Monday, September 19, 2005

Leaping into Latin

I'm not very good at getting started on new projects. I'm a cautious person. Once I get started on a new activity and have the ins-and-outs figured out, I'm fine, but I usually have to force myself to START.

<--This is me trying to get past my own mindblock.

I've always been this way, apparently. My mother tells me that I did not start walking until I was sure that I could do it without falling down...My eldest son is the same in this regard. He gets easily frustrated when he doesn't know how to do something. This aspect of his personality makes homeschooling challenging at times, especially when I'm tempted to get all easily frustrated along with him, instead of patiently encouraging him.

Anyhoo, I've been wanting to get my boys started on learning Latin for a year now. I always have a list of things to do, and Latin always ends up falling off the end of the list, because I know nothing about Latin. I even have a dvd with beginning Latin lessons! You'd think that would be enough of a crutch!

Okay! So... today, we started. I put the dvd into the player and pressed play. (Woo Hoo!!!!) And guess what. We liked it! (After we got over laughing about the teacher smacking her lips open at the beginning of each sentence... Poor woman. She really is a good teacher. I mean, after all, she wrote the Latin primers and is teaching me!) I forced myself to put Latin at the beginning of the day, right after Bible. At this point, I'm thinking that a school day will be successful if we study: Bible (either during our school time, or during our evening family worship), Latin, math, spelling, piano, and spend some time reading. Other subjects such as history and chemistry are still important to me, but I won't let myself feel like a failure if we don't get it accomplished every day. Other things such as swimming lessons and art lessons are outside activities which we have paid for and so will get done without my planning. They just require my driving.

Why Latin? Well, I've decided to ditch English grammar right now and focus on Latin. Learning Latin is a good way of learning English grammar. Actually, instead of summarizing why I want to teach (and learn) Latin, I'll just direct you to this article which says it better I'm sure.

Hosting an Epicure

Yesterday, a new woman in our congregation and her toddler son came over to our house for lunch. (Her husband was in another state for job training.) I set up a taco salad buffet on our kitchen counters and as our guest was assembling her salad, I asked her, "Where did you go to school?"

She answered, "
Culinary School."

I laughingly replied, " Okay, that is intimidating!"

She sheepishly explained, "I usually try not to say where I went to school until after I eat with someone."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Musings on John Knox

This past week, while reading the Well-Trained Mind General Discussion Board, I was surprised to be addressed by someone thanking me for comments about John Knox which I posted last year after reading Story of the World, Volume 3, Chapter 2. I just checked my Word Perfect files and found that I had saved the comments and thought I'd re-post them here...

I'd like to share some of my thoughts on SOTW v. 3, ch. 2, "The Queen Without A Country" for the purpose of discussion, if others want to opine as well, but not for the purpose of starting a flame war. I thoroughly appreciate Story of the World and though I have some quibbles with this particular section, I'm not writing this out of disgust. To let you know my bias: I am a member of a Reformed Presbyterian church. Last year, I taught a high school church history class and gained a deeper respect for the way God used John Knox in church, country, and even towards developing ideas foundational to the American Revolution.

I realize that SOTW is a childrens' history and is not meant to be comprehensive, but humor me as I discuss it as an adult. On pg. 29 it says that Mary of Guise BECAME Mary Queen of Scots' regent. From what I've read, it was not as if Mary of Guise was the only option to become regent. She CAMPAIGNED to become regent and did become the regent, partly because of the *promises* she made to the Protestant lords. At first she was tolerant of Protestants. SOTW goes on to say that Mary of Guise was a good regent. That assessment is arguable, because Mary of Guise, like many politicians, broke the promises that she made to the lords who put her in power. She haughtily dismissed them when they objected, saying that "it became not subjects to burden their princes with promises, farther than they pleased to keep them." The Protestant Lords did suspend Mary from office, but with three qualifications: 1. That they still were in allegiance to Mary Queen of Scots. 2. That they harbored no personal animosity towards Mary of Guise. 3. That they would restore the queen regent to office if she would show sorrow for breaking her promises. Sounds fair to me.

SOTW mentions John Knox, but ignores all of his significant contributions to Scottish, and indeed world history, and instead holds up a magnifying glass to his criticisms of women rulers. Let me first agree that Knox's Monstrous Regiment of Women was indeed "monstrous" in the language he uses in describing women. I'm not trying to get into a discussion here about his beliefs on women rulers, but I think that he way overstated his case and turned it into a general insult and degradation of women. He was a man of his times. Earlier, he had left England due to the persecutions of Bloody Mary. Her abuses I'm sure had a lot to do with influencing his opinions towards women rulers! He certainly did not treat his wife and mother-in-law with the same disrespectful spirit that he displays in his writing. All of this is not an excuse, in my opinion. I think that this part of his writing is a blot on his character which serves to keep me from "putting him up on a pedestal".

I've noticed that many men and women of God in the Bible and in the pages of history have been used by God in various ways in spite of their sin. I've also noticed that when the Bible describes the people of God, after their lives are over, it mercifully focuses on their faith in God and not their sins.

Anyway, in reading this chapter, I got the impression that the Protestant lords were scheming and treacherous, that Mary was unjustly persecuted, and that Knox was a woman-hating sourpuss. However, other books I've read shed a different light.

I think that Knox is a historically more significant character than Mary, because:

  • his preaching was instrumental in furthering not only the Scottish Reformation, but the Reformation in England (Edward VI asked him to preach in England to make the Reformation based on scripture rather than just a political power play as his father had begun it.)
  • He helped author the Scottish Confession of Faith which was -adopted by Parliament BEFORE Mary came to Scotland - and which 1) made Protestantism the official religion of Scotland 2) basically outlawed Catholic worship 3) defined the roles of state and church [I think that this is important to understand that the Protestants were not just renegades against Mary at this time, but their Parliament had made Scotland a Protestant nation. The Protestant nobles were remarkable in accepting Mary as their rightful ruler even though her beliefs were contrary to the principles of the nation and she basically kept breaking the law and turning a blind eye to to others who broke it.]
  • He is the Father of Presbyterianism
  • He was the only man who was immune to Mary's charming personality and could stand up to her. For instance, the first time that he met her, he said, "If princes exceed their bounds, and do against that wherefore they should be obeyed, there is no doubt that they may be resisted even with power." [Sounds like he is giving teeth to the principle in the Magna Carta that the ruler is not above the law!] Later Samuel Rutherford expanded this seed of an idea in his work Lex Rex. It can be argued that Knox articulated a principle that was borne out in the American Revolution!

The books that I've read have painted a very different picture of Mary as well:

Mary married Lord Darnley, but their marriage soon turned sour. She began an affair with the Earl of Bothwell. Darnley turned to drinking and prostitutes. Mary's secretary, David Rizzio, was a Catholic who was hated in Scotland. He was plotting to restore papal authority in Scotland. Darnley believed rumors that Mary was sleeping with Rizzio and plotted with some Protestant nobles (not Knox) to kill him which some assassins did in front of Mary. [SOTW said on pg. 31 that Darnley wanted to make Catholicism illegal... but the practice of Catholicism already WAS!]

SOTW also mentions that Mary became less and less popular. WHY? Could it be that Darnley died in a suspicious way and everyone suspected the Earl of Bothwell with Mary as his accomplice? Could it be that Bothwell pretended to rape Mary who then married him, claiming that she had to because he had "lain with her" against her will? As Douglas Wilson writes in For Kirk and Covenant, "the nation, Protestant and Catholic, was revolted, and so they revolted."

Poor Mary? It seems to me that she brought a lot of her own troubles down upon her own head. Cough.

Please don't take my comments to mean that I am against Catholics! During the time of Mary Queen of Scots and John Knox, every country had an established church. No country was neutral. Queen Elizabeth was fairly tolerant of Catholics, but she was still a Protestant queen and England was a Protestant nation. Really, the American idea of no establishment of religion is a novel idea in history!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Homeschool Highlights


I drove the kids to their first art class at a local nature center. There were ten kids in the class with an age range from 6-12 years old. (Sophie turns 6 in the middle of the session.) When I signed up for the class, the woman I spoke to asked if I just wanted to try out the class with Sophie to see if she could handle it. But Sophie was certainly in her element during the 1 1/2 hr. class. She enjoyed two of her favorite activities: drawing and watching the older girls. The woman also asked if Sophie would be bothered by the fact that the teacher is a large, loud and boisterous man. I immediately thought of Uncle Rich and assured her that Sophie would not be intimidated at all!

The teacher, Dave Sullivan, proved to be very engaging. He stood at a white board and talked the kids through cartooning a frog, a shark, and an owl. While drawing, he asked the kids questions about the animals and told them all sorts of interesting facts about the animals' structures, habits and habitats. For instance, when drawing the owl, he also drew a cartoon picture of what Evan would look like if he had ears like an owl. Evan's cartoon head had one ear at the top of the head, and one towards the chin! Sullivan explained that, because the owl's ears are positioned this way, it can hear stereophonically. And when drawing a Great White Shark, he enlisted a student's help
to hold up a measuring tape to the length of an average Great White. The childrens' eyes got very large.

I didn't get to see my kids' artwork, because they put it away quickly at the end of class. They will have an art show at the end of the ten weeks.


After the Bible lesson, I decided to do the most interesting activity of our day: the chemistry experiment from Real Science 4 Kids! We tested different food items to see whether they contained starch or not. I sprayed laundry starch on a coffee filter, and when it had dried, Evan put a drop of tinctured iodine on it for the control. Since, the starch turned black like it was supposed to, we knew the iodine wasn't too old to work. Evan wrote out his own hypothesis (Potatoes contain starch, but celery does not) and I wrote down Matthew's. The kids put iodine drops on potato, celery, bread, banana, apple, onion, lemon and pasta. They recorded the item and whether it turned black or stayed brown where the iodine stained it. They finished by writing their conclusions about their hypothesis. The apple confused me, because some areas stayed brown and others turned black. We'll have to figure out why. If you know, you could leave a comment...

Prayer Request

I received the following email from the mother of a family in one of the churches in our denomination. Her husband, Micah, and toddler, Grady, are undergoing surgery to give one of Micah's kidney's to Grady. The mom is pregnant with her second child. Please pray !

Dear friends and family:

There is no way to thank you for the prayers and generosity you have shown to us over the past 17 months. It seems incredible that so much time has already lapsed since Grady was first diagnosed with renal failure. God has been very gracious to us and shown us great provision spiritually, emotionally, and physically in that time. We are rapidly approaching what we hope is the final hurdle in this medical challenge. Grady's kidney transplant in scheduled for September 26 at 8 a.m., just a little over two short weeks away.

Many of you have asked how you may pray and help and we are eternally grateful and know that we will never be able to express our gratitude. At this point there is really no way to plan for what kind of physical help we may need after the surgeries. But be confident that I will ask for help as the need arises. If one thing has happened to me personally in the past year and a half, my prideful and independent self has been forced to realize my need for others and especially the body of Christ. However, I do know how you can pray. There are many specific ways you can pray as well as a general God-glorifying and healthy recovery for Micah and Grady.

1. PRAISE! Grady and Micah will both be admitted into Children's Mercy Hospital on September 25 at 1:30 p.m. (We made them change the admission time so that we could attend church one last time as a family for what will probably be many weeks. Praise God -- the hospital staff was very respectful and accepting of our desire to put our faith first. That is a change because back in the beginning we were often looked at funny when our faith was mentioned. God is working.) The second part of this praise is that up until Tuesday we were expecting Micah's retrieval to take place at St. Luke's Hospital a few miles away. But, at the last minute, Micah's surgeon was given privileges at Children's and they will be in neighboring operating rooms and on the same recovery floor.

2. Both surgeries will begin at 8 a.m. They will remove Grady's two weak kidneys at the same time that they are retrieving Micah's kidney for transplant. This is of concern because if they are unable to retrieve Micah's kidney or something goes wrong and they are not able to use Micah's kidney, Grady will be left with no kidneys. Although his kidneys work poorly, they do still work to a certain degree and this has been very beneficial to his well-being over the past two years. If we have to continue on dialysis because of an unsuccessful surgery, dialysis will be much different and intense and Grady's overall health will probably suffer.

3. Grady will likely need a blood transfusion and we have been blessed with friends who have volunteered to donate blood on Grady's behalf. No one on Micah's side of the family is a type-match and no one on my side will be allowed to donate as I am a potential kidney donor should Grady ever need a second transplant in the future. Therefore they do not want Grady's body building up antibodies to my blood line. Again, we are so thankful for the friends who came forward to offer help in this way.

4. As with any surgery (both Grady's and Micah's), there is always a risk of infection, excessive bleeding, or death. Although very uncommon, these are possibilities that we must acknowledge. Bleeding is the greatest risk for Micah. The plan is to remove Micah's left kidney laproscopicly. However, if bleeding occurs, the doctor will pinch off the vessel and wait until they can completely open Micah up to fix the problem ... meaning a much larger incision and longer recovery time. Right now, we are anticipating that Micah will only be in the hospital for 2-4 days. He will not be allowed to drive for two weeks and will be off work for 4-6 weeks. The police department has approved him to use sick time for the entire time he is off work, therefore we will not miss any paychecks. Again, Praise God!

5. Micah's surgery will last approximately 3-4 hours; Grady's surgery will be approximately 8-9 hours. The longer someone is under anesthesia, especially children, the greater the risk that complications with their lungs arise. The surgeon assured us that the risk is not much greater for a nine hour surgery than a four hour surgery but the risk is there. Grady may possibly be on oxygen or a ventilator for a while after surgery but they do not anticipate this happening.

6. Grady has a much greater risk of infection because he will have much larger incisions than Micah. There is a possibility that Grady's left kidney can be removed laproscopicly. This would be the best outcome because he would have less incisions, less chance of infection, and ultimately less scarring. His right kidney will be removed through the same incision of his transplant.

7. The placement of the new kidney in Grady will likely depend on the size of Micah's kidney. Grady has reached a size (Praise God!) that if the kidney is small enough, it can be placed in his pelvic region. If the kidney is too big, they will place it in the front of his abdomen. The pelvic region offers more protection to the kidney as there are bones there to shield it. The front of the abdomen is more susceptible to injury.

8. After surgery there are two major risks, besides rejection, that they will be looking for -- blood clots and urine leakage. If urine leakage occurs (from the ureter to the bladder) they will have to reopen Grady and re-stitch the connection. If a blood clot occurs between the main blood vessel where they will attach the kidney and the kidney itself, they will likely not know this for a number of days. It is hard to detect and by the time it is detected the kidney is almost always unsalvageable. They will have to remove it and we will be forced to return to dialysis, but without any kidney function.

9. There is the possibility that Micah's kidney will never "kick in" and start to function for Grady. Obviously our prayer would be that not only would it "kick in" but that long term acceptance of the kidney is achieved and Grady will never need another transplant.

10. Grady has struggled with difficulty eating his entire life; the doctors attribute this to his renal condition. They have great hopes that his eating issues will resolve themselves after a successful transplant. However, he has made great strides on his own in the last few months. He is completely self-sustained as we have not used his feeding tube since December. He is trying to eat anything we will give him and is chewing lots. He has begun swallowing small amounts but not nearly normal for his age. Please pray that these issues will resolve themselves and that the progress that he has made will not be detrimentally interrupted by the transplant.

11. Finally, please pray for me. Two of the three most important people in my life will be in surgery at the same time. The third could be terribly affected if I don't remain calm myself. At this point in the pregnancy I am feeling quite good and think I am handling the stress pretty well. My OB is very understanding and helpful and quite prepared to offer any sort of aid that I might need. We have a second level 2 sonogram just four days before the surgery to determine that our little girl's kidneys have developed properly. At our last sono, the doctors felt sure that everything was normal but wanted to look one more time.

12. Pray that God will be glorified in the surgery, recovery, and every aspect of our lives as we go through this. We desire to be witnesses for Christ and feel that God has given us many opportunities to do this through this challenge in our lives. We may never know this side of heaven why God allowed this in our lives but I am confident that this situation has brought many people to their knees and for that we are very thankful. I know this has been a very long e-mail, and we really appreciate each and every one of you. You each hold a very special place in our hearts. May God be praised for His goodness and love!

Lemon Dill Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables:
3-4 red peppers cut into bite sized pieces
bunch of asparagus cut in bite size pieces OR 4-5 summer squash (yellow squash) sliced in rounds OR a combination of the two veggies
olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix together peppers, drizzle with oil and seasonings in roasting pan and roast in 450 oven for 30 mins., stirring after 15 minutes. Add yellow squash in last 10-15 mins. and add asparagus for last 5 minutes.

Lemon Dill Chicken:
6 half boneless skinless chicken breasts
lemon: cut in half; squeeze half; slice half in thin slices
1/2 c. white cooking wine
2 chopped green onions (optional)
1/4 tsp. dill

While peppers are roasting, lightly brown chicken breasts in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray. In a bowl combine the wine, 1 T. lemon jc., and dill and pour over browned chicken. Place a lemon slice on each breast half. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 mins. until breasts are poached (cooked through).

Serve vegetables on a large platter with the chicken arranged on top. Pour juices over all and sprinkle with green onions.

Sometimes I serve this with quinoa or brown rice cooked in some chicken broth.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bedtime Conversation

It has been a little over two weeks since my kids' good friend Michael died. Sophie told me a couple of times over the past week that she felt sad and missed Michael. I couldn't tell as well what the boys were thinking or feeling. Last night, when the boys went to bed, I asked Evan what he was thinking about Michael. Right away, his tears came. He told me that his best memory of Michael was the fort that they worked on together. Both he and Matthew cried for awhile and I stood up and bent down between the two bunks, giving hugs. After a while, remembering how Michael's dad sang Psalms to Michael on his last night, I sang Psalms 23 and 139 out of the Psalm book by the light of the boys' night light. The Psalms quieted our hearts and we talked for a little longer before the boys went to sleep.

As a homeschool mom, I spend a lot of time with my kids during the day, but I need to remember that bedtime can often be a time of deeper reflection and personal conversation with my children.

And we all miss Michael.

Fall Must Be Here

Yesterday morning, the kids noticed flies buzzing around the guinea pig cage. Later, as I walked down the stairs, I noticed black specks scattered around on the ceiling. No room was immune to the invaders. One pest even had the audacity to land on my finger. Shudder. We began to swat those we could reach and began the count. My husband joined in the extermination last night, continuing this morning. So far, total, we have killed 29 flies. Ugh! Two more are marked creatures.

At this point, I feel the need to assure those reading that we do not live in a pig sty. Nor do we leave our doors open. I'm not sure how they are all getting in.

The bugs must have sensed that cooler weather was coming. Today, the temperature has dropped and there is a chill in the air.

I wonder if it will be a cold winter.

Update: We killed 41 flies total by the end of this anti-pest campaign!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Today's Games

Instead of typing a list of learning games, I've decided to write short entries here and there about the games or activities we do on certain days and categorize them under "Learning Games" (see sidebar). Most of these will be be very simple, maybe even silly, but I guess my kids like silly!


Quirky Questions

For Bible, I had the kids take turn answering the review questions. If they knew the answer they could do a short goofy activity such as... 5-10 jumping jacks, running down and up the stairs once, patting head and rubbing tummy, hoedowns (a short ttapp exercise involving both right and left brain; see sidebar if you are curious about ttapp), singing a short segment of a song, somersault, etc. If they didn't know the answer, they looked it up in the Bible instead of doing an activity.

Run to the Answer

For spelling, I spread out phonogram cards all over the floor. I called out a phonogram and the kids ran to it. The first child to touch the card could keep it. I made a rule about no grabbing or shoving. I reserved a few of the cards for the 5 year old to race to by herself. This game could be used for math facts with number cards. Call out a problem and the kids run to the answer.

If you'd like to share a learning game, feel free to post it in the comments section!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Smooth Sailing

This first week of school has been the smoothest re-entry into the routine of homeschooling that we have experienced yet. This is the beginning of our fourth year of serious homeschooling. I thought it would be tough to fold Sophie (age 5) into the full-time schedule as she is doing first grade level work now, but she has made it easy on me. How?
1. She is reading fairly fluently already. It makes me so happy to hear her reading straight out of the Bible. Yesterday, she read Gen. 27: 12- 17 aloud, pronouncing "Shechem" correctly on the first try without my help! During her free reading time, she picked up Evan's Bible and read for a good bit of time out of the New Testament. For Bible, we have some student pages that go along with the lesson. One side of the page contains a recap of the story with step-by-step instructions for activities to do in the cartoon retelling of the story. Today, Sophie read the instructions to herself, found the numbered cartoon panel, and did the activity. She is so much more independent than the boys were at her same age. She enjoys this type of activity!

2. She narrates stories that she hears or reads with ease and enthusiasm. One of my boys in particular has always acted like it is a form of torture to have to put a story or what he has learned in his own words. Sophie's attitude is like a refreshing breeze in the midst of the sometimes difficult task of homeschooling.

3. Sophie's favorite subject right now is math!! She likes to learn about place value and number bonds using blocks and wants to do more workbook pages each day than what I give her to do. One of my sons is very good at math, but he doesn't usually particularly like it.

Okay, okay maybe I'm celebrating a little too soon, seeing as it is only the first week, but a good start has put me in a corresponding mood. And...I have to keep the bright side in mind when it is time to help Sophie with practicing piano. Ugh! In that category, it really helps to have "been there done that" with Evan. Getting started on piano was rough, but he is Mr. Independent now with his practicing.

A resource which has helped me this week is math software, specifically Quartermile Math which the boys use to drill math facts and Rainbow Rock and Vroot and Vroom which have activities and games to reinforce the math concepts in Singapore Math 1-4. When I am working one-on-one with Sophie, the boys can drill math facts. When Sophie is done with her math work and the boys are still busy with theirs, she can do activities on Rainbow Rock. I am so glad that I decided to invest in that software!

Hopefully this post hasn't come across as one big brag. Please do a happy dance (or get up and do some hoe-downs in t-tapp lingo) with me to celebrate a succesful first week!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

An Interesting Trend


Last Sunday, during the prayer request time at church,  prayer items were shared about three different people in our congregation who had either just had their gall-bladders removed or had that surgery scheduled.  (Someone quipped, "Maybe we should think twice about drinking the water!")  What makes this stand out is that my church is small.  At the same time, prayer was requested concerning three different motorcycle accidents!  


I try to use a variety of games while teaching my kids to spice up the learning process. Today we've played three different games.


Instead of just having the kids take turns answering the Bible review questions, I divided them into teams. Evan was a team unto himself, being the oldest, while Matthew and Sophie were allowed to collaborate. They played tic-tac-toe, earning the right to make their mark on the white-board grid if they answered a question correctly. If neither team could answer the question from memory, I allowed the team which first had the question to look up the answer in the Bible. Today the game ended in a draw; the best way to end tic-tac-toe.

Place Value Game

During math time, the boys were learning about place value up to the thousandth place as well as comparing number values. The Singapore Home Instructor Guide (sold by Sonlight) provided a fun game which the boys enjoyed. They each had a sheet of scrap paper with 4 lines representing place value. Each boy got to take a turn rolling the dice and writing the number wherever they liked on the lines (once placed, the numeral could not be moved). When all the lines were filled, the boys read their numbers to each other, and at first the boy with the highest number (later I changed it to whoever had the smallest number) won the round. In the first round, the boys placed the numbers indiscriminately on the lines, one of them losing the game due to poor placement. They caught onto the strategy by the next round. This method was certainly more interesting than just going over the text.

Musical Facts

During spelling, we made two circles of phonograms on the floor: single-letters for Sophie and multi-letter phonograms for the boys. I sang goofy songs while they walked around the letters. When I stopped singing, they had to stop and take turns saying the phonogram beside which they stopped. THAT game was more fun for the kids than for me, because they got too silly and weren't listening!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

First Day of School

The following is a log of our activities on the first day of lessons. Don't worry, I won't do a blow-by-blow blog everyday!!

Today I got up at 6 a.m., because I only needed to do my 15 minute T-Tapp workout. We breakfasted at 6:30, then did our morning chores and devotions.

We started school at 8:00 a.m. with the first Bible lesson in Bible Study Guide for All Ages. We discussed some basic facts about the Bible and began to learn the four divisions in the New Testament (Gospels, History, Letters and Prophecy). Using a card with picture illustrations, I gave the kids a brief overview of the book of Genesis. The kids began reading about Joseph today out of the NIV. I was very pleased to hear how well they read aloud...Sophie more slowly, but surely. The kids illustrated the story with stick figures on one page for the beginning of their own "Joseph books." We played "Happy Man" (a more pleasant version of hangman); if they answered a question correctly, they could choose a letter to fill-in the blanks of a word. Of course, we spent longer on this than I intended (1 hr.), but the kids liked it.

I am so thankful for a laptop! I brought it upstairs to Evan's desk so that he and Matthew could take turns doing multiplication drills with Quartermile Math (a computer program with a horse or car race) while I did some math with Sophie. I could also knock some heads together (almost literally, but not) when the bickering broke out . Sophie whined about having to do math at first, saying she didn't want to be in first grade. By the time we were done with the lesson and she had completed 2 workbook exercises, though, she was saying, "I want to do more first grade!" (She meant math, specifically, and I had to tell her to wait till tomorrow!) While the boys did their workbook exercises, Sophie did a Rainbow Rock computer program which is companion software to the math program.

Sophie chose the phonogram game for the day: phonogram basketball. She rounded up an old LARGE stockpot and we found a plastic ball. Each time they identified a phonogram correctly, they earned a try at making a "basket." The ball made a satisfying "Clang!" in the pot each time they made a shot.

The kids spent some time polishing their cursive skills with a handwriting practice page. They're not quite back to square one since the summer, but the skill is definitely rusty.

Since the kids were ravenously hungry by 11:30, we broke for lunch. Leftovers from Old Chicago made prep a snap (We ate at O.C. yesterday using the free pizza coupons the kids earned through the summer library reading program.) When they finished lunch, the kids played around on the front porch for a little while. I posted the previous entry during my lunch break.

At 12:30, the kids all took a spelling diagnostic test to let me know where to start them in the spelling list. I can still keep Evan and Matthew together for spelling because they both scored at 4th grade level.

The kids took turns practicing piano and reading while the others practiced. Sophie turned her practice session into an ordeal for herself with a bad attitude . By the end of her time, though, I had persuaded her that a cheerful spirit makes learning a lot easier. She was more pleasant during the last five minutes and actually made some progress

Matthew read The Matchlock Gun from start to finish! Evan read in The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare. Sophie read Mouse TV which Shannon loaned to us, saying that it was Michael's favorite book (the book's lesson is actually about how much fun can be had when the TV is turned off.)

To finish "lessons", I read a chemistry lesson to the boys while Sophie read an Usborne book called Things Outdoors. I intended to try some beginner Latin lessons today, but it was definitely time to quit before we got to that!

Sophie ended the day quite enamored with "first grade!"

This afternoon, Matthew spot cleaned the guinea pig cage, while Evan cleaned their bathroom. They rode bikes for awhile; ate a quick supper; and now are off to soccer at a local Baptist church.

All in all it was a good day!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Sermon Reflection

At one point in his sermon today, Bob reminded us of Andy McCracken's sermon at Horn Creek on the book of James. Andy said that good works are useless for our salvation, but necessary for our chief end. The Westminster Shorter Catechism words it this way: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." Andy gave an historical illustration which I'll tell here in my own words...

Donald Cargill was a Covenanter minister in Scotland in the 17th century. He was born around the time that the Pilgrims journeyed to the New World. He was a minister at the time of the Restoration in 1660, when Charles II was restored to the throne (after the time of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell). Charles II had promised to adhere to the Solemn League and Covenant which declared the church of Scotland to be Presbyterian. As soon as Charles ascended the throne, he began to go back on his promise, declaring himself to be the head of the church and installing his bishops over the Church of Scotland. This was repugnant to the Covenanters who stood for King Jesus' rights as the sole head over His church. Charles offered an Indulgence to the Scottish ministers, allowing them to remain in the church if they acknowledged his authority over the church. Many of the ministers refused to compromise and began preaching in conventicles, which were secret open air church services on the moors of Scotland. Cargill was one of the ministers who would not compromise. This was a time of great persecution for the Covenanters who were fined, pursued, imprisoned and martyred. Cargill himself died a martyr's death.

When one of the ministers who had accepted the King's Indulgence heard of Cargill's rejection of the same, he asked, "What needs all of this ado? We will get heaven and they will get no more."

When Cargill heard it, he replied, "Yes, we will get more; we will get God glorified on earth, which is more than heaven."

Revelation 4:11 says, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

Salvation is important; the Christian life begins there. But as Christians we need to continue on, getting God glory by our lives.

I also want to include here one comment that Cargill made before he died. He said, "
I have been a man of great sins, but He has been a God of great mercies; and now, through His mercies, I have a conscience as sound and quiet as if I had never sinned." What a testimony!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

White Chili

Gina asked for my White Chili Recipe (which I got from Angi) and I thought I'd just post it here.


1 # ground turkey (I have substituted leftover chicken at times.)
1 c. chopped onion
2 T. minced garlic

Mix in Crockpot:

Browned meat
2/3 c. pearl barley (Gluten Free alternative: Use brown rice, or even better and faster, quinoa)
2 16 oz. cans Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 2 T. ground cumin
1 T. minced canned jalapenos (I use 4 oz. can of diced green chili peppers.)
1 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. savory (I have never included this.)
6 c. chicken broth

Cook on HIGH for 3 hrs. Top with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Michael's Funeral

A week ago, Evan's close friend (and the friend of Matthew and Sophie as well) died unexpectedly. Michael suffered from a form of muscular dystrophy. Not quite two weeks ago, he had surgery to straighten out his feet. Three days later he passed away, probably due to a blood clot in his leg which broke loose and travelled to his lung. I wrote two entries remembering Michael in my former blog.

Earlier this week, Michael's dad, Eric, called me and asked me to represent our congregation at the funeral, by compiling and reading stories/memories/thoughts about Michael which were significant to his church family. Michael's funeral was this morning, and this is what I read:

Michael was an important member of the Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Congregation. We had the privilege of watching him grow up in our church family. Our last enemy, which is Death, dealt an unexpected blow in separating us from this child of our congregation. This is a time of mourning for us, but also a valuable time of reflecting on the love God has poured out upon us through His precious promises of the resurrection and eternal life in Jesus Christ. It is a time of remembering how God has blessed us through the gift of knowing Michael.

Michael was still a young boy when God chose to bring him home. The children of the congregation counted him as a friend. He enjoyed the company of even the youngest. The A_____ family remembers one year old Makara getting up on Michael's lap and warming up to him quickly which he seemed to enjoy as well.

We will always treasure the memory of Michael whizzing around the church property in his wheelchair with an entourage of boys. Many of the boys even call Michael their "best friend." They would search together for interesting rock specimens and sometimes they would pretend that a cement platform was their workbench. They'd smash open the rocks to examine the insides and smash leaves to make "paint". The boys also liked to play army together, and Michael drove the tank, of course! A year or two ago, the boys liked to pretend that they were hunting aliens and monsters. Michael enjoyed the colorful life of the imagination which is unique to childhood.

The highlights of the boys' playtime centered around their forts. For the past two years, the boys have constructed different structures behind the church parking lot with varying degrees of success. The boys had as much fun working as they did playing in what they built. Michael became the project director, telling the others where to put the boards. The boys also elected him fort president. A fort was never completely finished on the church property while Michael was alive.

Two weeks ago, however, Michael attended the Horn Creek conference and without debate, his favorite activity was the building of a fort behind the Mini-Lodge. Evan, Michael and Matthew found a circle of scrub oak with open areas inside. Eric and Shannon helped the boys turn it into a large fort with walls and a roof. They tied ropes to the front board to create a door and hung a horseshoe over the entrance. Eric also fixed a board across the crooks of two oaks, making a small bench. They found a stump to use as a table. They even made some ink out of soot and water and wrote "The Fort" over the entrance. The most wonderful aspect of this fort was that Michael could drive his wheelchair inside. What a blessing that he was able to enjoy the fulfillment of his plans!

Last Sunday after the church service, the boys of the congregation assembled yet another version of the every-changing fort project. On their own accord, they created the beginning of a memorial to Michael by hanging some pictures inside. May they ever treasure his memory.

Michael's family has been an example to us over the years of patient love as they cared for his needs. The family, and Michael himself, never displayed anger at his handicapped condition. Instead they had an attitude of humble reliance on their Heavenly Father whom they knew loved Michael more than they even could. Joanne wrote the following about the family: "One of my first memories of Eric and Shannon was at one of our church camp outs. Michael was probably two and running around keeping them busy. They were taking him to the doctor in the next week or so to see if he had MD. They seemed to know he had it, but they were so calm and matter of fact about it. That was my impression throughout Michael's life. His parents were thankful
for their son, they loved him as he was, and they trained him in the ways of the Lord in the hopes that he would be with Him one day. I admire their courage and strength."

We will also always remember the time and effort that Eric and Shannon put into extremely creative costumes for their children for the Reformation Day Parties. Remember Michael as the world? as the Star of Bethlehem? as a mad scientist? as the owner of a hamburger stand, complete with the stand? Eric and Shannon made sure Michael had fun like everyone else.

Michelle has always been close to Michael and a loving older sister. Robert recently recalled a time when Michael was still walking, but would soon have to be in a wheelchair. The kids of the congregation were called up front for a Christian Education presentation, but though Michael tried to step up onto the platform, he could not do it. Michelle quickly came alongside him and helped him up that step. This is just one example of her love in action.

Cheryl taught Michael for the past two years in his Christian Education class. She remembers that during the first year of class, Michael was easily distracted and sometimes had a difficult time paying attention as is the case with many boys, but last year she noticed a new maturity in him. He showed an increased interest in God and His Word and participated more in discussion with good and thoughtful comments. Josh, his classmate and friend noted that Michael knew a lot about God's Word, undoubtedly in great part from the faithful teaching of his parents.

Other people noticed an increasing maturity in Michael, especially in recent months. Bill, Michael's grandfather, shared with me that Michael did not usually sing in the church service due to his shyness. Lately, however, Bill was very pleased to hear Michael quietly singing Psalms with the congregation. Eric also shared with me that Michael always slept with the light on...until he came home from Horn Creek On his first night home, Michael told his dad to turn the light all the way off, because he was no longer afraid of the dark. Finally, Shannon, with her mother's heart, told me that she rejoices in the knowledge that the youngest member of their family is now the most mature and complete, filled with the knowledge of God in heaven!

We may miss the whirring sound of Michael's wheelchair navigating around our church building, but we would never wish him back in it. When Conner heard that Michael had passed away, he prayed, thanking God that Michael is now dancing in heaven instead of riding in an ambulance. T.J. drew a picture of Michael, imagining him playing soccer in heaven. We all miss him, but we look forward to the day when we will be worshiping Our Lord alongside Michael in the New Heavens and the New Earth.


I would like to thank those of you who prayed for me concerning the writing down of these memories and also the reading. I sensed God's guidance in the composition and also His peace as I read. I cry easily about small things since becoming a mother, but even more so about something of the magnitude of the death of a twelve year old boy. This morning, however, God helped me to keep my tears in check for the most part so that I was able to read clearly. Thanks again for your prayers.

Michael's aunt made a nice program for the funeral service. She scanned in some of Michael's drawings to decorate the front cover:

On the back cover, Eric and Shannon wrote the following:

As we look back, we don't remember Michael ever having one favorite Psalm, because he loved to hear all of the Psalms. When all of our children were little, Dad would sit in the living room singing the Psalms as the kids lay in their beds adjacent to the living room. As time passed and the kids got older, Dad stopped singing to the kids in this manner. The night before Michael passed on; he was still in much pain from the surgery on his legs. After getting settled into bed, Dad once more sat out in the living room and sang the Psalms to him. Dad's desire was to comfort Michael and ease him off to sleep. Michael had told his sister, Michelle, that he liked it when Dad sang the Psalms. We chose to sing the Psalms at Michael's service because we wanted to share with everyone the Psalms that were a special part of Michael's life especially when we gather together each Sunday morning. Each psalm has a special meaning. (Click on the Psalm title if you'd like to see the Scripture.)

Psalm 116A was chosen because it gives us a picture of one who has been overcome by death on every side and yet is freed from the bonds of death and now walks with God. Just as God saved his only begotten son from the grave, He now saves us who call on Him. We believe this to be true of Michael, and now he lives and walks with God.

Psalm 104 recognizes that it was the Lord who created the earth and all that is in it and it was He who placed it in order. We chose this Psalm, because Michael was always very curious about all of creation. From the creepy crawling bugs and spiders to the majestic heavens, Michael would always ask questions and then try to answer his own questions followed with the words, "Huh Mom?" or "Huh Dad?"

Psalm 45A is a victory song. It pictures Christ as King going forth in victory over all who fight against the King. We picture, that as Christ had victory over death and rode forth, we see Michael, in Christ, having victory over death and he too riding forth, not to be king, but to live with the King of Glory.

Psalm 146A is a Psalm that gives praise to God and shares the hope and blessings of those who choose Jacob's God to be their aid. Michael chose Jacob's God to be His God, through Jesus Christ, and our hope is that as we share Michael's life with you, that you too will be moved by God to put your hope and trust in the the Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless all of you and keep you. Amen.


It was a blessing to sing those Psalms, so full of meaning.

I don't have the text of Pastor Bob's sermon, but it was a hopeful gospel message challenging us to trust in Jesus for our salvation and for the hope of the resurrection. He quoted again from Psalm 45: 5 "Thine arrows sharpened are, Men under Thee to bring, To pierce the heart of enemies Who fight against the King." (from the Psalm book) He pointed out that we all were/are enemies of Christ the King, fighting against Him, and denying His Lordship in our lives. Christ came to earth with arrows, not poison arrows as it were, but life-giving arrows to pierce our hearts with the knowledge of His gospel, the message of salvation from sin and death.

I praise God that His Name was glorified in Michael's life as well as in his death and I wanted to share this with you.