It’s Holy Week!

There is so much to write about this week! There’s yet another vaccination brouhaha going down on Facebook and some parents of disabled kids are suing Disney – and boy, do I have something to say about that. But it’s Holy Week! So rather than be controversial, let’s talk about Jesus.

I normally like to do something Lenten around this time of year. It’s not required – we’re nondenominational Charismatics, which means we don’t really do liturgical. We like the new stuff! But I like to recognize this time of year. It’s important to focus on the reason for Easter – my own sin that brings destruction and darkness and the glorious act of God that wiped it all away. I think it’s important to meditate for a while on the death and suffering of Jesus. Otherwise I tend to just go, “Hey – thanks God! That was great. Well done. Time for ham.” Plus I like ceremony and tradition. There’s something warm and inviting about it – like a comfortable sweater on a chilly day. You put it on and all is right with the world.

So, generally I do give something up for Lent, as a reminder that He gave everything. I plan my Bible reading around the Gospels and I try to incorporate some kind of teaching into our school days so that my children begin to understand the significance of the holiday. We’ve done the kitschy stuff, too, the empty tomb cookies and whatnot.

This year, however, I’ve really only just realized that Easter is quickly approaching. When it first dawned on me, oh, three days ago, that I hadn’t done any kind of preparing for Easter – not even checking Pinterest! I felt awful. I began apologizing to God for ignoring the ceremonial and traditional ways of relating to the season.

Here’s the thing, though. One of the things that fascinates me most about Jesus is that so many people He came into contact with had no idea he was God. That tells me He was a pretty normal guy. He wore normal clothes and talked in a normal kind of way. He wasn’t self-important or overly intellectual. He observed the Holy Days of His faith, absolutely, but he didn’t stand on ceremony. He leveled with people. He met them where they were. And He loved normal, carnal kind of stuff.

Like food. I’m astonished how often Jesus is found eating, or talking about eating, or planning to eat, in the Bible. As the great C.S. Lewis points out, God loves matter. He made it.

So here’s what I’m grabbing onto this week – it may be a little late for elaborate lessons and meals, I’m not sure if I’ll get to a Good Friday service (though I’ll try) and I never did celebrate Lent in the traditional way, but I can still celebrate Christ Risen if I seize the normal moments that reflect Him. When I stand in the first sunshine of spring and enjoy the warmth on my face I can take a moment and breathe a prayer of thanks. When I am surrounded by my children I can remember that He is the one who gave them to me, and it’s His grace that gets me through each day of raising them. I can revel in the gift of prayer, even when it’s during dishes instead of in my special quiet time spot.

I can take a step toward Jesus every ordinary, normal, un-interesting day of my life. Here’s Pope Francis (yeah, he’s Catholic):

“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of  you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.”

This is what Easter is all about. In whatever way we celebrate it, it’s about taking a step toward Jesus and realizing that He is there, waiting, with open arms.

And.. We’re Back

This is awkward. 

 I’ve been away from blogging for three months (!) and jumping back in is more difficult than I thought it would be. I’ve spent the last few weeks vacillating over whether to just start up like there was no gap or explain what the heck I’ve been doing all winter. And then I realized that the last few months’ worth of activity is going to show up pretty clearly so I’d better lay it out there. 

In late December, we found out we’re expecting again! This is, of course, joyous news, but I am going to be brutally honest and admit that when we first found out, I was not happy about it. And I was shocked at not being happy about it. I believed I was open to having more kids, and I’d even wished for another one at various points, but the reality of it was a bit devastating. And then I felt guilty about feeling bad about it. And then there were the frequent episodes of vomiting and the need for 16 hours of sleep every day that accompany early pregnancy. Between the physical and emotional turmoil, blogging sort of fell through the cracks. 

So we’re due in August, it’s a girl, and everyone, including me, is absolutely thrilled about it. Even if we are still reeling a little bit. 

Then we found out that the house we’ve been living in since last June, that we were trying to purchase as a short sale, wasn’t going to happen. So we’ve been in the throes of house-hunting and are now facing yet another move. This time with me pregnant. Yay! But we found a house and have a closing date, so that’s great news! 

Then my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. 

There really isn’t any good news to soften that one, at least not yet. He started chemo yesterday. It’s been quite the roller coaster ride, emotionally, especially since I’m apparently some kind of emotional retard. I spent the first week after getting the news trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with me and why I felt all weepy and scatter-brained all the time. Because my rational self couldn’t understand why my emotions would react to such news and, you know, affect my daily life. So it was kind of like waking up suddenly to find yourself on a roller coaster that’s already going full speed and not knowing where you are. 

I struggled with anxiety and depression. I didn’t feel like myself. Housework and parenting suffered. The weather sucked. There’s a reason filmmakers use weather to convey mood. 

And all winter long, as one hammer after another fell and my hormone-addled brain struggled to keep up with everything I felt it was impossible to write. I didn’t want to write about bad things! I want to be encouraging and positive! I kept waiting for myself to pick myself up and dust myself off and find the bright side. 

I’m realizing, though, that life simply isn’t always that way. There are seasons in which the bad seems to out-shadow the good, and pretending this isn’t so isn’t just untruthful, it’s wrong. Dark places are just as much a part of life as light. Walking through them is devastating, but can also add a richness and texture to life that makes the whole of it more worth living. 

And I missed it, the writing. 

So I’m back. I’m not going to promise that you’ll find encouragement and happy chirping and cupcake recipes. Some days there will be humor and joy, and some days there will not. Life is gritty sometimes, but we’re all in it together. We might as well admit it. 

As my 12 year old reminded me in a remark she made after watching Saving Mr. Banks, it’s good. I asked her if she liked the movie and she said that she did. “It was a good story. It wasn’t always a happy story, but it was really good.”

How We Ended Up in the Hospital but Everything is Okay

Friday’s forecast was 36 degrees. If you live in Minnesota, and it’s Christmas break, that kind of heat wave means only one thing – sledding. We rounded up some friends, headed to the biggest hill we know and spent a glorious hour exhausting ourselves in the sunshine.

You know how people say that when things go wrong, everything slows down? The world skids into slow motion? I don’t know what they’re talking about. It all happened incredibly quickly. And by ‘all’ I mean, almost nothing. A split second.

My daredevil five year old, Judah, was heading down the hill for the thirtieth time. A couple of the big kids were headed down on a giant inner tube 25 feet to his right. He veered right. They veered left. He hit a bump, lost his sled and hit the snow. No big deal; I may have mentioned he was a daredevil. Not two seconds later the inner tube hit the same bump and came down with sickening speed. Right on top of my boy’s head.

The moments right after an incident like this are hold-your-breath moments. You wait for the boy to get up and laugh or cry. But my boy just lay there in the snow. My husband ran down and carried him up the hill, limp and moaning. He wouldn’t open his eyes or answer questions. Give me a screaming, bleeding child any day; a limp, pale one is terrifying.

But we do not panic. My twelve years of parenting and four years as a 911 dispatcher have made my panic button near to inaccessible. My husband jogged off to the van and I told the kids to get the sleds together. We loaded up and decided where to go – there was an ER 10 minutes away. All the while I kept waiting for him to start crying, but he just lay in his daddy’s lap, quiet and pale, eyes closed. I spent the ten minute drive trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to get him to look at me. When his eyes were open they wouldn’t focus.

Once in the ER, we were met with a wonderful staff of nurses and a doctor who were all very friendly and non-panicky. I’m sure they see much worse on a regular basis. Their poking and prodding coaxed some life out of him and his crying was very reassuring. They quickly made the decision to send Judah to the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis so that he could be assessed by their pediatric trauma department. He was IV’d and collared and strapped to a board – at which point he began yelling “I’m cold! I’m cold!”, which made me feel much better. Dad and Judah bundled off to an ambulance while I headed to the lobby to make phone calls. (Side note – this was the point at which I almost lost it. Panic button reached.)

Getting set for the ambulance.

Two hours, three stops to drop off children and a 35 minute drive downtown later found me sitting in another ER with my little boy sleeping on his monster wheel stretcher. He’d had two CT’s and some X-rays. He was still pale and limp, but each time the doctor came in he had good news – the X-rays were clear. The CT’s were clear. When he started to wake up they wanted him to pee in a cup, which he found horrifying.

About five hours after the accident he really started to come around, and even when he fell back to sleep it was the sleep of a tired boy, not the near unconsciousness of a head injury. He ate cookies and juice. He snuggled the stuffed dog the EMT had given him. Eventually we were given a room for the night (discharge was pending the pee he refused to give and his keeping down a meal). By dinner time he was asking for spaghetti and movies.

Feeling better!

And now he’s home. Perfectly fine, without even a mark. Irritated as all get out that he can’t jump on the bed and wrestle with his brothers. And I’m just unbelievably thankful.

I’m thankful to all the (hundreds!) of people who prayed and sent their love our way. I’m in awe of the support that was poured out for us. We have the most incredible group of family and friends anyone could ask for.

I’m thankful for an ER doctor who smiles and says, “He’s just a little more sleepy than I’d like to see.” instead of frightening us with medical jargon or remote possibilities of serious complications.

I’m thankful for nurses who, when I realized I didn’t have his insurance card, smiled and told me they didn’t care. And they really didn’t.

I’m thankful for the nice old lady in the lobby who watched my kids while I ran back and forth between them and the exam room.

I’m thankful for amazing friends who, despite the flurry of post-holiday activity, kept my kids for me at the drop of a hat. Happily. You make me cry. In a good way.

I’m thankful for God’s will, which is inescapable. While I drove to the hospital my mommy brain kept imagining worst case scenarios, but I realized that whatever was going to happen, I had no control over it. I could only walk through the circumstances of my life as best I could. Knowing that it was truly out of my hands and in His brought me a peace I can’t describe.

I’m thankful for hospital food. All hospitals should have good food, and one of the items on the menu should be clam chowder. Because when you’re adrenaline dumping, you really need comfort food and there’s nothing better than clam chowder.

I’m so thankful for my boy being healed and safe that I can’t think of any adjectives for it. Just a few days ago, an old friend from high school’s son had brain surgery to control a bleed that came from bonking his head on a bench. My child gets plowed by 150 pounds of person on a speeding tube and he doesn’t even have a bruise.  A concussion, sure, but he was spared what could have been a serious injury.

So tonight I’m hugging my babies and thanking God that they’re all whole and wonderful.

Brieana

And one more thing. Someone recently said, “It’s better to be paranoid than dead.” But I don’t agree. Life is for living. Accidents happen and unnecessary risks should be avoided, but in a few weeks when we’ve gotten the ok, we’re going sledding again. On the big hill.

American Girls

My oldest daughter fell in love with Felicity years ago. Felicity is a young girl living in the American colonies just before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. She deals with political issues – some of her family are patriots and some are loyalists. Her favorite horse is nearly beaten to death by its owner. Her grandfather dies and her mother nearly dies in childbirth. This is some pretty heavy stuff.

The American Girl company, however, pulled it off with grace and good humor and the story was inspiring and educational while still being immensely attractive to young girls. We read the books, we watched the movie and we drooled over catalogs of hundred dollar dolls.

Eventually, my daughter saved up enough of her own money to buy a doll for herself, but by then Felicity had been retired. We bought a ‘look alike’ doll instead, and a few Christmases later I found her a Felicity on eBay. By then the gift was more sentimental than anything, but she loved it.

Last year my younger daughter decided she wanted an American Girl doll, too. We started looking through the dolls and I was shocked to see so many wonderful, historical dolls being retired and replaced by “Just Like Me” dolls and “Bitty Babies”. What happened to inspiring? What happened to rich, vivid history?

It turns out, I’m not alone in my opinion. Alexandra Petri published this article over on the Washington Post. Some excerpts:

“The whole point was to give you an entry point to history. Felicity or Samantha or Addy reminded you that, during the Civil War and the Revolutionary War and all the fascinating important times of history, there were Girls Almost But Not Quite Like You.”

Not so any longer. In our culture of sameness and oneness and we’re-all-equal-ness it seems we no longer want our daughters to stretch themselves in their imaginations.

“Maybe we get the dolls we deserve. After all, the redirection has been to shape them in our own image. You can wear what Saige (yes, SAIGE) is wearing. Saige, in turn, will have no more adventure than is readily available to you. You can indulge in a spa day! A spa day, with Saige. No more trekking across the prairie or dealing with wartime rationing.” 

Maybe we do get what we deserve. Maybe American girls have actually gone from brave, principled and heroic to shallow and self-interested. Maybe the new dolls are a reflection of modern America, just as the historic dolls were reflections of their respective times. Today’s girls just don’t face the same challenges of starvation, slavery and war. Today’s challenges are finding the right outfit, feeling left out and maybe having your favorite extracurricular cut from your school. Maybe the publishers of American Girl books want to address today’s issues. I get that.

But let’s face it: acting as though those challenges are the worst thing that can happen is the area of pre-teen girls. We, the adults, are supposed to guide them into the understanding that, actually, that stuff isn’t such a big deal. That’s why we need Addy and Samantha. We need role models for our girls who overcome actual challenges, and do so with grace, courage and imagination.

Bring back the good stuff, AG. Until then, I’m afraid this family of girls will be searching for our inspiration on eBay.

Pray for the Philippines

I’m sure you’re all aware now of the havoc wreaked by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. It seemed wrong to post about anything else today.

In Tacloban, children were ripped from their parents arms.

Aerial images show the force of the storm.

As many as 10,000 are feared dead, and tens of thousands are homeless. 

You can help. World Vision is responding to the need in the Philippines, as is the Red Cross. Click the links to find out how you can donate. Your prayers are also needed.

At times like this we wonder why a good God would allow such suffering. It’s a deep question with many facets, and I don’t claim to have the answer, although I’d love to discuss it here. But I’ll leave you with words from Billy Graham:

“I suspect almost everyone reading this has asked themselves the same question, because evil is real, and at times our world seems completely in its grip. And to be honest, we don’t always know why God allows evil things to happen. The Bible talks about “the mystery of iniquity” — and that’s what evil often is: a mystery (2 Thessalonians 2:7, KJV).

But the Bible tells us two important truths about evil that we need to remember. First, evil doesn’t come from God; He didn’t create it, and He doesn’t cause it. Evil comes instead from the Evil One — Satan — who is absolutely opposed to God and His goodness. 

Second, the Bible assures us that God has already done something about evil! He sent His only Son into the world to defeat it — and He did. When Jesus died on the cross and then rose again from the dead, He confronted the powers of death and evil and Hell — and He defeated them. Some day the final battle will be fought, and He will come again to destroy all evil.

Don’t put your hope only in this world’s solutions; they’ll always disappoint you. Instead, put your hope in Jesus Christ, for He is with us, and one day His victory over evil will be complete.”

Brieana

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

This week was relatively boring at our house. Except that it snowed on Tuesday. Wednesday morning we enjoyed one of the many delights of homeschooling by pushing back the school day an hour and going sledding in the backyard. It was an absolutely perfect morning, bright, cold and clear. There were still some scarlet leaves on the trees, everything was white and glittering and the sky was blue. It was the kind of day I wish I could capture and savor forever. And the kids had a great time with only one episode of tears from snow in the face. It was epic.

— 2 —

Anyway, because our week was uneventful, I’m filling up my 7 takes with fun stuff from around the internet. Remember when we all took the Myers Briggs? Guess what my friend sent me? It’s awesome. Except I’m Emperor Palpatine. And my husband is Natalie Portman. But still, fun to look at.

— 3 —

This made me laugh. (Click to enlarge.)

— 4 —

Here’s a fun grammar test. You know, for us nerdy folks. I did get one wrong – i.e. vs. e.g. I can never keep my Latin straight.

— 5 —

As did this. Plus the designer is from Minnesota, so that’s cool. Click the picture for the article.

— 6 —

I found this article to be very interesting. Turns out we Americans aren’t doomed after all. (Maybe.) Click to enlarge.

— 7 —

Oh yeah, my kid did say something funny this morning. As we were getting dressed he shouted, “Mom! I want to be a black guy today!” Turns out he wanted to wear all black. We start his sensitivity training tomorrow.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Our Curriculum

We currently use a smash-up of Ambleside Online and a classical approach, and do co-op with five other families twice per week.

Our co-op meets Tuesday and Thursday mornings at our house and covers history (I teach this, using Story of the World volume 2), science (Apologia Astronomy), Spanish and art. We also do memory work together – right now we’re memorizing High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., the Our Father in Spanish, our 2 and 3 times tables and the rulers of England (we’re up to Edward the Confessor). During the co-op, our little ones do ‘Super K’ with another mom (who is amazing).

Since we have co-op twice per week in the morning, we do our ‘together’ work on Monday and Wednesday mornings. That leaves afternoons for individual subjects like math, and we stay fairly consistent.

Monday mornings we review our memory work and do Latin, composer study, artist study, poetry and Shakespeare. Wednesday mornings are for memory work, Latin and Spanish and astronomy homework.

In the afternoons we do math (I’m using MEP), language (LLATL), reading (from the Ambleside lists) and copy work. Our copy work varies but is either something we’re memorizing, a poem, a scripture verse or some piece of great literature. I use handwritingworksheets.com.

Besides these things, we are reading aloud two books – Storybook of Science and Adam of the Road. They’re literature but they double as a science and history book. I aim for one chapter per day, which gets us through two chapters per book, per week. I try to get them outside at least once a week for nature study, and we read extra books about our current history topic if we can fit it in.

As for ‘extra-curriculars’, we’re at church four days per week, one kid is in a Christmas play, and we go to the chiropractor three times per week. I know that’s not an activity, but it takes so much time out of our week that other things have been pushed out. Normally they’re involved in some kind of sport, but because of the chiropractor we’re skipping that for now. My oldest is on the kids’ worship team at church and is taking a basic Christianity course. They’ve all taken piano, but that’s been suspended for the present as well.

Up until this year I’ve had a very specific schedule outlining who is doing what at all times. This year it’s much more relaxed. We know what needs to get done and work through it as best we can each day. Most days we start around 8:30 and end sometime between 4 and 5, but I’m the only one working the whole time. While I work with one child, the rest get a break if they’re done with whatever they can do on their own.

They each have chores they’re assigned for the day also. They usually do these either at lunch time or after their school work is done.

Here’s a lineup from a couple weeks ago:

Together:

  • Review memory work
  • Latin lesson 54
  • Storybook of Science chapter 15
  • Adam of the Road chapter 7
  • composer study – listen to a piece by Haydn
  • Shakespeare – finish Twelfth Night (we use Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare)
  • artist study – look at “Boy With a Squirrel” and talk about it (John Singleton Copley)
  • poetry – read a few pages of Favorite Poems Old and New

Sixth grader:

  • MEP Year 5, Lesson 22
  • Read Matthew 27:1-2, 11-31 and narrate
  • Copy 1 John 4:7
  • LLATL (sixth grade book) lesson 7 part 2

Fourth grader:

  • MEP Year 4, Lesson 22
  • Read two chapters of Robinson Crusoe and narrate
  • Copy 1 John 4:7
  • LLATL (fourth grade book) lesson 8 part 1

Third grader:

  • MEP Year 3, Lesson 22
  • Read Pagoo, chapter 4 and Princess and the Goblin chapter 11 with mom and discuss
  • Copy 1 John 4:7
  • LLATL (third grade book) lesson 7 part 2

On Monday and Wednesday mornings my two preschoolers hang out with us, playing and absorbing what they can. They do preschool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, but apart from that they don’t do any formal schooling. We sing songs, read books, explore and play. This is consistent with Charlotte Mason’s ideas about early childhood, and is backed up by recent findings. 

School around here isn’t as organized as I’d like it to be – but with constant interruptions from little ones and a desire to leave room for life’s interruptions, it’s hard to maintain a rigid schedule or atmosphere. For a look at how this particular day went in real time – check this out.

What does your homeschool look like?

Brieana