the first week in review

The first week back to school, after any event, is always a challenge.  I think I’ve said that before.  And I have learned not to pin too many hopes on that first week.

So this week, we just aimed at getting everybody minimally back up to speed in math, science and grammar.   And I also planned on doing a whole lot of group discussion so we could all remember what it was we were studying in history  last month.
We all wanted to get started memorizing Philippians 1:1-6 together.
I had a pile of war poetry, written by WWI soldiers,  to read and discuss.
And I wanted to get everybody to work on  persuasive  essay projects that would sound enticing.
One of the kids is writing an essay trying to convince the president to join the League of Nations, another  is  writing a proposal to a friend to join her in a business venture, another is writing a paper to persuade her dad that  a vegetable garden would benefit his mental and physical health…..and Daniel is writing a paper about why Lego should be in the home (and all over the floor) of every 8yr old boy.    I’m leaving somebody out, but that happens all the time.

Persuasive essays are a great favorite.  For a brief moment, they are being told that it’s OK to smear their opinions all over somebody else……and that’s way more fun than writing a book report.

I was also hoping, just hoping, that after the disorganization of the past two weeks we could squeak everybody through piano lessons today without too much shame.  And they did it!    They surpassed all my expectations.    I nearly cried.

So,  Hallelujiah, We made it…..on all points.  This has not happened before, I’m sure.  I always fall flat this first week after the break, and it’s always a bit discouraging.  But not this time.
So, I’m pumped now.  I’m taking this as a sign.  We’re about to have a killer second half of the year.

And on top of all that, we got winter.      Here’s our street this afternoon.
And Maggie learned to ice-skate today.
We all went skiing Monday and we tried to teach Maggie to ski.  And that was a comedy show.   She went up the kiddie hill on the magic carpet, sobbing most of the way.  Then she cried in a howling sort of way,  all the way down the hill.  Three times.   Then she went back up for the fourth run, and when she got off the belt at the top, she amazed us all by reaching back, unfastening her  bindings, stepping out of  her skis and marching down the hill.
I gathered up the skis and followed her.
I wish I had a photo…..just try to imagine a three year old dressed up like a hot-pink astronaut stomping down a snowy hill, grim determination and hot chocolate  all over her face.

She can ski next year.   This year she’ll skate, and that’s enough for me.

Oh, and I even got David’s sweater started.   I have never actually made a sweater that  anyone would wear.   So far, I’m just good at flat items.    So here’s the ribbing for the waistband, and I’m working my way up.   I can tell you now that once I get to the arms, and have to actually attach those babies, I’m going to be melting in a pool of sweaty anxiety.   Knitting Drama.  Stay Tuned!

Complaining Women

Here  is a post I wrote almost a year ago at my old blog.
The post below this one which links to Doug Wilson’s article on keeping family matters private made me think of it.
So, I rummaged around and found it.
I promise I will not run it every January.
Here it is again:

I want to unburden myself of some thoughts on women who complain about their inlaws.

Somebody else can write a post on men who are fussers.

This one is for the ladies, because I am pretty well convinced that women’s complaining can absolutely destroy a family.  The collateral damage is then often permanent, or at least very slow and difficult to heal.

When my  husband and I first married, I had the same temptation most other women have to pick away at the habits, tastes, food, holiday traditions… name it….of my in-laws.  I think I might have thought that I could pull all his loyalty over to my camp by enlightening him to the shortcomings of his ancestors and his home country.

Jon very wisely told me to just cut it out, as they were not only His family, they were now My family.

And so, despite feeling very much un-loved by my mother in law, I determined to be kind and polite and to not give her any reason to complain about me.  And I really made an effort to grow a sweeter attitude toward her.  This is what it means to honour my husband in such a situation, and it’s also what it means to honour my mother, even if she’s my mother-in-law.  And the most amazing thing happened!   As I stopped thinking about her the wrong way, I stopped talking about her the wrong way, and it became apparent to her, and she and I really came to love one another.   I had to get my heart in line first.  And then came such a sweet reward.

The result of this is that I have a really lovely relationship with my in-laws.  All of them.

By not complaining about them and by purposefully looking for the best in them, I have really learned to love them.   Had I complained about them on and on for the past 17 years, I would certainly have built up such a stockpile of reasons not to be kind to them, that there would be no harmony at all between us now.

And as some of this family are growing older and in need of extra doses of respect and kindness and understanding, I am so thankful for habits of respect and kindness with them.

These make it less difficult to figure out “What is the best way to love them in this hard time…..”

As wives, if we complain to our husbands about their parents or siblings, if we try to “help” by shining a brighter light on the failings and inconsistencies of the ones who raised them and prepared them for life with US…..we are destroying the fiber of their families.  One thread at a time perhaps, but we are destroying it.
The casualties of this will be elderly parents who don’t receive the best care, and also our own children who don’t have that blanket of loving family.
And when it is the turn for those children to look after us, how lonely we will be if we have trained them to complain and criticize the family.

Wilson on Not Airing our Dirty Laundry

Nancy Wilson shared this link to an article written by her husband on the subject of husbands and wives not chatting all over town about their differences with one another.    Doug Wilson is taking aim at “Christian transparency” which encourages us to share all the messes of our lives and our family members’s lives with people  outside the protected confines of the family.
Nancy describes this article as “helpful”.   I think that’s an understatement of the highest degree.

One of my favorite lines from this article is this one:

“A tiff, properly contained, is what it is. But a tiff performed on stage is a species of high contempt for the other person.”

It is an excellent post!   And one that can be well applied to all family members, as it’s not only spouses who like to discuss the shortcomings of others which would be better kept confidential.    It can also be parents, sibling, in-laws, me, you…..

Encouragement as we Re-enter the Atmosphere

Home education re-commences here at our house today, after a three week break.   It was a refreshing break, but executing a graceful return to routine is sometimes a challenge.

We all have to work together the first week to get the ship back in the water, so to speak.  And sometimes there’s a fair bit of lurching and scrambling before we have smooth sailing again.

By good providence this morning, Jon and I woke up at 4am without the alarm.   So I got an extra hour of quiet this morning to read and prepare.   That was such a sweet gift!

And after I finished my regular readings, I had a little time to follow a few rabbit trails in search of some good ideas to share with my kids. (I am in 2 Kings now, also reading through Psalm where I am at Psalm 141, and reading a Proverb a day, and trying to memorize Philippians with a few others.)

My reading in Philippians made me think I wanted to find a good bit of scripture to pray for the kids, and the widow with the oil in 2 Kings 4  had caused me to stop and wonder  how well I am teaching my kids to expect really big things from God.   So with these two ideas in mind, I went to the back of my Thompson Chain Reference.

After some meandering around,    I ended up in Ephesians 3:14 – 19, where Paul is praying for the Ephesians, saying:

“…I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through this Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge   – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

And that is a great thing to be praying for the kids today!    So I’m praying for that for us all.  Think of what it will be like to see that prayer being answered in our lives.   For us to be strengthened through the Spirit in our inner being, I understand that kind of strength and I want it more.  That is strength to stand firm for what’s right, and to lean on the Spirit for confidence in the truth of what we’ve been taught.  That would lead to all kinds of outrageous obedience.   Being rooted and established in love would mean, for one thing, that we would not be rooted and established in always having to be the one who is right, always having to have our own way.   We would be extending ourselves for one another all over the place.

And this business of grasping how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ is huge.  It sounds huge.  He’s saying that it’s more enormous than our ability to naturally grasp and understand it.  It means that God has to stretch our minds and hearts so we can  understand.  I want that.  And I want that for my family.

And then, in my little journal where I keep notes on whatever I am reading, I was looking around, and stumbled upon a quote from John Bunyan.   This is a little passage from his book All Loves Excelling , and is speaking about exactly those verses in Ephesians.   How cool is that!   And it’s such a wonderful and encouraging paragraph, I have to share it:

“The High God is yours;  the God that fills heaven and earth is yours;  the God whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain is yours, yea, the God whose works are wonderful, and whose ways are past finding out, is yours!  Consider therefore the greatness that is for you, that taketh part with you, and that will always come in for your help against them that contend with you.     It is my support, it is my relief, it is my comfort in all my tribulations,  and I would have it be yours, and so it will when we live in the lively faith thereof.”

And what could be more encouraging than that?   I hope everybody who’s reading this can share in this prayer, as this great God is yours and He wants you to understand who He is.

Please be careful in this New Year

I saw this video at Dan Philip’s blog.

It’s  part of a campaign launched by AT&T to discourage cell-phone texting while driving.

I have some really precious teenagers at my house, and found these stories heartbreaking.

Let’s all take really good care of one another  in 2011.


For 2011, I am resolving to do one thing in a very new way.
This year,I’m not making a long impressive list of resolutions.
I think anyone who has read any blog of mine for any amount of time at all would agree that
I am some kind of “Resolution Queen”  I make a lovely list every year,
always with a mix of old resolutions and new.
And I have kept those lists, and when I look over them
I can only agree with the woman I was when  I wrote them that they are really excellent goals.
Some are more enticing,  some are more attainable , and some are more practical than others.
All have value.
All my resolutions over the years have, to a greater or lesser degree, been helpful to me .
Whether or not they have been achieved fully, they have all raised my sights and my standards in some way.
A new year is a new beginning, and a great time to start fresh.
It marks a launching pad from which it is almost natural to sort of re-pack your bags,
check the map and plot a better course.
And to do those things is wise.
So, I don’t ever want to become cynical at the prospect of New Year’s resolutions.
In fact, I’ll have a nice list of resolutions for 2012.
But this year, I’m resolving to not leap out and grab more projects, bigger and more beautiful.
This year, I’m just going to take the projects I have and slow down with them all, giving them better attention.   I’m going to focus on schooling my kids in a quieter way,  focussing on the details and fine-tuning the daily disciplines better.
Focusing on listening to what I have been taught, so I can apply it better.
This idea seems so obvious!
To give it my keener attention, though,  is  really necessary.
This simple plan grows out of my resolution for last year, which was to use the stuff I had better.
I think that the theme of 2010 was for me to look around at the abundance of what I have……the curricula,  the cookbooks,  the clothing,  the closet space,  the home-schooling room, the art supplies, the skills, the raw materials in my home…..and try and get better use from it all.    That was not a very glamorous resolution.   But it was HUGE!
For me to “smaller” myself, focusing of being thankful for what we have and using it better was much needed and really illuminating.
I have come to see more clearly (a bit more clearly)  my character flaws of laziness and wastefulness.   These are  flaws which have been plain and obvious to many others, and it is quite humbling to begin to understand how much they have gotten in the way of good productivity and a smooth running house.
So, to continue in this way is essential.
To look at my day and our schooling plans with an eye to get the most use of what’s been provided for us will continue to be Goal Number One.
And since last year the focus was on using the physical resources more wisely and well, the next step in the progression would seem to be that I use the teachings I have received better.  So my thought for 2011 is that this will be the year when I learn better how to apply the things I know.
I have a better understanding now, compared to a year ago, of how easily I waste
the “stuff” in my life.
Having some clearer insights about my failure over the years to use curricula, supplies, groceries, space….etc, and to get the most from what was provided by God for me,
I am sure that I am also failing to get the full value of all that I am reading, hearing, and seeing.
So, if there is a resolution for this year, it is to pay closer attention to what I am reading,
to what God has already instructed me to do,
to what my husband has asked me to do,
to the spoken requests of my children,
to the great possibilities set before me in the books and resources we have right here under our roof for the purpose of educating our children.
We have so much to be thankful for, and God has been really outrageously gracious to our family.
So I just want to faithfully use it all better, and to do so with a heart of thanksgiving.

We are still Americans…..

And we are so very pleased and proud to be so.
But, seven years in Canada has brought not only  wonderful people but new dimension to our lives.

Two examples, just from today:

My previous resistance to hockey (and its expense, the equipment that fills the garage, the blood on the ice) is gone.

Right after breakfast, the boys all rampaged down the road to the ice rink, only Daniel paused long enough for a photo.

And our dietary limitations are also being challenged.  This little chunk of Moose meat is dinner tonight.  No Foolin’.

If you want to see how that moose meat turned out, there’s a picture of it on the dinner blog, at this link.

I made this book for Jon……

I have found that  in my marriage,  as the years have rolled on and Jon and I  have become a better unit with a clearer sense of purpose together and a keener sensation of having become “one” organism, I am very nearly overwhelmed at the prospect of how to express what he means to me in a wrapped  gift.

I cannot  any longer simply walk  into Best Buy and find “just the thing” for him.
And as I was knitting everybody else’s gifts, one might expect I would knit up something for him.
The trouble with that is that his dear mother, Elza, is among the most outrageously talented knitters on the planet.
She knits fabulous Norwegian sweaters in four or five colors, while watching television and chatting with guests, and jumping up from time to time to check on dinner.

Her work is always beautiful, and I cannot compete.

All this is meant to explain why  my gift to Jon was not a sweater, but this little book.

It’s a book of quotes and thoughts and ideas from books I have read over the past year and also from really great blogs and websites where Puritan passages are still alive and well, and sermons are recorded, and hymns are written up like poetry, and it’s all available for our great edification.
The idea for this project began last year as the kids and I were redoubling our efforts to keep our copy books more diligently.  I found that there were so many little passages and quotes and verses that Jon would have loved.

Then my good friend Jeanine mentioned that her pastor’s wife had made something similar, and she gave me some good ideas and encouragement.

So I started a book for him, with a date at the top of each page, going through the year, so that he has a page of something encouraging to read, to kick off his day at work, or maybe for a little moment with coffee later on.

Jon is faithful about always having an hour in scripture every morning at 5:30, and with that in mind, I used scripture for only about half the days in the book.

When I used scripture, I used Psalms, written in their entirety, long passages from Ephesians and Philippians, some pages are headed with topics like “Wisdom”  “Forgiveness”  “Grace” or “Speech”  and have verses which apply to these subjects.
The rest are full of the thoughts of people like Thomas Watson, Jeremiah Burroughs, J.C Ryle, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones,  John Flavel, Octavius Wnslow, Charles Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards…….and many more good theological thinkers.    I used ten or more of the poems from The Valley of Vision .

There are also days filled with quotes by Aristotle, Plato, EB White, Confucius, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Julia Child, Bill Cosby, Calvin and Hobbes, Andy Rooney, PG Wodehouse, and there is even a day (April Fools Day I think) which is dedicated to ridiculous statements made by Jennifer Lopez.

So, I believe that all bases are covered.

It’s not a beautiful book, not in a really artistic sense.  It’s full of quotations and wise words from other people, and there are only a handful of pages which I wrote entirely on my own.

I want to just say that the one who got the greatest gift here was not my sweet husband.  It was me.  During the year of writing this book, as we made some really hard decisions for our family, the daily work of putting this book together sometimes compelled me to look for wisdom and comfort for myself in the places that were hard for me and for us, and I found such great comfort in the scripture studied topically, in the wise words of puritans who had already thought through many of my questions, and in the words of the Valley of Vision and Spurgeon and Edwards especially.

Wives out there, here is a great project that will bless you richly, and hopefully it will bless your men as well.

But you better start it soon……a year is almost what it takes to do a nice job on a book like this.

Hand made Christmas

It’s almost New Years, and before I start talking about resolutions, I want to show some photos of the gifts we made for each other here at our house for Christmas this year.

It was so much fun making these gifts, and such a crazy fun celebration when we opened them all up on Christmas Eve.

Everybody was so enthusiastic and everybody had a couple of things they were just popping to give, and to see how their creations would be received.

Everybody was happy and  laughing, and a couple of people cried.

Here’s a little breakdown of what we unwrapped:

Daniel made a mug for Jon, and some coasters and tiled trivets which we will treasure for years to come.

Maggie glued a hundred buttons onto a basket because she knew that was just what Audrey needed, and she also painted and glued beads and sequins onto a flower pot for Jon into which she planted a Christmas cactus, making him a really dramatic piece of living art for his office.    I addition to these treasures, she made an adorable collection of pompom art animals, complete with googly eyes.   They are almost like a little pompom nativity set.

Helen made a set of festive paper lanterns for Audrey and a painting of a mountain scene which she framed up for Jon to take to work.

Jon made some gorgeous wooden items.  One was a beautiful wooden lap desk for Helen, which he tricked out with all kinds of cool calligraphy pens, paper and ink.  So, you can see the writer wearing her new blue shawl here on the left, and here is here lovely desk just below.

Audrey sewed up a cute bag for Helen.

She also made Maggie a soft pink blanket with satin rosebuds on it, under which Maggie is sleeping  as I write here.

Audrey also made some funny T-shirts for the boys which they are wearing in the photos here, and she made  a beautiful collage of black and white photographs for Jon and me.

David made some killer hot-chocolate mix, which is disappearing fast.

Michael made some lovely fragrant candles, and he also  found an old doll sized dresser which belonged to my mother long about 1936.    It was in very poor condition, but he sanded it down,  replaced the mirror, painted it, rebuilt the drawers and made it like new for Maggie.

The queen of all gifts was the wooden knitting box Jon made for me.

It is lovely, lovely.  And I will use it for years to come, and pass it on to one of my girls.

It has three compartments, and one of those has lid with holes especially designed so I can keep yarn in the box, safe and clean, and run it through holes in the lid……and there are three holes in the lid, so I can work with three skeins at a time, if I want.    When I pulled the three boxes apart, I discovered it was packed full of bulky yarn for some great felting project which is yet to be drawn up.   Maybe it will be somebody’s gift next year.

And here is something special Audrey made for me.

It’s a set of twenty one knit markers which she made from silver rings and little blue and green beads.

There’s even an extra large centre marker which I can use for lace knitting, or for marking the beginning of a round on circular needles.

And she’s put them on this funky piece of bent wire which not only looks way cool, it also keeps then from wandering all over that gorgeous box.

Here’s a photo of some knitting that needs pretty markers.  See how boring those little green plastic rings look there.  Imaging that little piece with some groovy beaded markers to set it off.  Maybe then I would finish it!

And in addition to these home-made treasures, there was the annual Christmas slot car stuff, a pile of hockey equipment, an electric keyboard, and various other things that none of us knows how to make, so Jon bought ’em.   Which brings to mind a question that popped into my head Christmas morning:  I wonder how many households have an annual slot-car derby on Christmas Day.   It’s kind of amusing to me that one of the sounds I have come to associate with  Christmas goes along with the sounds of breakfast preparation.

It is the unlikely   sound of those toy  racetracks whining, cars flying off the tracks, and the boys yelling at them while I’m getting the food on the table.  Ruby-red grapefruit, sausage and cheese balls, egg-nog and the sound of those little cars whizzing along and crashing into the furniture.

So much to be thankful for!