.

Liberty

...but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.
-Philemon 1:14
Two of my commenters can think of a reason why Obama's ideas are good ones. To be honest, I am not concerned with whether these ideas are good or not. It does not change the fact that they are lawless in nature. It also does not change the fact that they are restrictions on the liberties that we as a nation have always accepted as being given to us not by our government but by our Creator. In other words, the liberties we have are part of being fully human. To have the government infringe on these rights is to have the government to make an attack on humanity in a small way.

We cannot read the history of other failed nations without realizing that small attacks on humanity lead to larger ones later on.

I {or rather, Noah Webster} defined civil liberty in my first post. Civil liberty means that I am free from the arbitrary will of another. I think serving others is great, but I cannot go next door and force by neighbor to go serve with me a couple hours a week. The merits of my idea never justify an assault on my neighbor's liberty.

To take an extreme example of slavery, let's use the Old South. What if the masters had used these slaves for good? What if they had purchased a slave to carry out only good deeds? What if they sent their slaves hither and thither serving the poor, helping others, and so on? Does this justify allowing slaves to remain slaves? What if the slaves' situation was somehow improved? Perhaps it gave them a better education than they would pursue on their own. Maybe they developed character and virtue as they served others. Does this justify treating them as subhuman by infringing on their right as human beings to enjoy freedom and liberty?

Absolutely not! And I don't think many people would argue that it does.

My point extends to this situation. A good idea never, never justifies enslaving another person.

The scariest part of the America Serves proposition is the little word "require." This means that the participants have no choice. So we here in America might just end up where we have the right to kill our unborn children, but not the right to determine how we spend some of our spare time? But not the right as a parent to choose how and when and whom my children will serve?

Folks love to call America a free country. Dear readers, if your President can require you or your children or your children's children to do community service, you are anything but free.

Surrendering Liberty

Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. {But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.}...You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
-I Corinthians 7:21 & 23

I firmly believe one of the reasons Obama feels emboldened to suggest a limitation on freedom is not just the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. It is the people themselves. We have been willing to give up liberties over the last three or four decades for the sake of feeling safe or being cared for or getting a check in the mail or whatnot. We compromise. We do not value our liberty as we should; we do not realize that liberty is part of what it means to be human, that a lack of liberty is oppression.

We allow DUI checkpoints, where cars are stopped and searched by police without warrants or probable cause because we think they keep our streets safer. Does it really matter if all citizens are treated as criminals? It is only for a few minutes.

We allow President Bush to tell every school what they shall teach and how they shall measure success because we think this will give our children a head start in the world. Does it really matter that such an action is a violation of his own vows?

I could go on, but I am sure that we all could think of instances where we have given up a liberty {usually thoughtlessly} because there was some reason at the time that made it seem like a good idea.

President Ronald Reagan was speaking wisdom when he said:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.
_____________________
Links:

Federalist Paper #41: General View of the Powers Conferred by the Constitution
Federalist Paper #69: The Real Character of the Executive

08 November 2008

Honor to Whom Honor

Yesterday, my nephew was huffing about the election of Obama. My son had been doing the same thing. These little boys knew who the adults around them had voted for, and they were disappointed by the loss. They weren't sure what to do with their first defeat in an election.

I didn't have the heart to tell them to get used to it.

I also didn't say much to them as they growled about how they just "couldn't believe it." Mostly, I was amused at their burgeoning interest in the world around them. Not long ago, they were babes that thought of nothing other than food and play. Now here they were, expressing an interest in politics, of all things!

As they complained, I thought of Romans 13:7:
Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
The boys' focus moved to some other subject, so I decided to let this conversation go for now, but I do think it is important to teach our children respect. Come January, Obama will be our president. He was elected fairly {as far as I can tell}, and it is my responsibility as an American to respect him. This is something that is lacking in our postmodern culture. We have this idea that respect must be earned. To some extent that is true. But we cannot forget that wonderful idea of hierarchy.

Some folks are to be respected because of the position they hold.

Sure, it is easier for me to respect a president with whom I agree {not that we've ever had one of those in the years I have voted}. But I must still respect and honor a president because of his office.

Does this mean we cannot disagree? Of course not. It is not disrespectful for me to critique Obama's website or speeches. It is not disrespectful to think through what any ruler has done and whether or not it was right. But to say that he is not my president or to call him horrible names is to engage in disrespectful acts with which I should not be associated with as a Christian.

The Bible places an emphasis on honor. We are to honor our parents, regardless of how well we think they did their job. We women are to honor our husbands, even if we think they're making a bad decision. Honor entails, among other things, respecting God's order for the culture, even when we don't agree with those who hold the positions of power.

So when the little ones around me are moping about the election, I think I will have to remind them that their new president is just that: their new president. And they should respect him because it is the right thing to do. Dissent can be accomplished without dishonor.

07 November 2008

Change.gov: The New Slavery

LIB'ERTY, n. [L. libertas, from liber, free.]
Civil liberty, is the liberty of men in a state of society, or natural liberty, so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state or nation. A restraint of natural liberty, not necessary or expedient for the public, is tyranny or oppression. Civil liberty is an exemption from the arbitrary will of others, which exemption is secured by established laws, which restrain every man from injuring or controlling another. Hence the restraints of law are essential to civil liberty.
Natural liberty, consists in the power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature. It is a state of exemption from the control of others, and from positive laws and the institutions of social life. This liberty is abridged by the establishment of government.
FREE'DOM, n.
A state of exemption from the power or control of another; liberty; exemption from slavery, servitude or confinement. Freedom is personal, civil, political, and religious.
There was a part of me that was hoping that I was wrong, that President-Elect Obama really would be some sort of delightful change and that I could rest assured that America will continue as she has been. Alas, I believe Obama will turn out to be worse than I feared. The dread grew in my heart as I watched his acceptance speech. For the first time in my experience, I watched a presidential acceptance speech given on a blank stage. Where was Obama's family? Where was the vice-president elect? There was something very scary in this simple act, as if it was a premonition of tyranny.

Apparently, even the liberal media began to pick up on this. A couple Newsweek reporters had this to say:
Meacham stated that he was "very struck watching the stagecraft" of Obama and pointed out how Obama gave his victory speech by himself: "...[H]ave you ever seen a victory speech where there was no one else on stage? No adoring wife, no cute kid -- he is the message." Thomas went one step further in this vein: "There is a slightly creepy cult of personality about all of this." Rose confronted him on his use of this phrase, and he explained that it made him "a little uneasy that he's so singular. He's clearly managing his own spectacle. He knows how to do it. He's a -- I think, a deeply manipulative guy..." Later, all three marveled about how it was "amazing" that Obama "watches us watching him."
I would highly suggest reading this whole article at Newbusters as it explains much about what we will be dealing with as a people these next four years. After all, a deeply manipulative leader means that all of us are going to need to be seriously thinking through the issues as they arise.

Take, for instance, the case of Obama's new website, Change.gov. I plan to dig around it and write an analysis once a week or so. If I have to stand by and watch the decline of everything that is good about America, I want to be documenting it. I want to tell my children the story of how the Constitution died.

At the top of Change.gov is a little file tab that says, AMERICA SERVES. It sounds harmless enough. As a Christian, service is very important to me. I understand that I am a slave to Christ and that all that I do can rightfully be considered an act of service not just to my fellow man, but to God Himself. As an American, I understand that service is also valued culturally. We understand that one of the things that makes this country such a great place to live is that it is filled with many good people desiring to do good things.

But if you click on that little file tab, you will read this {emphasis mine}:
The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.
This is couched in rhetoric about liberty:
"When you choose to serve -- whether it's your nation, your community or simply your neighborhood -- you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans. That's why it's called the American dream."
The Obama transition team deliberately appeals to the American ideal of freedom while undermining it at the same time. One of the things that makes someone a master of manipulation is the ability to twist words and cause the listener to believe that a word has a different meaning, or that somehow the listener's own understanding of the meaning was limited by their own ignorance.

So let's get something straight: Service is good. Mandatory service is slavery.

It's that simple.

Our forefathers did not fight and die so that a future president could require all citizens to spend their spare hours in required toil for the nation. This smacks of communism, where the government requires that all be done for the sake of the motherland or fatherland or whatever they want to call it.

While I'm at it, let's just cover a few other bases in this issue.

First, the most effective form of service is person to person. Bureaucracies in general are notoriously inefficient and ineffective. Government bureaucracies are even worse. So in order to "meet the nation's challenges" Obama would like us to all engage in the least efficient method for doing this.

Second, as Christians, our spare time is best spent in service to our King and not this earthly kingdom. {Though I firmly believe that as Christians serve their King, the earthly kingdom reaps great benefit.} Now, there are many, many ways to serve our King. I will never tell you how you should be spending your extra time. But notice that Obama's list is full of government agencies. Does baking cookies for a new neighbor count? Probably not. Does taking a box of food to a needy family count? Not likely. Does visiting a sick relative in the hospital count? You tell me.

The Christian life is often characterized by taking advantage of life's little moments. It isn't about joining a service club as much as it is living a life of service. So what I'm really saying here is that Obama is not only attempting to legalize a form of slavery where the government is the master {this is also called serfdom}, but he is also interrupting the way Americans have practiced their faith for hundreds of years.

Thirdly, do not underestimate the significance of this act. This is the arm of government expressing its desire to reach into your home and family life to an extent that didn't even happen when we were ruled by King George of England! We are not a free people under Obama, and do not for a minute think that his interest lies in any of us existing as such.

06 November 2008

The Darndest Things: Stare Down

Today I was nursing the baby in a back room when I heard the door open. A. and E. were supposedly playing in the backyard, but this was undeniably little feet, making their way to the pantry and then back through the door. When I checked it out, I found evidence that Someone had gotten into the raisin canister and was enjoying an Unauthorized Snack.

I have to control A.'s snacks, as she likes to fill up and then refuse real meals. She is also sneaky. I knew it was her. I didn't have to see her to know this. She was guilty, I was convinced.

A few minutes later, I was back to my nursing and I heard someone come into the house. This time the little person made it down the hallway on the way to a bathroom. I looked at her. She looked at me.

"No more raisins," I said.

She stared at me with a blank look. The seconds ticked by. After what seemed an eternity to me, I began to doubt myself. I tried not to change my facial expression as I silently wondered if I could have been wrong.

"No more raisins," I repeated. I was calling her bluff here. Two minutes later, and still she stood motionless and expressionless.

Suddenly, she broke into a big smile.

"Okay!" she sang, and skipped away.

05 November 2008

Hannah Coulter: Double Incomes and Still In Debt

Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:7-8
One of our mantras around here is, "Don't spend what you don't have." Or something along those lines. We are very strict in this regard, though it doesn't feel like strictness to me anymore. It feels like common sense. It is thoroughly sensible not to spend money we don't have. After all, debt cannot truly be equated with ownership, and I think this is where we get into trouble.

Let's take the example of a house, which is the one area where we owe money. The house we live in is ours.

And yet it isn't.

I look at it as renting from the bank. We do not own this house. If we can no longer pay for it, we won't be able to live here. Though the arrangement with the bank gives us a lot more freedom than a traditional rental agreement where we couldn't even paint a wall inside if we wanted to, the fact is that we do not own our home.

We lease it in hopes that, over the long term, it will belong to us.

In this sense, we are slaves. However, before we lived here we were renting in the traditional sense. The monthly rent was more than our current mortgage, and our budget was stretched so tightly {with the rent being the largest and most inflexible monthly bill}, that moving, even though it meant borrowing, was still the best use of our money. After all, our monthly rent had made it practically impossible for us to save up for a house. But living in this house costs us less every month, allows us to be paying off something instead of wasting money on rent, and also makes doing something crazy like saving some of our money look feasible.

But I don't pretend to own this house, though I assure myself that we should eventually own it.

However, all of this isn't really my point. My point is that one of the reasons why we find ourselves with a populace that is more concerned with being saved by the government than it is electing a president who will fulfill his vow of protecting their freedom is because they are mired in debt. I don't want to overly simplify things {since the breakdown of the family is another huge issue here}, and yet I think I have a valid point here. After all, I'm sure we all remember this poor woman:



The inability of our wallet to cover the most basic expenses has been allowed to defeat the American spirit of rugged individualism and self-sufficiency.

Debt, my friends, is a big way that this happens. And I don't just mean debt of the poor. I also mean debt of the rich. When the rich {or even just the not destitute} are not living well below their means, how are they able to be generous? When there is nothing left, there is nothing left to give.

Part of what has changed in our culture, starting with the Baby Boomers, was this expectation of affluence. There was a sense of entitlement, that all of us should get everything we want. We are not to be comfortable with a modest life.

It used to be different, and that is where Wendell Berry comes in. He gives us a glimpse into the past and contrasts it with the present:
So Margaret married Marcus. They rented an apartment in Louisville, and Margaret got a job teaching the fifth grade. They would be one couple with two jobs, two incomes, and, if I'm not mistaken, two bank accounts. Margaret's school was a long way from Marcus's and in the opposite direction from their apartment. Because of that, she had to buy a car of her own right away. She borrowed the money to buy the car from the Independent Farmers Bank in Port William. The interest on the loan raised the cost of the car a lot higher than the sales price, and by the time she paid off the loan the worth of the car would be a lot less than she paid for it. In the meantime, they would have to pay for everything else they needed. Everything. I hadn't thought before of the fix they would be getting themselves into, but now that I did I was afraid for them. They were hardly going to be able to breathe without paying somebody for the privilege.

I said to Nathan, "They're starting out behind."

He didn't say anything. He just shook his head.

When we got married he had an old pickup truck that he had paid for with cash. It was a rattletrap, but we drove it until the children got so big we couldn't all sit in it. We had a debt on the farm, of course, for what seemed to us a lot of money in those days, but we went straight to work to make it worth more than Nathan had paid for it. We paid off that debt in nine years, and from then on, as Nathan liked to say, we never owed a nickel to anybody. We were paid up, living on our own land that was paid for, and so our work kept us.

04 November 2008

The Darndest Things: The Prick of Conscience

This morning during school, we read a couple selections out of Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book. As is usual during our Ambleside Time, I read the story aloud and had E. take care to listen closely. After I finished, he retold the story back to me in his own words. This process is often referred to as narration.

E.'s retelling of the story Prince Darling was particularly impressive because it is such a long story and, unlike most fairy tales, it has more than one lesson that can be gleaned from it. I love this fairy tale, but because of its complexity, it didn't surprise me that my son seemed to pick out one moral and tell the story through that lens.

This moral was that of conscience. You see, in Prince Darling, the Fairy Truth gives the prince a ring that will prick him when he does wrong. We see it "put pressure on his finger" when he has a bit of a sour spirit, and actually cause his finger to run with blood when he does a great evil in kicking his own sweet dog. Each wrongdoing gets the appropriate level of pricking.

During narration, my son declared that he wished he had a ring like that. He thought it might help!

But it gets better.

Later, he was harrassing A., which is something he's been in trouble for doing lately. He told her she was naughty, which caused her to begin to cry. As I reminded him he wasn't supposed to do such a thing, he looked at me with a big, guilty grin, held his finger, and said, "PRICK!"

Election Day Traditions

Si and I have some Election Day traditions that we've developed over the years. So far, it is just he and I, but I can envision when the children are a bit older and this tradition begins to include them as well.

First, the TV hidden away in our back room is allowed into the living room. This only happens during important events! We often keep in on throughout the evening, though I'm not sure about that tonight. The interesting thing about Proposition 8, which I discussed yesterday, is that even having to vote on this issue means that the issue has come to the forefront of public discussion. I find myself having to protect my innocent children even more from talk radio, television news, and even adult political conversation! They are simply too young to be introduced to the subject, and that might factor in to whether or not the TV stays on.

I am really wishing we had fancy cable news stations for tonight. We had that once during an election, and it made it more fun.

Anyhow, the children should be in bed at their normal time, and then we will be up having our private political party. Often, we order a pizza or something, but tonight we decided on homemade pizookies.

Somewhere around nine or ten o'clock, results begin rolling in, and then we start our pity party where we mourn the state of politics in this country and marvel at how many bond measures pass in the state of California.

It's really quite fun and as our children get older I look forward to making it a community event.

Do you have any Election Night traditions?

03 November 2008

Voting Local





It is easy during this presidential election to forget that there are other items {and people} being voted for on Tuesday. Local elections are often overshadowed by this crazy thing called The National News. The National News gives the impression that big cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are what really matters. Occasionally New Orleans matters, but only if the news can get a lot of drama {and therefore a lot of viewers} out of the deal.

The National News doesn't care a whole lot about my backyard...or yours.

But everything starts small. Just as the family is the foundation of the entire society {we know this because of Genesis where God creates the foundational First Human Relationship--that of marriage}, local government is the foundation of the entire extended government.

Ideally, the Constitution has this worked out through the fact that local government has actual control over things that matter, and the money to express that control. But this began to go downhill way back in 1913 when the 17th Amendment was ratified. This was one of the breakdowns of the Republic.

However, local government still has power, often in ways we don't fully recognize or think about. For instance, where do you think all these US Senators come from? Well, unless they are filthy rich {like our governor here in California, for example}, most folks start local. They might be a mayor of a town or a member of the state assembly. These folks run in local elections for many years before they reach the national level.

So if you think who you vote for in the local election doesn't really matter, maybe it would help if you think of it as a nomination process. Not only will these people make decisions in your stead concerning local issues, but there is a chance that they will eventually run for national office.

And that means that who you vote for in your local election out there in the Midwest just might eventually have an impact on my life over here on the Left Coast.

And then there are all the propositions! Every election gives the voters a chance to increase their debt load at both the local and state levels. Here in California I would say that we spend money like water except that we don't have much water and many of us actually try to conserve it, so I guess we just spend money like...well, like someone seems to have, seeing as there are so many defaulting on loans these days.

Did you think I would say "spend money like the rich?" Then you need to think again. Rich people do not get rich spending money frivolously. Usually the conspicuous consumers amongst the rich are those with what we call Family Money, which is far different from the rich who worked hard for what they have.

Moving ever onward.

California is the fifth largest economy in the world. However, we can't seem to balance our budget, and we never have enough money. In fact, the money came close to running out last month, but we were rescued by other loans. Some propositions might be good ideas, others might be bad, but they usually have one thing in common and that is this little thing called a dollar sign. Propositions are often nothing but a chance to issue bonds that will be paid back at some hazy date in the future. Bonds are also known as debt.

And California pays these debts, by the way, by borrowing additional funds into one gigantic, unfathomably large debt snowball.

Debt is debt whether the cause at hand seems good or bad and there really is a sense in which we are mortgaging our children's future.

And then there are the moral issues. Take Proposition 8 here in California. This is, I think, as significant an issue as Roe v. Wade was in its time. If you live in California, at least go vote for Prop 8. Proposition 8 matters on a couple levels. First is the people's relationship with the Courts. Here in California, a law was already passed, but the Court overruled the people by discovering a new right hidden within the California State Constitution. Proposition is very much an act of the people overruling the Court once and for all. This will finally set some sort of precedent for holding the Courts accountable.

The Courts generally hold us all hostage because they wield power without any accountability. We were intended to have checks and balances in this nation, but I have never heard of the executive or legislative branches attempting to balance the unchecked power of the Courts.

In 1828, Noah Webster offered this definition of marriage:
The act of uniting a man and woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. Marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.
I have heard some Christians say that changing this definition doesn't really matter. A common refrain is that "it won't affect my marriage." Besides the fact that this sounds quite selfish and unconcerned with marriage in general and the marriages of others in particular, it is also quite unconcerned with our own offspring. To redefine a word that defines the foundation not only of our culture, but of all culture is to make this a very different world {locally} in which to rear my children, and in which my children will rear their children.

But as Christians, it is also important that we not allow {as much as it is in our power} for black to be called white. We are told that our faith is expressed through marriage, that marriage is a picture of Christ and his Church. If we lose the definition of marriage, we lose the meaning of many passages of Scripture {over time}, as well as the power of this essential Scriptural metaphor.

This is not just about a word, and don't let anyone tell you that it is.

Of course, if it is just about a word, as some say, then someone needs to think up another word because to say that A and not-A can be described using the same word is a violation of the most basic logic.

Not that California is often accused of being logical, but I digress.

So get out and vote. Remember that your local election matters because your own town matters, because your elected officials might someday wield greater power and you have the power to discourage or encourage their rule, and because your local election might just set a precedent for the nation.

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Links:

Prop 8 death threats against a Fresno pastor and mayor
Resources on the Theology of Church and State