Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sunshine On His Shoulders Makes Him Happy

Every time we ride in the van as a family, my youngest son races to be first to get the front seat. Why? So he can put the window down and stick his face out the window to feel the breeze and sunshine.  The rest of us would rather close the windows and leave the air conditioning on, and I've had to call the shots (UP!) on scorcher days with a van full of kids, but it's not too much to indulge his fresh air desires once in a while, is it?

Little things.

What can you do to make a child smile today?


This post is linked to 

 P52 Photo Project Week #30 on July 21, theme "Sunshine"

P52 with Kent Weakley

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Curiosity Journal for June and July

Dear friends,

My cyber friend and fellow blogger, Ann Kroeker, writes a Curiosity Journal each Wednesday, chronicling her life in the categories of Reading, Learning, Playing, Reacting, Writing.  She has invited us to join her and link up, so here is mine, not just for this week but for the months of June and July:


I have been reading less books and more blogs lately.  I am, however, reading Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel again. (More on that in the Writing section.)  Other books too, but that is the one that comes immediately to mind since I was reading it today.

am preparing to teach 5th-6th grade English in our home school co-op, moving down from the 7th-8th grade class.  To get ready for our literature studies, I am currently working through The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, as well as fairy tales, medieval legends, and poems in The Book of Virtues edited by Dr. Bill Bennett. 

Most importantly, I'm trying to pick up the pace of my Bible reading with daily chapters from Psalms, Proverbs, 1 Chronicles and Acts.  I copy favorite verses in tiny handwriting in one of my journals.  See here: Gleaning Encouragement from Scriptures in Times of Disillusionment.


I'm learning that life is a swirl, many times not nearly as cheerful as the tie dye on my favorite t-shirt pictured here.  My little girl who is almost seven pulled it out of one of my dresser drawers an hour ago and wondered why I don't wear it very often.  It's because I have so many happy and bittersweet memories of this shirt but it's getting all worn out and I want to preserve it.  But I'm wearing it right now.  For old time's sake.  One of my not-so-fun times this month was an overnight trip to the hospital which you can read about here: Weekend Gratitude: A Healthy Heart.  So yes, I guess I'm learning about staying healthy, too.  And that spicy foods can give me heartburn that can make me think I'm having a heart attack.  Stress gives me chest pains, too, and raises my blood pressure. I need to avoid both.  The spicy foods are easier to forego than the stress since the latter is mixed in everywhere in life.  Fortunately, taking walks and enjoying nature help me keep the stress to a duller roar: Evening Nature Walk in the Neighborhood.

Linked on P52 photo project for Movie Party theme
Likewise, I've learned that sweet and sour go together, sometimes better than others.  My kids bought these candies for a movie night last week.  The Warheads are extremely sour on the outside -- you can't eat them without a serious pucker -- but they are a bit too sweet on the inside.  And they are definitely too strong for my heartburn problem. The sour strips, on the other hand, are lightly coated with a layer sugar on the outside with just the right amount of tart underneath.   And they are delightfully chewy.  And I can tie them in knots if I want to play.  Guess which ones I like better? I know there is some sort of life metaphor in this.

What do you think of this visual metaphor? Yup, that's a calculator.  Or it least it was before my little girl decided to explore its innards.  Yup, same little almost-seven-year-old girl.  Why yes, it was high time for her to go to bed.  I couldn't find the keyboard for our desktop computer earlier today.  Little Miss CEO-to-Be had borrowed it for her "desk."  At least she didn't disembowel it like the poor calculator.  It just doesn't compute.  Go figure.  With a paper and pencil.  Breathe, Mommy, breathe!


Oh, this one is easy.  

My big "play" for the month was flying up to Maryland with my 11 year old daughter to go to a family reunion in Pennsylvania.  Weekend Gratitude: Family Reunion in Pennsylvania.  Love love love seeing my family -- parents, sister, nieces, nephew, aunts, uncles, cousins of all permutations, and of course my 97 year old Grandma!  Yeah, my relatives are seriously awesome.  My second cousin Margaret took me on a short tour of her parents' beef-and-honey farm in Pennsylvania when I was there.  Double awesome.  Learning is playing to me.

A little closer to home?  For the first time ever, this has been a summer of theme parks for our family.  With a bunch of kids, we can't usually afford this, but one of my adult daughters is a Disney World photographer, so she's been using her free passes to take us into the parks a few at a time.  Then my mom helped us buy Sea World Fun Passes (for the price of a single day admission) so we can go until the end of the year.  I've already been twice this month, and some of the kids have been there three times already.  (See  

Weekend Images for some pictures like the jellyfish here.)  And since Sea World is on the way to the Magic Kingdom, big sister can drop off a few older kids on her way to work and save on gas and parking!  My nine year old son won two Lego Land tickets at school, so he and Daddy went a couple of weeks ago.  And my 11 year old daughter went to Six Flags in Maryland while visiting Grandma.  That was after Grandma took her and a cousin to San Francisco for several days.  Sweet.

On my iPod, I play Words with Friends with my brother, one of my cousins and several friends. Like my Dad, I also love Solitaire.  That's an understatement.  There is so much I can learn about problem solving strategies with this simple game, especially since I can hit the undo button to back up and try a different way -- or I can hit the replay button and start over with the same game.  And I confess that when I am really stressed, Solitaire is my go-to-escape.  I am, however, breaking myself of my TetrisFriends habit on my laptop.  I see falling bricks in my sleep and my arthritic right hand was getting sore.  I have pledged to my family that I won't play it again until Labor Day, and then only for a day or so when we take a break from home schooling.  :-)


This one is easy, too, but not pleasant.  I've been following the flap about Doug Wilson's disturbing quote in Jared Wilson's (no relation) Gospel Coalition article about sexual deviancy and male dominance.  The post has since been removed with apologies from Jared, but Doug Wilson and his daughters are still playing hardball. (Yes, I do personally own several books by Doug and Nancy Wilson, and I am quite familiar with their writing.) The debate continues about complementarian vs. egalitarian marriage.  (My personal view is in the middle, so I guess I'm what a friend calls a "complegalitarian.") Want to read more about this controversy and related topics?  I put a bunch of links on Facebook.  I was quite touched on Sunday morning when my pastor greeted me with gratitude for posting them.  He and his wife reacted about the same to them as I did.  I'm glad he understands why this is a hot button for so many of us.  Here are some of the links:
Adding in a side note: In her post, Ann Kroeker mentions reading a book called The Glass Castle, a tale of abuse and sexuality that horrified her.  She said she doesn't necessarily recommend reading it because it is so difficult emotionally.  That reminded me of a book I read which is, in its own way, related to the Doug Wilson debacle, and that is Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.  It's been several years since I read it, and I would certainly hesitate to recommend it to most people, but the writing was stunning even if the content was at times shocking.  What would it be like to live in a culture that has completely repressed women?  If you want to read more on this topic and what you can do, I would highly recommend Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by journalists Sheryl WuDunn and her husband Nicholas D. Kristof.


Wow!  I guess I'm already covering a lot of bases in this Curiosity Journal.  So I guess that's part of my writing.

This is actually my third post for the evening, and I haven't blogged in over a week, so I guess I'm on a roll.  The first one is my reflections on  "The Freedom to Be Candid" from Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel.  The second one is Web Sites for Free High School and College Level On-Line Learning.  To be honest, I didn't write that one.  It's a list of sites sent to me by my aforementioned second cousin Margaret.  

Yesterday I had the delightful surprise of a message from the managing editor of a major Christian home schooling magazine asking if I would join their team of writers. Why yes, I am interested!  I did explain to her that I am probably different from most of their writers in that I also have children in public school and I am somewhat of an outspoken cynic about a lot of legalism swirling around in the conservative home schooling movement.  That didn't faze her at all.  Yes!  More details to follow as I get more information.

On a smaller scale, one of the writing assignments I am planning for my English students next month is about houses.  In the first chapter of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the four Pevensie children are exploring the Professor's mansion. I am asking my students to imagine their dream house, as large and fancy as they want it, with whatever they want in the rooms, according to their interests and style.  I think they will have fun with this, especially since most of my students are girls.  My sister and I used to do this when we were little, drawing floor plans and decorating from the Sear's catalog.  We also used to write imaginative stories alongside each other.   (I still occasionally have dreams at night where I am living in a house I have never seen before and I'm exploring all of the secret rooms.) Then in the next chapter of the book, we meet Tumnus the Faun, who lives in a small but nicely appointed cave, so I am asking the students to imagine living in a tiny home.  What would they absolutely need that could fit there?  What few "extras" would they want?  I am trying to help them think about wants and needs and finding the balance between, which also leads into Edmund craving Turkish Delight in a subsequent chapter.

Well, that's that.  What are you Reading, Learning, Playing, Reacting, and Writing?  Do tell!  Then link it here:

Virginia Knowles

"The Freedom to Be Candid" from Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel

Dear friends,

Ready for another installment in my Reflections on Grace-Based Parenting series?  It's based on the book by Tim Kimmel. Today I am writing about the 9th chapter, "The Freedom to Be Candid," but first I wanted to back up and give you an extra quote from the previous chapter, "The Freedom to Be Vulnerable."  It really ministered to me this morning, especially in light of the Major Mommy Meltdown I had yesterday. Fortunately for me, my husband came home, made dinner, calmed everyone down, gave me a good long back rub, and tried to humor me out of my despair. Anyway, here are the quotes...

As adults, we know that those who follow the well-worn path to the base of the cross find ample room for heavy hearts and hurts that can't seem to heal. It's an amazing grace that doesn't trivialize the fickle nature of our personalities. There's no condescension waiting to counter our tendencies to become easily embarrassed. There are no lectures longing to straighten out the folly of our thinking. There's no mocking of our self-conscious thoughts, just a generous Savior with a gentle heart who knows how unsure we often are about ourselves... When circumstances scrub off the layers of their self-confidence, and their shortcomings wash away the foundation of their self-righteousness, Jesus isn't appalled by the blemishes He finds underneath. There's no sin too bad, no doubt too big, no question too hard, and no heart too broken for His grace to deal with.”

That's good new for me! How about for you?

OK, let's move on to "The Freedom to Be Candid" chapter.

Dr. Kimmel first points out that raw “honesty” is not always kind. It's really easy to ambush and then shred each other with toxic “truth.”  I've had it happen to me, and I've done it to others.  He goes on to contrast that with the concept of candor, which is really eye-opening for me. These are real-life, real-time issues at our house.

That's why we need candor and not just honesty when it comes to the family. Candor isn't about catching people off guard to make them look worse than they are. Candor is several steps above honesty and is a way of communicating freely without prejudice or malice. Candor takes the truth and frames it in a way that helps rather than harms. There's also a high degree of fairness brought to bear within the true definition of candor... The third characteristic of grace-based homes is this: They are homes that give children the freedom to be candid. These are homes where what is on a child's mind can end up as dinner dialogue without fear of payback. That's because homes with candor create give-and-take between parents and children that promotes honesty dipped in honor... Grace makes the difference because it keeps honesty from getting ugly. It ratchets up the free exchange of heartfelt things to a much higher level of forthrightness – a careful forthrightness that guards the other person's dignity.”

Specifically, Dr. Kimmel notes that children need the freedom to be candid with things that are disappointing them about their parents (that's us), about their own sexuality, and about their spiritual lives. Here are some specific examples and my own comments on these topics:

Disappointments with parents: In the Kimmel family, starting when their kids were quite young, they often hosted “What's Your Beef?” evenings where each child could order whatever kind of food they wanted for dinner (picked up from an assortment of nearby takeout restaurants) and then get to hash over what was bothering them about mom and dad. The rules? The kids were not allowed to challenge moral rules or consequences, and the parents were not allowed to defend themselves! What about kids doing criticizing their parents rudely? Dr. Kimmel notes, “The best way to ensure that our children will speak respectfully when they are voicing their disappointment or disapproval over something is to make sure that is exactly how we speak to them when it's the other way around. Parents are dreaming if they think they can dishonor their children, bark and bite when they are addressing them, and then get anything less in return.” Ouch. Epic fail on my part yesterday. When our kids say things about us or to us, sometimes it is much easier to live in defensive denial and not openly acknowledge the pain we have caused. Humility accepts the possibility that there is at least a nugget of truth in their words.

Sexuality: If you won't listen to your teens talking about sex and then keep the conversation going, someone else will, and it may not be as reasonable as what you would say. They really do need to be able to say anything to you (including, “I'm pregnant” or "I think I'm gay") without you freaking out too much. Yes, conversations about sexuality can be awkward for parent and child, even if it is a six year old asking how babies are made. You could take the initiative by finding an age appropriate resource about sexuality and discussing it with your child, along with your own views. That could open up the on-going conversation for them to ask candid questions later on. If you are a conservative home schooling parent, you are likely to hear a lot about courtship among your circle of friends or in books, magazines and blogs. Please tread carefully here because a lot of the teaching is legalistic, rule-oriented and unrealistic.  It can actually harm rather than promote healthy boy/girl and marriage relationships. As I wrote in my book The Real Life Home School Mom: We need to learn to finish well, with love and grace, not an obsessive need to control the lives and destinies of our adult children. I believe the process of our children finding their mates should be a joyous time of following the leading of the Holy Spirit and getting to know one another in natural ways. Yes, parents can be involved, but we don't need to depend on legalistic regulations and intrusions. We pray for our children, walk by faith, and wait to see what God will accomplish.”

Spiritual lives: Another excerpt from The Real Life Home School Mom: “You may even find that a teen whom you thought had fully embraced the Gospel message as their own, now realizes that he or she had just been following along with what you taught, and now has serious questions about whether or not it is true. Many pastors we have known have told us this is true even in their own families, so don’t feel like you are unspiritual. It is better for this to come to light, rather than for a child to dwell in the false assurance that he is a Christian just because his parents are. This is actually a great opportunity for teaching your teen in a very purposeful and positive (non-judgmental) way what the Christian message is all about. There are all sorts of great apologetics books out there that explain the truth for young people, such as the youth editions of Lee Strobel’s books The Case for Faith, The Case for Christ and The Case for the Creator. Please take the time to know each child’s spiritual condition, just like a shepherd knows his sheep. Draw them out gently in private. Make it safe to talk to you by letting them know you are not going to intimidate or interrogate them, and that you won’t react in massive shock if they tell you something that you don’t want to hear. This is so important, especially in the teen years. We all want to be our children’s spiritual confidantes. This isn’t going to happen if we don’t have a warm and open relationship with them.” Even if your teens are followers of Christ, they can have differences of opinion about what that means. I've had some interesting conversations with some of my teens about why our family switched churches two years ago, how that has affected people in our family, and the pros and cons of the doctrinal emphases at each church. (For instance, we believe in baptism by immersion on profession of faith, but we currently attend a Presbyterian church that sprinkles infants. Go figure! Unfortunately, we have several kids who weren't baptized before we left the last church, and they want a good dunking!)  We have allowed our teenagers to choose which church to attend.

Or, as Dr. Kimmel writes, “Grace-based families make room for their kids' opinions. They provide a safe forum in which to air their doubts, disappointments, and even their misguided beliefs. They especially provide an outlet for candor when their children's faith is on trial. Strident, unadaptable Christian homes have no clue what this looks like. They have rules that have to be kept and an image that has to be propped up. These are families that have distilled their faith down to a short stack of platitudes that stick like Post-it notes on the inner walls of their souls. These are not homes that encourage candor. They lead with critique and allow no rebuttal. Children in strident Christian homes have neither a voice nor a vote. For these parents, it's their way (but certainly not “God's Way”) or the highway. If you ever want to know how to close down your children's hearts to the deeper issues of the Spirit, just trade authentic faith for the cheap imitation that strident, graceless parenting has to offer.”

I know that this book and my blog post are primarily about parenting, but I would like to extend these three topics (relationship disappointment, sexual issues and spiritual struggles) to marriage and friendship. These are certainly areas that each of us needs to be able to discuss openly with a husband or wife without fear of ridicule or recrimination, even (and especially) when we are at our lowest points of doubt and despair. The same is true of our friends, to a more limited extent. I have several long-time friends who have walked away from conservative evangelical Christianity and embraced different worldviews and/or alternative sexual lifestyles. Usually there is a story behind such a drastic change, such as a family crisis or disappointments with churches. It is not my job to lecture them or try to reconvert them, but to listen well to their story and keep an intelligent conversation going. I find myself learning candor and compassion as I go, sharing my own stories with them, as friends do.

I'd like to close this post with three Bible verses from the chapter on candor that apply to all kinds of relationships.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ... Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” ” Ephesians 4:15, 29

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

It is my hope that when my children talk to me, they will find grace, mercy, and truth to meet their needs.

My previous posts in this series are:

  • Chapter 1: "Why Well-Meaning Parenting Falls Short" 
  • Chapter 2: "The Truth Behind Grace"
  • Chapter 3: “A Secure Love” 
  • Chapter 4: "A Significant Purpose"
  • Chapter 5: "A Strong Hope"
  • Chapters 6-8: "A Delivery System for Grace and The Freedom to Be Different and Vulnerable"

  • You may also wish to read these related posts:

    What do you think about all of this?  Please leave a comment!


    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    Not (Usually) My Cup of Tea

    Dear friends,

    I'm not a big tea drinker.  Lemonade, yes.  Hot chocolate, double yes, especially with whipped cream.  Coffee, never, except for an occasional sip of iced mocha.  Tea, sometimes, usually when spiked with fruit juice.

    Today, I had an extra hour in between errands, and since I would be driving past my oldest daughter's house, I called and asked if my youngest daughter and I could stop in.  She said yes.

    My hospitable-even-on-short-notice daughter offered me tea to drink.  I said yes.  And I was glad I did, especially when I found out it was a frosty cold bottle of Tazo Organic Iced Green.  My taste buds happily remember the Tazo Giant Peach tea my mom bought for me last month, so I guess it's just hot tea I don't like. 

    I got to thinking how much I can truly enjoy something I usually wouldn't pick.  It's almost even a sweeter kind of savoring because it is unexpected and unusual and chosen just at the moment.  Making the best of what you have and all that. Yes, I will have tea, thank you!  So refreshing on a hot summer day!  It's time to start making more iced tea at home, mixed with lemonade, perhaps?

    Then there is Golda.  I'm not a cat person either.  We had It Cat when I was growing up. (The name? I was five when he was born, and didn't know if kitty was boy or girl, hence the ultimate gender neutral name.)  Despite my It Cat affection, I never was in a hurry to get another cat, especially after I got married and started having babies every other year.  I'm just so not into litter boxes and cat hair and vet bills.

    So what about Golda?  She is my hospitable  grandkitty.  When I visited today, sweet  Golda needed no invitation to nestle down in my lap, and my fingers instinctively ruffled deep into her thick fur.  Purr.  Simply irresistible, even to "not a cat person."  I found myself cooing to Golda, scratching behind her ears and under the chin.  Purr.  I marveled at the striking stripe on her face, her large golden green eyes.  She licked my hands with her sandpapery tongue and I took it as a compliment.  I can wash the cat hair out of my clothes later. Right now, I feel like purring.  Unconditional welcome, even from a cat -- well, I know a good thing when I feel it.  Again, enjoying something I wouldn't ordinarily choose.

    What would I ordinarily choose?  Here's just one: my youngest grandson, sweeter than tea, softer than kitty...  Little guy, I choose you!   

    So ladies, what is "not your cup of tea"?

    What do you do when what you get isn't your first choice?  (This could be big or little.)

    Please leave a comment!


    This post will be linked on...

     P52 Photo Project on July 14, theme "Summer Treats"

    P52 with Kent Weakley

    Food on Fridays on July 13 

    Raising Homemakers on July 18