Saturday, November 22, 2014

Homeschooling woes... a set of haiku

This is for P., who is feeling a little behind.

The Tale of Genji
Over one thousand pages
Medieval Japan

Not often is read
A novel rarely opened
And then only half

My girl loves Japan
The desire to learn is strong
A class created

Lesson plans are made
Books and study guides arrive
There is excitement

The book grows longer
The prose is difficult and dry
Too many haiku

Time is growing short
The excitement grows short, too
But not the novel

I am proud of her
It is good to try to reach
Grow and stretch your mind

She is diligent
The schedule is left behind
But she keeps going

Friday, November 21, 2014

Do not lose heart

I haven't shared about what my girls' Bible study that I lead has been talking about recently. As always, I am quite sure that I get far more out of it than the girls do, but you never know. We've been slowly working our way through Luke. This is year two and we're just about to get to the triumphal entry, so we're getting there.

What I have been spending a lot of time pondering is the parable of the persistent widow. (Luke 18: 1- 8) If you are not familiar with it, here's the brief version. A widow persistently hounds a local judge insistently asking for justice. He was an unjust man who cared neither for people or God. The widow is so persistent that the judge eventually gives her what she asks for just to get some peace. Jesus then asks, if the unjust man can eventually do what is right, how much more so will God?

I will admit to misinterpreting this story for a long time. I saw it as a need for badgering and persistence. If I didn't diligently hound God, then I didn't want what I as praying for about enough and didn't deserve to receive it. The responsibility for the outcome fell onto my shoulders. And let me tell you, with this interpretation, this responsibility is a heavy, heavy weight.

As I was preparing for studying this passage with the girls, I realized that I had been wrong. Jesus does not tell us this story to show that we must be persistent because that is what is required, but tells us to show us something profound about God. The parable is there to show us how much God is NOT like the unjust judge. The judge did what was right only grudgingly and for selfish reasons. The widow only received justice because the judge wanted her off his back. He did not delight in giving justice nor was he quick to do so. There was ultimately a good outcome for the widow but it was not due to any good motives of the judge.

This, Jesus says, is so different from God, our Father. God, instead, delights to give justice to his children and He does so speedily. This is the tricky part, isn't it? Sometimes we don't perceive God as acting speedily, do we? We want the problem solved, the injustice righted, the wrong undone right now, not tomorrow, not next week, and certainly not next year. We sometimes lose sight that God works without hurry yet at exactly the right time. We think we can see all parts of the problem, yet we see such a small portion of it that our view of any issue is compromised. How many times have I prayed about something thinking I knew best how it should work out only to have God say, "No." Then, looking back with the wisdom of the hindsight of several years, I realize how much better God's way turned out to be. If I had gotten what I thought I wanted, it would have very often been a train wreck.

Jesus knew that this would be problematic, which is why I believe he added the preface to the parable found in verse 1, "And He told them the parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." I have been thinking about the difference in how I pray if I know upfront that God delights to do what is right and quickly and my only responsibility is to pray and not lose heart. It is the not desperate poundings of someone who is unsure of the outcome. Instead it is the calm and patient assurance that God wants what is best for me even more than I do and that He will bring it to pass. It is prayer from a place of peace rather than fear. And the responsibility is no longer on my shoulders.

This strikes me all the more forcefully as I see my family entering a time when God is bringing several prayers to fruition. It is awe inspiring to watch and be a part of, especially because some of these prayers have been on my lips for a long time. I can't help but think this is going to be an amazing story that we are getting to play a part in and cannot wait for the time when I am free to share it with you.

Remember, pray always and do not lose heart.
I have another article up. It is a book review of my friend, Mary Ostyn's book, Forever Mom: What to Expect When You're Adopting. Read the review and read the book. It is really very well done.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's that time of year again... but I won't mention the "C" word

I know what I'm spending my weekend doing and that would be spending significant time figuring out the details of Christmas, oops I mean the "C" holiday. I need to take stock of what I have already stashed away, make lists of what I still need, and take a look at the calendar and figure out what we're doing when. As much as I don't want to do this, I know that I will feel better to take all the swirling thoughts out of my head and put them down on paper. My goal is always to have a grip on what will happen in December before Thanksgiving. This means I have nearly all the gift shopping done, or if it is not done, at least I know what exactly I still need to do. This not only frees me up to make the things which need to be made, but also, and more importantly, allows me to enjoy the holiday with my family.

I've written about all my advance planning before. You can find the posts at Advance Planning - Get a Cup of Tea, This is the Long Version and Advance Planning - The Short Version.

But looking at my friend Mary's post yesterday at Owl Haven, made me realize something. (She is still a virtual friend, but I would love to meet her in person some day.) Yesterday she wrote about Christmas books that her family has enjoyed over the years. While we do our Christmas book tradition in a slightly different way, we have a lot of Christmas books and I've never written about them. I'm not sure how I let such a oversight happen.

Our tradition is to bring out all of our Christmas books out at the beginning of Advent. We have a lot. Picture books, chapter books, anthologies, crafts... We have so many, I make it a point to return the library books and just have our Christmas books out in December. I need the shelf space, plus it would become completely unmanageable to have that many books around. On Christmas Eve there is always a new Christmas book waiting for everyone when we return from church.

So with thanks to Mary for a blog post topic (and apologies for completely and totally stealing it... go read her post as well, it will make me feel better), here are some of our very favorite Christmas books. (And a brief reminder that these are sponsored Amazon links which, if you purchase through them, give a little bit back to this blog. I think I'm required to mention that every so often.) They are in no particular order.

The first is Wombat Divine by Mem Fox. Our family is heavily involved in our church's Christmas pageant every year, so we have a particular affinity for such things. Wombat wants to be in the Christmas play, but can't find a part that works for him. It is sweet and charming and features Australian animals which is always fun.

Next, since I'm thinking about Christmas pageants comes The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I'm sure many of you know about this book, but in case you have missed it, it is a short chapter book about what at first, seems to be the world's worst Christmas pageant populated by the world's worst children. You can laugh because you are not the director. I read this out loud nearly every year and every year finds me in tears at the end. Not only does it tell the Christmas story, but also shows what the overwhelming love of Jesus can do.

The next book to pop into my head is A Small Miracle by Peter Collington. This is a wordless book that is told in a rather comic book format. Normally this is the type of book that would not appeal to me at all. But it works and once again, it has a tendency to dissolve me to tears by the end. The plot is that an old woman runs out of money to buy food and her last attempt at earning money by playing her accordion on the street is fruitless. She is forced to pawn her beloved instrument in order to eat. As she walks by a church, a thief who has stolen the offering and upset the creche comes running out and grabs her money. She walks into the church and sets things right, then heads home collapsing on the way. Sounds fun so far, huh? But now comes the good part. Christmas is full of miracles and this story is no different. I don't want to spoil it, but the old woman survives in a rather unexpected way. Highly recommended.

(The picture link doesn't work well and just sent you to the Amazon home page, so I'm taking it out and linking the title above.)

On Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck is another beautiful book that everyone loves. It tells the story of a boy who is overcome with how much he loves his father and wants to do something special for him at Christmas. He doesn't have a lot of money and decides that he will get up extra early and do all the farm chores by himself as a surprise. We watch and the boy plans and executes his plan and the excitement and joy he has in offering this gift. It is a sweet and quiet story about familial love and the joy of gift giving.

This last one is just for fun and I won't even pretend it is a really good book, but it is G. and L.'s current favorite, and if truth be told, I bought it because when I was their age, it was my favorite Christmas book as well. It's The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher by Robert Kraus. I bet you can guess the plot. It's Christmas cookie baking day and to everyone's dismay, all the Christmas cookie sprinkles have been stolen. One brave little boy goes in search of the Snitch, which isn't hard because he leaves a vast trail of sprinkles behind him. (I actually think this trail of sprinkles is what causes every five year old on the planet to fall in the love the book.) But don't worry, all is well at the end and the cookies end up appropriately decorated. The verse is bad and has ear worm tendencies, but your littles will love it. 

In my continuing effort to keep my readers unbalanced and never sure what to expect, I am now going to jump to something completely different. I have mentioned that I have a new (paid!) writing gig as a staff writer at My first article is now up and I'd appreciate it if you were to click through to read it and share it if you like it. My bank account thanks you. Should My Child Forget They are Adopted? The Adoption Ethics of Forgetting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Can you stand more about doctors and health?

I'm not sure I can... I'm pretty done with the whole thing. Yesterday saw me driving H. back up to the plastic surgeon's office. I didn't like how she was looking and she was feeling horrible. If it was another child, one who had not just had surgery and had large foreign objects implanted in her head, I would have just tucked her in and let her sleep. But she had had surgery and foreign objects in her head and really, truly, the last thing I want to have happen is to have any of that get infected and land us in the hospital. Or worse, have to have the infected expanders removed. Ugh! I can't even imagine.

The good news? No infection! I was so relieved. There was a lot of fluid that had collected around one of the ports (fairly common) and that was what was making the port particularly squishy and painful. The nurses drained the area (5ml of fluid.... imagine having that much fluid collected at your temple) and it should start to feel better soon. The fluid showed no sign of any infection, either. We have another antibiotic that she'll be on for another 10 days just to be safe and let her rest for the rest of the week. Next week we'll start the expansion process. I feel so thankful that I padded the time between surgeries by a week. I don't know why, I just did. This means that we are not behind schedule and do not risk having to postpone the next surgery.

H. was wiped out by our little outing yesterday and slept the rest of the afternoon. She woke up long enough to eat dinner (which she was able to keep down) and slept the whole night waking up an hour after everyone else. She seems much perkier this morning, but I'm still going to keep her quiet.

I'm done with everyone being sick. I declare everyone will be all well tomorrow and we can get on with life. That's how it works, right?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A book report

Every so often we check out a book from the library that I just love. I always mean to share these books with you, and sometimes I even remember. Today is one of those remembering days. It only took us checking out the book a second time from the library. And the book? Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems.

Now I will be the first to admit that I run hot and cold on Mo Willems' books. I adore Knuffle Bunny (the first one, not so fond of the sequels) and Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She was Extinct, but I really don't like the books about the pigeon. (Collective gasp... I know I'm the only one.) I do love the Goldilocks book. It makes me laugh out loud and who doesn't want to read a book that makes them laugh?

It is the rare book that both parents and children can find equally amusing. I find that if the book elicits chuckles from the adults, the humor is completely missed by the children. (The humor is often far too snide for my taste as well.) And there are many books that children find hilarious that adults suffer through because their children love them. I believe that this Goldilocks book manages to appeal to everyone.

In short, the plot is just what you would think from the title. There are three dinosaurs and there is Goldilocks. There are bowls and chairs and beds. And there is a nice plot twist to alleviate the been-there-done-that aspect that traditional fairy tales can sometimes have. But the best part, other than the chocolate pudding, in my opinion is the moral at the end, which is... if you are in the wrong story, leave.

This fits so nicely in with some of my discoveries about story telling and fairy tales I wrote about a year ago. (How Pictures Work and Story Telling [Here are the links to the books mentioned in them in case you are interested: How Pictures Work; The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter]) Essentially, story telling (and fairy tales) allow children to experiment with scary scenarios in a safe way. The beauty of this experimenting is that stories can be changed and altered. This altering of told stories also gives us practice for altering our real life stories. Of course, some aspects of our lives can't be changed; we're stuck with them whether we want to be or not. But there are other things that can be changed... our attitudes, our actions, our internal story telling.

I realize that's a lot to lay on a simple picture book, but sometimes we forgot the power that stories have. And when they're really funny as well, what's not to like?

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Plague House (with apologies to T. S. Elliot)

We are the plague house
We are the coughing house
Sick together
Lungs filled with goo. Alas!
Our hoarse voices, when
We croak together
Are husky and painful
As a rasp on metal
Or sandpaper over skin
In our sick home

Everyone here is sick with one sort of distress or another. Sore throats. Coughs. Constricted chests. Laryngitis. And yes, even vomit. Do not come and visit. Save yourselves. The worst of it? H. has come down with her own version of it and that explains the low grade fever I was concerned about over the weekend. I've talked to the nurse and we're just going to keep an eye on her for right now. It also means we won't be doing the first expansion tomorrow. I had forgotten that they don't expand when a child is even remotely under the weather. Poor H. She is truly miserable. 

I'll now go back and try to read aloud with my croaky throat. I suggest when you finish reading this that you wipe down any surfaces with disinfectant. Just to be safe.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A good example of why I shouldn't write at night

I could write an article that's due tomorrow or I could procrastinate, write a blog post, have a cookie, do some crochet instead. Guess which one I'm picking. It's not complete procrastination since the holiday sweatshop that my life becomes in December has begun a little early. Once again, I have vague misgivings of whether I have over-estimated my time. Since it's only November 15, I will not allow myself to begin panicking... yet.

One thing I did not procrastinate about (though I was cutting it close) was sorting through the winter wear. I can't think of anyone who likes this particular job, but it needs to be done. Even after living in this cold climate for the past 30 years, it is hard to shake off my desert roots. What?! It's going to get cold? Again? When M. was born, I wasn't even quite sure what all she needed to keep her warm. I know now what is needed, of course. I also know that you can save every pair of snow pants you've ever bought and you still will be missing the size a child currently is. I know that mittens and gloves are like socks in that one of the pair is always disappearing. Besides this, I've also learned that snow boots shrink while in storage so that every pair of them is too small for the feet they must fit on. And, last but not least, Mom will never has as much or as warm snow gear as her children do.

Things weren't too bad once I got it all sorted out. I need a few things, but on the whole it wasn't bad. This is good because as I write this it is currently snowing outside and seems to be sticking. My children are thrilled. If you've dozed off, you can wake up now. I may need to make a new category: boring posts with no point. I shouldn't write at night. Which is why I'm not writing that article...
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