Nightstand (June 2017)

June 27th, 2017

This month turned out to be a good month for reading, probably because I was exhausted enough that I let everything go to seed while I read (I did stop to change diapers and to heat up leftovers for the kids for lunch). I’m expecting that, as my energy returns (we’re definitely in the second trimester now, so any day now?), my reading will decrease but maybe my house will get a bit cleaner and my husband will be able to relax when he comes home from work instead of having to pitch in to clean the house, make dinner, etc. etc. Fingers crossed.

Fiction Read:

  • The Secret Warning by Franklin W. Dixon
    I picked up the 17th volume of the “Hardy Boys” series after a long break from the series (I read #11 in 2013). Fast-paced, formulaic, and a blast straight from my childhood :-)
  • The Tournament at Gorlan and
    The Battle of Hackham Heath by John Flanagan

    I thought about resisting the siren call of Flanagan’s prequel series to “The Ranger’s Apprentice” – and then succumbed. I was not disappointed with the first two books of this series.
  • The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer
    Unlike many of Heyer’s novels, this book is not set in the Regency period. Rather, it is set around the time of the Jacobite rebellions in the 18th century. A brother and sister pair travel to London, intending to lie low as they await their father’s arrival. All three had participated in one of the recent rebellions (at the behest of the rather flamboyant father), and the young people are eager for respectability and to escape notice. To this end, they each masquerade as the opposite sex, the son being rather excepionally short and the daughter rather exceptionally tall. But their goal of respectability and escaping notice is rather quickly thrown to the side as they get embroiled in London society and each their own little love affair. An enjoyable read, although not my favorite Heyer title.
  • Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
    Orphaned young people head off to London to live, intending to set up a place for themselves despite their elderly guardian’s apparent distaste for the scheme (he’d told them by letter to stay put in the country.) But they’re in for a shock when they discover that their guardian is actually quite a bit younger than expected. As is often the case with Georgette Heyer’s novels, I enjoyed this romp through Regency high society.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
    Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

    I came down with a case of what I’m guessing was food poisoning that left me horizontal for several days, long enough to run out of library novels to read – so I started reading from my own collection. And, just like when I first read these books, I could barely put them down. This time, reading as a mother, I am absolutely baffled as to when I will think it’s appropriate to let my children read these (mostly given the moral ambiguity throughout – I may change my mind later but I’m less worried about the “tense scenes”.) I’d love to hear thoughts from moms who are ahead of me in the process :-)

Nonfiction Read:

  • Prenatal Tests: The Facts by Lachlan De Crespigny and Frank A. Chervenak
    This was the most difficult book I’ve read in a long time. de Crespigny and Chervenak take a highly clinical tone as they describe the various prenatal tests offered women. They discuss what each procedure is like, what the procedure tests for, risks and benefits of one test over another, and who is generally offered each test. That’s tough reading because of the tone, but what really makes this book difficult is the basic assumption behind the whole thing. The same calculus is offered on every page, for every test: what test should be done and when in order to ensure that you can kill the baby you don’t want without harming the baby should you decide you do want him. It’s tragic. I cried. A lot. I cry just thinking about it now.
  • The Complete Organic Pregnancy by Deirdre Dolan and Alexandra Zissu
    Are you terrified by potential toxins lurking everywhere? Are you convinced that pregnancy means you should quit absolutely everything and move to an organic cotton yurt in the middle of an organic pasture where you spend your day drinking filtered water and doing yoga (but not on one of those yucky plastic yoga mats)? Then this is the book for you. It’s a primer in just how dangerous absolutely everything on the face of the earth is. Really, it’s safer to just not get pregnant than to try to deal with all the potential dangers lurking in your office chair, your water bottle, your cosmetics, your local park, everywhere, really. (In case you haven’t yet figured it out, I think this particular book is worthless. Also, while I don’t necessarily think “natural” birth is for everyone – I’ve ended up with two c-sections with spinals despite hoping for a natural birth – I do find it interesting that a book that tells women to avoid absolutely everything during pregnancy due to the potential for minute amounts of chemicals to leach into the mother’s body and then make it to the baby suddenly switches gears when asked about, say, narcotic painkillers during delivery – we wouldn’t DREAM of telling you what to do, that’s a personal decision!)
  • The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
    A history of the London cholera outbreak of 1854 – and how a moonlighting epidemiologist and a curious curate tracked down the source of the spread: the Broad Street pump. Daniel and I listened to this in the car and enjoyed the history of the epidemic and of the two main characters. What we didn’t enjoy were the lengthy, repetitive monologues about the wonders of cities and the metropolitan world. We’re guessing that we might not have minded so much if we were reading silently, since we could have skimmed through the monotony of those passages. We also wished that the author could have chosen some word other than “sh*t” to indicate human excrement. Have mercy on us audiobook listeners who happen to listen with our children in tow! Thankfully, while the word appears several dozen times, it’s pretty much confined to the first chapter – so, if you plan on listening to this one, listen alone for that section!
  • Parkinson’s Disease and the Family by Nutan Sharma and Elaine Richman
    This “Harvard University Press Family Health Guide” is a general introduction to the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease, how disease progression is assessed, various treatments for Parkinson’s and issues affected individuals and their families experience. At just over 200 pages, this is not too long for the less-avid reader. As a health professional, I am ill-equipped to evaluate the readability of this book for a general audience; but I found it to be understandable and informative (as well as generally free of the “woo” that way too many “health” books for a general audience are prone to.) Recommended.
  • Stokes Bird Gardening Book: The Complete Guide to Creating a Bird-Friendly Habitat in Your Backyard by Donald and Lillian Stokes
    Helpful ideas for creating a bird garden. Based on the information from this book, I feel that I have a good idea of how to move forward in creating a bird-friendly habitat in our yard. My one complaint was that little information was given about areas of the country, growing zones, etc.

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?


June 12th, 2017

Tirzah Mae peeled the barcode off her new water bottle and affixed it to her shirt.

I noticed it on our way out of the grocery store and began to tease her.

“We need to find a scanner so we can see how much you cost.”

“Are you a bargain or are you pricey?”

I contemplated adding the numbers I knew, the ones I’ve quoted to others.

Half a million dollars.

That was the sticker price for her first twenty-nine days outside the womb. (Neither we nor our insurance company paid the sticker price.)

I thought back to my question: “Are you a bargain or are you pricey?” Yes.

I didn’t quote that number to my daughter, couldn’t quote that number.

Instead my daughter listened and watched, a bit baffled as her mother choked out the words: “You’re neither. You’re priceless. Because you’re made in the image of God.”

So she is. And so are you.

Am overwhelming truth.

Reading Report (April and May)

June 1st, 2017

I haven’t been keeping my Nightstand posts up-to-date (or more, haven’t been posting them when it’s time), but I want to end April and May on a clean slate so that maybe I can pick things up again for June (hope springs eternal!)

So here’s [a little of] what I’ve read in April and May:

Gardening Books:

  • Starting from Seed by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
    This book focuses on the environmental impact of monocultures and sees starting from seed as a way of maintaining genetic diversity in the garden (and in our world.) As such, it spends a lot of time talking about how to obtain heirloom seeds, how to protect against unwanted hybridization, and how to collect your own seeds.
  • Seeds: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Successfully From Seed by Jekka McVicar
    The subtitle should be “the ultimate guide to successfully starting seeds”. This book has instructions for starting virtually any seed you can imagine for your garden or yard – but it doesn’t have much information on how to go about transplanting those seeds into their final locations, which I think is kinda important.
  • The Backyard Orchardist by Stella Otto
    A readable, if somewhat dated (published in 1993), introduction to growing fruit trees. The general growing and pruning instructions are applicable, but there are TONS more varieties and rootstocks available now than there were then.
  • The Gardener’s Peony by Martin Page
    Until I read this book, I had no idea that peonies were a collector’s item, something people get excited about like they do about roses or orchids. But there are hundreds of different cultivars of peonies and people do indeed go crazy over them. This book gives something of the history of peonies and has what seems like endless pages describing the history of various cultivars and their characteristics. In the last chapters, Page gives some advice on raising peonies and on selecting cultivars (which was really what I was looking for.) I think this is probably more a reference work for the serious gardener and enthusiast, not necessarily for a dabbler like me – but it was fun to go down the rabbit hole for a little while :-)

Relationship Books (Marriage, Parenting, etc):

  • Everyday Creative Play by Lisa R. Church
    Lots of the activities seem either seem “duh” obvious or overly didactic. But sometimes a reminder of those “duh” activities is worthwhile, so it wasn’t time completely wasted.
  • 150+ Screen-Free Activities For Kids by Asia Citro
    Lots of sensory activities – doughs and clays and oobleks and the like. Tirzah Mae had fun with whipped shampoo (colored baby shampoo whipped just like whipped cream or egg whites.) I’ll be checking this book out again sometime when I’m not in my first trimester of pregnancy and therefore have a little more energy for making sensory activities (for now, the kids are making do with playdough, baths, the sandbox, and the garden :-P)
  • Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower
    A fantastic book about sharing the gospel with children. Klumpenhower writes as a Bible teacher, but gives plenty of suggestions for parents and others who work with children. I reviewed this book here.
  • Success as a Foster Parent by the National Foster Parent Association with Rachel Greene Baldino
    I’ve finished this at last and consider it to be a great introduction to the process for someone who’s interested in fostering but who wants to learn a little about it before they start juggling schedules to actually get certified.
  • Your Time-Starved Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott
    A short, quick read about making time to invest in your marriage. I think if I’d read this six months ago, it would have been helpful; but we’d already started implementing many of the suggestions they made by the time I got around to reading this. I would recommend this, though, for couples who are feeling the crunch of busyness and who don’t really know what to do about it. Like I said, it’s a quick read and has some helpful suggestions.
  • The RoMANtic’s Guide by Michael Webb
    The “World’s Most Romantic Man” gives lots of romantic ideas. I thought it would be fun to get some ideas for how I can show Daniel love. Unfortunately, pretty much all the ideas involve ridiculous public displays of affection or spending money on trinkets and food. We are NOT trinket people. And heaven knows we don’t need more food. Basically, we’re just not the romantic types.

Miscellaneous Nonfiction:

  • The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth
    Part-journalism, part-memoir, this book tells the story of the Nordic (or Scandinavian, depending on how you decide to tell it) countries that so often lead those “quality of life” measures. Booth travels through each country one by one, telling personal stories, bits of history, and describing interviews with economists and politicians and the like. I found this an interesting read and fairly informative (according to Booth, the hygge everyone is talking about this year? it’s actually a stifling set of social conventions that forces one to avoid talking about anything controversial or unpleasant.) For the most part, I found each nation intriguing and different – until I got to Sweden, the most perfect of all the places. There the house of cards crashed. Booth describes a society where all one needs is to declare something modern for it to be accepted, a nation where government care frees one from dependence on anyone else (dependence upon a spouse, a parent, a child). He acts as though this is a utopia,
    but it sounds to me like the worst dystopia I can dream of. Some of the highest divorce rates in the world. The most senior adults (actually, most people altogether) living alone in the world. Eighty-two percent of children in full-time daycare by 6 months of age. Eugenics practiced unquestioningly until the 1970s. If this is happiness,
    I’ll opt for the less-happy (by whoever determines that) but more relational world I inhabit.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are Black by Tanner Colby
    The story of the origins and continued existence of segregation in four spheres of American life: schools, neighborhoods, the advertising/marketing industry, and churches.
    This has been on my TBR list forever based on Lisa’s recommendation and I’m SO glad I read it.
  • The Gluten Lie by Alan Levinovitz
    A look at the sociology of how diet fads, following a variety of fads through time. This was enlightening, interesting, and so good.
  • The Prairie Girl’s Guide to Life by Jennifer Worick
    Instructions for fifty “Little House”-inspired activities, most of which turned out to be… beauty potions (okay, lavender spritzer for your ironing, soap, face cream,
    etc) or terribly ordinary recipes (cherries canned in syrup, rhubarb pie, dandelion greens.) I would have rather learned to make my own sausage and cheese like ma did,
    or to braid a hat out of straw, or… well, any of those things Ma and Pa (or Mother and Father or Laura herself) did in the books. So I was a bit disappointed with this.
    Of the projects listed, I’d either already done them (pretty much all the cooking stuff, embroidery, crochet, quilting, etc.) or have little desire to do them since they aren’t really prairie skills anyway.

Miscellaneous Fiction:

  • The Lost Stories by John Flanagan
    A series of short stories (3-5 short chapters each) detailing some of the things that happened concurrent to or in between the previous books in the “Rangers Apprentice”
    series. I wish there were more of these because I found the short story aspect helpful in allowing me to enjoy fiction without neglecting my home and family.
  • The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan
    I truly thought I was done with this series – but then the girls who babysat our kids during our foster care class told me that no, there really was a twelfth book. And,
    yes, there is indeed. This was a nice cap to the series, taking place a good fifteen or so years after the books before. I’m debating whether I want to read some of the related series’ (in order to close out this author before he writes too much more!) or if I want to take a break and focus on something else fiction-wise (it’s been a long time since I read any elementary or middle-grade fiction…)
  • Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer
    I always enjoy Heyer’s lighthearted Regency romances. And the “spinster takes on a runaway” plotline is rather a favorite of mine, so this was perfect for an escape when things got overwhelming (right after I wrote about how I’d found my rhythm – hah!)
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck
    I read this 6-chapter-long novella after Amy wrote about it at Hope is the Word. She wrote that “it deals with the big questions of life in a way that is thought-provoking and sophisticated.” And, boy, does it ever. She forgot to mention that it’s also gut-wrenching. I should NOT have read the last chapter right before bed :-)

A Tale of Three [First] Trimesters

May 30th, 2017

I was a working woman in my first first trimester. I remember being exhausted and nauseous. Daniel made me eggs and toast every morning and I dutifully choked them down before heading to work. I’d come home for lunch and eat mulberries straight from the tree – I’m so thankful we found that tree while my brother and sister-in-law were down helping us in the yard Memorial Day weekend three years ago when I was pregnant with Tirzah Mae. I generally did eventually go inside and eat leftovers or something – but the mulberries were what really sounded great. When I got home from work in the evening, I’d eat more mulberries and go inside to eat potato chips or Swiss Cake rolls or something else that required nothing more than opening a package and inserting food into my mouth. I was SO. INCREDIBLY. TIRED.

My second first trimester happened to coincide with Tirzah Mae starting to sleep through the night at last. I remember thinking how amazing it was that I had SO. MUCH. ENERGY. Not working outside the home was amazing. I had energy to cook – and cook I did. I was determined to have a successful home birth VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean section), which meant keeping my midwife happy. So I dutifully consumed at least 100 grams of protein daily (just to keep my midwife happy – there is no evidence that increased protein intake actually prevents preeclampsia). I also consumed 7 servings of vegetables, 5 of fruits, and 3 of whole grains daily (since there is a correlation between high fiber intake and decreased risk of preeclampsia.) And I did 35 minutes of aerobic interval exercises six days a week. Plus 5 minutes of deep squats, 75 pelvic tilts, and 50 Kegels daily. And stretching. I was on top of my game. I didn’t realize until my energy level was suddenly increased when I entered the second trimester that the “amazing” energy I had during the first was probably more due to finally sleeping through the night rather than to some magical first trimester energy.

And then came my third first trimester.

Louis is NOT sleeping through the night. I do NOT have so much energy. Nor do I have any appetite. I force myself to eat breakfast and lunch because I have to make something for the kids anyway. I try in the evening, but more often than not I let Daniel feed himself and the kids while I retreat to my room with my phone for a few moments of alone time. I don’t have nausea – and I’m incredibly thankful for that. But I’m tired of going to the grocery store and spending far more than I’ve budgeted on something that sounded good while I was looking at it but that feels disgusting to me once I finally get it home. I’m tired of making a menu, purchasing what’s needed to make it, prepping a bit in advance, and then feeling like there is absolutely no way I could stomach even a bite when the time comes to actually cook it. And I’m tired of being tired by ten in the morning every single morning. I’m tired of dragging through each and every day.

I’m ready for this third first trimester to be over.

Thankfully, it should be soon.

[Then maybe Louis can start sleeping through the night too.]

Book Review: Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower

May 20th, 2017

Kids need the gospel too.

Jack Klumpenhower’s thesis is simple, obvious, and only rarely acted upon.

I’ve been teaching children for almost 20 years now (I know, I was very young when I started). I’ve seen a lot of different Sunday School curricula, a lot of different midweek programs, a lot of websites for teaching the Bible to kids. Almost all of them agree that the gospel is important.

But when push comes to shove, lessons are moral tales or informational lectures. Every lesson ends with a “what you should do” or “who you should be” – without necessarily pointing to who Christ is or what He has done on our behalf.

Klumpenhower diagnoses the problem:

“We’ve been dispensing good advice instead of the good news. Eventually kids will tire of our advice, no matter how good it might be. Many will leave the church. Others will live decent, churchy lives but without any fire for Christ. We’ll wonder why they’ve rejected the good news, because we assumed they were well grounded in it. In fact, they never were. Although we told them stories of Jesus and his free grace, we watered it down with self-effort – and that’s what they heard.”

He explains the necessity of the gospel:

“Only the good news fights both smugness and insecurity, declaring both that we’re horribly sinful yet more loved by God than we could dare imagine.”

He describes the freedom that can be found for teachers and parents in sharing the gospel:

“Don’t be discouraged. Kids will need correction sometimes, but our mission is not to hound or plead or talk them into anything – it’s to speak God’s word of salvation, peace, faith, and the righteousness Christ gives.”

And then he gives practical examples, one after the other, of how to incorporate the gospel into your teaching, your classroom discipline, your home.

Klumpenhower gives tips for finding the gospel in every Bible story (even those obscure Old Testament ones). He encourages teachers to ask three questions of the text: What is God doing for his people in this story? How does God do the same for us – only better – in Jesus? How does believing this good news change how we live? I enjoyed how Klumpenhower walked through the process of studying a passage with an eye to the gospel. Even for those who are not teachers (although, if you’re a parent, you are a teacher), the exercise of finding the gospel throughout the pages of Scripture is still beneficial. This is not contorting the Scriptures to fit a “gospel-focus” – this is reading the Scriptures as they were intended to be read. Jesus excoriated the Jews of his day in John 5:39 saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” If we are not finding Christ in every page of Scripture, it is because we are not looking. All of Scripture testifies to Him.

In case you were quick to come up with a counter-text, a passage that can’t possibly be about Jesus, Klumpenhower does describe a few different ways that the gospel can be showcased in Scripture. First, there’s the “what does God do in this story and how does he do it better in Jesus?” that I mentioned above. But there’s also the “what does this passage reveal about God’s nature – and how is that aspect of his nature more fully seen in Jesus?” And there’s the one we see fairly often in some of the darkest stories: “what human problem does this passage reveal that God solves by sending Jesus?”

When discussing New Testament stories and texts, Klumpenhower encourages teachers to see Jesus as beautiful and to portray him as such to their students. Not primarily as someone to be emulated, but as one to be worshiped. He relates a time when he asked some students to give reasons why Jesus was better than good works. The only reason they could come up with was that Jesus died on the cross for their sins. Now, that’s a wonderful reason why Jesus is better – but it certainly isn’t the only one. He made a goal of showing in every lesson that year why Jesus is better than the many things that compete for our love.

Going beyond the content of our lessons, Klumpenhower encourages teachers (and parents) to consider what their classroom culture and their responses to difficulties say about the gospel – and to intentionally align their classroom’s atmosphere around the gospel. He gives an abundance of tips and examples for how to to do this and what it might look like.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the inclusion of two little sections at the end of each chapter. The first section was “Questions You Might Be Asking”. Here, Klumpenhower addresses those questions I’ve heard or seen or asked a dozen times: “It sounds like you’re saying it doesn’t matter how we act as Christians. Don’t we still have to work hard to obey God?” “I understand some Old Testament passages are prophecies about Jesus. But aren’t you going too far in saying it’s all about Jesus?” “Do you really need that much context – like the whole book – when you’re going to teach one Bible passage? It sounds like a lot of reading.” The second section is “Show Them Jesus Right Away”. In this section, Klumpenhower offers immediate practical steps for teachers, parents, grandparents, youth leaders, song leaders, etc. to take to implement some of the concepts from the chapter. He always offers a practical step for parents and for teachers, the other positions are included as applicable.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I was highly impressed with this book – both with its thesis and with how Klumpenhower describes the process of actually showing students Jesus over the course of a class session. This would be an excellent book for Sunday school teachers and children’s ministry directors and kid’s club leaders to read together or individually. But it’s also a great book for parents (homeschooling or not) to read. The truth is, we ALL need the gospel – we need to set the gospel forever before our eyes. Klumpenhower’s excellent Show Them Jesus provides the rationale and the tools to do this – for ourselves and for our children.

Rating: 5 stars
Category: Children’s ministry
Synopsis: Why children need the gospel and how to communicate the gospel to them in all our Bible teaching.
Recommendation: Are you a parent, a grandparent, an uncle or aunt? Do you teach children in Sunday school, midweek clubs, or youth groups? This book will challenge and encourage you to clearly communicate the gospel to the children you work with in everyday life. Highly recommended.

Only one patient

May 16th, 2017

Childbirth stories never fail to pique my interest. Birth has been a passion of mine since I was young, reading my mom’s copy of Rahimah Baldwin’s Special Delivery. But since I’ve become a mother, my interest in childbirth stories has only increased.

So when the headline “Focus On Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms In Danger” showed up in my newsreader, I clicked through to NPR’s report. And when I finally got the time to read the whole thing (it took several sittings because, hello, newly pregnant mother of a toddler and an infant), the story hit home in a way I wish it hadn’t.

The statistics are nothing new for me. The United States does a terrible job of keeping pregnant and postpartum women alive when compared to the rest of the developed world. I knew that. But this is a story with a face. The face of a woman with preeclampsia, with HELLP syndrome – a woman with what I had. A woman who died, leaving her baby behind.

There were warning signs. Signs that weren’t heeded. There were lots of opportunities to save her life. But when she or her husband suggested that preeclampsia might be the problem, they were pooh-poohed. And she died.

The text of the article hinted at rather than driving home the point the headline made: “Focus on Infants during Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms in Danger” – but I couldn’t help but relive my own experiences.

When I think back to my hospitalizations with Tirzah Mae and Louis, one of the hardest things for me to deal with was how the focus shifted from me to the babies the moment they were born. Before they were born, I was the patient. The nurses checked on me hourly. Every care was taken to keep my blood pressure low and to keep the baby inside me healthy.

But once they were born, it was as if a switch was flipped. Never mind that I had the exact same (life-threatening) condition I’d had before the babies were born (now with major abdominal surgery added on top of it). I was no longer carrying a baby, so I would be just fine. My baby was the important one. It was as if only one of us could be the patient. My turn was over and it was the baby’s turn.

Thankfully, with Tirzah Mae, I started improving after her birth and continued to improve.

With Louis, a medical error – a resident forgetting to prescribe me my blood pressure meds when he discharged me on a Friday afternoon four days postpartum – could have meant my death. By the grace of God, I took my blood pressure that Saturday afternoon just as I had every day of my pregnancy since my morning blood pressures had started to rise near the beginning of the third trimester. My blood pressure was at critical levels.

Rather than going to the hospital to hold and feed my baby on his fifth day on the outside, I traveled to the hospital for another purpose – to live to hold and feed my baby again. I spent hours in the ER getting one dose after another after another of IV labatelol. It took five doses to get my blood pressure back down.

I’m not angry with the nurses, with the doctors, not even with the resident who failed to prescribe me a blood pressure med on discharge. But I am angry with a system that only considers a woman’s health important inasmuch as the baby is kept healthy. Why can there only be one patient?

Is it not just as important that these babies we rightly fight to keep alive and well in our NICUs have mothers who are alive to care for and love them?

Why must there only be one patient?

Thankful Thursday: Rest and Routine

April 13th, 2017

Thankful Thursday banner

After all sorts of bellyaching about how Tirzah Mae is no longer napping and how that’s throwing my routines off and messing me all up, we have found a new routine and one that’s working pretty well.

This week I’m thankful…

…for new bedtime routines
It used to be, I’d brush teeth with Tirzah Mae, read her a Bible story, sing her a hymn, and pray with her before putting her to bed. Then I’d nurse Louis and put him to bed. Finally, I’d fall into bed exhausted myself. But Daniel has wanted for a while to do family devotions – and he decided that Tirzah Mae’s bedtime routine would be a good starting place. Now, Daniel changes the children into their jammies (usually while I do some cleaning up around the house) and then we sit on the couch together for a hymn, Bible reading, and family prayer. Then I brush teeth with Tirzah Mae and put her to bed while Daniel sings to Louis and puts him to bed. Once Tirzah Mae is in bed and while Daniel is still putting Louis to sleep, I finish tidying the house.

…for a clean house when I go to bed
Thanks to this new bedtime routine, I have gone to bed with a clean house all. week. long! It’s amazing. I write it on my daily thankfulness list every night. Where I used to be too exhausted to tidy before bed (even though I knew I’d feel so much better in the morning if I did), now the tidying is just a part of the routine, and it’s working well.

…for better sleep
We cried it out at naptimes two or three weeks ago (praise God for giving me the idea to do it at naptimes instead of overnight – SO much easier when I’m not exhausted and when I have plenty of household tasks to distract me), and while Louis is still waking up anywhere from 2-6 times a night, he’s not needing me to nurse him all the way to sleep. I nurse him until he’s done and then lay him down sleepy but still awake. He usually protests with a single cry when I close the door, but then falls right asleep – which means I can fall right back asleep too.

…for a later starts
Tirzah Mae has always been an early riser (4 am as an infant), but now that the days are getting longer (and maybe she’s wearing herself out with all the learning and growth?) she’s sleeping a little longer. Even if she isn’t sleeping longer, she’s become more and more inclined to just sit and look at books or go into the living room and quietly play with her toys until I wake up. Which means I’m able to get more rest when I need it.

…for quiet time
After abject failure when Tirzah Mae was in the process of giving up naps, I’d despaired that I’d never be able to institute a “quiet hour”. But I decided to try again last week, and what do you know? Tirzah Mae complained a little at first but then found ways to busy herself in her room such that my timer (I was trying for 10 minutes for a start) went off and she kept playing happily. I checked on her after another ten minutes and she’d curled up in bed and fallen asleep. By day 3, she was contradicting me when I announced it was quiet time. “Rest time,” she said. Well, okay then. Either way, I’ll take it.

…for a day of rest
I’ve wanted to make Sundays a true day of rest for quite a while now, but it just never seemed feasible. There was too much to catch up on. The house was always a mess, I never quite managed to get Sunday dinner in the crockpot the night before, etc. But I decided to give up the excuses and just make it happen. Sunday afternoon, I clear the table and wash the dishes – but I don’t do laundry or extra cleaning. As soon as lunch dishes are done, I hole up with my journal and reflect on the past week and make my plans for the up coming week. Then Daniel and I have our “family planning meeting” (not about birth control :-P) and we eat leftovers for supper or work on supper together. It’s a lovely day of rest.

I am so thankful that God created us for times of work and times of rest. And I’m thankful that He is teaching me ways of making time to rest.

“And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.'”
~Mark 2:27-28 (ESV)

Reading picture books for preschoolers from 100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey

April 11th, 2017

Silvey’s collection of 100 Best Books for Children is organized into six categories: Board Books (Birth to age 2), Picture Books (Ages 2-8), Books for Beginning Readers (Ages 5-7), Books for Young Readers (Ages 7-9), Books for Middle Readers (Ages 8-11), and Books for Older Readers (Ages 11-12). The widest range by far is the picture book section, which covers a whopping 6 years (7 inclusive). In the introduction to each book, Silvey gives an “at a glance” which includes the title, author, illustrator, date of publication, publisher, age range, and length of the book. This is wonderful. But as I went through the picture book section, I noticed that the age ranges were always either “ages 2-5” or “ages 5-8”. Which frustrated me. I understand jumbling all the age ranges for picture books together if some books are best categorized as “ages 2-5” while others are “ages 3-7” and other “ages 5-8” – but if there are really two distinct categories of picture books, one for younger and one for older children, why not give those separate sections in the book?

I checked all of the picture books out of the library and read them, but I’ve chosen to separate them here into age ranges – because I wish that’s what Silvey had done for me. Below are the first five picture books geared toward preschoolers (ages 2-5) – the ones that fit my Tirzah Mae’s demographic.

Madeline written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans

Me: “What do you think about Madeline? Is it a good book?”
Tirzah Mae: “Yeah.”
Me: “What do you think about Madeline? Is it a bad book?”
Tirzah Mae: “Yeah.”
Me (thinking): “That was helpful.”
Me (speaking now): “Is Madeline a good book or a bad book?”
Tirzah Mae: “A good book.”
And she brought it to me for re-reads.

My thoughts? If it weren’t already considered a classic, I’d have probably complained about the rather forced rhyme scheme.

Cover art for "The Snowman"

The Snowman illustrated by Raymond Briggs

Remember how I don’t like wordless books? I really need to revise that statement now that I’ve found Baby Animal Spots and Stripes, Suzie Lee’s Wave, and The White Book by Elisabetta Pica and Lorenzo Clerici. The Snowman also joins the ranks of spectacular wordless books. Illustrated with multiple cells per page, like a cartoon strip, The Snowman tells the story of a snowman who takes the little boy who created him on a spectacular adventure. There’s enough detail here that you don’t have to stretch to tell a slightly different tale each time – and there’s plenty for a child to look at to help them tell the story themselves.

Tirzah Mae reads "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel"

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton

I remember this book fondly from my childhood, remembering Mike and Mary Anne digging faster and faster but failing to give themselves an escape route. And I remember the solution: turning Mary Anne into the furnace for the new town hall. I don’t remember that the context was the obsolescence of the steam shovel (which was replaced by “gasoline diggers and electric diggers and diesel diggers”) or that the newly-hired City Hall janitor Mike Mulligan apparently only sits in the basement in a rocking chair telling stories. I suppose that’s for the best. I take heart from my own experience that children can enjoy stories, even ones that might have some political under- or over-tones, without internalizing all the issues they bring up. So I’ll keep reading this one to Tirzah Mae (and probably Louis too when he’s a bit older), although I might not make a priority of acquiring it for our home library.

Cover art for "Millions of Cats"

Millions of Cats written and illustrated by Wanda Gág

A very old man and a very old woman were lonely, so the very old man sets off at his wife’s behest to find them a cat to keep them company. He finds “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats”, but can’t decide which to bring home. So, of course, he brings them all home. This is a great story, with just the right amount of repetition, a little bit of violence (’cause children’s books need a little violence here and there), and an understated moral. The black and white illustrations are a refreshing change from the bright modern cartoons currently so favored in children’s picture books.

From the inside of "Millions of Cats"

The Snowy Day written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

It was sunny and bright with leaves on the trees and green grass covering the rain-slogged land when Tirzah Mae and I read Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day. I didn’t expect this story to resonate much with Tirzah Mae, since her only experience with snow was at Grandma and Grandpa’s when she was one. But resonate it did. Tirzah Mae was delighted to point out Peter on every page as he enjoyed the eponymous snowy day in the city. When we finished, she begged me to read it again and again. Finally, I left her to narrate the story herself, which she did with surprising detail, talking about Peter’s bath and how his mom took off his socks and “about the snowy day”. This was a definite hit – one I think I might check out next winter near when we travel north again (just in case we can catch a bit of snow ourselves!)

Louis reads "Snowy Day"

All in all, I’m glad we’re reading through these books together. While I’m not enamored with all of them, they are introducing me to books I have never read, some of which that are quite good. I’ll probably have another couple posts on these preschooler picture books (there are nine more) – and haven’t decided whether I’m going to write about the books for 5-8 year olds or not – maybe I should wait until I’m reading those with the kids?

Snapshot: A Splendid Surprise

April 9th, 2017

Positive Pregnancy Test

Coming December 2017, Lord willing.

Repeating my Father’s words

April 5th, 2017

One of the most fascinating parts of being the mother of a verbal toddler is having a window into Tirzah Mae’s thoughts.

Her internal dialogue is external. She speaks whatever is on her mind.

When she’s debating whether to follow my instructions or not, she repeats my common refrain: “You have a choice” and congratulates herself with my own “good decision.”

And then there are the dogs. Tirzah Mae is terrified by dogs – and our next door neighbor has three or four large ones that bark often.

When Tirzah Mae sees or hears them, she often runs to me in fear pronouncing “Doggie woof-woof!”

I’ll remind her that the doggies are behind the fence, that they can’t hurt her. And I’ll let her hang on to my leg as long as it takes before she resumes whatever she was doing.

But after dozens or hundreds of reminders, Tirzah Mae has started reminding herself. She’ll be outside playing and the dogs will bark. Then I’ll hear her reminding herself “Behind the fence, can’t hurt you.”

Hearing her childlike trust in my pronouncements, hearing how she is constantly reminding herself of the truth that came (originally) from my lips, I am challenged.

I’m challenged because, while I’m not afraid of dogs, there are plenty of other things I’m afraid of. And I debate obedience more often than I care to admit.

Will I respond with the irritation I feel or with the soft answer I know God desires me to use? Will I dwell in the fear-world that says I’ll never have friends in this still-sometimes-strange-seeming-place or will I continue to reach out to people? Will I believe the inner voice that says I deserve [a bath, a plate of nachos, to not be touched for just a few minutes] or will I believe that serving my family is a privilege? Will I let myself be lured into self-pity over not having time to blog or will I trust that God has called me into this time and season and that it is good, even if I’m not blogging all about it?

Tirzah Mae’s internal dialogues spoken out loud challenge me to reframe my own internal dialogues.

Instead of running over my own words again and again and again, I would do better to repeat my Father’s words. He is trustworthy.

I need to remind myself of the truth of God’s word.

When I want to respond with irritation, I can remind myself of God’s patience with me. I can remind myself that I want my words to “bring grace to all that hear” (Eph 4:29). When I feel alone, I can remind myself that Jesus was rejected by those he came to serve – and I can remind myself that I have been given the “Helper, to be with [me] forever” (John 14:16). When I want to tell myself that I deserve my own comfort, I can remind myself of Christ who “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7). When I am tempted to self pity, I can remember that “for those who love God all things work together for good” that I might be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:28-29).

Like Tirzah Mae, I can repeat my Father’s words, reframing my internal dialogues to conform to the truth as He has revealed it.

Lord, help me to do so, day by day.