Friday, January 30, 2009

He Gives Sleep...And Perspective

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
- Psalms 127: 2 ESV
Tomorrow marks one week since the last time I left the house. Before last Saturday I didn't feel well and I stayed in taking care of a very miserable Sweet Pea. Here's what my last two weeks look like:

Last Tuesday - Last Friday: home caring for Sweet Pea

Last Friday - not feeling so great myself, but went out with Prince Charming for his birthday anyway. Ate very little but enjoyed the time with my husband.

Last Saturday - pulled it together because Sweet Pea felt better although Polly felt tired and slept on the couch the entire day until we left that evening. I felt OK.

Sunday - woke up absolutely sick and miserable. Spent the day in bed. Most of the time. I won't elaborate.

Monday - still sick. Sat up in bed for a little while. (Therefore demonstrating some improvement)

Tuesday - feeling better. Tigger felt a little sick but managed to bounce back (see what I did there?) by the evening. Big snowstorm - Prince Charming's plans canceled.

Wednesday - still snowy & icy. Church canceled. So, stayed home. Again.

Thursday - Friday - stuck inside but feeling well enough to be up catching up on all the work that had piled up in a week. (And oh the work that piles up in a week!)I felt genuinely grateful to be up and around, tidying up, doing the laundry, organizing things, and so on. Grateful. To do household chores! That's almost a miracle, right?

Saturday - who knows? If God sends more snow, then we'll stay inside and enjoy the beauty. If He doesn't, we have friends coming over and we'll stay inside and enjoy time with them.

Either way, I think God's been trying to tell me something. And I hope I've taken the hint. I'd hate to have to be knocked down with another virus like that one anytime soon.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snow What Fun (Or Some Such Title)

Yesterday the temperature got up to a whopping 29. Fahrenheit. So, I did what any good mother would do: I tossed the rest of my family outside.

Well, actually the two older girls begged and begged and begged until I relented. By the time they were done I was ready for them to just go. Which, I guess, was their nefarious scheme all along. So I bundled them all up (even Prince Charming) and out they went into the gorgeous white world replacing our dreary backyard.

Just one little issue: Sweet Pea insisted that she must go too. I didn't really want to let her (it was cold!) but we decided to bundle her up and let her get her first taste of snow.
First impression: she was impressed. She stomped around with the big girls. And she did, in fact, have her first literal taste of snow.
Final conclusion: it's not all that. She came in soon after, talking about it in her toddler jabber, of which I caught a few words: "Cold. Out. Up. Cold." (The up is because she slid down a little hill once and had to forcefully insist one of her sisters rescue her.) And she did not insist on rejoining her older sisters, which tells me that Sweet Pea had her fill of snow in the seven minutes she was outside.

She outlasted me by six minutes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In Which I Issue My Blog Directives

1. Do not blow my cover. If you know my s.s. number, my birthmarks, my last name, my mother's maiden name, my children's real names (hint: they're not Polly, Tigger, & Sweet Pea), my neighborhood, or my driver's license number: Keep it to Yourself. Do not share. Do not think that I have withheld these pieces of information because I am trying to be deceitful. Nor is it because I am overly whimsical.

2. Do not bring your little shibboleths, sacred cows, pet peeves, etc. over to my blog comments, unless invited to do so. You are welcome to start your own blog if you believe these things must be addressed. Unlike my husband (who has his own blog and loves a good controversy), I feel no qualms whatsoever deleting obscene or obnoxious comments. Who judges content? I do. It's my blog.

3. Do not copy. Unless you ask. In which case I will be highly flattered and grant permission while trying unsuccessfully to hide my excitement. (Imitation being the highest form of flattery and all that.)

4. Do realize that behind every blog (well, most) there is a real person. And everyone reading (I assume) is a real person. Let's act accordingly, mmkay?

5. Do update regularly. C'mon people. I love reading your blogs. Drop a line. A picture. A link to something you thought was interesting. A quiz (I take 'em all). Unless you're sick with The Stomach Plague of Horror (or such like). Then of course, you're excused.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How I Feel

The cat is me except it should say, "I have the sick". Please, please let it be over soon!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

32 Reasons

Happy Birthday, Philip!

And here, in no particular order, are 32 reasons why I call him "Prince Charming". (Why 32, you ask? Duh.)

1. His sense of humor. Pretty much necessary to deal with me and my family, I'd say. Plus, it matches mine 99%.

2. He is creative. Just ask him about what new board game he's designing. The man has an amazing gift.

3. He's artistic. I mean it: painting, drawing, poetry writing...I could go on. Which, by the way, when you going to write me a poem again, dear?

4. He is good great with children. Pretty much all children, but especially our own. I can't imagine a better dad.

5. He prays with us.

6. And for us.

7. He reads Bible stories to us after supper. And he reads aloud to our girls.

8. He helps get the girls ready on Sunday mornings. He just doesn't do hair. Or dress picking out. But all the rest: he's there and it's done and I only have to fix hair, tie bows and make sure everyone looks like their socks match.

9. He watches, and apparently enjoys, Jane Austen movies with me. Have I mentioned he's even read some Austen, just because I love it so much?

10. He likes the same sci-fi as I do. Mostly. I never have figured out that Stargate thing.

11. He sings. Well.

12. I supposed I should mention that he is very musical, in general. He can play trumpet & violin well, the piano a smidge, and he used to play clarinet.

13. He challenges me: he is smart enough for me to argue with.

14. But not so smart I can't understand what he is talking about.

15. He apologizes. And he accepts my apologies.

16. He encourages my writing. He enjoys reading the things I write (not that I've let him read much, yet).

17. He, well, let's just be honest, he is extremely good looking. Extremely. Even my great-aunts think so, so that settles that.

18. He laughs with me but he does not, under any circumstances, laugh at me. Unless I'm already laughing at myself. Then it's OK.

19. He's a night owl, just like me. Most of our best talks are somewhere around midnight or 1 AM.

20. He agrees with me on politics.

21. And religion. Or maybe I agree with him. Whatever. We're in one accord, as the Bible puts it. (And no, that doesn't mean we drive a Honda).

22. He doesn't care much about sports, so I haven't had to spend very much time watching him watch games or teams on TV I don't care about. And he consents to go to one Major League Baseball game a year with me, which is the only time I ever care about sports.

23. He handles gross stuff so I don't have to. And he's changed nearly as many diapers as I have.

24. He's more extroverted than I am, but not a lot. Just enough to draw me out of my shell and make sure we both have fun.

25. He's usually optimistic, but not annoyingly so.

26. He's a great cook. But he's willing to eat my cooking. Which isn't bad, you understand, but his tastes do run to a bit fancier (complicated?) stuff than I usually prepare.

27. OK, this one is just between the two of us. Move along.

28. He loves to read and loves to discuss what he's reading with me. This is only a problem if he happens to be reading Patrick O'Brien as my eyes tend to glaze over. Everything else (books on doctrine, theology, politics, education, classic fiction, etc.) is a joy.

29. He listens to me. I can't even explain how important this is to me.

30. He calls my grandparents "Our Grandparents". And they all love him. He loves my parents, sisters, and brother. He adds his own easy going flavor to our occasionally hot-headed dynamic. Of course, it goes without saying that we have enriched his life as well. He still can't talk as fast as us, though.

31. He's committed to following God with all his heart. He leads our family to do what is right. He loves God's Word & the work of God. He wants to do things of eternal significance. Because he belongs to God first, and seeks His Will, I come to my last point:

32. He's all mine.

Friday, January 23, 2009

This Is Not What I Planned for Today

Here I was, getting ready to blog about Prince Charming for his birthday when everything fell apart.

Item 1: I was going to do a post about his birthday while he was away teaching. But he didn't get a sub job for today.

Item 2: He and the two older girls are away anyway, visiting my Mamaw in the hospital.

Item 3: I am not visiting my Mamaw because I have the first twinges of whatever plague Sweet Pea has brought into our home. And, much as I'm sure Mamaw would love to see me, her beloved oldest granddaughter, I am sure she would not like whatever particular virus Sweet Pea and I are fighting off.

Item 4: I am supposed to be resting up so that Prince Charming and I can keep our dinner date plans. Eating sans children? I am so there. Virus or no. Maybe. Surely I can pull it together so we can celebrate his birthday, right? We've been looking forward to this for ages. Then there's the whole, "Tomorrow night I'm supposed to play the piano for our choir to sing at a church none of us have been to" thing. Yeah, that's looking likely. Not.

Item 5: Sweet Pea and I are supposed to be napping right now. That's the last thing each girl told me as they walked out. "Try to get some sleep, Mom!" But Sweet Pea is not happy at being confined to her bed in their room all alone. And I am not sleepy. Just tired. Figure that one out. I figure we'll both fall asleep right before the rest of our family returns home.

You'll excuse me then, as I have some important napping to do.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Coming Up For...Blog Air?

Yes, dear friends and family, I still exist. Sometimes life, this time in the form of a sick nearly-two-year-old, just demands 100% of my attention. And I do mean one hundred percent.

Sweet Pea has barely released me since Tuesday morning. While I must say I have enjoyed the opportunity to love on and hold my usually fiercely independent semi-toddler, I am just about ready for someone else to share the love.

Why is it that when sickness strikes, Daddy will most certainly not do, even when Daddy is perfectly willing to do? No, it must be Mommy.

I'll leave that to be pondered another day. Just now Sweet Pea has perked up enough to actually, you know, go somewhere that is not my lap, so I intend to take full advantage.

How sad is it that, for me, that means catching up on the blog world and such like pursuits? Don't answer that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Books of 2008, Reading Year in Review

My wonderful friend Kelly was good enough to remind me that I never made my "2008 Reading Review" post. So, without further ado, here it is:

Total Number of Books Read: 145. This bests 2007 by seven books.
Fiction: 60 (17 more than last year)
Non-fiction: 85 (10 less than last year) I wish this number hadn't fallen off. Maybe I'll do better in '09. Or not. It depends on how much reading for escape I require this year, and I suspect I'm going to need a lot.

Month with the most reading completed: August, with 16.
Month with the least reading completed: September, with 8.
Average per month: 12. (That works out to a book every 2.5 days in case you were wondering).

Most Important Non-fiction Grand Prize: Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. Read in April. Read it now, if you haven't already. This book was truly eye-opening.

Most Important Non-fiction Runner Up #1: Death of the Grown Up by Diana West. Read in January.

Most Important Non-fiction Runner-Up #2: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. Read in May.

Favorite Fiction: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. Read in March. (And we also listened to the audio book of this later in the year). *I suspect I have a wee, tiny, little crush on Sir Percy Blakeney. He joins Mr. Darcy, Mr. Tilney, Mr. Knightley, Captain Wentworth, and, strangely, Gilbert Blythe in that respected group (Karen's Fictional Crushes). Don't worry about Prince Charming. My real life crush on him continues to grow stronger with every passing year. And he actually reciprocates.*

Favorite Fiction Runner-Up: A Room With a View by E.M. Forster. Read in February.
Favorite Fiction Series: Anything by Alexander McCall Smith. Any of his books are perfect for curling up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate and a snack. The best is probably his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency but I didn't actually read that one in '08.
Favorite Non-Fiction Series: Winston Churchill's WW2 series. I haven't read them all yet, but all the ones I have are excellent.

Best Fiction I've Been Meaning to Read for a Long Time: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Read in October.

Best Fiction I've Been Meaning to Read for a Long Time Runner Up: Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton. Read in June.

Best Fiction Honorable Mention: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Read in February.
Phenomenon that I Completely Do Not Understand: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I read the first two books in the series in August. Yuck. My apologies to those of you who love it (you know who you are...) but it just does nothing for me and I'm actually pretty sure that no hormonal teenager needs to be reading these.
Book With Most Deceptive Title: The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told by Rick Beyer. Let's just say Mr. Beyer's idea of "never told" is very different from my own.

Best Book On Education: Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. Read in May.

Most Inspiring Christian Living Book: Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. Read in August.
Least Inspiring Christian Living Book: Home by Choice by Brenda Hunter. Read in March. (Try Passionate Housewives Desperate for God by Jennie Chancey & Stacy McDonald instead.)

Favorite Austen Re-Read: All of 'em except Mansfield Park. I can't say I've grown any fonder of that one. Read in January & February

Favorite Austen Spin-off: The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Street. Read in March. And Prince Charming gave it to me for my birthday in May (good man!).

Best Book / Movie Combo Grand Prize: Cranford

Best Book / Movie Combo Runner Up: All of Jane Austen, in spite of those (mostly bad) new adaptations

Best Book / Movie Combo Honorable Mention: A Room with A View. (And here I reference the Merchant-Ivory adaptation, not the horrible Andrew Davies thing masquerading as A Room With a View)
Number of WW2 Non-fiction Books Read: 14
Number of WW2 Fiction Books Read: 7
Number of Books About Writing: 7
Number of Books With Dragons: at least 3, maybe 4. My memory's a bit rusty.

That's my round up for 2008. Remember you can always check the labels on my left sidebar (or under a specific post) for more. Will I be able to best my 2008 record in 2009? Stay tuned.

Tuesday's Child

True story: I was born on a Tuesday. (Side note: so was Tigger. Twenty three years and four months later)

Another true story: I have disliked Tuesdays most of my life. The simple reason is that, when I was young, Tuesdays were Piano Lesson Days. Consequently, I dreaded Tuesdays. Sometimes I didn't sleep very well on Monday nights because I knew it would be Tuesday when I woke up.

Two months ago, on yet another Tuesday, I was alone because Prince Charming was away teaching and the girls were already in bed. I watched old movies, trying to completely avoid the computer and all television. Except that it didn't work: when I put on my second movie I heard what the commentators were saying on the television. And I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I wanted to pack up my three girls and move far, far away, right then and there. Except I couldn't. Where on earth could we go?

Well, despite all that, I've learned a lot in the past couple months. For instance, I've finally realized that not being a true citizen of this world is a good thing. That feeling that I know who I am but not where I am? Yep, that's actually a gift from God.

Tuesday's Child is full of grace. (You do remember your Mother Goose, right?) That sounds about right to me. He gives more and more and still more grace. And I need it all.

Except in general, and today in particular, I still don't like Tuesdays. Maybe I will four years from now, maybe not. Doesn't really matter, does it? I intend to be full of grace, no matter what. (I'd say "come what may" but that brings a song to mind and I don't really feel like singing just yet. Full of grace doesn't mean you're always deliriously happy.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Universe,

It is not "that time of the month" nor is it at all possible that I am pregnant. I just need to get that cleared up first.

It is true that I am concerned about a few things. But nothing completely overwhelming. Yet.

It is also true that I am annoyed about a great many things. But nothing that can be cleared up right away, or ever in some cases.

With those disclaimers, I must also mention that I am not a weepy person. I do not tear up over commercials, greeting cards, or sad stories. Pictures of babies, puppies, rainbows, etc. do not provoke any noticeable response from me. I have never been prone to giggling or any other type of mood swinging (except the volatile teenage years and those don't count and even then I only cried when I was absolutely spitting mad).

So why, on a perfectly sunny, normal day, did a Coldplay song nearly bring me to tears? Fortunately for me, there was no one else in the car at the time. But nearly crying while driving is probably not the safest thing.

Either I must give up Coldplay or this strange response must go. So please have this anomaly (and everything else that annoys me) fixed ASAP.

Thanks so much,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Where Does It Come From?

Last night my beautiful youngest sister, who is expecting my beautiful nephew to arrive in June (Can't wait!), joined us for dinner. (Supper. Whatever. I can't keep up with what it is supposed to be called. That big meal at the end of the day.)

Princess is a very busy lady with school, work, carrying my beautiful nephew, and being a newlywed. So she, understandably, does not have a lot of time for cooking. Which explains a few exchanges we had over our meal.

I lamented the lack of cream cheese in the house as I had made us a pan of cinnamon rolls.
Princess: "Doesn't the package have some?"
*Nervous laughter from Prince Charming and myself.*
Me: "Um, sweetie, these didn't come out of a can."
Princess: "Oh."
Me: "Actually, nothing on this table came out of a can."
Princess: "Wow!"

Then, as we prepared to move to our living room and watch a movie, we talked of making popcorn.

Princess: "But you don't have a microwave." Fortunately for me, Tigger fielded that concern. (It was a concern very near and dear to her heart back when we didn't replace our microwave after a little fire.)
Tigger: "We use popcorn seeds on the stove. It's very simple."

Those were Tigger's exact words (I know you don't believe me, but it's true). Prince Charming and I couldn't even look at each other lest we embarrass ourselves with laughter. And we didn't want to hurt the Princess's feelings, of course.

Then we all watched a movie and ate popcorn and drank hot cocoa. That came out of little paper packages. No one said everything in our house was from scratch.

And a good time was had by all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What Label Shall I Choose?

I love education books, homeschooling books, educational theory get the idea. I am certain in my own personal theories (based on personal experience or not). I generally fall in the Classical / Charlotte Mason camps, concerning homeschool practices.

Earlier this month I read a book on "unschooling" just exercising my curiosity about other methods. What I read (some of which has already stirred up varied reactions in my post on phonics / whole language) astounded me.

Instead of being some variation on Charlotte Mason, these parents seemed to think they ought to always follow their child's lead and never, under any circumstances, induce a child to study something he/she is not "drawn to" or interested in. This quote is indicative of the mindset:
"We have no restrictions on television watching - except volume! I don't feel there is any point to restricting their viewing. I want them to learn to self-regulate, not to be dependent on me to tell them what they should do. Also, it would be antithetical to my unschooling philosophy to prescribe or proscribe any source of information." "Amy, Idaho" quoted by Mary Griffith in The Unschooling Handbook
Well, I want my children to learn to self-regulate too, but I don't set them in the midst of all our Christmas candy and let them gorge until they've had enough. Prince Charming and I - gasp - actually set limits on certain things. We do this not because we enjoy spoiling every one's fun (although I have been accused of this) and not because we're absolute control freaks (again, I have been accused of this too) but because these are our children. We love them more than anything else in the world. We believe part of our job is teaching them to set parameters and showing them how we follow rules ourselves. (Contrary to childish wishes, we never grow up to completely "boss our own selves")

I could get into how this all relates to the doctrine of man and doctrine of God, original sin or spark of divinity, etc., but I can sense your eyes glazing over already. Suffice it to say: I disagreed with most of what this book advocated. And the part I agreed with? We're already doing it.

See, that's the pertinent point. Not only do my children have a proscribed curriculum (chosen by me to fit each individual child) we also do all the fun stuff they encourage in this book. Board games? Real life experiences? Lots of books, movies, and computer games? Art projects? Science experiments? Um, yes. We do all that and much more. We just don't depend on it for all that we hope and expect our children to learn. (Charlotte Mason called this time "masterly inactivity", by the way. Which is: kids allowed to be kids, but with a purpose.)

Maybe I'm a Classical Educator / Charlotte Mason acolyte in the mornings and Un-Schooler in the afternoons? So, if you're looking for a label for what type of homeschoolers we are (other than just crazy, that's a given), this sounds about right to me.

If They Say So

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Grace!


You are a Grace -- "I need to understand the world."

Graces have a need for knowledge and are introverted, curious, analytical, and insightful.
How to Get Along with Me
* Be independent, not clingy

* Speak in a straightforward and brief manner

* I need time alone to process my feelings and thoughts

* Remember that If I seem aloof, distant, or arrogant, it may be that I am feeling uncomfortable

* Make me feel welcome, but not too intensely, or I might doubt your sincerity

* If I become irritated when I have to repeat things, it may be because it was such an effort to get my thoughts out in the first place

* don't come on like a bulldozer

* Help me to avoid my pet peeves: big parties, other people's loud music, overdone emotions, and intrusions on my privacy

What I Like About Being a Grace
* standing back and viewing life objectively
* coming to a thorough understanding; perceiving causes and effects
* my sense of integrity: doing what I think is right and not being influenced by social pressure
* not being caught up in material possessions and status
* being calm in a crisis

What's Hard About Being a Grace

* being slow to put my knowledge and insights out in the world

* feeling bad when I act defensive or like a know-it-all

* being pressured to be with people when I don't want to be

* watching others with better social skills, but less intelligence or technical skill, do better professionally

Graces as Children Often

* spend a lot of time alone reading, making collections, and so on

* have a few special friends rather than many

* are very bright and curious and do well in school

* have independent minds and often question their parents and teachers

* watch events from a detached point of view, gathering information

* assume a poker face in order not to look afraid

* are sensitive; avoid interpersonal conflict

* feel intruded upon and controlled and/or ignored and neglected

Graces as Parents
* are often kind, perceptive, and devoted

* are sometimes authoritarian and demanding

* may expect more intellectual achievement than is developmentally appropriate

* may be intolerant of their children expressing strong emotions

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz at HelloQuizzy

I have never, ever, not even once, in my life compared myself to Grace Kelly. (Has anyone?) But I must say, other than that, this quiz is fairly accurate concerning how I act and think.

January Comes Eventually

So far this week we have had grievous amounts of snow and cold predicted for four straight days. The snow always manages to blow by us (not that I'm complaining, I very much dislike being snowed in) but the cold is here and boy is it cold.

My girls were looking out the window this morning at the pitiful amount of snow on the ground. "Aw, the sun is going to melt it before we can play in it," they said.

Um, no. The sun is not going to melt anything when the temperature is FIFTEEN degrees Fahrenheit. They won't get to play outside but not because of the sun. Could be something to do with the fact that I don't want my children turned into living Popsicles.

Meanwhile, life goes on. A meeting that I am not attending Saturday, still demands my attention because other people are attending it and those people seem to be changing their minds every three seconds on just exactly who is going, who must pay, and so on.

And another meeting, that I am attending Monday night, is a meeting I signed up to bring refreshments to way back in September when January seemed so far away it would never come. What was I thinking? Foolish short-sightedness, that's what it was. I'm willing to take suggestions on what sort of snacks to take.

I've ruled out Popsicles.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Other Things

I've racked my brain to think of what to write here
But the words aren't tripping from my fingers
Maybe it's because the rain makes my days drear
Or it could be because my mind is busy processing
Other things.

I've tried to focus on the good and to not fear
But there are many things to worry or to pray about
So I'm working a lot on that, and I find cheer
In my children. But just now they are fighting over
Other things.

It's rainy today but I suppose I should be thankful that it is not snowy, or at least not yet. My children have all three cried at different points this morning. They've fought over the same toys and then fought with me when I've given them separate things to do. ("I want to do that too!") And it isn't even lunchtime. (le sigh)

My uncle is in the hospital, a childhood pen-pal's mom is very near death, and while neither of those things is - directly - affecting me, just now I am spending a lot of time praying. Not that praying or thinking about those concerns is a negative thing, but it does seem to sap my concentration on other things. Like whether my children are dismantling my house piece by piece.

Now it is feeding time at the zoo, I mean here, and Prince Charming isn't coming home for lunch. Remember the woman in the shoe who "gave them their broth and gave them their bread and spanked them all soundly and put them in bed"? She had the right idea.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Reminder for Myself...and Maybe You, Too

My dad (that would be Pastor Dad) is, as many of you already know or have figured out from his screen name, a pastor. He's a good one, if I do say so myself. Part of his job description involves preaching sermons. (Free anecdote: one time, long long ago, one of my younger sisters asked my dad what his job was. Pastor Dad described all the thing he does as a pastor/preacher. Her reaction: "They pay you for that?")

Anyway, while keeping Tigger from coloring on the pew, or kicking the seat, or dropping her things on the floor (not one of Tigger's better behaved services, I must say) I managed to hear some of what my dad was preaching. I can't quote verbatim but it was along the lines of, "If you are saved there ought to be a flag flying over you showing that the King is in residence."

You see, even today wherever Queen Elizabeth II is living, there is a flag that flies above that place (Windsor, Buckingham, Balmoral). When the queen isn't there = no flag. When the queen is there = flag flying. Something similar ought to happen for those of us that call ourselves Christians. People ought to be able to tell. There ought to be something different about us, something good.

This reminded me of a quote I recently read in a magazine:

"I never read the Bible as a child, and I expected that it would be full of fire and brimstone. This notion has only been reinforced by hearing one angry, hateful person after another claim to represent all Christians, as they wagged and pounded the Bible. Reading the Bible has disabused me of any sense that a hateful person could represent this faith. The book is beautiful and exquisitely written - but it is characterized by one quality that colors every page: love." - actor Ben Affleck
Don't misunderstand why I'm quoting this. I am fully aware that some of what Christians must speak out against may be characterized by "hate speech" in our increasingly humanistic culture. What I am saying is: I suspect Mr. Affleck has never known a true Christian who demonstrated the love of Christ; or, at the very least, not one who did it very well. That's sad.

And before you start saying, "That's right! What an awful heathen he must be," please consider whose problem it is. It isn't Mr. Affleck's. Seems to me I recall something in the Bible about us being the ones who are supposed to go out, not about them being the ones supposed to wander in. (Before you go running off to introduce yourself to Mr. Affleck, understand that you may end up in jail. Or, at least have your motives closely questioned and scrutinized. The man is, I understand it, a movie star, after all.)

How, exactly, am I being salt if I'm content to sit in my comfy little salt shaker? Or how am I being light if I paint my lampshade black? Easy answer: I am not. And no amount of excuse making ("I'm not a people person", being my usual one) is going to actually excuse me. We cannot afford to let secularists define what a Christian is. I would (almost) love it if I heard people saying, "Yeah, Christians are just a crazy, fussy bunch of hypocrites. Except for that girl I know, she's just about the most loving person I've actually met. There's something different about her."

If we're going to turn the world upside down, like the early Christians did (It's in the Bible!) then we are going to have to get started where we are and with the people we already know. My contacts may be limited as I care for my home and raise my children. But I want my "King in Residence" flag to be flying for those paths I do cross. And no, I'm not suggesting that we can "get people saved" or force anyone to believe anything. I'm not talking about trickery or illusions, or more "gospel lite".

I'm talking about the real deal: I can introduce them to my Savior. I can explain why I believe what I believe. I can explain what difference it makes. I can stretch myself out of my comfort zone (people who look like me, talk like me, act like me) so that my "King in Residence" flag is not just something only I know about.

**Thanks for letting God talk to me through your words tonight, Dad. I promise I was paying attention, even if half my strength was holding your granddaughter still in the pew.**

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shameless Bragging

That last post? Yep, that was post number:

I wonder how long it will take me to get to 500?

Tigger's Insight

I wish I had video to correspond with this little Tigger anecdote, but, alas, I do not. Earlier this week my girls started dancing around. This is not unusual. Despite our conservative Baptist credentials, we like to dance around the house.

I know you are all shocked. Moving on now.

Anyway, I was actually just sitting reading. (What? Reading?) There was no music on but the girls had joined hands and were dancing around in the tiny space we lovingly call our living room. Then I heard Tigger. She was "la-la-la"-ing music. Recognizable music. (It was music from "The Nutcracker").

"Mama, I'm the music!" Tigger sang out.

And I thought, you know what? My girls are my music. There's dissonance at times. There's a sticky note here or there. They're louder than a Sousa marching band at times...but yes, they are my music.

Tigger is a wise little four year old. A little dissonance is a small price to pay for the Tigger-isms she regularly comes up with.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Obligatory Post to Remind Myself What Happened Today

After our outing yesterday, we had a nice cozy, "in" day today. The sun was shining and it wasn't nearly as cold. Which led to increased productivity, naturally. Funny how that works.

- Schoolwork = complete. Well, mostly. We intended to do our picture study and Shakespeare story but we didn't because we did some extra (long) history reading. And let me just say, reading a book like Saladin: Noble Prince of Islam will really test one's commitment to a thorough history education (dare I suggest we are trying to be, "Fair and Balanced?").

- Sewing = complete. Yes, I again conquered the temperamental beast that masquerades as my sewing machine. For the purpose of hemming two pairs of really nice pants that were given to me. They're size four but went past my feet by a good foot. Are there really all that many six foot women wearing size four? Don't answer that, I probably don't want to know.

- Feeding of voracious eating-machine like family members = done. Feeding of extremely picky and (for tonight at least) over-sensitive eldest daughter = also done. Not quite as easily, but we managed. And no, it wasn't as bad as the pumpkin soup fiasco. It would take a lot to be that bad.

- Numerous toys organized and put away = complete. Until five minutes after my children wake up in the morning, I'm sure.

- Putting to bed, reading of chapter book, prayers, one drink of water, preparations for the tooth fairy who must again visit our home this night = done, done, done, done and done.

- Watching of sweet, sentimental, & sad 1939 movie (Good-bye, Mr. Chips) = done.

What's left? More reading before putting of self to bed and much desired and longed for sleep.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Once Upon a Gloomy Thursday...

This is far from scientific, but I suspect snowy, dark, below-freezing Thursdays must not inspire many blog posts. This is based on the fact that very few of you have updated your blogs today. (And yes, I know, when am I ever scientific? It could happen, I suppose.)

C'mon, folks, what am I supposed to do on a cold and gloomy Thursday if you don't enable my blog habit?

Answer: take the two oldest girls and get out. You've had to get out before, haven't you? If you haven't...I need to know your secret, pronto. That, or you just haven't had any children yet, in which case, it's too late for me to know that particular secret.

So we three left Prince Charming and Sweet Pea here at the Charming cottage and betook ourselves to the library and further points out. Judging from the groggy expressions on the folks we left behind, I suspect much nap-taking went on. Prince Charming was loading the dishwasher when we returned but we weren't fooled. The oldest and the youngest of our family had settled in for a long winter's nap during our absence and I say we are all the better for it.

Back to those of us that got out, we, as previously mentioned, went first to our beloved library. Where I had roughly 67 holds in to check out. I exaggerate but only by a few books. I lamented the absence of Prince Charming at this point, not because he's only good for lugging bags of books but because, well, he really does do an excellent job carrying books.

After this we headed off to a large grocery / superstore that I dislike. And no, it doesn't start with "W". Or "K". Or "T". That ought to narrow that down.

At this store I was on a mission from Prince Charming to look for the game "Sorry Sliders" which must have been, secretly, the most popular Christmas gift of 2008 because it is nowhere. No store has it and they're not sure when they're getting it back in stock. Which is too bad, because Prince Charming thinks our family really would enjoy it.

So we traipsed around this big box of a store (partially dragging Tigger part way through when she decided, "no, she couldn't possibly walk another step and why do we have to be out anyway?") At one point the girls tried to talk me into buying: Barbie furniture (Not now. Maybe if you bring your own money next time), the old-fashioned Sorry game ("It's sort of like the one Dad wants." No.), and goldfish ("Mom, they're only $0.15 each!" Really, really: no.). I did acquiesce to the Christmas stocking that matches the five stockings we already have. ("Mom, what if we have another baby?" But we're not, right now. "But what if we do?" Fine. Good thing the store only had one!)

After this we hadn't had enough, so we crossed town to hit the "Big Scrapbooking Store" as my girls refer to the store's whose initials are H.L. We did not pick up any scrapbooking stuff. We did hit up the 80% Off Christmas selection, where we decided to add to our expanding hat box collection. I mean, have you seen these things? They are seriously cute. And useful too, of course. We bought a pink and white box for the girls' room too. And two birthday cards. And then it was time to go home and make supper.

The home folks were rested from their naps, we'd had enough shopping, we had lots of new books to look at, and, with one hour to go until supper, the girls decided they had plenty of time to empty all their toys from their room into the living room.

It's been, and I mean this quite non-sarcastically (which is rare for me, I know), a fabulous day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different...

40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes @ Yahoo! Video
Prince Charming's exactly reaction: "Oh, man!" And, a few minutes later, "That's stupid and it's still inspirational!"
H/T: Why Homeschool

My Two Cents on Learning to Read

I finished a homeschooling book yesterday. This book was a little different from my usual type and I will be talking more about how later, but right at the beginning of the book something jumped out at me. Specifically: the age old battle between "Phonics" and "Whole Language" advocates. Did you think there was anything new under the sun concerning education theory?

"When you show a child an object, a dress for instance, has it ever occurred to you to show him separately first the frills, then the sleeves, after that the front, the pockets, the buttons, etc.? No, of course not; you show him the whole and say to him: this is a dress. That is how children learn to speak from their nurses; why not do the same when teaching them to read? Hide from them all ABCs and all the manuals of French and Latin; entertain them with whole words which they can understand and remember with far more ease and pleasure than all the printed letters and syllables."
That was written in 1787 by Nicholas Adam. It is true that he was a very educated man and that he could speak several languages. Unfortunately, it is also true that this quote shows he had no idea what he was talking about.

When you are showing things to a baby, do you say, "That's a 'chair', that's a 'cow', that's a 'dog', I'm 'Mom' and tomorrow we'll move on to other words"?

I'm guessing (hoping) the answer is "no". In our house it goes something like this: "This is a dog, Yes, the dog is soft, isn't she? No, don't pull her fur. Yes, the dog does say 'woof''' and so on. In other words, we are explaining the object as we introduce it. And we will most likely have to explain it multiple times before the little tot catches on. (How many times do we say things like, "Say 'Mama'. Ma-ma. Ma-ma. Mama loves her baby. Say 'Mama'." Before our little one imitates us. And then it's only a short while before we are wondering why we didn't teach them "Da-da" first, but that's another issue!)

Phonics does the same thing. We introduce the sounds those tricky letters can make, and how they combine into words. We show similarities between words. We memorize some words for ease of reading. (Generally known as "sight" words.)

We surround our children with the best Children's literature, nursery rhymes, folk songs, picture books, and non-fiction books about their interests. We read cereal boxes, signs, Sunday comics, and joke books. Eventually (each child is different, but the only people who don't realize that are bureaucrats in Washington) the child wants to learn to decode these wonderful things. A rich literary background will give them more building blocks during phonics lessons, easing her entrance into the wonderful world of reading. (And it is wonderful!)

Oh and Mr. Adams? I'm guessing he never actually sewed a dress. It's complicated and you do have to learn each thing separately: this is the left bodice, this is the right, this little piece will become the collar, these two pieces must be sewn together, here are the buttons and do be careful when setting the buttonholes, have you measured twice?"

Knowing what something is and knowing why something is and how to duplicate the effect, are very different concepts. So now, as if there was any doubt, you know what camp I'm in: Phonics all the way, baby,with a thorough exposure to good books and language before, during, and after formal learning-to-read lessons. Why mess with what works?

*For those of you not familiar with my sense of humor: that last paragraph means I consider myself a "both are necessary" kind of person. You can't teach phonics without lots of great literature, you can't teach "whole language" without some phonics awareness. Sorry for my lack of clarity in that respect.*

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Prizes Just Keep Coming

Did you hear that I won a drawing over at Morgan's blog? She has great give-aways every so often and I have never won. But that all changed on January 4th. I won this adorable little calendar with Morgan's beautiful artwork. (If you're really jealous you can order one from her. And she has cute note cards too!)

So, the girls wanted to show it off. First, I had to find the camera. This is not easy. And have I mentioned I desperately need want a new, better camera?

Who licked the lens?
Girls! Just look at the camera like normal people...oh well, no use in asking for the impossible.
Flash off = blurry calendar. Mostly because Tigger is a perpetual motion type of girl. (I suppose you have guessed that from her nickname)

Never mind. Thanks for the beautiful calendar, Morgan! We all love it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Awards are Rolling In...

Or one anyway. My lovely, gracious, and brilliant mother (who can be found blogging here) has seen fit to bestow this also lovely award on Candid Diversions:

This makes all that work on the three-template page worth it. Almost.

As always, these awards do not come "No Strings Attached".

Here are the rules:
Link to the person who gave you the award.
Name seven recipients of your own. (As per my mom's instructions, it is okay if you can't come up with that many. Just try to brighten the day of as many people as you can.)

I offer this award to:

1. Kelly. Wherever she may now be blogging. She knows way more about HTML than I do and her blog changes so often you never know what you'll see next time. They're all cool. Just like Kelly.

2. Jessica. Her new blog look is super cute. She also has a decorating blog. Did I mention she has two adorable little ones? 'Cause she does.

3. Tarah. She's got style. And she likes vintage things. Did I mention she has an adorable daughter?

4. Renae. She is kind enough to follow my blog and leave me kind comments. Her blog always inspires me.

5. Michelle. Beautiful blog. I actually started reading a blog by Michelle because I really liked the Toile header she had. Now I stay for the great content - but the toile doesn't hurt, either.

6. Amy of Buffaloes and Butterfly Wings. Beautiful family. Beautiful faith. Beautiful blog.

7. MacKenzie. Although her husband may not like their blog being called "lovely". If we must, we can say that only her posts are "lovely". His are "manly and certainly not lovely." Or something like that.

Now I'm off to add my new award to my left side-bar. 'Cause, you know, I have two. Three column format and all that. Thank goodness for brothers-in-law who can fix computer problems or Candid Diversions would have died an inglorious death. OK, I exaggerate. But thank goodness for brothers-in-law anyway.

We Four

There's a reason why we don't try this more often.

And doesn't this picture make it look like LuLu is the bossy one? Just goes to show you: pictures can be deceiving.

Princess was pretty sickly this day.

I was tired.

The Bear was his usual self.
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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dipping My Toe in Murky Water

I just blogged about something semi-political for the first time in over two months. Turns out I still have opinions. (Who would've thunk it?)

Of course, it's about toys and children's clothes, but still...first steps are important. Maybe I'll end up reading National Review again someday. (Not now. It's still too soon. And no talk radio either. Or television news. Okay, not much has changed. But it's a start.)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Follow Me

When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?"
Jesus said unto him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!"

John 21: 21-22 ESV

Wednesday night my family took ourselves to an annual watch-night service. If you don't know what that is (as in: you're not Independent Baptist), it is a church service that lasts from around 8 PM to Midnight. What happens at these events varies but it's usually some combination of: preaching, singing, eating, game playing, movie watching, preaching, singing, eating... You get the idea.

Our church trades with another church so that one church doesn't have to host every time. It's supposed to give people a break and a change of scenery. This year was not our turn to host so we took a group to visit the other church. Prince Charming was going to be preaching, along with another young man, so there was no danger of...okay, what I was going to say is not gracious so we'll just move along, mmkay?

Our group of about 20 (that's a little more than 10% of our Church family, if you're counting, and I am or anyway, I was) had a good time. I enjoyed the service. Even my persnickety Brother Bear, thought it was one of the best he had been to. (Seriously. He said so.)

So what's the problem, you say? A group equally as large or bigger (including some of our best friends and church leaders) did...something else. Together. Which proves that they weren't "not getting out tonight" or "going to bed early this year". They just...did something else.

It boggles the mind. Okay, it just boggles my mind.

I understand the inclination to say, "If you're not doing what I do, then you're not a good Christian." Oh, do I understand it! I'm fighting it because I don't want to be one of those people who starts measuring skirt length (if you've ever been in a Christian school you know what I'm talking about).

But inside I'm telling God, "See that? They didn't even go to your house on a regular service night. They could've been at mid-week service and watch-night all the same time (you get two points for that, right?), and they didn't! They couldn't be bothered. See? SEE?"

And He says, "You follow me."

I say, "But that's what I'm doing! See? But they..."

And He says, "You follow me."

And because I'm not as smart as Peter, He has to say it again and again and again.

"You follow me. You follow me. You follow me."

I think I know what my New Year's Resolution ought to be.

Maybe, if I listen to Him closely as He says it again and again, I'll get it. Maybe when I'm tempted to compare the commitment of another, when all I want to do is compare myself to a lesser brother, when it seems easy to judge...maybe if I listen I'll hear Him. The command is the same.

"You Follow Me."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Books of 2008 - December

Wrapping up my reading year:

1. Espresso Tales. Fiction by Alexander McCall Smith. Quick, easy read. I can't quite explain why I am drawn to these tales from Scotland but I am. This is the second book in the 44 Scotland Street series.

2. Alphabet Juice. Non-fiction by Roy Blount Jr. I love books about books, books about words, books about writing...catching a pattern yet? This book was humorous at times but I found his style condescending and his politics obnoxious.

3. A Conspiracy of Ravens. Fiction by Gilbert Morris. I used to love the Christian fiction by this author but I am increasingly disillusioned by his efforts. It's like he's written so many he just phones it in now. Strong willed female, the tall strong attractive man she doesn't want to be attracted to, obnoxious older family member (usually female) standing in the way. Add to this sloppy habits (like the main character describing herself or sudden omniscience) and I don't really want to read anything else he writes.

4. America's Fighting Admirals. Non-fiction by William Tuohy. Concise but insightful. Read as research (naturally). I had a little thrill when I was checking a footnote in this book and realized the author was referencing a work by an historian whose works I have read. Maybe my intensive U.S. Navy WW2 study is finally paying off?

5. In the Shadow of the Sun King. Fiction by Golden Keyes Parsons. Excellent. Well-written, carefully crafted, based on true events. I think my mom would like this one, but anyone who appreciates well-written Christian fiction probably would.

6. Cooking for Mr. Latte. Non-fiction by Amanda Hesser. Ms. Hesser is most likely a lovely person, but Ms. Hesser is a food snob. And as such she is not the literary heir to M.F.K. Fisher, no matter what the back of this book says. This book didn't make me want to cook or copy any of the recipes. I'd call that a food memoir failure.

7. Spellbound by Beauty. Non-fiction by Donald Spoto. A book about Hitchcock and his leading ladies. Mr. Spoto is an excellent biographer, nonetheless, I am a bit embarrassed to admit I read this.

8. A Year in High Heels. Non-fiction by Camilla Morton. Harmless, useless, meaningless.

9. Poems of Christmas. Edited by Myra Cohn Livingston. I first read the Madeline L'Engle poem that I posted Christmas Eve from this book.

10. Love Over Scotland. Fiction by Alexander McCall Smith. Book 3 in the 44 Scotland Street series. My favorite character in all the stories so far: Bertie. My least favorite: Bruce or Bertie's mother, Irene.

11. Passionate Housewives Desperate for God. Non-fiction by Jennie Chancey & Stacy McDonald. I've seen a lot of women bloggers talking about this book. It is thought-provoking, which is good, of course, but it lacks in the "how" department. I understand the "why" but I need help with "how". I recommend it to Christian women, with some reservations. As always, use discernment.

12. Kid Culture. Non-fiction by Todd Tobias & Lou Harry. Quick, humorous look at kids' books, television and movies.

13. Battle Line: U.S. Navy 1919-1939. Non-fiction by Thomas Hone & Trent Hone. I finished out the year (Seriously - I finished this book December 31st!) with yet another book about the U.S. Navy. I had trouble getting through this one at first but the prospect of starting the year with it unfinished gave me the boost I needed. It was actually very helpful to me. I know a lot more about the WW2 U.S. Navy than I used to but this book gave me the background information I needed. I think I'm ready for a break from Navy history now!

Coming soon: 2008 book year in review.