Friday, November 30, 2007

Step One- Fight the Greed!

Early in our family life, we set some parameters for our extended families and gift-giving.

This is where the whole issue becomes a battlefield.

No matter what their station in life, Americans are very, very defensive about Christmas and how it should be celebrated. Giving gifts is seen as an inalienable right, and any attempt to curtail that right is met with petitions, threats, and jail time. Or at least it feels that way. Nonetheless, we’ve stood our ground, for the sake of our children and their long-term mental health, and requested that the gifts be limited to one per child from each family member. Now, this is not exactly deprivation, and adds up to a total of about twenty-five new things that our family receives each year. And it means that our children get nicer things (since we don’t limit the amount of money spent, just amount of gifts.) that they can remember and appreciate, rather than piles and piles of junk that immediately get stepped upon, broken, and forgotten. It also means that we can move some of the focus of Christmas away from greediness and more towards what we value as a family- things like self-sacrifice, love, and eternity.

I know-we’re weird.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fight the Greed! Step Two

The last couple years we’ve taken the money we would normally spend on the children for Christmas presents and have instead given it to charity. Last year, we bought goats through Samaritan’s Purse to give to poor families in South America, and this year we are giving it to people we feel could really use it. It’s fun for us as a family to think about how we can bless another family during the holidays, and moves the focus away from what we get to what we can give. Our children don’t feel deprived since they get so many presents anyway, and we have the blessing of knowing that our money is going someplace it can really be used, rather than ending up in the pile of discarded stuff on the children’s floors.

Good sources of gift ideas:

Samaritan’s Purse

World Vision

Heifer International

Local shelters and food pantries that probably have a long list of things their guests need!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fight the Greed!

It always amazes me that the Christmas holiday is celebrated in the name of a man who was born, raised, and died in poverty. I have heard many people justify the excesses of holiday giving by talking about how God gives lavishly to us, and we should we reflect that in our lifestyle.


Well, rather than delving into the theological tenuousness of that position, I’m going to focus on its results- the greediness that settles into almost every American child during the month of December. We as a family have very deliberately tailored our holiday festivities to encourage thankfulness, generosity, and joy among our children, rather than feeding into the ‘what am I going to get’ syndrome- which comes naturally to humans anyway.

A couple of important notes- we start from a foundation of a frugal lifestyle, where we limit shopping expeditions to about once a month and allow no TV commercials in the house, and we never whine about ‘if only we had enough money to buy (fill in the blank)’. Also, we have discovered that fighting the greed makes us unpopular with lots of people this time of year, no matter how politely we try to explain our position. So- be warned!

To prevent this post from getting too long, I’m going to write about this over the course of the next few weeks, rather than addressing it all in one post.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the tempestuous toddler

No, it’s not a recently discovered Shakespearian drama, it’s the (current) story of my life.

I’ve been asked on occasion how I handle homeschooling with a baby/toddler in the house. I, too, asked this question, of my wise friend Mary, mother of seven and veteran homeschooling mom. She suggested homeschool ‘lite’ for the first year of the baby’s life- I’ve now extended that to three years, and am considering making it a permanent philosophy.

In conjunction with that, I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to relax. The kids will learn. The house will never be clean. Insanity will be lurking around every corner. Time passes; seasons change; children grow; insanity creeps closer. And finally everything seems manageable, thru the grace of God. For truly Jesus spoke: Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you…even the strength to enjoy parenthood.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Things I have to do before 4 pm Thanksgiving Day


  • Change sheets (it’s been an embarrassingly long time since the last household sheet change…) but before I change the sheets, I have to…
  • Battle the fearsome Laundry Monster. It’s about thirty-feet high, twenty-feet wide, 6 tons and multi-colored. I shiver with fear.
  • Make pie crusts


  • Make pies
  • Start twice-baked potatoes
  • Maybe cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving breakfast?


  • Clean house (such a simple statement…such a Herculean task)
  • Finish twice-baked potatoes
  • Make salad
  • Bake ham

Good thing I have slaves.

On a completely separate note, it’s amazing how quickly David and I can polish off a liter of Bailey’s. I was planning to save some for baking, but oh well- guess I’ll have to buy a new bottle!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Day in the Life of G.W. Carver Academy

The children thudded down the stairs this morning at seven o’clock- the earliest they are allowed to get out of bed! We did the usual breakfast routine (breakfast is the only meal they are allowed to request separate foods, so I have to bustle about toasting bread and pouring cereal) and moved right into school- preparing stew for tomorrow night’s dinner. Stuart peeled carrots and potatoes, then Anastasia and Malachi chopped them while India watched them, and I browned meat, opened canned tomatoes, poured wine and mixed in the rest of the ingredients. The kids then scampered upstairs for the usual changing, teeth-brushing, and so forth while I did last minute preparations for the school day, like typing up an apostrophe test for the boys.

We are studying ancient Mesopotamia right now, so we first read chapter five of the book of Daniel, then a few pages from our history book which detailed the Persian conquest of Babylon (India and Anastasia don’t really pay much attention to that, but I make sure Anastasia gets the important points.) The boys passed their apostrophe tests with flying colors while Anastasia danced downstairs to reggae and made herself and India a snack. Math followed snack time (which also included forays into the online world of Club Penguin ) and after that the girls played outside while I made lunch listening to my favorite industrial band, Mortal.

We’re in the middle of our lunch break now, and will work on some fractions and then gardening in the afternoon. Not all days run this smoothly, but it sure is nice when they do!

we are handfuls of dust, yet made of stars…’ten-O’, Mortal

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Am I really that weird?

This morning we attended a library class geared towards homeschoolers. There were a few dozen of us there, and it was a good time. The kids got to interact with some other kids, we did some fun math games, and of course checked out about a million books. There was only one note of discord during the experience: for the most part, the other moms did not talk to me. And yes, I tried to talk to them. Usually I received short replies; in one instance, a hostile, silent glare.

I usually don’t complain about this kind of thing, and I’m really not complaining now. It actually doesn’t bother me- I have an overabundance of self-confidence and generally bite my thumb at anyone who slights me. But there are a couple things about this particular occasion that strike me as worthy of comment.

First, these are primarily conservative Christian women. I am a conservative Christian woman as well- in some ways. In other ways, obviously, I am very different from most people who fit that category. (I mean, are purple tights really that weird? Apparently so. I had no idea…) So, my question is, ahem, what about Christ’s love for the outcast? Shouldn’t we encircle those who are different than us, showing how God loves them, trying to bring them into the fold? From the reaction I received this morning, I would have to assume that odd people are not welcome in the kingdom of God, and brightly colored shawls are sinful. Hmmm....

Second, the librarians are very friendly and I had several good discussions with them. This proves my long-held theory that librarians in general are strange people and can associate freely with other strange people- which now means me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Quotes I Like (imperfectly paraphrased as I was too lazy to look up the sources)

“As I write this, highly civilized men are flying overheard, trying to kill me.” George Orwell

“I fear that I am ordinary, just like everyone.” Billy Corgan

“I refuse to be caught in the middle of a territorial dispute between mythical creatures.” the character Bella, from Stephanie Meyer’s novel Eclipse

“He who steals my purse steals nothing- it is trash.” Iago, from Othello

“The door is open, sir, there lies the way. You may be jogging til your boots are green. As for me, I’ll stay my leisure. I see a woman may be made a fool, had she not the spirit to resist!” Katarina, from the Taming of the Shrew

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Monty Python and the Flying Circuses

“Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Christ

Friday, November 9, 2007

Extreme Frugality, revisited

Note: See ‘extreme frugality’ in the archive section of my blog to get the background of today’s blog.

We are a month or so into our severe budget restrictions, and have been reduced to borrowing toilet paper and wearing holy socks :P (Actually we just need to get to Wal-mart; our funds are sufficient this week to cover a large pack of toilet paper, and even some new socks!) God has provided, sometimes in unusual ways, but mostly by helping us say ‘no’ to anything outside our budget. This can be very painful. I have found the best way is to be very consistent: simply never make an exception, no matter how worthy or how much desired, to anything that exceeds our weekly spending allotment.

Like any addiction, the initial period of deprivation is the worst. It has been a blessing for me to realize just how dependent on ‘stuff’ I had become. Rather embarrassing, really, especially for a ghetto housewife, to always be thinking about what to buy next! But the payoff is worth it. Aside from enabling us to afford some larger things we have been saving for, the tighter budget will hopefully help the whole family lead a more contented lifestyle, and understand the differences between our ‘wants’ and our true needs.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Without you, I am rootless grass

translated from Japanese- words from the song played during the ending credits of the anime ‘Gilgamesh’

Ok, some things just don’t translate.

Or, perhaps this is exactly the sentiment the lyricist was hoping to express. “Rootless grass?”

Whatever the problem, lost in translation or analogy-challenged poet, I found the end result hilarious and laughed for at least a minute after reading it off the screen.

Without you, I am rootless grass…or perhaps, mouse-less computer…or even better, signal-less cell phone...

Friday, November 2, 2007


This is getting tiring.

I am determined to get some rest today so that hopefully (God have mercy) my body can heal quickly. I think, overall, I need to lessen the stress in my life, because I believe that is directly related to why I’ve been sick so much in the past few months. (though it could also just be Satan, she says in a sneering voice). I wonder, too, about increasing the amount of fresh fruits and veggies I eat, to booster my immune system.

Well, thankfully, the children can somewhat cope by themselves for a day, and we can keep school light. I hate just sitting around when there’s so much to be done…but I’ve learned my lesson from my last, never-ending sickness, and will shut my eyes to any unimportant details and will spend the day reading and playing pacman. I guess life could be worse!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

burden or blessing? Part 1 of 'life with children'

Halloween was lovely- a neighborhood party, a wee bit of trick or treating, and games here at our house, with homemade fudge and store-bought apple cider. We had a good time and went to bed early. The little bit of candy that was brought into the house will be doled out slowly, over the next week or so, and then dumped. Yes, I’m a mean mama!

I’ve been thinking about sacrifice lately, and what it means in the life of a Christian mother. I think too often us moms allow our culture’s view of family & children overtake our own perspective. We see our children as a burden; something to endure; indubitably, we love them, but please, get them out of the house as soon as possible!

I know how demanding the little ones are. I know what it is like to be with them continually- the questions, the needs, the arguing- it’s exhausting, and much like Jesus with the disciples, there are just times when a mother needs time alone. (Really, from reading the gospels, the disciples do sound amazingly like a bunch of toddlers. So I think Jesus really can sympathize with us young moms!) It’s a love that always gives without receiving anything except the satisfaction of serving. It requires the love of God in our own hearts. So what is the Christian perspective of children? A blessing. How? How can something which is so difficult, so costly, also be a blessing? I think I’ll save that question for another post…