Monday, January 31, 2005

A good retreat!

Well, I made it back from the retreat, and I am happy to report that I had a good time! There was a pretty small group of ladies, only 15, so there were no cliques and everyone mixed really well together. SInce there were fewer women then they had thought when they originally made the reservation, we didn't have to sleep 4 to a room. Yay! So I just had one roommate, and she was very nice. The speaker was a lady from Indiana, the mother of one of the women at the retreat. She gave her testimony on Friday, which was very moving, and then on Saturday and Sunday she really challenged us in our relationships--with God, our husbands, and our children. She challenged us to see as sin the mask of pride that we wear that causes us to blame our children, husbands, whatever, for our bad responses in situations. That was convicting! I really latched on to 1 Peter 1:3, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." She gave out a daily prayer guide with different prayers for our husbands for each day of the week, and I have started praying through that for Bob. As we start thinking about what to do after retirement, I have so many fears and uncertainties, and I really do want Bob to be open to and guided by the Holy Spirit. I know praying for him is the best thing I can do, and this weekend was a good reminder of that. She encouraged us stay-at-home moms too, and that was refreshing. I know it's "good" to do, but it sure does get wearying. It was good to be reminded of the value and importance of what we're doing. Although there was no one there that just jumped out at me as another "Amy" for my life (that's because there couldn't be another one of her!), I definitely do feel more plugged in to the church, and I do think I've made some friends. Overall, I was glad I went, and it was a lot of fun.

Friday, January 28, 2005


Today I am stepping even further out of my comfort zone--I am going on a ladies' retreat. I usually really enjoy retreats, and I always love getting away from the demands of daily life and focusing on the Lord, but this one is, for all intents and purposes, with strangers. We started going to Broadlands Community Church a few months ago, and we do have some good friends who go there, people we've been stationed with before and actually helped in our wedding, but she unfortunately, isn't going this weekend. Everyone else is just, at best, a very casual acquaintance. So theoretically this should be a great time to get to know these women better, but that doesn't make me excited. I'm not very good at just casual chit-chat, and I always feel very fake, like I'm putting on a show, trotting out the "best-of-Claire" stories that they won't have heard yet ("How did you and Bob meet", etc.). There will be 4 people to a room, and so I'll also be sharing a bed with a stranger. That doesn't really bother me that much, though, because I can be a very still sleeper--some mornings I wake up and I can tell I have never moved during the night--but I doubt it will be a very relaxed, restful sleep! I don't even remember the topic for the retreat. I waffled so long about going, and I had pretty much decided not to go, but some of the women caught me at a weak moment, I think, and so here we are. I would like to feel more connected to this church, so hopefully this weekend will help. Please pray that it will be a refreshing time, and that I will be able to make friends with some of these ladies and not feel left out or anything (my deepest, darkest fear!). I'm so nervous--I thought retreats were supposed to be relaxing!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Thoughts on the Middle East

I am continuing to read Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography, by Jeremy Wilson, and it has been very eye-opening to me to read exactly what happened after WWI, when the old Turkish Ottoman Empire was broken up by the Allies during the peace process. Although many promises of future self-governing and so on were made to the Arabs, who had risen up in revolt against the Turks and greatly helped the British win in the Middle East (this is where Lawrence got all his fame), in the end these promises were not fulfilled, and much of the Middle East was parceled out to be new colonies, Palestine to Britain, and Syria to France, even though the Syrians hated the French. The Arabs didn't want to replace one master (the Turks) with another (France), and so there was another revolt and more violence. In the meantime, in Arabia, the Sherif Hussein, who had basically stirred up the rebellion, expected to rule over what is now Saudi Arabia. The Anglo-Indian government, however, didn't want to encourage any nationalistic governments, because they were afraid the Indian people would see that and revolt themselves. As a result, they gave secret aid to ibn Saud, the Wahabi chief, who practiced a more radical form of Islam, implementing a very strict form of shari'a law. So now today we are certainly reaping the consequences of all the political wranglings and mechinations of the 1920s.

In my mind, I have been contrasting the approach of Britain and France after the war with President Bush's Inaugural speech. "Across the generations, we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. . . So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. This is not primarily the task of arms . . .Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different than our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way. . . Today America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know -- the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty we will stand with you."

Wow. How might history have been changed if the U.S. had made a pledge like that in 1918. Instead, we were Isolationists, silently disapproving of Colonialism, but not standing firmly for freedom. I know that God is sovereign in human history, and that He has allowed and orchestrated all that has happened in the Middle East, but I still wonder how things would be different . . . and I wonder how President Bush's policies will affect that area. I know true peace will not come to this earth until Christ returns again, but we are commanded to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Ps. 122:6) , and I also know the light of God's truth is more freely shown in a democracy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Boys and Reading

Today there was an interesting article in the Washington Post about why boys don't read anymore. The article states that although there are fewer young adults reading altogether, the percentage of young men who read has really plummeted--from 55% to 43% (girls only declined from 63% to 59%). Here is the article's explanation of why this is occuring :
Although one might expect the schools to be trying hard to make reading appealing to boys, the K-12 literature curriculum may in fact be contributing to the problem. It has long been known that there are strong differences between boys and girls in their literary preferences. According to reading interest surveys, both boys and girls are unlikely to choose books based on an "issues" approach, and children are not interested in reading about ways to reform society -- or themselves. But boys prefer adventure tales, war, sports and historical nonfiction, while girls prefer stories about personal relationships and fantasy. Moreover, when given choices, boys do not choose stories that feature girls, while girls frequently select stories that appeal to boys.
Unfortunately, the textbooks and literature assigned in the elementary grades do not reflect the dispositions of male students. Few strong and active male role models can be found as lead characters. Gone are the inspiring biographies of the most important American presidents, inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs. No military valor, no high adventure. On the other hand, stories about adventurous and brave women abound. Publishers seem to be more interested in avoiding "masculine" perspectives or "stereotypes" than in getting boys to like what they are assigned to read

This is exactly what I was talking about several posts ago, when I talked about G. A. Henty, and the dearth of good modern books for boys! I am glad to have the boys at home, reading books I can pick out for them, and finding them so thrilling that they would rathe read then go outside and play in the snow. That was Nathan this afternoon. He is deep into Son of Charlemagne , by Barbara Willard, right now, although he did later take a break and go outside. The article doesn't say what the schools are planning on doing to address this problem--my guess is do many more studies (another one was mentioned), but I doubt we'll be seeing too many classic adventure stories being assigned in elementary school. That's because they teach boys to aspire to be manly and strong, and that is not a poular notion now. So consequently we'll have more selfish, ungentlemanly boys, who have the added benefit of not being readers. Lovely! Reading articles like this makes me so proud to be a mom to all boys. I realize again what an awesome responsibility it is to raise Godly men, men who are good husbands and fathers and leaders. It's such an honor to be chosen--I pray I'll be found faithful!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Special Guest

We are hosting a special guest now--my brother's wife's brother, Jeff. Did you follow all that?! : ) He is here in D.C. for a year for an intership-type thing, and he is still looking for an apartment downtown. He's a bachelor, used to a quiet, ordered life, I'm sure, yet here he is, reading Fox in Socks to a squirmy bunch of boys! What a change for him! The boys are enjoying the extra attention of Uncle Jeff (Caleb has been known to call him "Uncle Dan", which I told him was a compliment), and he's been very patient, especially with all of Caleb's chattering. I guess he's just in practice for when Dan and Melinda have kids!

Snow Weekend

We got a little bit of the storm that came through yesterday. It started snowing in the morning and continued until around 2:00, leaving us with a grand total of about 3-4 inches. But that didn't stop anyone here from being totally paralyzed by the storm! By Friday evening, just on the basis of the forecast, things were being cancelled, like morning SAT tests and what-not. After Bible study that night, church for Sunday was cancelled. All before a single flake had even fallen! We laughed. We all enjoyed the snow, I must say. I took a walk in the morning as the snow was falling. I love walking in falling snow--everything is muffled, your steps are immediately erased, and the world looks so new and clean. I could have stayed out there all morning. Yesterday my aunt posted about how she makes up an alphabet acrostic using different names and attributes of God to worship Him, so I did that as I was walking. What a wonderful idea! As she said, I'm limited only by my vocabulary. The boys played outside almost all day. They went out about 11:00, and I think Nathan and Luke came in around 5:00, taking only a short break for lunch. They sledded down the hill at the end of our street, built more layers onto their snow fort, and generally ran around throwing snow. Bob "braved" the streets in the trusty Pathfinder and made it to WalMart and Sams, which were empty, he reported. I guess no one else was taking advantage of the day to do their errands, like exchanging some things and getting windshield wiper fluid!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Boxer Rebellion

I just read a great blog over at Captain's Quarters that talked about what a fool Barbara Boxer is making of herself in the Rice confirmation hearings. And this reminded me--my aunt has been trying to come up with a new blog name for my brother , who is soon to be leaving the realm of Sen. Boxer. Well, Dan has written quite a few letters to Ms. Boxer, taking her to task for her liberal positions, and I know he's not going to miss her a bit. In fact, he's moving to the big red state of Texas, so I was thinking the new name for his blog could be "The Boxer Rebellion". LOL!


Today we had a light day of school because it snowed! For the first time this year! The boys were very distracted all morning, looking out the window at every opportunity, so after lunch they all got dressed up to go out. Can you imagine how long it takes to get 4 boys under 8 dressed to go out in the snow?! Almost as long as the little boys stay outside! Fortunately Nathan and Luke stay out there for a long time, so I guess it evens out and is worth the effort. They stayed out about an hour and a half, and they just came in to have hot chocolate. We didn't even get very much snow--maybe 2 inch or so. However, the way our yard and driveway are churned up, it looks like the scene of a major engagement. I think it was "shoveled". This is turning int oa light week of school, since we had a holiday Monday, yesterday was co-op, and tomorrow is a holiday for Bob too. Government employees get a day off for the Inauguration festivities. I guess they are free to attend them, or otherwise to not clog up the roads. So we'll stay at home, doing our part! Since we still have satellite, we can actually watch some of the events! I was just thinking about the last Inauguration. I remember hearing President Bush's speech as I was driving up to the Denver airport. I think I was picking up Bob, who was coming back from Ohio. He had driven out the Pathfinder and flown back, as we got ready to PCS there. My, a lot has changed in 4 years! I wonder where we'll be 4 years from now!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Looming Changes

Bob is looking into getting his realtor's license. He has 2 1/2 years before he is eligible to retire, and we've been thinking about what he should do when he gets out. He's thought about being a realtor for a long time, so this isn't a big surprise, but it has caused some stress in our family. I don't like change. Period. And retirement is going to be a BIG change, no matter what he does. So I am automatically defensive about the whole subject, and I am inclined to play the devil's advocate and think about the possible cons in every situation. This leads him to be more enthusiatic (to counter my negativity), which makes me even more more "doomsday", and it's just a bad cycle. I have been trying to analyze my feelings, to see if it's the whole realtor thing that is bad, or just the whole retirement thing, and I guess I'd have to say both. We've never had exceptionally great dealings with any realtors, so my gut reaction is "I don't like realtors--they're cheesy." (Not to offend anyone--I know there are exceptions out there; we just haven't dealt with any!) Also, being a realtor is not something I feel called to be--it doesn't fit my strengths at all, and the thought of dealing with that many people just makes my stomach tense. But I am having to realize that it might be Bob's calling, and I need to support it while realizing that I don't have to actually get out there and DO it (but I might--there's a doomsday scenario there, I'm sure!). Bob wants to get his license and do it part-time until he retires, but the market here is very intimidating, and that concerns me as well. I'm afraid we'll never see him, and that, although he assures me that we will, he might not be able to avoid it, once he gets started. So there are a lot of complicated issues here, and we are struggling to hear the Lord's leading. I do want to go into this change gracefully, not having to be dragged along, kicking and screaming. Please pray for us as we make decisions!

Monday, January 17, 2005

Lawrence of Arabia

I've been plowing through a massive tome on T. E. Lawrence, aka "Lawrence of Arabia". It's an authorized biography, by Jeremy Wilson, and he has done tremendous research. It was published in 1989, so Wilson was able to get access to many previously classified documents, and he also had access to an incredible number of letters both from and to Lawrence. In those, you can really get a sense of context and background for the story unfolding politically in the Middle East during World War I. I must say that this is yet another area where I know next to nothing, and this book has been very enlightening. In a meeting at work, someone mentioned a rumor about Lawrence, so Bob came home and asked me to find a book on him at the library. The only one I could find was this one, which weighs in at almost 1200 pages, so reading it wwas not a remote priority on my list. But I started looking at the pictures, and they drew me in, so now I am all the way to page 437. It is so interesting to read about a Middle East with no Israel, no Saudi Arabia, in fact no Arabian countries at all save the Ottoman Empire, which was deeply hated by the Arabs. In a particularily prophetic passage on pg. 163, a General Cox, part of the Anglo-Indian leadership, said this about a military conquest of none other than Iraq: "We have nothing to fear from the populace of Baghdad and there is good reason to hope that once we are in control over Baghdad and the river and telegraph to Basrah, the tribes in the Euphrates valley . . . will accept our regime automatically."

An Arab nationalist named al Masri said at the time, however, " . . .that although Basra . . .had apparently accepted the invasion with calm and indeed satisfaction, yet it was not certain that the Arabs and especially the Arab officers further north would do the like. An invading army was sometimes an irritant however well it behaved and however great were the grievances of those whose country it invaded against their Government. Should some of the Arab officers in Baghdad take a mistaken view of the situation, they might stir up trouble . . . in consequence of their relationship with many of the tribal chiefs of Irak. Some of these chiefs . . .could put a considerable number of guerillas in the field." Interesting, and so very true still today.

One last quote, and a quiz--who does this remind you of? From pg. 229, "In political questions Sykes showed a taste for bold, all-embracing solutions and dealt in an impressive manner with grand schemes and vital issues; but he clearly lacked the ability or self-discipline to undertake any systematic examination of detail. As a result, much of what he wrote was little more than political rhetoric. Worse still, he was inconsistent: he would advocate contradictory policies on successive days with equal enthusiasm, apparently without realizing that such changes involved rethinking his entire position." Remember, this is 1915, not 2004!

As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history's mistakes are bound to repeat them.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Is the media aiding and abetting the enemy?

I just read a great article over at Blackfive, It's written by Lt. Col. Tim Ryan, a commander in Iraq, on the role of our media in Iraq. Here's the first paragraph, just to get you interested :

What if domestic news outlets continually fed American readers headlines like: "Bloody Week on U.S. Highways: Some 700 Killed," or "More Than 900 Americans Die Weekly from Obesity-Related Diseases"? Both of these headlines might be true statistically, but do they really represent accurate pictures of the situations? What if you combined all of the negatives to be found in the state of Texas and used them as an indicator of the quality of life for all Texans? Imagine the headlines: "Anti-law Enforcement Elements Spread Robbery, Rape and Murder through Texas Cities." For all intents and purposes, this statement is true for any day of any year in any state. True -- yes, accurate -- yes, but in context with the greater good taking place -- no! After a year or two of headlines like these, more than a few folks back in Texas and the rest of the U.S. probably would be ready to jump off of a building and end it all. So, imagine being an American in Iraq right now.

Read the rest of it, and get the true picture!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Mini Book Report

No--it's not a short book, I just expect this post to be a smallish one. I've been enjoying reading Breakfast with Jesus (@Amazon) , it's a devotional that is only a few pages each morning. I can see reading this one through a few times--I also did this and loved it with C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters (@CBD) when I was at Grad School. Greg Laurie has been used in "B'fast" to give insightful looks at common Bible stories--often continuing down one road for several days.

(Trivia: Also like "Screwtape", this is a book I do not own! Both have been borrowed from Dayton, Ohio--this one from my wife's parents, the last read from my schools library.)

I/C, Bob


When rereading my last post, I realized I had made it sound like working with people who are not Christians put me outside of my comfort zone. This actually wasn't what I meant. What makes me uncomfortable is the thought of me being on a "head" committee and being in charge of something that has to be started from scratch! I am much more comfortable just following orders, rather than taking the initiative on things. In fact, all last night (we had a terrible storm so I woke up often) I thought, "I don't really want to do this! It's too much!" But I feel like the Lord does want me to be involved, and it is in my area of knowledge and experience, so here we go.

As far as the other ladies go, Priscilla, the Muslim, has 4 children the exact same ages as mine! Her oldest is a girl though. And Ester, the Israeli, brought up an interesting point--Jews can't participate in a Saturday science fair. So now we are a little stymied at to what to do for the date and how that will all work out. Our next meeting is in March, after the local public school science fairs. This is to give everyone else a chance to actually go to some of the science fairs and see what they are like, since no one else has ever participated in one!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Science Fair, anyone?

This evening I went to a meeting for the Loudoun County Homeschool Science Fair. I don't know what I was really expecting, but since this is such a huge homeschooling area, I thought things would be pretty much in hand, and they might need me to stuff envelopes or something. In fact, I wasn't really sure at all that I would be useful, but my brother Dan had encouraged me, saying they always need people to do little stuff, so I went. Well. As it turns out, there is no homeschool science fair for northern Virginia at all. This is like a big first. And there were exactly 3 other people at the meeting. It looks like there's more to be done than just stuffing envelopes! I was the only person who had any experience whatsoever with science fairs, both in participating and judging. When I told them I had gone to State twice, they were all awed. Right now I am working with one of the other ladies to find out all the International Science and Engineering Fairs rules, but it looks like there will be plenty of other jobs coming up. We are looking at a date of February 2006. It is a very diverse group so far--one Muslim, one Jew (actually from Israel), and the woman who is heading this all up is American, but her husband is an Israeli of Palestinian descent. Well, I had been thinking of getting out of my comfort zone, and I guess now I am! I just hope I'm not biting off more than I can chew.

Some thoughts on moving

This morning I thought about moving when I read my daily reading in My Utmost For His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. The title was "Have you ever been alone with God?", and Chambers starts out by saying, "When God gets us alone by affliction, heartbreak, or temptation, by disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted affection, by a broken friendship, or by a new friendship--when he gets us absolutely alone, and we are dumbfounded, and cannot ask one question, then He begins to expound. . . . There are whole tracts of stubbornness and ignorance to be revealed by the Holy Spirit in each one of us, and it can only be done when Jesus gets us alone." When you are in a routine, and all is comfortable, there can be a real complacency in your spiritual life. But when you move and are all alone, with no familiar patterns to hide in, then God can really move, focusing your thoughts on Him, and forcing you to see things in yourself that can be hidden in the daily busyness of routine. The first couple of months (years?!) after a move are always very hard and stressful, but I always see more things about myself that are unpleasant and need dealing with, and I am forced to rely on the Lord to fill me up, instead of others or activities. Thinking about Dan and Melinda's upcoming move already had me reflecting on the spiritual benefits of moving, and this devotional made me think even more.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


We've been doing a lot of extra mapwork lately. We're reading The Dragon and the Raven, by Henty, and he obviously assumed that everyone who would read it would be very familiar with Anglo-Saxon England! So he blithly talks about "poling their boat for 8 hours to reach Norwich, then proceeding on their journey to Croyland, making a great circuit to avoid the Danes at Thetford". He also mentions a bunch of rivers that we had no clue about as well, so finally I decided to look for a map, since none is provided in the book (that would have been a helpful idea, though!). I found some great ones after osme searching on the internet. Here is a great map showing Southern England in the ninth century. Here's another good one, this one a simpler one from a site called "socialstudies". Isn't the internet great for finding little things like that? I certainly don't have anything with maps like that lying around the house (and I DO have a historical atlas of maps--just no maps of England at that time!). So now we're oriented as we read and can keep track of our young hero, Edmund, as he travels. Currently, their boat got blown off course, and they had to land in a fjord of Norway, and he was taken captive. We're all on the edge of our seat with anxiety, although I have a good feeling that Edmund will survive to fight another day, with a better understanding of how the Viking themselves lived at that time! As an aside, in the boys' homeschool co-op yesterday, they started on a unit study on Explorers, an area about which we have read extensively. Nathan's class studied Marco Polo, but Luke's class studied none other than the Vikings! He got in the car and told me that he already knew everything they talked about. They made cute Viking ship models out of playdoh, so when we got home, Nathan wanted to make one as well out of clay. It looks pretty good!

Monday, January 10, 2005

We started school late this morning . . .

This morning, when we usually are starting school, Nathan was upstairs listening to The Black Stallion, and Luke was on the floor reading Chocolate Fever. Caleb and Jonathan was playing happily together in the playroom with the Little People castle. It was so nice and quiet! I just relaxed for a little while and enjoyed it all. I am so thrilled that Luke is reading bigger books now. He is really a great reader, but he has been intimidated of books that have more than about 4 chapters, so he hasn't wanted to read anything really challenging for him. But yesterday I noticed that he was reading one of Dan's old football books (thanks Dan--now practically our whole house is fully capable of discussing football greats of the mid-80's!), and then this morning he asked if he could read a chapter book from the bookshelf! For those who might not have heard of Chocolate Fever, it's about Henry, a boy who eats chocolate morning, noon, and night. Then he finds himself with the first case of chocolate fever, gets caught up in a big chase, and has a big adventure. It's only 12 chapters, and each chapter isn't too long, so it's a good "first big book". I'll let you know his progress. Meanwhile, in The Black Stallion, Nathan reports that "Alec and the Black are training for the big race." Exciting!

A funny op-ed piece about the election

The Washington Times this morning had a funny column by Canadian Mark Steyn about the election protest by the Democrats. Here's a great line: "As usual, the media did their best to string along with the Democrats' alternative reality: For the most part, the press now fulfill the same function for the party that kindly nurses do at the madhouse; if the guy thinks he's Napoleon, just smile affably and ask him how Waterloo is going. So Alan Fram of the Associated Press reported with a straight face that Sen. Boxer, Rep. John Conyers and the other protesting Democrats "hoped the showdown would underscore the problems such as missing voting machines and unusually long lines that plagued some Ohio districts, many in minority neighborhoods." I think not. What it underscores is that the Democrats are losers. "

Saturday, January 08, 2005

An encouraging email from Iraq

Here is a great email from a major in Iraq who is evidently a strong Christian. I found it on the blog Convoginators (click here to actually read the email!), where it was linked to by Powerline a couple of days ago.

Friday, January 07, 2005

What We're Reading Now . . .

I thought I'd give a little update on the books we're reading currently at our classical academy. We just finished The Dog Who Wouldn't Be, by Farley Mowat. It took us a long time to actually finish it because we got distracted from it and stopped reading for several weeks, even though we only had 2 chapters left! As I've said before, the vocabulary that Mowat uses is very rich and varied, and we looked up many words that Nathan didn't know yet. Mutt is such a funny dog, and his scrapes led us into lots of discussions about consequences as well as just discussing wildlife and the great outdoors. We're also reading More Stories From Grandma's Attic, by Arleta Richardson. I loved this series of books as a girl. The Grandma tells stories about her childhood that are gently self-effacing and humble, and also provide wonderful morals in non-preachy ways. The stories are short, and we only read them every so often--I guess they're not as exciting for boys as they were for me, although the boys do like them. Nathan and Luke just finished listening on tape to Soup , by Robert Newton Peck. This book is about the author as a boy and his best friend Soup. They get into lots of trouble, usually because of Soup's ideas, so this provided a lot of opportunities to talk about choosing friends wisely and doing the right thing even when someone is urging you not to. Right now Nathan is listening to The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley, which is one of my all-time favorite books from childhood. He thinks it's "very exciting" so far. I am loving these books on tape. My voice gives out after a little while, but they can listen to these for as long as they want! The Loudon County Library system has a very good selection of these, especially classics, which is what I'm interested in. We have just started reading (out loud) a new book, The Dragon and the Raven, by G.A. Henty. You may never have heard of G.A. Henty. I must confess I never had before our friend Elizabeth read aloud one of his books (this same one, actually!) while we were on a camping trip in Colorado. It was exciting, but I didn't give it much thought at the time. Now as a homeschooling mom with 4 boys, one of whom loves history, I love these books! Henty lived during the Victorian era in England, and wrote tons of adventure books for boys. If there is a historical event or era, then he has most likely written a book about it! The books always have a teen-age boy for a hero who is uusually a "generic" Christian with strong moral values and sense of duty and chivalry. That makes them sound boring, but these books are in reality quite exciting! There are battles all through the books, and the hero is always getting into some exciting situation that requires extreme bravery and resourecefulness to get out of. He usually has a faithful sidekick who helps him get out of these dire straits. But the books also give a wonderful historical view of the situation of the time. The Dragon and the Raven is set in England in 870, when the Danes are attacking and plundering England, which lacks a king to unify them. It is the story of King Alfred, the first true king of England, but it goes deeply into the daily life of the time, as well as the political situation. This is what we're studying in history right now, so it ties in perfectly. Next we'll read Wulf the Saxon, about the Norman invasion and the Battle of Hastings in 1066. We have previously read The Young Carthaginian, about Hannibal and his march across the Alps. We could hardly put that book down, it was so exciting! I learned so much about that time period and situation, and I know Nathan did too. But best of all is reading about a hero who chooses the difficult way because it is right, and who is brave and resourceful under pressure. Definitely the kind of examples you don't find in most modern books for boys, which probably explains why all the books that we are reading are old books, many that I remember reading from my childhood. How can we expect boys to become brave strong men if we don't provide them with any examples for them to dream about and be inspired by? Why must modern fiction for boys especially be full of crude potty references, as if they wouldn't be interested in it if it didn't contain stuff like that? Well, I'm off my soapbox and off to eat lunch!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

No Time for TIME

A year ago we started getting TIME magazine free because of some AOL promo deal (I would link to TIME, except that I wouldn't recommend it to anyone!). I figured at most it would be 6 months or so, and I love to read, so how bad can it be? Well, I am so sick of that magazine, and I am THRILLED each time one of those subscription notices comes, telling me my subscription is running out! I guess I should just have canceled it, but since it was free, I just never got around to it. I was sort of thinking that in a free magazine, surely there would be even one thing in each magazine that I would be able to glean from it to make reading it worthwhile--but I have been wrong many times, and its condescending tone just upsets me. This issue has several letters to the editor about the UN oil-for-food scandal. A quote from one letter: "Why focus on the problems at the U.N. instead of the real scandal of the day: lying by the U.S. President to take up to war?" Or here's another one (from someone in CA, of course): "Annan believes in world justice and international cooperation--goals the U.S. has seemingly abandoned under the Bush Administration. Annan will meet this challenge and survive, but the U.N. will suffer damage." Insufferable fools! I haven't read the tsumani article yet, but I'm sure the magazine will find a way to blame President Bush for it. During the election time, I started just skimming the first paragraph of each article to decide if I was even going to bother reading it. Terrible magazine. If you want the real story on what the U.N. is doing for the tsumani relief efforts, go to the Diplomad blog. Very enlightening. And speaking of the tsunami, John Piper had a good but short article on it and the sovereignty of God. I know a lot of people are asking hard questions about God's role in this disaster, and it is good to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have . . ." (1 Pet. 3:15) This article helped me put together and better articulate some of the things I was thinking.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Praying for the areas hit by the tsunami

We got this email from our friend Bruce with Operation Reveille who is a former missionary to Indonesia. If you are unsure how to pray for the areas hit by the tsumani, he gives some direction.

Dear friends, I want to share with you what you aren’t getting in the popular media aboutthe recent tsunami disaster in Indonesia that I perceive from having lived on Sumatra for nearly seven years. Aceh is to the country of Indonesia what the city of Falusia has been toIraq, what the strip of Gaza has been to Israel, and what the country of Afghanistan was to the world before 9-11. The Indonesians call Aceh “the veranda of Mecca.” Since the democratizing of Indonesia’s government with the downfall of former President Suharto, Aceh has been much more than just Indonesia’s most fundamentalist Muslim province. As Indonesia’s only province under sharia Muslim law, it has been an inspiration to the extremist movements which are cleansing villages on the islands of Ambon and Sulawesi of their Christians, and it has been a safe haven for Taliban style training of Indonesia’s own insurgency. I would never say that this natural disaster falling upon Aceh is a “judgement” from God, but the unreported reality staring us in the face is how this “act of God” will forever change the exportability of extremism from Aceh. Pray not just about the delivery of aid to this stricken region but also about the lasting spiritual and social changes that will come. As you give, consider the advantage Christian organizations have for stimulating these kind of changes over secular ones.
-Bruce Sidebotham Director, Operation Reveille
Here are some organizations he recommends:
Asia Harvest:
International Mission Board (Southern Baptist):
Lampstand Partnership:
Mission to the World (PCA):

Monday, January 03, 2005

New Year's Resolution

Like so many other people, I have resolved that this year exercise is going to be more of a priority for me. Actually, since I dislike crowds and bandwagons, I made my resolution the beginning of December and started exercising before Christmas, just to ease into it all and beat the rush! : ) I started waking up at 7:15 and riding the bike for about 20 minutes. Obviuosly, I would like to go longer, but I simply don't have time to ride longer and still shower before Jonathan gets up, and I'm not getting up any earlier (that will have to be another year's resolution!), so I will have to make do. I was doing pretty well, although I stopped rising early while all the company was here and I was staying up late! We have our recumbent exercise bike up in our room, so all I have to do is roll out of bed and onto it in the morning, which helps immensly. I had mentioned to Bob that I would like another peice of equipment so I could kind of vary the routine a bit though. Then Dan and Melinda gave us a Walmart gift card for Christmas, and Bob, Dad, and the boys went shopping Friday and came home with a Gazelle Edge Trainer, like Tony Little advertises on TV, that was on sale there. Amy has one, and I had tried it at her house and liked it, so I was quite thrilled with this. I really like how it also stores up small! I've worked out on it several times now, and I am enjoying the workouts. I can vary what I'm doing, so it's not boring, and it's definitely a lot different than riding the exercise bike. We put it down in our new "exercise room" in the basement. Yes, we've done some rearranging! Bob had the great idea that we should rearrange our storage room so we could unroll one of the area rugs that we last used in our USAFA base house, and set up the weight bench, which has been living in our rec. room, in its box, next to our TV since we've moved. So we moved all the boxes and shelves around so they are now against the back wall and one side, and we unrolled the carpet. The room looks great! How nice to have even more space! Of course, we still haven't put up the weight bench yet, but I think the Gazelle excitement has distracted us! So I've been working out on that for 15-20 minutes in the afternoon (one more reason why our Christmas decorations haven't been put away yet). I'll keep you all posted as to how my new fitness regimen is a) working and b) lasting. We shall see! I know I have read several articles lately (Reader's Digest maybe? But I am too lazy to search for and link them) stating that several short bouts of exercise during the day are just as effective as one long session. For my science fair project, I will be testing this theory--just kidding! Whether it works or not, that is what I'll be doing since that is the only way I can exercise right now!

Back to the grind . . .

Mom and Dad left this morning, and we started school again . . . but the Christmas decorations are still twinkling merrily all over the house, and I am not at all motivated to put them away. I do miss the extra room in the family room, true, and I am tired of seeing little green fake pine needles on the floor from the garlands going up the stairs, but it is such a hassle to put it all away! Besides, Jonathan has finally gotten used to it all and isn't bothering any of the ornaments! Maybe next weekend.

It was a little hard to start school again after our 2 week break, but we had an easy day of reviewing (just like public school, right?). We got started on thank-you notes, reviewed math facts, read about Charles the Hammer and Charlemagne in history, and reviewed grammer and Latin. This evening I was able to go to the library while the boys watched football, and I found tons of great books, which always revitalizes interest in school-related things. Apparently the library staff were busy little beavers during the Christmas break because the whole library was totally rearranged AND (I'm so excited!) the children's non-fiction has been moved and is now shelved separately from the adult non-fiction! All the non-fiction kids book, in one place, and I don't have to sift through the adult stuff to try to find out which ones are appropriate for children! You might think this would be a given, but believe it or not, my last library, the Beavercreek library, also shelved their kids' non-fiction in with the adult non-fiction. When we moved here and I found out this library did the same thing, I wondered if this trend was just going to follow me around the country. Fortunately, they have seen the error of their ways here, but what I think happens is that people don't really think kids like non-fiction all that much, so who cares where it is shelved? "As long as they can find it for reports" seems to be the thought, as though no kid or parent might ever just want to browse in various topics. Homeschooling people certainly do! So now I am looking forward to future trips to the library, where I can browse with ease!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year!

I can't believe it's a new year. I guess I'm pragmatic enough to think that really it seems like any other day. We did have a good "last day of 2004", though. We went with Mom and Dad and all the boys to the Udvar-Hazy Annex of the Air and Space Museum. It is "free", although parking is $12 a car, which seemed quite steep. They are also amazingly diligent about enforcing the "no food, no gum" rule. I had to take my ziploc baggie of Teddy Grahams that I always keep in the diaper bag back out to the car or else throw them away because they wouldn't let me take them into the museum (even if I never opened my diaper bag)! Good grief. The museum was nice. It's very tall, with airplanes hanging from the ceiling at various levels, as well as on the floor, and there are catwalks so you can get up high and see the ones up there. I must say, however, that if you have ever been to the National Museum of the Air Force (used to be called the Air Force Museum) at Wright-Patterson AFB, in Dayton, Ohio, then you would not be very impressed with this one. The Air Force Museum is bigger, has a lot more aircrafts and better displays, has more of a cohesive flow to the displays, and, best of all, is completely free! Jonathan was really cute yesterday. He was so excited about seeing all the airplanes, especially the ones high overhead, and he just pointed and babbled the whole time.

Last night we went over to the Lorenzinis' house for a New Year's Eve party. It was like a big Wright-Patterson reunion! The Silvers, Does, Butlers, and Nowacks were all there, as well as 2 couples from our current OCF Bible study. It was so much fun to see all these old friends again. Mom and Dad had a great time visiting with everyone. Zachary organized a big game tournament in the basement for the kids which is still being talked about today. Anthony and I kept quiet at the puzzle table. We were working on a picture of Falcon Stadium during an Air Force/Army game (one where Air Force was winning--obviously in a better season than then past one!) We gave this puzzle to them several Christmases ago, and Ed said they found all of us with a magnifying glass. I believe it, since we were faithful game attenders during our time out there, and we always sat in the same section! When I was buying the puzzle, I thought I could see the Lorenzinis' big red van way far away in the parking lot, giving hope that maybe we really were in the picture! Puzzles are a great relaxer for me, and as Melinda reminds me, they help ward off Alzheimers! Anyhow, at 9:00, we all came together and counted down the New Year (helping those in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean celebrate). The Lorenzinis had gotten all sorts of noisemakers and other goodies at the party store, so we had a great time loudly making a mess in their dining area, although Jonathan was quite scared and cried very loudly. We stayed until around 10:30, not quite midnight, but still a very late night for the boys. We have paid the price for that today, and Caleb and Jonathan are both napping as I write. Hopefully tonight will be less whiny around here. The other boys (including Bob) are outside playing football. It is an incredibly nice sunny day with a high in the upper 60's! What a great way to welcome in the new year!