Saturday, August 25, 2007


Years ago, we had planned a camping trip with my folks. I had filled the cooler as full as it would go, but I still had a 1-gallon jug of iced tea to take. I figured, hey, no biggie for it to sit out at room temperature for a while. Think of how often we make a cup of hot tea and forget it, and it's fine. Think of how often we leave the jug of iced tea sitting out for hours, and it's fine.

It was a plenty-warm day. We stopped by the library for about an hour on our way to the campground. We stopped by the grocery store briefly. The tea didn't fit in their cooler at the campsite, nor in the little dorm fridge either. So it sat in a shady spot. The next day I anticipated a nice glass of sweet tea, opened the lid, and found white and green fuzz on top. Mold? On tea? In less than 24 hours? Eeeeuuuuuwwww!

The other day, we got to talking about food preservation. Sugar may be bad for you, but it does help preserve food. So do salt and acids (such as vinegar). So does drying. But it's kind of amazing how I can make a jug of sweet tea today, and put 4 ounces of kombucha tea into it, along with a kombucha "mushroom," and a week later there's no spoilage. No mold. No food poisoning. I think about that long-ago gallon of iced tea from our camping trip, and I realize that it's significant that my kombucha doesn't grow mold as it ferments. But that sure sheds light for me on the reasons behind wine-making and beer-making throughout history. Fermenting somehow prevents spoilage.

And I thought I'd learned so much from reading the Little House series. Ma never preserved food that way, though!

Waiting for Synod-Wide Consensus?

Some people think that it is wrong for pastors to commune children prior to end of eighth grade. The most common practice in our church body is to confirm kids at that age, and some people think no one should deviate from that because it causes "disunity" and an uncomfortable feeling for the pastors who are asked about communing a 10-yr-old visitor or transfer.

Lex orandi, lex credendi.
What we pray is what we believe.
Likewise, what we practice influences what we believe.

The practice of confirming/communing children at such a late age has influenced what we believe about worthiness and readiness and discernment. Some pastors come to realize the harm in waiting so long to commune children who yearn to receive the Supper. Should they wait until they have synodical approval to commune 10-yr-olds or 7-yr-olds? How could these pastors even be heard when most of their brothers have come to believe that it's necessary to be 14 (or older) before being capable of being "worthy"? And as the current practice continues, it continues to influence people to accept the error that the Supper is merited by achieving a certain level of education in theology.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Procrastinator Tips

First, a couple of serious ones.

Do the things you most want to do when you have the most energy to do them.

When you're feeling stuck in your work, don't stop working. Wor on something else, like trimming your lawn, cleaning your house, or organizing your closets.

And then some others.

Overworking can kill brain cells; procrastination can re-grow them. Balance the two for optimum health.

If procrastination had only negative consequences, very few people would engage in it.

Big, Bad, Scary Neighbors

Last night Gary and I watched To Kill a Mockingbird. I had an ADD attack and noticed something that's somewhat beside-the-point in the movie: the kids had a big, bad, scary neighbor who wasn't really bad.

When I was little, we had a neighbor across the street that scared all the kids. We were afraid to walk on the sidewalk in front of her house. Some of the kids said she was a witch. I can't remember if she ever actually came out and yelled at any of us or threatened any of us, but we were convinced that she would. I was afraid of getting hit by her broom. Because of the fear factor, it was considered the height of bravery among the children to go do something pesty to her -- like walking on the sidewalk by her house AND making a lot of noise while you did.

I asked Gary if he had neighbors who had a similar reputation. He did.

Is this something common to childhood? Or maybe it WAS common to childhood. My kids grew up without neighbors (for the most part) so there was nobody to be frightened of. It could be that children are allowed outside on their own so little these days, and they have so few friends in the neighborhood these days, and even grown-ups know their neighbors so little these days, that maybe such fears are confined to a bygone era.

But now I wonder if those big, bad, scary neighbors were just nice, normal people who were annoyed by children stealing their apples or berries, or throwing rocks at their roof. Maybe the big, bad, scary neighbors weren't unreasonable at all, but just gained the reputation. I don't know. I guess I'm wondering if I'll grow up to be a big, bad, scary neighbor myself.

Rainy Season

I think I've got everything up off the basement floor or in plastic tubs so that the incoming water won't hurt it. We don't have it bad. Just damp carpet and some small puddles in the basement. Thankfully the sump pump is working diligently. I keep emptying dehumidifiers too. I can't imagine what it's like for others in our area, seeing as how we sit on one of the highest points of the whole township. And then there are people in other townships who live by rivers!

The whole world smells wet and mildewy. It didn't last week. Last week it just smelled wet and muddy. In places that have rainy seasons, how do/did people fight mildew without clothes-dryers and dehumidifiers? Everything is wet. The walls here are wet. Our chairs are wet. We open the kids' schoolbooks and the pages are wet. I'm doing laundry frequently, because the sweaty clothes and rain-dampened clothes can't be air-dried to await laundry day 3-4 days hence.

And Maggie wants to go to the beach.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Not Enough Light?

It's been dark. Two weeks of near-constant rain means dark skies to rival January's short days and lack of sunlight.

Some people swear by the benefits of light-therapy boxes. I wouldn't know. They're expensive and they take too much time/attention to use. However, some measure of relief can be found in simpler and cheaper ways.

Go outside for 20-30 minutes every day. Do it even when it's not very sunny, because there's still more sunlight outdoors than there is in your house. Don't do it early in the morning or late in the day; do it when the sun is reasonably UP in the sky so you get drenched with more of those happy rays. Go outside for your sunshine even though you don't have time for it. Some of us need the sunshine more than we need to brush our teeth or take our showers.

Eliminate curtains if at all possible. Even when they're open, they probably cut down on the light coming in the windows.

"Natural light" bulbs (such as Reveal) don't do what light-therapy does. But they sure serve the purpose in a much better way than plain old fluorescents or incandescents.

Find things to do by your sunny windows. When you're reading books to a kid (to whom you never read enough anyway...) do it by a sunny window. When you're mending, do it by the sunny window. Move your computer to a place near a window. Watch how the cats always find a sunbeam to sit in. Then steal the cat's spot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Check out my friend's primer on what to say to a depressed friend.


There was no end to the kids' curiosity when I was a young mother. We wondered about the stars. We wondered about the cake batter and what each ingredient did. We wondered about the fire trucks. We wondered about certain periods of history. We wondered about what it would be like to live in the Bahamas or Alaska. The kids played dress-up. They acted out scenes from our history read-alouds. They played trucks and dolls. They asked questions (and cared about the answers).

With the younger kids, life was different. A lot of time was spent in doctors' offices and waiting rooms and doing therapy. Life was also different in that the older kids had movies and books and music that were for teenagers, not for little kids. Life was also different in that we'd gotten a usable computer. Curiosity and imagination were not nurtured in the youngest kids as it was in the older ones. And it shows in their attitude toward learning today, and it may affect them the rest of their lives.

A couple of years ago I ran across a book called Raising Curious Kids by Nancy Sokol Green. At the time I thought it looked fun, but it didn't contain anything I didn't already know how to do: questions to ask, goofy experiments to try, projects to experience. The subtitle is "Over 100 Simple Activities to Develop Your Child's Imagination." If there's one thing I could prescribe to make it easier to homeschool high-schoolers, this would be it: start 10-12 years ahead of time, stimulating curiosity and imagination and thinking-outside-the-box in your preschoolers.

Ephesians 2:10

Sunday's epistle concluded with the words
For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

I tend to hear that as proof that God created us for the purpose of Being Good. I also tend to hear that in a rather fatalistic way, like we're robots doing the good works that have been laid out for us to accomplish.

But that doesn't fit with the rest of what the Bible says.

I noticed this week that the preceding verse says that faith does not come by works. But then this verse goes on to talk about God's works.

I noticed too this week some connections to other verses. Paul say in 2 Corinthians 5, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new." We are created in Christ Jesus for good works. I find it hard to believe that Paul is talking about two separate things when the wording is so similar. And then, talking in Galatians 2 about works and the place of the Law, Paul reminds us that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.

Pr Wiest told us that the "good works that we walk in" are Christ's work. We "walk in them" by faith.

Old things have passed away;
behold, Jesus makes all things new.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Can I Help?

When Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

So they try to happy-up Momma. Somebody wants to give hugs. Somebody offers to bake cookies. (With chocolate.) Somebody offers to do an unusual chore (like car washing or carpet shampooing).

WHY (why why why?) don't they understand that the thing that will happy-up Momma is just doing what they're supposed to do? Just the plain old boring stuff? Do the chores that are your chores. Maybe even go wild and crazy, and do them without being reminded! Do the schoolwork on your to-do list. Bite your tongue when the sibling-squabbles begin.

I don't need the carpet shampooed when the bathroom hasn't even been cleaned. I don't need a hug to make me happy; I need the munchkins to quit fighting over which bed the cat sleeps on. Why is this so hard for them to understand?

At least today was better than yesterday!


Paul started his first college class today. Well, that's not precisely true. Last year he took a class in electronics which was self-paced. (Essentially a self-taught homeschoolish class at the local tech school for which he got real live college credit.) But today was his first regular class with a regular teacher and regular students and regular assignments. Kinda sorta like Claire's first day of school. Only Paul is significantly older.

I predict he's going to do well in this class.

His huge whoppin' assignment for this week is to read a short article and figure out what "Engfish" is. I think it took him about 15 minutes. Whatever happened to that rule-of-thumb that a kid is supposed to spend at least two hours prepping for every hour in class???

After Andrew and Paul and I did grammar together, and after he had answered his parents' nosy questions about how his class went, I was curious. I wanted to read this article too! It was great. It was a homeschool mommy's dream! It was all about how writing should be about communicating ideas, about writing expressively, about interesting writing. AND the article was about how schools stomp this out, how schools teach boring writing, "proper" writing, dull writing.

Just an hour or two earlier, I had read over Andrew's writing assignment for today. It was interesting! I tried not to gush too much, but it was SO much better than last time we had officially worked on writing lessons. His exercises were not dull. He used interesting words (even if he couldn't spell them precisely). He used colorful (but not fakey) phrasing. I was so impressed with his writing! And it's because last year he was writing in "Engfish" (the "proper" school writing) and this year he was just "talking on paper." And then Paul brought home this article -- serendipitous!

Paul's writing IS charming. It's interesting. It makes a person laugh almost as much as Paul's witty in-real-life commentary. His spelling and grammar probably aren't quite what they should be. But even those have come a long long way in the last couple of years. But, oh!, the way he writes is just a joy to read. I think his prof is going to like him.

Now, if only she will teach him how to write a term paper and make footnotes!! I hate teaching the procedures on research papers almost as much as I hate teaching sewing.


Lucked out today at the DMV! We have been needing to get Andrew's (non-driving) state ID card renewed. I sat tight yesterday and didn't go, because Monday tends to be a horribly busy day. When we showed up today, we didn't even have time to sit down and wait before they called us; we walked straight to the window. Yee haw!

Andrew also needs new sandals. But his feet are bigger than what's available in stores. Payless theoretically carries his size, but usually not wide enough. And when they do have some in his size, there are usually only a handful of choices. So I websurfed for sandals in his size. Oy! The price! We wanted some $5 flip-flops. Fat chance.

It's not raining today! Finally a chance to cut hay. (No, we don't have cattle. No, we don't have timothy and alfalfa growing. It's just the lawn.) The newspaper reports that the average August rainfall is 4". The day Philip left for Japan we had 7". And since then another 7-8" more. We're on high ground, and even our lawn is soggy. At least the basement has only had dribbles of water coming in now and then. I don't know what this will do to the farmers' crops. But at least it's beginning to replenish the water table that has been dropping so badly the last several years.

Monday, August 20, 2007


When my older kids were homeschooling, they were insatiably curious. They needed to find out how things worked. They needed to know the treasures hidden in the pages of books. They needed to talk and ask questions and look up answers. If I wanted them to learn something, I could find a book at the library, leave it lying around on the couch, and the kids would inhale it.

Last night I was bummed and looking at a magazine for a bit. (What? Wasting time selfishly like that? What's up???) An article on Ken Hendricks mentioned that he found success by (in part) allowing his employees to fail. He said that if they're not allowed to fail, they won't think. And when they don't think, then it takes a whole lot more work to manage them.

That's why I'm having so much more trouble homeschooling these days.

My two youngest aren't insatiably curious. They will do the schoolwork I require of them. Sometimes they do it begrudgingly and none of it sinks in. Sometimes they do it well. But I have to tell them what to do every step of the way. I can't say "read this book" and have them do it. I have to remind them each day to read it, and tell them how many pages, and ask them questions to determine if they understood or retained any of the information. I can't say "do your math" and have them figure out that they should do the pages following the pages we did the previous day. I can't put "German" on the to-do list and expect them to figure out what I've told them repeatedly: listen each day to the 15-min tape until you know it, and then go on to the next tape.

Like Ken Hendricks said, it takes a lot of work to manage people when they don't want to think for themselves. When the kids want nothing more than to veg out with video games and tv and comic books, it's nearly impossible for one mother to micro-manage one student and still manage to get dinner on the table and get the laundry done. And I have more than one student.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


From the new Reader's Digest:

For Rachel:
I went to a bookstore and asked the salesman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

For me:
About a month ago, I got a cactus. A week later, it died. How depressing: I'm less nurturing than a desert.

For Glenda (hoping she'll still love me anyway):
I didn't understand NASCAR until I met some NASCAR fans. You talk to a couple of NASCAR fans and you'll see where a shiny car driving in a circle would fascinate them all day. I can make fun of NASCAR fans because if they chase me, I just turn right.