What kind of Clutterbug are you?

Cassandra Aarsen’s The Clutter Connection makes a bold claim: that all people fit into one of four clutter categories based on their preferences around the visibility of their organization system and the degree of organization within their system.

“Butterflies” prefer visual abundance and organizational simplicity. They need big, visible, easy-to-access containers that make it easy to toss something back where it belongs (even if it’ll take some extra time to dig around for the specific battery they need.)

“Bees” prefer visual abundance AND organizational abundance. They like to see their stuff, but they also like to micro-sort it into dozens or hundreds of categories.

“Ladybugs” prefer visual and organizational simplicity. They want things out of sight but have little patience for maintaining detailed systems.

“Crickets”, on the other hand, prefer visual simplicity and organizational abundance. They want things neatly filed out of sight into complex organizational schemes.

Okay, sure, you may be saying. Everyone has different preferences. So what?

Well, if the best organizing system is the one you’ll actually use… then knowing your type and that of the members of your household can be helpful.

And that’s the real strength of this book. Aarsen gives lots of tips for how to help the clutterbugs in your life keep on top of their stuff. Perhaps the most helpful tip for those of us in a huge household is to defer to visual abundance and organizational simplicity. It’s easier for a lover of visual simplicity to hang jackets on a coat rack than to get a lover of visual abundance to open the closet, get out a hanger, and hang up their coat. An abundant organizer can create an “inbox” for broad categories so that the simple organizer can toss items in – the abundant organizer can always micro-organize later.

I took Aarsen’s quiz and discovered that nearly every question slotted me neatly into the “visual abundance, organizational abundance” category. I didn’t pay any attention to which bug that was – which meant I was sure her quiz had gotten me wrong when she started describing the “bee”. It fit me to a T! Silly me for not paying attention to the moniker – I’m a total bee.

As is Daniel. Our kids, on the other hand? At least one is definitely a butterfly – and probably a whole lot more than one. We need to simplify our organizational systems wherever the children interface with them. And we need to have less stuff. Sigh.

All in all, I found Aarsen’s book to be an enjoyable and thought-provoking listen as I’ve been sorting through seemingly endless boxes of loose parts. Whether the insight I’ve gained will be able to help keep those loose parts from finding a place back in a random box? That remains to be seen.

What I do for myself

Eloise Rickman, in her book Extraordinary Parenting, writes of asking mothers what they do for themselves only to meet blank stares. Many mothers don’t do anything for themselves.

I had to stop the audiobook to clarify to Beth-Ellen, who was folding laundry alongside me, that I was not one of those women. I am no martyr. I do things for myself all day long.

I make my bed when I wake up and delight in the beauty of the quilt my mother made us or the one I made myself.

I copy out a passage of Scripture, slowly working my way through a text.

I cuddle with one of my little ones as they slowly wake up.

I peer out the window at the newest visitor to our bird feeder, trying to memorize its features so I can look it up later (if I don’t know its identity) or pointing out its various features to my children if I do know something about it.

I memorize passages of Scripture and sing hymns with my children during our morning worship.

I grub about in one of my many beds of native plants when I step outside to call the kids in or to get the mail or to empty the compost pail.

I read The Story of the World and Hans Christian Anderson during “together time.” I read poems, old and new. I learn the names of the clouds with my children and what weather each type of clouds portends.

I take long baths while reading up on whatever my current pet topic is.

I dream up and research out the next garden bed and then work to implement it.

I plan the next year’s school curriculum and delight in thinking of the next subjects my children and I will deep dive into together.

I sketch ideas for the next Easter or Christmas outfits and then comb through the patterns I have and what free patterns I can find to approximate the vision I have in my head. I dig through my fabric collection and delight in not spending anything, except joyful time sewing, on my kids’ festival clothing.

I make cut-up cakes for my kids’ birthdays, with each opening of the Twizzler bag bringing back fond memories of the cakes my grandma made me.

I do these things for myself day in and day out. Just because I also do them with or for others does not make them any less for me.

Sometimes, my family and I drink deeply together of life-giving water. Other times, I pour out and find myself all the more enriched for having used the things I delight in to serve my family.

Truly, I lead a rich and fulfilling life.

Notes from Lift by Daniel Kuntz

In The Liberal Arts Tradition, Clark and Jain argue that the ancients considered gymnastics and music to be an essential component of early education (perhaps even THE essential components of early education.)

As a mother of many young children and a not-particularly-gymnasticly-oriented person, I have lots of questions. What do the ancients mean by gymnastic? Of what benefit is gymnastic training? How does a gymnastic education fit into the whole idea of a liberal arts education (that is, an education fit for free men)? And, in what manner did the medievals interpret the classical emphasis on gymnastic training?

Cover of Lift by Daniel Kunitz

When I saw Daniel Kunitz’s Lift: Fitness Culture from Naked Greeks and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors in my local library’s catalog, I hoped it could help in answering these questions.

Alas, it was not to be.

Kunitz seems much more interested in telling the story of his beloved Crossfit and creating an ancient mythology for it than in uncovering a historical understanding of fitness. He mentions that “In Athens, the three great gymnasia – Plato’s Akademy, Aristotle’s Lykeion, and the Cynosarges – were also sites of the era’s three major philosophical traditions, directed by philosopher-athletes” but offers no assistance in understanding the interplay between philosophy and athletics.

For an understanding of the early Christian attitude toward athletics, Kunitz falls even further short, stating without reference that “Christian denigration of the body as inherently sinful… certainly contributed significantly to the deterioration of athletics in the Roman era as well as in the Middle Ages” and leaving the whole Christian conception of the body there.

Kunitz does somewhat better at detailing a history of modern fitness, but his own obsession with Crossfit and the “New Fitness Frontier” clouds his ability to tell a clean story. He derides an emphasis on fitness for the sake of slimming down, but fails to make a good case for why fitness for the sake of looking like Hercules is better. He is dismissive of jogging and other aerobic pursuits as pointless (despite advocates stated desire to either improve cardiovascular health or to attain or maintain healthy weight), but fails to make a compelling case for the endless improvement (always seeking a new personal best) that he considers the ideal.

The optimization of the body is Kunitz’s goal – and perhaps the goal of fellow members of the New Fitness Frontier – but such a goal falls flat to my mind. The body is not an end in itself. It exists for a higher goal – the glory of God. So, for me, fitness is not about achieving my body’s greatest potential but about being fit to accomplish the purposes I know God has for me: fit to serve as my husband’s helpmeet, fit to mother and educate my children, fit to serve within my church and community however God should lead, and so forth.

Which means my search to better understand the meaning and value of “gymnastic education” as conceived by either the ancients or the medievals continues.

The Paradox of Christ

“Above all, he is unselfish. Perhaps nothing strikes us more than this. Although he clearly believed himself to be divine, he did not put on airs or stand on his dignity. He was never pompous. There was no touch of self-importance in Jesus. He was humble.

It is this paradox that is so amazing, this combination of the self-centeredness of his teaching and the unself-centeredness of his behavior. In thought he put himself first, in deed last. He exhibited both the greatest self-esteem and the greatest self-sacrifice. He knew himself to be the Lord of all, but he became their servant. He said that he would one day come to judge the world, but he washed the feet of his friends.”

~John Stott, Basic Christianity

Nothing struck me quite so strongly as I read Stott’s Basic Christianity as the bolded sentence above. As someone who has believed since she was a young child, I have never really considered the “self-centeredness” of Jesus’ teaching. Of course he was self-centered – he’s God. He ought to be talking about himself. But if he weren’t God, were simply styling himself as God, he would be quite pompous.

Yet his actions aren’t pompous at all. He cares for the poor and needy, embraces outcasts, visits sinners in their homes. He served.

“…Christ Jesus, 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, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

~Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

This is the paradox of our faith – the God who is so High stooped down so low. He is indeed exactly what every person needs and does not shy away from proclaiming it: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” “I am the bread of life.” “I am the living water.” “I am the Good Shepherd.” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” But, despite being God’s gift to man, he did not act as though he were.


Being Believed is Important

Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s Three Little Words evoked not a few complicated thoughts, but that wasn’t all I got from it as I read.

I also learned.

I learned, for one, that being believed is important.

Ashley writes of how her little brother would crawl into bed with her and pee the bed. Her foster parents would not believe it wasn’t Ashley who had been peeing the bed. On another occasion, Ashley slipped on the poop another foster child had smeared about – but her foster parents wouldn’t believe that she wasn’t the smear-er. Later, more seriously, she attempted to tell people of the abuse she and other children were experiencing and people didn’t take her seriously.

Now, Ashley writes of the times when she was in the right, when she was telling the truth and wasn’t believed. If she’s like any child, she told her share of lies as well.

But Ashley’s story brought home the importance of believing our children – or, even if we don’t believe them, of taking them seriously and avoiding shaming or punishing when we don’t know the whole story.

Does it matter whether the bed-pee-er was Ashley or her little brother? Only inasmuch as it might indicate that Ashley needed some help (it could have indicated a urinary tract infection, for example, if she had previously been dry consistently.) The foster parents could have said, in a neutral voice: “Looks like your bed is wet this morning. Let’s get it cleaned up.” They might ask, “Are you having a hard time staying dry overnight? Sometimes that means that you’re sick and don’t realize it.” And when Ashley says that no, it was her little brother who got into bed with her, they could have responded “Okay. Well, if you ever do find yourself having a hard time holding it overnight, just let us know and maybe we could talk to a doctor about getting help.” And then they could try to pay attention to see if her brother is indeed crawling into bed with her overnight and wetting the bed.

Our older children have started lying.

I know this because I watch them do something and then tell me that they didn’t do it.

Because I’ve seen their lying in action, it’s tempting to think they’re lying every time one child comes running to tell me that “so-and-so hurt themselves” (with the unspoken being “I didn’t do it!”)

But Ashley’s story has encouraged me to rethink my approach to this.

When I know that something is a lie because I have seen otherwise, I call out the lie.

But when I don’t know what actually happened? I try to be more circumspect.

I ask myself, is it important for me to ascertain who did what in this circumstance?

In a lot of cases, it isn’t really important. Do I need to know who spilled the water on the floor? No. I just need to clean it up – and it’s not going to hurt my children to clean it up together. Do I need to know who had the toy first? No, not really. I can just put the toy in time out since it wasn’t playing nicely.

In most cases, even when my children are fighting with each other, I don’t need to arbitrate. We talk about how we ought to behave toward one another (regardless of who started the current fight). I may have to find a task for each of the children to work on with me or they might need to play in the same room as me for the next while until their current squabble has cooled down. But I don’t need to know “who did it”.

If possible, I can create an environment that disincentivizes lying – without making it my default to visibly disbelieve my children.

Because being believed is important.

An Apt Description

Thomas More, in Utopia:

“I am out practically all day dealing with others, and the rest of my time is devoted to my family, and so I leave nothing for myself, that is for writing.

When I get home, I have to talk with my wife, chat with my children, confer with the servants. All this I count as part of my obligations, since it needs to be done…. As I am doing such things, as I said, a day, a month, a year slips by.

When do I write then? And as yet I have said nothing about sleep and nothing at all about eating, and for many that takes up no less time than sleep itself, which consumes almost half our lives. The only time I get for myself is what I steal from sleep and eating.”

An apt description of why I blog so much less frequently than I would prefer.

My brother, the pumpkin runner?

It didn’t take long, when reading Marsha Diane Arnold’s The Pumpkin Runner, to find parallels between her main character and my brother Josh.

First, there’s the name. “Nearly all the sheep ranchers in Blue Gum Valley rode horses or drove jeeps to check on their sheep. But Joshua Summerhayes…”

Then there’s the running. “But Joshua Summerhayes liked to run…” Yep, that’d be Josh.

Finally, there’s Joshua’s penchant for eating raw pumpkin.

Not that my brother Josh is crazy about raw pumpkin (at least, I don’t think he is). But when I read:

“That was the year his family planted a pumpkin patch behind their clapboard ranch house, where the sun sparkled through the eucalyptus trees near Blue Gum Creek.

When the pumpkins had grown as round as a wombat’s belly, young Joshua stopped by to enjoy a golden slice.”

When I read that passage (from the second and third paragraphs of the story), I remembered my brother Joshua’s love for raw green beans. Now, don’t get me wrong. We all loved to munch on the raw green beans while we spent countless hours stemming for mom to can. But Josh took it to a whole ‘nother level. We teased that Josh ate more than went into his bowl to be canned.

The Pumpkin Runner goes on from there, of course. It tells the story of young Joshua Summerhayes, young no longer. At 60 years old, he’s still running powered by the pumpkins in the patch out back. But when a newspaper announces a run from Melbourne to Sydney (just 900 km or ~560 miles), Joshua tells his dog: “It’s been a while since we’ve visited the city, Yellow Dog…. We could see two cities and get in a little run as well.” And so they did – Joshua in his orange gumboots, Yellow Dog beside him, and Aunt Millie driving from stop to stop with pumpkin treats as fuel.

I’m not sure Tirzah Mae was as impressed with the story as I was – it was a bit long and she had her eye on a Barbie easy reader she’d picked up the last time we were at the library (groan!) But I sure enjoyed envisioning my brother, 30 years down the line, running a long distance race fueled by raw green beans.

I’ll be Aunt Millie, driving the Jeep.


Church History: The Age of Jesus and the Apostles

This year’s main spiritual goal is to “grow theologically through a study of church history”. To that end, I’m using Bruce L. Shelley’s Church History in Plain Language as a spine and reading original sources and biographies to supplement my study. This month’s section was “The Age of Jesus and the Apostles, 6 BC – AD 70.” In other words, the New Testament Age. Because I am already relatively familiar with this stage of church history, this was an easy month. I read Matthew, Acts, and Ephesians as my original sources and selected two books on Paul from my local library (only one of which I finished, as seen below.) I also found one of Shelley’s recommended readings at my library and read that.

Core Reading: Church History in Plain Language
The two chapters on “The Age of Jesus and the Apostles” are easy reading. They summarize the narrative portions of the New Testament, giving some historical details drawn heavily from the below-mentioned Great People of the Bible and How They Lived.

Supplemental Reading:

Great People of the Bible and How They Lived by Reader’s Digest
Bruce included this work in his recommended readings for this section – and I’m glad he did. I’ve only read the New Testament section (so far), but I’ve found this to be a highly readable retelling of the narrative of the New Testament with appropriate historical details added in text and with photographs and illustrations. Given that this is a secular work, I would have expected significant skepticism about the words and works of Christ, as well as how the apostles interpreted said words and works – but this is not a skeptical work. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I especially enjoyed the discussion of temple politics and the divisions between the Pharisees and Sadducees and the discussion of the divisions between the Jerusalem Jews and the Hellenists. Another thing I’d never thought of was how the locus of ministry in the New Testament shifts from Galilee (during Jesus’ early ministry) to Jerusalem (during Jesus’ late ministry and the apostles’ early ministry) to Antioch (from which Paul and Barnabas’s missionary journeys were launched.)

Paul: In Fresh Perspective by N.T. Wright

This is a small but dense work edited from some lectures Wright gave at Cambridge University. I found it difficult to find time to read it because it required my full attention (something in short supply!) to get Wright’s points. Nevertheless, I am glad I read this. Some points I found useful:

  • Wright points out Paul’s consistent use of the word “Christ”, which we tend to think of as little more than Jesus’ surname, but which conveyed quite a bit more in Paul’s Jewish context. Specifically, Paul was consistently pointing to Jesus’ messianic role – what Wright calls an “apocalyptic” context. Wright discusses some of the expectations the Jews of Paul’s time would have had surrounding the term “Christ” and what that would have meant to them. To remind myself of this context, I’ve been mentally substituting “The Promised Messiah and Savior” whenever I read “Christ” in the New Testament.
  • Occasionally, I hear the cross in the Roman world compared to an electric chair – “You’d never hang an electric chair around your neck.” But Wright points out that the cross was not simply a means by which Rome carried out executions. It was a symbol of Rome’s might, particularly its power over conquered peoples. The cross represented the power of Rome to kill those who oppose. Yet the subversive nature of the gospel stated that the cross represents the power, not of Rome but of God, not to kill but to save.

Paul: The Mind of the Apostle by A.N. Wilson

I gave this book up after 50 pages, having grown tired of passages like this:

“If readers of the New Testament choose to believe that Paul never set eyes on Jesus and that he had no psychological interest or compulsion to inspire him throughout the thirty years in which he preached Jesus Christ Crucified other than the testimony of the friends of Jesus, whom he had barely met, then that reader is entitled to his or her point of view.”

I understand that not all biographers of Biblical persons consider the Bible to be the authoritative word of God – but I’d prefer not to represented by a straw man. Only a reader of the New Testament who is determined to disbelieve it will assume Paul’s reason for believing was “the testimony of the friends of Jesus whom he had barely met.” Scripture plainly states in Acts 9 and 22 that Paul’s reason for his “obsession” with Jesus was a personal encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Call the Damascus road experience a hallucination if you like, but don’t pretend that the Bible gives no explanation for Paul’s zeal.

The Brothers Grimm: Wrap Up

I had grandiose plans of reading ALL of the Grimm’s fairy tales, but I’m awfully glad that I gave myself the out from the beginning. As it was, I read 22 of the tales and 14 picture book versions, listened to 1 audio retelling, and watched 2 video retellings. I posted reviews of the retellings – and have a half dozen half-written posts about the other tales I read.

I’ll post those someday – but for now, I’ll just list what I read:

Hansel and Gretel

I read and reviewed eight different picture book versions of this very famous tale.


I read and reviewed four different picture book versions and a video retelling of this familiar tale.

King Thrushbeard

I found only one picture book version of this fun Taming-of-the-Shrew-esque story. I’d like to see more.

The Frog Prince

No kissing! Yay! I read one picture book version, listened to an audio version, and watched a video retelling (that I didn’t like at all.)

Stories published elsewhere

So, those Disney stories I watched/read as a child? I think most of them are probably drawn more from Perrault’s French version of the stories. But I did read the Grimm’s versions of “Puss in Boots” and “Cinderella”.

Less-Familiar Princesses

“Maid Maleen”: a Sleeping-Beauty-like tale, except with more twists. “The Skillful Huntsman”: a modest man slays figurative dragons (actually giants and maybe a pig?) and wins the princess’s hand. “The Princess in Disguise”: a Cinderella-like tale, except with more twists (including a really yucky incestuous promise.)

Tailor Tales

I read two different tales about tailors (generally clever but rather self-important men). “The Gallant Tailor” aka “The Brave Little Tailor” aka “The Valiant Tailor” aka “Seven at One Blow” is the one I remember from childhood. But there is also “The Giant and the Tailor”.

Stories with Adult Themes

Infidelity and wife-beating. Not exactly great material for children’s stories. Preview these before you share them with your kids: “The Little Farmer”, “Sharing Joy and Sorrow”, and “Old Hildebrand”.

Gruesome Tales

You’ve been warned that the Grimm’s are GRIM and are eager to mine the depths of their gruesomeness? Try “Fitcher’s Bird” and “The Robber Bridegroom”.

Create-your-own Fairy Tales

A few of the tales seemed incomplete, like they’re just waiting to be made into an episode in a Shrek-like fairy tale amalgam. Wanna try your hand at it? Read “The Golden Key”, “Sweet Porridge”, and “The Old Beggar Woman”.

Thumbling Tales

Actually three different tales: “Tom Thumb”, “Tom Thumb’s Travels”, and “The Young Giant”.

Miscellaneous Tales

“The Nail”, a moral tale. “Jew among Thorns”, an anti-Semitic tale (uncomfortable). “Clever Gretel”, with a not-so-nice protagonist. “The Singing Bone”, a Cain and Abel type tale. “Fair Katrinelje and Pif-Paf-Poltrie”, an incomprehensible courting story. “The Elves”, a Christmas story. “The Goose-Girl”, a rather goosey all-too-compliant gal who gets the guy in the end anyway.

Thanks to everyone for reading along – don’t forget to go to Reading to Know to link up what you read and to read others’ thoughts on The Brothers Grimm.

The Brothers Grimm: The Frog Prince

I much prefer the Grimms version of “The Frog Prince” to whatever detestable variation resulted in the saying “You have to kiss a few toads before you find your prince.”

This story is (thankfully) not about playing the field, but about keeping promises.

No kissing involved.

The Frog Prince retold by Edith H. Tarcov, illustrated by James Marshall
A relatively faithful retelling of the story, written as a “level three” first reader (for 1st and 2nd grades). The large print and relatively simple sentence structures make it easier for children to read – but this still includes an abundance of words and parts of speech. I enjoyed the little rhymes the frog says. I did NOT enjoy James Marshall’s illustrations, which were cartoonish (all the people reminded me of Alice from Dilbert.)

The Frog Prince by Jan Callner (Audio)
An audio retelling of the classic tale, with a full cast of characters and accompanying songs. There are some embellishments to the story, but most of them are positive developments (showing the princess’s evolution from self-centered brat to friend, for example). Also, there were a few amusing bits – after the fairy godmother exclaims her displeasure at not being invited to the Prince’s party, the narrator asks “Do you know what she did?” and answers “She destabilized the entire geopolitical balance of the region – that is, she turned the prince into a frog”. On the other hand, the songs drove me absolutely NUTS – or at least they would if I had to listen to them more than once. Overall, I won’t be listening again.

The Tale of the Frog Prince from Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre (DVD)
Having been rather disappointed in Shelley Duvall’s version of “Rumplestiltskin”, I was prepared for her “The Tale of the Frog Prince” to be less than stellar. Except that I couldn’t help notice that these were different actors – Robin Williams is the frog, and the back of the DVD case has accolades from the New York Times. I let my hopes rise.

The opening scene, where a narrator introduces the plight of a poor king and queen who couldn’t have a child, raised my hopes further – only to let them be immediately dashed when said king and queen begin harranguing one another.

From there? Well, lots of angry yelling, lots of name-calling, lots of innuendo. Yep, that’s right – all sorts of innuendo.

And a kiss. Of course, a kiss.

I wasn’t a fan. Obviously.