Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday morning

Sunday morning, Diet Pepsi, and sunshine. Does it get much better than this? Friday evening was the kids' homeschool play performance. They did a wonderful job! The singing was excellent; the costumes and set were just beautiful; and the comedy was hysterical. L and C are natural performers, so this is a great outlet for them.

In the middle of May, they have piano auditions for the Piano Guild. L is pretty much ready. C still needs some practice. I don't know if they are having a spring piano recital, but I suspect that they will since their teacher is retiring. L is going to piano day camp this summer and I hope we can find a teacher there for the kids. It will be a longer drive for lessons, but I think L really needs higher level teaching. A University student or teacher will be good for both kids.

The first part of June is the dance recital. This is a big deal for all of us. C is in one dance this year, but he is in all three shows. L is in three dances (not to mention the daddy-daughter dances) in all three shows. She will be pretty well wiped out afterwards, but she loves to perform and she learns so much from these shows. There are four families from our church with kids in the shows this year. I don't know how much that will help with driving for dress rehearsals, though. All the kids still want/need parental involvement in getting their costumes, hair, and makeup right.

P and I (OK, mostly P) spent yesterday cleaning the garage. Now, the garage would have room for a car in it except that we have all the boxes for the garage sale sitting in the middle of it!! In any case, a lot of stuff has been thrown out, and the rest sorted and put away. We have to do the basement and finish the kids' rooms this week. I hope we can get most of it done. If we don't, I don't mind taking the stuff to Goodwill. The rummage sale is nice to give us a deadline, though.

Last night, we went to the neighbors house to watch a movie and have dinner. They are an older couple, but are very active and fun. We watched a video of a show in Branson. It was really quite good. I'm not a huge country music fan, but they sang lots of old country stuff that I know and kind of like. They also did a number of Southern Gospel songs. I don't really like to listen to Southern Gospel music much (I prefer CCM), but they sang some hymns and older songs which was nostalgic. I grew up listening to Gospel (pre-Amy Grant!). We didn't get home till late, but we went right to bed. It was nice that we just had to walk across the street to get home!

C turns 9 on Tuesday - EEK! Where did my baby go? He's all excited because he gets to open a couple of his birthday presents that day. I also told him that I'll make chocolate chip muffins for breakfast since we won't have cake until Saturday. He also has dance class Tuesday - I'm pretty sure he'll be just walking on air all day.

C's birthday party is Saturday afternoon. The rummage sale is Saturday morning. Yikes! I've asked a friend to come over that day to help in case I get overwhelmed. We invited some friends of ours who are moving (back) to the US from Venezuela. The husband is from this area and was a missionary in Venezuela. His wife is Venezuelan and worked at the Ranch where he worked. They are hoping to come to the birthday party and to be at church Sunday am. I planned C's party so that I don't have to feed the kids lunch or dinner, just cake and ice cream. I told our friends that they can stay for dinner, though. If the weather is nice, I'm hoping that we can grill.

Book Review: The Great and Terrible Quest
This book for preteens is about a young man in medieval England who gets involved on a quest with an injured knight who has lost most of his memory. It isn't a long book, and I finished it in 2 days. It is a page-turner! It makes a point that honor and "knightly-ness" are based on behavior, not position. Enjoy!

Movie Review: "The Life of Birds"
The Life of Birds is a three DVD set narrated by David Attenborough. There are a total of 10 episodes. I chose for us to watch this because we are studying birds in Science. It took us about 3 weeks to finish the set. The footage is just spectacular and the information is unmatched. The only problem is the evolutionary point of view. He did not bother to argue for evolution - he simply assumed it as fact. My kids are learning to be discerning about things like evolution and creation, so I used these DVDs as another opportunity to discuss design versus naturalistic explanations for biology. Overall, though, I would highly recommend them.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bonding in the Closet

Intriguing title, huh? L and I had a pretty good time cleaning out her closet last night. I never would have thought it. We got rid of clothes that don't fit and that she doesn't wear, put doll things in a corner, and put books in another corner. L put on some music, so we were dancing around and cleaning. It is a walk in closet, but it is in the eaves, so there's only about 3 feet by 8 feet where I can actually stand up! It was fun (and productive - shhh!).

Today is the first performance of the play. The kids are doing it at the library. The weather is just awful, but I figure that more kids might come to the library since they would have played outside if the weather was nice. In any case, the rehearsals are done, costumes are put together, and the kids are ready.

We are making progress on cleaning out the house. I am finding it very therapeutic. Unfortunately, it does not agree with my head! Last night, I had a migraine. So, I do a little bit at a time. Tomorrow will be cleaning out C's room and, perhaps, finishing cleaning L's room. Next week I plan to spend most of the time getting ready for the rummage sale and birthday party, although I hope to do a little bit of schoolwork to keep some consistency.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Last night, our Bible reading was about Elijah being carried up to Heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:1-14). It is a wonderful story. We then, took out our Rich Mullins DVD and watched him sing "Elijah". It was a nice time.

The Jordan is waiting for me to cross thru
My heart is aging I can tell
So Lord I'm begging for one last favour from You
Here's my heart
Take it where you will

This life has shown me how we're mended
And how we're torn
How it's O.K. to be lonely
As long as you're free

Sometimes my ground was stony
And sometimes covered up with thorns
And only you could make it what it had to be
And now that it's done

If they dressed me like a pauper
Or if they dined me like a prince
If they lay me with my fathers
Or if my ashes scatter on the wind
I don't care

When I go I wanna go out like Elijah
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire
And when I look back on the stars
It'll be like a candlelight in Central Park
And it won't break my heart to say goodbye

There's people been friendly
But they'd never be your friends
Sometimes this has bent me to the ground
But now that this is all ending I want to
Hear some music once again
'Cause it's the finest thing
That I have ever found

But the Jordan is waiting
Though I ain't never seen the other side
Still they say you can't take in
The things you have here
So on the road to salvation I stick out my thumb and
He gives me a ride
And his music is already falling on my ears

There's people been talking
They say they're worried about my soul
Well I'm here to tell you i'll keep rocking
Til I'm sure it's my time to roll

When I go I wanna go out like Elijah
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire
And when I look back on the stars
It'll be like a candlelight in Central Park
And it won't break my heart to say goodbye
from "Elijah" by Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins was killed in a car crash in 1997. He was ejected from his vehicle and died immediately.

It has been a busy week already. The homeschool play is this week, so I have been working to finalize costumes, etc. Last night, after dance, L and I went to Goodwill, Target, and KMart, and couldn't find a shirt for C. P is going to look after his tutoring today. Today was dress rehearsal #1. Thursday am is the second dress rehearsal. They perform at the library Thursday afternoon and at church Friday pm. So far, the only schoolwork we have done has been a little Bible and watching bird DVDs. Tomorrow, we'll work on some history. The other thing we're working on is getting stuff ready for the rummage sale in 2 weeks. I have worked in both kids rooms a little so far. I don't know how much they're going to be willing to part with. Well, we'll make it work.

I am currently reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. What a great book! In it, he has a bus that runs from hell to Heaven and back in a loop. His main character is observing what is happening. The sinners in hell are allowed to take the bus to the outside of Heaven. There, they are met by souls from Heaven who try to convince them to come to Heaven. Most of the souls from hell, though, can't get into Heaven because they won't let go of something that is keeping them from God. One woman claims that she loves her son, but the saved soul from Heaven tries to tell her that she has to learn to love God more than her son, but she isn't willing to even try. It's just a wonderful story.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

She bought a bird!!!!

OK, so 1/7th of a bird. L went to a 4H animal swap today (actually, a sale, but I think they were buying from other 4H'ers). She got there at 6am (EEK!) when it opened. P got her up and walked her to the fairgrounds. While she was there, she decided that she wanted to buy a bird. She called home and P said "NO!" We have three cats! Can you imagine a bird in a small house with three cats? Besides, L and I had discussed this before and I had told her "no". Well, she and two friends decided that they would buy a dove and that it would stay at her friend's house (which is OK since they have goats, ducks, birds, rabbits, cats, dogs, etc.). Well, L is now part owner of Milky Way, a dove.

I have had a rough couple of days on the headache front. I developed a whopping migraine on Thursday evening. It was bad enough that I couldn't try to sleep until after 1am. I slept on the sofa so I could sleep with my head up - but, I had my CPAP machine! Anyway, I had a headache most of yesterday, too, but not as bad. P wanted to take me on a date, so we decided that we would not got out to eat and would spend our money at the yarn shop, instead (I'm making myself a cape). Then, we went to a state park and walked one of the trails. It was a nice evening. But, I woke up this morning still having a headache. Bummer.

L and two of her friends wanted to get our family entered in the city rummage sale so they can sell stuff they don't need and raise money so that E (one of the friends) can go to family camp with J (the other friend). And, we all go to the same family camp, so all three girls are excited that they will all be at family camp together. I was going to go through the kids' rooms today and collect stuff for the sale. I told C he can have whatever money he gets from selling his stuff. I also have lots of stuff that should be sold or given away. This is a good excuse to do it.

We went on Thursday, the deadline, to sign up for the sale. First, we went to City Hall - they said that sign-ups were at the Chamber or the newspaper. We went to the Chamber, and they said to go to the newspaper. The newspaper is closed from 12-1. We went back to the newspaper at 1:30 and got our number and sign. She said that she should have already taken the sign-ups to wherever they were supposed to go. We were lucky that she was still taking sign-ups. Of course, I'm thinking that a deadline of April 19 means at the end of the business day on April 19, not whenever she decides to take the sign-up info wherever it is supposed to go. I'm glad we got there early. It's a reminder that we live in a small town and need to sometimes make adjustments.

Well, I'm still pretty headache-y, so I'm going to sit and knit. More later.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


OK, I have reread and rethought my last post and I need to make one change. I went back to Scripture to look at women as deacons and I really couldn't find anything to support that. There are women listed who served the church, but not who were in the office of deacon as far as we know. That being said, one of Strauch's arguments about why men should be elders does not really apply as well to deacon. Strauch says that men should be elders because they are the spiritual leader of the household, they should be the spiritual leaders of the church. Deacons were appointed by the elders to help do the practical things in the church. I don't think there's a compelling reason that they could not be women. However, in 1 Timothy 3, both elders and deacons are assumed to be men. Interestingly, Paul includes instruction about a leader's wife. This is right in the middle of the section on deacons. Nothing specific is said about elder's wives. That being said, I think that it is only logical that the same standards apply.

Early Morning Musings

So, I woke up at 4:30am with everything hurting - EEK! Indeed, the trampoline adventure is trying to do me in. I did have a migraine yesterday afternoon, but it was controlled by bedtime. I didn't wake up with a migraine, but everything else hurts. So, I got up, took some meds, did some laundry, and will do dishes as soon as the washer is finished using as much hot water as it is going to (ah, the joys of limited hot water and no dishwasher!).

P has been doing some reading about Biblical eldership and he asked me to read a booklet that he and the rest of the elders were reading. After finishing the booklet, he ordered the book. A little background: our church is an Evangelical Free Church which means that the denomination does not require a certain governing structure for individual churches (from what I understand). Our church is an elder led church. That is, there is a board of elders that provides the spiritual leadership for the church. The Senior Pastor previously has been part of the elder board, along with the pastor of maturity and ministry and the pastor of worship, but was also the "supervisor" (if you will) of the other pastors. The church council provides the administrative leadership - budget, buildings, stuff like that. We are currently without a Senior Pastor, although our pastor to senior high students is the candidate for whom we will be voting next week. So, the elders have recently been discussing eldership and church leadership.

The booklet to which I am referring is Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch. Here are some of the points which he makes:

1. Biblical eldership is pastoral leadership. Elders are not executives of a church nor are they assistants to the pastors. They are to protect the flock (congregation) from false teaching (Acts 20:17,28-31). They are also to be able to teach (feed the flock) (1 Tim. 3:2). Elders are to lead the flock. They bear responsibility for the church's practical needs (James 5:14 tells the congregation to call the elders to pray for those who are ill) including praying for the members, visiting those who are ill, providing counsel to those who need it. Elders work hard and sacrifice. Strauch takes the modern church members to task on this point: he argues that people are willing to let others be responsible for their spiritual needs instead of being committed to becoming true disciples of Jesus.

2. Biblical eldership is shared leadership. This is an interesting concept for those of us reared in the modern American church. Strauch argues that leadership of the church belongs to a group of elders, not just to the paid staff. In fact, the paid staff are those who are "uniquely gifted at preaching and teaching." Strauch also argues for "first-among-equals" leadership. That is, elders who are gifted at leading may be the ones that stand out and are the "up front" leaders. But, this is not to take away the leadership of the full group of elders. Strauch uses the examples of Peter among the disciples and Paul and Barnabas as examples of "first-among-equals" leadership. The elders who do most of the teaching and preaching are not superior to the rest of the elders.

3. Elders are to be male. Although there is a little voice inside that tries to tell me that this is sexist, it is clear from Scripture that it is biblical. There are examples in the New Testament of women acting in the role of deacon (although some will argue that deacons should be men, as well), there are no examples of women as elders. Strauch points out that, as men should be the spiritual head at home, they should be the spiritual leaders of the local church.

4. Elders are to be qualified. There are a number of places in the New Testament in which Paul discusses the requirements to be an elder. While an elder does not have to have a seminary education, he must be well-grounded in Scripture. The office of elder is not something that is earned by lots of years going to church. Spiritual depth and true discipleship are required.

5. Elders must have excellent moral and spiritual character. An elder is to be "above reproach". Elders are to be self-controlled. An elder must not be a new believer - he must have been a Christian for long enough to develop some maturity. (Besides, Satan loves to attack church leadership. Elders need maturity to repel such attacks. This is my comment, not Strauch's.)

6. Elders must possess three requirements.
a. Able to manage his family and household. I know that some churches require that an elder's children all be believers (Titus 1:6). Does that mean that a man can't be an elder until his children are all old enough to be believers? I don't know and Strauch doesn't bring this up.
b. Able to provide a model for others to follow. I think this falls under excellent moral and spiritual character.
c. Able to teach and defend the faith.

7. Elders must have Spirit-given motivation for the task. 1 Tim. 3:1 says that it is a good thing for a man to aspire to be an elder. Men who are elders must be called by God. "Shepherding God's people through this sin-weary world is far too difficult a task - fraught with too many problems, dangers, and demands - to be entrusted to someone who lacks the will and desire to do the work effectively." (Strauch, p.26)

Strauch spends some time discussing the importance of servant leadership of elders. He then finishes the booklet with Scriptural evidence for the pastoral leadership by a plurality of elders. Basically, he argues that the local church should be led by a group of elders, among whom are the "pastors". In some churches with this model of leadership, the "pastor" is not called Pastor or Senior Pastor, but Lead Pastor or Teaching Elder.

So, I'm interested in seeing what others think about this. Is this model of leadership THE way to govern a local church, or is it just one of several viable models? How do other churches handle leadership? I'm also curious what people think about an elder having to have believing children. And, what about the "husband of one wife" requirement - does this mean an elder can have never been divorced, have never been divorced since he became a Christian, or just not be a polygamist?

Strauch makes some excellent points and they are well-supported.

Well, I think the dishes are calling to be washed. Better get going. I'm sure I'm going to need to nap this afternoon, so I'd better get done what I can now!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Springtime and Birthdays

For L and C's birthdays this year, we got them a joint present - a trampoline. We bought it yesterday - although that is a story in itself. We started at Sam's club; we needed some groceries anyway. They had the trampoline and enclosure for close to $400 - EEK! I had seen it on the internet for less than $300, so I was hoping we could do better. ToysRUs had a smaller trampoline (12 feet) but no enclosure. Menards had enclosures, but no trampolines. By this time, P, C, and I were pretty tired, so we went home. L and I left early for her dance class and went to WalMart (her dance class is in a city the opposite direction from where we had been that morning). They had the trampoline and enclosure for a price I could live with. Since we didn't have to shop around, we had a nice early dinner at Fazoli's and then went to Goodwill to find her costume for the homeschool play - no luck on C's costume, though.

This morning, we had "shop class". All four of us worked all morning and got the trampoline put together, including enclosure. I am completely wiped out and feel sure that my body is going to pay me back in the next couple of days! In any case, the kids got to help put the thing together, and they are now out playing. A friend of mine could hardly believe that we actually got our kids a trampoline. We are known as the psychotically safety-minded parents! I guess we're mellowing a little in our old age. Of course, the kids got a major safety lecture, and I've peeked out the window a few times to check on them.

L brought home several of her art projects from school today. Here is the bird that won a best in show award. She modeled it on an elf owl. Her current passion is owls.

I have taken on a new challenge in knitting - starting from the toes with a figure of eight cast-on. The knitting literature says that this is a great way to make socks. We'll have to see. It took me 4 tries to get the toe even started. I have the actually toe done, so we'll see how it goes from here. Of course, I also chose a pattern that has me reading from a chart, which is new to me. I'll be learning lots of stuff from one pair of socks.

Our weather has been gorgeous. Today it is 54 degrees and sunny (after an early morning rain shower). Yesterday was even a little warmer in the low 60s. We have to leave for dance class in an hour or so.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A lovely spring Sunday

The weather today was just beautiful - clear with a high in the upper 50s. It wasn't warm enough to open the windows for more than 30 minutes, but the fresh air was nice for a little while. It is supposed to be 60 degrees tomorrow (and we had fresh snow just last week!).

At church this morning, the sermon was called "Does God Really Care?" The pastors are doing a series on "The Tough Questions". The pastor talked about the fact that God really does love us and care about us. God loves us enough that he allows us to suffer because suffering produces character (Rom 5:3-53 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.). Suffering also teaches us obedience (Psalm 119:67). When all is said and done, our suffering can change our lives for the better. James tells us to consider it joy when we face trials of many kinds. Quite a challenge! I don't think that the pastor said anything that I hadn't previously heard, but he presented some good lessons from suffering.

I posted a conservative retelling of the ant and the grasshopper a couple of days ago. I got that from a forum that I frequently visit. In the ensuing "discussion" on that forum, I found that some people found racial overtones in that story. Obviously, I did not - otherwise I wouldn't have posted it. So, if you found it offensive for racial reasons, please read it again with the understanding that it is intended only to describe the differences between lazy and industrious people and our society's response to those people. Enough said.

I've been knitting socks lately. I did a fun pair with a basket-weave pattern for L. I finished one sock with a mock-smocked pattern for myself. Unfortunately, I am now caught up with making a pair of socks from the toe up. So far, I'm not having much luck. I am supposed to do a figure of 8 cast on. The cast on itself isn't too hard, but I must be twisting stitches or something because the whole thing starts to get all mixed up by the time that I get to the third row. EEK!

I had some kids from the 4H group over to knit today. I discovered that teaching knitting is harder than I expected. I tried to teach a cable cast-on, but no one got the hang of it. Eventually, I decided to teach a one-needle cast on which worked much better. Another mom did some knitting as a kid and she used a different kind of one needle cast on (kind of like a bunch of half-hitch knots side by side). The problem was that she then ended up with lots of extra yarn between stitches on the first row. By the end of the afternoon, everyone had cast on (even though I redid a couple of them) and was knitting. The other two moms also had a handle on how to do the knit stitch, so they can help the kids. We'll get together again in a few weeks and see where everyone is.

Here's a joke I found on a clean joke website that I thought was cute:

Two Trouble Makers: A couple had two little mischievous boys, ages 8 and 10. They were always getting into trouble, and their parents knew that if any mischief occurred in their town, their sons would get the blame. The boys' mother heard that a clergyman in town had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her boys. The clergyman agreed and asked to see them individually.So, the mother sent her 8-year-old first, in the morning, with the older boy to see the clergyman in the afternoon. The clergyman, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, "Where is God?"They boy's mouth dropped open, but he made no response, sitting there with his mouth hanging open.The clergyman repeated the question. "Where is God?"Again, the boy made no attempt to answer.So, the clergyman raised his voice some more and shook his finger in the boy's face and bellowed, "Where is God!?"The boy screamed and bolted from the room. He ran directly home and dove into his closet, slamming the door behind him.When his older brother found him in the closet, he asked, "What happened?" The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied: "We are in real BIG trouble this time! God is missing, and they think we did it!"

Friday, April 13, 2007

Tonight was Arti Gras at the middle school. L had several pieces entered in the art show. She won Best in Show for her ceramic owl (note - there were a number of Best in Show for each grade, but it didn't seem like they gave one for each project. Anyway, she was one of several 6th graders to win a Best in Show). Her owl wasn't a usual owl, though. The project was to make a ceramic bird with wire legs. Not only did they have to sculpt the bird part, but they had to make it stand up on the wire legs and then paint it. L's was lovely. She had several other very nice pieces shown - an Egyptian pharoah relief (it was supposed to be copper, but they actually used aluminum), a stamped piece with the stamp made from corrugated cardboard, and several others that are hard to describe. They had Mardi Gras masks that the kids could decorate. Some high school students were making plaster masks of the kids faces (they put aluminum foil on their face first) and the kids painted them after they dried. There was a table with circles that the kids could draw on and then have it made into a button. Overall, it was a really fun evening. Then, P and the kids (L has a friend over) walked to Subway to pick up dinner.

Here's a funny (in a political sense) retelling of an old fable (I got this off another forum):
The ant works hard in the withering heat all summerlong, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.
The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.
Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate are cold and starving. CBS, NBC and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Kermit, the Frog, appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when they sing "It's Not Easy Being Green." Jesse Jackson stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house,where the news stations film the group singing "We shall overcome."Al Gore exclaims in an interview with Peter Jennings that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his "fair share".

Finally, the EEOC drafts the "Economic Equity andAnti-Grasshopper Act", retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to payhis retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government. Hillary gets her old law firm to represent the grasshopper in a defamation suit against the ant, and the case is tried before a panel of federal judges appointed from a list of single-parent welfare recipients. The ant loses the case. The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around him because he doesn't maintain it.

The ant has disappeared in the snow.The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken overby a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.

Book Review: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

This is a short little book consisting of the letters and other writings of a monk in the Middle Ages. This monk was actually a cook. I am glad I read it, but it certainly isn't on my list of books that everyone should read. I have two positive comments and one negative comment about the book.

1. Brother Lawrence stresses the need for contentment. He was a kitchen worker in a medieval monastery - not exactly an aristocrat - but this did not bother him. He makes a compelling case for putting all your effort into the position in life where God places you. He was certainly not from the "name it and claim it" theological camp!

2. Brother Lawrence encourages his readers to commit themselves to holiness. That is, he tells his readers to be aware of sin creeping into their lives. Once a person has realized their sin, the person must confess to God immediately and accept his forgiveness. Brother Lawrence does not, though, encourage wallowing in our sinfulness or use this as an excuse to give up our pursuit of godliness. Instead, he tells us to accept God's forgiveness and move on. It is a very emotionally and spiritually appropriate way to deal with sin.

3. My main concern with this book is that Brother Lawrence's practicing the presence of God is rather mystical and seems to almost involve emotional manipulation (of his own emotions). He suggests things that we can do to feel God more closely in our lives. While I believe that God created us with emotions and works through them at time, we have to remember that our emotions cannot be used as a spiritual barometer. Whether or not I feel that God is with me, the fact remains that God is right with me. Scripture is very clear about this. Many of Brother Lawrence's suggestions are realistic and make sense to help us keep our minds on things of God, but we have to avoid getting caught up in "feeling" more spiritual or godly.

On the Sonlight forums, I came across this really funny video. You should check it out. If you aren't rolling on the floor laughing, you need to loosen up. This is hysterical.

I will end my missive tonight with one of my favorite verses (which came out of my reading from this morning): 2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Making mummies

We are studying ancient history, so, of course, we have learned about ancient Egypt and the Egyptians. As part of this study, I decided to do an experiment about mummifying apples that I found on the internet. Last week, we put apple pieces into cups with salt, Epsom salts, baking soda, or some combination (or a control with nothing in it). Today, we took the apple pieces out and compared weights and how they looked. The weights were hard to evaluate because our scale only measures to the nearest 25 grams. A few of the pieces (the control and the ones in baking soda) were growing large amounts of mold - yuck! But, the pieces with regular salt and Epsom salts had the largest decrease in weight (by 50%) and seemed to be the most dry. So, we got to talk about dehydrating agents and the fact that natron (used by the Egyptians) is some combination of these salts. We also talked about synergy since using the salts in combination was more effective than using them by themselves. I'm really sorry I didn't take pictures of the apple pieces - the changes are dramatic. Don't worry, though, we won't be mummifying anything else (although L keeps talking about making insect mummies - EEK!).

We've also been watching a documentary about birds hosted by David Attenborough. There is tons of great information. The only problem is that there is a strong predisposition toward naturalistic evolution. The kids are pretty used to our discussions about Creation, etc., but it does get a little old sometimes. The kids still aren't old enough for detailed discussion about the science of origins, paleontology, etc., but it is coming in the next couple of years.

I signed C up for a summer school nature class but L said she didn't want to go to summer school. She saw some stuff in the newspaper today and has decided that she wants to go to summer school now. I'll sign her up tomorrow when I pick her up from school. It will be good to have a couple hours all to myself every day for a week. I told the kids that we will keep doing math, reading, and writing during the summer. They are a little bummed about that, but they're glad that we're taking a break from history and geography. We will probably continue science since summer time is prime bird-watching time. Most of our summer will be spent doing stuff around the house and doing 4H projects.

L and I went to a 4H foods meeting tonight. It was very helpful for us to learn about how the food projects work. Basically, she can make up to 6 items. Some of them have to be made from a 4H recipe, but others can be made from her own recipes. The foods judging is the week before the rest of the fair which is nice. Some of the foods need to still be warm, while others should be cold (like the frozen berries). We also ordered some patterns for her sewing project. McCalls and Butterick have some patterns for $0.95 that we can get if we order through 4H.

I just finished reading Infidel, a biography about John Newton, the former slave trader who became a preacher, and abolitionist, and who wrote "Amazing Grace". I can highly recommend it for anyone over the age of 15. It isn't appropriate for younger kids because there is discussion about his abhorrent activities during his youth. There is no offensive language, though. What an amazing story about how God can completely transform someone's life. Even those of us without the steamy pasts, though, can be incredibly grateful to God for our salvation, but also for the way He changes our lives. While I was never a slave trader, I have had my fair share of envy, laziness, quarrelsomeness, jealousy, etc. I can't imagine how miserable I would be without God's forgiveness (for which I must pray on a more than daily basis). I haven't seen the movie "Amazing Grace", although I hear that it is more about Wilberforce than Newton. I am very interested in seeing that soon. The hand of God over the abolition movement in England and in the US is a truly awesome thing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

April Snow

Well, just to keep us on our toes, it is snowing on April 11. Not like this is new - we have had snow around Easter three out of the last five years. We are forecast to have 5 to 7 inches of snow today. I cancelled C's reading lesson since I didn't want to drive through all the wind and snow.

Of course, with this weather, I have had a migraine today. Thankfully, that is getting better. The kids and I watched a show about Stonehenge this am. We are working our way through ancient civilizations and discussed Stonehenge on Monday, so this show was perfect. C did a notebook page on it. L is going to be doing a notebook page tonight. She is talking about doing hers on amber - it was also referenced in our reading this week. This afternoon, we watched the first part of a 3 DVD series on birds. It is really good. There are lots of evolutionary references - in fact, the whole show has an evolutionary premise. But, the kids are OK with it. We talk about old-earth creation, new earth creation, evolution, etc. There is lots of good info in the DVD, though. And it fits perfectly with our science curriculum.

I have been looking for options to help my bread. I make whole wheat bread that tastes delicious, but it is a little heavy for my taste. I found some info on the internet about using dough conditioner and refrigerating the dough overnight. I think I'll give it a try. But, I need the headache to calm down first. Then, I may try some cooking.
It has been a long while since I last blogged - a month! Well, it has not been because of a lack of things to do. We have been quite busy here.

L and C started Sonlight Core 6 within the last month or so. Overall, we are loving it. Our Bible curriculum is a Children's Bible Field Guide (aka Bible Handbook). It takes 36 weeks to give a good overview of the whole Bible. There are 5 activities for each week, but I have been just doing 3 or 4. C needed to do a Creation Poster for AWANA about the same time that we were studying Creation (chapter 2) in their Bible book. So, I had both kids make Creation pages - one page for each Day of Creation. C took his pages to AWANA instead of a poster and now they will go in their Bible notebooks. The kids made the pages on the computer with Paint. We are also reading through the Bible in a One-Year Daily Bible for Kids. We do this reading in the evening. We have had lots of opportunities for discussion.

The History/Geography this Core is World History through the Middle Ages. So far, we've worked on ancient Egypt, Sumer, the Indus Valley, China, and sub-Saharan Africa. We have The Story of the World on CD, so I get to sit and knit while we are listening to it. I have not been using Sonlight's map activities. Unfortunately, those have always gotten pushed to the side. This year, though, we are using maps that I print off the Usborne site (we also use the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History). This has been working very nicely. C circles things that I want him to remember. L circles important items, but also writes notes off to the sides. We are doing lots of notebooking, with variable results. C doesn't like to add pictures to his work so I think I am going to start typing his (I've been writing them for him and it takes a while and he talks fast!) and not worrying about pictures. When he does pictures, they tend to be more abstract and conceptual than actual pictures of the items about which we are studying. We were doing vocabulary work, but I have dropped that. Both kids have excellent vocabularies so we were adding unpleasant work that gave minimal benefit. My Dad gave P a book called Tyndale Handbook of Bible Charts and Maps. What a great resource that has been! I use lots of their maps to discuss what we are reading in Bible (in the morning, we are in 2 Chronicles, at night we are in 1 Chronicles - it's a little confusing right now, but we will move more quickly with our nighttime reading, so we won't be reading similar passages within a week or so) and history. Between those maps, the globe, and the Usborne maps, I think the kids are getting a much larger dose of geography this year. I'm much more interested in L learning some of the details. I just want C to get an overview.

L is doing lots of writing, and not just with her notebooking. She has not complained much at all about it. She does not like the assignments in which she has to make a rough draft and then a final copy - spelling is her nemesis. She is really very good at grammar, but doesn't get it right when she is writing off the cuff. So, her final drafts require some work. We have gone back to Sonlight's dictation and activity sheets. The kids are tolerating them quite well. I see them both learning a good bit from it. C is really taking off with his reading. He continues to get reading lessons weekly, but I am also adding new concepts (but slowly). C is doing lots of reading captions of pictures which is pretty new. He is learning new phonics rules that way, too.

Our science study is really pretty fun right now. We are using a book called Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day of Creation. It is written by an author who is an unabashedly young-earth creationist. I lean toward old-earth creationism. This leads to some interesting discussions with the kids. L enjoys the discussions, but C gets confused by them, so I have to be careful about when we talk about such abstract concepts. In any case, we are starting by learning about birds. We made a bird "map" last week in which we learned the different field marks of birds. This morning, we made two bird feeders, each of which has different kinds of seed. The kids have been avidly watching birds and looking them up in their field guides. I bought them little notebooks and they are starting to fill in when, where, and what they see. After P gets our feeders up, we will have lots of birds around. We also have a suet feeder and a hummingbird feeder. Our yard isn't very big, but I'm betting it will be busy!!

We have also done some "extra" activities. Both kids did notebook pages about Mozart (the homeschool play this year is "Of Mice and Mozart"). We watched a DVD last week about Bonhoeffer. A lot of it went over C's head, but L learned a good bit. I had to spend some time with C discussing World War 2 and Hitler. He has heard bits and pieces about that time in history, but we spent a little time looking at our timeline to try to help him understand it.

L and C's piano teacher is retiring this year. We were going to change to a different piano teacher in the fall, anyway, but this makes it more pressing (as well as easier emotionally). L is going to Lawrence University's Piano Odyssey day camp this summer. She is excited about spending 5 full days learning piano theory, history, improv, etc. I hope she finds a teacher that she likes so I can get the kids set up for lessons starting in the Fall. C tends to complain about piano, but he's pretty good, and he wants to play drums and guitar. Our rule has been that the kids need to stick with piano as long as they have any interest in other instruments. Besides, it's an important exposure to theory, but also piano and music history.

C is going to a nature day camp for a week in June through the elementary school. He is going to have a great time, I'm sure. The nice thing about it being through the school is that the cost is minimal - yay! I've also been looking into the free Tuesday movies starting in June.

My CPAP seems to be working pretty well. I saw my pulmonologist recently for my sleep study results. It turns out that, not only do I have sleep apnea, but I have a pretty severe case. The CPAP really helps the apnea. It hasn't really helped me fall asleep, so I'm typing this at 1:40am because of my insomnia. But, I've also been weaning off some other meds, so there are lots of possibilities. The main thing is that there is a good chance that the CPAP will help me feel better even if it doesn't completely cure the problem.

Book Reviews:
The Phantom Tollbooth - I never read this book as a child, but many of you will recognize it as a childhood classic. We did it as a read-aloud a week or two ago. It was really funny. The premise is that Milo is a little boy who is never content to be where he is or what he is doing. He finds a toy tollbooth in his room, so he gets in his toy car and goes by the tollbooth and he is transported into another land. The story revolves around his adventures in Dictionopolis and his quest to bring back Rhyme and Reason. C's notebook page about this book was his recounting of the section about the "whether" man - after all, it is more important to know "whether" there will be weather than what the weather is! (paraphrase from the book). I strongly recommend this as a read-aloud for age 7 or above or a reader for a child who can read chapter books independently.

Theras and his Town - This is a Sonlight reader about an Athenian boy who is sent to live in Sparta. It does a good job of showing the stark differences in the city-states. It is clearly written for a pre-teen audience. We have not seen the movie 300 (and, I'm not sure if I want to - it sounds pretty gory), but this book provides a nice scaffold on which to "hang" stories like the Battle of Thermopylae.

Hittite Warrior - Another wonderful Sonlight book. The main character is a Hittite who is sent to live with Sisera (a Philistine). He gets detoured to Tyre and gets caught up in running from the city for assisting with preventing the sacrifice of a child to the god Moloch. The story revolves around the Biblical account of the judge Deborah and the battle between the Israelites and the army of Sisera. Great book for preteens to teens.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile - Also a Sonlight reader. This is a great book for preteens on up to adults. I was fascinated without feeling like I was being "taught" anything. Mara is a slave girl who is bought and sent to Thebes as a spy. In the meantime, she becomes a double agent, spying for both sides and planning to stick with whoever comes out on top. But, she falls in love, complicating the entire plan. Great read!

Archimedes and the Door of Science - I haven't yet finished this. I love all the stuff about Archimedes, but the author puts a lot of physics in the book which slows it down. Of course, the point is to give a biography of Archimedes, but also to explain the things that he was able to discover. Not a bad book, but I'm not overly thrilled.

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths - I pre-read this one since it is listed as a reader, but C really wants us to do it as a read-aloud, which we will. The myths are told in an engaging style and in an order that helped me to understand some of the relationships between mortals and gods, etc.

Infidel - A biography of John Newton, best known for being the converted slave trader who wrote "Amazing Grace". I'm not quite finished with this book, but it has been a real page-turner. Newton's depravity during his early adult life was shocking (even by modern standards), but his conversion was complete, even if not instantaneous. This book can give hope to any parent with a wayward child. Part of Newton's conversion experience had to do with his early religious instruction from his mother.

The Ides of April - Yet another Sonlight book. This is a wonderful story about murder and intrigue in ancient Rome. When a prominent Roman citizen is murdered, all the slaves in the household are to be executed. Hylas, a 17 year old slave, manages to escape capture and is able to convince a young Roman tribune to help clear the slaves of wrongdoing and to plead for mercy. Hylas also meets another man who risks his own life to help the slaves. In the end, we learn that he is a Christian.

The Bronze Bow - Sonlight reader. An excellent story about a boy who learns to hate with all his being but is transformed by the love of Jesus and learns to love instead of hate. Very rich characters and texture to the book. The characters are believable and likable. It is an uplifting story about the power of the itinerant preacher who was actually the Savior in flesh among us.

Movie Reviews:
Bridge to Terabithia - Wonderful, wonderful movie. I have heard great things about the book, but had never read it. The movie is beautifully set and well-acted. It is about children and for children, but adults will love it as well. We see people learn to change through love and imagination.

TV Reviews:
Monk - Crime drama with a main character who has obsessive compulsive disorder. I haven't seen anything objectionable in the show (well, except for the murders, but it is a crime drama after all). Not only that, it is funny and well-acted. I let the kids watch with me. It's certainly not high drama, but it is fun.

Robin Hood - This is on BBC America. It just started this season, so I've only seen three episodes. Overall, I really like it. It is fun to watch. The good guys always win. The only issue I have is that Islam is clearly given preference to Christianity. Robin Hood quotes at times from the Koran. He also speaks negatively about the Crusades (not war in general, but the purpose of the Crusades, which is not a subject for a line here or there - The Crusades were complex military and political events). There is almost nothing positive about Christianity in the show. But, it's a fun 30 minutes to watch. I just keep my eyes and ears open for anything the kids and I need to discuss afterwards.

The kids and I did a presentation at 4H on first aid. Overall, it went pretty well. I think the kids learned some things. I tried to intersperse talking with demonstrations and role playing in groups. They really liked using the Vet-wrap for simulated sprains and strains (Vet-wrap is the veterinary version of Coban or self-adherant bandage material - it's way cheaper although I did have to get it in the veterinary section of Fleet Farm!).

Well, it's 2am and I think I'm getting sleepy. We got 2 DVDs on birds from Netflix today. We are supposed to have 6 to 8 inches of snow tomorrow, so I think it will be a good time to watch DVDs and listen to our history CDs. I'll try to post more regularly.