Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It's amazing every time

P. has become the newest reader in our home. There are still a lot of words that she needs help with (have you ever tried to sound out 'laugh'?), but there are many words she knows on sight plus any word that is pronounced phonetically. I have noticed there is one moment in time when several things fall together...when things just 'click'. It's at that moment I know, although the child is currently reading easy readers, the time is very short until that child is reading completely independently. What are those things? First is when a child starts to really notice the words around them. For instance, when we are driving along and I become aware that words along the way are being seen and read. It sometimes seems that before this point, the child doesn't even see the words, much less is able to read them. Next, is a willingness to keep practicing. At first, with all my children, initial lessons in reading are not a favorite activity; it's not something any one of them has begged to do. But we keep plugging away in very short lessons (no more than 5-10 minutes a day). Then one day, I realize it is the child who is driving the reading lessons. He or she will have found a book that they really want to read, past looking at the pictures, so they are asking me for help. (I purposefully try to never read our easy readers out loud as storybooks so they retain that mystery.) Finally, there is that actual moment when the child can just read certain sounding work...they just can't help knowing what the word says. Life will never be the same for P; a whole new world has opened up for her. I am amazed every time, because it often happens just at the point where I resign myself to endless years of basic phonics lesson. I also feel so blessed that I am the one who gets to share this miraculous moment with my child and not anyone else. Four down, three to go.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Why I love mending

Really, I do love it, but it wasn't always this way. When my children were younger and there were fewer of them, I would often give away clothes which had been worn for a while, but had holes or some such wear. Jeans were often the most injured item. My girls are hard on the knees of jeans, but the boys are much worse. At some point it started to bother me that the rest of the garment was fine except for those dratted holey knees. But I was stymied as to how to fix them. This was not something that had been role-modeled for me and though I knew how to sew I couldn't figure out how to do it. Enter my friend, K. K., a mother of 8, who is a few years ahead of me in parenting. She mentioned in passing that she repaired jeans with sewn-on patches and not the annoying iron-on kind. K.K. then graciously spent an afternoon showing me how she did it and that was the beginning of my love of mending. So why do I love it? Well,

1. It saves money. I tend to be somewhat of a miser, although I usually use the word "frugal" because it has nicer connotations. I hate to buy something that I already have. To me, the ideal piece of clothing lasts through at least three children.

2. It is creative. While some mending is just sewing up holes, such as little boys' sweat pants, other mending can be very rewarding. I particularly enjoy patching the girls' jeans. They often have decorations to begin with, so it is fun to see how to incorporate the patch and make it fit with the rest of the design. For instance, the pair of jeans I mended today had pink, yellow, and red hearts embroidered down one side. For the patch I used a piece of red fabric, which I already had, and stitched it on with yellow thread in the same manner in which the hearts were sewn. Then using pink thread I sewed a large heart in the middle of the patch. They are pants that A recently outgrew so they have moved to P. When A saw the patch she deemed it cool and moaned that P got to wear them. It is perhaps the greatest compliment she could have given me. I now see it as a challenge to repair the damaged clothing so that it looks as though it was made that way and not just a repair job.

3. It is quick. Even if I just have a half an hour, I can usually complete at least one mending job. It gives a feeling of satisfaction for having actually completed something. And since many housekeeping jobs never feel "finished" that is no small thing.

4. It can be a ministry. This is another piece of wisdom I gained from K.K. Often, if clothing was too worn (in my pre-mending days), I would just give it away. But I was challenged by what K.K. does. Before donating an article of clothing, she goes ahead and repairs it. Her rationale is that the people to whom the clothing is donated often are the very ones who have neither the time nor the means to repair it themselves. So, they are forced to use clothing which they cannot, at this point in their lives, fix. By repairing it before donation, we can impart some dignity to those who will use it both by showing that they are worth our effort and by allowing them to dress in clothing without holes.

He makes me laugh

At dinner tonight, J asked everyone to close their eyes so we could say grace. So everyone closes their eyes and holds hands. In the moment between everyone calming down and when we start to pray, we hear D say, "Hey! Why is it so dark in here?"

Friday, February 22, 2008

Flanders and Swann

We are big fans of Flanders and Swann, the vocal comedy duo who were popular in the 1950's. M and B often burst into song, singing one or a medley of their favorite selections, but recently the most sung is "The Gasman Cometh" For you poor, impoverished souls who have never been introduced to Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, let us introduce you:

(I tried to embed the youtube video...but am evidently too technically challenged.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

You just never know

I spent the evening at a memorial service for a 30 year old young woman. Last week when she went in to have an injury to her knee looked at because it wasn't healing, it was discovered that she had very advanced leukemia. Within 24 hours she was dead. It was completely unexpected and terribly sudden. She had just become engaged to be married which makes it even more tragic. My connection to her was that I was one of her junior high youth leaders, oh so long ago. I'm trying to organize my thoughts about all this, so bear with me

You just never know when your time on earth is up. There was no reason why anyone would expect a seemingly healthy 30 year old to die. I'm afraid the majority of us live our lives as if we're guaranteed that we'll have at least 70 or 80 years. But we just don't know. I've been asking myself if I would live differently if I knew my span of years or the span of years of the those I love. I'm sure I would...I'm sure we all would. On some level it's not practical to live every moment as if the next will be your last, because, really, no one would ever do any laundry. But on another level, it would make all the difference. It would really help to illuminate what is really important. Is it more important to do that sinkful of dishes or to read a story to a couple of little boys? Surely the dishes can wait another 10 minutes. Is it really worth the hassle of loading a bunch of small children (in winter coats) into their carseats to go and visit an older friend who is recovering from surgery? Yes, although it is so easy to put it off to another with perhaps less snow and ice and above freezing temperatures. But what if there isn't another day? If I had just one more day left, would I really want to spend it growling at my children, or being jealous of a neighbor, or buying things I don't really need? No, but yet I do these things, if not everyday, enough to make me a bit uncomfortable about how I spend my time and my attitude towards the time I have.

It also makes me ask myself what do I really believe? Intellectualy, I can give you a wonderful point by point presentation of the Gospel...about God's great love for us and the sacrifice He made for us so that we can be with Him always. (I won't go into that here, if you want the long version email me.) But we all know that it's our actions that reveal our true beliefs. It's why it's annoying when a parent tells a child, "Do as I say, not as I do", because we all know the parent is asking the child to do something the parent isn't, but often should be doing. If I really believe that Christ died to give us eternal life...that we who follow Christ are going to a place where we won't have to say good-bye to loved ones anymore because in this place no one will get sick and die ever again...then why don't I tell more people this good news? Why do I worry so much about what people think of me? I worry that I will be seen as this loony who instead of turning people to Jesus, I will turn them away.

Several of the 20- or 30-somethings who spoke tonight, seemed to have no theology at all. (Actually, I take that back, everyone has a theology whether one realizes it or not.) But they had obviously not thought through what they believed and the implications those beliefs implied. The idea of what happens to someone after death was fuzzy. The general concensus was that there had to be something of the young woman left. I don't believe that many people find the idea of obliteration very palatable. If all life ends in nothingness then Neitzsche and Sartre got it right and we can all go and be depressed somewhere. So the big question is, if there is something of a person left after life, what is left and where does it go? The general consensus of the speakers this evening seemed to be that the person's spirit is left which then floats around and makes those of us missing the person feel better. Um, frankly I find this a bit creepy and rather depressing as well. I don't really want to hang around watching my loved ones mourn, while floaty spirit that I am can't really do anything to ease their pain, and then watch as they move on with their lives while I'm left in some kind of limbo. And what happens when those people are no longer alive? Do they join me in the floaty limbo? What do we do there? I'm afraid we're back to Neitzsche and Sartre in a slightly different package. It all just reminds me how many people there are who are searching for answers, even if they aren't aware of it. And there are answers out there. Answers that are logically coherent; answers that provide hope and purpose; answers that can take the sting out of death.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What were they thinking?!?

One of the hats I wear is that of children's choir director at our church. Every year, in the spring, we put on a musical. This was my least favorite part of the position when I first started ten years ago, but it has become one of my favorites. Except for today. I'm trying to cast the musical so I can give parts out at rehearsal. This is always a slightly tricky business...balancing who would be best for a part without anyone feeling slighted. (It's not an audition choir, our main emphasis is enjoying making music together while internalizing some really great words and concepts.) This year, this dreaded task is even worse. I have 6 sixth graders, all of whom are dedicated, talented and enthusiastic, and really just three parts with any substance. So my question remains, "What were they thinking?" I have used other musicals by this same team which have had a goodly number of parts, both small and large. Sometimes I've even had to combine roles (oh happy day!) because there were too many parts to go around. But not this year. Now I ask you, if you are in the business of writing children's musicals, wouldn't it make sense to write for more rather than fewer children? Or at least make all the speaking parts equitably distributed? We're not talking scripts for Broadway, for Heaven's sake.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pictures of two kitchens

It should really be three kitchens because to fully appreciate where we end up, you should see where we began. But, sadly, I have no digital pictures of the kitchen we just demolished. So you will have to picture for yourselves a very small kitchen with gray "like plastic" cupboards and (best of all) the reflective metal panelling on the ceiling. Because everyone needs a mirrored kitchen ceiling. Let's just say it wasn't beautiful.

Our current kitchen is in the basement. It's not too bad, except I really do miss the dishwasher (despite my earlier post). And I really don't recommend concrete as a choice for flooring. We've lost more dishes to breakage in the past month than we had the past year. So, for those who have asked, pictures of the basement kitchen:

Countertop and cabinets pictured here were transported from demolished kitchen down to temporary kitchen (thanks, Pete!). Stove (gift of Bidny-Paleys) is on the site of second water heater, which failed a few years ago... very convenient, since gas line was already in situ, and required just a little re-piping by J. (Remaining water heater is just out of pic to right... and still functions fine, knock on wood.)

Door at left goes to back portion of basement, now under construction. Plastic-and-tape-covered door goes to horrible bathroom... source of occasional sewer back-up (but not any time soon, we hope)....

Former laundry folding table now makes excellent breakfast bar....
Doors from left to right: to garage, pantry, and to remainder of basement at front of house, where the new stairs descend....
Close-up of pantry....

I'm also including pictures of the future kitchen. The framing is well on its way to being done and roughing in is also starting. It's going to be a big embarrassingly big kitchen.

Looking southeast, through what will be the kitchen. Sink will be under left window.Looking southwest, other end of kitchen, where home-office desk will be....Pivoting northwest from previous picture, toward backstairs.
Just 4 or 5 months to go....

Thursday, February 14, 2008

100th post

Instead of telling you 100 random things about myself, such as I rode on my university's equestrian team or that I once tied my brother to the top of the swing set by his belt loop, I've decided to list 100 of my some of my favorite books. This list is woefully incomplete (I'm sure I've forgotten some), and 100 isn't really enough to cover all my favorites. But it's a start. I'm sure that my (somewhat eccentric) reading list will tell you far more about me than 100 random facts. For organizational purposes, I've divided it into sets of 20, separated into different categories. Within each category, there is no order, just the order in which I came across them on the bookshelf. Oh, the (*) indicates that the book listed is the first of a series, so consider the whole series as a part of the list. Happy reading!

Children's Picture Books

1. Dogger - Shirley Hughes
2. The Seven Silly Eaters - Mary Ann Hoberman
3. Bread and Jam for Frances* - Russell Hoban
4. A House is a House for Me - Mary Ann Hoberman
5. Blueberries for Sal - Robert McCloskey
6. Tacky the Penguin* - Helen Lester
7. Where the Wild Things - Maurice Sendak
8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle
9. Andrew Henry's Meadow - Doris Burn
10. Least of All - Carol Purdy
11. Elsie Piddock Skips in her Sleep - Eleanor Farjeon and Charlotte Voake
12. The Eleventh Hour - Graeme Base
13. Roxaboxen - Alice McLerran
14. Magic Schoolbus series* - Joanna Cole and Bruce Degan
15. Talking Like the Rain - X. J. Kennedy and Dorothy M. Kennedy, eds.
16. Joyful Noise: poems for 2 voices - Paul Fleischman and Eric Beddows
17. Paddle-to-the-Sea* - Holling C. Holling
18. Castle* - David Macauly
19. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear - Don Wood
20. McDuff Moves In* - Rosemary Wells

Children's Chapter Books

21. Winnie-the-Pooh* - A. A. Milne
22. Chronicles of Narnia* - C. S. Lewis
23. Anne of Green Gables* - L. M. Montgomery
24. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
25. The Five Children and It* - E. Nesbitt
26. The Borrowers* - Mary Norton
27. A Wrinkle in Time* - Madeleine L'Engle
28. Swallows and Amazons* - Arthur Ransome
29. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - Robert O'Brien
30. Little Women* - Louisa May Alcott
31. The Bronze Bow - Elizabeth George Speare
32. Johnny Tremain - Esther Forbes
33. The Door in the the Wall - Marguerite di Angeli
34. Ramona the Pest* - Beverly Cleary
35. Surviving the Applewhites - Stephanie S. Tolan
36. Mandy - Julie Edwards
37. Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
38. The Four-Story Mistake* - Elizabeth Enright
39. Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators* - Robert Arthur (Not great literature, but wonderful memories of my mother reading them on car trips.)
40. Freckles* - Gene Stratton Porter


41. House of Nicollo* - Dorothy Dunnett
42. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
43. anything by P. G. Wodehouse (especially his short stories)
44. Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries* - Dorothy Sayers
45. Make Way for Lucia* - E. F. Benson (This is the only time I will ever recommend reading a series out of order. If you've never read these, start with Mapp and Lucia.)
46. The Eyre Affair* - Jasper Fforde
47. Amelia Peabody mystery series* - Elizabeth Peters
48. Winter's Tale - Mark Helprin
49. Barsetshire series* - Angela Thirkell
50. Possession - A. S. Byatt
51. Morality Play - Barry Unsworth
52. A Year in Provence - Peter Mayle
53. Parnassus on Wheels - Christopher Morley
54. Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott
55. anything by Jane Austen
56. anything by Anthony Trollope
57. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
58. Palace Walk* - Naguib Mafouz
59. Les Miserable - Victor Hugo
60. God is an Englishman - R. F. Delderfield

Non-Fiction - General

61. Eats, Shoots and Leaves - Lynne Truss
62. House - Tracey Kidder
63. Made in America - Bill Bryson
64. The Singer of Tales - Albert B. Lord
65. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt - Edmund Morris
66. Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
67. Seabiscuit - Laura Hillenbrand
68. Eminent Dogs and Dangerous Men - Donald McCaig
69. Mere Christianity - C. S. Lewis
70. The Ever-Loving Truth - Voddie Baucham

Non-Fiction - Memoir

71. A Circle of Quiet - Madeleine L'Engle
72. L'Abri - Edith Schaeffer
73. Will Mrs. Major go to Hell? - Aloise Buckley Heath
74. The Art of Eating - M. F. K. Fisher
75. Cheaper by the Dozen - Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth
76. Wild Swans - Jung Chang
77. Life Among the Savages - Shirley Jackson
78. Raising Demons - Shirley Jackson
79. 84 Charring Cross Road - Helen Hanff
80. God's Smuggler - Brother Andrew

Non-Fiction - Parenting/Family/Adoption/Homeschooling

81. Endangered Minds - Jane Healy
82. How Children Fail - John Holt
83. For the Children's Sake - Susan Schaeffer Macauley
84. The Hidden Art of Homemaking - Edith Schaeffer
85. What is a Family? - Edith Schaeffer
86. Family Driven Faith - Voddie Baucham
87. Unprotected - Miriam Grossman
88. Parenting in the Pew - Robbie Castleman
89. No Ordinary Home - Carol Brazos
90. Parenting the Hurt Child - Keck & Kupeckey
91. Attaching in Adoption - Deborah Gray
92. Nuturing Adoptions - Deborah Gray
93. Toddler Adoption: the weaver's craft - Mary Hopkins-Best
94. Becoming Attached - Robert Karen
95. The Power of Motherhood - Nancy Campbell
96. The Family Meal Table and Hospitality - Nancy Campbell
97. The Well-Trained Mind - Jesse Wise and Susan Wise Bauer
98. Family Matters: why homeschooling makes sense - David Guterson
99. Dumbing us Down - John Taylor Gatto
100. Passionate Housewives Desparate for God - Jennie Chancey and Stacey Campbell

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Read this book!

I have stayed up way too late finishing this book: The Baby Thief: the untold story of Georgia Tann, the baby seller who corrupted adoption. It's by Barbara Bisantz Raymond who is an adoptive mother as well as a journalist. It is both a horrifying and fascinating look at how modern American adoption developed over the course of the last century. And it eerily parrallels what is happening with current international adoption. For those who care deeply about adoption and wish adoption to be humane and ethical for all parts of the adoption triad, you need to read this book. History tends to repeat itself and we need to know our past...horrors and all...if we hope to stop the cycle from continuing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Finally some news on the adoption front

And it is GOOD news! Our agency called this morning with the news that we have the Department of Justice approval we have been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for. As of January 28, we are officially waiting for our travel approval. So it looks as though we will miss K's 2nd birthday, but should be there soon afterward.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Simple Homemaker

I used to teach piano. I taught from home and never worked more than 15 hours a week. It was never the main focus of my day and often it felt as though it was the 'something I had to' and not the 'something I wanted to do'. But, it gave me an easy answer to those questions. You know the ones..."Hi, nice to meet you, what do you do?", "Do you work?", Occupation: _______. And while I spent far more time raising my children and tending my home, I always answered, "I teach piano." It was as if I suddenly had value. People would discuss their own piano lessons, ask about lessons for children, ask about my education, etc. It's not that these people often knew anything about music, but they were willing to discuss it. When we brought TM home, my easy answer went away. Up until the fall of '05, my mother-in-law would come to play with the children while I taught. She made up fantastic imaginary games that would involve them all for hours. My children would ask what we were doing that day and would cheer if I were teaching. It meant Grandma was coming over. After her death, the general attitude about my teaching schedule noticably changed. No one cheered; more often groans were heard. It became increasingly more difficult to explain to the 2 year old that I couldn't pay attention to him because some other child was paying for my time. The money wasn't worth it anymore so I stopped teaching. It was also when I discovered that my new occupation was the ultimate conversation killer. Homemaking as an occupation has no value it seems. No one wants to discuss how I spend my day...they feel they already know and it's not worth their time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of what I do. I work hard at managing our home so that it is organized and pleasant. I want it to be a place where people are comfortable visiting and where we can practice hospitality. I enjoy raising my children, watching them learn and discover things, training them in the ways they should grow. It's just that since there is no monetary reward to all that I do, in the eyes of many, it is worthless. Or even worse is the outright surprise when someone who tends her home does something not home-related. Who knew she had the brains to do that!?! All this is a lead-up to the letter I felt compelled to send today:

Dear Mr. ______,

I was listening to your program yesterday morning while you were talking about the writer of the hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour”. I feel the need to comment on your description of the hymn writer. More than once you described the hymn writer as being a “simple homemaker”. I realize that it is difficult to self-edit while hosting a radio show, and I was willing to overlook the statement the first time. But it was the third time you repeated this phrase that has caused me to write to you. Please think about everything this statement implies.

In today’s usage, the word ‘simple’ often has the connotation of not complex, and when used to describe a person, it also implies the idea of feeble minded. I’m sure this is not what you meant to imply, but I’m afraid it is how it came across. As a homemaker myself, I find that too often society portrays us in this light. The message is, “If you [the homemaker] had any intelligence or self-respect, you would be out working in the world and not merely staying home to wipe noses and scrub toilets.” We both know this is patently untrue, yet it is the message given out by the media every day.

Why should it be a point of amazement that a “simple homemaker” might write a hymn? Is hymn-writing so far out of the typical ability of a homemaker that it is more incredible than hymn-writing by a minister or doctor or ship’s captain? Would a hymn-writing missionary be described as a “simple missionary”?

In general, our culture denigrates everything related to homemaking and child-rearing, seeing these as menial tasks that ought to be outsourced whenever possible. God, on the other hand, calls us to home and family as areas of ministry that are every bit as challenging and valuable as more formally recognized or paid positions. I am grateful that WXXX often goes out of its way to support the calling of homemaking, but this support is also why I was particularly disturbed to hear an WXXX host falling into this same stereotype.

Thank you for your consideration,

Saturday, February 02, 2008

If only they could all be this productive

I love days when I feel as though I get something done. After a day spent in the kitchen...

6 loaves of multi-grain bread

2 loaves of banana bread

1 batch of granola

and 1 pot of split pea soup for dinner.

Oh, and no dirty dishes are in the sink. I can sleep peacefully.
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