Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy New Year!

While the civil calendar begins on January 1, the Church Year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. So Happy New Year! The Western world, and even many Christians have forgotten Advent for so long that in some churches, several generations have grown up without even hearing of it. Even if we are vaguely uneasy about what has become of our Christmas celebrations, many of us are unaware of just what it is we are missing.
Christmas becomes for many people a secular holiday that begins at Thanksgiving and comes to an end shortly after dinner on December 25th. Christmas concerts, Christmas parties, even Christmas services of lessons and carols are held from early December on, building to an almost anti-climactic series of services on December 24th and 25th. Those who insist on waiting to celebrate Christmas when it actually arrives... are often dismissed as modern day Ebenezer Scrooges, who thought Christmas was humbug and did not even care that Advent existed. Sadly, much is lost in this popular reordering of the Church year. In fact, Christmas itself is impoverished.

By celebrating Christmas from the beginning of December on, we override Advent and lose it. And this is a terrible loss. Advent sets before us the powerful unfolding of God's plan for all of history, a plan that culminates not in the first coming of Christ, but in his second coming. Without Advent, Christmas is all too easily reduced to a sentimental story about a baby. When Advent is swamped and washed away by the premature celebration of Christmas, we lose something more: we lose the gifts of expectation and anticipation.

Full Homely Divinity, Rediscovering Advent

Read more about Advent, and some things your family can do to help restore it, in the Advent Carnival.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

How a Simple Tradition Led from Commercialism to Christ
Here are links to this series of posts, in order:
Part 1 Early Memories and the Expanding Season
Part 2 Keeping Christ in Christmas?
Part 3 Joining In
Part 4 Something New Needed
Part 5 Scaling Back
Part 6 Separating the Celebrations
Part 7 Discovering Advent
Part 8 The Challenge
Part 9 Advent Hymns
Part 10 Advent Prayers
Part 11 Christmas Eve
Part 12 Christmas Day
Part 13 The Hearts of the Fathers: After Christmas?

Read about how other families are celebrating a holy Advent in The Advent Carnival.

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First Snow

We usually take the day off school when we get our first snow of the season, but this year it came on Thanksgiving.

Prayer Request

A friend and her children were in an accident. The baby is still in the hospital. Updates here.


A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 13

The Hearts of the Fathers: After Christmas?
“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John... And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.” Luke 1:13,16-17

With the frenzied activity of our old December habits, after Christmas came the inevitable letdown. Advent was the framework that organized and supported all our previous efforts to build a more meaningful Christmas celebration. The feelings of anxious hurry were replaced by feelings of calm and happy expectation. The boys expected the readings, and complained if we missed a day. When we read in the morning, we saw improved attitudes and behavior all day. In church on Sundays, we listened more attentively because we were better prepared.

But what about after Christmas? After a week or two, my wife said, “These readings are good. I think we should continue them after Advent.” I told her there were readings for the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany. “No,” she said, “I mean we should continue them all year.” Three years later, family worship has become a habit. We've missed days, and even weeks, but our days feel incomplete without it, so we always return to it.

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 12

Christmas Day
The weeks leading up to Christmas were pleasant and peaceful, but Christmas Day seemed empty. Most of our activities were done, our presents already opened, and aside from Christmas dinner, which was simple to prepare, there didn’t seem to be anything to do. Everyone else was busy with the activities we had reduced, businesses that didn’t close any other time were closed, and nothing seemed worth doing at home.

Midnight Christmas Eve services were an important tradition for many families, so we gave it a try. The church was hot and stuffy, crowded with people who hadn’t been there since last Christmas. The church had modern hymnals that had changed so many of the words that even the most familiar carols were hard to sing. There seemed to be a year’s supply of readings, carols, and choral numbers. The service seemed like it would never end. No wonder these people hadn’t been back since last year! Then the pastor got up and said, those of you who come here every week, this sermon is not for you, so you can tune out. Those who come once a year, this is the only time I get to preach to you, and I’ve got you for an hour, so I’ll give it to you straight. He preached hot and heavy for an hour. By the time Communion started, I just wanted to go home. Christmas Day seemed even more empty, we were all tired, Mom and Dad had headaches, and the boys were out of sorts.

The next year, we went to the Christmas Day service. What a difference! There were very few people there, but everything was calm and bright. Instead of stress and fatigue, we were full of peace and joy. There was a feeling of being in the right place.

Afterward, we went home, prepared our quiet meal, and spent a relaxed and happy day together. Because we selected only the food that made Christmas special for us, there was not too much cooking, but we had a delightfully memorable meal. We didn’t even put on any weight in December.

We played table games and read stories. There was no fighting, arguing, whining, or complaining, and no broken toys. No one was busy with extensive preparations, no one had to stay out of the way, no one had to rush off, no one felt trapped in the house, and no one was tired or had a headache. Instead, we felt thankful for our Savior, happy to be together, and free to enjoy the day.
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5
All four Gospels quote this prophecy about John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus’ arrival. There is no mention of gifts, cards, pageants, music, decorations, travel, family, food, drink, or most of the other things we have come to associate with the Christmas season.
“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.”
Mark 1:4-5
May we all be so prepared.

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 11

Christmas Eve
We tried to include others in our simpler celebration, and those who came enjoyed it, but most people were too busy and too tired. On Christmas Eve, I read the Christmas story, and the boys acted it out with their Nativity. We had a few family members stop by for cookies, and sang carols together. Then we went to bed at our usual time.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 10

Advent Prayers
After lighting the candles, reading the Scripture, and singing the hymn, we would have a time of prayer. Last year we added the O Antiphons, an ancient series of Advent prayers. There is a prayer for each day December 17-23. Each one highlights a title for the Messiah and refers to Isaiah's prophecy of His coming.

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 9

Advent Hymns
After the reading we sang a hymn together. We found that by singing the same hymn every day for a month, even the youngest child could learn both the tune and the words to three or four verses. Besides the usual Christmas carols, there are hymns of preparation especially for Advent. Last year we learned O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. You can read the words and hear the tune here.

This year we are planning to learn Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 8

The Challenge
I’d like to challenge each person reading this blog to read from these selections each day of Advent, either alone or with your family. If you're reading with your family for the first time, choose just one of the readings, perhaps the shorter Psalm. Find a time of day when your family will be together. If some of your children are beginning readers like ours, choose a good reader -- an older child or parent -- and let the others follow along. If you miss a day, just resume with the reading for the next day.

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 7

Discovering Advent

Prepare the Way
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5

Growing up, I never heard of Advent. Later I attended a church that used an Advent wreath. On each of the four Sundays before Christmas, a family would stand around the wreath, light a candle, and read a short passage of Scripture about Christ’s coming. I thought we should try this -- a celebration focused on Christ. I found directions for making an Advent wreath here. I looked for the readings and found that there were not only readings for each Sunday, but for every day of Advent.

Each day has an Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah, a Messianic Psalm, a reading from the Gospels about preparing for His coming, and a reading from the Epistles related to one or more of the other readings. Many of the readings are about repentance. I read that purple was the traditional color of Advent and Lent, and represented repentance, so my wife made a purple tablecloth.

Each morning after breakfast, we cleared the table, put on the purple tablecloth and advent wreath, lit the appropriate candles, and took turns reading. The effect was remarkable. Nothing gets boys’ attention like fire. I thought the readings might be too long for them, but they sat and listened with very little fidgeting, and even began asking intelligent questions. As the weeks progressed, the feelings of anxious hurry were replaced by feelings of calm and happy expectation. In church on Sundays, we listened more attentively because we were prepared.

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 6

Separating the Celebrations
We felt more peaceful and better rested than in previous years, but struggled to keep our celebration simple. I began reading about Christmas traditions around the world. I found that lavish gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day were the exception, not the rule. If gifts were part of the tradition, they were more often given on St. Nicholas Day (December 6) or Epiphany (January 6). In most countries, the gifts were small and simple, and most often only for children. I thought moving our gift-giving day to Epiphany would only extend a season that was already getting too long, so we looked up St. Nicholas Day traditions.

The American Santa Claus comes from the Dutch name for St. Nicholas, Sinter Klaus. St. Nicholas, noted for his generosity, was bishop of Myra. He was made patron saint of sailors and children. In Holland, the bishop or his representative, dressed in the red robes of a bishop, arrives by boat on St. Nicholas Day and quizzes the children on their catechism. Those who do well are given a small toy or a snack.

We decided to move our gift giving to St. Nicholas Day. Even if we put off shopping until the last minute, we were ahead of the crowds. All through December, people would ask the boys, “What is Santa Claus bringing you this Christmas?” and they would say, “Santa Claus already came to our house.” We found that having our gift shopping and giving done, and our activities narrowed down to those we found most meaningful and important, we were able to relax and enjoy the rest of December more.

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 5

Scaling Back
First, we agreed on a holiday budget in keeping with our income. My family had always frowned on gift lists, but after several years of buying each other disappointing gifts, we agree it was better to have some suggestions to choose from. We decided to give each child one $10 gift, which was what we could realistically afford, at the time, and preferably something educational. We suggested to extended family that we draw names instead of everyone buying a gift for everyone else. They resisted for several years, but as they began to have children, gift giving became more expensive, and they agreed to try it. Once people got used to the idea, it worked well, and everyone was a little more relaxed.

We found that the early marketing of Christmas was leading to holiday fatigue -- we were tired of the carols and decorations and burned out on programs and parties long before the holiday arrived. We also found that many of the activities that we found exhausting were done simply because everyone assumed they were expected or required, and no one bothered to ask if anyone really enjoyed them or even cared if they happened. We started a tradition of sitting down as a family each fall and making a list of what things made Christmas special.

We always list special foods, but then had each family member list the foods that made it feel like Christmas, and planned our Christmas menu around those foods. For my wife, it was candy canes. For the boys, it was Christmas cookies. For me, it didn’t matter whether we had turkey, ham, or some other meat, as long as we had mashed potatoes and gravy. This greatly simplified our Christmas menu.

We each chose the Christmas music, activities, and decorations that made Christmas feel special, and planned our celebration around those.

We tried to avoid the Christmas department that some stores were opening right after their back-to-school sales ended the first week of September. We agreed not to play Christmas music or put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. We pared down our decorations to a Nativity the children could actually play with and act out the story, some cards hung around a doorway, and a string of lights tacked up around the living room. (With a small apartment and two active boys, we didn’t have room to put a tree in a safe place. We hung a few of our favorite ornaments from the tacks.) We became more selective in which Christmas party invitations we accepted. We spread our gift-buying throughout the year, and consciously avoided items marketed as gifts -- they tend to be the kind of thing no sane person would buy for himself. We stocked up on necessities except gas and perishable food, so we could stay out of the stores almost the entire month of December. Buy Nothing Day had nothing on us!

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 4

Something New Needed
My wife came to faith much later. Her family went to church only on Christmas and Easter. Their Christmas celebration emphasized spending more than they could afford and drinking too much. When we had children, we decided that we couldn’t change the rest of the family, but we needed to find a better way for our children and ourselves.

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 3

Joining In
When I began earning money, I set a little aside to buy presents for my parents and siblings. As a young adult, I earned more money but had few responsibilities; my gifts became more extravagant. I enjoyed giving people things they couldn’t afford on their own, but as my younger siblings followed suit, I worried that gift-giving would get out of hand. Gifts were not only becoming more expensive, but I was beginning to feel they were expected. I wanted to make sure gifts were affordable and voluntary, so one year I opted out. I told everyone well in advance that I was not planning to give any gifts that year, and I was not expecting any. Some people nicknamed me “Scrooge” and gave me more expensive gifts to shame me. I enjoyed the celebration, but the emphasis seemed wrong, and I didn’t know how to change it.

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 2

Keeping Christ in Christmas?
My family’s Christmas celebration began on Christmas Eve or the day before. After completing December’s obligatory church and school Christmas programs (where we usually sang “Keep Christ in Christmas”) and parties, with their required decorations, treats, and gifts, we loaded up the car for the 4-hour drive to Grandma’s house. We’d usually arrive late at night, have a quick meal, and go to bed while the adults stayed up to finish wrapping presents. We knew some families who opened presents on Christmas Eve, but we thought that was cheating -- what was left for Christmas Day?

Christmas morning began with a bowl of cereal (if our parents insisted) followed by Dad reading from Luke 2. Then Grandpa would start passing out the presents. He had a gruff voice and a deep, loud laugh, and we kids were all a little afraid of him. But he enjoyed playing Santa Claus, and Christmas was the day of the year that we felt closest to him. He was as excited about the gifts as we were. The family gathering grew each year. The last time I was there for Christmas, there were 40-50 people. It took over 3 hours just to open all those gifts.

Then we would run off to play with our new toys while Grandma and the aunts worked on Christmas dinner. Grandma had put the turkey in the oven before we got up, but lunch seemed very late to kids who had been running on Christmas candy all morning. Christmas Dinner was very much like Thanksgiving dinner: there were so many kinds of good food, you could hardly eat even a small sample of everything. We ate until it hurt.

Then we drove to our other grandparents’ house and opened more presents. This grandma did not allow anyone else but Grandpa in the kitchen while she was cooking, and he was only allowed to cut the meat, mash the potatoes, and carry things to the dining room. By late afternoon, the house was feeling crowded, but where could you go? I usually ended up watching TV with my uncles.

At suppertime we had another big meal followed by pie and ice cream. With apple, cherry, mincemeat, pumpkin, and sometimes more flavors, how do you choose? We usually returned to the other grandparents’ house just as everyone was getting up for seconds on desert. We got to bed late and uncomfortably full. We usually spent the next few days running around visiting any relatives we had missed.

My parents took us to church faithfully three times a week the rest of the year, but at Christmas, it was usually crowded out by family events. They were careful to explain that Santa Claus didn’t really bring the presents, but Jesus seemed like such a small part of the day itself. One of my favorite memories was the Christmas my dad and I got up early and drove to a 6 am Christmas service in a snowstorm. But many churches were canceling Christmas services because, like us many people were choosing to spend the day with family and missing church. Some churches even cancelled their Christmas Eve services, saying Christmas was a family time, and they didn’t want to interfere. I thought something was wrong, but since we didn’t go, what could I do?

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 1

How a Simple Tradition Led from Commercialism to Christ

Early Memories and the Expanding Season
When I was a kid, the Christmas Season started on or about December 1, when the first Christmas catalog arrived. There were three main Catalogs - Sears, JC Penney’s, and Montgomery Ward’s - each about the size of a city phone book, which we kids pored over day after day, imagining what gifts would come Christmas Day, and which gifts we would like to receive if we had fantastically rich and generous relatives. We each had our favorite pages or sections, which we read and re-read until we had them memorized, and continued to read until Christmas.

My parents bought gifts for their parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and us all in the week before Christmas. My dad taught in a Christian school, and my Mom had her hands full with six kids, so money was always tight. I remember them scrambling some years to find just the right gift for each person while remaining within their budget. Still, I expected a gift every year from my parents, each set of grandparents, and every aunt and uncle, simply because that was how it had always been. We rarely sent thank-you notes. I’m not even sure if we ever did.

While we were preoccupied with gifts, our obsession lasted less than a month. We thought those people who started their Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving were eccentric - perhaps slightly admirable for being so organized, but definitely strange. When our church started a program called “Christmas in October” to collect gifts for missionary families and allow time to ship them overseas, they capitalized on the novelty - it sounded as strange as celebrating Independence Day in February.

I noticed stores putting up Christmas decorations a little earlier each year, and more and more retailers sending out flyers, pamphlets, and full-fledged catalogs for early, mid-, and late holiday shopping. Each portion of the season expanded in turn, until it was as long as the whole season had been. When I saw Christmas decorations going up the day after Halloween, I felt that Thanksgiving was being neglected. When I saw them in early October, I decided merchants were attempting to expand their most profitable season until it covered the calendar.

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Jiminy Cricket

Some new kids moved in down the street. They like our kids, and want to play with them constantly. When our kids have other obligations, or just other things they'd rather do, these kids seem very much put out. They act as if they owned our kids, and can't understand how we can require them to do anything. They are mostly unsupervised, and it shows.

BB has had trouble finishing his schoolwork lately, not because there is so much of it, nor because it's too difficult, but because he spends a lot of time staring off into space when he thinks he's working. As soon as the PS is out, these kids are banging on the door, asking if he's out of school yet. Actually, banging on the door would be more polite. It would imply someone had taught them to knock. Instead, they peer in the windows until someone comes to the door. Their mother supposedly babysits some other kids. At least she pays more attention to what they're doing than she does to her own kids, which isn't saying much. Now those kids are picking up the same habits.

I'd like to think my boys are a positive example, an influence for the good, salt and light, but I want to be careful of who is influencing whom. Especially because, with his social deficits, GL has a hard time distinguishing appropriate from inappropriate behavior, and will usually do anything another kid tells him. Once he acquires a habit, it becomes a rule in his mind, and is very difficult to change. So we let him play with them, as long as they stay in our yard, their yard or on the sidewalk, (they live three doors down) or even at the park across the street. But I check on him frequently.

Yesterday, as soon as BB finished his schoolwork, I told him, "Go be Jiminy Cricket." He had seen Pinocchio* recently, so he thought for a moment, and said, "Oh, you mean be his conscience!" Yes, and keep him from following the example of bad companions.

*The Disney Empire's genius consists of equal parts finding great books and mutilating them.

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Blogging Fun

Sometimes I'm Actually Coherent has been quiet lately, but Boarding in Bedlam has been providing some good laughs.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009


The library had been advertising an event for some time: "Come meet Olivia and Junie B. Jones!" At the circulation desk, one of the librarians asked GL if he was planning to go. He got very excited about it, so I signed him up. We were only vaguely aware of Olivia, but GL loves listening to Junie B. audiobooks. (They aren't quite as good as the Clementine books, but there are a lot more of them. They're beyond his reading level and, while entertaining, aren't quite interesting enough for me to read aloud. )

I wasn't paying much attention, but I somehow got the impression that someone (maybe a talented student from the local high school?) would pretend to be these characters. We got there and found out it was Storytime. GL loves Storytime, but we had stopped taking him because he was above the recommended age, though at the appropriate developmental level. There wasn't a policy, but some librarians seemed to believe there should be an age cutoff. Also, while he loves read-alouds, he makes them a highly interactive experience. In other words, he doesn't listen quietly.

Most of the kids there were preschoolers, (I think the oldest might have been in first grade,) and most of their parents looked like kids to me. When did early twenties get so young? So GL (12), BB (10) and I sat in an out of the way corner. One of the older librarians read several books from the Juv Easy collection, and played a chapter from a Junie B. CD. Each book was part of a series about one central character, with a cast of recurring characters. Just what kids like. When kids (and many adults) read a book they like, the first thing they want to do is read ten more books just like the one they read.

The boys loved it. Some of the kids looked askance at them, especially at GL, but other than answering every question as if it were directed to him and not to the group, he wasn't a distraction. The librarian didn't seem to mind. Most of them are used to us by now, and are starting to realize that we do more to boost circulation (which is how their funding is calculated) than all the other families on our block put together.

At the end of the program, the librarian explained that there were more books from each of these series spread around the reading room, and the kids could check them out. GL immediately got up and tried to collect them all. I insisted that he leave enough for the other kids. He did, but I still think he got more than his fair share. That's nothing new, he always wants to check out more library books.

But the next day, after school, on his own volition, he picked up a Froggy book and began to read. He needed help with some words, but he read the whole thing. Then he read two Olivia books, and a Five Little Monkeys book. He read aloud for enjoyment for nearly two hours! He likes to look at books, but it's usually a struggle to get him to read easier books than these for fifteen minutes in school.

After OT, we stopped at the library, returned the books he had finished, and asked for more in these series. I told the librarian about his suddenly deciding to read these on his own, even though they were difficult for him, and she was enthused, too. We agreed that part of the appeal was that at some point in every book so far, Froggy forgets his pants. When you're twelve, underwear is funny. She helped us find some more, and GL said, "Thank you, Mrs. Librarian!" (That's what he calls all of them.)

Today, he is finished with school, and reading more Froggy. Of course, he kept insisting that 6+1=9 this morning, but for now, we'll take it!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Goldilock's prayer.

Today during family worship Goldilocks asked to pray, something he almost never does. Below is his prayer, I found it heartfelt and humorous.
Dear God,
I thank you that Mary Claire will get better and do her work. Thank you for all the things you give us; sun, moon, stars, bugs and lizards. And now if you will excuse me God, I want to have a piece of cake now.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another Inscription

The finish crowns the work.



The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Runaway Ralph, and Ralph S. Mouse are some of my favorite books. They're about a mouse named Ralph going on some pretty wild adventures. Adventures with his motorcycle. And speed and excitement. Any human being who likes speed and motorcycles can understand Ralph talking. People that don't just think they heard a mouse squeak funny. He is a mouse that lives in a run-down hotel called The Mountain View Inn.

In the first book, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Ralph meets a boy named Keith staying at the hotel. He understands Ralph, and he was letting him use his toy motorcycle, but then Ralph lost it. Eventually they find it, and in the end, Ralph gets to keep the motorcycle.

In the second book, Runaway Ralph, Ralph has to use his motorcycle as a kiddie car for his younger brothers and sisters because him mom and uncle made him. So he decided to run away. He ended up at a camp, where first a dog chases him into a gopher hole. Then the gopher kicked him out as soon as the dog left. Then a cat catches him, and a boy named Garth rescues him in a butterfly net. Then he's put in a cage, and the rest of the book is Ralph trying to convince Garth to let him out, so he can find his motorcycle and go back to The Mountain View Inn.

In Ralph S. Mouse, he has a boy named Ryan take him to school so he can rescue his old friend Matt's job. He takes his motorcycle with him. The problem is that Ryan lets him go in school, but won't give him his motorcycle. When Ryan gets into a fight, his motorcycle is broken in two. But in the end, Ralph gets a sports car.

I especially like these books read by William Roberts. Of course, grew up listening to them only read by William Roberts. When I requested these books on CD from the library, two of them came in, and they don't sound quite the same without William Roberts.


Monday, November 16, 2009

What and who is Water Boy?

Water Boy, as I mentioned in my last post, is my imaginary super hero. But somebody wanted to know more about Water Boy. So here you go. Water Boy was a different kind of guy from time to time. I don't remember how I started the idea for Water Boy, but I started it. At one time, he was a super hero who could shoot water from his hands. Now he is just a leader of a search and rescue team. Well, kind of. A super hero search and rescue team is more like it. Kind of like Batman or Larry-Boy. To have contact with his team, the team wears watches that have walkie-talkies to the rest of the team. I got that idea from Jonathan Park. The Creation Response Team wears communicator watches. You're probably wondering what his team is called. It's called The Water Pack. I do know this much about Water Boy, he is a Christian. Most of the details I'm still working out.

We're trying to figure out how to work some podcasting equipment we have. When we figure out how to work it, we are planning to have a podcast on this blog. We might have the adventures of Water Boy on it.


Kids' letters to their pastors

I don't often post this kind of thing, but I think these kids get right to the point:


Dear Pastor,
I know God loves everybody but He never met my sister.
Yours sincerely,
Age 8, Nashville

Dear Pastor,
Please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson.
Age 9, Phoenix

Dear Pastor,
My father should be a minister. Every day he gives us a sermon about something.
Age 11, Anderson

Dear Pastor,
I'm sorry I can't leave more money in the plate, but my father didn't give me a raise in my allowance. Could you have a sermon about a raise in my allowance?
Age 10, New Haven

Dear Pastor,
I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won't be there.
Age 8, Chicago

Dear Pastor,
I think a lot more people would come to your church if you moved it to Disneyland.
Age 9, Tacoma

Dear Pastor,
Please pray for all the airline pilots. I am flying to California tomorrow.
Age 10, New York City

Dear Pastor,
Please say a prayer for our Little League team. We need God's help or a new pitcher.
Thank you.
Age 10, Raleigh

Dear Pastor,
My father says I should learn the Ten Commandments. But I don't think I want to because we have enough rules already in my house.
Age 10, South Pasadena

Dear Pastor,
Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class.
Age 10, Salina

Dear Pastor,
I like your sermon on Sunday. Especially when it was finished.
Age 11, Akron

Dear Pastor,
How does God know the good people from the bad people? Do you tell Him or does He read about it in the newspapers?
Age 9, Lewiston


Q: What's orange and sounds like a parrot? A: A carrot.


Yeah, you can send this Funny to anybody you want. And, if you're REAL nice, you'll tell them where you got it!


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Home School Dads

The first week of the flu, I was too sick to do much more than blow my nose. The second week, I was coherent enough to read, but not enough to read anything that required much concentration. Lose 200 Lbs This Weekend: It's Time to Declutter Your Life seemed to fit the bill. The problem was that I would get inspired to clean something, go start working on it, and then have to sit down and rest. When I sat down, I'd pick up the book, and the cycle would repeat. Not usually a bad thing, as I really to have a lot of clutter that needs sorted through, but not quite as restful as I needed.

As usual, I ended up at the computer. After checking my email, the weather forecast, and catching up on my blogs, I still wanted something to read. I decided to search "homeschool dad". Most home school web sites, books, and blogs assume that Mom is doing the teaching. Dad's involvement generally consists of earning enough money so Mom can stay home and teach. A highly involved, dedicated Dad might offer his wife occasional encouragement and lay down the law when the kids get out of line, but that's it. Some Moms say they'd rather Dad left home schooling, and especially curriculum planning, to them. It just hasn't worked out that way for us.

Not that I can't learn from home school Moms, I have, but I wondered what I could learn from more-involved Dads. I found a few online articles, but nothing very helpful. What I did find helpful were a number of blogs by home school Dads. Some were in the traditional supporting role, but the fact that they defined themselves as home school Dads, rather than defining home schooling as their wives' project, made them more interesting. Others took an active role in teaching and curriculum planning, even if Mom did the majority of the teaching and Dad was the wage earner. I even found a few blogs by Dads who were the primary teachers, while their wives were the wage earners. What I found most interesting was how many Dads in each of these situations took an active interest in what and how their children were learning, whether they were the primary teachers or not. That, and the fact that each blog found its own way of making me think.

So I ended up adding even more blogs to Google Reader. Just what I need. I'll probably be quoting from some of them at various times, but so far this one is far and away my favorite. So much so that I stayed up way too late last night reading the archives. So much for reading and resting.

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Our deacon brought Communion to the house today, anointed each of us with oil and prayed for healing. I love it when the Church works like that!

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Back in the Saddle Again

We're taking one more day to rest, (Isn't that what Sunday's for?) then Monday we're getting back to our routine. Just the essentials, with frequent rests, until we're back to 100%.

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Cake class final.

This was my final project for cake class level 1. I had two hours to work on it. I started the class with the cake iced, so I had all of my time for decorating. I would have liked more time. I am slow at decorating. I prefer to treat it like art, taking my time to make an eatable art project. I passed the class and have already started saving for the next one. This is something I dearly love doing, even if I'm not the most talented person in class. I enjoy this enough to take the time to improve my skills. Sometimes you have to do something badly before you can learn to do it well. I think it's worth it, to make something beautiful. My goal is to improve my skills to the point where I would not be ashamed to offer my cakes for sale.


Friday, November 13, 2009

More on cake class part 2.

For week three's class we were FORCED to do this clown cake. I hate clowns, but I did the lesson. I don't know what I learned, except if you want a great cake do something you enjoy.


More on cake class.

Sometime between weeks two and three of my cake class, I spent some time practicing with drop flowers. These look great with surprisingly little effort. I will share more on cake class in later posts. I finished it on Oct. 31 right before I got very sick. This is the first time in weeks, that I have felt like posting.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fall Cleaning continued

For anyone who cares, (and everyone who doesn't) I highly recommend Speed Cleaning: Tips, Tricks & Strategies to Get Everything Done in Half the Time or Less
by Jeff Campbell. The most efficient cleaning methods I've ever seen, and the only book about quickly cleaning up that mess you've been dreading written specifically for people who'd much rather be doing anything else.

I have three Fall cleaning projects left: the fridge, the oven, and decluttering the house, a.k.a. dejunking, a.k.a. making the house bigger. Why is it that even though we never have enough money, we always have too much stuff?

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The Long Climb Back

Since yesterday marked 24 hours without a fever, I folded one basket of laundry and went to the library to pick up books. Boy, did that wear me out! Today GL had a doctor's appointment to report how his meds have been working, so I took him. Then I came home and slept for two hours. I'm still coughing, sneezing, and sniffling, but not as bad as before. I feel much better, but the littlest things leave me out of breath. The boys must be feeling a little better, because they are bickering constantly. MB is still quite sick.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bless me, for I have sinned.

Why Memorize Scripture?

This article reminded me.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Flu

MB was supposed to be returning to work tomorrow, but she still has a fever. She called the doctor, and he said the fever should be gone by now, so he had her come in. Apparently, she has something else on top of the flu. She has some new meds, and she'll be out for the rest of the week.

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The Flu

I slept well last night. Still coughing, but feeling my strength coming back. MB and BB are still sleeping. GL, of course, feels better than all of us.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Photo Contest

Our meeting place was built for a girls' school. Each class would inscribe a stone to be remembered by. Most of them have mottoes. If I'm reading it right, this one says, "True gold does not fear the fire."


The Flu

We've all had periods of feeling somewhat better, alternating with periods of feeling much worse. At bedtime, we've been reading Prayers for the Sick.

Details you might not want to know: Last night I was sure this had moved into my lungs. I couldn't stop coughing, and with every cough came sharp pains deep in my chest. When something came up it was very thick. I thought there was more, but it was too thick to bring up. I was aching and shivering. I was due for more cold medicine, but I'd been trying to put it off until bedtime, so I would have the longest possible opportunity to sleep.

About quarter till eight, I gave up, took all my medicines, climbed into bed, and piled on every available blanket. I shivered, sniffled, and coughed under the blankets, and finally dozed. About an hour and a half later, I woke up hot, sweating, and able to breathe. I got up, blew my nose, threw off the extra blankets, and went back to bed. I slept soundly until 8 a.m. This morning, I have some coughing and congestion, but my lungs feel clear.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

What every parent needs

My sister just had a baby Monday. With two boys in the house, I figured she needs Don Aslett's Stainbuster's Bible so I sent her a copy. Ours has paid for itself many times over. She said she wished she'd had it two weeks ago when number one son spilled grape juice on the carpet!


Friday, November 6, 2009

The Flu

I got it.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Flu

The boys have it now. I'm coughing, but I'm the healthiest one here. Trying to get caught up on a few things (dishes, laundry) before I'm too sick to care. At least we won't start out behind.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pray for Mama Bear

She has respiratory flu. Not H1N1, but she has to stay home from work and away from people for a week. She came home from the doctor and went right to bed. Not sleeping much, but resting. At this point, the rest of us are continuing our usual routine, but trying to keep the noise down. We're keeping her supplied with liquids, but all she's felt up to eating today was mashed potatoes and a little chicken soup.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Love of the Irish


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cake Wrecks: The Book!

I finally got my hot little hands on a copy of Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong and stayed up way too late several nights laughing my head off!