Saturday, December 12, 2009

Today's Laugh

Maria went to the post office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards.

"What denomination?" asked the postal clerk.

"Oh, good heavens!" said Maria. "Have we come to that? Oh, well, I guess I'll take 30 Methodist, 20 Lutheran, and 20 Catholic."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Running Out of Bread

I used to make two batches of bread most weeks; that's 8 loaves. But then kids grew up and started moving out. It got to where one 4-loaf batch per week was sufficient.

It used to be that, when Gary was gone for several days at a pastors' conference or district convention, the rest of us didn't eat up a loaf of bread. He was our bread-gobbler, and the rest of us were occasional bread-nibblers.

Recently I've been making bread more than once a week again -- and Gary's hardly eating any. Yikes!

Andrew and I noticed today that it's nice to have groceries in the house. I hit Woodman's yesterday. I hate shopping and had been putting it off for many weeks. Two hours in the store, two carts full, and $400. Now that there's food, we suddenly realized how often we've been eating toast for breakfast. Or PBJ's for lunch. Or grilled cheese. Lots and lots of bread. It's something we actually had available in the house. Then when we didn't have peanut butter, and no flour to make more bread, it became clear that I had to [groan!] make time for a grocery run.

And wow! It's so much less brain-drain to make a meal when there is produce in the fridge, when there is a list of possible meals, and the ingredients necessary are sitting there waiting to be compiled into yumminess!

How 'bout that? I like having groceries!


We drive. Even if it's a three-day trip to drive to vacation, we drive. We don't fly. Sometimes we are envious of those who can fly. It seems like it takes them no time whatsoever to arrive.

You know what? It's a rude surprise to find out that the plane-trip across the country --the one you thought was nearly instantaneous-- actually takes a pretty hefty chunk of a day.

Similarly, there are a lot of jobs around the house that I've taught myself to keep up on "because they take no time." Brushing teeth? A minute or two. Wiping the counters? Less than a minute each time. Changing a load of laundry? Just a couple of minutes (if you don't fold). It's very disappointing when, at the end of the day, you did 100 of those little jobs which take NO TIME, and that's all you did. All day. Nothing else. Hey, that's not fair! Any mathematician knows that 100x0=0. Therefore, all those jobs which individually "take no time" should cumulatively take no time? Right? You buy that, don't you? (How come it doesn't work that way?)

Similarly, I'm getting very VERY impatient with the time that it takes to think. Thinking? That's supposed to be multi-tasked. That's supposed to be what I do while folding laundry, chopping onions, waiting for El-Kid to answer a spelling question, waiting in line at the store, etc. It seems SO unproductive to sit and just think. But thoughts do not come easily to me any more. I have to work to think; that is, I have to stop other work and focus only on the work of thinking. Yuck -- this takes more effort than I want to invest. Problem is, too many problems remain unsolved when I do not solve the problem of not having time to solve problems. [Okay, stupid sentence. But read it again. I meant it.]

You don't suppose our society's desire for instant gratification has weaseled its way into my psyche, do you?

Today's Laugh

An American farmer was on holiday in Wales. He could not resist exploring the hill farms north of Aberystwyth. At lunch time he dropped into a pub and fell into easy conversation with a Welsh farmer.

"How big is your spread?" asked the American.

"Well, look you, it's about 20 acres," he said.

"Only 20 acres?" the American responded. "Back in Texas, I can get up at sunrise, saddle my horse, and ride all day. When I return at supper time, I'll be lucky to have covered half my farm."

"Dew dew," said the Welshman. "I once had horse like that, but sent him to the knackers yard."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rice Noodles with Spinach and Peas

This recipe was originally from my friend Sandy. Every time I want to make this lunch again, I have to go on a hunt to find where the recipe lives. So I'm putting it here for my convenience's sake. If you want to try it, I gotta warn you that (the way I make this stuff) it looks kinda like the gloop that Calvin sometimes sees on his dinner plate. But it tastes awesome!

This is way better when made with fresh produce, but this is my out-of-the-pantry version ...

12-oz package of brown rice noodles
(regular rice noodles okay if you can't find brown)

Cover noodles with tepid or warm water and soak for a few minutes while starting the rest of the dish.

1" piece of ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
in 1 Tbsp olive oil
for about 30 seconds.

1.5 cups boiling water
1 Tbsp soy sauce.

(I usually just start with the hot water and Kikkoman, and add powdered garlic and ground ginger from my spice cabinet. Lazy, I know...)

Drain the noodles. Using kitchen shears, snip the noodles into shorter pieces.

2 cups peas
rice noodles
to the spicy boiling water.
Cook 3 minutes.

Add 1 pound spinach leaves.
Toss over the heat for a couple more minutes,
until noodles are tender and spinach is wilted.

(This time of year, I start with a 10-oz package of frozen spinach in the boiling water, and add the noodles and a 1# bag of frozen peas once I've gotten the spinach thawed and broken into small pieces.)

Remove noodles from heat.

Make sauce of
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2/3 cup milk
Heat until nearly boiling.

Toss sauce with noodles, peas, and spinach mixture.
Garnish with cubed avocado and roasted peanuts.

Around here, it serves 4. Your mileage may vary, as in, it may serve 8-10 at your house.

Today's Laugh

Mark, a five-year-old, couldn't wait to tell his grandfather about the film he and Grandma had watched on television, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The scenes with the submarine and the giant octopus had kept him wide-eyed. In the middle of the telling, Grandpa interrupted Mark, "What caused the submarine to sink?"

With a look of incredulity Mark replied, "Grandpa, it was the 20,000 leaks!"

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Paul and Stephen

Acts 7:60 -- Then Stephen kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

I'd never noticed until yesterday that the Synagogue of the Freedmen (the ones who rose up against Stephen and turned him in to the Sanhedrin) included men from Cilicia. Paul was from Cilicia. Paul was there at Stephen's stoning. Paul heard Stephen's sermon.

Stephen prayed for his murderers. And for at least one of those men, God abundantly answered the Stephen's prayer, not only forgiving Paul, but even using him as the instrument to bring the Gospel to millions of other people.

Last Night's Dump

You can see on the picnic table how deep it is --(It really doesn't look that deep. Only 10." It's the weight, though...)

And here's the wonderful neighbor with the wonderful tractor who saved us hours and hours of shoveling.His tractor broke, though, so we still have about 1/4 of the driveway to clear. And once the snow is all done later today, we probably should go over with our little shovels and help him with his driveway, unless he manages to fix the tractor posthaste.

Today's Laugh

Santa Claus, like all pilots, gets regular visits from the Federal Aviation Administration, and the FAA examiner arrived last week for the pre-Christmas flight check.

In preparation, Santa had the elves wash the sled and bathe all the reindeer. Santa got his logbook out and made sure all his paperwork was in order. He knew they would examine all his equipment and truly put Santa's flying skills to the test. The examiner walked slowly around the sled. He checked the reindeer harnesses, the landing gear, and even Rudolph's nose. He painstakingly reviewed Santa's weight and balance calculations for the sled's enormous payload. Finally, they were ready for the check ride. Santa got in and fastened his seat belt and shoulder harness and checked the compass. Then the examiner hopped in, carrying, to Santa's surprise, a shotgun. "What's that for!?" asked Santa incredulously. The examiner winked and said, "I'm not supposed to tell you this ahead of time," as he leaned over to whisper in Santa's ear, "but you're gonna lose an engine on takeoff."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Snow Storm

So one week ago I'm in Sacramento, with California people asking me, "So, what is winter like in Wisconsin? Do you have snow? How cold is it?" And there wasn't much to tell.

So two days ago, the weather forecast for Sacramento called for an inch of snow. That was more than we were supposed to get. I was tempted to write to the research team at the hospital and gloat a bit, teasing them about their snow.

So now ...
I have a cat whose bladder is going to explode because she can't "go" outside. The humans in the house have forcibly tossed her outdoors a couple of times, but she won't do her job. She just hunkers down until we open the door 5-10 minutes later, then trots back indoors, wet and cranky. How about the litter box, then? What? Going in the house? How uncouth! She will have none of that nonsense.

Problem is, storm is due to keep up for another 24 hours. Poor kitty.

The Holiday

Coming home from a long and emotionally exhausting trip last week, I was not in the best of moods and needed to laugh. Gary and I spent Thursday evening watching The Holiday, a romantic comedy about two women from very different places in life who share one thing in common: just having broken up with jerks. They trade houses for a couple of weeks so they each can take a break from home. The movie was cute and funny and definitely worth staying up late for!

Seems to me that an R-rating might have been more appropriate, and you have to get past the parts that refer to sleazy activities (but at least they're not showing the sleazy stuff).

The fun parts were watching the British girl revel in the huge house she borrowed from the American girl, the relationships the British girl found while staying in L.A., and the American girl's impatience with the small cottage and loneliness in England ... until she found a fellow who turned out to be a lot nicer than the guys she was accustomed to.

This is one I think I might need to see again.

Today's Laugh

On our flight last week, our landing in Sacramento was ... well ... interesting. Having barely flown in my life, I wasn't sure whether the fast & hard braking and the wobbliness of the plane was normal. It was a tad worrisome, but I thought it was just me. When several passengers around us began to comment, I realized that the pilot had indeed taken it a bit fast. So this joke rang true for me:

The airline had a policy that required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited. He was to smile and give them a "Thanks for flying XYZ airline."

An airline pilot on this particular flight hammered his plane into the runway really hard. In light of his bad landing, he had difficulty looking the passengers in the eye; all the time he thought that a passenger would have a smart comment. However, it seemed that all the passengers were too shell-shocked to say anything.

Finally, everyone had gotten off except for this little old lady walking with a cane. She said, "Sonny, mind if I ask you a question?"

"Why no Ma'am," said the pilot. "What is it?"

The little old lady said, "Did we land, or were we shot down?"

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Power of Snow

Amazing how an inch of snow can finally force you into setting aside the history and math books, and get yourself outdoors -- hauling in the lawn swing, putting away the lawn chairs, picking up the garden hose, and all those other jobs you've been putting off.

My dad would have been mortified to know that my hose was still in the yard in December. At least it was drained of water! Gary did ensure that.

While we were at our October chores today, we also put up some Christmas lights while we were out there. We're no longer the cranky Scrooge-family on the block.

Phonics Test

Many new homeschoolers are rabid phonics advocates. I sure was! Teaching our children to read the right way was one of the biggest motivations for our beginning to homeschool.

It's understandable that we are so insistent on the superiority of phonics. The look-say method of teaching reading will work pretty well in an individualized, print-rich environment, with plenty of one-on-one teaching. But who knows that? Who tests it? For classrooms full of kids, phonics is a better method. And classrooms full of kids is where we get our data. Therefore, conservative mommies are horrified by the abysmal reading abilities of so many young people and determine that they will teach their children a better way!

So what happens when your child can't learn phonics?

Jane has posted various places in the past about Patrick's struggle in learning to read. Jane and I have tried to help mommas chill out when they bemoan the fact that their children aren't learning phonics. It's okay, we say. They will learn to read. Keep plugging away, even if you have to give up on the phonics and try The Evil Insidious Liberal Plot of {gasp!} "Look-Say" reading.

Okay, so Maggie couldn't learn phonics. Our main method of reading instruction was a motley conglomeration of reading comic strips aloud to her (and likewise, answering endless questions about "What's this word?" as she read Garfield to herself in later years) AND a "spiral" of memory work. She didn't have a good enough memory to recite her Learn-By-Heart of the week, and she didn't read well enough to read the verse and the hymn. But she could quasi-read and quasi-recite. So I wrote out the memory work each week in large print, hung it on the dining room wall, and used that. The neophyte reading skills gave a nudge to her memory work, and what she couldn't read was nudged along by the bits she had begun to memorize. That's totally look-say for reading instruction.

And so,
we come to the funniest part of last week's academic testing with the psychiatrist. Maggie scored above her grade level in only one subject area. Phonics! They gave her nonsense words that she had to sound out according to phonics rules, and she scored at late-12th-grade level.

I was stunned. And pleased.

If that ain't proof that we can chill a bit over our rabid love of phonics, I don't know what is.

Today's Laugh

Last Christmas, grandpa was feeling his age, and found that shopping for Christmas gifts had become too difficult. So he decided to send checks to everyone instead.

In each card he wrote, "Buy your own present!" and mailed them early.

He enjoyed the usual flurry of family festivities, and it was only after the holiday that he noticed that he had received very few cards in return. Puzzled over this, he went into his study, intending to write a couple of his relatives and ask what had happened. It was then, as he cleared off his cluttered desk that he got his answer. Under a stack of papers, he was horrified to find the gift checks which he had forgotten to enclose with the cards.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Children's Bread

This week we had the story of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15). For some reason, it bothered me tremendously that Jesus said, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs."

Yes, it is! Because that's what He did!

It almost seemed to me like Jesus was lying about that.

I fussed with Pastor about it. He finally got it through my head (at least, temporarily...) that according to the law it is not right to give the children's bread to the little dogs. But the gospel trumps the law.

I keep bumping into that again and again. And it trips me up over and over. The law is true. But the gospel is bigger and greater. Even though the demands of the law are valid, the gift of the gospel trumps the truth of the law.

IQ Scores

IQ scores are higher among children who live in richer environments. In fact, a study done in Milwaukee about 40 years ago indicated a 30-point difference in IQ scores between kids in an enriched environment as compared with those in a deprived environment.

So, as part of the testing Maggie underwent early last week, the doctor and psychiatrist evaluated her IQ. She's kind of borderline, so it's iffy as to whether she'd get special-ed services if she were enrolled in public school. It's also clear that we'd be in trouble if we lived in one of those states that requires standardized testing for homeschoolers; she wouldn't even score high enough for the states that have a really really low requirement. Thank God for Wisconsin's homeschool law as it's stood for the last 25 years!

I kept thinking how well Maggie's doing ... but where would she have been without our homeschool law that allows me to fit our program to her needs? What if I'd needed to pass muster for the local school superintendent? What if I'd had to try to keep her up-to-snuff for an annual test? Or worse, what if she'd been in the public school? The programs in the public school are certainly more enriching than what the deprived kids in the Milwaukee Project got. But too often, the special-ed programs at school are stifling and discouraging and not altogether helpful. If we hadn't had the freedom to invent our funky, non-conventional, homeschool program, Maggie's IQ would have been significantly lower.

The Office

People have told us about The Office, but we never watched it. The folks Gary works with have been telling him for over a year that he needs to see this show. So we recently watched the series on Netflix. Oh my goodness, there are places that are SO funny!

I feel kind of guilty for liking it. The hilarious parts are the jerk of a boss and a couple of other horrible people. Why laugh at it? There really are people like that in the world, and it's utterly miserable to be around them. And yet, when we see it on a sitcom, we laugh! Does that mean I'm warped?