Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Feel Like I'm a Slug

(you should hear the music of Bad Company playing to this title)
Its the post holidays blahs, probably Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I feel bloated and bleak. Days of eating rich foods and lots of cookies are catching up with me. The scale was kind, I'm still in my normal range, but it feels like its time to get back on track. This purpose of this post is really just to encourage myself, but I'd love to hear any comments or suggestions.

I need to get back into my exercise routine. I do exercise videotapes in the morning. It used to be every morning but lately its dropped from 3 times a week to twice a week. I love my Pilates tape, I think its done more to shape and strengthen me than any of the weight workouts and tapes I've used over the past decade or more. I'd really love to start a walking program but it seems too logistically difficult for me. Right now I'm pretty satisfied with dancing around the living room.

I think I may need to revamp my 'nutritional program' i.e. what I eat. Generally, I'm pretty healthy, but I have slips. I find its easy to regulate my weight when I stick to my tried and true lunch -- 8 oz cup of lowfat yogurt and rice cake with a slice of processed cheese food. It usually fills me up, especially since I'm constantly interrupted by the kids. It usually requires me to eat some sort of snack in the afternoon, but thats okay. I think its probably better for me to eat several times a day -- I'm figuring I'm pre-diabetic though I have not been diagnosed such and my blood tests have always put me in the normal range. Both sides of my family have adult onset diabetes and if I eat too much sugar I get shaky (and have a strong urge to eat protein). Maybe everyone is like this, but I wonder if my body doesn't regulate sugar well. Who knows, but it seems harmless for me to take steps to avoid this fate. My mother (who is not diabetic) also wonders if there is a diabetic personality as her brother and my father who both have adult onset diabetes are a bit volatile. Since I am also that way, it seems I should work on curtailing this trait.

Anyway, I babble, but I'm basically trolling for comments here...

Dinner Ennui

Yes, its true, the magic of cooking dinner has somehow faded after nearly 10 years of cooking dinner for my family... I'm looking for some suggestions to rekindle the passion, but first, some parameters:

-- I am lazy -- this means I prefer pantry stable items like canned beans, jarred sauces, etc. I only grocery shop once a week, so fresh meat is not used often. I keep frozen chicken breasts in the freezer and have been known to cook ground beef and freeze it.

-- I have young children. This makes cooking a bit difficult. The best recipes seem to be those that bake for awhile or crockpot dishes -- I seem to have a hard time spending the last half hour before dinner cooking, but if I can spend the half hour earlier in the evening and then let the dish bake for awhile, its easier.

-- I prefer lower fat dishes, so I avoid those with lots of fattening ingredients in them like canned soups and cheese and sour cream.

Oh, heck, maybe I just hate cooking dinner, but I'm hoping if any of you out there could offer a recipe, cookbook or link that I might find something to perk me up.

Mama, I Did It!

My 2 1/4 year-old said this to me this morning, her longest sentence yet. She was playing with a Christmas toy that she's played with before, so I'm not sure the significance of what she did, but the sentence alone is resonating in my mind. I did it! What joy, what pleasure, to do something and then be able to tell others.

As a second-born, I don't always notice when Gabrielle hits a milestone, there are too many other things that distract me. Truthfully, its just not as exciting as with the first-born when you think 'wow, look what she did!' in amazement. With Gabrielle, I know she's going to do these things. However, she's not as verbal as her sister was, though she's much more mechanical. Actually, she's probably only a few months behind where her sister was verbally. Its nice to hear the sentences because I recall Suzanne telling me to 'stay inside' and 'sit on couch' when she was a bit younger and she wanted to go for an evening walk with her dad only and not with mom in tow.

I did it. It reminds me of the last line in Leo the Late Bloomer when Leo says triumphantly to his mother, "I made it." It makes me a bit sad because the culture not only seems not to value late bloomers, it seems driven to try to hasten their development. To me, this could be a recipe for disaster, but I am probably being overly dramatic. I just know that I hate being pushed and I can't imagine being 2 or 3 or 4 and being pushed to do something I didn't want to do or didn't feel ready to do.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Musical Legacy for Children

I was driving the car when a Tom Jones song came on the Oldies station on the radio. I remember hearing that song often as a child while my mother cleaned.

Blood, Sweat and Tears; Earth, Wind and Fire; Cat Stevens, Elvis, the Beatles (the pre-psychedelic years), Neil Diamond, John Denver, Simon & Garfunkel, and, unfortunately, Roger Whittaker -- this was the music of my childhood, the soundtrack to the clip show of my youth.

Our parents' music choice is reflected in our knowledge of pop culture. I remember once making a joke about a dish I'd made that had sage and rosemary in it, all it was missing was parsley and thyme. A friend of mine looked blank and another friend explained it was a reference to a Simon & Garfunkel song. She shrugged it off, her parents are younger than mine and didn't listen to S&G, they were fans of the Doors and probably other groups with which I'm generally unfamiliar. My husband's parents are older than mine, we hear a lot of big band music when we're visiting.

I'm wondering about the musical legacy I'm leaving my children. Billy Idol, Madonna and the Bodeans are in our stereo, along with children's music (Music Together, Barney, Raffi). They Might Be Giants is frequently played in the car. Sometimes we listen to Classical music in the car as I find it soothing in traffic and it sometimes helps the girls drift off to sleep. My hubby is a Jersey boy which makes him a Bruce Springsteen fan. A BIG Springsteen fan -- he's even from the same county as the Boss. Even thinks some of the songs on Tracks are good.

Lately we've been listening to Springsteen's album, The Rising, a good album but if you don't know the background of it, don't go looking into it (its disturbing, all about reactions to the 9/11 attacks). My kids love it. They LOVE it. The 2 year-old, who doesn't say much, constantly demands the Rising. "Rye-sing, Rye-sing" she shrieks in the car and at home. Luckily, we have a CD burner, so we're able to have copies in both locations. Then, my DH finds a video on the internet, shot during the tour in Barcelona. Oh, a concert video, I say (I'm not a fan of live music and couldn't care less about concert footage). "Yeah, a concert video" hubby says and roll his eyes like I just don't get it. "Its a SPRINGSTEEN concert video." Bruce jumps onto the piano at the end and I think hubby is going to explode. I just don't get it.

But what about my dear daughters? Do they get it? Will they get it? At what price? Should I stop this? I've got Classical Kids CD's to teach them about great composers -- Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart... (I realize purists might disdain these CDs as dumbing down the music).

Rye-sing, RYE-sing! At least you can dance to it.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

My New House

I've mentioned before that we are house-hunting. We aren't in a rush because we're fine in our current house, but it would be nice to have a bit more room and a better layout.

Our house is an unusual split level with the entrance on the living room level -- and thats all that is on that level, the living room. Upstairs from there are the bedrooms. Downstairs from the living room is an oversized walk-through dining room that leads to the kitchen (which has an eat-in area with a table). No hallway, just right into the dining room. Downstairs from there is a quarter-sized basement and a utility/workroom. Small but cozy.

Well, the dining room was driving me out of my mind, a huge room ringed with toys with a large table smack-dab in the middle, half of which was used for whatever junk I was putting on it. Of course it was a playroom, but we also ate dinner there. Well, as I was considering that the house would probably show better as a family room than as a dining room, it occurred to me that I'd rather live with it as a family room than as a dining room. So, we changed the light fixture, moved the table out and a couch in. Voila! A large, sunny, delightful family room. I am well pleased. I love my new house -- but we're still looking...

Learning Log -- December

Not too much to report this month. Suzanne (4 1/2) has been very interested in doing art projects and has asked for one almost every day-- she's painted, she's colored, she's painted and colored. I don't give her projects, I just ask her what she wants. I'm sort of anti-projects to the extent that I think its nice to let her choose what she wants without showing and telling her what to do, but I'm also lazy and don't feel like going to the trouble of setting up a project in which she may or may not be interested. Though she does enjoy that kind of art as well, but she gets that at Sunday school and library story time. One piece of note -- she received a stuffed dog and named it Fetch. She decided to make a house for Fetch. Luckily I'm a sloppy pack-rat who keeps boxes and paper towel tubes and sundry items on hand in case they are needed, but frankly, I like the look of empty boxes cluttering up my hallways... I showed her various boxes and she made some choices and started coloring Fetch's house. After that, she wanted to make a blanket under which Fetch would sleep. Now, while I don't set up activities for her, I'm always reading preschool activity books so I have ideas floating around in my head. One of these ideas is for weaving paper and I suggested to Suzanne that she could do that and thats how she made Fetch's blanket.

We've read books -- lots of Magic School Bus Books. I'm a member of the Scholastic Book Club so we always have new books coming into the house. I figured the MSB books were a good buy because she loves them and the library copies are all pretty worn. However, I don't really enjoy reading them, they exhaust me. As to other books, I enjoyed Squirrel and John Muir by Emily McCully, but I don't know that Suzanne got much out of it. Beautiful watercolors of Yosemite. Another book we enjoyed is Frida, about the artist, its a bit intense but Suzanne liked it.

My 2 year old, Gabrielle, has been enjoying the video Richard Scarry's ABCs and she seems to be picking up some letters. I'm a big believer in learning by video. Suzanne learned the ABC song from I don't know where, but she was watching lots of PBS (bad Mommy) and I think Barney may have had something to do with it.

Which reminds me, we all enjoy Mister Roger's Neighborhood. Its calm and soft and soothing and has wonderful piano music in the background throughout. Its pretty interesting as there is often a short video detailing how something is produced in a factory (it was toilets today, but we've seen apple juice, fig bars, paper bags...). If not that, then they might examine music or artwork. The land of make-believe might be a bit much for adults, but I think the kids really like it because much of their world is their own make-believe.

We've been listening to Classical Kids CDs, when Gabrielle is not screaming for Bruce Springsteen (more on that in a future post). I really like these, they overlay a story onto the music of a particular composer. We especially like Mozart's Magic Fantasy based on his opera The Magic Flute. We've been listening a lot to the Christmas album put out by Classical Kids, it has a lot of Christmas lore on it and explains the genesis of some of the songs and traditions.

Finally, just a bit of truth in advertising -- these Learning Logs encapsule about 15 minutes or less of each day. While our home life is fairly pleasant, it isn't all sunniness and sitting around reading. I'm no paragon of patience, I lose my temper constantly and yell a lot. But there are these little moments in the day, and thats what I choose to write about. But there will be a future post on my parenting style, which I've dubbed Old Testament parenting.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention playing Dominoes, playing with stickers (great for fine motor development) and all things ballet (DVDs, books).

Friday, December 17, 2004

Encouraging Children

No, I'm not talking about how I encourage my children, this is a story of how my 4 1/2 year old was trying to encourage me.

It started when I was cleaning up the pieces of a magnetic puzzle we keep on our refrigerator. I decided to put the puzzle together but it took some thinking because the images weren't all oriented in the same direction. After I finished she told me, 'I knew you could do it' (I tell her this when I've denied her assistance with some task and she does it on her own). I thanked her for encouraging me. She asked what encouragement means [excuse me, no I don't want to install software from CrazyWinnings...gosh, you'd think the marketers would come up with a more palatable title for their website] and I bumbled out some definition and examples. She must have gotten the general idea that 'you can do it' is encouraging.

Later that day when I was on the computer, Suzanne kept popping by saying 'you can do it, mama.' Well, I could do it, if you'd stop interrupting me...

[P.S. No porn pop-ups since our last installation of super adware zapper, but we still get some ads. Can I tell you how glad I am to see that they're for mortgage refinancing? BTW, no one commented on my film reference to Japanese steel...I'm disappointed.]

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Locked in a Battle of Good and Evil

Its happened, the hard-core porn pictures are now popping up in some of the ads. We've put various shields and defenses on the computer and are constantly working on adding new ones. Apparently, the dark forces have also stepped up their battles. My DH told me a few days ago there was a bare-breast ad when he was about to shut the computer down at night. I thought, well, its nighttime, so maybe there is some sort of decency to this nastiness. Nope, its 9am and there is porn popping up (I don't know, is it porn, looks like stuff from Penthouse. Is Penthouse porn?). Porn doesn't freak me out, when I was interning at a prosecutor's office, there was a computer seized by the feds and we got to see the kinds of stuff that fall below 'contemporary community standards,' really sad, pathetic stuff, not exciting, not erotic. Makes you wonder about the people in it -- how poor, abused, drugged are these poor pathetic souls who are photographed in sexual acts with animals (below community standards, remember)? Sad.

Usually, I see the ad header on the bottom of my screen and I can just right click it and close it without it opening.

No, now its popping up and I can't close it. These girls look like they could be in junior high. I'm telling you, this is how a Republican president gets re-elected. People are sick of this and they are looking to blame someone. It gets all twisted somehow. Porn on the computer leads to outrage about gay marriage. Improbable? Unfortunately not. People like me don't pay much attention to politics. We're not interested, we figure they are all liars anyway, we just want to be left alone to live and love and blog. Porn starts popping up on our computer, in our home, and we wonder what happened to values, to decency. Well, we all know how the reds rode values to victory.

Now, where can I get Japanese steel?

Light in the Darkness

I've been feeling cranky recently about the crassness of Christmas and my DSL Hell, but I am so lifted by everyone's helpful comments and suggestions. Thank you all -- just knowing that someone is out there listening and willing to offer help and/or support makes a big difference to me. It restores my faith in people.

My DH is on the task of figuring out the new set-up. Right now, I'm busy trying to learn legislative monitoring -- its fun and interesting and exciting, but its about all my brain can handle which is why I'm moaning about my e-mail problems and not rolling up my sleeves and figuring it out. That and internet shopping -- I refuse to go to the malls, I don't even want to be out on the streets. Its ironic in this season of 'good will towards men' , but nothing makes me hate my fellow man more than driving around the crowded, crazy streets filled with people and cars in a holiday stress frenzy. I'd rather be a hermit and read the comments on my blog! I must confess that I did go to the mall once, for the Clinique bonus gift at Lord and Taylor (awesome lipstick colors and I'm loving this thick, rich body butter lotion -- heavy but not greasy). Anyway....where was I? Yes, ranting about commercialization and consumerism (buy Clinique). Ha, its like a pop-up.

I've been feeling like my struggles with the internet are a parable for my life. My children are like pop-ups, I'll be cruising along with a task or on the phone, and up they pop, demanding my attention and often, the phone. No, sweetie, you can't talk on the phone its not your Daddy its our new young priest (don't want to get the poor guy de-frocked before he's even ordained).

Anyway, I was feeling really stressed the other day, wondering if Paxil might be in my near future, when I figured out that just keeping AOL for a couple of months might alleviate some of that stress, so I'm still on the AOL accounts and will be for a couple of months. The msn and verizon accounts are also active, I just don't have the patience to open them.

Monday, December 13, 2004


I can't believe this -- not only do I get tons of annoying pop-ups (one in particular,, opens about six windows each time it comes up), further evidence that MSN hates me is that its blocking the stuff I do want to receive -- e-mails from my hubby and the yahoo groups in which I'm a member. Its a world gone mad -- soft porn pops up unwanted on my screen, but e-mails from my husband are put in the junk folder? Head to the hills, society is going down the tubes.

Friday, December 10, 2004

DSL Hell

For Christmas, my hubby got us DSL and I just installed it yesterday. As with everything, there is a painful learning curve. The nice thing about DSL is that its fast and presumably people can reach me by phone even while I'm blogging (of course, I don't want to be interrupted even by my children, why I'd want to take a phone call is beyond me...)

Anyway, we got DSL through Verizon and it comes with MSN. We plan to close our AOL account by the end of the month so I'm currently trying to set up new e-mail accounts. Of course, I'm confused as to whether I should be setting up verizon accounts or msn, or both. On top of that, just as I figure out one thing, I start to get errors. For instance, I set up our primary e-mail account (for those of you who use that, the name is the same but its now and/or -- I've set up both). Okay, fine, now for the other accounts, such as where I get my digests for the homeschooling yahoo groups in which I'm a member. Can't do it, it won't let me, I go through the whole set up and get an error message. I don't know claims to have internal errors. I have internal errors, get over it.

Well, I set up for my blog e-mail and comment notices. This should be a smooth switch, if you want to e-mail me and don't know my other accounts, just go to my profile and click on e-mail and that should work.

The biggest pain -- these brightly colored, fast moving pop-up ads. I try to turn them off, but it doesn't seem to work. The nice thing about DSL, apparently, is that even when I'm not on-line, I can get the annoying pop-ups. I try virus scan and spyware scan but Internet Explorer has it in for me. I don't even know why thats on our machine, I don't use it to my knowledge, though it seems I might need it in the background to do something (sort of like a husband, but like a husband, I'm finding it more annoying than useful).

Anyway, this whole DSL experience is the best preventative for divorce and remarriage. Remarriage is probably like upgrading your system, you think it will be better and faster and you'll get more use out of it. Sure, it starts out bright and fast and then you realize its more trouble than its worth and you really liked how the old system worked better.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Finishing Genesis

I started reading the book of Genesis three years ago when I took a Bible study on the Pentateuch, the books of Moses. I missed the first meeting and the lesson about how the Israelites came to be in Egypt. I decided to get the whole story and started with the beginning of Genesis (redundancy is funny). Recently, I picked up where I left off so long ago, with the death of Rachel, and I finished the book in a few weeks.

Funny aside -- I had a friend at work who is Jewish and I recall him telling me about the play Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Being a Biblically illiterate Christian, I kept wondering why he was interested in the story of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Ohhh...different Joseph.

As you may know, Joseph was one of the sons of Jacob (Israel) and was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers for he was his father's favorite. What did I learn from Joseph's story?
  • If God chooses to prosper you, you will prosper regardless of where you are -- even in jail.
  • Bad things can happen to those God chooses to prosper, e.g. they can be thrown into jail for no wrongdoing on their part (e.g. the false accusations of the boss's lustful wife).
  • People are fickle (pharoah restores the cupbearer but executes the baker).
  • You must be patient (Joseph waited two more years in prison because the cupbearer forgot him despite his promise).
  • Strange things happen and we don't know why but the Lord God is sovereign.
  • Be glad in your prosperity and in your ability to help others and always realize it is because what God has done for you and not what you have done for yourself.

The story of Joseph is in Genesis Chapters 39 - 50.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Magic School Bus books

The Magic School Bus is a series of books and a television show that addresses science in a story format. This is important to me as I find science textbooks and non-fiction writing to be deadly dull (and my father is still upset about the C+ I earned in Earth Science as a high school freshman. Did I mention I got an A in phyics? No, he doesn't care about that.) Anyway, science stories are far more appealing to me. The MSB is set in a school classroom with a very enthusiastic teacher who is always taking her kids on fantastical fieldtrips to learn about science subjects on a bus that is able to do all sorts of amazing things -- so there is a strong dose of fantasy with regard to the trips they take. I'm not thrilled about the school setting, being a homeschooler, and some of the kids are a bit snotty, but its not too bad. The science covered in each book is interesting and digestible, at least to me.

There are several kinds of Magic School Bus books -- I believe the originals were simply books by Joanna Cole. Later, a series of television shows were made and there are some MSB books based on episodes of the show and not written by Joanna Cole. Being an anti-television snob, I automatically assumed I'd prefer the Joanna Cole books, those being 'pure' and not an adaptation of a TV show. Well, I actually prefer the adaptation book. The original Magic School Bus books are very distracting to me -- there is the text of the story, dialogue and thought bubbles within the illustrations, and 'school reports' on the sidelines. There is a lot to look at and read on each page and thats very unsettling to me. I think it might be appealing to the more kinesthetic learner because it allows the eye to jump all around the page whereas such a learner might find the more traditional picture book a bit boring. In the adaptation books, there is a lot less going on -- there is text and fewer thought/dialogue bubbles but there aren't reports sprinkled throughout, simply one report at the back of the book after the end of the story.

The MSB is expanding with different kinds of books. There are chapter books which we have not read because I think they might be too much for us. There are also readers which are simpler than the original series. The stories might be a bit too simple, but there are lots of little fact reports that give it some substance. I think my favorites are the TV adaptation books.

We have not seen any of the TV shows or videos. I don't think our PBS affliates carry the shows, I wouldn't mind seeing some, but I suspect Suzanne might be a bit young.

Learning Log -- Thanksgiving and Volcanoes

We read a number of books about Thanksgiving, which I really enjoyed. One of the reasons I want to homeschool is the purely selfish reason that I want to learn all of these things again, many of them for the first time. When I have more time, I plan to update this post by listing the books we read about Thanksgiving.

Suzanne loves Reading Rainbow which is a half-hour show that comes on once a week. The last episode we saw was about volcanoes and was set in Hawaii. The episode showed volcanoes and discussed how they occur and what causes and eruption and how the lava over many years eventually becomes fertile soil. Suzanne became interested in volcanoes as a result of this and asked that I get some books from the library. The first book I got was about Pompeii and my husband chuckled at me, thinking it a rather gruesome subject for a child. Hey, he won't be laughing when she tells his parents all about Mount Vesuvius. I plan to update this with a book list.

The girls have also been playing with construction paper, crayons, scissors and glue. Suzanne, now 4 1/2 is quite adept with the scissors. Its nice to see her fine motor skills developing, it reassures me that someday, when she is ready, she will have the muscle control to write letters. Kids are interesting, Suzanne amazes me with her reading, but unlike the other children her age, she does not write letters of the alphabet (and I don't ask her). Sometimes I worry, but I'm either so full of faith that children will learn and progress when they are ready or I'm extremely lazy and cannot be bothered with working with her on her skills. I'll take the former explanation.

I do worry about my unschooling style but I remind myself that its not really for me that we are taking this approach, it seems like it suits Suzanne best. If I ask Suzanne questions or try to get her to do something she doesn't want to do, she resists. Though I notice she'll answer questions from other people -- a clue to the potential for power plays with mommy. I'll simply frame this as her independent nature.

Monday, November 29, 2004

What a Weekend -- Sunday

Something that really does make worship more fun is gospel music.

On Sunday, I attended church with my husband and Larry and his family for the baptism of Larry's grandson. The service was at an Catholic African-American church and featured gospel music. I'd never been to an African-American service of any kind before and it was such a treat. Besides being enjoyable and entertaining, I found it exciting and spiritually meaningful as well. I've attended many Catholic Masses and maybe only one Catholic baptism and this service followed in the same manner with the addition of gospel music and a vitality that I'd never before experienced in any church.

I was probably most affected by the liturgy of the Word. The Catholic service is nearly identical to the Episcopal service in this regard. I'm a lay reader at my church, so I get to read the lessons at my church sometimes. I love the Bible, so the liturgy of the Word is one of my favorite parts of the service. While I love reading the Bible, sometimes, the reading of the Psalm sounds much like a funeral dirge, even when the refrain is something along the lines of 'rejoice in the Lord who saves us.' Always seems so funny to me to hear such an idea sort of mumbled. Not in this church -- the psalm was song by a man with such a strong, deep voice and a woman, joined by the congregation, sang the refrain. Powerful. Can't say I took much notice of the Epistle. But, the Gospel reading. Wow -- the prelude was singing 'alleluia' to gospel music. Just that one word, alleluia, over and over, louder and stronger with this sense of anticipation as the deacon held up the Gospel book and climbed up into the pulpit. It was amazing to me, I could only think, wow, we are going to hear the Gospel lesson now, the Word of the Lord, announced the way it should be, with excitement and thanksgiving and awe. I was already well familiar with the Gospel reading because the Catholic and Episcopal lectionaries choose the same passage and I had been preparing to lead a Bible study at my church before I was invited to the baptism [Many thanks to Rob the llamabutcher for leading in my absence].

The baptism was beautiful, as all baptisms are. This was amazing again, because the baptismal font is in the back of the church, attached to a baptismal pool which I imagine is used for immersion adult baptisms (at least it looks as if it could be). As the baptismal candidates, their parents, godparents, the priest and deacon headed to the font in the back of the church, the choir and congregation sang 'take me to the river to be baptised.' It was wonderful.

I think the final part of note was the Lord's Prayer -- whoops, sorry, Catholic church, the 'Our Father.' The congregation joined hands across the center aisle of the church. Larry was beside me, chose not to join hands, but assisted me in joining hands with the woman to his right, someone we did not know. The congregation prayed the Our Father, which ends with 'deliver us from evil.' Luckily I'd been to enough Catholic services to know that the priest says something and then the congregation finishes off the prayer (or at least I'd call it finishing it off since we Protestants use a longer version). The priest said his part and the congregation, still joined by hand, raised their hands in the air to pray 'for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever' [I don't think they include 'and ever']. At that point, with my hand joined to the woman's hand, Larry put his hand over both our hands.

After the baptism, my husband and I joined Larry and his family back at his son's house. We had met the other set of grandparents on the way to the church. At the house we met many more friends and relatives and neighbors and ate lots and lots of wonderful food. I am not mentioning Larry's son's name nor his wife's only out of respect for their privacy [not everyone wants to be on someone's blog], but they were absolutely wonderful hosts. Open and welcoming and kind and interesting. Many thanks to them for inviting us to share their special day -- remember, I was just some wacko Larry met in cyberspace and had never met any of them in person, not even Larry (there was a small link with Larry's son -- he and I went to the same school for one year a decade ago, though I'm not sure we ever met).

I mentioned in my last post that I'm not impressed with anyone, we are all equally deserving of love and respect. I guess I'd amend that to say I'm very impressed with people like Larry's son and daughter-in-law who are so gracious in their hospitality. I've met many other gracious hosts and I am impressed with their ability to open their homes and welcome people. I know hospitality is valued and encouraged in many religions and cultures. To me it is the essence of Christianity, it says, 'come, I have more than enough, let us enjoy God's grace together.'

What a weekend.

What a Weekend

Wow, we had a busy weekend. We are not busy people, so compared to most, our weeked was probably pretty tame.

Saturday night, we went to a very nice dinner party for one of husband's supervisors. Many of my husband's co-workers were at this party. My husband is currently on a detail with higher management and it was intriguing to hear his co-workers from his prior office commenting on the buzz surrounding his career. Especially interesting for an unclimber. Word has it he's on the way 'up.' Rumor is he's 'being groomed' for management. Interesting. I've never been impressed with my husband, I'm not impressed with anyone and I don't expect them to be impressed with me. We are all humans in our own right, deserving of love and respect. There is no hierarchy -- no one is better than anyone else, especially by dint of title, rank, or money. Yes, I know I sound communist, but I think Jesus was sort of thinking along these lines as well.

Anyway, not impressed with my husband. He is one of the most wonderful human beings I've ever met, handsome, smart, kind, fun. Thats why I married him. And you know what I learned? He's also an excellent husband and a devoted father who does more than his fair share of work. In love? Yes. Impressed? No. Appreciative? Always, even though I don't show it. Admiring? Most definitely. Does that mean I'm impressed? Maybe, but I always think of the word meaning something not really deserved, something superficial. Expensive car? Impressive. Big house? Impressive. Designer clothes? You get my point or you don't.

How to be a supportive wife without becoming tainted by worldly ambitions? I don't know -- so far my brand of support is mostly to bring him back to earth -- not that he was ever leaving it. Maybe thats not the role I'm to play. How to be a supportive wife without ruining his career? I think the key to that may be my silence, not an easy task for me.

Whats my point? Why am I feeling so ruffled by all this? Because, at bottom, it doesn't seem right. My husband has noted that there are some people who are paying attention to him now that weren't before and its not just that he wasn't visible to them previously. I guess its just smacking of a lectionary reading from a few weeks back, how we are not to prefer anyone over another.

I didn't see too many people thanking the servers who were placing food in front of them and taking away dirty dishes. Whenever I'm feeling righteously indignant I get this feeling that I am probably wallowing in hypocrisy.

Perhaps I'm still disturbed from our viewing of Dogville.

Enough for now, my next post will be about our outing on Sunday, about which I have a completely different attitude.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Book of Ruth

Despite my earlier rant about house-hunting, I was feeling rather peaceful this morning.

I was feeling peaceful this morning and I credit it to reading the Book of Ruth. I read chapter 1 a few days ago and read chapters 2 through 4 this morning. Its a beautiful story about how caring for others and doing what is right brings forth the Kingdom of God. Naomi's husband and sons, one of whom was Ruth's husband, die. Naomi urges her two daughters-in-law to go home and return to their families of origin. One does, Ruth does not. Her answer to Naomi is a well-known verse (...whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people and thy God my God...1:16, KJV). I read that aloud in church as part of the lectionary a few weeks ago. It is sweet and beautiful and I think its sometimes used in wedding ceremonies.

I knew the story of Ruth from reading Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner more than a year ago. Lauren grew up a Reformed Jew, converted to Orthodox Judaism in college and a few years later, felt called to Christianity and became an Episcopalian. Because of her heritage and love of Judaism, Lauren spends a chapter of her book discussing the Book of Ruth. Ruth eventually remarries and bears a son. The Book of Ruth says that this is Naomi's son and ends with a genealogy which includes Ruth and her new husband, Boaz, the father of the child who later becomes the father of Jesse, who becomes the father of David. Jesus is born from the line of David, through Joseph. Its no surprise that this aspect of the book is of interest to Lauren as she finds it significant in laying the groundwork for how Jesus can be descended. Its beyond me to explain it here unless I was to lift several paragraphs from her book and then it probably still would't be clear. Read her book, its the spiritual journey of a young woman and its especially fascinating because of her love of Judaism and Christianity. Its also a bit racy in parts, the girl is not free from sin (who is?)

Back to my take on Ruth. From the studies I've done on the Old Testament, I'm aware that there were many regulations for the Israelites regarding all aspects of life, including the redemption of property for families and the provisions for the care of widows. I won't get into details because I'd probably get it wrong, but suffice it to say that family members are to make sure that a widow who has not borne a child finds another man in the family to fulfill the duty. Like all regulations, some are followed and some are ignored. In this case, as far as I can tell, everyone did what they were supposed to do and acted nobly. Ruth could have returned to her family of origin and looked for a new husband. She was a Moabite, so she did not share the God of the Israelites. When she chose to go with Naomi, she still could have chased for a husband, but she did as Naomi told her. Boaz also did what was expected of him in marrying Ruth, because he was kin of Naomi's deceased husband.

The end result was the birth of a child who took his place in the lineage of Jesus. Because they did what was right and within the commands of God, Jesus was born. When you do what is right and honorable and in accord with God's will (as evidenced in the laws), we will see the Kingdom of God on earth.

I realize that this is an oversimplification and perhaps I've made factual errors and misinterpretations. The interruptions I've endured while writing this are as numerous as the stars in the sky. My point is that in reading the Bible, I sometimes am able to find those little kernels that give me peace and move me forward.

Greed is Good..., no, it isn't. Its inherently destructive -- it turns one from being a feeling, caring human being into a gobbling, dissatisfied consumer.

I feel like house-hunting is walking in temptation -- the call to want more, more, more and to spend more, more, more. We want a slightly bigger house with a more traditional layout. But if you're going to all that trouble, paying closing costs and moving, why not get more? You don't want to move now and then feel squeezed in a few years and have to buy another, bigger house? I also don't want to be house poor. I like ordering take-out once a week. Besides, a bigger house will only call for furniture that I don't have. Though we could fill it with toys and books[my material weakness].

We have too much stuff. We have so much stuff that I can't find the stuff I want to find because there is other stuff in the way. I don't scrapbook because I can't get to my materials because there is stuff in the way. I have to go out and buy stuff I already own because I can't find what I own. Thats just sick.

Okay, deep breaths. As I begin the process of de-cluttering, I realize we have all we need, if only I could find it. Would I be able to find it in a bigger house? Probably for a few months, then again, maybe not even that long because it would take longer to unpack, so that would become the new obstacle for finding things.

Meredith suggested I read Pema Chodron. I got one of her books from the library, Start Where You Are. I will post about that later. It definitely emphasizes awareness and satisfaction, ideas that at times seem at odds with house hunting.

Some of the realtors get to me. We live on the less prestigious side of a prestigious neighborhood. When we look at houses on 'the other side of the tracks' the realtors seem to always ask if we want to move 'up' for the schools. Ha ha. No thank you, I went to worse schools and turned out just fine, thank you. Sometimes it all seems so fake.

Then again, there are plenty of real people out there with real values and I keep finding them. God continues to be gracious to me though I am unworthy.

Do my posts seem like really bad Faulkner (okay, I've only read Sound and the Fury)? I've got to go back to journaling them first.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Spiritual Aspect of House-hunting

We're looking for a new house, a bigger house. Our house is great, but its an odd split-level. The entrance is into our living room, upstairs is the bedroom level, but downstairs takes you through a rather large dining room. We have a nice kitchen and about a quarter of a finished off basement. We have plenty of room, but its getting tight and I'm sick of having an over-sized, pass through dining room that doubles as a playroom. I'm ranting about my house-hunt on my other blog and realize I may be a bit dis-integrated, but I want to talk about the spiritual implications of the house-hunt on this blog.

Contentedness. A big part of enjoying the life God intended you to live seems to be being contended with what you have. Our materialistic society fights the notion of contentedness -- advertising is all about finding or creating discontent and then pitching a product that will purportedly alleviate this discontent. Advertising is the main reason I don't watch TV anymore, there are plenty of good shows that I wouldn't mind watching, but I don't feel like trying to follow them while they are constantly interrupted by loud, obnoxious, frequently sexualized adverstisments.

Where am I with being content with my house while searching for another? Deep down, I can't help but feel I'm being materialistic and unappreciative. I have a nice house -- a bedroom for each of us (well, I have to share one with my husband) and one to use as an office. We have all we need. We have more than many people have. But I want more. Most of the time I don't want much more -- a roomier kitchen for homeschooling reasons (it doubles as the science lab), a finished basement for some of the toys. A few rooms that aren't cluttered with kid stuff. Is it too much to ask? Probably not, but why do I have this gnawing feeling?

I'll go with the pat answer for now, that its okay to want a little more so long as I appreciate what I have and I keep it in perspective. Despite what a realtor might tell you, a house will not make you happy, not even the 'right' house. Its just a thing. I am happy and that should be enough. So why do I want a bigger house?

Lets Try this Again...

I've finally roped by dear husband into blogging with me -- we've started by discussing our movie rentals but will probably be branching off into all sorts of domestic minutae (we're currently house-hunting, so that brings up lots of topics).

[Updated March 2010: After we shut down the blog, someone else took the name to start their own blog - it consists of a single post from 2008. Must be the blog addy of the damned.]

Friday, November 19, 2004

I Made it to Purgatory!

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test

Thanks again to beppeblog for linking to another interesting quiz.

By the way, don't take this quiz in front of your spouse. Tom was pretty upset when I answered one question asking whether I'd ever cheated on a boyfriend or spouse. Then again, they didn't define 'cheat,' but I'm guessing that a little kissy here or there qualifies, so I answered yes. But they were only boyfriends (yeah, it might have happened more than once...) and not my husband when he was mine. Jeesh. Don't take a Catholic test if you aren't ready for confession.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I'm a Seven

You Are the Enthusiast


You are outgoing and playful - always seeing the happy side to life.

You're enthusiastic and excitable. You love anything new.

Multi-talented, you do many things well... and find success easy.

You prefer to keep things light with others. Opening up is hard for you.

Oh yeah, opening up is REALLY hard for me. Have you read my blog?

Many thanks to Rob the Llamabutcher for the link to this quiz. He's certainly an easy to love and care for conservative.

The Dull Ache of Good-bye

Its a gray day out, a good day to move to Maui...

I'm feeling down -- I'm getting tired of watching friends move away, both my friends and my daughter's friends. Today, Anna is moving to Maui and Kyle and Andy are moving to California.

In the past year, many of our friends have moved. Gus and his family, Ella and her family, Emily and her family, Akshay and his family, and now Anna and Kyle and Andy. I'm weary of it.

When I say prayers with Suzanne at bedtime, after the usual opening (ever the Episcopalian am I), we pray for family members and friends by name. Lately, naming our friends who have moved has become too sad for me, so I use the blanket 'and our friends who have moved.' I stopped naming Kyle and Andy about a week ago. So why haven't I moved Anna yet?

I'm used to people moving away, this is a very transient area and I've lived here nearly all my life. In elementary school, I had a new best friend almost every year because my friends were constantly moving away. I was even able to get my ears pierced at age 13 rather than at 16 which was my mother's rule because my best friend moved away at the end of sixth grade. I wasn't even asking to get my ears pierced at the time. My mom just came into my room and out of nowhere told me I could get my ears pierced. I feel like my heart's been pierced.

It doesn't make much sense. We haven't seen much of Anna's family recently, they are busy. Kyle and Andy were off at preschool and kindergarten, so we no longer saw them during the week. But now they've all moved, so the possibility of seeing them is gone.

Oh well. Its the nature of things, you make friends, you lose friends. Life goes on. I just wanted to take a moment to say that even though I generally don't say good-bye -- I miss you all. But I think 4 1/2 is too young to get Suzanne's ears pierced.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

An Interesting Site

Check this out. I thought the picture of the dog on this page was especially amusing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

An Old Testament Kind of Day

Not a bad day, just lots of ups and downs...

We had a playdate cancelled because Suzanne's friend was sick. As we pondered what to do with this found time, I spent too much time on the computer while the girls watched TV. At one point, Suzanne came up to me with a video from the library that she wanted to watch, it must have slipped in her hand and crashed onto the hardwood floor. The top part that flips back broke -- hopefully, they can repair it. Why couldn't it have been Bear in the Big Blue House?

We took a walk around the block -- its a long block and a beautiful day. It was pretty nice. The girls played in our yard when we got home and had a nice time. They came indoors and I went out to unlock our fence and to lock up the playhouse in our backyard. I returned to my home and was overwhelmed by the permeating stench of dog poop. I deal with a lot of poop in my life, but dog poop is not something I deal with well. It was on the bottom of Suzanne's shoe (Gabrielle's had just a bit on the tip). Of course, while I was tidying up the yard, Suzanne used the bathroom and walked around the house a bit. I lost it -- I keep a messy house, I'm not proud of that fact but a clean house is not a priority for me, but must it smell like dog sh*t? It was too much for me. Children were stripped of their clothes (I think it only got on Suzanne's socks and maybe her pants, but I wasn't chancing it), there was crying and taking the Lord's name in vain. It was a bad scene. I really didn't take all that long to clean up, luckily, it was so fresh and fragrant, it was easy to zero in on the contaminated areas.

While I had been on hazmat duty, my daughters were playing upstairs. The 2 year-old got into her diaper wipes and had pulled most of them out of the box. That was so easy to fix, but it was another pain. Shortly after, it was time for Gabrielle's nap.

Suzanne and I played cards for awhile, but I was really tired. I always get an allergy attack when the leaves are falling in full force and my throat hurts and I'm losing my voice (screaming about the dog poop didn't help matters). I went to lie on the couch and invited Suzanne to join me. She cuddled up next to me and the next hour was spent going in and out of sleep. Ah, the Promised Land.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Removing the Mask of Sparky

I originally chose to use the name Sparky because I wanted to be completely anonymous. I thought I might post witty social commentary skewering everything I thought was wrong in my little corner of the world. I decided long ago I couldn't do that and didn't want to. I like the name Sparky, I like being Sparky, but I'm not Sparky. My name is Marjorie and I'll be switching the name on my blog.

In the interest of further disclosure, my daughters are named after angels. My eldest, who is now 4 1/2 years old, is Suzanne, who is named for my mother. My mother is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me and she is a constant source of blessing to me. I hope to be that for my little Suzanne. My 2 year old daughter is named Gabrielle (the Archangel Gabriel being her namesake). The name was chosen because it means God is My Strength.

Oh and if that wasn't mushy enough -- I was told after Sunday School last Sunday that when asked to name a Saint, Suzanne said "my mommy." I asked her why she said me and she said, in a very exasperated tone "Mama, EVERYONE is a saint." Well, she got the lesson right, and its nice that she chose my name. Its humbling, too, makes me want to be a saint for her.

I'd reveal DH's name, but I'll check with him first!

Its nice to meet you all!

UPDATE: blogger is very interesting...I was reading some of my favorite blogs and looking to see if there have been any new comments. On one blog, comments I made days ago were changed to Marjorie. On another, it still said Sparky.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Learning Log -- November 5, 2004

Nothing too exciting -- my 4 year-old has been asking me to read to her in the afternoons, so we've been doing more of that. One book she asked me to read had card games in it, so we've played War, Crazy 8s, and Go Fish several times this week -- I figure that covers math with all the numbers involved. She figures out which number is greater much more quickly than she did months ago. I wonder how well she'd do with cards that didn't have the corresponding number of 'dots' on them -- it might be too abstract for her -- I can test it because we have some playing cards with pictures in the center, so there is nothing to count.

Spiritual Retreat On-Line

I just wanted to call attention to Crystal's Blog, she's doing an on-line spiritual retreat and blogging on it. I look forward to following it.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Creativity Log -- November 2, 2004

Today we went for a walk around the block. My 4 year-old collected fallen dried-out pine needles and leaves. When we got home, she told me she wanted to make a stage (she's very interested in ballet). I wanted to check my e-mail. I asked her what she'd need and she said a top from a shoebox, crayons, and tape. I was at the computer when she came up, instead of waving her off and being annoyed at the interruption (as is my wont), I asked her what she needed. She asked for scissors, I got them for her and she was off again. When I finished on the computer and came downstairs, I saw quite a creation. Golden leaves with stems taped down, leaves leaning against the sides of the box top, an empty paper towel tube taped upright with pine needles taped all around the top edge. The leaves, which looked like scenery, were actually there to provide cover for the ballerinas from their teachers, so Suzanne told me. The upright tube, which looked like a tree to me, was a dancing pole, the pine needles were there for the dancers to grab ahold of when they leap into the air (I think this may have its genesis in the idea of a May pole which she and I discussed before). She asked for construction paper which she cut into a few pieces and taped down for ballerinas.

I was so pleased to see her creation and all the thought and work that went into it. This helps assuage my guilt for not providing prepared art projects for her to copy. I think its laziness on my part for not having projects for her to do -- I read plenty of books with projects and activities, I just don't set them up for her. While its partially laziness on my part, its also partly because I want her to have the freedom to do what she wants and allow her to use her creativity for herself and not to copy what someone has told her to do.

Beautiful Words

[Warning: this post is from notes I wrote a week and a half ago, it is likely to be incoherent]

I'd like to be spiritual and mystical but I need the concrete and I need applications. I recently encountered Meredith through a comment on one of my posts [How Do You Explain Suffering?]. As is evident from reading my response, I was frustrated by her comment and wondered if she was some young collegiate who hadn't lived much life nor suffered much pain. I was wrong -- you can see for yourself reading through our dialogue. I'm thankful that she is so gracious and forgiving because I value her comments on my blog and on others.

I'm often frustrated by the constant, unrelenting demands of my children and my desire to escape. I know this creates conflict. I haven't beat myself up about this much because I believe I'm a very good mother, not perfect, but certainly the best one they have. I'd like to improve and there is lots of room for it as I try to deal with feelings of patience, anger and frustration.

I need the concrete, I need applications. Perhaps this is just a crutch, perhaps its a barrier to faith.

Reading Agnes Sanford's Behold Your God, Meredith's comments, Larry's blog and comments, I'm finding an application for selfless love. I need to think of my children's needs first, sounds trite. On a psychic/spiritual level, I need to attend to them. Perhaps its part of attentiveness. I must value their feelings over expressing my own. I must sublimate (or transcend?) my desires for what is best for them. So they may grow up to be spiritually healthy, so that they may grow up to heal others -- perhaps they are beginning by healing me. They only require all of me and this is what will keep me on the path I want to tread.

I need to work on humility. So much is beyond me, but this is what I have, and this is what I know. This is what I can practice and be content with and have faith that it will move me forward.

Confessions of a Narcissist

Joe G. over at beppeblog had a recent post with a link to a quiz to determine your personality disorder. I thought that sounded like fun, so I took it. Now, I think I'm pretty healthy and even had that view confirmed, unsolicited, by a friend who is a social worker. But we can all use improvement, so I thought I'd find out where my problem areas are. I can't recall all the results, but my highest score was for narcissism and the next highest score was for being antisocial (which is not avoiding people, its more of a lack of empathy). I can't recall the rest, though I'm really low for obsessive-compulsive, which you'd know if you've seen my house -- it is not neat.

My initial reaction was wondering how high the percentage had to be for the disorder to be an actual problem -- I was in denial. I think its a good idea for me to sit with and reflect on the idea that I'm a narcissist because it will point the way to improvement. John Sanford in The Kingdom Within talks of how Jesus was the perfect personality from a Jungian--Myers-Briggs perspective. With that in mind, I'm not at all concerned about not having the optimal personality -- the goal is to become as perfect as possible and to work towards this, one must know where they fall short.

The description of narcissism is in keeping with some insights I've been having (you see, I'm so narcissitic that I knew it and I know how to stop being that way ;0). Seriously, I know I'm narcissistic in my mothering because I yell at my children out of frustration and annoyance rather than seeking a kinder response to them, being aware that they are just little growing, developing people, following childish instincts and learning all the time. This post is too long and is about to morph into a different subject, so I'll post on that next....

Caregiving in a Different Way

I've had a nice day today, I got the opportunity to spend some time with my 90 year-old grandmother. Here's how it happened. I went to my mother's house with the kids, as I do once a week. She had a painter over doing some work on her house, so she was a home-bound. She watched my children while I went to the store. While I was at the store, Mom called me on my cell phone (I'm grateful to have a cell phone), her mother, who lives in her own home, has recently broken a rib and took a pain pill. She took it on an empty stomach along with other medications and felt extremely dizzy and called my mother. My mother was trapped at home with my kids and the painter, so she asked me to look in on my grandmother. I did this with a glad heart -- I note that because sometimes I feel a bit put out by interruptions like this when I have time to myself (I know I'm selfish). I didn't feel put out this time, I felt peaceful and happy that I was able to help my Mom (I wasn't worried about my Grandma, these situations happen with frequency).

I really enjoyed the time with my Grandma. It was nice to take care of someone older after spending so much time caring for a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old. Of course, by the time I got there, she felt much better. I made sure she had something to eat (which she had already prepared herself), moved her laundry along (I think she overextended herself in doing it in the first place), and talked with her. Its hard for her because, at 90, she can't do the simple things she used to do (like laundry) and would like to do (like unload the dishwasher). She is dependent on others (she usually has daytime help but he was away today). She felt bad that she was being a burden. I told her that we care for small children and we don't consider that a burden, why should it be a burden to help others? Its hard not to be able to do the things we want -- but we all face this in one way or another -- perhaps its most obvious for the elderly and the disabled and the very young, but we are all limited. I can't just up and go where I want to go because I have small children that limit me. My husband can't up and go where he wants because he has to go to work to support us. The hard part is making peace with our limitations. Mine is easy, my children will grow. It must be very difficult to make peace with a limitation that will not change, that will only get worse. I could only urge her to try to think of the things she can do and do those, rather than think of those things she cannot do. Easier said than done.

All we can really do for each other is try to ease the way. I felt like I had the chance to do that today for my Mom (by caring for her mother) and maybe for my Grandma, if I said anything that brought her comfort, and maybe just in my being there and helping her get settled.

My way is so easy, why do I ever complain?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Learning Log -- October 27, 2004

[I keep a handwritten journal, which is why some of my posts are a bit dated]

We received a book order in the mail today which included the Scholastic Atlas of the United States. My 4 year-old was flipping through that and was inspired to work on her U.S. map puzzle.

Suzanne seems more interested in reading again -- she's been asking me to read aloud to her as well as reading a lot on her own (she's still at the developmental stage where she reads out loud to herself. If I don't hear her, I assume she's just looking at the books). We've been reading Nate the Great and Magic School Bus readers, which are simpler than the usual MSB books. She really likes Even Firefighters Hug Their Moms by Christine Cole MacLean about a boy and his sister engaged in all sorts of imaginative play.

My 2 year-old gets short shrift in this blog. Her favorite books include Goodnight Moon (I can hear her saying 'moon' now), Corduroy's Party, Wibbly Pig's Presents, Baby Bop's ABCs, and Spot Looks at Colors. She says lots of words but isn't really talking in sentences yet, so she's a bit behind where her sister was at this age. However, Gabrielle has very good fine motor control, almost as good as her sister's at age 4 1/2. Its interesting to see the differences and appreciate that we are all unique.


The topic of last Sunday's adult education lecture at my church was the Daily Prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. The Catechism states that prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words. I've been thinking about prayer a lot recently, probably because I haven't been praying all that much. Funny enough, earlier on the same day as the aforementioned lecture, I led the prayers for the Morning Prayer Service at my church. I accidently left out the Lord's Prayer -- several parishioners mentioned this, I hadn't even noticed.
To read more, click on the Xs
Prayer is an interesting thing. When I was taking my Bible study, I prayed, well, religiously -- we're talking on my knees, using the Lord's Prayer and then a free form prayer with penitence followed by thanksgiving and oblation and intercession and petition. I was pretty happy with that. I felt like it was a good discipline and usually felt peaceful afterwards. These days, I really haven't felt like praying that way and I haven't. I pray all the time, sort of an internal monologue in my head -- while driving, especially, its a semi-quiet time when my kids aren't interrupting me.

Prayer forms -- good or bad? I tend to avoid them because they seem coldly formal to me. They are something someone else has written. However, my own personal prayers tend to become formulaic pretty quickly, so I'm not so certain they are the better choice than a prepared prayer.

I'm currently reading (at an incredibly slow pace) Agnes Sanford's Behold Your God. From an early chapter on prayer, she proposes a method very new to me. First of all, it doesn't involve kneeling but relaxing the body so the mind and spirit can focus. I've always wondered if we're supposed to kneel -- I think C.S. Lewis once indicated that kneeling was an important reminder of our animal form (am I way off on this?) as a reverance to God. So, do I kneel or not? I don't like kneeling, it hurts my knees, I don't even kneel in church, I sit on the edge of the pew and lean forward onto the rail (am I going to hell for this? Just kidding, I really don't seen it as a damning offense).

Agnes also directs that in prayer we are seek to contact God, so we are to keep a clear mind, at least at first (she says to hold off on the intercessions until we've made contact). I probably haven't read enough of the book to understand what she's saying, but its a departure from the way I've looked at prayer. The idea of being silent (meditating, really) rather than babbling at God the way I do, is intriguing. Speaking of babbling, thats what I'm doing at this point, so I'll stop.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Therapeutic Coloring -- Learning Log

Today was a rainy day, so I brought out a cardboard playhouse I picked up at Wal-Mart a few weeks ago. It has beach designs all over it (probably why it was only $5) and comes with some 'washable' markers. The girls had fun playing with it -- going inside it and coloring on it. Of course, the 2 year-old colored all over her arms. She does it all the time, I can't believe she'll grow up to be anything other than a tatoo artist. Of course, she's also going through a phase of taking off her clothes constantly, so her future professional choices are a bit disturbing at the moment. And I don't know how many times a day I say to her "nice girls don't take off their shirts." Mardi Gras here she comes.

After the 2 year-old was put down to nap, my 4 year-old asked me to color with her on the playhouse. I must say, I found it very calming. I'd like to say I emptied my head, but I did feel very peaceful and into the coloring. Suzanne decided she wanted to work on the same design as I was and it was duplicated on the other side of the house. So we peacefully colored on opposite sides of the house. Interestingly, her work was very derivitive; she kept checking to see what I was doing and what color I was using and copied me.

Coloring books are a topic of debate among unschoolers. The purists eschew them, feeling that they stomp on the child's innate creativity. Others are less concerned. I figure that we have both coloring books and plain drawing paper and the girls are free to choose which they want to use and how. I could care less whether and if they 'stay in the lines.'

We made instant pudding after the coloring. I made Suzanne read the instructions on the box and was pretty impressed when she read them all. I wondered if I heard what I wanted to hear. I asked her again to read 'immediately,' she sort of mush-mouthed it and didn't know the word when questioned. I thought she did a good job of faking it; she got the 'imm' sound right -- she also read it quickly, didn't stop and act as if she didn't know it. Great, another lawyer in the family.

What Game is Your Life?

When my husband worked as an associate in litigation for a law firm, he told me his job felt a bit like playing the amusement park game Whack-A-Mole. That game involves holding a large, soft mallet while electronic 'moles' emerged from various holes. The quicker you whacked them, the higher your score.

Today, I'm feeling a bit like the game Asteroids -- these young children keep coming at me from various sides and I have to stay alive.

I imagine PacMan would describe how a lot of people feel -- I was wondering if it might describe DH's current job, at least the part about being chased around by ghosts.

Anyway, I was just wondering what game your life feels like. This is not limited to Gen Xers who might be more familiar with arcade games, if a board game describes your life, tell me about it.

Episcopalians Anonymous

Hello, my name is Sparky and I'm an Episcopalian.

Hi, Sparky!

The Episcopal Church is dealing with the fall-out of having consecrated a homosexual bishop in New Hampshire. I don't know that there is any Episcopal church that has been unaffected by this, though some have more difficulty with it than others. Some parishs are considering breaking away, some parishioners are leaving for other churches, and some churches are considering affliliating with some sort of Anglican organization, a more conservative branch that opposes the consecration of gays -- I don't know much about this organization (not even its name) because my parish is not among those considering membership.
To read more, click on the Xs

I think all Episcopalians (and probably many others) have asked themselves how they feel about the consecration of a gay bishop. Can you accept that? Under what reasoning?

This is a difficult issue for me but not for the most obvious reason. Its difficult for me because in discussing my view, I have offended people and disrupted a small discussion group at my church. I'm really very ashamed about the whole situation, though I think I'm making more of it than there really was. I'm very reluctant to create any more pain about this issue but I still have wounds that are unhealed, so this is my attempt to find a bit healing and perhaps make a bit more sense of my feelings on the issue.

I don't have a problem with consecrating a gay bishop if the person is not promiscuous -- i.e. the person is either in a committed relationship or celibate. I would expect the same from any unmarried priest. First issue resolved.

The reasoning behind my view is where things get tricky. One line of reasoning might be termed "sin is everywhere." In this view, I say that I realize the Bible makes several statements against homosexuality. The Bible also makes several statements against divorce and remarriage but the Episcopal church has been able to overcome this nasty little problem -- I believe there are both priests and bishops who have been divorced and remarried. This leads me to wonder on what basis gay priests can be denied the opportunity to become bishops. This is where the explosion went off in my small group -- regardless of the obvious fact that none of us were priests and therefore ineligible to seek a bishopric, one person became extremely offended, thinking that I was condemning her. At that point, I realized that I had created more strife when what I was seeking to do was explain my reasoning. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Okay, lets move beyond my issues. If sin is the barrier to consecrating a gay bishop, we must realize that we are weighing sins here. It would follow that we are determining homosexuality to be a greater sin than adultery (which is what the Bible has called divorce and remarriage). I'm not picking on anyone who has been remarried, here -- I'm not judging them. Mistakes happen, people hurt each other -- praise God that they can move on. Doesn't the Bible emphasize the quest for redemption? We're talking about who can be a bishop here. I can't and it doesn't bother me a bit.

Back to sin -- one sin that gets harped on quite a bit in the Bible is the sin of pride. I have a problem with pride. I have met many priests who have a problem with pride. Shall we deem the sin of pride to be less than the sin of homosexuality? Some apparently feel that we should. I think the Catholics even put pride, the love of self instead the love of God, as tops in the Seven Deadly sins. (I may be way off on that, but it makes the list).

Leaving the topic of sin, what other rationales might we find for allowing the consecration of a gay bishop? The Bishop of my diocese reasoned in a New York Times Magazine article last winter that the churches of New Hampshire had elected to consecrate the gay priest, that there had been many votes and this was who the people wanted as their Bishop. The General Convention vote was merely the last vote in a long line of elections. Shouldn't the people have the Bishop they want?

Later, I read an article, or perhaps it was in the same article, where my Diocesan Bishop discussed his Biblical reasoning for voting for the consecration of a gay bishop. He felt that the liberal tenor of the New Testament allowed for the acceptance of homosexuality in the future and that the consecration would not be contrary to that. I'm sure I'm mangling this a bit, but my point was that my Bishop did look at the Bible and consider its message as part of his reasoning.

All of this leads me to what will have to be a future post -- what is the point of a bishop anyway? Right now, all I can think of is that they move diagonally. Chess humor.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Dear Daughter's Post -- October 16, 2004

My 4 year-old DD knows that I enjoy blogging. Being at a highly imitative age, she wants a blog of her own. I've offered to set up a real one for her, but she'd rather do her own one.

She dictated to me a post:

"Here is my blog. My computer is so hard to work on. Remember my book, Leaves, that I worked on and it was so hard, too. Then turn off computer."

By the way, she made her own computer and I didn't even know it. She glued a blue piece of construction paper to a green piece and bent to blue to make a screen. She took a building block and traced around it in four different places to make keys. I just noticed it today, I don't know when she did it. I don't plan or initiate art activities for her. I'm glad to see confirmation that I don't need to, she'll do it on her own and it shows more creativity than if I showed her a project to make and told her how to do it.

Makes Worship Fun

A phrase often used in advertising educational toys for children is "makes learning fun!" This makes my blood boil. Learning is inherently fun, its only when learning is forced unwanted on people that it becomes a drudgery. Having to put the fun back in learning tells me that something went very wrong somewhere.

I was at an adult education lecture at my church a few weeks ago and the topic was the communion services in the Book of Common Prayer. Oh, oh, bad joke in my head. Why doesn't the Catholic Church use the Book of Common Prayer? Because the initials are the same as birth control pills. I said it was a bad joke. Anyway, the Book of Common Prayer contains the services used by the Episcopal church, along with prayers and other documents.

I took some notes on the history and theology of the services -- frankly, I found the lecture a little dull (hence the title of this post). At some point, my thoughts took over from the notes I was taking on the lecture. I have the question "does Orthodoxy work?" I'm willing to bet this was not what the lecturer was saying. I was wondering if the church is accomplishing what the Bible set forth as its purpose. With him I am well pleased. Does this apply to the Church today?

The lecturer discussed the theology imbedded in the BCP. She said that the authors were motivated to set forth some uniformity because of the profusion of movements during the Reformation; there was a florid view of what was permissive in the Christian church and the Reformers were trying to stop it. The problem was one with the doctrine, not the practice. The corruption was in the teaching and the uniform prayer had a specific form to fix this.

If this sounds stilted and unclear, its because it is -- I should have typed up my notes and thoughts soon after I heard the lecture. I didn't and I post this stuff just to see if it sparks a discussion. Call me Sparky.

Learning Log -- October 21, 2004

My unschooling log -- sometimes its easier to see what you've done than what you're doing.

My 4 year-old DD was painting with brushes on an easel while I was puttering around tidying things up. (Note: you can get a very reasonably priced stand-up art easel from Ikea; no need to order one for $80 through a fancy toy catalog). I had a bunch of fliers and pamphlets and other giveaways from the Black Family Reunion, and I finally started sorting through them. I came across a 2004 wall calendar and asked DD if she wanted it. She got very excited and started flipping through it. She flipped to October and asked me for the date, noting that the day was Wednesday. I told her it was the 21st and that it was actually Thursday (this is a no-no according to John Holt, who thought it better to let the child correct herself, believing that the child would eventually do so and that no harm is done in the meantime. He had exceptions, of course, where there was actual danger posed by a potential mistake). She notices that there are two Columbus Days marked on the calendar, which gave me the opportunity to explain the difference between a holiday itself and when the holiday is observed.

She saw the notations in the calendar for the phases of the moon -- new, first quarter, full, and last quarter. I was intrigued that there was no half moon notation; later, my husband and I figured that one out (since we only see one side of the moon, a 'half' moon is really a quarter of the actual moon -- we're only seeing half of the half that faces the earth. So its new with no sun reflected on it, then waxing to half, which is first quarter, than waxing beyond to full and then waning back to last quarter, which is really back down to 'half' again, then back to new. I hope we got that right, otherwise the kids are off to school. Nah, we'd just learn it together).

She flipped over to February and saw Valentine's Day and said that its on the February 4. I corrected her (Holt: bad mommy) and point to where the 4th is on the calendar and ask her what day Valentine's Day is. She counts up to 14. I do a really quick lesson on ordinals, saying that February 14 is the 14th of February.

Hopefully, that covers math for awhile.

Earlier in the week, we went to a story time at the library. I always love hearing what DD says to other people. The librarian mentioned pumpkins and DD told her how we had pumpkins on the porch and one was eaten by a squirrel who was eating lots of food to sleep through the winter. So she does listen to the things I tell her (hope I was right!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Skipping Preschool

Are we homeschooling preschool, homepreschooling or skipping preschool? Take your pick. An interesting article on preschool and the home appeared in the most recent issue of The Link, by a mom who sent her son to preschool but withdrew him because he was bored. [if the link to the article doesn't work, try this one, its a different article, but she mentions this about halfway through it.]

I appreciate all the resources available on the web (many are also available in print, but its so easy to websurf). I like checking the World Book scope and sequence to see if we're missing anything. By their list, we're on target except for writing -- of course, this doesn't really help me because I'm not going to push writing, her muscles aren't ready yet. I think its a natural drive to want to communicate with others and I'm certain she will write when she is able -- she's at the scribbling stage where she claims its writing (though she knows it isn't), a developmental stage on the road to writing (just as pretending to read a memorized book is a step on the road to reading). At least the list gives me something to look at to see if there are any dreaded gaps (learning gaps is a fun topic on the hs e-mail groups).

Broadly speaking, the World Book scope and sequence for preschool lists skills pertaining to: size, shapes and colors, numbers and counting, reading readiness, position and direction, time, motor skills, and social-emotional development. There's really not all that much to it and nothing that requires any specialized tools or teaching. Most of this stuff can be learned by a child on her own or with demonstration and a few pointers. I love 'strewing,' so when I read on some list that preschoolers should know their address and phone number, I simply left a lot of at-home cards (business cards with our name and address on them) lying around for her to find -- it worked.

There are plenty of other lists out there. My state has its Standards of Learning listed on its Board of Education website and I imagine many other states do as well. There are also numerous differing philosophical approaches to education and most of them have skills lists. I was going to post a link to another list, but when I was going through the various homeschool websites, I was overwhelmed -- there is a lot of information out there.

Other items I've seen on preschool skills lists include: major holidays, days of the week, months of the year and seasons. We've learned these through reading lots of books that either directly address the subject or that include the subject. For instance, Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar is about a catepillar's diet and his eventual change into a butterfly. The book progresses through the week as the caterpillar eats different things (On Monday...., On Tuesday...). Eric Carle's A House for Hermit Crab does something similar with months of the year.

As to writing, how are we working on that? By sitting with a pencil and workbooks, of course. No, just kidding -- by playing with playdough and cutting and pasting. Peeling and sticking stickers is another great way to work on fine motor skills. Its interesting, she can zipper and button, but her drawings are definitely in the abstract phase, though I can see her progressing -- she just added arms and legs to her figures.

Finally, who can ignore the importance of socialization? I don't think any homeschoolers disagree with the importance of socialization, we disagree with the assumption that proper socialization occurs only at schools (or that proper socialization even occurs at schools). Socialization opportunities are provided through playdates and park days and library story time, dance class and visits to the grandparents and Sunday school. How will she ever learn to sit down and be quiet -- not that it takes all that long to learn this important skill -- library story time and Sunday school. What about waiting in line? Go to the bank or the grocery store or almost anywhere. Take turns? Have a sibling or play with other kids.

One deficit we suffer by not going to preschool, we don't get invited to anywhere near the number of birthday parties that our preschooled friends do.

NOTE: this post is a work in progress, I plan to add more books to the subject areas noted above. I'm just sick of saving this post as a draft. If you're looking for books, check for updates or e-mail me.

NOTE to DH: your 2 year old nudie daughter just peed on your office floor. Apparently, she's untoilet-training herself. I preferred her sister's method of training after the age of 3 but with no accidents. Sigh. But I'm sure glad I'm not in an office somewhere doing real work. Grrrr.

An Interesting Picture Book -- energy

My Light by Molly Bang is a picture book about how the sun's energy creates electricity using water power/dams, windturbines, solar panels and also discusses how plants use the sun's energy and how this created coal. The author includes a few pages of notes about electricity at the back of the book -- good for adults and older kids, for whom the picture book might be a bit simplistic. The author states within the notes that she had more but that her publisher urged her to shorten it, however, she's posted the deleted portion on her website,

Transcendentalism for Children

D.B. Johnson has written and illustrated several picture books based on the life and writings of Henry David Thoreau. My 4 year-old enjoys the stories about Henry, who is a bear in the books, and his various adventures. I'm not sure how much sense the books make, but many children's picture books are silly stories and these books are fun for me to read. There is a page of notes in the back of each book that tells the background of the story, including where it appears in Thoreau's works, and an inspiring quote. From the notes to Henry Builds a Cabin, an excerpt from Walden:

"Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think they must have such a one as their neighbors have."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

What Are You Doing In Your Homeschooling?

This is a question I have a hard time answering. I realize that saying "nothing" is probably socially unacceptable, but its the truth, so I'm trying to work out an answer to this question so that I don't fail in future social encounters.

First of all, there really doesn't seem like there is anything to be 'done' in preschool. Reading books about preschool, I've learned that most (non-Montessori) preschools allow the children free time to choose activities such as dress up, building with blocks, doing artwork, a library area with books, etc. There is circle time, which can involve show and tell or storytime or learning songs or games. There is snack time and maybe some outside time on the playground. All this for two or three hours, three to five days a week for at least $200 a month (and Montessorians are laughing because Montessori is twice that). I'm not really sure why people send their kids to preschool, I imagine there are lots of reasons, including getting a break from the kids, socialization with a class of the children's peers, and perhaps for learning. However, I have to question if learning is the main reason anyone sends their child to preschool because kids learn just by living -- I'd even argue that they learn more outside of a classroom than inside it. For instance, why make a child who has known the alphabet for a year sit in circle time and review what the letter A is, what sound it makes, words that begin with A, etc? Perhaps there is a hierarchy of things parents what their children to know, the child who does not know the alphabet in preschool may not be interested in it for several years but might be captivated by nature and learn all about science that way..... Opps, I'm not supposed to be telling you why I homeschool, but what we're doing.

Nothing, we're doing nothing. When the 2 year-old naps, my 4 year-old and I read books together, if she's in the mood. The other day, we played Go Fish -- a couple of good games after we got past an initial argument when she told me I could not put down a pair from the hand I was dealt at the beginning of the game. It was interesting, because we didn't really talk about winning or losing, other than I noted that I won the first game because I wanted her to know the game was over since I had no cards. The second game, she got rid of all her cards first, she won and I noted it, but I don't think she gloated over it. When Daddy came home she told him about the game, noting that I won the first game and she won the second. Its funny to hear what your kids learn -- it was definitely significant to her because she reported it, she wasn't asked the outcome.

We cook sometimes, she helps me stir or measure and looks at the recipe with me.

She plays and tells stories. Once, she wrote a book (dictated to me which I wrote down).

The other day, I got four books from the library. The 4 year-old was holding two and her 2 year-old sister was holding two. My 4 year-old told me that they each had half. I was pretty impressed with that.

What are we doing? Nothing, but I've got to come up with a better answer than that.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The unclimber

I came across some notes I must have written down a few months ago, I don't remember any of it, but thought I'd post it here.

The name unclimber came from a comment I once made to my DH that those I labelled as social climbers could network all they wanted but I was happy "hanging out at basecamp." Various forms of basecamp were already claimed on blogspot, so I blended my interest in unschooling with my disdain for social climbers and came up with unclimber.

However, now I find myself a bit embarrassed by the name I chose out of a snarky social commentary. Strangely, though, unclimber is coming to mean something else to me. It speaks of being in the here and now (meditation and awareness) and not spending too much time, energy and thought on the future (vs. fundamentalist religion/salvation).

--sitting with contradictions
--fissure of personality
--need for unity in self [I have no idea why I wrote this list.]

Intersection/dovetailing of spirituality and unschooling. I could not be liberal about education and conservative about religion -- it lead to a psychically painful fissure, highlighted by my experiences in BSF vs. DOCC -- arrogance, frustration, impatience. I had a hard time with DOCC, not because DOCC failed me, but I think I failed DOCC.

Compulsion -- we can't make anyone eat, sleep, use the potty, learn or believe.

'Believing,' it makes me think of a post on Ken's blog, where he wrote:

"Evangelism is the easy work. Most have a canned message that takes a
salesman’s attitude and the memory of a few simple verses. Evangelists don’t
have the burden of nurturing people after they’ve scared the hell out of them
and left them with a rudimentary system of faith. They drive to the next
“revival” and all but forget about the new converts they’ve left at the altar.
Fundamentalist evangelists are particularly annoying because they think that
everything revolves around their beliefs. They are usually so ignorant
to everything but the subject of salvation that they are able to spread as
much damage as they do the “gospel.”"

To me, this was aptly illustrated this summer while walking along the Mall in Washington, D.C. when I was handed a small pamphlet by a nice-looking young man. It was a tract from a Baptist church in New Hampshire. In it there is an exhortation "Believe today!" and a prayer. I just question the utility of telling someone to believe -- like you can just will belief. If this doesn't make sense (and I think it probably doesn't), all I can say is that perhaps the connection between these two things lies only in my head.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Limits of the Intellect

An excerpt from Susan Howatch's novel, The Heartbreaker:

"Golden Girl tries to outline her problem. She's always relied on her intelligence, she says. It's been the only thing that's never let her down. People you trust let you down, she says.... People behave like absolute shits, she says.... People try to stab you in the back, she says.... But so long as you've got brains, she says, you can work out how to survive.

...."Then she found out that a load of the most important things in life such as truth, beauty and goodness -- and of course love -- the whole spiritual package -- aren't always accessible through intellectual reasoning and streetwise brainpower. In fact although Christianity can be very intellectually high-powered indeed, spiritual stuff can never be fully sorted out by the human intellect.... She's always equated survival with intellectual success, and she can't imagine surviving in a dimension where there are no exams to pass and you're required to function as the whole you and not just as a brain on legs.

...."'But love's the most spiritual thing there is!'"

Thursday, October 14, 2004


An article in this morning's Washington Post reports on the closing of a Capitol Hill office by a Senator from Minnesota in response to an intelligence analysis report presented to senators.

This article really strikes a chord with me. I live in a close-in suburb of Washington, D.C. The threat level is adjusted now and then and occassionally we hear dire warnings of possible future terrorist activity, then we're told to go about our business being alert. If we shut down in fear, the terrorists win, right?

Mark Dayton sent his staff home and cautioned people not to visit D.C. in response to a series of briefings given to senators by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, a joint FBI-CIA agency. The senators are beginning their preelection recess, so Dayton was headed out of town anyway; he defended his actions saying that its immoral to expose his staff to a risk he is not taking. If this is true, I think its admirable. Of course, where politics are involved, its so hard to be certain of motives, but that doesn't mean his motives aren't pure either.

What I find really interesting about this article are the various quotes within it from various sources. "This [terrorist scenario reported by the agency] is way over the top." If its over the top, why was it reported to the senators as a possibility? "Its not based on any credible information thats come in." Then why was it presented? The article says there is "[n]o new information to support the extreme scenario."

Who are the terrorists?

From the District's delegate to Congress, "[Dayton's] damaged us -- he's unnecessarily panicked people across the United States." Oh, I get it, clearly Dayton is the terrorist here. People may not want to visit the Nation's Capital because he reacted to a terror alert.

I have to say, I'm sort of glad that Dayton closed his office. Some might think its an overreaction (and I'm not saying its not), but it seems to be a logical conclusion to a scenario presented by a Federal agency that was described as "fire and brimstone raining down from the skies." I'm tired of the dire warnings then the assertion that we're all okay, just be alert. Which is it? If moving away from this area didn't involve leaving so much behind, I might consider it, but you can't run away from terror (though you might be a good deal safer from this particular threat in Minnesota).

What really has me thinking is a quote from a general laborer who has worked in the Capitol for more than 10 years. He said, "It's kind of scary to me that [Dayton] might know something others don't." My mind just flashed on that scene from the movie Titanic where the steerage passengers are gated off while the ship is sinking. They don't even get a chance to get on deck to try to get on a lifeboat.