Saturday, October 10, 2009

Teaching Kids to Pick Up Their Rooms

In a recent conversation about messy rooms, mommas wondered whether to fight the battle, whether to keep nagging, whether to shut the bedroom door and just not look, or what.

I have found that telling a kid to clean a room may not work well. "But it's already clean, Mom." Sometimes it helps to ask the kid, "What do you see that is out of place?" Maybe they'll notice the dirty cup on the dresser that should be in the kitchen sink. Maybe they won't. It's very possible that the child will answer that he doesn't see anything out of place. And the mom is thinking, "Do we need to take you to the eye doctor? Are your eyes open? Do you have on a blindfold???"

Amazingly enough, one little twist on the question has proven to make a big difference in my house. NOT "What do you see that needs to be put away?" Instead, "What am I going to tell you shouldn't be where it is? If I were to sit here and point out what you need to put away next, what would it be?"


Growing up, I expected some snow before Thanksgiving. When we moved north, it was not shocking if there were snow or flurries before my son Paul's birthday. Then we spent a long time living on the IL/WI border, and we were not surprised if we had a few flurries prior to Halloween.

But good grief: it's October 10! It's snowing outside. (Better than snowing inside, I always say....)

I think Al Gore owes us reparations.

Today's Laugh

Ricky, Jimmy, and Stu were on the bus home from elementary school when a fire engine zoomed past their bus with blaring sirens.

The three kids noticed a Dalmatian on the front seat of the fire engine. Ricky said, "They use that dog to keep crowds back."

"No," said Jimmy, "he's just for good luck."

But Stu knew better. "No, the dog's job is to find the nearest fire hydrant."

Friday, October 09, 2009

What Was Solomon's Wisdom

The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. And to depart from evil is understanding. (Job 28)

When Solomon became king, God told him to ask for whatever he wanted (1 Kings 3). Solomon requested a heart of understanding to discern justice, that he might rule God's people well. Solomon's name is now synonymous with wisdom, and we hear (1 Kings 4) how he knew all sorts of botany and zoology and art. And yet, it is the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom; it is faith in Christ-crucified which makes one wise (1 Cor 1).

So we hear the well-known story about the two women who came to Solomon, fighting over the one live baby, each claiming the baby to be her own and the dead baby to be the son of the other woman. Like most people, I had always thought that Solomon was smart, intelligent, a good thinker, to be able to figure out what to do to reveal which woman was the actual mother.

But Pastor pointed out something in chapel yesterday. It wasn't so much smarts that enabled Solomon to determine the identity of the true mother. It was his Faith. It was his knowledge of mercy. Why did the one woman relinquish her claim on the baby? Because true love will sacrifice of itself for the sake of the beloved. True love seeks the welfare of the other, even when it means suffering and loss for oneself. This is the love of God; this is the love seen in the cross, the love which gives us life. And when real love is seen amongst us humans, it looks like God's self-sacrificing love. Solomon's knowledge of mercy and his faith in mercy --not his smarts-- was what enabled the wise king to recognize the mother of the baby for who she really was.

Bagel Jackpot

Panera's gives away their bread each evening rather than throwing it in the trash. One of the women at church lives at a place that sometimes has an overabundance of Panera's goodies. The elderly people who live there take all they want, and then the rest eventually goes into the trash. Since she hates to see the waste, she will rescue the bread and bagels before they hit the garbage can, so that those who are struggling financially can benefit. Today there was plenty! I felt greedy taking so much, but this is just a portion of what was there for the taking. Maggie has been begging me to buy bagels for weeks, and now she certainly has bagels!!

Why do I so often question whether God can "give us this day our daily bread"?

Today's Laugh

Sign in a cafeteria:

"Shoes are required to eat in the cafeteria."

And hand-written underneath: "Sandals can eat any place they want."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Those Post-Michaelmas Days

Praise for the first of martyrs
who saw You ready stand
to help in time of torment,
to plead at God's right hand.
Like You, our suffering Savior,
his enemies he blessed,
With "Lord, receive my spirit,"
his faith, by death, confessed.

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win with them the victor's crown of gold.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
O blest communion, fellowship divine,
we feebly struggle, they in glory shine.
Yet all are one in Thee for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Follow Me, Boys

A great feel-good movie from the old Disney: Follow Me, Boys. I don't know if somebody recommended this to us or if Netflix did because they decided it fits our style. Wherever it came from, we're glad to have seen it. As one reviewer wrote, it's got every corny movie-cliche it can have, and yet people love it.

Fred MacMurray settles down in a small town, takes up with the pretty young gal, works with the boys to build a character-building Boy Scout troop, and endears himself to the community as he sets down roots there. The story is set from 1930 to 1950. Andrew commented on the store clerk's reaching into the penny-candy case and picking up candy with his bare hands to sell to the customers. Gary and I commented on how old the characters in their early 50s appeared to be: "Wait a minute, soon I'll be as old as this guy in the bathrobe who's being forced to slow his pace of life and settle down for old age??" Beyond that reminder of impending old age (as if I needed help remembering that?) the movie was wholesome and sweet and enjoyable, something for the whole family.

Today's Laugh

A large two-engine train was crossing the country. After they had gone some distance, one of the engines broke down. "No problem," the engineer thought and carried on at half power.

Farther on down the line, the other engine broke down and the train came to a standstill. The engineer decided he should inform the passengers why the train had stopped, so he made the following announcement:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that both engines have failed, and we will be stuck here for some time. The good news is that you're not in an airplane."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sweet Potatoes

My friend Susan asked for a report on the sweet potato crop we grew this summer. The seed catalog said they'd grow this far north. They did. They didn't produce too well. Of course, it was an exceptionally cold growing season, and the frost came in September already and nipped their leaves. In between all the rain showers recently, we managed to dig the potatoes. It's harder to dig up the sweet potatoes than the regular potatoes: the tubers spread further and they break more easily. (Maybe the potatoes would have been thicker and not quite so prone to snapping in half if we'd had a little warmth this year?)

Some of the potatoes turned out to be "real" sized, like the ones you buy in a store. Some of them are pencil-sized. A whole lot of them are about the size of your standard carrot. We harvested about three gallons of sweet potatoes, thus making it a slight financial gain and not a loss! But I suspect it's an experiment that maybe we ought not try again unless we move South ... unless Al Gore turns out to be right and we actually do get a little global warming someday.

Not Enough Time for Thinking

As Maggie and I were working on Building Thinking Skills today, we came across a problem with an unusual-for-the-book answer. We checked again and again, and I know that we're right (in spite of not having an answer key). I was curious, though, as to what the book thought the answer ought to be. In hunting for an answer key online, I discovered this sentence:

How can you afford to spend time focusing on teaching students to think critically when you have so much content to cover?

ARGH! [Okay. Breathing deeply now.] Granted, the publishers of the book answered the question. But I am still stunned that the question could even be asked. And yet, aren't "But we don't have time for that in the curriculum" and "But that won't increase the students' scores on their standardized tests" typical for teachers and school board members when considering changes to the curriculum?

Great Series of Chapter Books

Freddy the Pig, by Walter R Brooks,
starting with
Freddy Goes to Florida
Freddy Goes to the North Pole
Freddy the Detective
The Story of Freginald
Clockwork Twin
Freddy the Politician
and twenty more.

Betsy-Tacy, by Maud Hart Lovelace,
followed by
Betsy-Tacy and Tib
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown
[and for older kids, the rest of the series]

All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor,
followed by
All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown
More All-of-a-Kind Family
All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown

The Moffats, by Eleanor Estes,
followed by
The Middle Moffat
Rufus M
Ginger Pye
Pinky Pye

Assorted horse stories by Marguerite Henry
Misty of Chincoteague
Stormy, Misty's Foal
Sea Star
Justin Morgan Had a Horse
King of the Wind
Born to Trot
Brighty of the Grand Canyon

Little House, by Laura Ingalls Wilder:
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House on the Prairie
Farmer Boy
On the Banks of Plum Creek
By the Shores of Silver Lake
The Long Winter
Little Town on the Prairie
These Happy Golden Years

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C S Lewis,
and yes, the order matters:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Horse and His Boy
The Silver Chair
The Magician's Nephew
The Last Battle

The Great Brain, by John Fitzgerald,
followed by
More Adventures of the Great Brain
Me and My Little Brain
The Great Brain At The Academy
The Great Brain Reforms
The Return of the Great Brain
The Great Brain Does It Again
The Great Brain Is Back

Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome,
followed by
Peter Duck
Winter Holiday
Coot Club
Pigeon Post
We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea
Secret Water
Big Six
Missee Lee
Picts and the Martyrs
Great Northern?

Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink,
followed by Magical Melons

Little Britches, by Ralph Moody,
followed by
The Man of the Family
Home Ranch
Mary Emma and Company
Fields of Home
Shaking the Nickel Bush
The Dry Divide
Horse of a Different Color

Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery,
followed by
Anne of Avonlea
Anne of the Island
Anne of Windy Poplars
Anne's House of Dreams
Anne of Ingleside
Rainbow Valley
Rilla of Ingleside

Redwall, by Brian Jacques,
followed by
Mariel of Redwall
Martin the Warrior
and others

Harry Potter, by J K Rowling:
Philosopher's Stone
Chamber of Secrets
Prisoner of Azkaban
Goblet of Fire
Order of the Phoenix
Half-Blood Prince
Deathly Hallows

Lord of the Rings, by J R R Tolkien:
Fellowship of the Ring
Two Towers
Return of the King

And I've been told that these should be on my list too, but I haven't read them myself yet.
The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley.
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott.
Five Little Peppers, by Margaret Sidney.

Today's Laugh

Bernie's mom admitted to being a less than fastidious housekeeper. One evening dad returned home from work, walked into the kitchen and said, "You know, dear, I can write my name in the dust on the mantel."

Mom turned to him and sweetly replied, "Well, darling, that's a pretty good start! I'm sure with some patient practicing you could even learn to dust it!"

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Hamburger Buns

Or hot dog buns. A dozen of whichever you prefer.
I love this recipe which came from Mary Schultz. It's relatively fast for a bread recipe, and the buns have a lovely texture and taste.

1 egg
1 cup warm water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar

3 cups flour [I use 1 cup ww and 2 cups white]
1 Tbsp yeast

Place ingredients in the order listed above into your bread machine on the dough cycle, adjusting the flour/water as needed. Or combine in mixing bowl and knead. Let rise, shape into buns (flattened circles). Place on greased cookie sheet and let rise for about 30-45 minutes. Bake at 350 until golden, maybe 20 minutes.

Magic Tree House Chronologically

We read our first Magic Tree House book Sunday. I think the fiction stories are meant for younger kids to read on their own; the one Maggie and I read didn't go over well as a read-aloud.

As I tried to sort through which books have a non-fiction companion and what topics are covered, I could not find anyplace online that lists the books chronologically. There are story arcs that continue from one book to the next, so they probably should be read in the order in which they were written. But some of us prefer to study history in the order in which it occurred, so then it's important to know the order of where the Magic Tree House books fit into a history timeline. I gathered the following information for myself from various web-pages, including the Wiki site for the series. I've rearranged it to fit my needs, and it's posted here in case anyone else may be in need of the list.

The list is roughly in chronological order. When a pair of books is listed, the first is the fiction, and the second is the non-fiction.


Mummies in the Morning (ancient Egypt)
Mummies and Pyramids

Hour of the Olympics (ancient Greece)
Ancient Greece and the Olympics

Day of the Dragon King (Japan 2000 years ago)

Vacation under the Volcano (Pompeii)
Ancient Rome and Pompeii

Viking Ships at Sunrise (Vikings)

Knight at Dawn (medieval knights)
Knights and Castles

Night of the Ninjas (samurai)

Stage Fright on a Summer Night (Elizabethan England)

Thanksgiving on Thursday (1621)

Pirates Past Noon (Caribbean pirates)

Revolutionary War on Sunday (1770s)
American Revolution

Civil War on Sunday (War Between the States)

Buffalo Before Breakfast (American old west -- Lakota)

Twister on Tuesday (1870 American pioneers)
Twisters and Other Terrible Storms

Ghost Town at Sundown (American old west)

Earthquake in the Early Morning (1906)

Tonight on the Titanic (1912)


Tigers at Twilight (Indian jungles)

Afternoon on the Amazon (jungle)

Dolphins at Daybreak (Pacific ocean)
Dolphins and Sharks

Lions at Lunchtime (African savannah)

Polar Bears Past Bedtime (north pole)
Polar Bears and the Arctic

Good Morning Gorillas (Congo jungle)

High Tide in Hawaii (tsunami)
Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters

Dingoes at Dinnertime (ancient Australia)

Today's Laugh

Brenda's 6-year-old was explaining to the other kids what "extinct" meant:

"Well," she said in all seriousness, "it means that the dinosaurs are all dead and have been dead so long they don't stink anymore; that's why they call them exstinkt."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Sounds of Greek Vowels

During September I spent nine days proofreading a friend's doctoral thesis. The project was to gather in one place all the textual criticism, notes, variations, etc, for the first half of the book of Job. It was the hardest thing I ever proofread. But the project had the felicitous, unintended consequence of teaching me something about Greek vowel sounds.

This year I am tutoring Greek for one of the kids' friends. Leah's mom had purchased a Greek program a few years ago, but they didn't go very far with it. Now I'm teaching her with those same materials. My problem is that the pronunciation I learned from my Greek prof is not the same pronunciation used by our Greek program. The situation is not unlike the pronunciation differences between ecclesiastical Latin and the way Wheelock's teaches the sounds.

As I proofread the dissertation's decisions on textual criticism in Job, I kept noticing the word itacism. I'd never heard the word before. I learned that itacism is the cause for variations in spelling: one sound can be spelled in different ways. For example, there is Cathy versus Kathy. There is hear versus here, or there and their and they're. Or maybe a better example would be spelling your fizzy barley&hops German beverage b-e-a-r because "ear" and "hear" have the same vowel sound as "-ee-."

Same thing happens in Greek. The scribes would hear a word and accidentally write down one vowel-sound (that sounded right) instead of the other spelling for that sound. Amazingly enough, some of those spelled-differently sounds revealed that I am pronouncing two different vowels with the same sound, exactly as the scribes were doing ... and not as our Greek program's CD pronunciation-guide demonstrates. It makes me think that there's probably as much flexibility in the "proper" pronunciation of classical Greek or Koine Greek as there is in that dead Latin language.

And thus I have an excuse for my funky way to pronounce Greek words. Yes, I do. I just hope that it doesn't mess up the students when/if they listen to the CD for homework help.

Great Picture Books

Books that are not to be missed:

Margaret Wise Brown - Color Kittens.
Virginia Lee Burton - The Little House.
Virginia Lee Burton - Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.
Marjorie Flack - The Story of Ping.
H H Swift and Lynd Ward - The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.
Robert McCloskey - Make Way for Ducklings.
Robert McCloskey - Blueberries for Sal.
Robert McCloskey - One Morning in Maine.
Watty Piper - The Little Engine That Could.
Beatrix Potter - Peter Rabbit.
Richard Scarry - Storybook Dictionary.
Richard Scarry - Please and Thank You Book.
Assorted Dr Seuss.

and for the very young:
Goodnight Moon
Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

Today's Laugh

Two men were talking. "My son asked me what I did during the Sexual Revolution," said one.

"I told him I was captured early and spent the duration doing the dishes."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

How Little Is Accomplished

Kids were gone from yesterday morning at 9:30 until they arrived home from church today. Gary and I were here alone. Think of all we could do! Think of all the jobs that could be accomplished!

I seriously underestimate how long tasks take.

I made granola, hotdog buns, corn relish ala Nourishing Traditions, kombucha, stewed and picked a chicken, and cooked for Saturday and today's dinners. I finished nearly all the paperwork for bills and schoolwork. I blogged a little. I didn't clean. I didn't do yardwork. I didn't begin the project for church that I hoped to start. I didn't sit on the couch and cuddle with Gary and watch a movie. I didn't take a nap. I didn't play piano.

Doing school in a schooly way sure does interfere with real life. There just isn't time on the weekend to catch up.