Monday, August 28, 2017

Fun

I bowl. I go to Elitch's. I jump on trampolines. I play board games. I wear formal or old-fashioned outfits to stores and parks and libraries. I even dance on occasion. Not because I have to. Because I want to.

And because I can. I don't have to spend most of my time keeping a house or supporting a family or choosing homeschool curriculum.  I also don’t get to do those family-oriented things, but I don’t regret, while I wait for them, enjoying fun things. 

It makes me wonder what kind of mom I’ll be, by the time it happens?  If fun has become an adult habit, not just something that young adult me does while transitioning out of youth group life, will that translate into the way I run my house, and the priorities I share with my kids? 

I wonder.  I like to think about the story God is telling in my life, how my life is different from the average “grow up, get married, have a family” story that I assumed I would have.  And imagine what He’s making of the differences. 


To God be all glory. 

PS: I know fun parents.  God has various ways of bringing things about in people's lives.   

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Charley Horse

You know that awful feeling when your foot cramps up?  The instinct is absolutely to freeze, tense, since moving made it start hurting.  But the right thing to do, to end the cramp quickly, is to stretch. 

There are other things like this in life, things where being tense and resisting what is happening are the worst things you can do. 

Earlier today one of our family cats, a specimen so large that he was named for an assassin in the Bible, was on the back of my sister’s easy chair.  He decided to be done on the top, and was planning to use her as a ramp to a lower level of ease.  This was not my sister’s plan.  And because her response was to go stiff in resistance to his attempts, his claws scrambled for a new course, snagged her shirt, got stuck in the upholstery, and ended up with him dangling from the reclining seat back.  Actually that wasn’t the end, since another sister rescued the pair from the predicament.  Aside from a hole in her shirt, neither are the worse for wear. 

The house cat is actually back on the top of the same easy chair, where I’m lounging with a laptop on my knees.  Sometimes he nuzzles the back of my head, and I lean back into it, not with opposition so much as meeting his gesture.  Then he goes back to stretching and purring and thinking whatever lazy ponderings cats do.  I’m  not afraid he’ll walk down on me, even though he very likely might.  I’ll shrug him onto the armrest and we’ll both continue with what we’re doing. 

I know I’m not always like that.  Other things in life make me seize up.  I’m trying to learn to be less afraid, to trust God’s work, and just to go forward with the story God is telling. 


To God be all glory. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Identity in Moana

I watched Moana for the first time yesterday. I'm kind of ambivalent about it, since I can think of some good and some bad messages, and as a 32-year-old, wasn't all that captivated by the story (though I appreciated the quality of the animation).

Maybe because the setting is more tribal and not so Western, and maybe because of Disney’s motif of sort of refuting some of its earlier fairy tales, I was partially hopeful that this would be a story less about following your heart and more about courageously and sacrificially submitting to the leadership and community you were born to.  I was disappointed. 

It wasn’t the demi-gods or coconut-demons or fire-monsters or reincarnated/ghost grandmas that most concerned me about this movie; it was that message of how to find out who you are meant to be: Disregard your parents and authority figures.  Be inspired by stories and legends.  Find some distant ancestors whose way of life is most appealing to you, and believe it’s an integral part of you.  Don’t prepare; just literally let yourself be thrown into something, and then pursue it with all the publicly rebellious determination you can muster. 

One thing that complicates this for a Christian is that some of Moana’s discernment is based on the spiritual encounters she has.  There is no true God and Savior Jesus Christ in this movie, so other things stand in for the role He plays in directing our lives and gracing us to fulfill our “destinies”.  If the water-spirit that is so influential in Moana’s journey were actually the Creator God of the Bible, her story would be less concerning.  But it isn’t, and I believe that there are other spiritual forces in the real world, not only in fantasies, that stand-in for the place God ought to have in our lives.  And these beings are not good, not neutral; they are in evil opposition to the loving Lord of the universe.  What kind of message is it sending us and our kids to trust these kinds of spiritual experiences to direct us? 

Moana did keep in mind and heart, always, how to serve and care for her people.  This is one of the better aspects of the “find your purpose” theme.  I was telling my brother that if they’d written the story of her father encouraging her to be different from him, while holding these same values of service to the tribe, I’d be way more excited about all of it. 

Also a positive, in Moana, Disney has released another film that demonstrates the need for teamwork.  Moana and Maui each come to realize that they are more effective with each other’s help, and that the other does really need them in order to save their world. 

I think I am actually most intrigued by the character of Maui, who wrestles with his own identity questions.  When we first meet him in person, we quickly recognize a dominant trait of arrogance, but later we learn that this is sort of a cover, a compensation for a deep insecurity.  The complex ways these issues affect his choices are fascinating; and over-all, I think they send a good message to audiences. 

In the end, Moana does have a suitably communal argument for everyone having something to contribute, be it a peculiar chicken, a teenage girl, a demi-god with or without his hook, an experienced leader, or the village crazy lady – and the value of embracing what others have to offer. 

To God be all glory. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ask Personal Questions

I’ve read a lot of articles that say, “Don’t ask.”  They’ll be about illness, infertility, divorce.  “It’s personal,” they remind us, “so mind your own business.” 

Today I was in a woman’s house.  I don’t know her.  I have talked to her a couple of times.  I will be doing some work for her.  I suppose I broke the rules, because after she’d told me a little about her life, raising two little boys though she’s their grandmother and wasn’t planning to do motherhood all over again, I asked her if she’s raising them alone.  And you know what, this woman wanted to share.  She’s desperately lonely in her situation, and not only feeling like she’s the only one going through this kind of thing, but also just generally like she doesn’t have anyone to talk to, anyone to love and support her. 

I think I know how she feels.  I have wonderful friends, who know me and my story very well.  And I still feel lonely sometimes, still would rather that people sincerely ask what is going on in my life and how I feel about it.  Even the private, personal things.  If it takes me a minute or two to figure out how to answer with appropriate discretion, that awkwardness is worth it to me for what it buys: relationship. 


To God be all glory.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Playing Cards for Teaching Math

Once when I was babysitting, I threw a deck of cards on the floor.  Then I sent the various children on scavenger hunts.  The younger ones were sent for colors or shapes.  Then I could send some kids for certain numbers, or odd numbers, or even numbers.  The siblings who were old enough to know addition or subtraction could be sent for “two cards that add to nine”, or “three cards that add to thirteen”. 

For more flexibility or to mix it up, ask for kids to bring you however many cards, as long as they add up to an odd number, or to a number greater than ten and less than twenty.  You could have the kids bring you one card, and then send them for a card that could be added to that specific card in order to reach a specific other number.  You can have kids of similar abilities race for the same answer, or you could give each kid their unique assignment and then say “go” to see who can complete their task first.  If the kids you’re working with don’t like messes, you could lay the cards out on a table in rows (it would be fun to sometimes have the cards in order and sometimes not). 


This kind of activity helps kids to realize things about numbers and math that they wouldn’t necessarily if they were just memorizing tables.  I like it for the additional reason that it uses supplies that many people have around the house, and that it can incorporate younger and older children.  It is active. 

To God be all glory.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Stationary versus Stationery

I was writing the word "stationary" the other day, and wondering like always whether I was spelling the correct word. Then I had a brilliant idea: look up its etymology. I made a guess at the etymology of the
paper kind, that its root is "stationer" and that it came from the note paper, schedule books, tickets that train station clerks used. I tried to think whether "-ary" can be a suffix that means "pertaining to this thing": "glossary", "granary", "planetary" - I can see it.

So. Research results trump speculation:

stationery (n.) 1727, from stationery wares (c. 1680) "articles sold by a stationer," from stationer "seller of books and paper" (q.v.) + -y (1).

stationer (n.) "book-dealer, seller of books and paper," early 14c. (late 13c. as a surname), from Medieval Latin stationarius "tradesman who sells from a station or shop," noun use of Latin stationarius (see stationary). Roving peddlers were the norm in the Middle Ages; sellers with a fixed location often were bookshops licensed by universities; hence the word acquired a more specific sense than its etymological one.

compared to

stationary (adj.) late 14c., "having no apparent motion" (in reference to planets), from Middle French stationnaire "motionless" and directly from Latin stationarius, from the stem of statio "a standing, post, job, position" (see station (n.)). Meaning "unmovable" is from 1620s. In classical Latin, stationarius is recorded only in the sense "of a military station;" the word for "stationary, steady" being statarius.

-ary (adjective and noun word-forming element) in most cases from Latin -arius, -aria, -arium "connected with, pertaining to; the man engaged in," from PIE relational adjective suffix *-yo- "of or belonging to." The neuter of the adjectives in Latin also were often used as nouns (solarium "sundial," vivarium, honorarium, etc.). It appears in words borrowed from Latin in Middle English. In later borrowings from Latin to French, it became -aire and passed into Middle English as -arie, subsequently -ary.

I don't think I'll ever again forget the proper spelling for each.

All etymologies found and copied from www.EtymOnline.com
To God be all glory.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Falsely So Called

Hebrews says, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled..." In the United States, our legal system calls things "marriage" that the Bible most certainly would not. But if we only looked at that one verse from Hebrews, we could believe that the thing called marriage that isn't, is "honorable". We could pull in other teachings about marriage and how great it is and what it means spiritually, and encourage people to accomplish those great things and represent those great truths by practicing the thing falsely called marriage. If this stood for a few generations, most people would forget that it is a perversion of what the Bible calls marriage.

What if there are other Christian practices that this has happened to, in the forgotten past? How do we trust that what we understand to be the biblical and Christian practices of Church gatherings, pastoring, church leadership and decision-making, the Lord's Supper, baptism, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, ordination, etc. are the things the Bible is discussing?

Like we can with marriage, we can compare other Scriptures to our practices, right? We can ask, "Did God say anything else about these practices? Did God address what we are doing, regardless of what it is called, in positive or negative ways?"

I believe it is possible for God to reveal corrections to us* if we are humbly seeking Him, and if He wants to at the moment. It seems like sometimes He doesn't want to, and I'm not quite clear why.

I want to have respect for generations of believers who have been inviting God's discernment, and to value their conclusions. I don't see any honest way to do this without acknowledging that there have been stretches of time where Christianity (the public institution, anyway) has promoted false understandings of things, and it has taken a long time to straighten some of them out. I have to acknowledge that different parts of the Church, distanced by geography (at least) have for long periods of time held different beliefs from one another.

How much weight should we put on our own experiences? If our experiences seem to line up with a teaching, and be fruitful for the Kingdom of God, does that indicate that these understandings and practices are the things God intends?

*Who ought "us" to be, though? Is it my job, without holding a position of authority in the Church, to discern these things? For myself? For the Church? For society? Is it my job to say anything to others if I believe I have discerned that our conventional practice is wrong?

To God be all glory. 



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Should You Homeschool?

I spent some time recently thinking about how I would help someone evaluate whether public school or homeschool is better for their family, especially coming from a perspective, like most American Christians do, of public school being normal.  In this I don’t want to be attacking public school or defending homeschool, but this article is informed by many of my reasons for preferring homeschool. 

What are your kids getting from public school? 
What useful? What positive? What harmful? 

What impact do their peers have on them? 
When they’re getting along?  When they’re not? 

Would your kids benefit from being in a smaller class size? 

What is in the curriculum that would affect their worldview? 

What other things are they being exposed to without wise guidance? 
From peers? From libraries? From field trips?

What is the impact of being bound to a school’s schedule?
On sleep? On nutrition? On transitions between environments and authorities? On routine?
How much of their time at school is actually being used for education?  (Why do they still have to come home and work on their scholastic education via homework?) 
Is a day structured around expectations and performance healthy for them?

Would they benefit from more interactive education?
Do they need more time to be active? 
Do they need to slow down on only one or two subjects?  Could they benefit from forging ahead on a couple of subjects? 
Would you like them to learn something that is not in your public school’s curricula? (Cooking, shop, business, Bible)
Would you like them to get a different perspective than what is being offered?
Would you like them to learn in a different way (more hands-on, more interactively, more self-study, more memorization, subjects integrated with one another)? 

What message does it send them to be sent away for long parts of each day? How does your attitude impact their perception?  How should parents maintain honesty (for example, about being grateful for the break when kids go to school) with their children, while not burdening the kids with the shortcomings of their parents? 
What message would it send them to be kept at home, unlike most of their peers?

What are they getting from time not in school? 
What useful? What positive? What harmful?

Do you have enough time to give them what they need?
Do you have enough time to teach them what God has entrusted you to teach them?
About Him? About character? About how to flourish in the story God has given them?
Do you have enough time to build your relationships with them? 
Do they get a (patient) chance to build their relationships with their siblings?

What are your reasons for not homeschooling?  Time? Focus on younger kids? Financial? Focus on other people? Focus on personal improvement? Stress? Intimidation? Inadequacy? Cultural normalcy? Influence culture? Perks of props and facilities and extra-curricular activities in public schools? Child’s socialization? Child’s practice with exposure to the world? Less strain on the mom-child relationship (not being teacher and mom)? Incorporating other adult influences for example and discipline? Hassle of truancy or curriculum laws?
Are your reasons based in truth, idealism, fear, selfishness?



To God be all glory.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Animal Etymologies

Donkey – Who hasn’t heard of Mary riding into Bethlehem on a donkey?  Well, before the late 1700’s, no one had.  This word entered our language as slang (ironic since it replaced the word ass, which has come to have quite the list of its own slang definitions since).  Donkey is perhaps a diminutive (smaller or junior version) term for a dun, a small horse. The word dun is an old color word meaning “dull grey-brown”. 

Ass – Is one of the few words classified as cussing, swearing, profane, or generally “bad” that I will speak, as it is found in the Old King James Bible, and also in “What Child is This?”  Etymologists seem to agree that this name for the animal comes from the Middle East.  Whether the name comes from the word meaning “strong” and a sense of stubbornness or docile patience, or if that word derived from the beast’s behavior, I can’t tell, but they do seem to be related. 

Oxen – Beside the ass in “What Child Is This?” we find an ox kneeling at the Lord’s manger.  Our language’s history is replete with plurals formed by adding -en, but according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, this is the only true continuous survival of such a plural into Modern English.  As best I can tell, the early origins of this animal name refer to the male, and mean “to sprinkle”, referring to their fertility.  In some religions, the gods of fertile fields are pictured as bulls or oxen, for this reason. I think the Proto-Indo-European root, *uks-en-, and the Sanskrit attestation, uksa, sound like yak, but no one else has seemed to notice, except the Edenics researchers, who cite Sanskrit gayal; Hebrew ‘agol, “calf”, from a sense of “round” or “going around”; and Hebrew aqqow, translated “wild goat” in KJV, and from a root meaning “to groan” – which I will note is indicative of hard work, which oxen and yaks are more wont to do than goats. 

Sheep – The animals actually appearing in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth are sheep.  While Scandinavian languages use a word like faar for “sheep”, and Gothic languages use relatives of lamb, and other Indo-European words are similar to ewe, our word sheep has been in the Germanic family for a while.  Wiktionary hints that sheep may be from the same root as shave – referring to the importance of the animal’s sheered wool?  We use the same word for one sheep or many, but in Old Northumbrian, the plural is scipo

Lamb – After consulting multiple etymology dictionaries, and none of them having any insight into the sense of the word lamb, I checked the Edenics sites.  Edenics is somewhat appealing to me in that it credits meaning to sound and spelling, and does a good job compiling words with similar spellings and intriguing analogies in meanings.  They don’t do such a good job tracing transitional words through history in literature, leaving them in a different category from traditional etymologists.  So.  Lekhem is, in Hebrew, “bread, food, flesh” - possibly from a root meaning “to make war”.  It may be a stretch, but by Ezra’s time, Aramaic had ‘immar for “lamb”, the root maybe indicating “something that is called or brought forth, progeny”.  Because L’s and R’s can shift in pronunciations, it is even possible that this and the Hebrew word for wool, tsemer (think Merino) could be related to lamb: swap out the R for the L and reverse the order.  Arabic lahm means “meat”.  Dutch lichaam is “body”.  Finnish has a word for an animal (a sheep?), lammas.  Is this the source of llama, or is it related to our next Christmas animal, the camel?

Camel – Traditionally, three wise men arrive in the Christmas story with their caravan of camels bearing gifts to the star-heralded King.  Camel comes from Hebrew gamal (which is even the name of one of their letters), and might be related to Arabic jamala, “to bear”.  Some Edenics writers think that llamas, as the primary beast of burden in South America, may trace their name from a similar source. 

Besides the animals appearing in the Christian story of the Incarnation, our traditions have come to include several other animals in the seasonal festivities. 

Reindeer – In some languages, rein or its equivalents stand alone as the word for this animal.  It seems to have to do with the impressive growth of horns on their heads.  The suggested root is PIE base *ker- which would associate it with the Greek for ram, krios

Deer – Before the 1400’s, this word just meant “animal”, a word distinguishing creatures from humans, usually applied only to wild animals.  Its origins are from words that have to do with breathing, thus separating this class of creation out from life which has no breath (a rather biblical concept).  This same thought-pattern is said to have given us the word animal from Latin animus (“breath”). 

Polar bearPole is from Latin polus, Greek polos, “pivot, axis of a sphere”.  Some say it is from a root meaning “turn round” and having to do with concepts of turning, rolling, and wheels.  An etymology I find less likely suggests a root meaning “stake”, “to nail or fasten”. 

Bear is one of the most interesting etymologies.  Most etymologists say that it is named for the color brown, which makes it kind of funny that we apply it to so many similar creatures – by class like polar bears, or appearance like koalas and pandas – that have different colors!  Beaver is also said to derive its name from the same color root, *bher-.  And a Greek cognate, phrynos, meaning “brown animal”, applies to toads! 

An alternative etymology for bear is one that relates it to words meaning “wild”, like Latin ferus.  The Proto-Indo-European root would then be *ǵʰwer-.  If you follow Edenics, you might be interested in their similar etymology of bear (and boar) to roots B-R, F-R, and P-R all associated with wilderness and lawlessness – the outskirts of civilization. 

Bears are classically associated with the poles (which are also on the outskirts of civilization, unless you heed the rumors about an elvish toy workshop), especially the north, because of the constellation Ursa Major.  Ursa is from the Latin for bear.  The Greek for bear is arktos, from whence we get our word arctic

Boar – There is a carol introduced to me by Archibald Asparagus from Veggie Tales, called “The Boar’s Head Carol”.  Apparently it is also on Josh Garrels’ new Christmas album.  It’s the only reason I know to connect boars with Christmas, and it is probably more accurately derived from Yule traditions, but I can’t have mere boring things like sheep and donkeys in my list!  The origin of this word is unclear, probably because, like most animal names, for a very long time it has just referred to the creature we know by this name.  All sorts of Germanic peoples have basically called it the same thing.  One not-well established hypothesis associates this word with Lithuanian baĩsas , “terrible apparition” and Old Church Slavonic běsŭ, “demon”.  As I mentioned above, it might actually come from a word meaning “wild”.  Demons are also rebels, exiles from the holy forces of God, and capable of appearing as “terrible apparitions”.  Boars, apart from any spiritual creepiness, are pretty terrifying themselves.  I think of the kid from Old Yeller hiding in a tree while ravenous wild pigs bite at his leg. 

Goose - In the old days, goose was a favorite Christmas entrée.  Before goose, it was gos, like gosling, and before that it was gans, like gander.  The theory is that gans and similar words for geese and swans in other languages are imitative of the honking these birds make. 

Puppy – Finally, puppies have begun to appear under Christmas trees with big red bows around their necks, calculated to bless the hearts of small children. The word came into our language in the late 15th Century, applied to a woman’s small pet dog, instead of the larger and fiercer breeds kept by men for shepherding or hunting.  In the Middle French, whence we get the word, it was a toy or a doll, sharing its ancestry with puppet.  Original root words had to do with children and smallness. 

Credits to

To God be all glory.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Chocolate Custard Cheesecake

A while back I posted a recipe for a chocolate custard cheesecake dip.  Since then, I’ve been working on modifying the recipe to be stiff enough to actually be a cheesecake, and this Thanksgiving, I think I’ve got it!

My favorite part, besides the taste, is that it is no-bake (after the crust is made), so no complicated baking regimens to prevent cake from cracking or browning.

Chocolate Custard Cheesecake

Crust*:

Cream:
1 stick of salted butter
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. brown sugar.

Mix in:
1 eggs
1 egg YOLK

Add:
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/2 t. baking POWDER.
Stir until just combined.

Add:
3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. sugar
Stir/knead until sugar and flour is incorporated.

Press dough into bottom and barely up sides of a large spring form pan (at least 9 inches in diameter).

Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, until crust is set, still soft, and only barely starting to turn golden (edges will be a bit darker golden brown).

*Alternatively, for an entirely no-bake cheesecake, you could use a traditional chocolate cookie crust (1 package crushed chocolate cookie pieces and 1/4 c. melted butter) pressed into a spring form pan.  Chill this in the refrigerator while preparing the rest of the crust.  I haven’t tried this crust, just read it online.

Cheesecake:
In medium saucepan, whisk together and heat to a simmer on MED:
¾ c. (or 1 small can) EVAPORATED milk
¼ c. flour

Stir in until melted, and remove from heat:
½ c. chocolate chips

Separately, beat until pale:
3 egg YOLKS
⅓ c. sugar

Slowly pour warm milk mixture into eggs, whisking constantly.  (If not done carefully, there will be small pieces of cooked egg in the custard, which should then be strained out before the next step.) Return to MED-LOW heat.

Mix in:
(another) ½ c. chocolate chips
2 t. corn starch
Cook until it thickens, about 5 minutes.  Keep stirring.

Separately, beat:
3 packages cream cheese (24 ounces total)
⅓ c. sugar
dash of salt

Pour chocolate custard into sweetened cream cheese and mix thoroughly.  Top crust with this custard mixture and chill at least 4 hours. 

When slicing, make sure knife goes all the way through crust; hitting chocolate chips feels like hitting the bottom of the pan sometimes.

To God be all glory.