Archive for 2013


The boys have been on a space kick recently, so I abandoned my neat list of two-week school units and all we've been doing is space, space, space. Rockets, planets, space shuttles, stars, moons, galaxies...whatever we can find and that they'll sit through. I might post a list of the books we've gone through later if anyone is interested, but mostly we just look through whatever we have on the shelves here and whatever they have at the library and then read, reread, reread. And then we talk, talk, talk about what we've been learning.

Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship is our evening read aloud and their oral story is usually either a story about them going into space and visiting planets or is the story of creation.

We've been printing out space coloring sheets (rockets, planets, etc) to color and varying levels of activity. Some days they just color, some days we add star stickers. We've made rockets out of toilet paper tubes. We've assembled our solar system puzzle several times. And today we did a craft I did absolutely no planning for. It just sort of fell together and it worked out well.

They each picked a color of construction paper for asteroids and then cut the asteroids out with a little help for practice with scissors, while I cut out the planets for them. Then we started with Jupiter, Earth, and Mars and they glued those and then glued the asteroid belt in the middle. Then I gave them the rest of the planets and the sun and let them sort them onto which side of the belt they belonged on. 

We've also watched For All Mankind about the lunar missions over at Hulu+ and we've watched this NASA video about the Mars Rover Curiosity a few times. 

God's been really renewing my sense of wonder and amazement at His power and the beauty of His creation as we study this-- I've been learning things, too! It's just mind boggling how HUGE it all really is and how easy it is to forget. It's funny to me how feeling that wonder and awe at God's handiwork awakens in me the desire to create! What a powerful God we serve!

a story for today

            The words awoke something in him that had been dead so long, he had forgotten it ever lived. It was uncomfortable, this being reminded. He tried to distract himself with less disturbing thoughts; traffic is a mess today! Isn’t that a tasteless advertisement? It’s cold enough to start hunting for my winter gloves again. These were things that presented no real challenge, no contradiction of opinion, no disruption of routine.
            There was a tiny part of him that recognized this as cowardice, and this he shoved away, too. He did not want to catalogue himself as anything in particular. At least, nothing beyond “good citizen” or “content survivor.” And had he not survived? Did he not deserve this rest at least? Should he feel guilty for wanting an extended reprieve from such difficult things? Had he not fought, in his own way, as hard as he could?
            At first, he had thought she was a woman—he saw her when he walked by, saw the way she stood close to the man with her. A husband and wife. Nothing unusual. He hardly registered them at all except as fellow passengers. He sat in front of them on the bus, without regard for how close or far they were. Why should it matter? Who were they to his day?
            She was whispering, a low soft steady whisper that sometimes grew suddenly too loud but only on certain words, the way people talk when they are soothing themselves and not quite right in the head. This made him uneasy and he scooted toward the left, away from the window. Even then he didn’t think of her as dangerous. Just distracted—and who wasn’t distracted now and then? And even if something was wrong with her head, what was that to him? She was just a woman, another person to avoid eye contact with.
            Then the bus’s brakes hissed and screeched with a sort of yawning, reluctant noise and it was his stop. He stood, twisting to look out the window out of habit. And then he saw out of the corner of his eye the clumsy motion of her as she stood and he realized, a bit startled and then not startled at all, that she was not a woman but a young girl. A tall young girl, but not at all with the body or face of maturity. Maturity was what he thought—age is what he meant. She was twisting, too, craning in the space between the seats to stand on tip-toe and whisper in the man’s ear. Not a husband, then—a father.
            Somehow this made him feel better about the whispering. In an adult, it marked a sort of unbalance or unawareness of the world at large. Her youth excused this. They were in line behind him to get off the bus and she began whispering again, but this time they were closer and her could not help but overhear.
            The girl was reciting.
            “Lord, I am lonely
And the sun is shining
Listless, while the wind…”
And then she was gone. They stepped off the bus and she and her father went one direction, he another. He stopped on the sidewalk, letting the foot traffic stutter around his still form for a brief second, regroup and swell away. The bus groaned and pulled away from the stop and then he was alone there, standing and not turning. He did not look back to see where they had gone.
The newsstand attendant across the street, who kept the day’s paper as an artifact in the midst of his fast-moving stock of gum and cigarettes and energy drinks and crinkly bags of over-salted potato chips more than anything else, noticed him standing there by the bus stop, staring down at his shoes and chuckled. The laugh was half pity and half bored amusement.
“Old man just remembered he left the kettle on, that or he’s pissed himself,” he said to no one in particular. Of the stragglers on the sidewalk, the thin crowd before the next bus stop collection began to grow, no one gave any sign that they heard him.
What was actually going through the man’s mind was not about the kettle or urine or even the girl. It was simply,
“Shakes…shakes the…something leaves. Shakes the something leaves.”
The heart inside his chest was pumping away at a steady pace, but the heart of his mind, the heart of him was fluttering with a stormy mix of excitement and dread. The thrill was that he knew it was recited poetry because he himself had once known that poem. Not as a particular favorite, but as something little and elegant and lovely  and worth reading whenever it turned up or when the mood took him. And dread because he had known it, no longer knew it, and did not want to remember either of these facts.
And still there was a surge of frustration at his inability to finish the next line. Or even remember another word, beyond what he had already heard and thought. He couldn’t even call to mind the name of the poet. What the girl was doing reciting poetry while walking around never occurred to him as a subject worth pondering, so wrapped up in his own thoughts and internal struggle was he.
It was the struggle that bothered him. The poem was now filling his head, banging at the doorways of his memory in search of its missing words. And even without them, the first few lines were the death of his content.
“Lord, I am lonely,” he mumbled, as he walked forward. Then, as if trying to rid himself of a nasty insult, he slammed the words out and forced himself to think of other things. The traffic is a mess today, he thought, observing the stop-and-go procession of quiet cars.
Once, this would have been noisy, he thought.
            He did not give himself the consideration of a reply. He shifted his attention.
            That is a tasteless advertisement, he thought, when his eye was caught by the vivid greens of a digital billboard—the mother in the ad wore a neon dress that contrasted with the blood-shot eyes of her children as she force-fed them bowls of sludgy dirt with toxic waste stickers on the side. All the children were crying. There was a line, some line, about feeding babies garbage, but then it was behind him and he realized he’d been thinking about the poem again and hadn’t really read the board.
            The wind that whistled through the streets curled around his fingers and he flexed them, his old joints aching with pain seconds before it registered that they were cold. At first, it felt like being burnt—the opposite of scorching his leg on a metal playground slide that felt freezing for that first half-second, years and years and years ago. His children had played on plastic and rubber slides and he had always checked them first anyway. They had never been the same kind of hot.
            I should get out my winter gloves soon, he thought, making a mental note for himself.
            Shaking the ageless leaves.
            And then it came to him, just like that. There was triumph in that small moment, the triumph of something lost becoming found.
            The door to his office was a block behind him before he realized he had missed it. He backtracked, feeling sheepish and awkward for the distraction. He did not nod at the security guard—he had long since given up such niceties, feeling no purpose in them for how infrequently they were returned.
            Inside, the walk to his assigned cubicle was a long one. He did not remember the walk at all once he reached his desk, because he was in such turmoil over what to think about that he couldn’t think at all. If he was the sort of man who ran for exercise, he might have thought that a run would clear his head. If he was the sort that turned to food for comfort, he might crave a bag of chips or a pizza (but in the older style, the kind with real cheese that was hard to find anymore).
            But no, his greatest hobby and habit and comfort was his blankness. He enjoyed sitting and thinking of nothing; of staring at a screen at work or the back of a seat on the bus or at the kitchen wall at home as he drank a glass of water and thinking about nothing. He drifted through conversations with small amiable smiles and nods, letting the speech of others enter his mind, dance around, and flit back out like little harmless bugs. His was now a mind unused to discomfort, because he had gone so long without allowing any such thing to settle there where it might require thought or effort or action.
            And sitting now at his desk, the screen before him full of work he did not choose and would not have ever chosen for himself, symbolizing nothing but the further years of toil and mundane, sweat-less work to merely function—to sleep, to eat, to continue, to continue having a place to sleep, and things to eat—his heart, his real and physical heart, skipped a beat and then began racing.
            It felt seized, as if in a vice or a death-grip and in the peak of that panic he just barely kept himself from crying aloud with a wordless groan. He wanted to shriek and beat his fists against the floor—he wanted to bury himself or turn himself off again. Whatever piece of him that snatched poem had awakened, he wanted to beat it back into the inner closet it’d crept out of when it received new breath.
            Where he had been able to pacify himself with triumph at remembering words, there was now no consolation. Only a certainty of death, of uselessness. A dark dread came upon him, casting a shadow over everything—the packed lunch he had been looking forward to in its own small way, the sweet lounging rest of the half-nap he’d take at home before dinner. They were now soured and seemed insignificant.
            His hands gripped the arms of his desk chair and he willed, willed, willed the feeling to pass. He remembered it now, from long ago—things were rushing back to him as if the poem had unlocked a floodgate.
            But his will was weak. It did not pass.
            He put his head upon his desk, now not caring who saw or noticed or commented.
            “Oh, God,” he mumbled, his breath stirring up tiny motes of dust near his keyboard. “Oh, God.”
            Stop sleeping.
            It was a gentle, quiet voice, far off, while louder and angrier voices shouted a chaos of instruction, of interpretation, of opinion. I am crazy, he thought, for the first time in years. I am crazy.
            Wake up.
            Then it came to him in its entirety, unbidden, a remnant from a day when he loved words and beauty and mystery, days that seemed lifetimes away and sort of foolish now. He could not tell if it was a crucial part of what was happening inside him or a distraction. He spoke the whole poem without noise, moving his lips as in silent prayer.
            “Lord, I am lonely
And the sun is shining
Listless, while the wind
Shakes the aging leaves.
The harvest has been gathered
All is bagged and barned,
Silos burst with grain.
Why, Lord, must I still stand
Dropping blind seeds
On to a barren soil?

Come, sweet Jesus, cut me down
With the sickle of your mercy,
For I am lonely
And a stranger in this land.”
Cliff Ashby, he thought, the poet’s name now without question in his mind. A small part of his dread abated.
I do not want this, he thought simply, wishing already for sleep. And he knew it was a choice, shoving this feeling away and going back to his screen. A struggle, yes, but he had done it before.
But, a limping part of his inner self argued as it grew in size and strength. It argued things he had known and long locked away, things he had professed to believe and then doubted and wavered and shut up in cupboards instead. But, it argued, you cannot live without Him.
“Oh, God,” he said for a third time. “Sweet Jesus.”
They were still not, and never had been, curses. And despite all the reasons to stay or go, to think or not think, to forget the poem all over again or to tack it up on the wall of his cubicle to look at every day, he knew in a part of him that had been sleeping for years and years that it would be his end to fall back asleep now. There were no other answers. There were no other questions.
“Where else would I go?”
It, too, was a prayer, and with it came rushing into him a ragged breath of hope.


The purpose of struggle and trials is that we be refined like gold; it is to make us more like Christ. Lord, you save me, and ever do I need to be saved. may You develop perseverance in me! Too often, I want to shut out or turn from what God is calling me to do-- to follow Him. But Christ has the words of life-- where else would I go? It is worth it. There is joy in obedience; there is growth and hope in struggle. If you are struggling today, know that He is worth the fight. And He is already fighting for you. 

(this is the first writing I've done in a while! :) forgive typos; it was written and posted in the same few hours. probably going to tweak it some.)


Posting this pic per the request of my babysitting charge. 

Playing with Legos, some Batman minifigs mixed in with the town pieces. 

Overheard: "*gasp* my worst enemy... Brian!"

Back to Blogger

Just two notes:

Tomorrow starts the Summer Book Club Blog Hop! Yay! Check back tomorrow for a post about a favorite book of mine, with links to all the other ladies who are writing about books every Wednesday in June.

And the second note is that my domain is back to . isn't going to work anymore. Sorry for all the jumping around!

Good Dreams

Sam has been talking a lot about his dreams recently, from pleasant ones to scary ones (three blue moons in the bedroom!).

He just woke up from a nap and came into the kitchen exclaiming,

"God made that train track for you!"

You, in this case, pretty much means "me," as he still gets those mixed up.

That must have been an awesome dream, son. Doesn't God love you so well?

It Comes and Goes in Waves, I Know

Yesterday, I woke up feeling pretty blah. Not physically-- spiritually and emotionally. It's actually been a struggle for me recently. I was trying to pray, trying to feel at peace, trying to do what I needed to do inwardly and outwardly. And it seemed like even just depending on God's grace was a struggle. I've been feeling like I'm on a roller coaster recently, with all these highs and lows. Or, I guess, more appropriately, at a theme park full of roller coasters and lots of long lines. Lots of wanting to give up while I stand around and wait in the hot sun with lukewarm water in my water bottle, and lots of finally this part while I actually get to ride something. It's not even extreme highs and lows, though, really. It's just gradual ups and downs.

I was wondering how to even write about this because it felt so hard to put into words (another symptom of the condition, I suppose) without sounding like my life is falling apart (it isn't) and the more I prayed about it, the more manageable it seemed (huh, I wonder why). Part of it was remembering some scripture, and then finding other scripture I hadn't thought about or hadn't been looking for, and then also reading a few sentences in a Bible study book I'm working on with the boys.

To be honest, I shouldn't be surprised by all of this. It's a battlefield for me right now and I should be prepared for it. I know I should be because I've been praying a dangerous prayer: Lord, please help me learn to rule over my emotions instead of letting them rule over me.

Have you ever done that? I'd gotten to the point in the past few weeks where I'd realized how destructive my emotions were becoming. I was choosing not to do things because I didn't feel like it at the time. Simple disagreements or misunderstandings between Adam and I were taking hours to resolve because even if he needed some time to just think or process stuff, I'd demand that he keep talking until I, gasp, felt better. Conflicts left me feeling like I was falling to pieces.

And the Holy Spirit, thank God, nudged me over and over until I realized that the root of the problem was not Adam, or tiredness, or hormones, but the simple fact that I'd started to let my emotions rule me. I was treating them like they were Gospel truth instead of remembering what I knew to be true and telling my emotions to get in line.

It was affecting my parenting, my role as a wife, as a babysitter, as a child of God.

Oh, I'm sorry, did I say was? I meant is. This is something that I'm still dealing with. It's still a battlefield. I just know that after yesterday, I'm even more equipped with the proper weapons and understanding.

First of all, I was reminded that the heart is deceitful. While I was feeling uneasy (not spiritually burdened or convicted, both of which I think are different) and just sort of blah, even fearful, I was assuming that the way I felt meant something. You know, in the big, this is my entire day, sort of way. And I remembered that passage in Jeremiah about the heart being deceitful above all else. I'm going to go ahead and put a longish passage from that chapter in here, even though this blog is going to be crazy-long.

Jeremiah 17:5-10 :

Thus says the Lord,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
“For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
“I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds.

When I let my emotions rule my heart, my day, my thoughts, my life, am I not trusting in mankind? Am I not making flesh my strength, in some way? But I can choose to trust in God regardless of how well or poorly I feel. My heart is sick. I am being made new. But my flesh is corrupted and, like limbs with gangrene, past saving. I need a new heart and part of that new heart is choosing to not let the old one keep making decisions for me. Its wisdom is unsound, its strength a false one.

The verse of the day on yesterday was something I needed to see. My friend Maria over at The Joyful Home blogged about it as part of her Wednesday series of just posting the Word, without much comment.

He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap. Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.
Ecclesiastes 11:4-5 
(Please, go read the rest of this chapter; it's worth it.)

I cannot focus on the temporal things of the world and use that to dictate my behavior. I cannot look to the fleeting moods of my heart to dictate when and how I seek God, do my work, serve with my hands. And when I am feeling blah, I need to be very, very careful to not start acting and talking like God is far from me or uninvolved in my day. God is present. I know this. (Point in fact,'s verse of the day TODAY is: "The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy." Zephaniah 3:17)

God is in my midst. He dwells, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians, in my heart. I am a temple. And I do not know the activity of God. I do not. Regardless of how I feel or what I see, even when I see blessings and feel good about my day, I do not know the activity of God. I cannot use my emotions alone to gauge whether or not God is working, providing, saving, correcting, shouting with joy, or quiet in His love for me.

Finally, why am I allowed to feel this way? If God is working, if He loves me, if He's made me new, why do I struggle? Paul talks about this. My boys and I also read about it in The Practice of the Presence of God yesterday. This, by the way, was my Bible reading for yesterday. Isn't it amazing how God works? I don't know His activity, but sometimes, I sure do recognize it after the fact. I can't imagine how different my day would have been if I'd decided to skip reading. Another lesson: Read the Word, regardless of how you feel about it.

I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:3-5 

Paul is talking to the Corinthians here about when he was visiting them and sharing the Gospel. Paul, that bold and eloquent writer, spoke to them while this was going on in his heart: Weakness. Fear. Much trembling. He felt unpersuasive. 

So God would have the glory. So it wouldn't be the success of man. 

Right before reading that in 1 Corinthians, I read these passages in The Practice of the Presence of God:

In cleansing us from all our impurities, God desires to humble us and often allows us to go through a number of trials or difficulties to that end. 
The more we aspire to be perfect, the more dependent we are on the grace of God. We begin to need His help with every little thing and at every moment, because without it we can do nothing.
This year has been a year of learning to doubt. Of learning to doubt myself. My own conviction that how I feel is an accurate and just response to situations, conversations, to life. It's not just a matter of addressing my "need to be right," but addressing the previously unquestioned assurance that I am. There are some things, like faith in Christ's saving work on the cross and resurrection, that I do not need to doubt. But my heart? Yeah, that's worth doubting. It's a dirty, filthy liar.

Is feeling things bad? No, not at all. I'm not advocating a Vulcan-like withdrawal from all emotion. Jesus felt things and it wasn't sin. God still feels things.

But my feelings should not be my master. Jesus' feeling of not wanting to die, which is, I would say, a pretty valid feeling from a human point of view, did not trump His obedience. My feeling of blah should not get to decide for me, "This is going to be a pretty terrible day," or "Adam should talk about this with you until you feel better."

Death to the dead and dying things. I must decrease, He must increase. When I am humbled, when I have to struggle and spend every five minutes depending on God's grace in prayer, when I must pray constantly for His strength to just do the dishes and speak kindly to my children-- those mornings are mornings that I need to remind me of just how much I need Him. To look back on my day and say, "Even in these mundane things, to God be the glory, for no matter how much I feel like I should be able to manage this without help, I am wretched and made well only in Him."

Lord, I need your quiet love today. Don't I always?

Sleeping Lu

She falls asleep to Daft Punk.

On the Walls

I love useful posters and maps and planners. Right now, we're working on days of the week and I've printed out little wallet-photo-sized images to represent daily excursions. 

We also have a hanging wall planner, courtesy Tracey of Building My House ( ) that I use to keep track of snacks, appointments, and dinner meals. It also has a Bible verse on it that I change out about every two weeks.

And now I should probably go clean while the boys are happily sorting flat marbles for fun (and education!).


I was looking for something entirely unrelated yesterday and stumbled across this transcript of birth, death, and marriage notices in a paper called "The Clay County Democrat" from 1886-1889. I recommend only reading the full transcript if you're ready to be sad, because the death notices are heart-breaking (lots of young kids). But I was gleefully sending birth announcements to my mom because they are full of so much character. Here are all the ones I could find that we enjoyed:

Born, on the 6th of July to Mr. and Mrs. R. E. Lowe of this city, a boy. Mother and child doing well, father will live.

On the 24th inst an embryo voter put in an appearance at the home of Mr. J. W. Whitsett of Gill township. His first vote will be cast in 1907. 

It cost Will Watrous a box of good cigars to celebrate the arrival of a nine-pound girl at his residence last Friday. Mother and daughter are doing fine. 

It is a mighty nice little girl who put in an appearance at Alex Campbell’s house on the 19th instant. A regular ten pounder. 

Mr. and Mrs. R. Eggleston are rejoicing over a ten pound lump of feminimity that put in her appearance at the home on December 24th. 

Mr. and Mrs. John Ritter of Wakefield welcomed a ten pound girley, born last Saturday, the 17th. 

Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Hafner, of Gill twp., will change the monotony of things by coming up with a bouncing ten pound baby boy. 

Mr. and Mrs. George Chesnut, Exeter, are now in a jolly mood over the advent of a gem in the shape of a baby girl at their home. 

John Smith, of the Clay Center Nursery says it’s a boy, regulation weight and home grown. 

Mr. and Mrs. Bert Tomlinson, Blaine, are in high feather over the birth of a nine pound girl. 

Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Muenzenmayer of the city, rejoice over the birth of a 14 ½ pound boy, the event taking place Thursday, Dec. 30. 

Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Stewart sees the above and comes to the front with an equal amount of genuine boy. Cam says he is to be president of the United States by and by. 

Mr. and Mrs. C. Oberland are happy over the arrival of a spanking big boy who entered this world of trouble on the 6th inst. 

Bloom twp: It’s a daughter at Robert McPeal’s.

Em. Vincent handed us a cigar on Tuesday afternoon with the startling announcement, “it is a boy, and it weighs nine pounds.” 

Also, lots of just basic "so-and-so welcomed a son," announcements with 9 and 10 lb. babies. That noted, my absolute favorite of these is "regulation weight and home grown." Any that particularly tickled your fancy? Man, I love history.


It runs in the family, I guess?

(Also, nerd note: Three entirely different eras of Batman depicted here!)

Sharing Kierkegaard

Sharing Kierkegaard to start your Saturday. Stolen from Alan Jacobs' tumblr, More than 95 Theses:

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in this world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament. 
I open the New Testament and read: ‘If you want to be perfect, then sell all your goods and give to the poor and come follow me.’ Good God, if we were to actually do this, all the capitalists, the officeholders, and the entrepreneurs, the whole society in fact, would be almost beggars! We would be sunk if it were not for Christian scholarship! Praise be to everyone who works to consolidate the reputation of Christian scholarship, which helps to restrain the New Testament, this confounded book which would one, two, three, run us all down if it got loose (that is, if Christian scholarship did not restrain it).
-S. Kierkegaard, Journals

Fresh and Bitter Water

A friend and I read James 3:9-12 the other morning and I had a revelation while we were talking. This is the passage:

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

I've always thought of this primarily as a passage about gossip or slander. And I think it is. But God showed me something else right before we read it together, as I was thinking about the passage I'd been drawn to earlier and had read ahead of time.

I have been made in the likeness of God. I must be careful not to curse myself. I must be honest about my weakness, but I am also the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I must be honest about my situations and my hurts, but I am safe in the arms of a loving Father.

I think a lot of times this comes out of an attempt to lighten conversation with humor, to keep others from having to deal with our actual hurt or struggle. As in, "Oh, he's still looking for a job. Until then, I don't know what we're going to do, haha!"

But you see, I do know what we're going to do. We're going to be "patient in affliction" and trust. That's what I'm actually working at doing, even if I'm not perfect at it yet. But saying, "We're just waiting on God," and being truly content with that is hard. The waiting is a burden others might have to bear with you. And sometimes, even those of us who don't mind a little drama now and then, don't want to share some burdens. It's even harder for the people who are more introverted.

And then, sometimes, it isn't humor. Sometimes, it's straight-up talking about ourselves as though we haven't been redeemed. Call me picky, but I think words and how we use them matters. I think how we think about ourselves and our situations matters. It's a struggle to take every thought captive to Christ, to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ," but a theme I've been seeing in my own life recently is the question: Why did you ever stop thinking of this as a battle? Why, after all the warnings to fight and to put on the armor of God, did you start living like it was unfair for it to be hard? Like it was a good time to just give up and lay down your weapons?

"I'm so impatient,"

"I'm a mess,"

"I can't do this."

Do we need a place to admit our weakness? Yes, yes, yes. But there is a vast difference between me praying (or even asking Adam to pray with me) and saying, "God, I'm feeling really overwhelmed right now and I need your grace. I thank You for Your strength in my weakness."

But a lot of times, when I toss out statements about myself like the ones above, I'm not seeking grace and provision. I'm seeking pity? Or someone to tell me I can give up? Or an acknowledgement that my acting in sin because I feel pressure is justifiable? I can't drag my feet around moaning about myself and my situation and then turn around to bless others and praise God. It's not sustainable.

This is not a prosperity gospel message. This is not me telling you and myself to sit in the midst of actually difficult situations and just speak positive things about finances or repeat hollow self-esteem slogans. But this is a call to seek God, to seek grace, even in daily conversation. To be aware of your words and what seeds you are sowing with them.

Are you cursing yourself? Are you cursing the very one that Christ died for, rose again for, called and redeemed? Who are you? Do you act and speak like you know?

God, may I remember who I am: a person made in the likeness of You.

Life with Babies: Dinner Time!

This post is titled "Life with Babies" but really, it's for anybody at all. Maybe especially those with kids, but not just them. I'm also going to try to write quickly, because Lucy is entertaining herself with a spoon and a bowl and they've kept her happy for fifteen minutes already. I don't know how much longer it will last.

There is a terrible, terrible hour coming upon us.

That hour is 4pm. (In some houses, it's five, but here, it's four.)

It's that time when EVERYBODY NEEDS SOMETHING RIGHT NOW. And it usually coincides with the hour that the adults suddenly feel desperate for a nap or their own bed time. Kids, left to their own devices, are whiny and fickle, or it's suddenly become Very Important that you Play With Them At Once. Or maybe it's just gorgeous out and a trip to the park is in order.

But whether you're playing Candyland with bleary eyes while you sip coffee or watching kids tear across playground equipment, 4pm (or 5) is also another time of day.

Time to start dinner.

Now, you might already have a head start on this. In this household, by 4pm we've menu-planned the week before and usually know what we're going to make. It's not a mad rush to figure out what we can cook, it's just a matter of making something. And other days, Our Friend the Crock Pot has our backs. And additionally, for the sake of total honesty, about two or three nights a week, Adam makes dinner (it's WONDERFUL).

But the Crock Pot does not work for every meal. And sometimes Adam has work to do. And because we're eating gluten-free (and before that started, we were doing very little processed food anyway), dinner prep is not a five minute job. Also, please remind me sometime, that I have lots of thoughts about why "Five-Minute" or "Twenty-Minute" dinner is not the healthiest goal and I will finally write about them.

So, how does one pay attention to kids and dinner (or nap time and dinner, should you be so blessed)?

Utilizing midday!

On the days that I am wisest (by the grace of God go I), I prep my meat, do all my veggie-chopping, measure seasonings, etc., during after-lunch nap or just during the after-lunch period of relative peace. Bellies have just been filled and if they aren't sleeping, they're usually content enough after a meal together to play by themselves with more success than later in the day.

Some meals go straight into the oven to cook and then stay warm (this will change as it gets warmer). Most meals, though, go into the fridge with the necessary start times for cooking noted on a whiteboard or iPod. This means that at 4pm or 4:30pm or whenever, "making dinner" takes me all of two minutes to put something in the oven or ten minutes at the skillet.

And if your crock pot hasn't been helping you before, most also have a warm feature, so "skillet" meals (as opposed to oven meals) can be cooked right after lunch and then go into the crock pot to just stay hot until dinner.

Maybe that window isn't after lunch for you. Maybe it's a morning nap for your bab(y/ies), maybe it's before breakfast. Maybe it's the night before after everyone is in bed-- you wake up, and dinner is done for the day! After lunch works for us right now because of nap time and lunch dishes, so the lunch clean-up includes most of the dinner prep stuff. Fewer dishes after dinner! That's important when you're doing dishes by hand.

But if you find yourself constantly in a mad rush to prepare a meal you'd already planned, then consider finding another time in the day to do most of the work. Even if it takes a forty-minute meal and gives you fifteen minutes of work in the evening instead (stir fries and all their vegetables!), that's twenty-five minutes in the evening that you have to sit with your kids or go to the park. I've found that doing prep much earlier in the day actually also helps our meal times to be consistent. It's a lot easier to judge how much time a prepped meal will need to cook than it is to judge how much time I require to do the prep-- after lunch, I'm not feeling so rushed by the clock.

Dread hour? Ha. Not anymore!

Edit: I did all that dinner prep and my boys cried for like the whole thirty minutes of cooking dinner anyway, haha. Some days you just have to roll with the flow, I suppose, even if the flow is of tears.


Today, I am thankful. I was reluctant to take all four kids (mine + babysitting charge) to the park despite how much they wanted to go. I didn't want to put the effort into it. But we loaded everybody up in the car anyway and Jungle Monkey (her Indian name) beamed at me as she buckled herself in:

"God answered my prayer from this morning! It didn't rain!"

This little girl who worried about wearing her jacket hood and messing up her hair, who wanted to take an umbrella to school just in case, who is always so eager to help and talk and talk and talk and talk, had a prayer answered today.

And me, too.

The weather was beautiful. When I called out the ten minute warning for leaving the park, I wanted to beg me to stay longer even as they were begging. I had to drag myself back to the car, too. The temperature and wind and sun were all just right and felt like the best kind of simple, yet cosmically huge, gift today.

Then this evening while I got pictures off the camera and carried Lucy around on my hip, I kept thinking that today I'm so grateful. So thankful. So blessed.

So, thank you, God, for answered prayers. Thank you, Jesus, for salvation, for redemption, for a Real Hope. Thank you for closed doors and open ones. Thank you for exciting things, for humbling experiences, for the chance to sit and chat with a friend this morning while our kids played together. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about truly difficult and painful, heartbreaking situations, and still laugh with each other and find solace and direction in your Word.

Thank you for posts like this one and thank you for your presence. Thank you for little boys that are so eager to tell stories (Sam's new one today: This is a car, it's driving like our car. It's going to the park. There's a girl inside. Her name is Emily. She's eleven). Thank you for rosy, plump baby girl cheeks and peals and peals of laughter, and throat-squeezing hugs from little boys. Thank you for giving Jungle Monkey a sunny afternoon and a new friend to play with at the park.

Thank You, Jesus.

Story Time

The boys took turns telling me stories tonight, complete with motions to turn imaginary book pages. It was bedtime so you can tell by the end that they're winding down. :)

Sam started off with this:

An angel was in a gray road. He was standing there. He said "no!" He said no to the cow. The cow was there. The angel was helping the cow. He was helping the cow eat. The cow was eating strawberries? No! The cow was eating leaves. Leaves and cookies. The angel was there. He was helping him. The angel said "yes!" on the road. He was helping Jesus. And Peter and Moses. And Jesus. The angel was helping them. They were planting, digging in the dirt. Planting onions. The end. Close the book.

Sam, again: Another story. Open the book. Dogs. Lots of dogs. In the dark. There it is. It's called Lainey. Lainey is little. And Liam is playing with play-dough. The dogs are sleeping in the dark. Close the book. The end.

And another from Sam: Open the book. Another story. Here you go. Blankets. Sam and Theo and Mama and Daddy's blankets. The blankets sleep. Close the book. The end.

Théoden takes a turn: Let's open a book. An angel is in a puddle. In the water. The angel poops in the water in the bathtub. The angel says "cars." Then the angel pees. There's a box. And a ball. And a wall. There's water. Now close the book. The end.

Théoden again: Open the book. Cars. The car says "drive drive." The car goes to NiNi's house. And Aunt Anne's house. And then Graypaw's brown house. Then to another house. The car says "it's dark." The car goes home. Now that is the end. Close the book.

Sam, to finish: Open the book. Big pages. Trucks. They drive all the way to NiNi's house. The trucks talk. They say, "You. A. B. C. D. E. F. Z H I J L M N O M O M O M O Z M O P." Close the book. The end.

Friday Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Adam and I watch a lot of movies and I'd like to start writing about them. Most of them will probably be movies that I won't let my boys watch yet-- the kind of stuff we watch after all our kids are in bed-- but I thought I'd start with a favorite film while the boys actually watch it right next to me. Also, I'm a sucker for alliteration.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The first movie is Fantastic Mr. Fox. My family loves this film. We have watched it probably fifty times (no exaggeration-- for a year now, it's pretty much the only movie my boys watch). And when I hear the dialogue while I'm working on lunch, like today, I still smile. I still laugh at lines. A movie even mom hasn't gotten tired of after fifty viewings? How rare is that?

Now, you might not love it as much as we do, but your family might at least enjoy it. We're super picky about what our boys watch and this is one we are totally fine with. It's clean (sometimes characters say "cuss;" like, literally just the word "cuss." It's even on a wall as graffiti in the background at one point). It's exciting but not too scary. It's lovely to look at. And it's about a family. A family learning to love each other a bit better. A community learning to watch out for each other. And it's about the dangers of selfish behavior, the need to do what you were created to do, and responsibilities trumping personal desire.

It's a Wes Anderson film and very stylized. This was a first-effort stop-motion animation film for this particular director and crew (think Wallace and Gromit, but not clay). I think the "real" quality of the animation, the stuffed dolls and bristly hair, make it a lot easier for my boys to process visually. They still don't really like cartoons at all.

This movie, overall, is delightful. It has so many quotable lines. The story is loosely based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name. (When I say loosely, I really do mean loosely, though the book is also sweet and wonderful.) In summation, the story is about a fox family and the husband/father figure in particular and their fight for survival against three "of the nastiest, meanest farmers." It's not about farming, or farm life, being evil-- rather, the men themselves, and not their profession, are the source of villainy. And Mr. Fox provokes their wrath when he returns to old habits and begins stealing from them. On some level, though, I would say the stealing isn't so much about stealing itself, but about foxes being foxes (and anyone who has farmed or read more than a few books about farms knows that foxes are notorious chicken thieves). But it's also a film about keeping one's word and being aware of how your actions impact others.

In addition to all that, the movie is simply stuffed with wonderful little details. Mr. Fox is a "newspaperman" and if you pause at the right time, the newspaper he holds in one scene is actually full of articles. Tiny little details like socks and model trains and vacuum cleaners and miniature school chem lab equipment, along with the quick-moving dialogue and soundtrack, make this a lovely film. It's funny, too, with plenty of humor that kids will appreciate and that adults will find genuinely funny, without either stooping to crudeness or shooting too high.

I'm sure it has its faults. But compared to most films, they are (for me, anyway) few and far between. We haven't gotten tired of it yet and I doubt we will soon! (Hopefully, next week, my Friday Film review will be a little less frothing-at-the-mouth-with-praise and a little more critical assessment, but I can't make myself do this film just yet.)

See Théoden's fox sweater? :-D Thanks to a wonderful Amma (their grandmother on Adam's side) for finding these for both of the boys. They also have fox tails she made for them! Did I mention we love this movie?

Um, Not to Me, Son.

Tonight I was changing Théoden's diaper to get him ready for bed and he was crying that it wasn't bedtime, while clutching a Lego car in his hand. I asked, "You want to play with Legos some more?" And he wailed, "Yes!"

So I said, "Well, let's practice how you ask."

Me: Say, "Please, Mama,"
Theo: Please, Mama,
Me: "may I play"
Theo: may I play
Me: with Legos
Theo: with Legos
Me: for a little bit more time.
Theo: For a little bit more time. Amen.

Hahahaha. I'm still laughing. We explained to him that he never has to say "Amen" after asking me something.

Blogging to Blog

I felt like I got into a really good rhythm of posting when I was working on the Homeschooling Blog Hop and now I'm posting just to post. I've been enjoying blogging, a lot, and I also recently left Facebook. I don't have tons more free time, but I have less emotional stress. Adam and I recently read this story by Rolf Dobelli that made me start to think about the emotional and mental toll my five-minute Facebook breaks were having on me.

So, I just felt like writing to write, and thought I'd give a brief overview of some things in my life. That article is one recent highlight. Another is that I'm finally reading Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher after enjoying his work over at The American Conservative for quite some time. I've been aware of the existence of the book for a few years but have just now actually started reading it. So far, pretty good!

I took the boys to the WVU Farms Kiddie Days on Wednesday and they had a blast. Sam was excited to go "talk to sheep."

I'm going to bed and despite the shortness of this post, my final thought is that the other thing I'm working on (intellectually) right now is attention span, to counteract all the damage I've done with social media and like things. Sitting down to read something for more than five minutes, because it's good and not because I feel addicted to it, is nice.

Anyway, g'night, internets! Aw, it's like xanga days.

Picking up the Playroom

I was in the kitchen this morning and heard a noise that sounded like Duplos being dumped out-- and I knew there were already little Legos all over the rug. Fortunately for today, the noise was just another toy being moved and we didn't have a huge mess to pick up (or a "big and big and big" mess, as the boys say to mean gigantic).

But I started thinking about all the other times that we've had every toy bin dumped out at once, plus a bunch of blankets out (remnants of forts). It's overwhelming and my boys are way too young for me to just say, "Pick all this up!" They help, but it's too much for them on their own. And even with help, they need really specific directions. We tend to work from biggest to smallest category and only work on one toy group at a time. I imagine that many of you straighten up this way (stuffed animals, then cars, then plastic animals, then Legos, etc).

It struck me that God sort of cleans me up like this. When my heart was drawn to Him, I'd sort of thrown everything out on the floor. I was, as we often say, a mess.

And it's the big things that go first. For me, that was self-injury and porn. Big stuff. The obvious, dangerous, "trip over this toy in the dark and you break an arm" kind of stuff.

Then it's on to the little things. And while the big stuff tends to require a lot of energy and real effort to get rid of, it's the smaller stuff I resist changing.

When God starts wanting to prune out EVERYTHING that doesn't bear fruit, every little dead twig, I balk. I did it this weekend with a book I just knew I shouldn't start and because I could find ways to justify it, I kept reading, and it consumed me. It separated me, if not from the fact of God, from the peace of God in my spirit. And that's a terrible thing. The presence of God is something I treasure, something that is precious and vital to me. I, and everyone around me, suffers when I'm cutting myself off from that through disobedience.

There's a temptation when cleaning up a playroom at night to just leave some of it for the morning. To pick up the big stuff, shove the little pieces out of the middle of the floor (or into the middle in a pile, haha) and go to bed. Maybe, on a practical level, one of the better arguments for cleaning up before dinner? But while big things are legitimately dangerous, we shouldn't let the obvious dangers discount the real pain in neglecting the little stuff. And if you step on them unawares, those little Lego pieces (or tiny Barbie shoes) hurt like hell.

This isn't a call to feel overwhelmed by the mess. God, like a good parent, will offer help and wise direction in cleaning it up. He loves us. He wants us to be at peace and secure in Him. But this is a call to stop reasoning away the little bits of mess. This is a call to stop justifying your neglect of those tiny toys that litter the floor when He's nudging your spirit with the command to just put it away.

Maybe it's not a sin for somebody else. Maybe it's a sin for everyone. Maybe it's gossip. Maybe it's gluttony. Maybe it's reading that book that is permissible but not beneficial for you right now. Put it away.

The boys and I have been reading "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence (that's the copy we have, but you can find it online for free legally). For them, it's just practice sitting and listening to something without pictures, but it's so good for me to be reading. Today, this was in the section we read (emphasis mine):

Spending time in God's presence doesn't weaken the body. Leaving the seemingly innocent and permissible pleasures of the world for a time will, on the contrary, give us comfort. In fact, God won't allow a soul that is searching for Him to be comforted anywhere other than with Him.
-Third Letter, "The Practice of the Presence of God "

This can be time you spend in God's presence while you work. While you eat. While you drive. But it must be intentional. Things that remove you, as my book did for me, from your ability to come before God in your heart are a problem. Stuff left on the floor in the middle of the night, just waiting for you to step on in the morning and leave you with a sore foot for the day, is a problem.

Maybe you're a point right now where your battles are obvious. Maybe they're struggles that take a lot of your energy and you are daily, hourly, falling on God's grace and it's taking all you've got to just hang on while He cleans up the big stuff. That's okay. I'd say to you, don't sweat the small stuff. God will deal with it when He deals with it. 

But some of us? Maybe we need to stop acting like our battle days are behind us. Maybe some of us should be sweating the small stuff. I know, I know we don't earn our salvation. But my heart is "prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love." We must make an effort to remember what is good, what is true, where our peace comes from and where our hope lies. 

What are you dealing with right now? What "little toys" is God telling you to pick up today?

Happy Birthday, I Guess?

Sam, whose birthday is in October, sang over his oatmeal this morning:

It's my present
It's my party
I'm not crying anymore.

So, there's that.

Taco Potato Casserole

Today, I was staring in my fridge trying to decide how to heat up stuff for lunch. We had raw, diced up potatoes from home fries last night and shredded cooked chicken left over from drumsticks. I opened the cabinet to see what we had that I could add because I wasn't really in the mood for home fries again or to stand there for thirty minutes to make fried hash browns (I would have had to do two batches). There was some taco seasoning and I ended up throwing this together and it was SO GOOD. It did take an hour to cook, so in the future, it'll probably be a dinner or something mixed in advance.

Also, forgot to take pictures. :/ Bummer.

And just realized, you could totally do this without chicken. Add another veggie (like corn), or serve it as a side with just the potatoes, or add a can of pinto beans!

Taco Potato Casserole

4 large potatoes, diced (or 6 medium)
2-3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp. minced garlic (or 2 fresh minced cloves)
1 packet taco seasoning
2-3 oz. cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. chicken bouillon
½ c. water
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper  

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with oil.

Use large bowl with lid, add all ingredients to the bowl, put the lid on, and shake it until everything thoroughly mixed and coated. Put in 9x13 dish, cover with foil, bake for one hour. Remove foil, bake three to five minutes to get top crispy.

Blogger's Choice - Homeschool Blog Hop

This is the final post in the homeschool blog hop and it's blogger's choice. I debated about what exactly to write for this and I decided to do a mix (ha, like every other post). First, I'd like to talk a bit about classical education for preschoolers because I somehow totally forgot to write about it when I was talking about homeschool style. And this philosophy is pretty much it for us. 

First, watch this video:

Théoden is thirty months old. Two-and-a-half years. He loves to read Freight Train. So does Sam, actually, but he's a bit more shy whenever I get the camera out. But almost anybody watching this video could tell you that he's not really reading. He's reciting. For half the book, he's watching himself on the iPod screen and not even looking at the pages. And that's not a bad thing.

Classical education for preschoolers (through fourth grade, really) is the first leg of the classical trivium known as the "grammar phase." It's not one in which we especially focus on English but a phase of learning in which we focus on rules. I recommend Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Trained Mind, and I've grabbed this excerpt explaining the grammar stage from the book's website:

In the elementary school years — what we commonly think of as grades one through four — the mind is ready to absorb information. Children at this age actually find memorization fun. So during this period, education involves not self-expression and self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts. Rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics — the list goes on.
-Susan Wise Bauer on Classical Education

So, contrary to some popular belief, classical education does not mean reading Plato to your first graders (though some families might go ahead and do that as an exercise in listening and paying attention). For this part of education, it means memorizing. This is why I'm planning to start playing CDs of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables in the next few months so we can learn them and review them.

My kids might be smart, but they won't be geniuses for memorizing 9x7=63. If you're a parent yourself, you already know how early in life kids start imitating and parroting what they hear and see. That doesn't mean understanding is present. The understanding comes later. The understanding is something to build on top of this grammar stage, in classical education theory. This means that the foundational tools of the higher subjects (writing, algebra, chemistry, etc) are so ingrained that they don't have to be reviewed for months at the beginning of every middle school and high school year. 

Théoden isn't reading yet. He does know the alphabet along with more than a dozen sounds that letters make by sight. He has that book memorized, that's for sure. And he's having a blast. He's so proud of himself just for knowing things. Later, he'll want to know why those things are true, what makes them tick, how to use them effectively, and he will learn. He will learn one lesson at a time, with an educational bunker of a foundation underneath him. 

Now for the second part of blogger's choice:

I was homeschooled. I went to college. I graduated. My professors repeatedly told me they liked the homeschooled students. The college accepted my homemade, BOE-stamped transcript (they had guidelines on the website). I took the ACT and the SAT. I got scholarships. 

I did not go to prom or any high school dances, but that was by choice and not because I hadn't been asked (I was, usually by other girls who wanted me along for fun and I just didn't think I'd enjoy it that much). I participated in drama competitions and writing competitions. I babysat. I got a job and then another job. 

I learned my parents' faith and then made a personal decision to follow Christ. I have shared my testimony, I have mentored others, I have participated in college ministry leadership. 

I had (and have) friends from every educational background. I like meeting new people. I watch TV. I love the Word of God. 

And I was not alone. I had siblings and parents and grandparents along the way. I had friends that went to co-op classes with me, went to college alongside me or before or behind me, and graduated. I am not an anomaly. 

If you have questions about navigating high school, feel free to comment or email me for a student's perspective. Homeschooling high school does not equal academic failure in college or limited college options.

Also, you can talk to me in person! You're welcome to come to the Homeschool Blog Hop Q&A, on Saturday, April 27th from 10am-noon. It's being held at Trinity Assembly of God in the Café area. Check out the Facebook event page if you have FB or feel free to email me for directions. It's a bring-your-own-kids-and-snacks event, with possible babysitting provided (kids welcome either way, we're working on babysitting details) and coffee and tea and water.

And then, go check out these ladies and their last blog posts for this series:

Clockwise, from top left:
Lorrie @ Life and Lessons LearnedSelena at Campbell ClanKathleen @ Positive Adoption,
Audrey @ Everything BeautifulCharli @ WV Urban HippiesTracey @ Building My House, and Maria @ The Joyfully Frugal Home 

Not pictured: Jessica @ Redeeming the Home

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