Monday, June 29, 2009

Rejoicing in slow internet

While sitting in front of the gradually loading screen wishing for high speed (you can't get it way out here), I realized that the tortoise pace really does have it's benefits. And even slow internet qualifies as one of those things that we are told to "rejoice in". :)

internet slow as a turtle
The benefits are there: The temptation to browse the internet or read the comments on a controversial news story is greatly diminished. You are forced to decide whether it is really worth waiting for the page to load. I still check my e-mail and favorite blogs, but more often than not, I find myself spending less time on the computer because of the wait.

I've also gotten more sleep. The internet invariably seems to fade out altogether when I decide to blog at night, and this forces me to bed. A good thing, right?

It encourages creativity. When the answer to just about any problem is just a click away, the internet can easily become a crutch. Of course, it's awfully handy, but maybe not always quite as necessary as imagined. Our grandmas somehow really did manage to cook without consulting the online chefs.

There are blessings in most frustrations of life, and that is certainly true with slow, unreliable internet. Blessing to remember when I return to a high speed connection...

photo by Theo Kleen

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The way back to Eden

"The only way to become guiltless is to know that you are guilty. This is the tension, the paradox. The way back to Eden is to know that you are, justly, excluded from it... You cannot make the journey back, you must be carried there."

excerpt from an article in Thought Meadow
by Hannah Wolff
photo by Wong Mei Teng

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wal Mart 101: beer and diapers

After taking a whole semester of Marketing 101, I realized that a simple stroll through Wal-Mart could teach you far more.

Did you know that even the placement of diapers has been carefully planned and monitored?

That’s right. A few years ago, it was observed that beer sold better if it was located near the diapers.

Imagine the scenario: Dad is on the way home from work and gets a call on his cell.

“Honey, could you stop and pick up some diapers? We’re all out.”

Back-tracking a bit, he heads wearily to the nearest Wal-Mart. On his way to pick up the diapers, what does he notice? The beer. Apparently beer sales increased quite considerably after it was strategically placed. Crazy, huh?

Of course, the marketing doesn’t end there. From the differing layouts of each store, to the constantly fluctuating prices of fruits (allowing “mark-down” signs to be placed on normally priced produce) to the blaring $2.50 posters advertising the normal price of potato chips, the folks at Wal-mart are masters of marketing.

But while they master the marketing, we can master the shopping.

produce shopping

Shopping with a list is perhaps the easiest way to avoid the marketing. Knowing what you need ahead of time avoids so many impulse purchases.

Always have a target price for such items as fresh produce, meat and other widely fluctuating items, to avoid the tempting, but over-priced "sales". Of course, there often are real genuine good deals to be had, so I generally just put the generic "fruit" and "vegetables" on my shopping list, and then search for those deals.

Bigger is not always better (per pound). This is especially true when using coupons, but even without them it’s not the price per container, but the price per oz/lb/serving that matters. Recently I was purchasing powdered milk (for making granola, not drinking!) and upon comparing price per oz, realized that a box of individual serving packets was considerably cheaper per quart than the large box. Plus, it’s much easier to store. While some items really are a better deal when bought in bulk, many aren't!

Photo by cbcs

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Away from home

As those who have spent long periods of time staying with family or friends can testify, no matter how wonderful your hosts are (Joshua's family is awesome), before too long you get a hankering for home. Your home, with your schedule, your quirks and even your own dirty dishes.

Even with such accommodating family, it is difficult to assimilate into the much faster pace of life in a house full of people. Getting "stuff" done is more of a challenge and I've been struggling with feeling frustrated.

But whether I'm at home or not, my priorities should not change. Here, as at home, my first calling is to love the Lord, then to love and honor my husband, to train, love and enjoy my little girl and care for my growing son. No matter where I am, my job is to be wife and mother. Walking worthy of that vocation is the goal. The nice long list of "projects", while delightful parts of homemaking, are not essential. They are certainly not something to stress about.

As I focus on these simple priorities, it makes it much easier to enjoy the time. Our siblings are growing up so fast and whether it's spending time together weeding the garden, sitting around chatting or just watching a movie, it's such a special chance to get to know them better.

Plus, after growing up in a big family and watching my amazing mother guide the home, I get to observe first hand a whole different way of striving for the same goal of a happy, obedient, loving children and an orderly home.

Hopefully I can glean from her wisdom. :)

Photo by Johan Desoete

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Daddy's Little Girl

I know this is a bit late, but at last time to get on the computer and working internet have coincided. ;)

One of my earliest memories is of sitting with my daddy as he told me the stories of the Bible, from Adam to Christ. To this day I can still remember the pictures and his patient responses to my myriad of questions.

No matter how busy his day, he took time for each of us children. Time to read us a story, teach us chess (I still haven't beat him!), play outside and eat dinner together. As the years past, dinner time became the highlight of the day. It was around the table that we heard the latest news or discussed ideas. Before long we'd be passionately discussing the latest in politics, rehashing historical events, learning about a new scientific discovery or concluding dinner by breaking out the hymnals.

Growing up, I always knew I could go to my dad for wisdom, counsel or just to share a fun new discovery. For a little girl, there are few things more important than resting secure in your father's love, being able to trust him for counsel and knowing that he's devoted to your mom.

Having been blessed with such a wonderful relationship with my dad, I am doubly blessed to watch my little girl with her daddy: knowing that she too gets to grow up under the loving guidance of a godly man. There are few things more precious that an adoring daughter running in to see if daddy likes her new dress or waiting impatiently for him to get home from work. Yet how rare good daddies are!

Thank you to my daddy and my little girl's daddy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

College reflections

Finally, years after opening that first study guide, I completed my college degree. Prolonged several times due to lengthy breaks, after Rosalind was born, I nearly decided not to finish. But with only five credit hours left, Joshua finally encouraged me just to get it done.

Though my original plan for obtaining a degree (teaching in China) has been pushed into the distant future, and at this point you do not need a college degree in order to home school, I am glad to have pursued it.

Having gone a less traveled route to earn the credit, I have been delighted to see just how many unique ways there are to learn a subject and obtain credit for it. Most majors (medical and hands-on science courses accepted, of course) really can be pursued away from a brick-and-mortar setting without jeopardizing the quality of the education- if you are willing to study diligently.

Both Joshua and I obtained our degrees through Excelsior College, one of the leading "distance learning" colleges. Distance learning operates under the assumption that what you know is more important that where you learned it and so makes use of a wide variety of standardized testing, portfolio assessments and online courses.

While non-traditional schooling certainly isn't for everyone, if your undergraduate degree is in the arts or is simply a stepping stone to graduate/law school (like it was for Joshua), I would highly recommend looking into it. Even for those who decide to go to a regular college, most schools allow you to test out of at least some of the gen. ed. classes.

There are many advantages to studying at home and then testing for a subject:

Cost- While many college graduates spend upwards of $20,000 for tuition, books and fees, the cost of getting a degree through a distance learning easily falls below $5,000. Add in the fact that much of the studying can be done while maintaining a full-time job (like Joshua did), and the savings are even more significant. Especially with our current unstable economy, the advantage in being able to graduate free from debt are very attractive.

Flexibility- Not only can you choose your own hours of study and testing, many of the lectures I used were audio only, allowing me to learn the history of Soviet Russia or medieval European literature while folding laundry and driving to the grocery store.

Time- Many self-disciplined students, by diligent study, have been able to obtain a bachelor's degree in two years or even one. While I was certainly not one of those students, per credit hour, I spent considerably less time mastering a subject when studying on my own than in a classroom setting.

Despite the benefits of distance learning, there are several major drawbacks when stepping outside of a brick-and-mortar colleges.

Motivation- "What if I'm not self-motivated?" many people have asked me. This is a problem, but in many cases, I think it isn't so much the lack of motivation that makes self-paced study difficult, but the lack of a good plan and tangible goal. This is certainly what kept me from getting my degree sooner. An option that several friends have utilized and enjoyed is College Plus. They offer Christian coaching to direct students in their distance learning endeavors

Online courses-
A teacher makes the class a delight or horror, and this is especially true of online classes. Though all of my online teachers have been excellent, my brother took an English class in which the teacher didn't responds to questions and only graded one (out of half a dozen) assignment before finals were due, providing negligible feedback in a class that requires interaction between teacher and student. Apparently a few teachers think that online teaching means "not teaching".

Despite these drawbacks, I highly recommend distance learning.

For more specifics on means we utilized, see these posts:

College: the non-traditional way
College: the non-traditional way 2

Linking to Frugal Fridays over at Life as Mom

photo by Mary Gober

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Symbols and Children

There comes a time in a girl's life when she realizes that Mama gets to wear a pretty ring and she doesn't. That time came for Rosalind about a month ago.

"Where Rose ring?" she asked, pointing to her empty finger. And then came the time to explain, to a toddler, the meaning of the ring. "This ring means that Papa loves me and promises to protect and provide for me; and that he will be a good Papa to our children-to our little Rose."

A sagacious nod. Now she points to my hand and says with a wise look in her eyes, "That's Papa ring."

Since Joshua and I began attending a more liturgical church, I've often pondered the reason for liturgy and symbols and repeated acts of worship. Why do we pray the Lord's Prayer, confess the ancient creeds of the church and take the Lord's supper? For that matter, why do we pray before eating or going to bed? Does repeating a ceremony daily, weekly, yearly make it mere rote?

Certainly not! Though we certainly can mumble a prayer before dinner just because that's what "good people" do, the most important aspects of life are commemorated by thoughtful traditions. Dinner prayers to remind us that all is a gift from God, communion to reflect on the mercy of Christ, the creeds to remember the basic beliefs of Christ's followers and a wedding ring to symbolize the union of husband and wife...

After God commanded the Israelite people to keep the passover, He said, "And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.’" (Exodus 13:14)

Not only are symbols a reminder to us of the covenants God has made with us, or we with one another, and an encouragement to be faithful in them, but they open the door through tangible examples to teach our children. How beautiful the simple sacred symbols are!

photo by J. Chris Photography

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The greatest drama

"That God should play the tyrant over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed."

"This is the dogma we find so dull-- this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero."

"In any case, those who saw this risen Christ remained persuaded that life was worth living and death a triviality--an attitude curiously unlike that of the modern defeatist, who is firmly persuaded that life is a disaster and death (rather inconsistently) a major catastrophe. "

from "The Greatest Drama Ever Staged"
by Dorothy Sayers

photo by Aneta Blaszczyk

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My two year old

Sometimes I simply can't get over the fact that I get to be your mommy. You are such a joy, but are growing up way too fast!

Favorite color: "Yeyow"
Favorite foods: Oatmeal, olives, green beans, broccoli and tomatoes. Once you refused a cookie because you were eating a tomato.

Interests: You love your dollies, flowers, animals (from a distance) and trucks.
Favorite song: "Jesus" (Jesus loves me)

Endearing habits: Instead of saying "I love you", you say, "Yes-a-Mama" and pull my face to yours for a kiss.
When you get your hair fixed, try on new clothes or wear your favorite outfit, you want to show Papa and ask, "Papa, pitty [pretty]?"
Favorite outfit: the apple dress

Animal sounds: You have most of them down, but insist that the horse says "yee-haw" and all elephants say "Roll Tide!"

Sweet sayings:

"Mama, hold you!"

"Dat truck....big truck...YEYOW TRUCK!"

"Baby. Boy. Wiyum!"
you say while patting my tummy. Then ask "Baby Ro-Ro tummy?"

"Cuddle Mama. Kisses?"


You are terribly afraid of the vacuum cleaner. In an attempt to overcome your fear, one night you put yourself to sleep saying "Nice 'vuum. Nice 'vuum." It didn't work.

I love you darling!

Many thanks to your Aunt Crystal for the awesome pictures!

Man and Wife

What a whirlwind weekend--or rather week. The trip to Colorado was both terribly long and sadly short. The hours in the van definitely seeming the longest.
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But after years of waiting, Chris and Bethany are finally married... and the family grows once again! The wedding was gorgeous and passed without a hitch. ;)

a few wedding snapshots

a family photo
We headed back to Missouri with a moving truck in tow and arrived "home" five o'clock Monday morning, only to discover that the power was out in half the house and the freezers not so very frozen. It was a late night!

The rest of Monday was spent moving and unloading the truck at our little house in Republic. One brother moved out and another in.

After catching up on some sleep, life is finally settling back into normal again. :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's easy

"It's easy to be an angel if no one ruffles your feather."


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Heading out

It's been a very busy around here. Last weekend, Joshua and I staffed a booth at a home school conference for good friends. Since then the time has been full of wedding prep, a birthday celebration and packing.

Tonight we're all loading up in the van to head out to Colorado for Joshua's brother's wedding. It's going to be another busy weekend! Much as I'm looking forward to the wedding, I can hardly wait to get back "home" and develop a somewhat normal routine for the summer.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Two years ago...

...we welcomed our sweet little Rosebud into the world. What a difference one little life can make in a home. What a joy the sweet coos, pattering feet and tiny helping hands are!

The days are passing all too quickly, but how grateful I am to get to watch my little girl grow up and witness all the joys and discoveries that childhood brings! Happy Birthday darling daughter.