Saturday, July 07, 2007

Henty: Lion of the North

Several years ago, Henty books were all the rage among some homeschoolers. Although some homeschoolers hated these historical fiction books, many were ga-ga over them. Some families said they were dry. Others said the books were full of adventure and had noble heroes and that the stories would help build character while being entertaining.

I wasn't interested. "So many books; so little time," y'know.

But we got to the point that I wanted to know more about the history of the Thirty Years War. The kids had no driving, desperate need to study a different time period in history, so we bought two Henty books set during the Thirty Years War. We also bought Genevieve Foster's The World of Captain John Smith which covers events throughout the world from 1580-1631. (We love these Foster books!)

So yesterday we finished our very first Henty book. It was okay. I have absolutely no desire to read other books of his unless it's something that will be hard to get information on. We'll be reading Won by the Sword to get the second half of the Thirty Years War. But I'm not going to bother with his books on Egyptian history or the Civil War.

Lion of the North was hard to read. There were so many characters to keep track of, so many battles, so many numbers thrown around (how many soldiers in each army, how many infantry, how many cavalry, how many dragoons). We heard more than we could absorb about the strategy and tactics and maneuvers of various battles. The vocabulary was way beyond me, but the boys helped me out with military terms, and we hauled out the dictionary frequently. Henty's sentences have as many subordinate clauses and prepositional phrases as does the Apostle Paul's writing. It took me till we were halfway through the book before I got the feel of it well enough to "edit on the fly" as we read. Forget making it understandable to the kids -- I needed to dumb it down so that I could understand. (Do you know how puny-minded I feel when I think that there are 12-yr-old homeschooled boys who read these books for jollies??)

All that said, though, it wasn't too bad a story. We learned about the era. The story was definitely a boy-story, but there was a wee touch of romance in there. I won't know until we read the next one, but I suspect that Henty was a "formula writer" from 150 years ago. Some parts of the story just didn't quite add up, but it was okay anyhow. We do need a break, though, before going on to the next volume. We have a math story to read, and a Freddy book, and the Foster history book on the time period.


It's days like this when I really wish my friends weren't spread so far across the country. In times of celebration (or times of sorrow) you can't always be there to share in life's joys (or struggles).

Today is a day of joy for some dear Texans. Christ's blessings to Lynea and Jason as their lives are joined together!

Friday, July 06, 2007


Someone asked me a question about Andy. I drew a blank. Casting through the recesses of my brain, I couldn't for the life of me figure out who we were talking about or what the topic was. I couldn't even figure out anything in the conversation that could've led us to discussing this Andy-guy and what he was up to.

Finally I gave up. "Andy WHO?"

The person looked at me with the biggest "duh!" look on her face: "Well, your son, of course!"

My son is NOT Andy. He's Andrew. Of course, I can't hold the use of the nickname against somebody; lots of people do go by the shortened form. But still, please, they oughtn't be surprised when I don't know who they're talking about. Phil for Philip is something I can "hear" because it's the first half the name. Same for Sue. It usually registers in my brain when somebody says Sue that they're talking to me -- but seeing it in print still looks funny to me. But when somebody goes to Susie, that doesn't click in my brain at all. They may as well call me Gloria or Betty as to call me Susie; the response from me would be the same.

Couch Potato

Pastor talks about hanging onto God's word of promise against all evidence to the contrary. When he talks about how affliction "exercises" our faith, I'm not sure I want exercise. Unfortunately, sometimes I just want to be a couch potato. But nevertheless, what Pastor says is true. (And when you get to the last sentence, you realize that it is good.) Following is a brief excerpt from a recent Bible class:

He wants you to live by joyous confident faith in His mercy, even though you've got people that smack you down. In the story of the Canaanite woman (Mt 15), we have the experience in our life sometimes that He is not listening or not answering. What does this mean? Does it mean that He sometimes doesn't care? No. Does it mean that He sometimes has turned a deaf ear to us? No. Whatever it is that He allows us to pass through -- whatever it is! -- it is always to exercise our faith in His goodness, in His love, in the Gospel of His Son. Always! Our sinful reason and sinful flesh will never conclude this. Sometimes it might actually be salutary if we suffer a while, if we have a cross laid upon us for a while. Sometimes that teaches us to despair completely of ourselves. It is always the will of God in the face of such crosses to draw us ever closer to His Son.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Much to my dismay, people started in on the Bedroom-Painting Project earlier this week. We were going to do it a month ago, when the formerly 3-person bedroom was down to one occupant. But we hadn't gotten to it. This has been a joint venture like none in our home before. Maggie helped move out furniture on Monday. Walls were sanded on Tuesday by Gary. I washed walls and ceiling yesterday. Paul placed the masking tape last night. Andrew and I put on the Kilz around the edges, and Paul painted on Kilz with the roller. Maggie leaned against the wet wall, ruining a pair of pants and giving herself grey hair. If I can stay up late and do the coat of paint, maybe the kids will be able to start the Big Bedroom Switcheroo tomorrow.

I still can't decide whether to buy a queen-sized bed for the bigger bedroom, leaving a double bed in the smaller bedroom. Or if I should buy a twin bed for the small room, putting the double in the big bedroom. It'd be nice for company to have a queen bed. But Maggie really wants a desk in her room, and that room is just mighty snug for a double bed and a desk and a dresser (as Paul currently knows well).

I also arrived home this afternoon to find that the boys had cleaned the garage. It still needs some sorting and some stuff thrown away. But it's so much improved! So we have two big projects nearly done. (Only 497 big projects to go???)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Laundry Discontent

What if there were a child who could not pick up socks? What if that child could not manage to get any dirty clothes off the floor? What if that child, when about to be caught by the Big Bad Mother, decided to stuff dirty clothes, wadded up, into the drawer of clean clothes? (I know. I know. This is so far-fetched as to be almost unbelievable. But just stretch your imagination....) Imagine also that this child is so opposed to picking up clothes that sometimes it's just easier to throw clean clothes (perhaps something she tried on, or wore for 15 minutes) into the dirty-clothes hamper so that she doesn't have to be bothered with folding it and putting it away in her drawer or on a hanger.

The Big Bad Mother decides that it is important to teach such a child some basic self-care skills. The BBM thinks that learning to brush teeth and brush hair and pick up clothes is even more important than math and spelling. The BBM spends an entire school year making such simple skills the priority of the day, trying to pass on the responsibility for these skills to the child. After months, it appears that maybe a little of this is beginning to sink in. So the mother continues to back off slowly, checking up on the child periodically, and normally finding those skills slipping -- slowly at first, but then precipitously.

How can this be remedied? The logical solution would be to allow "natural consequences" (one of those buzzwords in parenting advice today). If the child does not put the dirty clothes in the hamper, child will have to do her own laundry. But she wouldn't. She is perfectly content to wear clothes with ketchup splotches and peanut butter smears. There's also the problem that the Big Bad Mother would have to buy more clothes for the child, so as to make a whole load of laundry, and not allow the child to wash 3 shirts, thus wasting water and electricity and detergent. Buying more clothes involves also finding more dresser-space to store such clothes. And more clothes just means that soon the bedroom dresser will no longer be resting on its feet, but perched precariously on the pile of clothing that has been smashed under it, causing it (to all outward appearances) to be levitating.

Another solution would be to engage in that whole "behavior modification" thing. But when the Big Bad Mother is already stressed with too much to do, too much to keep track of, too many places to be, too many lessons to teach, the last thing BBM needs is to be monitoring whether Messy Child gets a star or a demerit every 15 minutes. Besides, BBM already tried something like that, and as soon as the mother's constant involvement is curtailed, bad habits return like a stubborn weed.

Sometimes it seems entirely hopeless.

Icky Poo

As much fun as it is, nevertheless I think I never never never want Icky Poo in my house again. Working on painting a bedroom, I see the stains on the ceiling from Icky Poo games in past years. When I painted the living room, there was no way to eliminate those stains. Washing the ceiling, 3 or 4 coats of Kilz, and two coats of paint STILL didn't get rid of the Icky Poo marks.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Words Given

I am trusting Thee for power;
Thine can never fail.
Words which Thou Thyself shalt give me
Must prevail.

Are the words given to me
words put into my mouth?
Or words put into my ear by someone else's mouth?

And does anybody else find it interesting that God's power is found in the words given to us (presumably the words planted into our ears by our preachers, and not "given to us" to speak)?

Too Much Stuff

When Gary and I drove to town yesterday to drop off the Camry for repairs, we noticed a new little shop. It sells jet-skis. It's across the road from a store that sells pontoons and ski boats. A few miles away, closer to the lake, other stores sell the same big expensive toys. Just how many of these businesses can there be, without saturating the market?

For the last week, Maggie's been begging to buy a new purse. We must have a dozen purses downstairs that have come to us with hand-me-downs. And we have only a dozen because I keep hauling purses off to Goodwill. Maggie and I have been butting heads about whether she needs a purse, or whether she just wants to spend money for something new, anything new.

At dinner yesterday, we were discussing books and bookshelves. We like the library. No need to buy the books. No need to buy more bookshelves to hold books. No need to dust books. No need to keep track of what we buy. Of course, some books are needed, but we're usually happier borrowing them. So Maggie asked why Rachel keeps buying books and books and books.

We decided it was because Rachel has not yet come to the point of being oppressed by many possessions. But when I think about Maggie's desire for a new purse when she already has many, when I think about the jet-skis and snowmobiles and Harleys available, when I think about destination weddings, when I think about the advertisements and commercials that surround us,
I think not many people in this society realize possessions can bring oppression as easily as they can bring help and/or freedom.

Monday, July 02, 2007


A new couple at church moved here recently, and their property has lots of woods with lots of black raspberries in the undergrowth. They invited us out to partake of the bounty. The kids and I traipsed through the brambles and brought home nearly 2 gallons.

First project was jam. I tried to sieve the pulp to remove most of the seeds. Oh my goodness! That took forever. I spent over an hour just pressing pulp through the sieve. Seedy jam would've been finished a LOT faster. But boy oh boy, it's good.

Pie was the second project. It's cooling and looks delicious. But the overflow was the worst I've ever seen, and now the oven is on self-clean.


Pastor was talking about Jesus, sorrowing in the Garden on Maundy Thursday, and how it wasn't lack of faith, but sorrow over those who would not believe and sorrow over being separated from the Father. Likewise, Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He also wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Pastor pointed out that Jesus knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, but still He wept.

We tend to think it's good to be tough in the face of death or other grief. We talk approvingly about the widow who doesn't cry during the funeral. We want people to "get over it" quickly. But what is this mystery that Jesus, the sinless Son of God, mourned ... even when He knew that Lazarus would be reunited with Him in a few minutes? I appreciated Pastor's firm reminders that people should be allowed to grieve at their own pace, and not be told that their grief is taking too long and that they should get on with life already. Whether it's death or some other loss that devastates a person, it only makes it worse to be told that "you're taking too long to get over this."

Sunday, July 01, 2007


The self-help group for compulsive talkers:
On and On Anon.

The PC term term for "beer belly":
Liquid Grain Storage Facility.

The girl brought her boyfriend home to meet her parents. He had greasy hair and a torn t-shirt and bad posture. He didn't shake hands when they met. He had a foul mouth. There was an air of hostility about him. After he left, the father worried to his daughter that the boy didn't seem like a very nice person. She responded, "Dad, if he weren't a nice person, why would he be doing 500 hours of community service??"