Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I've had neck traction twice. I don't think that has really done much. My PT said that if it works, she'll arrange for me to have a home traction set. We'll see. The soft tissue massage/trigger point release does seem to help some. My neck and head feel a little better after she's done with that.
We're also trying a TENS unit on my neck. This is pads stuck on my neck, hooked up to a little device that sends mild electrical pulses to my neck muscles. There are a number of theories on how it works, including endorphin release and the gate-theory of pain mechanism. In any case, this does seem to help. It's not earth-shattering, but I am getting a little relief and using less pain medication. I can use it for an hour at a time then take a thirty minute break from it - so I don't get tolerant to it.
Two weeks of physical therapy under my belt, and things are looking a little better. Every little bit helps.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Beyond Megachurch Myths - What we can learn from America's largest churches by Scott Thumma and Dave Travis
This book is a refreshing change in the conversation about megachurches - churches with over 2000 members. The authors start by discussing the "scale and scope" of megachurches in our country. The main part of the book is debunking ten common myths about megachurches. One of the things that I like so much about this book is that their conclusions are based on research - surveys of church members and staff taken over the last ten years. At the end of each chapter, the authors discuss how a church leader (pastor or elder) might be able to use the information from the chapter to positively affect their own church.
I don't attend a megachurch (and I never have). Of course, part of the reason is that I live in a rural area. But, our church has been influenced by large churches such as Willow Creek, Saddleback, and Mosaic. I'm not part of church leadership, so I don't have an opportunity to use the information in this book in a practical way, but I did learn a lot about megachurches and their culture. I also learned that there are things going on in megachurches that all of us can learn from - especially their focus on evangelism. I encourage anyone involved in church leadership to read this book - not so you can try to make your church "mega", but so you can see what some churches are doing successfully to reach their communities for Jesus.
The Dawkins Delusion by Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath
I read this book largely because I have enjoyed reading other pieces by Alister McGrath (as well as listening to some of his lectures). This book is a Christian response to Dawkins' The God Delusion. I haven't actually been able to read anything by Dawkins because he gets me so annoyed within the first chapter! I am a little hampered in reviewing The Dawkins Delusion since I didn't ever read The God Delusion, but here goes anyway.
This is a short book - just four chapters. But, the McGraths' stated goal is to critically deal with the main ideas that Dawkins addresses in his book. It is quite successful in this endeavor. The McGraths point out that there is no attempt to try to deal with every single point in Dawkins' book. He apparently misuses evidence quite often, but that is not the point of this book. The McGraths want to deal with the major ideas - and they do this very well. The book is short, clear, easy to understand. The authors deal with ideas and evidence and do not degenerate to speaking negatively of Dawkins himself - just his ideas and use of information.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who takes Dawkins seriously or anyone who wants to be able to respond to radical atheists like Dawkins. It's easy to read but quite good.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
This is a Sonlight read-aloud (and Newbery Medal winner) that we did early because of scheduling issues. It doesn't "fit" into any of the time frames that we're studying so it worked well to do it out of order. To give you an idea of how much we enjoyed it, let me say that we spent almost two hours on this book today to finally see how it ended.
This is a mystery story that revolves around the will of an eccentric millionaire. The sixteen heirs are given clues to play a "game" - the Westing game - to find out who will inherit the money. The book is a rather slow start - mostly because we were still trying to figure out who was who and what in the world was going on. By the fourth chapter, we were hooked. After every chapter, we stopped and analyzed what we had learned and tried to figure it out. Our family got some of it right, but overall, the ending was quite a surprise. I very highly recommend this for families with children over about age 8 and for middle school up to read independently.
"It's My Homeschool and I'll Cry if I Want To!" by FunnyMoms
This is a wonderful videotape of a presentation done by a group of homeschooling moms. They have some little drama segments, but the main part (and funniest) is the music. Oldies music is adapted with new words to describe the trials and joys of home education. My favorite had to be the title piece, though. It's obviously a take on "It's My Party" and is a laughing look at the emotional ups and downs of homeschooling. Unfortunately, this tape is no longer for sale. But, if you have a friend that owns it, borrow it now and watch. You will laugh and laugh!
"Persuasion" by Masterpiece Theater on PBS
Masterpiece Theater is doing a series of movies based on Jane Austen novels. I love Jane Austen, so I had to make plans to watch these movies when I heard about this. Most of these movies are newly done (except for "Pride and Prejudice"). "Persuasion" was very nicely done. The main character, Anne, was well cast. This version (compared to the 1995 version) was also easier to follow. There was quite a bit from the novel that had to be cut and edited, but it was easier to follow this movie than the previous. That being said, the ending wasn't quite as dramatic or satisfying. Overall, though, it was quite good and I highly recommend it.
"Northanger Abbey" by Masterpiece Theater on PBS
Another of the Jane Austen novels. Again, this was much better done than the previous version that I had seen. It was quite well acted and enjoyable to watch. Overall, this was my least favorite Austen novel, but I did enjoy the movie. The main character was well acted - she did the part of a country girl on her first trip to the city quite well - not overdone.
"Mansfield Park" by Masterpiece Theater on PBS
Another Jane Austen movie. I didn't enjoy this movie nearly as much as the previous two. First of all, there really wasn't much time for character development as I would have liked - and they kept in quite a lot of characters. Second, the characters were simply not as compelling. The main character, Fanny, is pleasant, but doesn't really draw the viewer in. If you are an Austen fan, you should watch it. If not, you may not enjoy it as much as the others.
Addendum - I have taken to reading the Jane Austen "follow-up" novels. Right now, I'm reading Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoli. Check out my reading list to see the others that I'm working on.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
My dream was different. For one thing, I have given up on my dream - which is good because it was self-serving and based on unhealthy cultural aspirations. I'm learning about setting my dreams aside and allowing God to give me new dreams. Let me tell you about my dream and then the reality.
The dream: A persistently clean house.
The reality: A messy house the vast majority of the time.
The dream: A perfectly decorated neat home.
The reality: My home - half painted, generally strewn with books, but full of love.
The dream: Children who are always clean and wear matching clothes.
The reality: Children who have to be reminded to shower regularly and wear clothes for less than three days in a row. Children who have to be reminded to wash their clothes.
The dream: Children who are self-motivated to keep the house clean and do their schoolwork.
The reality: One child who will do schoolwork and explicit chores but is not inherently neat and another child who requires threats to do his basic chores and minimal schoolwork. In other words, real kids.
The dream: An integrated literature-based curriculum (Sonlight) where the children learn most subjects through reading great works of literature in a historical context without the use of workbooks except for math.
The reality: Sonlight curriculum for Bible and History which we do at a slower than scheduled pace supplemented with workbooks for math and language arts and computer curricula (Time4Learning.com) and supplemental audiobooks.
The dream: Hours of sitting on the sofa reading to my children and discussing great and deep ideas.
The reality: Minutes of sitting on the sofa reading to my children with short discussions of moderately deep ideas.
The dream: A full schedule of extracurricular activities so people can see how well "socialized" my children are.
The reality: A slower (and slowing) schedule that allows the kids to grow and play and spend lots of time with me and with each other (and no worries about what others think about "socialization")
The dream: Children who are outpacing their peers in all areas of academics.
The reality: Children who are smart, love to learn, and who are doing OK in academics (frankly, I'm not real sure how to compare them to other kids, which is good).
The dream: A detailed schedule of the day's activities which is followed carefully.
The reality: A schedule that is determined 30 seconds before the activity.
The dream: Well-behaved, pleasant children who love God and love others.
The reality: Reasonably well-behaved wonderful children who love God and love others. Kids who take care of their mom when she has a migraine. Kids who can't wait for their dad to get home. Kids who care about other people.
The dream: Homeschooling like in the homeschooling magazines.
The reality: Homeschooling the way God wants our family to homeschool - which is like no other family!
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Yesterday was my first physical therapy appointment. My therapist (with whom I have previously worked and whose babies I delivered) gave me a bunch of exercises to do and then did some soft tissue massage on my neck and head. So, today, my neck is incredibly sore. My therapist did remind me not to do the exercises too strenuously at first because I don't want to precipitate a migraine - so far, so good.
With all this work on trying to manage pain, I've been frustrated with trying to work with the kids. Actually, I'm doing as much with them as before, I'm just spending more time actively doing things for my pain instead of laying around in pain. But, I've been concerned about keeping up with curriculum, etc. So, I signed up Wild Man for time4learning, which is an online curriculum. We're just going to use language arts and science right now with maybe some math to supplement what he's working on. What I like is that it will read the science out loud to him. So far, he really likes it. Ga'Hoole Girl is doing lots of stuff independently. My goal is to do history/geography and Bible regularly with both kids and reading daily with Wild Man.
And, my counselor and I have been working very hard on my perfectionism and need for productivity. I've been doing some reading in the Bible to try to sort out the Christian response to work - how to not be idle without being a workaholic. And, how does this work for someone with pain issues? More on that later. Right now, it's time to do my exercises again.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The really crazy thing is that there is going to be a football game at Lambeau Field this afternoon - even though it is going to be in the single digits. Maybe it's not so bad for the players since there are heaters on the sidelines, but the fans who sit out there in this frigid weather are just nuts!
Addendum: I just went out to start the van. As a friend of mine says, "It's a real nostril-freezer out there!" Indeed, it is. Even with a scarf over my face, I ended up with icicles inside my nose. After less than five minutes. EEK. What a day! And, Ga'Hoole Girl has an audition this afternoon for an Honors recital. Guess I'll stay all wrapped up.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Here are the sweaters that I made for Ga'Hoole Girl and Wild Man. I used the same pattern for both. Wild Man chose the blue and green yarn and told me how he wanted the hood and sleeves the same color. The hood is a little too small, but he likes it and won't let me redo it. Ga'Hoole Girl wanted hers done in chenille yarn, which is pretty and warm, but is very hard to work with using the size 5 needles that I needed. Anyway, hers is the pretty purple sweater.
My current projects are learning to do cables. I got some fun patterns from MagKnits. I am currently working on a set of fingerless gloves with a cool cable pattern for Ga'Hoole Girl. I'm also trying a vest for Mr. Math Teacher.
Ga'Hoole Girl had the wonderful idea to put mathematical equations on his cake. So, since he's 41 years old, we wrote "Happy 82/2 Birthday". Then, she made up five equations, the answers of which add up to 41. Those are the other equations spread around the cake. We really had a fun little celebration and we are all thankful to God for giving us such a wonderful husband and father!
Thursday, January 10, 2008
8am - I wake up and stumble downstairs for Coke Zero and leftover spaghetti (usually I have toast and cheese, but I had a hankering for the spaghetti). I have a migraine - it's not looking like a good day.
8:30-9 - The kids wake up and drag themselves downstairs. After about 10 minutes on the sofa, I get them to get up and eat breakfast and do chores.
9:30 - I have the kids get started on math and language arts, which they do independently. They work for about an hour without too much trouble, although Wild Man is getting frustrated with bar graphs and I'm not up to getting him all the way through it today.
10:30 - I read to them from Augustus Caesar's World to try and get past Week 12 in our Sonlight curriculum. Then, we have our prayer time (normally we do our Bible reading at this time, but we're way ahead on that). Next, I have the kids go over the books of the first half of the Old Testament - we're working on this instead of a verse this week.
11:15 - Ga'Hoole Girl works on her computer programming while Wild Man practices piano.
11:30 - Lunch time. The kids are supposed to get their own lunch, but things don't work out well today. They get into a "play" argument at 11:45 and I send them to the stairs for a few minutes. Then, I have them finish getting lunch in silence. (Yes, I can be a little crabby when I have a headache.)
12:00 - We start getting ready to leave for reading lesson and piano lessons. We leave at 12:15. Despite this, Ga'Hoole Girl forgets her piano bag.
12:15-1 - Drive into town for lessons. We have been listening to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on audiobook.
1-2 - Reading lesson for Wild Man. Ga'Hoole Girl works on her new science book (Apologia's General Science).
2-2:45 - Quick stop at the big library. Ga'Hoole Girl can't find anything she likes, but Wild Man gets a Pokemon movie - yippee. I, of course, come back with 4 books. Thankfully, I had returned about seven books.
2:45-3:45 - Piano lessons. Ga'Hoole Girl works on math and science during Wild Man's lesson. Wild Man and I read about lightning during her lesson.
3:45-4:45 - Drive home and continue listening to audiobook. Stop at the small library here in town for me to pick up some books that I had on hold.
5-6 - I bribe the kids to wash dishes because of my headache. I tell them that they can each earn an extra half hour of media. They're thrilled. My dishes get clean.
6-7 - Ga'Hoole Girl and Wild Man make a Schwan's dinner for the two of them and I have leftovers.
7-8 - The kids play and I read.
8-9 - We watch Mythbusters until about 8:30. Mr. Math Teacher gets home at 8:15 and the kids really want him to read, so they turn off the TV so he can read DragonQuest (by Donnita K. Paul).
9-10 - I read and talk with Mr. Math Teacher.
10 - I go to bed!
I'll try to post another Day in the Life in a few weeks since we don't really have a "typical" day.
Schwan's is a company that makes lots of different frozen foods and delivers them to the home, twice a week in my case. The first time I saw their catalog, I thought, "Why would I buy this stuff when I can make it myself for a lot less money?" Now I know. I buy Schwan's to save me time and still give my family a good meal. For example, tonight we had tortellini which I seasoned with olive oil and spices, and a mixed vegetable dish that I just cooked for 10 minutes in the skillet. I have three cooking/serving dishes to wash. When you compare it to a home-cooked meal, it definitely cost more. But, since the actual alternative is eating out or getting take-out, the cost is pretty reasonable.
Between my good old crock pot, my new pressure cooker, and Schwans, I hope to be able to give my family a good, balanced dinner most nights of the week. And, even if I don't get to a full shopping trip, the Schwan's delivery comes every other week. Yet another adventure in my life of domesticity.
On Tuesday, I felt pretty well, so we decided to paint. The kids wanted desperately to use the paint roller. So, Ga'Hoole Girl painted most of one wall with the roller and did an admirable job. My task was the edges, which I enjoyed. Wild Man painted with a brush for awhile and then got his turn with the roller. The good news is that he got lots of paint on the wall. The bad news is that Ga'Hoole Girl and I had to go after him with wet paper towels to clean up all the paint he dripped on the baseboards. But, he had fun.
Another reason we don't paint often is that I want to be in a pretty good mood for it. I want the kids to enjoy their painting time, even if we have to do lots of clean up. And, especially in their rooms, I'm far more interested in developing our relationships and making good memories than having a perfectly painted room.
We only got 1/2 of Ga'Hoole Girl's room painted this week. Next week, we'll touch up the areas that we missed on this side of the room and then move everything to the other side of the room to paint.
Ga'Hoole Girl is a true artist. Her room is going to be a light to medium purple color except for the top six inches all the way around and the wall by her top bunk. Those sections are going to be a deep indigo color. Then, she's going to paint glow-in-the-dark stars on the indigo. She has a gauzy rainbow colored curtain all ready to hang around her bunk bed so that her top bunk can be a reading getaway. It's going to be very cool - and artistic - and colorful.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
In addition, I'm going to go to physical therapy and see if they have any techniques that they can offer. One thing that I have never tried is a TENS unit. I'm also going to see if they have any exercise ideas that may help.
My counselor and I are trying to get me to be more active, as well. This weekend at camp, our family did cross-country skiing for the first time and we all loved it. Well, I didn't love the falling down part too much. But, the actual skiing was really fun. But, I was soooooo sore until today. There are some places around here where we can ski, so we're going to try it out this weekend. If we really get into it, we might see about buying some second hand equipment so we can go to the state park to ski. In any case, I think we have found a winter activity besides the treadmill that I like.
I'll post occasionally as I go through this process. I'm also doing this as I'm working through some stuff about spiritual disciplines. I think that learning to do regular times of prayer, meditation, and silence may also help with my pain issues.
I like the feel of libraries. It's so quiet and calm in there - like we've left the busy world behind. I also like the look and feel of books, especially old books. I used to spend hours in the LSU Middleton library just looking at old books and magazines, particularly Life magazine. Our regional library has a great online catalog so I can place a hold on a book that I may have read about that I want to read. There is also a "New Books" shelf where I can check out books that look interesting.
A couple of weeks ago, there was an interesting comic strip in the newspaper. It was "Opus" by Berke Breathed (of "Bloom County" fame). In it, Opus is given a new e-book for Christmas - a device where he sits and reads the text on a screen. The other character tells him how this is the future of reading. For a couple of panels we see Opus reading his new e-book with his eyes getting wide as the light from the device shines on him. Then, in the last panel, Opus has gone back to "real" books and he is curled up in an armchair with popcorn, a drink, and a good old-fashioned book! I have that taped up on my desk right now. I love "real" books.
Dr. Mohler's recent blog entry discusses the decline of reading in our society. I share his concern. Reading is an important skill for everyone. But, being able to decode words is not all that's important. People need to be able to read for information. But, we also need to be able to understand the ideas put forth in writing and be able to deal with those ideas - to compare them with other ideas and formulate our own conclusions based on the information.
As a homeschooler, this is less of a practical concern for me and my kids. We go to the library several times per week. Our curriculum is literature based so that the kids are always reading challenging books and being read to. Even Wild Man, with his dyslexia, is reading daily at his reading level (I am concerned because he doesn't like to read, but I think it's just because it's still so difficult for him). We also use audio books. In addition, my kids see me and their dad reading for pleasure and for information, something that's also important to help kids develop a love of reading.
I also agree with Dr. Mohler's stance that reading is particularly important for Christians. Our faith is based on the person of Jesus Christ, but the tenet of our faith are written in the Bible. Literacy is extremely important for Christians to be able to understand the gift that God has given us.
Unfortunately, literacy in all areas of society appears to be an issue. Mr. Math Teacher finds that he has kids in middle school and high school who do not read adequately for their grade level. How can we help? In our own families, we must promote reading as an important skill to be learned, but also as a fun leisure activity. Schools have to be serious about children learning to read. Churches can also help by providing literacy classes for adults and providing after-school help for students. Individuals can help friends and family members with literacy activities. Our community has extra help for kids after school at the local library.
Somehow our society needs to get away from our utter dependence on television. I'm not completely opposed to TV - I love my History Channel - but so many people are getting all of their information from the TV. I think we can blame a number of our social ills on our need for media. Books require patience and attention. TV allows us to get information in 30 minute segments. Books take us in depth. TV is far more shallow.
I'm not going to be able to solve this issue for all of society, but I can influence my own home. To paraphrase Scripture: As for me and my house, we will read.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Christmas in Harmony by Philip Gulley
This is a delightful little book about a Christmas in a small town from the perspective of the Quaker minister. We get to see the joys and trials of the pastor and his wife when one of the parishioners comes up with the idea of doing a "Progressive Live Nativity" where the observers go from one house to another to see the whole Nativity scene. It is a funny story with sweet moments as well. I think we're going to have to do this as a read-aloud starting next year.
Christianity's Dangerous Idea by Alister McGrath
Alister McGrath has done a masterful job in describing the history of Protestantism and discussing the future of the movement. McGrath tells us that Protestantism is based on individual Christians being able to interpret Scripture for themselves and that this is the basis of the Reformation. But, this one idea did not just lead to a denomination competing with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches - it has lead to many, many denominations. The first third of the book shows the history of the movement from Luther, Zwingli, Hus, and Calvin to the present.
The second third of the book is a discussion of the manifestation of Protestantism: what are some of the variations of belief within Protestantism? what are some of the variations of practice within Protestantism? how does Protestantism relate to culture, both cause and effect? The last third of the book discusses the future of Protestantism, with an emphasis on Pentecostalism and the Global South.
This is a lengthy book - over 500 pages - but I strongly recommend it for anyone who has an interest in church history. It was helpful in understanding where many of our "Protestant" traditions started. The discussion of the Church in the Global South was also quite strong. McGrath discusses the history of missions and how that has affected the shape of the church in the developing world. He also shows how and why Pentecostalism is making such strong inroads into the developing world. I came away from this with a strong feeling that I know far less about Christianity around the world than I thought I did. So, read this book and be prepared to learn a lot!
Charmed Knits by Alison Hansel
Ms. Hansel has compiled a wonderful set of knitting patterns based on the Harry Potter books and movies. I actually checked this book out from the library several months ago after I saw it on the new books shelf. I then strongly hinted to Mr. Math Teacher how much I would like it for Christmas. Lo and behold, I got it for Christmas! I am currently working on making some Dobby socks. Ms. Hansel has patterns that include "Weasley Sweaters" based on the sweaters that Molly Weasley makes for her kids every Christmas, wizard robes (lots of yarn for that!), an Invisibility Shawl, Quidditch sweaters and socks, House scarves and hats, and elf hats. I'm going to have fun working my way through this book.
Hadassah: One Night With the King by Tommy Tenney
I saw the DVD several months ago and reviewed it favorably. The book and movie are really quite different, but I love the book at least as much as the movie. I think it's best to look at them as completely unrelated entities. The book is the story of Queen Esther from the Bible. Tenney makes the character of Esther (Hadassah) accessible and likable. The plot is believable and keeps moving. I had a hard time putting the book down. Tenney also helps to understand some of the things in the story of Esther that always confused me. For example, why did Esther invite the King and Haman to dinner one night and then again for a second night? Why didn't she just tell the King the first time? Read the book and you'll see why - at least this author's explanation. I very highly recommend this for older teens and above. There is a little bit of sexual content (albeit not explicit) that makes it problematic for the younger set.
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
You may have heard of "The Secret" - the book and DVD. Apparently, Oprah has talked about it on her show. It's supposed to be quite the rage in some circles. What is "The Secret"? It is a Secret that will lead you to wealth, happiness, and fulfillment. What is it? It is the Law of Attraction. According to this author, you attract to yourself what you think about. As you think, your thoughts are transmitted to the Universe, and the Universe sends to you the things that you think about. So, according to this, like attracts like. If you want to be rich, you need to have thoughts about getting money. Same thing about health, happiness, success, etc.
Are you thinking that this sounds too good to be true? Well, it is. And, it's based on a completely faulty worldview. This is your basic pantheism - there is no personal God, just "god" in everything. The Universe is just waiting to give you whatever you want. There's no explanation in this for evil or suffering. The Secret isn't there for you when you are sick or bad things happen to you because anything bad that happens is something you brought on yourself. There is some good in thinking positive thoughts, but the basis of this belief system are just wrong.
The truth: there is a real, personal God who loves us. There is real sin and evil in this world. God has defeated evil through Jesus. There is no "Secret" about this - just truth.
"Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End"
I really liked the first Pirates movie. I thought the second was rather silly. The third one is downright confusing. There are some good lines. Johnny Depp is wonderful as Captain Jack Sparrow. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are also very good in their roles. But, I had trouble sticking with the movie through the entire two plus hours. So, watch it for the great scenes with Johnny Depp, but don't expect much.