Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How Does A Homeschooler Change A Lightbulb?

This appeared in the HEAV Homeschool Update email that arrived today.  It made me smile.  I have often been guilty as charged... enough so that my daughter EV asked, laughing, "Did you write that?"

How Does a Homeschooler Change a Light Bulb?
First, mom checks three books on electricity out of the library; then the kids make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison, and do a skit based on his life. Next, everyone studies the history of lighting methods, wrapping up with dipping their own candles. Then, everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of light bulbs as well as prices and figure out how much change they'll get if they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five-dollar bill.

On the way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also Abraham Lincoln, as his picture is on the five-dollar bill. Finally, after building a homemade ladder out of branches dragged from the woods, the light bulb is installed. And there is light.
- Author Unknown

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Imagine

Recently I received an email from a friend which contained a video attachment of a recording of John Lennon's "Imagine" featuring Deaf and hearing students signing and singing together.  (I'm assuming that it must be from the television show "Glee," which I've never seen.) I think she sent it to me because she knows that my daughters and I are all learning ASL (American Sign Language), and she (rightly) assumed that we would enjoy seeing the interpretation and song-signing of the Deaf students in that group.  It is a moving and enjoyable video.

That, I would venture to say, is part of the problem.  It is moving.  It is inspiring.  Seeing all the kids joining together to sign the song was a beautiful reflection of the message of unity and brotherhood attempted in that song.  However, we can't ignore the fact that the ultimate "peace" that is sought in the song "Imagine" is at the expense of Truth and reality. 

True peace (with God and with our fellow man) does not come when we abandon the realities of heaven and hell and just "live for today."  And while it is true that the "religion" of man, if void of relationship with the living God, is fruitless, it is not true that the idea of abandoning the Truth of our religion, Christianity, leads to a better way of life.  It leads to a less full life here, and to a life of eternal damnation after death. 

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but by Me," Jesus said.  Seemingly "exclusive"?  Yes.  Incredibly divisive?  YES!  But that is the Truth upon which we stand.  And every day hundreds of believers around the world are murdered or tortured for their faith in God through Jesus. 

So, while one day there will be "no countries" (once Jesus has returned to take His children home to heaven), the reality we live in now is that there are many things "to kill or die for," because of the injustices foisted on our fellow human beings--particularly believers--by the unjust governments of those countries.  Many of our brave men and women in the armed forces, and those living on the mission field, are willingly facing this injustice in order to bring the Truth of the Gospel--or at least the beautiful freedom that makes the sharing of the message of the Gospel possible--to those lands where it is currently forbidden.

And so to "join them (those who dream of his 'better' life)"--as John Lennon indicates he hopes people will--would lead ultimately to a life here on Earth without relationship to God, which results in an eternal separation from Him in the life to come.   "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels," Jesus said.

So, while it may have been a "great video," unfortunately, it is not a great song.  And things like this, when they move us--and it is a moving video--make a great impression on us.  I do long for the day when there will be true peace--and we will truly live as one in heaven--but in the meantime I also hope to be faithful to debunk these false messages about false hope in "the brotherhood of man" at the expense of belief in the ONLY true Way to get there, Jesus.

May I always share these truths with love, gentleness, and grace as well as boldness!

On a lighter note, here is a humorous rendition of this song, Tim Hawkins style.


Friday, October 22, 2010

An Allegory

Apparently my 9-year-old daughter knows me better than I realized.  The following paragraphs, which she wrote for a school assignment, "remind (her) of (me)," she said.  She is so dear... and life is so precious... and the moments are so fleeting!  I'm reminded again to savor every moment...

The dog ambled through the almost endless field; she lifted her head into the dimly lit sky and took in the sweet aroma of the spring air.  She imagined her small puppies leaping through this field, playing together by the tall trees.

The field's deep grass was damp from the storm the night before; it swayed and sang a song with the wind.  The dog imagined her small puppies growing and growing until they were gone and imagining their own puppies just like she was.  A tear came to her eye.  She knew she couldn't stop this from happening, and she realized how much she was going to miss them when this did happen...

She loved her puppies and this field, and that was all that mattered right now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"How to Raise Boys Who Read"

This morning, I finally got around to reading an Op-Ed article from the Wall Street Journal entitled "How to Raise Boys Who Read," (subtitled "Hint: Not with gross-out books and video game bribes").  It mentions the popular but failing philosophy in many homes and schools today--just get them reading something, even if it is silly, gross, absurd, and banal--because  their tastes will eventually mature.  Ridiculous.  No young (or older) boy (or girl, for that matter) develops the attention, focus, persistence, and hard work necessary to read something other than mindless drivel--full of short, choppy sentences and crass humor--if he has not been fed a steady diet of challenging, high-quality children's literature.  And no book like that can compete with video games.  TV.  The Internet.

As the famous saying goes, "The secret is, that there is no damn secret."

It is a fantastic, thought-provoking article.  I would highly recommend that you read it in its entirety.  And it occurs to me that articles posted online are often
removed, leaving the article unavailable for reading later on.  So, actually, here it is:

Published in the Wall-Street Journal Opinion Journal
September 24, 2010
How to Raise Boys Who Read
Hint: Not with gross-out books and video-game bribes.
By Thomas Spence

When I was a young boy, America's elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can't read.

According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.

The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.

Everyone agrees that if boys don't read well, it's because they don't read enough. But why don't they read? A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the "stuffy" literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must "meet them where they are"—that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes.

For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means "books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor." AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to "grossology" parties. "Just get 'em reading," she counsels cheerily. "Worry about what they're reading later."

Not with 'gross-out' books and video-game bribes.

There certainly is no shortage of publishers ready to meet boys where they are. Scholastic has profitably catered to the gross-out market for years with its "Goosebumps" and "Captain Underpants" series. Its latest bestsellers are the "Butt Books," a series that began with "The Day My Butt Went Psycho."

The more venerable houses are just as willing to aim low. Penguin, which once used the slogan, "the library of every educated person," has its own "Gross Out" line for boys, including such new classics as "Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger."

Workman Publishing made its name telling women "What to Expect When You're Expecting." How many of them expected they'd be buying "Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty" a few years later from the same publisher? Even a self-published author like Raymond Bean—nom de plume of the fourth-grade teacher who wrote "SweetFarts"—can make it big in this genre. His flatulence-themed opus hit no. 3 in children's humor on Amazon. The sequel debuts this fall.

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised "so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education."

"Plato before him," writes C. S. Lewis, "had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful."
This kind of training goes against the grain, and who has time for that? How much easier to meet children where they are.

One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far.

The other problem is that pandering doesn't address the real reason boys won't read. My own experience with six sons is that even the squirmiest boy does not require lurid or vulgar material to sustain his interest in a book.

So why won't boys read? The AP story drops a clue when it describes the efforts of one frustrated couple with their 13-year-old unlettered son: "They've tried bribing him with new video games." Good grief.

The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time "plugged in" than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys' attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn't it, but Science has spoken.
The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

People who think that a book—even R.L. Stine's grossest masterpiece—can compete with the powerful stimulation of an electronic screen are kidding themselves. But on the level playing field of a quiet den or bedroom, a good book like "Treasure Island" will hold a boy's attention quite as well as "Zombie Butts from Uranus." Who knows—a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.

Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband—Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology parties?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Print Friendly

Have you ever been irritated with having to print all the extraneous junk that comes up on web page articles when they don't have a "print friendly" version?  Now you can create your own, with Print Friendly!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"...parents are possessed of no constitutional right..."

Are you aware that in 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in Fields v. Palmdale School District “that the Meyer-Pierce right [of parents to direct the upbringing of their children] does not exist beyond the threshold of the school door.”  

Further, they declared that, "Parents...have no constitutional right...to prevent a public school from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise, when and as the school determines that it is appropriate to do so."

“We conclude that the parents are possessed of no constitutional right to prevent the public schools from providing information on that subject [sexuality] to their students in any forum or manner they select” (emphasis added).

Hmmm...

If this doesn't frighten you and cause you concern, I would like to direct you to a book I recently read called You're Teaching My Child What? A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Education and How They Harm Your Child by Miriam Grossman, M.D.  If you are a parent, you cannot afford not to read this book.  Be prepared to be shocked and appalled.

Perhaps it is time for a Parental Rights Amendment.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Super-Easy Canned Tomatoes

Canning things the old-fashioned way is time-consuming and complicated, at least to someone inexperienced like me.  However, my friend Evonne has a super-easy method for canning tomatoes that works perfectly!

So, here's a healthier alternative to tomatoes packed in aluminum cans, and you can extend the healthy goodness of those oh-so-much-yummier homegrown tomatoes into the winter months.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

HowToType.net

HowToType.net shows you how to type special characters for Windows, Mac, and HTML.

Their self-proclaimed specialty? "How to type symbols, accents, special characters, and weird punctuation."

Just last week, I wanted to type café, and the best I could resort to was finding it written somewhere online and cutting and pasting the accented e.

Hooray for an online cheat sheet!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Continuous Chest Compression CPR

"Every three days, more Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest than the number who died in the 9-11 attacks. You can lessen this recurring loss by learning Continuous Chest Compression CPR, a hands-only CPR method that doubles a person’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest. It’s easy and does not require mouth-to-mouth contact, making it more likely bystanders will try to help, and it was developed here at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. 'This video is worth sharing,' said Gordon A. Ewy, MD, director of the UA Sarver Heart Center and one of the research pioneers who developed this method.*"



* From the Sarver Heart Center (University of Arizona's College of Medicine) article entitled "Learn Continuous Chest Compression CPR."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Today's funny quote, care of my son PT, who is reading Wuthering Heights.  Who remembered that Emily Bronte was so hilariously cheeky?

"And you, you worthless--"  he broke out as I entered, turning to his daughter-in-law, and employing an epithet as harmless as duck, or sheep, but generally represented by a dash----

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Handling Facebook

Well, this post started out as a "comment" to a friend's Facebook post, but it was just getting way too long and philosophical for that venue, so I've moved it here.  It was in response to her announcement that she was taking a three-month break from Facebook, starting tomorrow, because she's been "convicted about being addicted to Facebook and the fact that it's becoming an idol in (her) life."  If this post seems a little like I'm talking to you directly, it is because I am writing with a desire to address this particular friend and her struggle.  (It is also particularly timely, in that I have just recently--reluctantly--allowed my 14-year-old son get his own Facebook account.  I am always seeking to help both him and his 16-year-old sister to navigate this world of electronic communication and social networking with responsibility and wisdom.)

First of all, far be it from me to ever step in the path of someone who is genuinely feeling convicted about the need to cease something, and then try to talk them into continuing it!  So, if you are truly feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit in some arena (including this one), and the Lord is telling you that it is time for you to stop doing something (even if it is something permissible and fine, biblically), then you should stop doing it.  Period.

BUT, [as Pee-wee Herman used to say, "Everybody's got a big 'but'..."], if you are just feeling godly disappointment in the fact that Facebook (or watching television, or playing video games, or surfing the web, or one of any number of other potentially addictive things of this nature) has somehow come to take up too much of your time and affections--and you don't quite know how to get a handle it or what to do about it, so you're just quitting cold turkey out of desperation--then I offer the following thoughts.

(And know that I do so very reluctantly, because I do agree that our spending time with machines instead of with people--and, even more significantly, with the Lord--is a major problem facing all of us alive today.  Most all of us could use less "electronics times" than we currently allow ourselves!  [See this post for my thoughts--and some sobering statistics--about this problem.]  That said, however...)

It is a fact--and I am accepting this reluctantly, I might add--that social networking sites like Facebook (and texting, which--grrrr---isn't free!) are the primary ways in which younger generations are communicating these days.  I'm not sure how or when we got to the place where calling on a cell phone (let alone a landline!) or sending an email (let alone postal mail!) were passĂ© forms of keeping in touch, but we're there. Of course they're still in use, but they are not the primary way that Generation Y keeps in touch.  Younger folks don't know how to "do relationship" in deep, meaningful, face-to-face ways, until they encounter it and learn it from some folks who have already learned it, committed to it, and shared it.  I have young friends who tell me that their peers are upset with them if they call rather than text to invite them somewhere--their friends don't want to have to respond to the invitation "live" on the phone (let alone in person!).  Is this resulting in people who don't know how to do relationship very well?  Absolutely!  But that is where we are, and we have to learn to make concerted efforts to join with the trend in redemptive ways

So, if your Facebook habits and affections have gotten out of proportion to what constitutes healthy time management--or if you just want to ensure that they never do--perhaps some self-control parameters are in order.  You can take it or leave it, or modify it to suit your life, but here's what I do to keep it--Facebook specifically--manageable in my life.

First of all, if spending too much time in chat has been--or you think it will be--a problem for you, turn it off.  Under options, "go offline."  This will keep you from getting sucked into conversations with people who are just killing time when you don't have time to kill.  If they really want to talk to you, they'll contact you some other way.

Second, if gaming has been a problem for you--or if you fear it might become one--turn it off.  I never got caught up in Facebook gaming, but--if the notifications I read when I'm in Facebook are any indication--many a friend has gotten very caught up in Farmville and Mafia Wars and the like!  If this has become problematic for you, time-wise, turn it off, or at least turn off notifications about the game, which will keep you from being forced into dealing with it unless you've specifically chosen to get online in order to play Facebook games for a few minutes.  Then you can deal with whatever has transpired since your last time playing.

After those two basic things have been taken care of--really only helpful if chatting and gaming, specifically, have been problems for you--then you get to the main strategies for handling Facebook time management.  First, be sure you're signed up to receive notifications of all Facebook activity and correspondence at your email account.  Then, choose only to get on Facebook when you get notice of something.  This takes away the obsessive feeling that sometimes develops--like you have to "know everything" and "keep up with all the news" about everyone--by keeping you off of Facebook most of the time.  Being on there a lot is what feeds the need to be on there even more... that itching feeling you develop to "check and see what's happening" with everyone.  (Young people especially--by which I mean anyone between the ages of about 12 to 35--seem to have a major problem with this aspect of things: the constant need for the moment-by-moment notifications that beep on their smartphones...)

Next, when you get there--and remember, you've only gotten onto Facebook because you've gotten an email notification about something needing your attention--then allow yourself to read one page of "top news" (the page you landed on) and one page of "most recent" posts.  Don't allow yourself to click to "older posts" in either venue.  Yes, you will "miss" a lot of things--I have missed finding out that a distant friend had a baby until the kid was like two or something!--but most of the important things will get through. That takes less than one minute to accomplish, and it is a built-in time limit.

After you do that, quickly handle whatever situation it was that brought you to Facebook in the first place.  Reply to the note, answer the friend request, look at the tagged photo--whatever thing it was you received the email notification about--and then get off.  You've already read your two allowable pages of notices and updates.  You're done.  You will have spent less than five minutes doing all of this.  Now get on with life.

For the other stuff--if you choose to allow yourself to go beyond the above parameters--impose "limits" like you will likely one day have to do with your kids.  For example, "I will spend only XX minutes a day browsing Facebook."  (You decide what's reasonable.  For my kids who have Facebook, it is 20 minutes--and only if all their work and chores are done first!)  A word to the wise: set a timer for this, or you'll lose track of time!  And the timer keeps it deliberate.  When you cross out of the limiting parameters stated above, only do so with full intention, and with the accountability of your timer.)  Another option: "I will only allow Facebook on weekends," and only for a certain amount of predetermined time.  (For our family, this is never more than an hour, and we're not like clockwork with it, either!)

Of course, you know yourself, so if you're really having trouble with it, and it isn't edifying in any way, by all means--just like anything else in your life like this--stop it!  [We don't watch TV for these reasons.]

But I am struck by the fact that in just the last week, my friend who is considering quitting Facebook would have missed the blessing of receiving the gift of a camera if she hadn't had it.  (And it is interesting to note that the friend who had discovered her lack of one--and was blessed to be able to give her this gift--found out about the need on Facebook, even while living within the above-mentioned limiting parameters and restrictions regarding its use.)

When I got on Facebook this morning, in response to a notification that I'd been tagged in a photo, I read my one page of "top news."  On it, I saw a quick comment from this friend who is considering quitting Facebook, on the Wall of a mutual friend who is in the hospital, that she was praying for her.  If she hadn't had Facebook, she wouldn't have known of our friend's hospitalization, and she would not have been praying.    [Of course, I recognize the fact that--using these parameters I've suggested--any of us might not have found out about x, y, or z on any given day.  That's okay.  We are not going to be able to know about everything that happens in the lives of hundreds of people, and still manage our own!!]

My suggestion in this regard: pray about it.  Yes, pray about Facebook!  And I don't just mean about the decisions regarding the parameters you'll put in place for its use, either.  I mean about each individual Facebook experience.

Before you get on--for anything outside the first parameters mentioned above, such as browsing around status updates using the "time limit" approach--pray that the Lord would bless your time there, and that He would use it to bless you and others in relationship.  He will lead you to the things you need to see, and it can be a rich time, relationally.

This practice of mine is similar to the practice of the "yard sale prayer list," which I've employed for many years now.  When we really need/want something, but it is just too expensive to go out and buy, I will mentally put it on my "yard sale prayer list" and ask the Lord to provide it in some other way.  I have literally furnished our home, clothed my family, and provided for our life in this way.  He ALWAYS provides the things I pray for in this way in some astonishing, very-cheap-to-free sort of ways: sometimes someone gives it to us; sometimes I find it at a yard sale, or a thrift store, or an amazing retail sale.

At any rate, He can do the same for your Facebook time, if you will take it to Him.  I ask Him to--and firmly believe that He does--lead me to just the things I need to see and know about on Facebook, whenever I go on.  I also ask Him to keep me from the things I shouldn't know about, things that might negatively affect my opinion of someone or lead me to some unfair conclusions about them.  And He directs me in how--and when, and if--to respond with my time in relationship with the things I find there.

So, if you can bring yourself to exercise self-discipline in its use, I do believe that Facebook can be a wonderful tool the Lord uses to bless you, and to bless others through you.  Like most things, however, it can also be a strangling noose around your spiritual neck--if not properly controlled and curtailed--and so I pray for great wisdom and discernment for you (as I do for myself and for my children) as you follow the Lord's leading in its use.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Enough, already!

"What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance." - Jane Austen, written in a letter to a friend, 1796

I couldn't agree more!  Enough is enough, already!  Since when is down to "just in the 90's" a break?!

And my garden suffereth, too!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Extolling Hummus


Our family loves hummus.  My husband used to make our own, with tahini and everything, but we have fallen into the habit of picking up the large tubs of Sabra hummus that are for sale at Costco.  At first, we just bought the plain, which is very tasty.  Later, we really got into the Roasted Garlic and the Roasted Pine Nuts varieties.

This week my daughter spoke of a friend who had told her that she really loved the Spinach and Artichoke variety, and she doesn't even like hummus.  Well, since we love hummus--and spinach and artichokes, too-- we decided to give it a go.

It is delicious!  I often feel like I want to share when I particularly love a product.  Too bad I can't get advertising royalties for mentioning it, like those people who drive around with ads on the side of their vans or something!

Anyway, I just went into my kitchen to make a little lunch snack of it, with a clementine on the side.  It is just yummy.  Go try some!  (It is particularly good with Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips, which are just around the corner in the Costco aisle.)  Enjoy!

My Italian Grandmother

"I want you to pretend your kitchen has come to life as a person."

Hmmmm... This research study I'm doing is interesting to me.  The initial screening questions must have gone deeper into something besides just my cooking habits and how often, where, and when I like to eat out.  It is dubbed a "restaurant survey," but I'm still writing about my kitchen, and in an awfully figurative way that requires a level of creative thought and writing which I would think the average person doesn't practice much.

So, anyway, here goes.  My personification of my kitchen, discussing herself, and how she would feel if she met my ideal kitchen:  (Yep, that was the assignment!)

My kitchen is like an Italian grandmother, having always made something delicious and wanting you to want to eat it.  Lots of it.  She works hard with real ingredients, in real cookware... stoneware and cast iron and wood that's been lovingly oiled over years of use.

She is not at all precise with a recipe, but only because she doesn't need to be.  She knows the best teaspoons are measured in her palm, and that the bread is ready when it "smells ready."  She does want everything in its place, however, and "its place" is both practical and lovely, if it is possible for it to be.

My kitchen would be sheepish if she met my ideal kitchen.  She might feel a little insecure, but it a fiercely proud way, if she saw the larger, stainless steel stove with six burners instead of her four... with two ovens attempting to shame her one.  She would know that these things are far preferable for cooking for a large family--and for the inevitable stragglers that wander in to join them--but she has come to know and love the tools she's been given enough to shy away from coveting her neighbor's anything.  So she would blush, and blunder, and turn back to her broth with a chuckle and a sigh.

She'd turn around and give ear once again to her favorite classical music.  She loves the strains... going lovely here, and frigtening there, and loud, and soft, and gentle, and grand.  


She'll just listen to that for a moment or two, putting aside her brief struggle with discontent, and then she'll reach across the granite to gently take your hand and squeeze.  She'll let you know that it is all okay... that the momentary struggle has passed, and that this is, in fact, the best place in the world to be.

Then she'll slice you another piece, slather it thick with butter, and push it deep into your soul with a squeeze and a smile.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shared Lifetimes

For the next assignment, I had to find a picture, and use it to write an analogy for my kitchen.  Here it is:


SHARED LIFETIMES

My kitchen is like this Italian window box.
Open, arched, reaching, reaching...

The flowers and vines grow freely
around the hearts and lives that gather here
Intertwined
Blooming
Joined, yet distinct,
as they embrace a scent 
and a taste 
and a touch.

Brown, red, orange, black,
Wood, terra cotta, stone, and iron
Wrapped around and weaving through
the lives that perch here
Some for moments,
Many for lifetimes.

Shared lifetimes
over a cookie
and a cup 
of spiced tea.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Kitchen

I really love my kitchen.  I have always loved it as the sort of "social center of the home" that the kitchen inevitably is.  But beyond just that comforting, comfortable feeling of a kitchen in general, I really love my kitchen--and all the more so since the "clean sweep" has made it all the way to this room.

So I was thrilled to find that the research survey I'm participating in this weekend has begun by asking me questions about my kitchen... both in technical descriptions and with figurative questions that probe how I feel about the room itself... and how I feel when I'm in it...

I was asked to use all of my senses as I gave a written accompaniment to the video, capturing how I feel about my kitchen and surrounding areas.  So, here it is:

There is a bit of a "living circuit" in our home... a circle formed, from the time you walk in the front door, that encompasses the entry hall, the family room, the kitchen, the dining room, and the study. When we have people over, they fill all of these areas, including the spillover to outside on the decks that are off both the kitchen and the family room.

The kitchen is definitely the "social center" of our home. In it, I prepare our meals from healthy, whole foods. I do home baking from freshly milled whole grains... I make healthy chicken and vegetable stocks by boiling the carcasses for at least 24 hours... we drink fermented beverages that we prepare ourselves in our home (kefir, kombucha, homemade yogurt, etc.)... we grow many of our own organic vegetables in our garden...

Our kitchen is always filled with a variety of delicious aromas, mostly driven by what's been baking or cooking on a given day.  On this day that I filmed my kitchen for the research survey, there was a chicken stock beginning to boil on the stove. During the filming, the scent of the rich broth began to prick at my nose, as the rolling boil began in earnest. There was the faint hint of banana cake in the air, and the suggestion of tomato and spices from the bruschetta we had eaten earlier.

A friend of mine once said, "I love to eat whatever Laurie sets out on this corner, because it is always good. Whatever is there, I eat it..." The "that corner" of which he spoke is the corner of the center island that is right there when you walk into the kitchen from the hallway or the family room. That ledge is always filled with whatever foods I'm serving, whether a full meal buffet-style, a wide array of appetizers and snacks, or a fun spread of homemade dessert with coffee and tea at the coffee bar.

My counter tops are granite, cold to the touch, but they sport a warm mix of tans and browns and greys that are pleasing and inviting to the eye. There is plenty of room to stand around the outer edges of the island, and people usually congregate there. This leaves me free to navigate through the "galley" that contains the stove and sink, and to continue to prepare and serve food as we visit. I have chosen to fill my kitchen with lots of wrought iron, wood, and stoneware. The overall effect is one of a European winery or bakery, with all the commensurate spice-y smells, and earthy pottery, and vintage cookware.

I ended by including a poem I'd once written, which captures pretty well some dimensions of how I feel about my kitchen, and about provincial decor in general.

I have another friend who is an interior designer at heart--probably since long before she studied it in college many years ago--and she's been after me--since she met me--to paint my wooden cabinets white.  I know she is much more knowledgeable than I about the style and fashion and trendiness of it all, but it has been easy to roundly refuse this suggestion.  Why?  Because I love wood... wooden bowls, wooden utensils, wooden furniture.  My kitchen is filled with it, and I love the warmth and homey-ness it adds.  So the rich brown of the wooden cabinets is a real pleasure to me.

I think Jane Austen must have been thinking in some measure of the kitchen when she said, "Ah!  There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort"  (Emma, Chapter 32, 1815).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Swan Lake

Now granted, I recognize that I am still technically "post-partum," having experienced the hormonal plunge of a sudden end to pregnancy... and so, this might not be as moving as it somehow seemed to me when I watched it today.  Sometimes I'm a sap, and as such, this kind of marriage of beauty and accomplishment can cause tears to spring to my eyes.

These dancers are so smooth and graceful and polished that it seems flawless and natural, even as her body is put into positions that would in other contexts seem almost contortionist.  My favorite part is toward the end, when the extra male dancer comes out and almost imperceptibly shadows the pair as the ballerina does pointe on the danseur's head.  This spotter's entry and exit are barely discernible; he is just there, as extra safety during such an extraordinary feat of dancing skill.

Somehow, indirectly, vicariously almost, I felt honored and cared for as a woman as I watched that demonstration of concern for her safety, even as she perfectly executed the moves and proved his presence unnecessary.  Bravo!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Losing Ellery

Well, as I sit here recovering from the grogginess--general anesthesia yesterday, dozing in and out of sleep all morning--I pause to capture a few emotions.  The nurse yesterday told me the anesthesia would be in my system for at least 24 hours, and that I shouldn't drive, cook, operate machinery, or make any important life or financial decisions during that time.  The last one made me smile.  Does getting on the computer to post emotions to the world on a blog count?!

At any rate, here they are--groggy, confused, and "under the influence"--but this is what I'm thinking about on this day.

This D&C was the first I've had performed under general anesthesia.  In some ways, it is much easier, emotionally, that way. Well, at least during the "during"...

The natural miscarriage that was our first one--at thirteen weeks--was really horrible.  There was lots of bleeding (as in "you might as well just sit on the toilet" bleeding) and excruciating pain (as in "this feels just like labor, but I don't get the joy of a baby at the end of it so it is even worse" pain).  We had been taken aback by that first miscarriage--shocked, really--because I had never had any trouble before.  The kids and we were so excited about the baby, and we were all pretty devastated when it died.  We called that baby Jordan.

The next miscarriage was my first D&C, and it was actually two procedures since they didn't get all the tissue out the first time.  I was awake for these procedures--and the barbaric nature of it all is in your face as you listen to the grinding motor of the suction machine, wince under the pain of the scraping and poking going on inside you, hear the sounds of the "uterine contents" that is your baby make its way into the jar attached to the machine.  It really does seem like something out of early last century; you'd think this technology would have progressed beyond blind scraping and sucking with a machine that looks like something you'd use to blow up your air mattress.  Anyway, this is different from the natural miscarriage that lasts days in your home, but still emotionally difficult as well as physically uncomfortable, and you tend to cry all the way through it, too.  Nurses and doctors who want to be compassionate but who do this all the time give you small smiles of pity, and you just want to crawl away somewhere and bawl.  But you put on a brave face and assure them you're fine, and yes, they can keep going.  We called this baby Eden.  

My third miscarriage was, mercifully, more like a very heavy period, just six weeks along, a mere two weeks past the positive pregnancy test.  By three-in-a-row, you're getting a little jaded and numb anyway, so it was nice to have this baby leave us in a little less emotional way.  By this time, I began to realize that I was dealing with the pain of the loss separate from the procedure of the miscarriage itself... it was more of a lengthy, philosophical journey of "processing" and pain and prayer and tears.  Saying goodbye to little babies you'll never meet is difficult business...this one we called Carlan.

Our fourth miscarriage ended with another D&C; that time, like this one, my body was not getting the hint that the baby had died and that all this pregnancy stuff it was growing was not needed.  The moment the machine started up--though it had been years since the last one--all the emotions of the past D&Cs returned, and I relived the loss of all our babies even as I had to listen to them "remove" this one.  It is tricky stuff, trusting God in the pain of our lives, receiving His will when it seems so out of sync with what you think you would prefer.  This fourth little life was relinquished a couple of years ago now, at a little over ten weeks along.  That child we named Quinn.

For a couple of years after this, I did not conceive.  I had begun blogging by then, and was processing a lot of the emotions of these losses onscreen.  I find it therapeutic, having to capture all the myriad of thoughts and emotions into some sort of coherent thing that I can come back to and read.  I remember my 41st birthday being particularly difficult, as I faced the reality that my advancing age may, in fact, rob us of the joy of another child born into our family.

And so now, at age 43, we say goodbye to another baby.  I've really processed the emotion of this loss over the past several weeks, and so by the time I got to surgery yesterday--this time under general anesthesia--the goodbyes of my heart had been said, the tears shed.  It was rather a perfunctory-feeling thing yesterday, since they put me under and I woke up with it all over.  No bleeding and pain, no grinding machine, no reminders of what was happening to me and to a little baby-who-would-never-be, at least on this earth.

And so I sit, a little groggy and a little sore, with a little spotting, toying with letting the tears which tickle the corners of my eyes, come... but not so sure I want to cry anymore.  I remember one particular morning, a few weeks ago, when iivo and I just sat and wept--both of us--as we read the poem I'd written as I wrestled with letting another little one go before its time.  The goodbyes were really processed then, and the nature of this miscarriage really allowed the event itself to pass without emotional fanfare.  I embrace the part of that that is a mercy and respite, and yet I mourn the part of that that maybe doesn't mark it pointedly enough.  Your departure from us, little Ellery, is just as bittersweet to us as those of your lost brothers and sisters were.  And we are sad that it is now fully completed.

We release you to the One who loves you more than we ever could have, even if we had gotten to hold you in our arms and mentor you through this world with all the love we could muster.  We look forward to meeting you one day.  

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Brand New Day

I found these lyrics on my friend Heidi's blog, and the song has set me thinking on so many levels. I've so much wanted to blog during these last weeks, but I haven't known what to say, how to capture any of what I'm feeling...

Heidi is one of the sweetest, strongest, most real and honest people I know, and I have been blessed by the privilege of knowing her as she walks through both the agonizing pain and the unspeakable joy of life--embracing both, equally, and walking with the Lord through all of it. She allows the emotions to come--all of them--and then rides them with a grace and grit that hearkens to the raw integrity of the psalmist. She's not afraid of questions; nor of fury; nor of exhausted, angry tears and upraised fists. But she also holds fast to the little girl, snuggling deep into the bosom she's just pounded and resting there until the peace and calm come. She is amazing.

I always want to read her words when I'm facing the pain of loss. She indirectly grants me permission to grieve, to cry, to rage... but all the while she points me to God, and to a certain knowledge of His sovereign hand in all things, even the painful ones.

And so, as I face the reality of surgery on Tuesday and walk through the emotions of the loss of yet another baby, I wanted to bask in the joys of Heidi's new baby, the presence of whom is being documented on her blog. Heidi brings to all she writes a deep faith and hope in God, the kind that only comes by having walked through deep pain with Him and having made it to the other side...

I had never heard of the song or the artist, but I love them. They whisper of the hope and joy and peace and trust that are always on the other side... and not just on the other side, but right in the middle of it all, too...

God is good, and these bittersweet days He gives us here, with all their joy and pain, are such a gift.

Some kind of magic
Happens late at night
When the moon smiles down at me
And bathes me in its light

I fell asleep beneath you
In the tall blades of grass
When I woke the world was new
I never had to ask

It's a brand new day
The sun is shining
It's a brand new day
For the first time in such a long long time
I know, I'll be OK

Most kind of stories
Save the best part for last
And most stories have a hero who finds
You make your past your past
Yeah you make your past your past

It's a brand new day
The sun is shining
It's a brand new day
For the first time in such a long long time
I know, I'll be OK

This cycle never ends
You gotta fall in order to mend

It's a brand new day
It's a brand new day
For the first time in such a long long time
I know, I'll be OK

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Scary trip to the outhouse...

The quote from EV, regarding this drawing she found by her sister EL: "Does anyone else find this disturbing?!"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Some of the best things are discovered quite by accident...

Well, I have had a third request for the secret to making what have come to be known as "strange-boiled eggs." Since each request has come from someone who was asking because this is "absolutely the only way my child will eat an egg, period," I figure maybe we're onto something worth sharing.

We discovered these quite by accident one day.

I was cooking eggs to go with breakfast while my husband's family was visiting. My family had been reading the delightful story Red Sails to Capri as a family read-aloud, and the soft-boiled eggs which one of the main characters had consumed every morning of his life for many years had been intriguing to us, since we had never eaten one.

So, I was going for soft-boiled--strictly by the timer in the cookbook since I don't know Senora Pagano's soft-boiled egg song--and I called to my husband for a taste test to be sure it was done. I had pulled it out just at the right time, peeled it quickly and easily thanks to the baking soda, and handed it to him.

Perfect.

Yet the few seconds all this "call, peel, and taste" took was apparently enough to take my eggs from "soft-boiled" to something else no longer soft-boiled, but not quite hard-boiled, either.

I was disappointed--and more than a little embarrassed--to be serving these strange things to my house guests. But my children were thrilled. Only one of the four enjoys soft-boiled eggs, and none of them are too thrilled with the hard-boiled variety. My nephew is the one who dubbed them "strange-boiled," and he proceeded to eat the first egg he'd eaten in its entirety in his life.

I spent the next several weeks trying to get the formula right, in order to re-capture the correct consistency to the final product. My kids choked down a lot of soft-boiled eggs, and we consumed a ton of hard-boiled-eggs-turned-egg-salad, in the pursuit of this elusive formula.

I present it to you now, for your family's enjoyment. If you have a child who won't eat eggs, at least give these a whirl. He may surprise you.

"Strange-Boiled" Eggs recipe on the recipe blog, Sharing Recipes

Friday, June 25, 2010

This Sunday we join our Gulf Coast brethren...

...in their united cry to God for assistance in time of disaster.

I am struck by the official governmental declarations of days of prayer in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana. This is despite--indeed, perhaps in stark contrast to--the current "politically incorrect" status that public, state-endorsed prayer has come to occupy.


I am pleased and proud that these men have chosen to acknowledge the past benefit and blessings of a collective cry to God for assistance, aid, and intervention in crisis. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).


I am also struck, and deeply humbled, but my relative lack of concern for my fellow Americans who are experiencing hardship. Sure, I know about the BP oil disaster, and have lamented with the best of them about what a tragedy it is and what damage it is doing, but have I really prayed with them, for them?


Have I really connected with--and prayed for--those suffering from the devastating floods in Nashville? I have a cousin whose newly-renovated home was overrun with several feet of water, and yet I've remained blissfully disconnected after the initial burst of compassion has worn thin.

How easy it is, in the relative comfort of our small spheres of experience, to forget the wide-scale suffering of those around the country and the world!

Oh, Lord, open my eyes to the needs of those around me, both near and far away. May I be a woman of prayer who faithfully lifts up the cares and concerns of my fellow sojourners. Broaden my perspective away from this small life, to the bigger picture of the world around me. And grant that all of us may have Your eternal perspective, and that we may dwell in the hope that is ours through Christ.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance... Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" James 1:2-3, 12.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"We will praise Him even in that pain..."

Goodbye

I really hate this stage of things,
the one where I go numbly through
and hover between
grief
and trust.
I pray with your siblings –
assurance of Sovereignty and all that –
and try to talk myself into it, too.

I’m taken aback by the sting
every once in a while
and I blink away the pain
as it trickles down my cheeks,
finding rivulets run deep
from too many lost lifetimes.

I send you with a name,
(we always choose a name),
so that you will know
what we might have called you
had He not needed you now.
Why now?

Actually, though, we would have chosen
something different
to call you
had we known you.
“Unisex name.”
The category in the baby name book
for stolen lives.
lost loves.
Why again?

He has known you
from the foundations of the world,
while I didn’t get even one day
to say hello.

He’s a better parent than I, you know.
And you will know Him better than I,
sooner than I,
deeper than I.

That is good.
Bittersweet good.

Little one I never met,
I miss you anyway.
One day, when all ache is gone,
we will embrace
and know.

-----------------------------

I process emotional things in poetry. Such is the way of things for me.

Today I got news of an "empty sack." It wasn't there on the ultrasound monitor two weeks ago, but there it was today, bigger than life.

Strange saying, that: "Bigger than life."

At any rate, this sack is apparently "empty," void of life. My body has yet to get the news, it seems. It is still going strong, doing its part, creating all necessary equipment for the baby it thinks is coming.

"Blighted ovum." This, like "empty sack," is ostensibly easier to take than "baby that died."

I will go back next week for another ultrasound. In the meantime, I await the miscarriage that is coming—hoping it will come naturally so I don't have to endure another invasive procedure.

And I process all the emotions that inevitably accompany this experience, reminding myself "not to doubt in the darkness what I knew in the light."

I will remember my own words, penned just two short weeks ago on this very blog: "I do not know God's plan for our lives, or for this baby, but I do know that He is good in all things. I trust Him in this. And I thank Him for this baby, however long and in whatever state he or she survives.

We trust Him with our lives, and we trust Him with this baby's life. If He lets us parent this child, we will gratefully receive that blessing. If He takes this child from us before we have that opportunity, we will praise Him even in that pain."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Emergency Room, Take 2

I won't bother to give anyone a blow-by-blow like I did last time--and it wasn't nearly as bad this time, anyway, since we chose a different emergency room to go to--but I will confirm that if you choose to go the ER, they are not interested in diagnosing what is wrong with you...they are only interested in proving that what you (or your doctor) thought might be wrong with you when you landed there, is not actually what's wrong with you. Then they're happy to send you home to "follow up with your primary care physician." You've usually spent lots of hours and dollars in this process, and I guess whether you consider that time and money wasted depends on your eventual diagnosis...

At any rate, yesterday was no exception... lots of time, lots of money, no diagnosis...

I am writing this update here so that those of you who saw my Facebook status about thinking I was passing a kidney stone, those who got the prayer request through Kathy, or those of you who just got word through the grapevine, can know what's going on at this point. Many thanks to those of you who have called to check on me today, but I am sending an update to keep the rest of you from having to do so. Fee free to skip to the "cut to the chase" section (below) if you just want the bottom line news.

The background: I was kind of "crampy" in my lower abdomen and lower back on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this past week. Since Friday was to be 4 weeks exactly after the start of my last menstrual period, I assumed it was PMS and that I was going to have a pretty yucky period. Not much concerned...

The ramp up: Thursday evening, as I was reading to my family at the dinner table, my three-days-old-now cramping became terribly uncomfortable, and I excused myself to my bedroom to lie down, asking the kids to go get ready for bed. The pain rapidly intensified to excruciating, and I called iivo in to talk about what might be wrong.

Once again, while one of us writhed and moaned in excruciating pain, the other one perused the internet for answers as to what could cause such pain. After dismissing appendicitis (usually involves fever and chills, which I did not have) and ectopic pregnancy (pain doesn't usually arrive in this case until at least six weeks into a pregnancy, and is usually accompanied by bleeding), we settled on assuming I had a kidney stone to pass. All accounts indicate it to be pain on par with labor (it is worse) which causes nausea (check), inability to stay still (check), and a situation in which no position will alleviate or relieve it (check).

Not wanting to repeat our nightmare experience at the ER just three short months ago, we opted for overnight pain relief and a trip to the regular doctor the next day. 800 mg of ibuprofen didn't touch the pain, so an hour later I took a vicodin tablet which was in the house from a previous surgery. I was finally able to go to sleep.

The next day: PT was scheduled for a CLEP test on Friday morning, so iivo stayed home from work and took him so that I didn't have to drive while on narcotic drugs. Afterward, he drove me to the doctor's office.

I explained to the nurse practitioner that I was there because I was pretty sure I had a kidney stone, and I wanted to make sure it wasn't too big to pass. I mentioned that the pain had begun the evening before, but that I had taken pain medication and avoided the emergency room because I was relatively sure it wasn't appendicitis or ectopic pregnancy, the other two things the internet indicated might cause this kind of pain, and because a kidney stone, though extremely painful, was not potentially life-threatening.

I had to pee in a cup, and she poked around on my belly while we waited for the results. Apparently the results came back indicating that (1) I have a urinary tract infection, and (2) I have HCG in my urine. (For those of you who don't know, HCG--human chorionic gonadotropin, one of the only terms besides "Krebbs cycle" that I remember from all my years of studying biology--is a substance produced during human pregnancy. She had apparently chosen to test for it when I mentioned ectopic pregnancy, assuming--correctly--that this must mean that we were not using birth control and that there was therefore a possibility of pregnancy.)

Since she wasn't prepared to be medically responsible for severe abdominal pain in a pregnant woman, she dismissed what she feared was a possible ectopic pregnancy scenario to the ER.

There wasn't a chance I was heading next door to the same nightmare ER which had handled iivo's situation last February, so I called my ob/gyn's office and told them what was happening. I asked if I could please come there instead of going to the ER for the ultrasound, but they indicated that if my doctor had recommended I go to the ER, I should go, since ectopic pregnancy can be dangerous and life-threatening. We chose to head to the ER associated with their office, however, which is another town over.

Incidental en route news: The nausea decided to get serious at this point, and I threw up twice on the way to the hospital, once over the guardrail of the highway, and once in a barf bag we carry in our car. If you saw someone throwing up on the side of the highway around 2:00 in the afternoon Friday, that was me!

The ER: Their marching orders in hand (you know: prove this is not an ectopic pregnancy emergency, but diagnose nothing else that it might be), the hospital staff took blood, gave me an iv, gave me anti-nausea medicine to handle the vomiting, made me pee in a cup again, and generally watched me writhe in pain all afternoon as the vicodin wore off. Eventually I made it to ultrasound, where they found no evidence of any pregnancy anywhere. (Who didn't know that, when you're only a few days pregnant and haven't even realized your period is late yet!)

What could be causing this excruciating pain? They don't diagnose, remember; they only speculate:

* It could be appendicitis--yet one doctor who examined me said, "Does this hurt?" at which point I said, "I'm on vicodin, so I'm not sure," to which he responded, "I don't care how much vicodin you're on. If you had an inflamed appendix, when I did that, you'd climb off this table." Okay, so I guess we're safe assuming it isn't appendicitis.

* It could be an ectopic pregnancy--yet both the ultrasound tech and the first doctor who read the ultrasound didn't see anything that would make them conclude that there was a pregnancy in the fallopian tube that could be causing this kind of pain.

* Could it be kidney stones? (This was our original diagnosis ourselves, remember, and still what we were pretty sure it was... but we are the ones who had to even suggest this as a diagnostic possibility... we had to suggest that they bring us a sieve for me to pee through... we had to require that they keep the iv's flowing so I could keep urinating despite the fact that they wouldn't let me drink anything because of the vomiting... and no, they didn't look for possible kidney stones when they were doing the ultrasound, because their job was to rule out ectopic pregnancy only, remember?!)

This took all day?! Yep. Unbelievable, but yes. In the end, they sent me home last night after a dose of morphine--I was offered a choice of going back on pain meds, which I had refused all day since I found out about the pregnancy and so they could accurately assess the situation--or staying there overnight. You better believe I chose heading home. They instructed me to take vicodin when I got home, and to continue to take it all weekend to control the pain, until I could get to my ob/gyn on Monday morning. She would check HCG levels again then, to find out if they were progressing normally. (Apparently they double every 48 hours in a normal pregnancy, so knowing what mine were on Friday and then on Monday would help them determine if I had a uterine pregnancy or an ectopic one.)

Cut to the chase already! Okay, okay. I said I wasn't going to go blow-by-blow. Sorry!

I came home, took the vicodin, and went to bed. That was about 10:15. I woke up at around 3:00; stumbled into the bathroom in a sleepy, druggy stupor; forgot to pee in the sieve; then stumbled back into bed. I felt no pain, but the vicodin was only about four hours old then, so I decided to wait until morning to take any more. I woke up again around 6:30, peed through the sieve, and staggered back to my bed again. I still felt no pain, and realized this was in spite of the fact that all of the vicodin had to be out of my system after 8 hours.

So, that's where we are. No pain, all day! I was elatedly assuming this meant I had passed my kidney stone during the one accidentally-non-sieved urination of the night, but I talked to my sister today about her son's experience with kidney stones. (He was writhing around on the floor, moaning in pain, and throwing up all one day, then perfectly fine the next. She thought he had had a weird stomach virus. Three weeks later, same thing. Three weeks later again, same thing. At that point, she decided it had to be something besides a weird stomach bug and took him to the doctor. They diagnosed a kidney stone, and had to blast it for him to be able to pass it.)

So, I guess I either passed the kidney stone last night, or it stopped moving, causing a break in the pain until it starts moving again. I will hope it is the former, but the ob/gyn confirmed by phone today that the total absence of pain today confirms that this pain was related to a kidney stone--whether it has been passed yet or not--and not to an ectopic pregnancy.

I still have an appointment to see her Monday morning, when she will check HCG levels to find out what's going on with this very, very early pregnancy.

Since iivo and I have had four miscarriages since EL was born, we are not quick to assume that this pregnancy is normal and fine. But we do know for certain at this point that there is a fertilized embryo growing somewhere in my body, and that it does not have anything to do with the excruciating pain I was experiencing for the past two days.

There is certainly a chance I could have an ectopic pregnancy, but it is the same rare chance that any woman has of having an ectopic pregnancy. There is also a very good chance of this pregnancy ending is miscarriage, since there is increased chance of miscarriage with each one a woman has, and I've had at least four.

I am also 43 years old, and advanced age is another risk factor for miscarriage. Old eggs often produce fetal abnormalities, resulting in miscarriage. There is also increased possibility for Down's syndrome and other non-fatal fetal abnormalities at my age. iivo and I are aware of these risks, and have chosen not to use birth control in spite of them.

So, at this point we await news of this pregnancy. I am refraining from interaction with any emotions about any of it at this point, as there is no point in engaging with all of the possibilities. If I have an ectopic pregnancy (the one doctor's voice, who said he thought he saw irregular bulging in the fallopian tube, still lingers in my mind), I will have one particular set of ethical dilemmas and questions to wrestle with and a particular set of painful emotions to traverse. If I have a uterine pregnancy, I will face a very high chance of miscarriage and will face a whole different host of emotions accompanying that. If I have a uterine pregnancy that makes it, I will face a high chance of fetal abnormalities; this will bring its own set of thoughts and feelings and plans. And even if all is normal with the pregnancy and the baby, our lives will change drastically in relation to this reality. We will be thrilled, but we will have a whole new set of emotions to experience, decisions to make, and plans to execute. I do not need to engage all of those emotions and possibilities, since a good percentage of them will never come to pass. I will wait and engage only the ones the Lord actually brings my way.

I do not know God's plan for our lives, or for this baby, but I do know that He is good in all things. I trust Him in this. And I thank Him for this baby, however long and in whatever state he or she survives.

Please join me in praying. I'm not even sure what to ask you to ask for. Please pray for my health: I am currently on antibiotics for the urinary tract infection, I may or may not have passed the kidney stone that was causing such pain these past few days, and I am pregnant.

Please also pray for this pregnancy and this baby. Of course, our desire would be that the baby live and be healthy and whole and fine. Please join us in praying to this end.

It would not normally be our practice to share news of a pregnancy of this nature so early in the pregnancy. We know that the "odds" are against our giving birth sometime near next Valentine's Day--the baby's due date--but we also know that we serve a mighty God who is "able to do exceedingly above what we could ever ask or imagine." We trust Him with our lives, and we trust Him with this baby's life. If He lets us parent this child, we will gratefully receive that blessing. If He takes this child from us before we have that opportunity, we will praise Him even in that pain.

Thanks for praying. We will keep you posted.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day


Pausing a moment to remember that Memorial Day weekend is about more than the cookout and trip to the beach...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Three spirit-crushing stains...

...and how to lift them.

So reads the title of a little blurb in May 2010's issue of Real Simple magazine. On page 210 they give tips for the following three "spirit-crushing stains," and--in the spirit of 'this is as good a place as any for me to file something'--I post them here for my (and possibly your) future reference.

Let's hope we actually never need them!

Courtesy of Real Simple magazine, May 2010 edition:

A GUEST SPILLED RED WINE ON YOUR WHITE SOFA

1) Immediately blot and reblot with a cool, damp sponge until no more color comes out. (You can do the rest after the guests leave.)

2) Spray with a mixture of equal parts water and 3% hydrogen peroxide (first test of colorfastness).

3) Let sit for a few minutes, then blot with a solution of one part white vinegar to three parts water. Blot again with a damp cloth. (Linen, silk, velvet, and wool sofas should be professionally cleaned.)

THE CAT PEED ON THE LIVING-ROOM RUG

1) Layer a few cotton cloths over the stain, cover with a plastic bag, and top with a couple of heavy books to soak up the liquid. Repeat until the cloths are no longer wetting through.

2) Apply an enzyme-based cleaner, such as Nature's Miracle ($8.50, drugstore.com), to an area twice as big as the stain.

3) Let sit for five minutes, then blot. Next, spray with equal parts white vinegar and water and let sit for 15 minutes; rinse with water and blot.

THE KIDS LEFT A PERMANENT MARKER SPOT ON A WOOD TABLE

1) Using a soft cloth, rub in a lemon oil-based furniture polish, going with the grain. Repeat.

2) Spot still there? Use a cotton swab to dab rubbing alcohol onto the stain; rub with a cloth.

3) Wait five minutes; blot and repeat. Follow with furniture polish to restore moisture to the wood.

I really love this magazine! To get your own free preview issue, go here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kids bowl free!

Kids bowl free all summer!

For a one-time fee of $24.95, up to four adult family members may join them... two games per day, any and every day.

Of course, standard shoe rental rates apply -- and there are the snacks and food which are screaming at them from the snack bar -- but the bowling itself is free.

We haven't ever taken our kids bowling, but it could be fun to show them that they aren't quite as pro as Wii Bowling might make them think they are. I remember being a kid and trying to make that stupid ball hit those stupid pins without rolling into that stupid gutter.

Everyone should have to live through that. It is like learning to hit that stupid softball.... trying to get back upright on a flipped jet ski when there are two of you... learning to stay up while parasailing... trying to ride your bike with your hands down by your sides... figuring out how to catch the wave and ride the boogie board all the way to the shore... mastering Heelys... finding that sweet spot on the backboard so the ball actually goes into the net every time...

This list is endless. What did you have a hard time mastering, but finally got it? Or didn't - like me with the bowling thing - but had a lot of fun trying?

[http://www.kidsbowlfree.com/amf.php]

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Do we really have time not to?

As my kids have gotten older and their scholastic workloads have gotten heavier, it has gotten increasingly difficult to fit into their homeschool days all the things I want them to be able to do. I have long said that overworking our students is a notorious problem of us homeschoolers, who don't have the built-in parameters and time limits of the typical public or private school day.

Even if you get special permission from the school for your child to skip lunch ("Now that's a healthy practice for efficient learning," she says sarcastically), high school students these days typically can only fit in between five and six courses per year, no matter how full they stuff their schedules. Once you've covered the "requisite four" of English/language arts, math, science, and history/social studies, this leaves only 1-2 spots for electives. All electives.

The foreign language required for 2-3 years to be able to graduate, and recommended for 4-5 years for college-bound students, usually takes spot five. This typically leaves one more spot, if you're not willing to stop eating lunch in order to take more classes.

One more spot. One.

Band? Art? Drama? Chorus? Home economics or "shop" (insert whatever PC terms they're using in any given year for these decidedly non-PC, old-school names)? How about the less traditional, specialized electives like marketing? fashion design? The specialized academies like the School for the Arts? legal academy? math and science academy? international baccalaureate programs? AP coursework? Dual-enrollment?

It is enough to make your head spin. And there aren't enough hours in the public school day to fit in all the things you might want to study. (As I said earlier, we homeschoolers have to make sure we don't overload our students, who have more scholastic time on their hands during our time-efficient days and who have no built-in parameters as to the number of courses they may take in a given year! But that is a subject for another post.)

This post is about the not-so-obvious omission from the list... so neglected these days by most high school students as to be completely void from most teens' scholastic days... Did you even notice its absence? PE. Physical education. Getting outside. "Working out."

These things are known to be crucial to our health, both physically and emotionally. They strengthen our bodies and our minds. They help us burn stress. They help us think better.

And yet they've been entirely eliminated from most high school students' days. They are no longer "required" subjects, and as such are not taken. Who has time with all those other things scrambling for the spot?

I just read an interesting article that has me thankful that my kids are still overloaded with PE in their days. Their grandfather, a real workout buff even in his sixties, faithfully comes over three times a week and works them out, hard, for about an hour. Recently I've pledged to join them. Why? Because as much as I've thought I need the time that they're occupied elsewhere for my teaching and housekeeping duties, I need the physical activity more. Just like they do, I need to burn some calories and stress and get moving in order to be more productive and fruitful throughout the rest of my day.

The next question raised by this article is whether we need to move it earlier in our day...

Monday, April 12, 2010

In His Pocket

My offering for this month's writing prompt at Poets Online.
You were to write from the perspective of a famous person's animal. I had a fun time with it.

IN HIS POCKET

I am famous, in a round-about way,
a fact that doesn’t square
with your knowledge
or your understanding
or your perceptions
about anything.

The things you think you know,
people told you,
or maybe you just saw them
from your own angle
and misunderstood.
Misinterpreted.

His hand in his vest,
for instance.

Baroque gentility from
a political genius.
Or so he thought.
As did you.
Unless you thought at all.
Then you would have called him a monster
with an ever-expanding empire.

Monstrous genius.
Brilliant monstrosity.

(Then, in the end,
after all the fanfare,
fighting every country you can find,
in wars named after you,
you’re known only for being short

with your hand in your vest.)

Gentility and war.
Such unusual bedfellows.

Like he and I.


The monster 

and the lizard in his pocket.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Firecrackers

Okay, so maybe I have too much time on my hands during this Spring Break, but this video was amazing, and I watched it from start to finish - twice!



These girls are a jump rope performance group of 4th-8th graders known as "The Firecrackers." (Seriously... this footage is from a US Naval Academy performance on April 3, 2009, and I thought they were college cheerleaders or something. Some of these girls are nine or ten years old?!!)

Amazing! And I can barely flip the thing over my head and jump out of the way more than twice...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A subtle call to deliberateness..

"A nice reminder of how valuable time is," creator Alan Dye has said of this screen-saver from Real Simple magazine. "The clock's numbers fade as the hand sweeps over them," notes the acclaimed graphic designer of his creation.

I just say it is really cool-looking... and I find that seeing it in motion is an ever-so-subtle call to deliberateness. Time is marching on!

Enjoy.