A sweet day at our house

Michael has posted on Facebook that I have a bunch of photos here, so I guess I’d better get busy and get those photos UP.
But first, a little view of how the day has unfolded……
It’s been a normal day here, and moving backward from this moment I can say that I have spent a bit of time building a solar system, cleaning up a paint spill, explaining how a multiplication chart works.
I have spelled about eleventy gajillion words aloud to one of my darlings who is writing a paper on a topic which is perhaps too ambitious (but I assign that type of paper all the time and it generally works out).
We have enjoyed three hours of piano lessons on the piano which is, for better or worse, positioned at the exact center of our living space downstairs, so my head is now ringing a bit in the sudden absence of the sound.
I have spoken to two banks, three tax preparers, the Internal Revenue Service, one floor refinisher, and twice to my husband and then once to the man who needs to come and repair our patio.
I have learned that our neighbors who were in Christchurch New Zealand when the first earthquake occurred this week are alive and well, and I am so thankful for that news, and really for all the other stuff too.

This day began really nicely, too. I was up at 5:30, showered, and running laundry by 6:30.
I was reading in Psalms for a bit, and loving the verses where it says

” I sought the Lord and he answered me, He delivers me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame……The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them…….Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

Then Helen and I cuddled up on the couch to work on our memorization of the book of Philippians. We were working through the second chapter, where it says

“Do all things without grumbling or questing that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…..”

…then we heard a siren. And since we live way off in a little wee community in which sirens are never heard, we got up and went to see…..and what we found is in the slide show below…….Audrey took all the photos.

Please pray for our neighbours who have very likely lost everything in the house. And for us that we might be a blessing to them. This is the second fire in our little community this year. It is amazing and beautiful to me to see how my neighbors reach out to one another in kindness, and I am thankful to be a part of a community where there is so much love.

The sixth and seventh week in review

I was was told on Sunday  that I am a slack blogger,  but I’ve been out and about putting  a bit of spice in my life.    There was no time to write.   But I’m back and here’s  a little summary of where I’ve been and where we are now.

Monday was Valentine’s Day, but Jon and I enjoyed our celebration of that fun holiday  a week ahead of time.  We got away, just us two, and stayed in a lovely and luxurious hotel for five days.

Now,  I wonder if anyone  (outside my family)  can guess where the photos above and below were taken.   Really, no fair naming the place if you already know because I TOLD you.
Here are a few extra hints:   We enjoyed the most amazing Italian dinner just a few blocks north of this scenic parking lot, right after I watched my husband do some very enthusiastic gift shopping at a wonderful art shop on Sherman Street.

Notice how much these feather earrings look like the flies one might use to catch fish.   And since we have both a jewelry designer and several fly-tying fishermen living under our roof, we found this quite inspirational.

After dinner and a glass or two of wine, we popped in to Cabela’s Sporting goods store, which is  fly fisherman heaven  and which I’m now recommending as a  Valentine’s Day entertainment destination.
While there, we tried on some cool shades and some really bad hats, photographed their extensive collection of taxidermy,and checked out all their feathers which can be used to make fake insects OR lovely jewelry.    I suspect that we  almost bought a crazy expensive fly-fishing  reel, but I noticed we walked out empty handed.    Having fun with your husband in a hunting and fishing supply store is actually way more romantic than watching a sunset, by the way.   And it’s not nearly as time sensitive.

Besides goofing off in the fly-tying department , Jon and I met some really wonderful Christian physicians and their spouses on our trip.  We saw gorgeous scenery, enjoyed some delightful meals with very interesting people and we really had fun just being together without any interruption.  It’s kind of rare for us, and we were so glad for that little gift of time together.     It was lovely just to sit with my husband on an airplane and know that I was not responsible for six kids and their passports and the reservations and connections for the next 24 hours.  (One day I will write up a blog post about travelling with the kids, and without the husband,  to Europe last fall, and how much fun and how much stress came with that adventure.   But that’s another post.)

So we had this sweet getaway.   Meanwhile, the kids had an amazing opportunity to exhibit their maturity at home by  keeping everything in top condition, while loving the little ones and keeping up with that business of educating themselves.   They did a stellar job.   I am so thankful for them.   Again.
Daniel got a bit lonely for adult companionship one afternoon and  pulled a snowball ambush upon  our very kind neighbour, Charles, as he emerged from his car at the end of his workday.
Charles was nearly injured in the snowball fight which followed, and claims to be working out with weights  in preparation for our next trip out of town.  Otherwise, it all went well.  Or so they say.

We returned home at the end of last week and then everybody skiied on Monday, even Jon.  That was a special treat.   It was extra cold and icy, and the skiing was FAST, but it was a great day.   One of our favourite Valentine’s Days in a long long time.

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I believe  we’re now in  the second half of the seventh week of 2011.   And, as I had hoped, we are winding up week ten of Tapestry of Grace.  We aren’t on the official  (and very optimistic) schedule of the publisher, but we  are on schedule according to my plan so it’s all good as far as I can see.

We’re into the late 1920’s, financial crises, increasing turmoil in post-war Europe, getting ready for darker days ahead.

And I’m cramming extra large doses of grammar instruction down various gullets, as it has come to my attention  that a love of grammar in not innate for everyone, and none of my little darlings have inherited mine.  I thought my children would be born with a craving for  sentence diagramming.   Turns out they took after their dad on this one.   This will soon be remedied!

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And here, for a little artistic break, are some of Maggie’s projects from this morning.    First, a blackline drawing which she off-handedly describes as (from left to right)

This is the Dad, this is the little boy…….and this is the angry policeman.”

We wonder what the rest of the story is, but when I asked, she just flicked her wrist and went on to fill the next piece of blank paper.

Later, having grown weary of the simplicity of pen and ink,  she made some flowers to brighten our gray snowy world.   She had a little help from Audrey…….

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Meanwhile, the  sweater I am knitting for David has not been seen or heard of on this blog in a few weeks.  So, everybody asks,  what’s the deal with that?

First, I took a week away from working on it so that I could attend a class called ” Tips and Tricks for Finishing Your Knitted Garment.”    I signed up for this class because I was so nervous and unprepared for the job of putting this sweater together.
Last time I put a sweater together, it looked like it was  tailor made for a chimp with one arm five inches higher than the other.  Sadly, it was knitted in the most beautiful garnet mohair, so it was a tragically  freakish deformity knitted in elegant yarn.

For this “finishing” class, students were required to knit up several oddly shaped pieces, which we then brought to class and practiced our new finishing tricks on.
I was by far the least skilled knitter in the class of 15.  And, of course, I was closest to the instructor, so she was continually grabbing my work to show to the class.
The first time, she didn’t really check to see if it was done correctly before hoisting it aloft and saying “Let’s see how Missy did…”   She then looked closely at the knitted piece,  and then at me, and said “This is terrible!    Were you even listening to my instructions?”           ****Mortifying****
But, I learned it before the class was done, and now I can do it just like the rest of those ladies.

In that class,  we talked a fair bit about how and why a knitter might  decide if a piece of  work  has too many errors in it to be “wearable”.   So,  I came home and looked at David’s sweater, which consisted of the entire trunk up to the arm-pits, and the beginnings of both sleeves.    I started taking note of all the things I didn’t like about the way it was turning out.   And there were just too many little things that I was not happy with.
So…….  I pulled it off the needles.
And last Saturday, I started the whole thing over.

The new sweater is on the left, and I think the most important improvement in it is not photographable, and that is the texture and weight it now has.  It’s so much denser and more substantial.  So, I am really glad I went ahead and abandoned the old one and built it all new.  I don’t think I’ll be as reluctant to begin again in the future, if it looks like that’s the better option.

Here are both sweater attempts.
When Audrey saw what I was doing, she gave the most heartfelt groan of sympathy, which really made it all feel much less lonely and hopeless.   It’s always nice to have an empathetic friend!

In the new and improved sweater, I have used a long tail cast-on which has given the ribbing at the waist a much stronger and straighter edge.   I have also doubled the yarn, and am knitting two skeins together on size 9  needles (instead of one two ply strand on size 6 needles).   Now, it’s knitting up faster, thicker, more substantial, warmer, and the tweedy colors are blending better.  I love it now.   In five days, I have got as much sweater knitted up as I had previously done in six weeks.   So, I am now almost exactly where I was when I abandoned the first attempt.  Apparently, I’m  really slow to pick up new skills.    For me,  perseverance is the only way.

Now,  I’m using this little success story of mine with quite a heavy hand, as I encourage my young home-schooled writers not to fear having to write and re-write and then re-write  again until their work is of good quality.   Sometimes my “life lessons from knitting” really tax the patience of my family, I’m noticing.

I think that the next several weeks will be packed with school, dentists, music lessons, skiing, friends visiting every Friday, and a little bit of interior decorating.   Not very spicy, but all very nice.    It’s sometimes just good to be home.

Fear No Idea


My husband often tells our children that they should fear no idea.  He wants them to read widely, to ask difficult questions and to listen to opinions which are different from our own. He wants them to understand God well, and to understand the world well.  Once they have a broad understanding of the character of the God who created the universe, and how that God has worked through history, they will have a perfect vantage point and perspective for understanding any ideas men can invent.

I recently was in the company of Christian parents who would not permit their children to read books written by non-Christian writers.  Their desire to protect their children is admirable, but it may leave their kids unprepared for real life.  Our kids need to learn to take an idea, an argument, a piece of literature or philosophy apart and really try to digest and understand it, to appreciate its beauty and identify its errors.  I want them  to see that even the most enormous human ideas are swallowed up by the truth of God.  And how glorious is that!

If they reach adulthood having never understood these things they will be lacking  the tools they need to navigate their culture.  And when we cannot navigate, we are more likely to live in fear.  And fear is like a yoke of slavery.  And Galatians 5:1 says  “1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

My wish for my kids is that they will go out into the world knowing that as children of God they are hosts and hostesses of the earth.  I want them to fear no idea, and to be able to stand up confidently and answer, graciously, any one who challenges their beliefs.

Once in a while, Christians question the books that I and my children read….the ones listed on our book list pages here.  I have been told that we should stick to Christian authors only.  But really, knowing that there is much to be gained from Christian authors, I believe that to read them exclusively would put us in a kind of literary monastery ….isolated from so many great ideas and basing our academic choices on fear.   Of course  there are books we don’t bother reading, but not because we fear them….

And with these thoughts in mind, I was pretty tickled to read some good words at The Christian Reader this afternoon…..the entire post can be found at the link there under the title of “No’ Scottish”, but here is a little taste of that good article.

“The world thinks we’re buffoons and morons who only hold to religion because we’re too dumb to think for ourselves. Never do they dream that they are standing in an epistemological quagmire as they laugh at us who are standing on solid ground. They don’t realize that an abyss is yawning underneath them, and the only reason they get their next breath is because of the grace of God. Unfortunately, most of us don’t seem to realize it either. Many of us can therefore neither offer them any help, nor honor the Lord with a stout and ready defense. I’ve heard some of the dumbest things come out of Christian mouths, and it makes me want to cringe. Our minds ought to be as clean and sharp and efficient as a well-oiled machine. C.S. Lewis once said:

God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But, fortunately, it works the other way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.

It’s only cowardice and laziness that keeps us from being what we are supposed to be in this area, and that’s simply no’ Scottish at all.”

Tapestry of Grace Year Four: Weeks 6-9 all at once!

I would like to say, for any mother who might ever pop in here looking for encouragement regarding
Tapestry of Grace Year Four   (which is the year we are working through at the moment)
we are having a crazy high carnival  of a  time now  working through materials which cover four weeks of work……. and my advice is
* do not try this at home. *

This should only be attempted by professionals.

I have never been in this situation before.  We are spread across weeks six through nine.   And when we get together daily, sometimes twice daily, to cover the discussion of what was going on in Europe after WWI, during the Russian Revolution, as American women were fighting for the vote, and as the African colonies were scrambling for independence and India followed suit, and then we must deal with the decline of family values in Europe and America, and, Oh wait, here comes Hitler……

I have never wandered  across even two weeks of Tapestry of Grace material before.   And I hope never to do this again.   Organizing the teaching notes and assignments is something like governing a tribal  state, and I am only able to manage it with sticky notes in five  different colors.
My assignment calendar looks like an Indian head-dress with all these neon-tone stickies hanging out everywhere.

So I have to explain how this mess happened.
Last year we were studying Tapestry of Grace Year Two.
So, we should have done Year Three this year.
BUT,  when we did Year Three four years ago,  we did such a thorough job….such an eviscerating job,  that my kids asked very politely, hat in hand and all, if we might skip it this time and go straight into Year Four, which is modern history, and which we have not studied together before.

So, I agreed that skipping Year 3 was a good idea, …….almost……
We didn’t do the entire curricula for Year 3, we just hit the high points
.

From August 1 until September 15, we did a lightening tour of the first 18 weeks  of Year 3…..which took us from the colonization of America well into the  American Revolution and some of the French Revolution.
Then we left all books behind, and hopped off to Norway and England for a very edifying four week long field trip.
And when we returned we hit the high points of American Governmnent and the Industrial Revolution over three weeks time.
Then we jumped right into World War One, which we studied  deeply and with relish for four weeks.
Then came Christmas 2010, (and that famous New Years Day party at which we had 200 people, having expected only 100….and I was slow to recover from that.)

Then various children took ill in various ways, and I followed them.   And  that’s when I gave assignments which took part of one week, and attached them to assignments from a portion of another week.   Then, I found that in order to cover the literature well, we needed to go back and re-coup some of the discussions and reading we had missed.   So, rather than a straight line of reading, discussing and writing up our work which is the much more desirable norm, we are in a crazy quilt mulligatawny juggling act.   So we’re working through the last dregs of  “Socialism compared to a Totalitarian State”,  Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky from Weeks 6 and 7,   the last  bits and pieces of the postwar national boundaries debacle in Europe which is in Weeks 7 and 8, various literature discussions from 6, 7, 8 and even 9, and then the introduction of Hitler as a young pup who took pathetic Germany by the horns.   And then there is the Jazz Age, Women’s suffrage,  Realist Literature, and applied Marxism.

The big kids read Animal Farm over the past three days, and loved it.  Thanks to Marcia Somerville’s excellent curricula and Spielvogel’s Western Civilization text and Pipe’s Whys of the Russian Revolution they have such a good understanding of the  all the architects of the revolution and the climate in Europe at that time.   They enjoyed figuring out for themselves which animals in the book represent which historical individuals, and I sat back and watched and wished I had enjoyed it so much when I was their age.   Their love of learning is more fun than a chocolate dessert for me.   When I read Animal Farm in highschool, it was an ugly ordeal.  That’s true of many aspects of my education.  This second go-round is really a joy.  When I was young,   I had no good understanding of the finer points of all the drama in Europe during the Revolution, or allegory, or even of the beauty of dystopia and the wisdom we can find in it,  if we can only understand it.

There’s a bit of travel happening for us beginning in two days….but I’m aiming at having us all back in line, doing ONLY Week ten, beginning next Monday.

So, around my house it’s all about totalitarian regimes and dark periods of history……except that the kids were remarking today that it is beautiful to notice that at the precise time in history that Europe was entering this sad time,  and  great misery brought about by evil men was overtaking so many ,many lives….. in North America, freedom and peace and optimism were peaking…..it was such a time of blessing and opportunity.
It would seem that even as God appeared to have almost turned his back on many in Europe, such a gracious hand of richness was being extended to another place on earth.
He is always here, He is always at work.
And the sustaining hand of God  was not absent from the Russians or the Germans.

But the ways of God are not the ways of men.  And God doesn’t do things the way we might.

And how lovely to find scripture to remind me that nothing is new to God, nothing surprises Him, and we are all a part of a story which He is writing.   I was looking around in Isaiah for something else, and found this…….

6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

Isaiah 55:6-14

And that was so encouraging to me.   God will accomplish what he desires, and He has a purpose in history.   And it is all for His renown.

And Hitler and Lenin and Stalin and war are nothing before Him.