Saturday, September 08, 2007

Which Stanza Are We On?

How ingrained is that old hymnal, in ways that I don't even realize?

In LSB, some of the hymns have five stanzas in the music score. Whenever we get to verse 4, I skip to verse 5. I finally figured out why. Without even realizing it, my brain counts how many stanzas we're on. Number 4 means I sing the bottom line of words, right above the bass clef. That's what's been ingrained in me all my life. But now stanza #4 often isn't the bottom line, but the next-to-bottom line.

Even after I figured out the problem, I still keep making the mistake. I even will make the same mistake 3-4 times in the same hymn. I wonder how long it's going to take to drive that out of me.

Teaching Singing

Some kids just learn to sing naturally. Some don't.

For the last month, my 12-yr-old and I have been spending 5-10 minutes a day trying to have her match the pitch I play on the piano. The first several days we just stuck with one note that was in the middle of her comfortable range. Then we expanded to three notes. After a month, she can hit those three notes right most of the time on the first try. As she got better and better at those three notes, we've slowly expanded to a whole octave now. The accuracy on those new notes (the ones we've only been working on for two weeks) isn't quite there, but it's improving.

We started with steps ("seconds" for those of you who know music) and now have progressed to doing skips sometimes ("thirds"). We've also added "Glory Be to Jesus" because it's a rather simple song musically -- good for starters.

It still astounds me that it can be so hard and take SO much practice to learn where the notes are, and how to make your voice hit a particular note instead of just some note somewhere in the general vicinity. But persistent practice has paid off. I'm proud of what's she's pulled off and how much she's improved!

Grape Jelly

We didn't used to like grape jelly. That's because we got it from the store. Grape jelly made from your own grapes is altogether different.

But I found something to make it even better. I tried it two years ago and the jelly was fabulous. Went back to regular method last year, and the flavor of the jelly suffered (although it was still loads better than store jelly). Today I made grape jelly again and got a super-duper product.

Instead of smashing up the grapes and cooking them in water and extracting the juice, I put the grapes through my juicer. I have to send the leftover grape-mush through the juicer again and again, until it's finally dry enough that no more juice is being squeezed out. It makes a humongous mess; seeds flying everywhere and grape-stained hands and table. (I did the work outside.) Jelly made this way has such a good strong grapy flavor because no water is added. I used the pectin's recipe for grape jam instead of grape jelly, because so much of the fruit gets squeezed into the juice.

You'd never win a prize at the fair for this grape jelly: it doesn't have that clear, bejeweled look. And it's not lumpy enough to be proper jam. Nevertheless, the results make this jelly more valuable to me than any blue ribbon.

Twenty-six jars of jelly later, I learned two things. Jelly-making really does make me happy, and helps combat depression. (No wonder we've gotten totally overloaded with jam sometimes in the past.) Second, when you work in a kitchen with counter-space, everything is SO much easier! (I had to use the church kitchen because of the difficulty we're having with plumbing at the parsonage.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Using Games

In the past, I was a sucker for any game which could be considered educational. We didn't play them as much as I envisioned myself playing board games or card games with the kids. Nevertheless, I kept picking up interesting-looking games at Goodwill, and now there's quite a stack. I need to clear out some space in this house, and have been sorting through those game piles.

We've been a little short on geography studies recently. So about a month ago, I took a "Carmen Sandiego" game, ditched the playing pieces and the board and instructions, and saved just the stack of trivia cards. We've been using two cards a day (4 questions per card) for geography. Some days it takes a couple of minutes. "Which country is the island of Sicily part of?" "What's the biggest country that touches the Asian part of Russia?" Other days we have to do some serious hunting in the atlas or looking up information in the encyclopedias.

These are multiple-choice questions. Often I avoid giving the kids the options, at least, at first. Today the question was "Which sea (named after a color) is in eastern Europe?" The choices were Black Sea, Red Sea, and Blue Sea. "Black Sea" was easy enough, even prior to their hearing the choices. But we looked at each other. Blue Sea?!!? We all felt like dummies, not having any clue where the Blue Sea was. Then we decided maybe it was a decoy answer. Sure enough, a quick peek in the index of the atlas revealed no such thing as a Blue Sea. Eight of these questions a day sure has given us a lot of geography study in a relatively fun and painless way, in little time segments, with no lesson planning on my part.

I would like to add the cards from some other games too. "Uncommon Sense" and "Hugger Mugger" are word games that come with a box of puzzle-cards. "Tri-Bond" is more well-known, and it would serve a certain child well in learning to see connections between words, learning to problem solve and think outside the box. I bought a game about animals and environments from National Geographic that would have lots of usable science questions in it. The game "Chronology" is about putting historical events in order. All of these sound like they could serve nicely, should we decide to do a few cards a day. This makes use of their educational value much more easily than hauling out a board game that's going to take 1-3 hours to play.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Job Hunts

Child #2 didn't getten chosen for the job that looked to be a likely prospect. Major bummers. But for others who, like him, are still hunting, child #3 has recommendations about avoiding as you look for employment.

Baby with the Bath-water

In movies of olden times, sometimes you see the women going to the door with a bucket of dirty dish-water, and throwing it out, into the street or onto the yard.

How come their shoes didn't get wet? And don't tell me that "they threw the water away from their feet." Yeah, sure. You try throwing a dozen or more buckets of water each day and see how dry your shoes stay.

And I wonder how many spoons they threw out into the street? You can't see through the dirty dish-water to see if you missed any of the dishes lurking in the bottom of the bucket. And whoopsie-splash, there go the spoons with the water.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Deuteronomy 23:18

You shall not bring the wages of a harlot nor the price of a dog to the house of Yhwh your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to Yhwh your God.

The Bible verse of the week is from Deuteronomy 6: "These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them to your children." And I wondered, "What words? What words did Moses say to which he is referring here?"

So Monday I skimmed Deuteronomy to see what the words were. All rules? Anything about the promises? Anything about the sacrificial system? What?

And as I skimmed, my eyes happened to notice this one verse. "You shall not bring the wages of a harlot to the house of Yhwh." My first thought was that this verse must be the reason why some pastors say they wouldn't accept an offering that was given from a lottery/gambling winning.

But then the second thought slammed me. What about Mary Magdalene? She was one of the women who provided for Jesus and the apostles (Luke 8:1-3). And some of her money was ill-gotten gains. Nevertheless, her money provided for the tabernacle of Yahweh.

Romans 10:4 -- For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

No Other Gods

It may be a humongous pain to have no way to dispose of water from your house. But it's way way better than not having water at all. As long as there's a potty nearby, you can take a walk to borrow a toilet. There are even porta-potties available to rent, should the weather become cold enough that you don't want to go for a walk to use the potty. There are laundromats to wash your clothes. And as long as you have a well that is operative, you can get drinking water and cooking water.

Sometimes we laugh in amazement at the Old Testament Israelites. Tempted to worship WHAT? A statue that they made for themselves out of gold? How dumb is that? Enticed into worshipping a totem pole? How could they be so idiotic?

And yet ...
one of my gods is my well and my plumbing. (Definition of "god": that which you need to be happy, and without which, life is just not okay.) Now, how totally stupid is THAT -- to have workable plumbing as a god? Certainly no better than a golden calf!

Before Me

Pastor has mentioned on various occasions that he likes "You shall have no other gods" much better than the older catechism which said "You shall have no other gods before Me." He says that, as a child, he thought it sounded like "You shall have no other gods before Me" meant that it was okay to have other gods, so long as you kept the true God as #1.

And yet, maybe that's the way it is.
Maybe that's the way it has to be.
Not that it's okay to have other gods.
But that we recognize that we do have other gods.
And that we always will in this life.
And having other gods does not mean we're not Christians.
It just means that we're Christians plagued by the Old Adam.
Having other gods is sinful and must be repented.
But struggling with that sin does not mean we are altogether lost.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Not Back to School

Public school started today. We've been hitting the books in a very UN-unschooly way for the last two weeks: with lists, and assignments, and grading papers, and other scary concepts.

But today, to celebrate the Passing-By Of The School Bus, some friends from the city came down and went to the beach with us. Laura writes about it on her blog and shares the pictures. That was the nice part of the day.

The Problem with Homeschooling

Here's the problem with homeschooling. Your children use the water in your house. (I mean, really, now, can you believe they DO such an outlandish thing?!?) So when you don't have water, then your children do not have the option to do their flushing at school, cannot take their showers after P.E. at school, and cannot have their dinner dishes washed at school by the ladies who work in the cafeteria.

CoW and Woodmans

The women are mad.

Changes are being made to my beloved grocery store. They expanded the produce section, moved some aisles, did a little rearranging. Nobody can find anything. Every trip to the grocery store results in commiserating with total strangers (or overhearing others commiserating with other total strangers) about where the brown rice went, or where the salad dressing went, or where the spices went. I can no longer tell Child-A to run down a certain aisle and fetch the peanut butter while Child-B runs down another aisle to fetch the lemon juice while I head down a third aisle to pick up pasta. We must hunt for our food.

I. am. not. a. lioness.
It is not right to have to hunt for food in Woodmans.

It takes twice as long to do the grocery shopping now.
(One of those Total Strangers told me it's taking her three times as long to buy her groceries now.)

A month or so ago, when the renovations were just beginning, I was searching for sunflower nuts. They weren't where they belonged. I found a complete mess in the next aisle over. Carts in aisle 3 were full of what had been pulled off the shelves in aisle 4. Employees jam-packed aisle 3, putting items back on the shelf. No customer cart would fit through that aisle. Abandoning my cart at the end of the aisle, I managed to squeeze my way through, hunting for my sunflower seeds. A manager asked if he could help. I teased about their moving things all around. Then he made the mistake.

He told me that they weren't "moving things all around." They were only taking the contents of each aisle and moving them one aisle to the north. Ha! I started rattling off for him which things were in different places, and how things had been on the top shelf on the south side of the aisle, but were now on a middle shelf on the north side of the aisle, and further west. After hearing a mere START on list of items that had been hidden (NOT "just moved over an aisle"), he halted me and admitted that, yes indeed, maaaybe some things had been "moved" a little more than he'd realized.

The women who are hunting the aisles for spaghetti sauce and apple sauce and cheese sauce all understand this! But the ones making the changes don't think it's any big deal. They're making improvements! They're giving us a better store! It's all to serve us better! The women are mad.

The Commission on Worship was given the unenviable task of combining two old hymnals into one new hymnal. Changes had to be made, due to choosing either the TLH version or the LW version. Like at my grocery store, the changes are noticeable. Every little spot in the new hymnal where there's something like "He imparteth consolation" changed to "There He sends true consolation," I notice. Every place where a half note and then a quarter note is switched around to a quarter then a half, I notice. When they left out a stanza or two (say, for instance, in "The Church's One Foundation" or "Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me") I stumble.

Circumstances will force me to get used to the grocery store, whether or not I like the changes. If I make a mistake in the renovated grocery store, if I can't find the cat food, I have to search and search and search until I conquer. That's not how it is with the renovated hymnal though. If I stumble over words, if I am distracted by the changes to the point that I cannot pray the hymns and the psalms, there's no "natural consequence" to remedy that. Those hymns and psalms aren't likely to show up again for months, or even until next year.

Now that we're suffering through the growing pains of getting ourselves back into one hymnal shared amongst all the synod, I hope that next time there's a new hymnal, the changes really will be so minor that it does not cause pain. Ot (like at my grocery store) will some people think "new and improved" is more important than sticking with what people know? The store has a vested interest in shuffling things around; it's a ploy to get people to see more items and thus spend more money. The Church, however, has a vested interest in not changing; the saints need to have the liturgy and hymns ingrained deeply into their beings.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Raspberry Candy

Until a couple of years ago, I'd never had schnapps. All I knew about schnapps was that it was popular among my classmates in high school. Schnapps or beer: that was what I heard under-age people drank at parties.

Then my friend Sandy mentioned putting peach schnapps in her tea. Now, I love peach tea! But it's a lot more expensive than the plain black Lipton or Luzianne. So I checked out this schnapps concept. Turned out that (with a rebate) I could bring home a whole bottle of peach schnapps from the liquor store for only $2. That's less than one package of Bigelow or Celestial Seasonings tea.

Schnapps IS good in tea.
Turned out it was pretty good straight too. (No wonder it was so popular among kids.)

Last winter I was having raspberry cravings. My berry canes didn't bear, and there was no raspberry jam, no raspberry pie, no raspberry juice, no raspberry nothin'. So I decided to check out a bottle of Bols black raspberry liqueur. Oh my goodness! It was SO good. I think my son was concerned that I was becoming an alcoholic: I drank up the whole bottle in less than a month. (C'mon. It's less potent than the port wine we use for communion. Just one drink a day, and the bottle would be polished off in a week and a half.)

When Philip was expressing concern to Rachel that Mom was drinking that raspberry stuff too fast, I had him taste it. Then I had Rachel taste it. They both thought what I thought: wow, this is the best raspberry candy I ever ate! Tried some out on Sandy too; she thought it was really good.

It goes great in a fruit smoothie. Black raspberry liqueur goes great on top of ice cream. And you know what I tried it in yesterday? Instead of vanilla in the granola recipe, I tried the raspberry liqueur. Oh my goodness, didn't that turn out yummy!

What You Have Commanded

This week's collect is
Almighty and everlasting God, give us an increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain what You have promised, make us love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ,...

I've always heard that in such a works-righteous way. "So that we can get the stuff You promised, make us love to do obey the Ten Commandments and all those other rules."

But what are some of Jesus' commands?
Go and baptize (Mt 28).
Sending out the apostles (Jn 20).
Forgiving the penitent (Mt 18).
Take; eat; this is My body (1 Cor 11).
Feed My lambs (Jn 21).

If He causes us to love these things He has commanded (the call to repentance, the preaching of forgiveness, and the Sacraments), we will most certainly "obtain what He has promised."

Sunday, September 02, 2007

BIG Spoon

Maybe I'm getting gross in my old age. Or maybe I'm getting practical. Sometimes you have to stir a big mess o' something. Meatloaf. Bread dough. Biscuits. Tortilla dough. Lettuce salad. Fruit salad. I have broken so many handles on big plastic spoons. And when I use a good, sturdy-handled spoon, it takes so long to mix those things.

But hands..... hands are very good utensils. They're big. You have two of them. (Well, most of us do.) They even have fingers that aren't stuck in one position. Sure is a lot faster to mix up a humongous fruit salad with your clean hands than with a couple of spoons.

When a neighbor taught me to make tortillas, the recipe called for "cutting the lard into the flour." (Are you listening, Rachel? Pie crust hint here.) She said you coooould cut in the fat with a pastry blender, or you could cut it in with two knives being wielded scissors-like. But she said what worked best was just mixing it with your hands, pinching the lard into the flour, making smaller and smaller pieces of the fat until it was "crumbly" or "the size of small peas" or whatever the recipe calls for.

Personally, I prefer the oil pie crust that Rachel made for her apple pie. But let it not be said that she lacks the equipment for making a pie crust with lard. If you can imagine the ASL sign for "money," that's basically what you do with the fat/flour mix, running it through your fingers with that rubbing motion. And you didn't want to take the peels off the apples anyhow: more flavor with the peels, more nutrition, more color.

Psalm 92 and Works

For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work;
I will triumph in the works of Your hands.
O Lord, how great are Your works!

What is His work? Making me glad? Creating the world? "Wealth, peace, and gladness, comfort in sadness"? These are indeed His works. "All the glory be Thine."

And yet, the pre-eminent work is His passion. His suffering. His death. His paying the price for our rebellion. That is what makes me glad. That is what is great. That is where I find my triumph.

The only other "work" in the psalm is "workers of iniquity." Strangely (or not so strangely???) there is no reference to work done by the saints. The righteous grow. The righteous flourish. The righteous bear fruit.


Earlier this week, one of Maggie's exercises for auditory therapy was to narrate back a short non-fiction paragraph on the differences between toads and frogs. We have toads. Lots of toads. Baby toads sing sweet music on spring evenings. Grown-up toads gulp down mosquitos. (Gotta love those toads these days!) But Maggie has little experience with frogs. Serendipitously, that evening, shortly after Mags went to bed, a tree frog appeared on the living room window. I got her out of bed to see it, and its little sitcky footpads, and how skinny its body, and how smooth its skin.

My children and I, however, are hiding indoors these days. Even with screens on the windows, even taking shelter indoors as much as possible, our skin is as bumpy as a toad's. I don't hold much hope for these mosquitos to be gone until after some good hard frosts.

I hear tell that the parsonage is being painted on Saturday. The prep work will be done on Wednesday, which involves taking the screens off the windows. We are NOT having screenless windows open this week! We'll all have malaria or West Nile or something! I guess that means I have to resolve my mind to the fact that I'm going to have to endure air-conditioning later this week. (The house will be closed up; time to haul out the allergy meds.)