Am I Prone to Mood swings? Why do you ask?

This post will not appear to be written by the same person who was in for those HAT posts below.
I’m multifaceted, and my husband would vouch for  that, I believe.

I have to say that last week was heavy,  and I think the heaviness crept up on me and perched atop my head like a vulture.
Understanding  that nobody wants to hear about the colorful side of my family of origin,   I’ll just say that I am thankful my husband took me away from it all.
But, last week, as someone in Appalachia, who I’ve known for nearly all my life,  was finding it impossible to make wise choices,  and at the same time I was reading just piles of high school biology (probably in an attempt to escape all the news coming in over the phone).  I found that I was sort of going down for the third time in a sea of  recessive alleles and monohybrid crosses.   Then,  I began to dream in Punnett squares and to drift away from conversations thinking of everything in terms  of gametes and genotypes.
I made a sudden return to consciousness this morning when  the kids knocked on my forehead saying “Mom, did you really just tell Daniel he could finish that whole pie?”

And having  snapped out of it, I  thought that  I would  drop in here with something a bit light that David read to me this afternoon.  It’s from an old letter E.B. White  wrote to his editor, J. G. Case after the publication of The Elements of Style:

Dear Jack:

The next grammar book I bring out, I want to tell how to end a sentence with five prepositions.   A father of a little boy goes upstairs after supper to read to his son, but he brings the wrong book.  The boy says “Why did you bring that book that I don’t want to be read to out of up for?”

And how are YOU?



I really love E.B. White.  At some point in the late ’80s,  I spent part of one spring or summer driving past his house  in Maine trying to muster courage to go up to the door and say “Hi”, until I was told by my friend Scott (of  home-made Christmas gift fame) that White had actually been dead since 1985.  That news brought a dark down-swing of mood, I can tell you.

Now,  E.B. White’s letters are my magic elixir for kids who can’t seen to get a rhythm going when writing a paper.  If they are stuck or if they hand in a draft that sounds wooden or uneven, I ask them to sit down and read the letters or essays of E.B. White for as long as it takes to haul them out of the ditch they are in.  And it always works like a charm.

I wonder if anybody knows of another fun, concise writer who would help get the youngsters on track…..

~~I would also like to say that I get such a tremendous charge out of seeing my sixteen year old son loving E.B. White’s essays as much as I did.  I just Love It when he’s reading me little funny bits and I can hardly make out what he’s reading because he’s too tickled and can’t stop laughing.

Still thinking about those hats…….

Just a few more thoughts that grew out of the post about big hats,  below.

It’s a fine thing to offend the unsaved with the gospel of Christ.
But, knowing that Christ loves this church that He bought with his blood…and that it is precious to Him,  sometimes I feel fearful of saying what is on my heart to believers, as I don’t want to offend those who have slightly different understandings  than I do.  I  understand that there are other ideas than mine, held by sincere believers who love Christ as I do.
Not one of us grasps the entirety of scripture perfectly, as far as I can tell.  And sometimes it seems like too many people in the Reformed church think that in  order to be really Reformed, we all have to act like Martin Luther on steroids.   Reform is certainly needed in the church today, but it’s reform of our hearts first.   And so, humility and caution are most appropriate….  before we begin hacking at one another.

Speaking about faith and then doctrinal  belief on the internet, whether on Facebook or on a blog, brings more opportunity for mischief and misunderstanding than speaking face to face.  I find that there are so many ways to hide the elements of my faith that might REALLY rub someone wrong, or to just blab out what I’m thinking without considering how it may cause harm.    And I am not the only one struggling with this.  Sometimes I read “Christian Blogs” and am amazed at the lack of love, at the arrogance and at the failure to remember that we are to correct one another in love.
And I believe that where Hebrews 12:13 says “Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed”  speaks to our tendency to trip up the one we believe is in error, rather  than gently help him along to a better understanding .
We are told not to be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings, and we are also told to keep on loving each other as brothers.  (Hebrews 13)

So when I encounter people who claim Christ, but who hold to doctrines that I do not find in the Bible,  or who teach one doctrine while practicing something different.   Or who elevate one teaching above another,learning how to respond rightly  requires prayer, and scripture and patience and a fair bit of disciplined silence.  It is essential to know where my authority lies, and to be in the habit of obedience.  And I must love them first.  Whether I’m in the room with them, or reading their ideas on a screen.

It is really the  lovely sandpaper of the Holy Spirit on my soul for me to bow to scripture and receive instruction on how to step forward.   Because my own proud heart always wants to do the wrong thing.

So, first, I must examine myself. (2 Cor. 13)  I must look at my own motivations.  If I can say what’s on my mind with love, and if what I really am after is to help, not to criticize or to elevate myself.  Then perhaps I can speak.

Getting Ready for Christmas

Some time last year I said something (maybe on this blog, maybe on the old green one)  about how our family has a wild ambition to hand make our Christmas gifts for each other in 2010.

This is inspired, as I am sure I mentioned before, by my old friends Scott and Kristine Gryder, who undertook with their entire huge and extended family to make all their gifts for each other last year.    They made furniture, exterior light fixtures out of fallen trees, tie-dyed shirts, picnic tables, hand-sewn items, cookies, spiced tea mixes, faux legal documents which were framed….and which must have been really hilarious if the look on all photographed faces is accurate.  The pictures I saw of that celebration were breathtakingly inspirational to me.

So, we have been working like little squirrels getting ready for winter around here.   I am just itching to post photographs of the humble little offerings that are piling up in all my gifty hiding places.  But it would spoil the surprise.

I have  to say that this is the most fun I have ever had getting ready for Christmas.   I’m getting my littler guys organized on some of their projects now, and we are having a crazy fun time gluing stuff to picture frames, and sometimes also to  our hair and the legs of the piano.

This is great fun, and I am already planning how we can do it better next year.  I wonder if anyone else has done something like this, and could share some good ideas for those family members who are less crafty or who are hard to find a gift for.

The photo above is of some of the raw materials for my gifts……..actually, the yarn is more lovely than what I made with it.

And here is Maggie, hard at work on something mysterious.

Here’s how I fill my days….

Almost all of my time is spent educating my six children, and up to now I have carefully avoided speaking about it on this blog.

There are many reasons why I have been silent on this topic.  One reason is that I want to protect my kids’ privacy and my own.  Our progress is fast in some places, and slow in others.  I always have a nagging suspicion that every other home-educating mom out there is doing it faster, better, more beautifully and with better map over-lays and  arts and crafts than I am.   I mean, I have seen some of those other blogs out there…..families who spend all day long making topographical maps while the oldest daughter plays the harp in the background and then they all adjourn to enjoy fresh home-made bread lathered with butter from their own cow and honey from their own bees.  Ha!

Well, we’re not doing any of that.  But here is what we are doing, and I’m putting it up here to encourage the ladies out there who are sure that they are the only ones without the harps, bees and cows.  You are really not alone!  So, as baseline home-educators, here’s what we’re doing this week.

We use (and love) Tapestry of Grace for  history,  literature, and writing.  I am a huge fan of this curricula.  I cannot imagine what might ever cause me to switch to another.    Tapestry is a four year program of study, geared for all levels of learning, from the earliest reader to a high-school senior.  Following the classical model, Tapestry covers history, from creation to current history, chronologically over its four year cycle, repeating itself three times during a child’s twelve years in school.  This program includes more activities and reading ideas, projects and discussion plans than anyone could use at once, it is just rich with options and great ideas.

Last year, we studied Year Two, which covers the Renaissance and Reformation through the explorers and early colonization of America.  And this year, in a brazen move, we have skipped Year Three entirely, having given it such a thorough treatment four years ago that nobody wanted to do it again for a while (woops!).  So, we’re doing modern history now with Tapestry Year Four, and really loving the early 20th century.

We had an extra bonus this year, which was that we got to go to England and Norway for three weeks in October.  While we were there, we made a point of checking out as many WWI and WWII museums and exhibits as we could find.  We did also slip out and visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and the Tower of London, a few castles and cathedrals and art galleries, but we learned more than we ever expected about WWII in England and about the causes of WWI and II which were so much about the drawing of artificial boundaries all over Europe.

Before we left for that trip, we spent four weeks doing an ultra-fast summary of all that took place from 1700 to 1880, just to give us a foundation for this years work……then we left town and forgot 90% of it. (When I fill out the summary sheets for the kids work this year, I’m going to say that they were “exposed to the history and literature of the 18th and 19th centuries.”)

This week, we have been looking at the sweeping changes in technology, industry and science around the time of the turn of the century.    My kids are reading about Teddy Roosevelt, Taft’s progressivism, the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Amy Carmichael, The Panama Canal, the scramble for Africa, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Triple Alliance and the  Triple Entente, and the authorization of an income tax with the Sixteenth Amendment.

The world was busy and booming, and in Europe and North America, everyone was full of hope and optimism.   They had no idea what was ahead in this century of great and terrible wars.

I love learning all of this history again, some of it for the first time.  It is an incredible gift to be able to talk about this with my kids, and to learn with them how all of these events and ideas and advances interacted with one another to set the stage for the events to come.

In a conversation today about air transportation, the invention of the automobile and the development of the assembly line, I was amazed to hear one of my kids say that the enormously high numbers of WWI casualties are in part attributable to these three advances in technology….because  more and better methods of transportation, mechanization and production  allowed for greater numbers of troops to be moved to places where more efficient weapons would be used upon them.  Amazing, we take pride in our achievements, only to see them bring on our downfall.

And still, God is sovereign, and nothing is random.

In case anyone at your house is a “Trick-or-Treater”

Here is something really funny, from the blog of  David Regier……I have only posted part of it,  you’ll have to click on the link at his name and visit his site for the rest.   It’s more and more fun as you read on…..

Instructions for the kids in the distribution of the Halloween candy……

From the Book of Davidicus:

3 Of the spoils of your wandering, you shall devote a tenth of the firstfruits to your father. But take heed that you devote what has chocolate, so that he shall be pleased with what he receives.

4 Of the Reese’s®, you shall devote them all, likewise the Snickers®. But take heed, lest you try to test your father and give him Skittles® instead of M&Ms®, and thereby incur his disfavor.

5 Of the Pixi Stix®, and the Sweet Tarts®, and the Kandy Korn®, you shall give him no part, for they are an abomination unto him. But of the Nestle Crunch® and Krackel®, you shall give him a portion, as a peace offering.

Wasn’t Monday a Holiday for Everyone?

I am here to apologize for missing my Monday post on John Calvin.  I am going to let this one go by until next Monday, and pretend that Monday June 7 was just one of those Monday holidays.  A Monday Blogging Holiday.

The past six days were a bit of a crazy blur around here.  My sweet mother was visiting for a month, and  as she grows more and more frail physically, I believe that travel and life with six kids, two dogs and a raccoon becomes more than she might need.  So, the short story on this is that we spent Sunday in the hospital and the days around Sunday getting her strong and ready to travel home.

As always, she flew out of Buffalo, and we overnighted there on Monday, since she had an early AM flight for Tuesday.
While driving along Transit Road, where the shopping is so magnificent, Mom saw that there was a Steinmart (an old favorite store of hers for clothing ) and she  perked right up, the old glow returned to her green eyes, and said “Oh, can we go?”

Having spent a week thinking of her as a delicate patient, I was pretty delighted at this sign of life and enthusiasm.  I slammed on breaks, U-turned and we were in the store.   She made a quick and profitable stop at Jones New York, and then made herself at home at  Steinmart.   Even when she’s ill, Mom’s always got an eye open for the perfect coordinate at the right price.  Oh, and she needed summer handbags, too.

Now, while she was in Steinmart having a lovely time, I took the opportunity to go to the parking lot and try to figure out why Maggie’s carseat was giving us trouble.  She had complained of it being too tight, and the belts were refusing to loosen up to give her a roomier fit.  So I pulled it out of the car in the parking lot and when I flipped it over, I found that something had eaten one of those most critical pieces of webbing…the central strap at the end of which all the buckles converge to keep her safely locked in.  And there was a little pile of wadded up, chewed up webbing clogging the device so that I couldn’t lengthen the strap.

I wasn’t at that moment able  to work through what it might mean that something is chewing on her carseat.  Like, are there mice in the van?  It’s more likely that we left the seat in the garage for a time, and mice found something yummy on the webbing there.
Anyhoo…….Being so thankful to have found the problem, I hollered at Mom in Steinmart that Maggie and I were going to pop over to Target to get a new carseat.
Leaving Mom blissfully wandering among the racks, we zipped through Target where I  threw the  pinkest booster seat ever made into the cart along with pair of Tinkerbell flip-flops (also for Maggie),  and some swim trunks for David.    Then back to get Mom, who was still not ready to leave the store.

Finally, Steinmart closed and we were able to take my mother with us and check in to our hotel.

So, how funny it was on Tuesday morning at 6am,  time to grab a quick breakfast and dash across the street to the airport.  I found Mom wrestling with what at first looked like a live alligator, then I realized it was her suitcase.  She had gotten so many adorable little items at Steinmart and Jones, that it took both of us with 35 lb Maggie sitting on the bag to get it closed and…finally… zipped.        You could not insert a piece of paper into that bag at that point.
Beaming victoriously and high fiving all around, I then noticed the pink plastic  mini-dishpan which contains all of her medication.  Woops!  The handbags and clothes were in the bag, but there was no room for those pesky little pills which may be keeping her alive.
But God is good and provides a way, often even when we are a little bit silly.  It just happens that while in Target,  had grabbed, on the fly as I raced toward the register, a medium sized green print bag to take home to Helen.  So I threw Mom’s prescriptions into that, and off we dashed to the airport.  Mom did comment, softly and sort of under her breath,  that the green didn’t go well with the brown and black she was wearing, but neither would the new summer handbags in her suitcase.

Isn’t she fun!!   I do love it about my mom that even in the face of illness and the limitations with which her stroke has left her, she still takes care to present herself beautifully and she still grabs a bit of life in whatever way she can.

Figuring out who we are over here…..

This blog is getting itself sorted out, though for the moment, it’s kind of muddled.

Is it a book blog? is it a mommy blog?  Is it a food Blog?

Is it an SAT preparation Blog?  Is it a desperate bid for attention?

Is it going to goof off and act like a knitting blog once in awhile?

Yes, and maybe more….once we get ourselves figured out here.

the blog is growing up

How very exciting.
Last week I moved from my cozy little blog to this large expansive one. And now, I have just become!
I guess this is about four hours old. I don’t know.
Jim did all the work. It’s more like getting a puppy than having a baby. You get the call, it’s weaned and ready for pick-up.
Anyhow, I think almost everything is on here, except for those precious comments from the sweeties who wrote in to encourage me.
It wasn’t a rejection, just an adjustment.
I love you all.

a little follow up to the post below…..

I mentioned in the post below something about responding rightly to whatever might be hurled our way.  So, as I sit here with my cute husband reflecting on the day, I am compelled to tell you what was hurled my way today.

It was really a fine day.  We got lots and lots done.  Good fun at breakfast with kids.  Jim Stowe came with fabulous French pastries, and then he painted the kitchen blue.  David made pakoras.   I enjoyed some good rich fellowship with a sweet dear friend this morning.  Four or five loaves of bread were baked and either eaten or given away.
And then the septic system backed up.  It backed up in a big and ferocious manner directly into my guest room.  The large area rug in that room will be going to the dump on Tuesday.  I will not share any other details.
It turns out that we don’t just have the one septic tank that we KNEW we had.  We probably have another, secret, hidden tank.  So how wonderful…..our yard will be dug up tomorrow as the septic man searches for the phantom tank.
I must say that my sweet son Michael took one look at the carnage of flooding and misery on the guest room floor, and without a second’s hesitation, he got everything necessary to  clean up the mess.  It’s way more pleasant to clean that stuff up when you have a buddy working alongside you!

The moral of this story is:  if you have a blog, beware of tossing confident remarks on it regarding what may or may not be hurled your way.  Because something  just might happen.

One other interesting tid-bit.  Upon seeing the news of thousands of grounded airplanes in Europe due to the volcano erupting in Iceland, I remarked loudly that I was just so very very thankful Jon had just returned from Norway the day before.
Well, it turns out that my favorite brother in law, Hans Olav, was in Brussels, trying to get home to Oslo for his wife’s birthday party.  And no planes are flying in Europe.  So he is scrapping together train schedules and trying to get his carcass home by tomorrow morning, as he is hosting this event.  I guess this puts my little septic eruption into perspective.

It is Over

First off, thanks so very much to the many sweet people who left me such encouraging remarks.  I am so grateful for your kindness to me. I love having people in my life!

Now, here is my race day report.

It wasn’t entirely the day I had hoped for, though it started out very well.   I was up at 4:30, eating breakfast at 6AM, then on a yellow schoolbus heading to the US border and then Buffalo at 7am, stuck at the border until 9AM because a Swede and two Englishmen did not have proper  credentials.

Before the race started, all runners were well cared for in the warmth of the elegant Albright Knox Gallery, so we got to look at some  beautiful works of art while we stretched and hydrated.  The race started a 10AM, on a sparkling clear morning.   Starting out, I felt very well, and it was a perfect day, and all indications were positive  So I bounced along doing OK, shedding fleece jacket and gloves as the day got quite surprisingly warm. It was a spectacularly beautiful day.

And I was in the company of some really fun, friendly and very entertaining women.   Things were looking good.

We ran around Buffalo for awhile, and were well protected by the charming Buffalo Police and some wildly enthusiastic onlookers.  We ran across the Peace Bridge, which must have caused some delays and irritation for quite a number of border crossers, but it was nothing like the white-knuckle terror I had built it up to be in my mind.   Then we ran out to Fort Eerie, and headed up along the parkway which would take us all the way to Niagara…..just gorgeous on this perfect colorful warm fall day.

Now, you may or may not have read what I said in an earlier post (“Drawing Lines in the Sand”), about my right hip and the prospect that this marathon would cause me to lose the use of that joint.   I fully expected that my hip would do me the courtesy of hanging in there for me until the race was done. But it did not.

At mile 18, after a bit of minor discomfort (I love that word… is the medical term for “pain”) I felt/heard my hip pop out of it’s proper spot in the socket, as it has done once or twice before. Sometimes I am able to pop it right back in if I baby it a bit…so,  I walked and ran with it like that for two miles.  But at mile 20 or so, when I had a very clear view of the finish area  across the water, my leg stopped swinging forward. I was praying and trying to think of everything that has ever helped me before. I know that getting on a bike and pedalling for a mile or so often sets it right where it should be, and I nearly grabbed a passing cyclist at one  point. But getting on a bicycle in the middle of a race is cheating.

I was trying to move it forward, but the medical guy at mile 20 (or mile 23, according to Carrie’s comment……) water stop pulled me aside and very warmly and kindly encouraged me to get some help. I don’t know what his name was, but he was such a patient and  considerate man, as I was kind of arguing with him that I could see the finish, and would like to just walk there. I could see the mist   rising from the falls, it looked so close! The worst part was that I cried. I hate crying in public, I just wanted to kick myself, but my leg was useless.

Here is the heartbreak…..I went off and got my hip rubbed and iced, and afterward, I was able to walk OK. And I think I could have done  those last miles at that point, but I was out of the race, and it was all over.
The interesting thing, at least to me, is the fact that I ran exactly to the point to which I had trained. I missed those long runs at the end  of my training when I wasn’t quite well, as I talked about in a sad post a couple of weeks ago. I had not run beyond 20 miles, and that’s where my old body just stopped yesterday.
It was all quite predictable.

I don’t feel very inspirational today, but I do enjoy the great support I have received from lots of people. My family was just awesome, and so encouraging and positive.

And my precious mother and father in law even called me, at nearly midnight Norway time, to see how I had done. I thought that was the second nicest part of the day.
The very sweetest thing though, was seeing Jon and the kids craning their necks looking for me to cross the finish, because they expected  me to do that. And when I came upon them from behind and told them my sad tale, they were so enthusiastic and supportive. They are such a gift to me.