Monday, June 30, 2014

Escorting Children Through Anxiety (And Surviving Yourself)

Whether it's anxiety brought on by circumstances--a medical diagnosis or procedure, or a significant life change like the death of a loved one or a divorce--or the brain's unreasonable, disordered response to normal life, most children will experience anxiety at some point in childhood. They need a parent to be right there, escorting them through it because anxiety is not just fear. Rather, it's a bodily response to fear that blocks out common sense. Thunder can't hurt you--that's common sense, but it's lost on your anxious child and repeating it over and over only makes your child feel abandoned, rather than comforted.

If it's merely a childhood fear (sometimes the case before age 7), then maybe explaining the science of thunder is in order, but if your child is inconsolable, then you know you're dealing with anxiety, not fear.

This whole process can make us feel helpless as parents, so it helps to clarify our role. We're not there to convince her she's being ridiculous. We're there to hold her hand and love her unconditionally.

My job is to accompany my child along this path that God has chosen, while pointing her toward Him. I am not the crutch, but the escort to the throne of Grace.

What every suffering parent needs to know:

1.  This is not your fault. This disorder is a result of the sin curse, and something that right now, God is choosing to allow in your lives.

2. You and your child will grow closer than ever as you walk through this together. You will both feel intense stress and doubt and pain, but you will experience them together and the shared experience will bond you uniquely. Your relationship will be both deeper and sweeter, and for that you will be thankful.

3. You will recite the 23rd Psalm over and over, and every Psalm about fear will speak volumes to you. Anxiety is a spiritual battle as well as a physical one so fight it with the Word.

4. You cannot fear and pray at the same time. So pray and then pray some more. Together. Keep your role of escort always in mind. You must teach your child to take all her burdens to the Throne of Grace, and never has she been more desperate to do so than now. Take advantage of this training opportunity and escort her to the Throne daily. Both of you close your eyes, and slowly talk her through that walk to the Cross, where you take off all the burdens you've been carrying, and drop them at the foot of the Cross, where all the healing begins.

5. Anxiety is part of your (and your child's ) story and you are not writing it. God is. So trust Him for a glorious outcome because he only writes glorious outcomes. Repeat that over and over, with your child. Use a more child-friendly sentence, if necessary.

I trust you, Lord, because all your outcomes are glorious. 
I trust you, Lord, because all your outcomes are glorious. 
I trust you, Lord, because all your outcomes are glorious.

6. Whatever your child is anxious about right now, don't project it into the future and expect disaster. Take the circumstances one day at a time. This too shall pass is definitely true for the specific fears, if not for the anxiety disorder itself.

I have escorted a child through elevator anxiety and separation anxiety, both of which are gone now, but were intense at one time. The disorder hasn't gone away, but the different manifestations have. So don't assume if there is driving anxiety right now, that your child will never learn to drive, or if it is thunder anxiety, that your child will never leave the house on a cloudy day.

7. If your child's quality of life has slipped considerably, consider medication for anxiety, even if only for a season. Realize that in the lowest doses available, your child probably won't deal with side effects. Most doctors will start with the lowest dose available, rather than go by the weight of child, but if not, demand the lowest dose to start.

Studies show that when difficulties such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, and bipolar disorder are not diagnosed and treated, children and teens are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs and get into unhealthy behavior patterns, which persist into adulthood. Find out what is going on with your child by taking him or her to the doctor as soon as a problem arises, and especially if it is still present 6 months after onset. Most conditions have to be present for 6 months to meet diagnostic criteria.

Disregard the unhelpful, judgmental opinions you might receive regarding medications for children (from extended family or friends). No one can truly know what your child and family are dealing with, or what you have already tried as remedies. Sometimes medication allows a child the courage needed to start over and halt all the negative thinking and self-talk. Medication gives them a fighting chance to beat the disorder. They still have to come up with coping skills, but they need a calmer brain to start that process.

8. If anxiety runs in the family, realize that this may be one time you need medication yourself, especially if exercise and proper sleep have not worked to improve your own anxiety. Don't feel guilty or ashamed, because watching a child go downhill emotionally and physically is extremely painful and terrifying. It affects both their sleep and your sleep, exhausting both of you physically as well as emotionally. You must also keep up with caring for the rest of the family, along with the house and meals. Your children will take cues from you, and if you are completely angst-ridden, you will only increase their anxiety, and that, in turn, will make things worse for you. So put your own oxygen mask on, so to speak. If you have definite bodily signs of excessive stress and anxiety, see your doctor.

9. You and the affected child should share a gratitude journal. Write in it at the same time every day, perhaps right at tuck-in time, to make the bedtime transition easier. Your minds need to dwell on God's power and faithfulness...on what is right and beautiful in your lives. And don't forget to give thanks for your relationship!

10. Educate yourself about anxiety disorders, especially those in children, including age of onset. Find books appropriate for your child to help him understand what is happening to his body and mind. He needs to know he is not going crazy, and that this is not his fault. Balance the reading of Scripture with the reading of technical books, so that your child understands that God has ultimate power over everything, including the brain. Siblings can benefit from hearing the information, too.

11. Let your church know that your child and family need prayer. Don't keep this hidden. Nothing good can come from shame or a false smile. Again, watching a formerly happy, healthy child go downhill is extremely painful. You really do need prayer, my friend, as does your child. So put out the word.

12. If anxiety is causing weight loss, arrange to always have your child's favorite foods on hand, so that on good days you can sneak in some extra calories (being careful not to let your child use food as a form of manipulation).

What has worked for your family in dealing with anxiety? How has God weaved anxiety into your story?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up 6/27

VBS Week News

You know Vacation Bible School has worn your kids out when their older brother, reading aloud from a nature sight, mentions that fireflies are endangered, making the younger three start crying. That was my first cue that I needed to give them the day off school today.

VBS was fantastic, despite Mary's weather/thunder anxiety, which worried me into a mild frenzy of my own Tuesday and Wednesday, after she refused to participate in the first two days. VBS is usually her favorite summer activity, but this year she sat with her fingers in her ears and a throw-up bowl by her side, staying with me, which meant I couldn't help at all until the last day. I was ready to go to the doctor and ask for Prozac of my own, having flashbacks to Peter's 3-4 years of generalized anxiety disorder. Can I really go through that again? This is worse, since Mary is eating very little on cloudy days, throwing up during thunder, and already losing weight. Peter's situation never affected his appetite.

We attended VBS at the same church we go to for AWANA, and my children made more friends, as did I. We fell more in love with that church, which is very family-oriented.

Our own church is a church plant in the local elementary school, and in the three years we've been attending, there has been no mention of praying for or seeking a church building of our own. We have to attend extra children's ministries (AWANA and VBS) elsewhere. The emphasis for our church has been on planting other churches, rather than on creating a permanent home.

For our kids this has been a real drawback, and I didn't realize to what extent until they expressed how much they love this AWANA church and all of its families and pastors (all the families are wonderful; I met several more of them while helping with ice cream sundaes the last day).

It's no larger than our church I don't think, but the music pastor is fantastic and very dynamic with the kids, showing them the time of their lives with lively, interactive songs, such as you would have at Christian camps (many a cappella). My kids have never had a music "pastor" before, especially not one who paid any attention to children. The associate pastor is also very experienced in working with children and he coordinated a wonderful VBS experience--the best my kids have ever had.

The real starting age for this VBS was age 4, but there was a 2's and 3's class made up mostly of the helpers' children who went along with the preschool group as much as they could (because staying in the nursery for three hours would have been too much). My son Peter helped with this 2's and 3's class and did a wonderful job. Several adults praised him for his maturity and initiative. It turns out that our speech teacher goes to this church and was the coordinator for the 2's and 3's class and she had a lot of praise for Peter as well. I was so proud of him! (He's a handful at home. Not always so mature, so it did my momma heart good to hear this.)

Portrait of a Family-Friendly Church 

I learned a few things about the church, including that the family stays together for the first 45 minutes of the Sunday service, after which children ages 4 years old through grade 3 are invited to children's church for the last 45 minutes of service to hear a Bible story, share in Bible memory activities, sing, watch puppet shows, pray, do crafts, play games, and have an occasional snack. Older children stay in service, which I think eliminates the behavior problems you tend to have in older kids' classrooms. Older children really should be learning to follow sermons, and ideally their own parents should deal with any discipline problems that present themselves. I will have to let you know from audio-taped sermons if this pastor attempts to make his sermons intelligible to the 4th-grade plus set. (Our current pastor speaks only to adults).

There are "busy bags" in the foyer to grab on your way into the sanctuary for young children, full of board books, crayons and coloring books, all tied around a certain theme, such as space. Wonderful idea! Everything about the church is just so family friendly, and I noticed that there is emphasis in their mission statement on bearing one another's burdens and developing meaning personal relationships with other church goers. It's non-denominational, and of course Bible-preaching and Bible-believing. They also have a food cupboard and work to care for the community, which is something lacking in our own church. Because of homeschooling and my children's issues, I couldn't take any initiative to make my own church more least-of-these friendly. I can and want to help with food-cupboard and community work, I just can't lead or coordinate it.

We weren't looking to change our church home and don't care for church changes, but as I think about Mary's escalating anxiety disorder and look back at the 3-4 year strain it was when Peter went through something similar, this family-oriented worship format will work much better. Already Mary has had trouble making it through her church class at our current church, and it's not as seamless to have her stay with us. There's nothing child-friendly about our service and she dreads going. Before the advent of this anxiety disorder she enjoyed going to class, however, in my heart I've always desired a more family-friendly, whole-family-oriented church service.

The singing at this new church is a cappella in a blend of traditional and contemporary, which eliminates a lot of the haggling over church music and how loud it is or isn't. I don't have the voice for hymns and didn't grow up with them, but I do love hearing just voices at church. It sends a thrill somehow, to hear the love for Jesus coming through all the combined voices, whereas when the instruments are loud, you don't hear many voices. (Not that I don't enjoy the instruments; I do.)

I just pared down my nursery helper positions at my current church to one per month, plus a fifth week preschool teaching position, so we can't make any change quickly, and my husband will ultimately have to make the decision. The preaching is the most important element for him, so he would have to visit several times first and listen to some audio-sermons. One definite drawback is that this church is not close, but using the freeway may make it a twenty-minute drive one-way. Our current church is just down the street from us.

What are your favorite things about your own church? Is it family friendly?

Homeschool News

Peter read Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski and really enjoyed it, especially the Christian conversion at the end. "Can someone so evil really become a Christian, Mommy?" Peter was glad to learn more about how strawberry plants grow and spread, and more about how a farmer can diversify his farm. Paul is still reading this novel.

Peter is in the middle of Preacher's Boy by Katherine Patterson and is really enjoying that also. I enjoyed it very much too, finishing it the day before Peter started it. I recommend it for boys--plenty of adventure and learning and maturing.

The main character doesn't ever really become an atheist, as the book jacket suggests. He just toys with the idea after hearing an extreme fire-and-brimstone sermon by a visiting preacher who suggests that the Lord may come back before the turn of the Century. The boy's father is very busy and preoccupied with his congregation and neglects his relationship with this young son. A lot of the boy's issues result from that neglect and from feeling unloved and unappreciated. I think this book is an important book for parents and pre-teens to discuss together, emphasizing the importance of communication in these formative and confusing years.

Lexile 860

Synopsis: A new century is fast approaching ... but will the year 1900 mean the end of the world, as some say? Robbie Hewitt isn't certain. What he does know is that he wants to get in as much living as possible between now and the new year, just in case — which includes running Mabel Cramm's bloomers up the flagpole on Decoration Day, and taking a ride in a real motorcar.

Robbie doesn't care that his antics leave his preacher father and the upstanding citizens of Leonardstown, Vermont, heartily unimpressed. But when his high spirits and hot temper entangle him in a scheme that damages far more than his father's reputation, Robbie must choose whether to take responsibility for his actions — a decision that holds the life of a man in the balance.

In a ruminative tale of a 10-year-old freethinker, set in a small Vermont town at the end of the 19th century, Robbie decides to become a heathen, a Unitarian, or a Democrat, whichever was most fun, because he ain't got the knack for holiness. As it turns out, he's not very good at sinning either, and he grows emotionally and morally when he begins to see the consequences of his actions.

A light school week: We had a light school week due to VBS. The children wrote in their journals and did their reading and math, and that's about it.

The very hungry caterpillar: They're very much enjoying "the very hungry caterpillar", which is a monarch caterpillar they've been feeding milkweed leaves. Today the caterpillar began a cocoon, after deciding that his eating and pooping frenzy was finally done. In two weeks, we'll have a monarch butterfly. None of us ever tire of this miracle and we watch it several times with several different caterpillars every year.

Trade books to share:

Big Jim and the White-Legged Moose by Jim Arnosky

Synopsis: A waggish ballard based on the artist's real-life encounter with an enormous bull moose. Rib-tickling illustrations and a lively read-aloud, sing-aloud rhyme will have everyone grabbing pencil and paper and heading for the woods to follow in Big Jim's footsteps. Music is included.

My comments: My girls and I sure enjoyed this and my son Paul attempted to play it on the piano. A lot of fun!


 Goose Moon by Carolyn Arden

Synopsis: (School Library Journal) Tired of winter, a child asks her grandfather if it will ever be summer again. He replies that she must wait and watch for the Goose Moon, for when it shines the geese will come flying back, bringing summer on their wings. The girl patiently waits and notes the little signs of approaching spring, until at last Grandpa wakes her one night to see the bright round moon and the geese returning by its light. This quiet story, somewhat similar in tone to Jane Yolen's Owl Moon (Philomel, 1987), is complemented by oversized pages with luminous watercolors subtly suggesting the chill of winter and the comfortable warmth of home. The book paints a strong relationship between the protagonist and her grandfather, bound together by their love of nature as well as for one another.

My comments: The beauty of this story lies in the relationship between the girl and her grandfather, and in the depiction of the seasons on the farm. Really quiet and beautiful, with memorable illustrations.


(2013 published) The Market Bowl by Jim Averbeck

SynopsisYoyo has listened to Mama Cécile’s song about how to make ndolé (bitterleaf stew) her entire life—long enough to know how to make it herself, now that she is finally old enough. But slicing the bitterleaf, grinding the pumpkin, measuring out the shrimp—it just takes too long. Yoyo is confident that her variation on the stew will be good enough.
As Mama Cécile and Yoyo set off to market, Mama reminds Yoyo what will happen if she refuses a fair price for the stew—Brother Coin, the Great Spirit of the Market, will put a curse on their market bowl. When Yoyo refuses to heed Mama’s advice, she is faced with the task of trying to regain a blessing from the god himself.
An original folktale set in modern-day Cameroon, THE MARKET BOWL teaches readers a lesson about patience, humility, and the value of a fair price. Back matter includes further information about Cameroon and its people and traditions as well as a recipe for ndolé—Cameroon’s national food dish.

My comments: From the author's note: "Christian and Muslim traditions thrive side by side with a belief in ancestral spirits that guide and protect the local population". I think this is a beautiful, engaging, social studies book, but requires some explaining because of the different beliefs. Also, beware that the author/illustrator gave the little girl and her mother blue eyes, which offended two African families, according to some comments on Amazon. These families thought that blue eyes on Africans would be so rare, why use them in this book? Kids may not notice such a detail, but I feel badly that it did offend some families. 

I think it's important to read many multicultural books to our children to prevent them from developing prejudices. Talk about and explain whatever they don't understand because combating ignorance and fear is most of the battle. In the end, they will learn that human beings are far more alike one another than they are different, the world over.

Two Amazon reviews shown below for The Market Bowl:

1. Sadly, children's books with non-Caucasian protagonists are nearly nonexistent. The CCBC's latest count says that only around 3% of U. S. books feature black protagonists, though African Americans are 10% of the population. I can recommend this book for showing a strong, African female protagonist and for depicting modern Africa (Cameroon) with accurate details like cell towers, cellphones and ipods. The illustrations are gorgeous, especially the highly colorful and patterned clothing of the Cameroonian people.

2. Yoyo, the BLACK AFRICAN protagonist girl and her mother have Blue eyes?? Really Jim Averback?? Blue eyes?? I am the African mother of 2 beautiful African girls and I was once an African girl myself and we do not have blue eyes. Just giving us our own lovely dark eyes will suffice. Please NO BLUE EYES!!! We do not want or need them! Most humans, even white ones, do not have blue eyes, they have brown eyes. I can't figure out why the need for blue eyes on Africans.


(2014 Published) Julibee! One Man's Big, Bold, and Very, Very Loud Celebration of Peace by Alicia Potter

Synopsis: An exuberant picture book applauds the man behind the 1869 National Peace Jubilee, the largest and loudest concert the world had ever seen — or heard.

As a young boy growing up in Ireland, Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore loved music — the louder, the better! This love of music followed him to Boston in 1849, where he became a bandleader. During the brutal Civil War, it was music that kept up his spirits and those of his fellow soldiers. So when the war ended and peace was restored to the country, Patrick had an idea. He would create the biggest, boldest, loudest concert the world had ever known to celebrate. A peace jubilee! But with twelve cannons, forty church bells, one thousand musicians, and ten thousand singers, just how would all of this sound? Matt Tavares’s spirited illustrations burst with sound words in perfect harmony with Alicia Potter’s triumphant story of the joy of music.
Weekly Wrap-Up

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mom's Boys: A List

You know you're raising boys when...

... you wake up to find a monarch caterpillar in your face, because your son went outside for just a second to check on his garden, and just had to show you the first monarch caterpillar of the season. They're awfully pretty, yes, but my face. I just can't take creepy crawlies in my face, no matter how vivid the colors. God did choose beautiful, vivid colors for so many creepy crawlies, I freely admit.

...your nerves are rattled by your son's baby corn snake that keeps getting out of the tank. It was last found in Daddy's sock draw, and you wonder how your nerves will handle it when it's up to five- or six-feet long and still getting away. He's okay looking now, but oh my, he's getting fatter and longer fast. And those frozen pinky mice will soon be real live furry mice and oh my, why did I ever say yes?

...your son, anxious to make his own money, thinks of breeding feed crickets one year, and snakes the next. That's right mom. Keep saying no and reminding him that he can work in a pet store the day he turns 16, and in the meantime he can mow lawns. hear one of your boys exclaiming over an interesting-looking beetle he brought inside to show off. While you put on your make-up, you listen with mild amusement, until you catch a glimpse of it, and say..."Could that be a June beetle!?" The thought of it getting away from the kids and buzzing by your head as you read by the lamp at night, sends shudders down your spine, so you tell them to take it outside ASAP, because the buzz of June beetles has always given you the creepiest creeps.

...your kitchen counter regularly displays two or three small bug containers, one of which, today, has a loose lid that you notice at night when you finally have time to clear off the cluttered counter. Is that how the tiny inch worm got into the pan that is drying on the counter? All boys being asleep, you sigh deeply and put the pan outside the front door to be dealt with in the morning.

...your two boys and your husband go to the park in the late, humid, hot afternoon, returning right at dinnertime. After you're all seated together at the table, your five-year-old daughter suddenly says, "What's that smell?" To which you reply with a twinkle and a wink, "boys in summertime."

...your boy gets out of the shower and you walk by and shout..."Did you wash your...?" And he says oh and has to get right back in.

Don't get me wrong, I couldn't do without these boys and I'm so proud of them!


Monday, June 23, 2014

6 Traits of Functional Families

I think we come across the word dysfunctional far more than we do the word functional when it comes to families. My own little nuclear family here has two major things working against us:

~ We have too little support.
~ Our stresses are serious, and ongoing.

Generally speaking, I would say that families can get through much turmoil, whether ongoing or temporary, if only they have adequate support, but what about when that's missing? Is there any hope for those families? What can make the difference? What characteristics separate the healthy families from the dysfunctional ones, even under less than ideal circumstances, such as chronic illnesses, mental disorders, and other issues?

My non-scientific observations and opinions, open to discussion, are as follows:

Five Characteristic of Functional Families 

1. Healthy Families Are Not Afraid of Conflict 

They don't push problems under the rug to keep the peace. They live in truth. Keeping feelings inside, hidden, is living a lie.

John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The truth sets us free spiritually, and in our interpersonal relationships too. Healthy families believe this and get it all out there in the open, and discuss it, if not always in even tones, at least not in brutal, disrespectful tones. Be angry, but don't sin in your anger. Healthy families may fight, but they fight fair. They keep the cussing and character assassinations out of it, and the divorce word out of it. If anything regretful does slip, it's apologized for promptly, within minutes.

It's easy to keep the fighting words out of it, if things aren't repressed. If someone has offended you, put it out there promptly, but not at 12 AM preferably. The more problems are held inside, the more violently they come out when the flood gates are finally opened.

Don't give resentment time to build, for I think most family therapists would agree that resentments are the beginning of the end. They become so entangled and ugly over the years, that no one save God can get the knots out, and many people don't feel that God moves fast enough. Because really, doesn't God only move as fast as our own pride moves aside?

We all know what a stumbling block human pride can be, and that leads us to number 2.

2. Healthy Families Are Full of Humble People

Psalms 18:27 For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.

Change in any family starts with, not the other people, but with yours truly. We have to be willing to look inward and recognize and pray for the removal of our own sins. The Holy Spirit is trying all the time to point them out, but He needs our cooperation--our humble, teachable heart. The family prayer circle should always include a plea for humble hearts.

3. Healthy Families Are Full of Grace

Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you

It stands to reason that if each family member is in touch with his own personal sinfulness, he's going to be more willing to apply grace to another member's shortcomings. Not holding grudges is key. Each day should bring everyone a clean slate, for isn't that what our Heavenly Father does for us, giving us new mercies every morning? If you wake up and can't give your family members a clean slate, pray for a clean heart.

4. Healthy Families Are Thankful

If you think about all the reasons you're doomed as a family,'re doomed. Take time at least once a week, hopefully more, to count your blessings. Take life one day at a time. The Bible tells us that each day has enough trouble of its own. Don't borrow trouble from another day. Pray through today's trouble, and give thanks. Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

5. Healthy Families Are Sacrificial

No one person in the healthy family is out for personal glory. Personal goals are weighed against the good of the whole family unit. If Dad's career, for example, is taking him away three quarters of the month, is it worth it? Can the family be without its spiritual leader this long and still be healthy? If mom's work or side activities are distracting her from the children and/or the home, are they serving the family well? Are Susie's Olympic gymnastic goals going to bring enough glory to God to make it worth the sacrifice to the whole family, financially and otherwise? What is Susie really after? And the family?

Any glory in a family belongs to God alone. As soon as ego interferes, an imbalance permeates and threatens the health of the family unit.

A Bonus # 6
This goes without saying, but healthy families worship God together. He binds them together. He covers their iniquities and ensures that they succeed, for his glory. 

So gather round, open that Bible, hold hands, and pray together. You can't afford not to. Yes, it's messy with littles around, but do it anyway. Keep it short at first, and longer as they can handle it. Numbers 1 through 5 will fall into place if number 6 is strong.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up 6/20

So folks, the last I wrote we had a list of summer reading titles to obtain from the library. Oh, but that was a memorable visit.

As I mentioned, our van possibly had a slowly failing fuel pump. The boys and I went to the library after dinner one night (leaving the girls with Daddy) so as to avoid taking Mary, who is suffering from anxiety and couldn't take another stranding in the van.

Being an optimist, I felt the van could make it to the library and the auto parts store and back home. I wanted to test a theory about the gas cap anyhow, and I knew the boys weren't going to have an anxiety attack if I was wrong. If we wait long enough, the pesky van starts after it fails us, usually within an hour.

We finished at the library right at closing time, and we were still in the parking lot at midnight. And no fireflies yet to distract the boys from our plight. The library is located in a rather sleepy university town located next to our small township. It was a quiet night, with only the insects and train sounds to keep us company, and occasional traffic. Until a group of older teen or college student boys came loitering, around 11:15 PM. They weren't drunk, but they were acting all ridiculous, as though they were on something. Or is that just how 17- or 18-year-old boys behave? All "dude" this and "dude" that. "Dude" was their main vocabulary word, besides "chick". "Dude, can you believe that chick? Isn't she fine?"

Then they called one of these "chicks" and I'm happy to report that the "fine" chick hung up on these misguided boys, who were only out to impress each other anyway. There was plenty of cussing going on too, and I was horrified that my boys were hearing all this worldliness.

We stayed very quiet because we didn't want them to know we were there, though our windows were down because of the humidity. I didn't know if they were the criminal type, or just didn't have anything better to do that night. There were two other cars in the library parking lot besides ours, unoccupied.

Finally, they did notice us and it turned out that they were harmless. They asked if I was an undercover cop and I said that no, I was just waiting for roadside assistance for my vehicle. They wanted to help but I respectfully declined. About twenty minutes later, they left, thankfully.

It was a teachable moment, after they left. I told my boys never to speak about women the way those boys did. I told them God expects men to love and protect women, to be strong for them, and to honor them. Those boys didn't stand up for what was right, but only went along with their friends, trying to impress each other. It was all about the boys' images, rather than about right or wrong. I told my boys that when they got to college, there would be many boys like that--the ones who hadn't grown up yet and didn't know who they were. They were to choose their friends wisely, paying particular attention to how important image was to the friend. The more important image is, the more worldly the person.

The boys didn't pick up on the cuss words, thank goodness. The Lord protected even when I couldn't.

My assessment after 11:30 PM was that the fuel pump was done playing tricks with us after these 12 long weeks. It was finished and needed to be replaced.

My husband's car couldn't accommodate all of us, plus the girls were home asleep, so my uncle, who regularly stays up until 3 or 4 in the morning, came to get the boys and me. My boys have never stayed up later than 11 PM before (and that only on the Fourth of July) but they did great. I let them do whatever they wanted the following day, knowing it wasn't a day to make any demands on them.

And the next morning before work my husband went to the library parking lot and that pesky van was cold and it did start. He drove it here and got us all out of bed so we could help him get it to our mechanic's house. We'll most likely be grounded until Monday or Tuesday. VBS starts Monday evening and I do hope we can make that.

On to homeschool news:

I finished reading Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, which both boys will start next week, while I pre-read a couple of other books for them, including Preacher's Boy by Katherine Paterson.

Peter, age 12, is reading Hardy Boys Mysteries, after failing to develop any interest in them in the prior two years. I did some research and found that the main series started in 1927 and were written up until 2005, under the ghostwriter name Franklin Dixon. I believe there are 66 of the original series. Spin-offs were written after that, but I wonder if they are as wholesome as the originals?

I read every Nancy Drew Mystery when I was Peter's age. I sped through one after the other, hardly coming up for a breath, and I can see Peter doing that this summer, notwithstanding his time outside (I wasn't an outdoor kid like he is). There's a summer reading incentive program at the library and that got him started, but he's been pleasantly surprised at how good the stories are. He'll probably read a chapter a day of what I assign him, and then read his Hardy Boys for fun.

The boys have really enjoyed a 2012 Usborne book entitled Space which they found at the library, pictured below by Louie Stowell. They're done with Sonlight Science so they're looking for more Usbornes, which are their favorite science resources.

They're also going through the science experiment book below, finding neat things to do according to what we have on hand. I have never worried about hands-on anything because my children are by nature hands-on people who envision, set up and conduct their own experiences, sometimes driving my husband and me crazy with what they "borrow", break, or otherwise use up. But we are very forgiving; we have to be, being homeschoolers.

The neighbors sometimes shake their heads at the messes in our yard, I am sure. There are some crazy contraptions and schemes visible from their porches, including little "garden plots" dug up here and there in the grass, which I'm sure make the neighbors scratch their heads. We let the kids use the yard as their own, but every couple days I go on a high horse and make them neaten it up, telling them we simply must be respectful of the neighbors and not spoil their view too much.

Mary and I, with the help of Daddy and sometimes Peter, are still working our way through the Sonlight science program I purchased for her first grade year. We are also still doing Sing Spell Read Write for first grade, along with easy readers on hand at home and from the library.

We are still working in Susan Wise Bauer's writing resources, Writing With Skill Level 1 for the boys, and Writing With Ease Level 1 for Mary.

Summer Devotions: We are still doing devotions together but not always in the mornings, if that is the best time weatherwise for them to play outside. If the weather stays good all morning (rarely), we just do devotions after lunch. We're now done with all the books of the Bible assigned to us by Sonlight Core F. Without that printed schedule, we're now doing a "Summer in the Psalms", along with time at night in the Proverbs with Daddy, followed by round robin prayer both times. 

The children are still developing the discipline to pray for any sustained amount of time. Still, after all this time, they keep theirs pretty short, except for a couple exceptions per week. Having a schedule of things to pray for helps with their focus, but they still manage to keep it short and sweet. It's a matter of discipline of mind, I think. Prayer is a mental discipline that takes time and maturity.

Paul just finished The Tanglewood's Secret by Patricia St. John.

We buy our math programs in February with a tax refund so the boys are still working on sixth grade Teaching Textbook math and Mary is still working on Saxon First Grade math. My preschooler does math here and there in a Bob Jones kinder math workbook, and with our manipulative kit, but I don't push. I don't have time for a regular full kinder schedule for her anyway.

Next fall it will be a huge wake-up call for me to school her as a kinder student regularly along with her sister and two brothers. She knows her letters and sounds and can sound out some three letter words, but her hands have thus far not been ready for writing anything but capital letters. My life will change quite a bit next fall. I'm preparing for this change by slowly paring down outside commitments.

Mary also has been keen to read on her own for the library incentive program. This morning she read Hop On Pop to her sister and they both got to mark their library reading forms. After 20 hours of reading, they will be rewarded with a nice yard sign, which their brother Paul earned last year. It says "Home of a Library Super Reader". It was a proud day when he picked that sign up, let me tell you. He displayed it outside until late fall, and then brought it into his bedroom. Several smaller awards lead up to this big one, which God willing, Paul hopes to earn again this year. It will be harder for his sisters to earn one, but not impossible.

Peter is considered too old by our librarians to earn all these neat things. The librarians seem to ignore kids his age for the most part, except to encourage them to read graphic novels and other things I don't regard as worthy literature. They don't push classics or even Newbery Medal winners; rather, they push what they think the kids will read. For his first reading "award" they gave him a free book (an unproofed not-for-sale copy of a book). In response to his complaints on the way home, I told him that to run a library it takes millions of dollars, which shocked him. Growing out of things like VBS and AWANA and neat library incentives is proving to be hard for him. He doesn't see himself as different from his siblings...yet. Though his body is telling him otherwise.

Kinda like me being 48 and not feeling like a women soon to be 50, though the mirror is saying something different.

Trade Books to Share:

New trade books for 2014:

A Child's Introduction to Art: The World's Greatest Paintings and Sculptures by Heather Alexander

Synopsis: The newest volume in Black Dog's best-selling, award-winning Child's Introduction series explores the fascinating world of art and artists and includes do-it-yourself art projects throughout.

In the tradition of Black Dog's best-selling Child's Introduction books, which include The Story of the Orchestra and A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky, A Child's Introduction to Artintroduces kids ages 9 through 12 to the art world's most famous painters, styles, and periods, all brought to life through full-color photographs of 40 masterpieces, as well as charming original illustrations.

The book highlights 40 painters and sculptors, including Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet, Diego Velasquez, Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Mary Cassatt, and Andy Warhol, providing information on their life, inspirations, influences, technique, and a full-color photo of one of their signature works of art. It also includes an overview of various styles and periods (Renaissance, Impressionism, Cubism, etc.), instruction on how to view and appreciate art, and information on the color wheel and other tools artists employ.

Fun art projects throughout, such as Can You Find It?, Q-tip pointillism, making a stained-glass window with tissue paper, and Spatter Paint like Pollock, allow kids to learn about painting techniques and explore their own artistic abilities. Also includes five masterpiece paintings to color.

Meredith Hamilton's witty illustrations add another dimension to the excellent text and photographs.


In New York by Marc Brown

SynopsisMarc Brown now calls New York City home, and with In New York, he shares his love for all that the city has to offer and all that it stands for, including the way it's always changing and evolving. From its earliest days as New Amsterdam to the contemporary wonders of Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building, to the kid-appealing subway, High Line, and so much more, Marc's rollicking text and gorgeous illustrations showcase what he's come to adore about New York after fulfilling his life-long dream to live in the city he fell in love with during a childhood visit. 

This is at once a personal story from the beloved creator of Arthur, a useful primer for first-time travelers on what to see and do with kids in the Big Apple, and a perfect keepsake after a visit. It's also a great gift for anyone who loves New York, the Crossroads of the World. New York! New York! It's a heckuva town!


The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

SynopsisPerfect for bedtime reading, pay a visit to the Midnight Library where you can snuggle up for a nighttime story.There is a little library that only opens at night. In the library there is a little librarian—and her three assistant owls—who helps everyone find the perfect book. The library is always peaceful and quiet . . . until one night when some of the animals stir up a little trouble (and a little fun!) in the Midnight Library.

From Kazuno Kohara, creator of the New York Times Best Illustrated book Ghosts in the House! comes a beautiful book brimming with cozy charm.


(2011 Published) Love Twelve Miles Long by Glenda Armand

Synopsis: I's late at night, and Frederick's mother has traveled twelve miles to visit him. When Frederick asks Mama how she can walk so far, Mama recounts her journey mile by mile. Every step of the way is special, as it brings them closer together; and Mama passes the time by remembering, listening, praying, singing, and more. Set on a plantation in 1820s Maryland, this story based on the life of young Frederick Douglass shows the power of his mother's love. The faith she has in her son puts him on a path to escape enslavement and to become a champion of human rights, an influential writer and speaker, and an unforgettable leader. Expressive, candlelit paintings illuminate the bond between parent and child in this heartfelt story. Love Twelve Miles Long will resonate with children of all backgrounds who cherish the tender moments they share with those they love.

This is Glenda Armand's first book and boy does she have talent. I loved every word!

How was your week? What are you reading and enjoying?

Weekly Wrap-Up

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Family Bonding and Ground Turkey Haystack Dinner Recipe

I'm going to type two versions of this recipe. The first one is for the busier households, which calls for two cans of canned soup. Both my husband and I, along with Peter, have enjoyed the homemade version immensely, though two of our children put their noses in the air at the mushrooms and ate very little of anything but the meat and rice. The texture and rich taste from the brown rice and the homemade, non-salty flavor from the soups, married with the turkey, made the dish, so I can't vouch for the taste with white rice and canned soups. I've prepared this only three times but I think over time the children will get used to the mushrooms. I don't put them in other dishes often so it may take 15 or 20 offerings.

The recipe title comes from the concept of stacking. The bottom layer is rice; the meat, mushroom, soup mixture goes on top of that, then either peas or corn on top of that, ending with a dusting of grated cheese. It's delicious, trust me.

As you can see from the contrast in the recipes and in the preparation involved, a whole-foods lifestyle is about a more traditional notion of serving the family and about togetherness, rather than about a busyness that comes from carting the family around here and there. The idea is that the richness of life comes not from the events the family is taken to, but in the interaction that occurs while meals are lovingly prepared together, prayed and talked over together, and cleaned up together. The meal and the interaction are the events, and bonding and strength of character, mind, spirit and body are the fruits.

This manner of feeding the family and body and spirit stem from the belief that the family is the primary means by which God prepares parents and children to change the world for Christ. The nuclear family is primary, and the church family is secondary, with the secondary church family taking over, ideally, when there is no primary family available.

Thus, we open our homes in hospitality as much as we can when someone is missing a primary family for whatever reason. All the more reason to be home.

Haystack Dinner

original recipe here with photo

Ingredients (non whole-foods version)

2 lbs lean ground turkey
1 - 10 3/4 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1-  10 3/4 oz. can cream of celery soup
2 T milk
2 cups (16 oz.) cooked peas or corn
2 cups uncooked rice
Finely shredded cheese for topping


In a large pot prepare your rice according to package directions.

Meanwhile, brown ground turkey in a large saucepan, then add both cans of soup and the milk. Stir until well combined and creamy. Cook until warm.

To serve haystacks, put some rice on a plate, top with meat mixture, then top with peas and finally top with shredded cheese. If your peas are warmed, the cheese, if finely shredded, should melt over them, but if not you can stick the plate in the microwave for 30 seconds. Enjoy.

Whole Foods Haystack Dinner 


2 lbs lean ground turkey (brown with minced garlic if desired)

2 cups uncooked brown rice & 2 T. butter (quick brown rice doesn't quite compare in texture and taste)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup finely diced celery

1/4 cup diced or sliced mushrooms

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (Homemade Broth: Water and celery & carrots or assorted veggies in stock pot on simmer all day, or for several hours.)

1 1/2 cups whole milk (I used 2%)

2 cups cooked peas or corn

Finely shredded cheese for topping

Salt and pepper to taste at the table


Brown Rice preparation: In a large pot bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add 2 T butter. Stir in 2 cups brown rice and turn heat to low. Cover and simmer 40 - 50 minutes. Let stand five minutes and fluff with fork before serving.

Meanwhile, brown ground turkey in large pan. Your pan needs to be large enough to add the soups to later. I added 2 tsp. jarred minced garlic to the turkey as I browned it since I wasn't using much salt in the recipe.

In a separate large pot, melt 1/2 cup butter. Add celery and mushrooms, saute both until tender. Whisk in 1/2 cup flour and let it cook for a minute until bubbly. Whisk in the 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth and allow mixture to come to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute until thick and creamy.

Add soup mixture to ground turkey and stir until well combined and creamy. Cook until warm.

To serve haystacks, put some brown rice on a plate, top with meat mixture, then top with peas or corn, and finally top with shredded cheese. If your vegetables are warmed the cheese, if finely shredded, should melt over them, but if not put the plate in the microwave for 30 seconds. Enjoy!

top image

sharing with Works For Me Wednesday

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook 6/17

Outside my window...

On this partly sunny day, the children are having a picnic lunch on the front lawn...PB&J, peeled and sliced Jonagold apples, iced Country Time Lemonade. I would be sitting here, my heart all a glow as I listen to their funny sibling banter from the playroom window, except...

...Except that I just finished cleaning up a huge mess, over which I really felt like crying. Am I the only one who would cry over fixing four large cups of iced Country Time Lemonade on a tray for a lawn picnic, only to spill it everywhere, all over the floor and cabinets and floor boards, because I tried to open the door with one hand while carrying the tray with the other? And I was so anticipating their smiles, on this hot, humid day! After this disaster, I had just enough lemonade on hand to give each child only half a cup. Yes, I did overfill with ice to hide this fact.

I'm getting over it now, anyhow, even though sugary lemonade ranks up there for disastrous messes, along with chocolate milk. Writing always helps. :)

I am thinking...

...that my children can be loud when they play and I wonder if the neighbors smile at the wonder and magic of childhood when they hear my gang's childish schemes and games and sometimes arguments, or if they roll their adult eyes and wonder when quiet will invade this corner of the neighborhood.

I am also thinking what a jack-of-all-trades a mother is. Our van has been failing to start at times and our mechanic had it over a 3-day period a month ago and started it 40 times successfully, so he couldn't troubleshoot it. With dread over the cost we thought it was a slowly failing fuel pump, because it would turn over but not start, only this would be intermittent, as I said, characteristic of a failing pump. It was oh so inconvenient for the kids and me, as we went to appointments and errands, as you can imagine. I prayed about not getting stuck in a parking garage at the Children's Hospital for hours, but we had to keep running it out of necessity.

Finally, the van issue began to worsen Mary's anxiety; she hasn't wanted to leave the house at all. Thunder isn't all I've been dealing with. Other little things began to bother her too, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder began to look like a real possibility, which runs in my family and which Peter has, but his improved after age 10 when he began his med for OCD. There was no way I was going to put Mary, at age 7, on anything, so I began in earnest last night to study 2003 Ford Windstars via the Internet and try to find the answer to the problem. Ford Windstars have a lot of issues so they get a lot of Internet press.

Mothers do that. They get to the bottom of things, by golly. Whatever the kids truly need, we try to deliver. Not just discipline and kisses and vegetables and books...but everything in our power. I think because there's plenty that isn't in our power, we want to do our best with what is.

So, last night found me learning about the Ford Windstar. I learned typical stuff that will make some of you smile, if you have dads who bothered to teach you a few things. Such as, that to start a car you need a fire, of sorts. Fire requires three things: air, fuel, and spark. I really didn't think it was the fuel pump because our personal mechanic arrived at the pediatrician's office yesterday where we were "stranded" and started the van for me with a trick, and he noticed the fuel pumping through a line as it should. It wasn't a blown fuse either. He was stumped as to what the problem was, but at least he got me out of that fix, while Mary cried in the back seat. It was a hot day.

Now, if something creates an air vacuum in your vehicle's system then the fire necessary to start your engine won't happen. As I read about the things that could create a vacuum, I thought about the gas cap that has been somewhat faulty for a few months, which we've been too preoccupied to replace (we can be dumb that way). Then I searched for whether a loose gas cap could make a car fail to start. Half of the mechanically-inclined people answering said no and half said yes, because it can create a vacuum. Next I read that when your gas tank is empty or nearly empty, it creates more of a vacuum, and BINGO, it dawned on me that the last few times the van has done this the needle was not on empty but near it. I rarely put more than $20 in the van's tank at a time, so there you go.

Of course we are replacing the gas cap tonight and asking our mechanic's opinion about whether this might be the only problem (he's extremely honest and rooting for our family). Hopefully we'll get to the bottom of the issue and Mary will build some trust in her parents, building upon her trust in God...and our mechanic. She trusted the mechanic all along, but not us, when it came to car issues. Smart girl.

The battle against fear is her's, not mine, but she should know that when Mommy takes her for a ride in the van, Mommy, as the adult, will have some control over how long the trip will be.

I am thankful...

~ for the two lovely-spirited little girls here

~ for summer lawn picnics and sprinklers on hot, humid days

~ that Mary is all smiles today

~ summer breezes

~ a nice mechanic who is willing to rescue us (and works for himself)

~ children excited about the garden they planted

~ Peter's and Paul's diligence in learning how to make and plant their own seed potatoes (don't know if this climate will work, but it's an experiment)

~ loving husband

~ Peter growing into such a nice big brother for his siblings

~ Beth making great strides in speech (I see a day coming soon when speech will not be necessary for any of them. We are taking the summer off with the therapist's blessing.)

~ No more physical therapy sessions for Beth for her three arthritic joints. The methotrexate and naproxen are working to keep her functioning very well. The plan is to withdraw the naproxen first, as soon as she goes a whole year without any flares or swelling, which hasn't happened yet, by a long shot. Once that occurs and no problems arise from the absence of naproxen, they will then try pulling the methotrexate. A long process ahead of us, in other words. She has a stubborn case of arthritis.

I am wearing...

...long jean skirt, pink tee, heeled clogs

I am reading...

Lois Lenski's Strawberry Girl, a 1946 Newbery Medal Winner. While this is a fourth- to fifth-grade book, the content is mature, as you will see from the review below. As I choose summer reading novels for the boys, I find it's hard to look at Lexiles and reading levels because if you rule out books that are below grade level, you miss out on some memorable books that children may not have had the maturity to grasp earlier--when they matched their grade. This book is heart-wrenching for me, as an adult, to wade through! That's not to say it isn't good. It's excellent!

Synopsis/Review (Children's Literature): Birdie Boyer is Strawberry Girl in this delightfully classic tale of frontier life in Florida. As newcomers the Boyers' so-called uppity ways clash with the Slaters, their fence-hating, land-squatting, free-cattle-ranging neighbors. Birdie helps her Ma and Pa battle the Florida sun, drought, and sandy soil as they attempt to put in strawberry plants and tend to their orange trees. Problems abound and tempers flare as the Slaters and Boyers meet with trouble; fences are cut, hogs are killed, a mule is poisoned, and a raging fire is set. The Slaters are beset with tribulation due to the drinking, gambling, and irresponsibility of their husband and father. Mrs. Slater and her children find themselves indebted to the Boyers by a life-saving act of neighborly affection, which changes the heart of Mr. Slater. Lenski intersperses historical spice and appeal throughout her story, while illustrating the hardships and trials of life on the frontier in early twentieth century Florida. (orig. 1945), Harper Trophy/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 10 to 18. 

I'm reading trade books to the girls as well, including Betsy, Tacy and Tib by Maud Lovelace. We're still reading 1 Corinthians in the mornings for devotions. It's not an easy book to explain to children, but we're learning a lot and I'm very appreciative as always for my Life Application Bible.

I am hoping...

...I spoke to my father for Father's Day and learned a little more about his father. He died at 54 years old from cancer due to working in a coal mine all his life. And he drank, which I knew, but I didn't know any details. My father downplayed the drinking, saying his father didn't drink that much, in typical denial fashion. My own father, like me, hates alcohol and doesn't want anything to do with it. My mother had begun to drink before they divorced, when I was 3. When I think about each of my father's many brothers and sisters, I see the consequences of their father's drinking. Many siblings either married someone who drank, drank themselves, or married someone who was dysfunctional--even in the cases where there are second marriages. (My father is on his fifth marriage). It doesn't take daily drinking to make drinking a dysfunctional parental activity. It only takes covering up for the drinker to bring on the dysfunction, or denying that the drinking exists and makes the family different. Everyone takes on a role in the drinking family, and the roles continue as the children all leave home and marry. Tragic.

If only we wouldn't live in denial and shame. If only we wouldn't assume that polite people don't talk about that. If only it didn't have to be a secret, we could learn how to undo the patterns, and it wouldn't insidiously poison each new generation.

I may be breaking my mother's heart in not having any contact with her until she goes to rehab and is no longer in denial, but I must do it. I must say No! to any more of this dysfunction in my life and in the lives of my children, for I can raise them the way I was raised, secondhand, if I don't know where I'm going wrong and where my thinking is faulty. I am only just now realizing the subtle ways that my thinking has been faulty, even though I've never been a drinker, I'm not married to a drinker, and I don't have any friends who drink.

For me it's about the patterns of behavior that were established and my lack of understanding about them, due to denial for so many years (thinking that my mother was a "problem drinker", not an alcoholic). There isn't much difference between the two, in terms of the way the children are raised.

Just this week I had to stop taking the calls of one of my "friends" who I began to recognize as a manipulator. Why couldn't I see it before? I knew she had problems and I was trying to do my best for her while still putting my family first, but why couldn't I see that she was manipulating me, and that I cannot minister to or be a friend to someone who is manipulating me?

I see things differently now that I have put (probably) permanent distance between my mother, step-father and myself. It wasn't obvious right away, but the more I stay strong, the more I see the damage caused by my upbringing. And I see how much the Lord protected me! It could have been far worse. The more layers I peel away, the more new anger I experience. I thought I had forgiven, but there's still more to forgive. I have to keep my heart clear of bitterness so as the layers peel, I need to keep the forgiveness flowing, while still not making contact with them.

It all stems from the sin curse, but beyond that, it comes from this word...denial. Oh, Lord. Help us to live in truth. Search our hearts. Make known to us our iniquities and may we live side by side with you, in truth.

Scripture to Share...

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up 6/13

Good Friday night to you. It's with a deep sigh of relief that I sit down here after such a day. Suffice it to say that Mary's fear of thunder and Peter's OCD made for an exhausting day, part of which was spent at Children's Hospital for a rheumatology office check and blood draw. Yes, Mary did bring her Easter-candy-turned-throw-up bucket and carry it all through the hospital, while also having her fingers in her ears in case of thunder. We were in a hospital so it wasn't all that shocking to passersby to see a pale face, tears, and a throw-up bucket, although the fingers in the ears did throw them for a loop.

Normal is far from my daily experience and some days I just look at the pile of laundry and think of the meals that still need to be prepared, and the school that needs to be taught, and the dirt that needs to be wiped away, and I ask God, "What are you thinking in giving me anything else? Surely I'm already stretched beyond my capacity?"

Back at home in the late afternoon, I sent them all outside because my head was going to explode, dwelling on all their not-so-normal problems in the midst of all their noise. The sun was temporarily shining through the clouds and Mary was temporarily in control of her emotions, and Peter was no longer thinking that he was going to commit suicide with the garden shovel (called an intrusive thought in OCD--physically harmless but very emotionally disturbing for him).

Trying to calm down, I looked out the window, watching them. They were giggling and running each other vigorously around in the wheel barrow, looking as typical as the naughty rabbits in Mr. MacGregor's garden.

They looked full of life and love and vitality.


The Lord always provides grace after particularly intense periods in my day...and it flows just like this. Unexpected and beautiful.

Sometimes on the toughest days I don't know if there's going to be enough love and patience and humor to wipe another bottom (just the five-year-old bottom these days) or apply another bandaid with ointment and kisses and tenderness.

But somehow, there is. God supplies faithfully, as though he's right there shadowing me, knowing precisely what I need, and when.

Why do I ever doubt? By now, I understand that His mysterious way is to provide grace enough for right now, give answers enough, money enough, direction enough, for right now. He asks us to pray for our daily bread. He asks us to rely on Him daily, hourly, to walk with him step by step.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Now on to homeschool....

As I mentioned, the boys, ages 10 and 12, are done with Sonlight for the year, so they had nothing lined up for language arts, history, or science for the summer months. We have Sonlight World History Part 1, and the next Sonlight Science package complete and ready to go, but it just didn't feel right to start them before the official start of the new school year, which isn't until mid Sept. Each new school year should feel fresh and new, with a brand new emphasis. I don't want to mess with that sensation.

One of the reasons I use Sonlight is that trying to put together book lists and curriculum takes up a great deal of my time, and leads to far too much computer time and too little mother-child interaction time. Whenever I have these gaps to fill, I am so grateful to Sonlight for saving me so much work. 

I do very much enjoy educational research and curriculum development, but my intention was never to be a working mom, and that's what I feel I become when I have to put learning packages together for the kids. It takes countless hours of careful work--more than I can do just at night--and the kids are neglected in the meantime, as well as the house, and that leads to behavior issues. A distracted mother is the worst kind of mother for this house. I have to remain engaged to do my best mothering. Lesson learned the hard way.

I do have a Christian book on my shelf to help me, thank goodness. I've shared it before with you.

Part Two of this book is entitled Best-Loved Books for Children. She provides lists of titles with authors, along with a brief synopsis for each book. Among the age categories are ages 9-12 and ages 12-14. For Paul, who is 10, I am using the 9-12 category, for which she uses the following breakdown:

Classic Children's Novels: Ages 9-12
Stories for Animal Lovers: Ages 9-12
Historical Novels: Ages 9-12
Fantasy Novels: Ages 9-12 

Newbery Medal and Honor books are marked especially, as well as Horn Book awards, Boston Globe awards, and Coretta Scott King awards.

Thanks to Sonlight having such good taste in literature, we have already read a good number of Gladys Hunt's Best-Loved picks, but there are plenty more to choose from. Paul requested books about the Revolutionary War, and I found some on her list, and supplemented more from here.

We are obtaining the following books from the library for Paul. 

Peter Pan by James Barrie
The Magic Bicycle by John Bibee (and maybe the sequels)
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Borrowers by Mary Norton 
Waiting for the Rain: A Novel of South Africa by Sheila Gordon
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Toliver's Secret by Esther Brady
George Washington's Socks by Elvira Woodruff
Sarah Bishop by Scott O'dell

He will look through them and decide where to start. He'll pick one for language arts and one for history, to read each day. Both boys already have some science picks lined up from the library. I have all the books on a six-week teacher loan card.

We'll see how many weeks of summer this list will take Paul, and whether or not he totally rejects some of these. Scott O'Dell might be hard to get through for him, and Swiss Family Robinson might be too wordy as well. He likes his books straightforward with a smooth flow.

There's only one section for Peter, age 12, called Young Adult Novels for ages 12-14. A great many of the books in this age category had girls as the main characters, and I skipped most of those titles for now.

Obviously his list still has some growing to do and some are Christian and won't be available at the local library, but we're this far in choosing for Peter, age 12:

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (We read a biography of Corrie this year, but not this book)
"Every experience God gives us . . . is the perfect preparation for the future only He can see."—Corrie ten Boom
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler's concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. In World War II she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were tested in the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil.

Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
Excellent fantasy, well-written, and based on Welsh legend.

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas 
A Roman soldier, Marcellus, wins Christ's robe as a gambling prize. He then sets forth on a quest to find the truth about the Nazarene's robe-a quest that reaches to the very roots and heart of Christianity and is set against the vividly limned background of ancient Rome. Here is a timeless story of adventure, faith, and romance, a tale of spiritual longing and ultimate redemption.

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly (Research tells me it's grade level 5.5, but Lexile is 1200. Quite a discrepancy.)
A Polish family in the Middle Ages guards a great secret treasure, and a boy's memory of an earlier trumpeter of Krakow makes it possible for him to save his father.

Captain Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
First published in 1897, Captains Courageous tells of the high-seas adventures of Harvey Cheyne, the son of an American millionaire, who, after falling from a luxury ocean liner, is rescued by the raucous crew of the fishing ship We’re Here. Obstinate and spoiled at first, Harvey in due course learns diligence and responsibility and earns the camaraderie of the seamen, who treat him as one of their own. A true test of character, Harvey’s months aboard the We’re Here provide a delightful glimpse of life at sea and well-told morals of discipline, empathy, and self-reliance.

Preacher's Boy by Katherine Patterson
It's 1899 in a small town in Vermont, and the turn of the century is coming fast. According to certain members of the church where Robbie's father is the preacher, the end of the century might even mean the end of the world. But Robbie has more pressing worries. He's sure his father loves his simple-minded brother, Elliot, better than him, and he can no longer endure the tiresome restrictions of Christianity. He decides to leave the fold and decides to live life to the fullest. His high-spirited and often hot-headed behavior does nothing to improve his father's opinion of him, nor does it improve the congregation's flagging opinion of his father. Not until the consequences of his actions hurt others does Robbie put a stop to the chain of events he has set off and begin to realize his father might love him after all.

For Science Peter will do some middle school lessons from the Future Farmers of America site.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

L.M. Montgomery's Theology and Later Anne Literature

Oh, no. She's not going to write about L.M. Montgomery again, surely?

Well, yes, I'm afraid I have to. When you immerse yourself in a literary series, you can't just drop the characters with the snap of your fingers, anymore than you can drop your best friend.

Nor, I'm finding, can you drop the author quickly. One needs closure.

Montgomery and Her Critics

While the reading public, and some other writers, loved Montgomery's material, especially her Anne, literary critics didn't agree that Montgomery was amazing. Anne's character, they complained "was the same at the end of the novel as she was at the beginning." Critics love a character who evolves, not just one who delights and charms your socks off.

The critics dismissed Montgomery's work as "mere children's literature", as though that were a bad thing. Never mind that some of her genius, like some of Mark Twain's, manifested in the writing of dialogue. This woman could weave a tale, flesh out multiple unforgettable characters, and make them say the funniest things, page after fascinating page.

And to me at least, her dialogue never seems contrived, though it's often funny or profound social commentary. Her work displayed plenty of genius...and what's not to love about children's literature, anyway? It certainly isn't second-class literature! Critics can be downright pompous.

Montgomery didn't disagree with her critics. She thought her work was well done for what it was, but not deep. The one great novel never came for her, in her opinion. If it didn't, possibly it was because she was a true working mother, and needed to produce work that would generate a regular income--thus, her 500 short stories, in addition to her 21 novels. Her family needed her income, especially during the Great Depression. The pressure and her husband's mental illness, and her own depression, stifled some creativity, I'm sure, but personally, I find her work fulfilling and excellent, and meant for adults as much as for older children.

Later Works in the Anne Series (there are 9 Anne of Green Gables books)

Lucy felt her talent was in writing young characters, so books 7 and 8 barely mention Anne and Gilbert. I've finished books 7, Rainbow Valley (about Anne's 6 children growing up at Ingleside and meeting new friends), and 8, Rilla of Ingleside (about their youngest child, Rilla, who starts the novel at age 15) of the Anne of Green Gables series, which were not quite as wholesome as the earlier ones, but still plenty moral. (I'll explain the bit of unwholesomeness further down.) They are for older teens and adults.

The 9th and final book The Blithes Are Quoted, was delivered to the publisher on the day Lucy died, April, 1942, but the publisher felt the anti-war sentiment was too strong to warrant a publishing during World War 11. After the war, the manuscript collected dust for years in a vault. (While I've read numerous reviews, I don't have this 9th book yet).

While Rilla of Ingleside (book 8), a World War 1 novel, was patriotic, Lucy apparently changed her views by World War ll, and a futility-of-war sentiment made its way into her final volume. It was finally removed from the vault and published in 1974--32 years later--in a highly cut form, entitled The Road to Yesterday. Only in 2009 did Lucy's original work come out in an unabridged form with the original title, The Blithes Are Quoted. It's a Canadian issue book and will not be easy to find (more expensive); nevertheless, I do want it for closure.

Not a traditional novel, The Blithes Are Quoted is a collection of many poems attributed to Anne and her son Walter, as well as numerous short stories that mention the Blithes as distant neighbors, but are not about the Blithe family. Most of the poems and short stories were previously published in magazines, but Lucy put them together in this format, connecting them to the Blithes in some way. Weaved around the short stories, which are darker in theme than her other works, Anne reads her or her son's poetry to members of her family seated around her, and the family discusses the poems and reminisceses. That's how the reader catches up on Anne and her children, and learns about the grandchildren. Anne and Gilbert end the book in their seventies.

Not so satisfying as a novel--not the same level of detail about the character's lives--but an original format and an attempt from Lucy to branch out with different literary styles. There are some problems with the piece in that dates don't match up and children's names aren't quite right, so it's somewhat apparent that Lucy was under the influence of prescription drugs when she wrote it. The name and date inconsistencies were not edited out, but perhaps in a later edition they will be.

Montgomery's Theology

After a little more research, I've learned that L.M. Montgomery was not a Christian. In fact, she had a conflicted relationship with religion all her life, having been raised by very strict religious grandparents who were all rules but no heart.

In conjunction with the religious conflict, Lucy Montgomery, among many others in the early 20th century, became intrigued with occult-like ideas, such as playing with Ouija boards and contemplating ghosts and apparitions. A lot of Lucy's later books have premonitions/apparitions and "prophetic" dreams in them--enough to make the Christian in me squirm. In fact, I won't let my children read beyond book 7 until their late teens. I've read recently that Montgomery's Emily trilogy also has some ghostly themes, although I'm sure there's plenty of wholesomeness in it too. The Blithes are Quoted has some ghost tales as well.

Montgomery's books are moral, but not Christian. She intersperses Scripture and theology in them, but if you read carefully, you see that absolute Truth is not upheld; there's definitely some humanism in there. She became more disillusioned with religion and faith as she aged; the two World Wars may have had something to do with that. She took them very hard.

To be fair, the years from 1914-1918 (World War One), followed by the Great Depression from 1930 to the end of World War Two in 1945, were some of the darker times in world history. They were bunched together, not giving people much time to recover their hope and joy. Not to mention all the death from disease during these same years! I can't imagine living through these decades unscathed. Even those who weren't clinically depressed could easily become so while trying to survive.

The Roaring 20's weren't so roaring for those who mourned a son, a husband, a brother, or a sweetheart from the war.

Back to Lucy's theology....If you read carefully, you see religious conflict in her books. Most of them poke fun at church-goers, specifically at the hypocrisy and the emphasis on outward appearances rather than the heart. She did not raise her two boys as Christians, and she only married a clergyman because he was a B.A., which meant something really grand to her. She didn't love him, but she started out with respect for him. Her own education didn't include a B.A., and that's something she always regretted.

If you need proof she wasn't a Christian, you'll find it in her personal journals, which have all been published. I am saddened by reading this, as you will be. One can only wonder the beauty that could have been, had Christ released her from darkness. If you are saved, be thankful. Our open eyes are such a gift. I don't understand why some and not others, Lord, but I trust you.

Here is an excerpt from her journal entry dated Tuesday, February 3, 1920:
Lucy Maud Montgomery's words:"I believe in a God who is good and beautiful and just - but not omnipotent. It is idle to ask me to believe in a God who is both good and omnipotent. Given the conditions of history and life the two things are irreconcilable. To believe that God is omnipotent but not purely good - well, it would solve a good many puzzling mysteries. Nevertheless, it is a belief that the human soul instinctively shrinks from. Well, then, I believe in God who is good but not omnipotent. I also believe in a Principle of Evil, equal to God in power - at least, at present - opposing hideousness to His beauty, evil to His good, tyranny to His justice, darkness to His light. I believe that an infinite ceaseless struggle goes on between them, victory now inclining to the one, now to the other. So far, my creed is the old Persian creed of the eternal conflict between Ahrimanes and Ormuzd. But I did not take it over from the Persian. My own mind has compelled me to it, as the only belief that is in rational agreement with the universe as we know it.

I believe that if we range ourselves on the side of good the result will be of benefit to ourselves in this life and, if our spirit survives bodily death, as in some form I feel sure it will, in all succeeding lives; conversely, if we yield or do evil the results will be disastrous to us. And I admit the possibility of our efforts aiding to bring about sooner the ultimate victory of good.

That victory will come - perhaps not in the time of our universe - perhaps not for the duration of many such universes - but eventually evil, which is destructive, will be conquered by good and remain in subjection for age-long duration. Perhaps forever; and perhaps all eternity devoid of all evil would be tiresome even to God, who, like us, may find in struggle a greater delight than in achievement - a greater delight in contest with his peers that in unquestioned supremacy over vanquished foes. Perhaps alternate light and darkness - the alternate waxing and waning of evil must follow each other through the unnumbered, the unnumberable cons of Eternity, even as night and day follow each other in our little system.

This is my creed, it explains all which would otherwise puzzle me hopelessly; it satisfies me and comforts me.

Orthodox Christianity says reproachfully, "Would you do away with my hope of heaven?" The hope of heaven is too dearly balanced by the fear of hell and the one thing implies the other. I believe in neither: but I believe that life goes on and on endlessly in incarnation after incarnation, co-existent with God, and Anti-god, rejoicing, suffering, as good or evil wins the upper hand. To me, such an anticipation is infinitely more attractive than the dull effortless, savorless existence pictured to us as the heaven of rest and reward. Rest! It is a good thing; but one does not want an eternity of it. All we ask rest for is to gain fresh strength for renewed effort. Reward! Even in this life reward once tasted, soon loses its flavor. Our best reward is in the joy of the struggle."