30 December 2013

you don't have to, but you do.

In his wisdom, God has crafted a life for us that does not careen from huge, consequential moment to huge, consequential moment. In fact, if you examine your life, you will see that you have actually had few of those moments. You can probably name only two or three life-changing situations you have lived through.
We are all the same; the character and quality of our life is forged in little moments . . . You are daily on the job adding another layer of bricks that will determine the shape of your marriage for days, weeks, and years to come.
-What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp
If so, the question is how to build those bricks up solid. How do we use our little moments to construct something beautiful, instead of a rickety eyesore?

I think our motive makes all the difference. We could be motivated by anger and selfishness, or a grudging sense of duty. Or we could be motivated by love. Love makes us say, "I don't have to do this for you. But I will, because it is my joy to give you joy." And love creates an atmosphere that we can come home to.

Newly Married by William A. Breakspeare
Jared and I will celebrate our fourth anniversary this week. That's four years of inconsequential moments. Four years of ironing shirts exactly the way he likes them, of packing his lunches in the right container so they microwave evenly. Four years of rubbing my shoulders after I've had a bad day, of filling the gas tank on his way home so I don't need to worry about it the next morning. Four years of doing these things because we wanted to do them.

We didn't have to. But since we loved, we did.

Not always of course. Some days I only wash his clothes because it's my job. I'm sure he has felt the same. Certainly, when it's really hard-- when we're angry and hurt and don't want reconciliation-- it's not a loving feeling but duty that pulls us back together. We made a commitment and will stick to it come what may. Our covenant is our bedrock.

Yet over that bedrock, I think that our marriage has flourished through willing love, not cold "responsibility." Here's to four more years of that. And four more after, and four more once again, and four more till death parts us.

We don't have to. But since we love, we will.
Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.
-Phillips Brooks

27 December 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #19

Linked with Conversion Diary. 

Sorry about the oversized print. Blogger's being idiotic, and my options today are huge and tiny.

1)

"Spending money you don’t have is no fun."
-more Americans should take J's financial advice

2)

Ellie-- who already has six razor-sharp teeth-- is cutting another one. FOR THE LOVE. It's a toughie, and combined with a cold she picked up over the weekend, I'm afraid the poor thing didn't have the best Christmas.

She did, however, muster up enough energy to nibble some of Daddy's bacon on Christmas morning.


3)

And this is why I'm proud of my alma mater: Dr Arnn on the two ways of education and government
Bereft of the kind of questions posed by Socrates in the Republic—or the kind of questions raised in the Bible, or in the plays of Shakespeare—modern education treats students chiefly as factors of production, as people to be trained for productive jobs. And although we all wish productive jobs for our children, as parents we know that they are not chiefly job seekers or factors of production.
It's also why I will be fighting in the streets for parental authority over education, if it ever comes to that.

4)

Made these scrumptious macaroons from Zen Belly Catering over Christmas. I didn't bother with the chocolate drizzle and they were very good without it!

(My sister also made these chocolate peanut butter cups from Colorful Eats, and they were scrump. I may or may not have eaten four in one day.)

5)

From Politico: "Crystal Balderdash: the worst predictions about 2013." This is why I place so little faith in "experts."

6)

This is an interesting article in The Guardian: "The People Who Challenged My Atheism Most."
We are all sinners. On the streets the addicts, with their daily battles and proximity to death, have come to understand this viscerally. Many successful people don't . . . Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.
7)


And [John's] father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,  
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,

as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
-Luke 1:67-79

23 December 2013

prepare ye the way

This morning I read most of the first chapter of Luke; his account of the Nativity is my favorite, and so I'm going back through it these few days before Christmas.

Having grown up in the church and read the Gospels many times over, I'm quite familiar with the details of this narrative. But because it is God's word, of course-- because the Spirit makes it living and active-- it comes into my heart differently every time around.

Today I especially noticed the sense of preparation throughout the chapter. Everyone is busy getting ready. Every single event lines up and links together for the unfolding of this great Providence.
- Gabriel's announcement prepares Zechariah and Elizabeth for John's birth.
- John is destined to prepare a people for God.
- Another visit from Gabriel prepares Mary for her own child, and she herself prepares her heart to bear the Son of God.
- The two women prepare together for their babies' arrival, a pair of arrivals that will change the world forever.
And what I thought today, as I read, was that God is always doing this. Always weaving the world into His plan, either fulfilling His promises, or directly preparing to do so. Though we do not see this pattern fully, we can have absolute faith that it exists and that each moment of our lives is used in it. Nothing hangs free of His order.

As Elizabeth told her young cousin, "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."

20 December 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #18

Linked up with Conversion Diary.

1)

When I was first considering how to introduce Ellie to solid food, I figured I'd do a combination of Baby Led Weaning (letting the child feed herself with pieces of "real" food) and the traditional pureed, spoonfed stuff.

Well. BLW is so easy and Ellie likes it so much that purees have yet to make an appearance.

It's fun to give Ellie pieces of our dinner and watch her carefully manipulate it with her chubby fingers. Thus far she has enjoyed broccoli, oranges, green beans, zucchini, mango, apple, bananas, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, carrot, pineapple, oatmeal pancakes, eggs, rice pasta, and any kind of chicken-- including chicken with ras al hanout or spicy coconut broth all over it! Not afraid of flavor, this girl.

She does not like avocado, kiwi, or anything that you try to give her on a spoon. Except for whipped cream.

She still nurses a lot, but she gets a bit of solid food about three times a day.

I typically make myself fried eggs and a smoothie in the morning. Now that she knows she's allowed to share, she gets really excited when I sit down next to her with my plate of eggs, and flaps her arms anxiously until I cut her a piece of yolk and hand it over.

2)

Here's some incredible photography of individual snowflakes.

3)

JFK, the Mandela funeral, and everyday coincidences that we only notice in a crisis. "Man is good at finding patterns, sometimes where there is only noise. At a more sophisticated level, people don't always act the way we expect them to. When you put these together, you can find a lot of things that look like well-planned cover-ups."

4)

Oh, Mr Obama. Pajama Boy was not a good idea.

5)

Just in time for the holiday: how to survive "Christmas Shoes." I just turn the radio off.

6)

Even Prince Charles knows that Christians are being violently targeted in the Middle East, and that the media isn't covering it. (I do, however, disagree with his characterization of Islam as a religion fundamentally based on love and human rights.)

7)

"Based on a True Story? Fact Checking Six Oscar Contenders."

16 December 2013

the essence of family.

Daily Odd Compliment Tumblr

It's true. Remember this post?

I do feel kinda sorry for the people who marry into our clan. Because half of our conversations consist of inside jokes.

But I love that. We have a very distinct family culture, thanks to a number of factors (primarily homeschooling, which allowed us to cultivate our weird sense of humor nearly 24/7, and parents who insisted that we get along rather than hide in our rooms).

I'd like to create such a culture in my own nest too. Shared memories and rituals that bind us-- Jared and me, and our children-- together in a way that genetics alone can't.

Daily Odd Compliment Tumblr

I find these connections particularly important in an increasingly rootless world.

In every aspect of life, we seem to be wandering. This world has misplaced its moral compass. It pretends that history is one vast Dark Age, thereby cutting us loose from the past, and its continual discontent fosters instability in our personal lives. While a strong family culture is not the ultimate solution, I do see it as a way to fight back against the chaos.

13 December 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #17

Linked up with Conversion Diary.

1)

We are all Christmas'd up in here. Tree decorated, Nativity set, wreath on the door, candles-- even snow! And half the presents are wrapped already!

In the midst of present-wrapping, Ellie finds a treasure.

I'm one of the die-hards who refuse to turn on the holiday music before December 1st. Now, however, you'll hear it quite a lot. :) We have been especially enjoying Phil Wickham's Christmas album.


2)
 
Ancient city discovered underwater. Do I need to say more?

3)

Wait But Why tells you how to name your baby. Haha. I am definitely in Category #1. Jared leans toward Category #3, but I lured him over to my side this time 'round.

4)

If you had to take the American Citizenship test, would you pass?

5)

Three thoughtful pieces for when you have time to read. First, "A Non-Religious Case Against Same-Sex Marriage" by Michael Bauman (who is incidentally a prof at Hillsdale GO CHARGERS).

Second, "Kitsch and the Kitchen Sink: Andrew Wyeth and Thomas Kinkade" by Dwight Longenecker.

Third, "On Football, Warrior Culture, and Manhood" by Owen Strachan.

6)

Is the "new and improved" Obamacare really any better? Nope. "Someday, when it comes to the rollout of Obamacare, I will assume that things cannot possibly get worse, and blessedly, I will be right."

7)

Now everyone should go goggle over the pictures from my little brother's wedding. Because PRETTY. And HAPPY. And YAY.

(And because Ellie has a cameo and it is hilarious.)

09 December 2013

a bowl of breakfast. or snack. or whatever.

We have a lot of granola recipes floating around the blog, but this is the most straightforward. It is crunchy, delicious, fairly low in sugar, and high in good fats. Also, if you need to avoid gluten, soy, or dairy . . . voila.

I kind of eat a lot of this.

Because I don't chop up the almonds and like to use large pieces of coconut, the granola ends up with a nice hearty texture. You can stir in some golden raisins or dried cranberries once it cools. I usually keep it simple.

---

Simple Honey Granola
(a spin on this recipe from Shutterbean)

6 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes or chips
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup melted coconut oil
2/3 cup honey

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) Stir together oats, coconut, almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, and salt in large mixing bowl. Add coconut oil and honey, and stir to coat.
3) Spread granola evenly on prepared baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes; stir gently, then return to oven and bake 10 more minutes, until golden on top. Watch carefully the last five minutes to make sure it does not burn.
4) Let cool and store in airtight container. (This makes quite a bit so I freeze some of it for later.)

*Or chopped pecans or cashews or heck, even plain pumpkin seeds, which are what ended up in the pictured batch.

08 December 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #16

Shared with Conversion Diary.

1)

"Why don't they just call it a poomeranian?"
--J on seeing a sign advertising pomapoo puppies

2)

My brother got married two days after Thanksgiving; since we spent most of Friday packing, driving, and having fun at the rehearsal dinner, no linkage last week. But we're baaaaack!

Taking a break from the festivities.

Ellie behaved like a near-perfect little angel. At the rehearsal dinner we kept her amused with spoons (possibilities endless: bang on high chair, click on teeth, drop on floor), plus sampling our zucchini sticks and whipped cream. She didn't sleep too well in the hotel room, but on Saturday a toy and a bottle occupied her during the wedding ceremony. After a nap on Daddy's shoulder, she was ready to party at the reception. So we did that.

3)

"Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future." Terrifying and sobering. I think that antibiotics are, in theory, a modern miracle. It's their indiscriminate overuse that makes me angry-- and increasing antibiotic resistance is one of the reasons why.

4)

A list of German words for which we've no good English equivalents. (Baggerspion: the urge to peek into boarded-up construction sites, literally digger-truck-spyhole.)

5)

"On high school and college campuses and in certain political and social media circles, the growing visibility of a small, but semantically committed cadre of young people who . . .  self-identify as genderqueer — neither male nor female but an androgynous hybrid or rejection of both — is challenging anew the limits of Western comprehension and the English language." I just cannot with this.

6)

Since babies are always playing with their parents' phones anyway. (And this one is quite dorkalicious.)

While we're on Etsy: I NEED THEM.

7)

I debated whether or not to share the following link, but I think it is important. Please keep in mind that it's highly disturbing; I chose not to watch the video, because the graphic description was sufficient to fill me in. If you have children around, you will want to filter this just as you'd filter news of a rape or pedophilia.

So: Violent Mob of Pro-Abortion Women Attack Praying Men Defending Cathedral in Argentina. Click through for more details.

I'm sharing the link because it's like the Gosnell trial all over again: the mainstream media is not covering this. If pro-life men had attacked pro-abortion women, you can bet that it would be all over the news. As it stands . . . silence. And since a social media uproar helped to bring the Gosnell scandal to light, I think the same thing can happen with this.

02 December 2013

the right kind of sheltered

We all like to laugh about "sheltered homeschoolers," and homeschoolers probably laugh hardest. Nothing beats a little self-deprecation.

Though a child of the nineties, I never heard "Hit Me Baby One More Time" before my freshman year in college. And I still can't differentiate between 'N Sync and The Backstreet Boys. Truly a homeschooled innocent par excellence (or maybe not: I could pick Luke Skywalker out of a police lineup).

Sure, my cultural ignorance set me up for teasing. But it was worth it. I don't regret "missing out" on the slop served up by Seventeen. More time to read Shakespeare! Not that he's so squeaky clean himself . . . codpieces, anyone?

Emmie and Her Child, Mary Cassatt
Now, although my daughter is only eight months, I spend a lot of time thinking about what she hears and sees. I wonder what I will try to protect her from. And remembering my own experience, well, I don't care if she knows who is topping the charts or if she is "ignorant" about the antics of her generation's starlets.

That kind of sheltering's fine by me.

I do want Ellie to know, though, about the truly important things in the world. We sponsor three children through Covenant Mercies, and I want her to understand why they need help. She needs to realize that many people in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Zambia go hungry. They don't get education or medicine, and they may never hear the Good News.

We will do our best to protect Ellie from experiencing the filth floating around her. Shield her from reality, though? From knowing that the filth exists? No. Creation groans as it waits for deliverance. We won't pretend otherwise. We will hold her hand and introduce life to her slowly, but ultimately we want Ellie to grow up into a woman. Not a girl, but a woman, who can face the dark world without being thrown-- one who has a backbone and a solid anchor in Christ.

25 November 2013

forget the ducks. at least for a while.

I love to understand. You might say that I'm obsessive about it.

This girl can't just do things; oh no, I need to know the why and wherefore, preferably with footnotes. Are there reasons? I must find them. Are there quandaries? I must solve them. Should my mental ducks wander out of their row, I bustle about shooing them back into line, and can't sleep until they are quacking in an orderly fashion once more.

image credit: Blossom's Mom
In fact, I approach most of life on such a cerebral slant that I tend to reduce even God to a mere concept: I forget that He is a person. I forget that He invites me into His family.

Huzzah theology! Seriously, it's great stuff. But when the Lord of Hosts figures more as philosophical category than dear Father, something has gone awry. Amid all my study, I want to remember that I won't be spending eternity diagramming the finer points of God's sovereignty, but rather, gazing enraptured into His glory. He is so compassionate and kind. He wants me to rest in His goodness.

So I love this reminder from John Piper's superb book The Pleasures of God. It reminds me that my anxiety over my "ducks" is nothing compared to God's love for me, and that I don't have to line them up in order to enjoy His gifts.

Something hinders the release of wonder. Something confines our affections . . .
Oh, how complex are the obstructions of belief! The way our parents treated us, the cultic curiosities of a grandmother, the deadening force of poverty or wealth, the anesthesia of televised worldliness, the boredom of trivial business, the wilderness of lonely wedlock, the heartbreak of wayward kids, the never-ending ache of arthritic joints, the memories of lovelessness and fragile hope-- how many ways the enemy of our souls can make us fear that the God and Father of Jesus Christ is too good to be true.
But Jesus will not sit by and let us disbelieve without a fight. He takes up the weapon of the Word and speaks it with power for all who struggle to believe: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's pleasure to give you the kingdom."

22 November 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #15

Linked up with Conversion Diary.

1)

"Koalas are big fuzzy jungle lobsters."
-maybe J did not pay attention in zoology class

2)

Ellie has learned how to crawl. ALARM. It's only army-crawling-- she looks like a spastic inchworm-- and it's very slow. But still. My baby can move.

3)

This post from Tim Challies is probably the best thing I've ever read on modesty.
I am not going to give you a checklist for how to dress with modesty. I can’t. It would not be possible to create a list that accounts for all situations, all cultures, all people. Each of us needs to consider how to love one another and bring glory to God through the clothing we wear. Each of us needs to consider how we can dress in such a way that we do not contradict or detract from the message we proclaim.
The ultimate solution to immodesty is not a list of rules or a checklist; the solution is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.
4)

The politics and economics of Harry Potter. "Rowling’s free market is tremendously cramped. Instead of a fantastical private sector, most of Rowling’s wizards, in some form or another, work for the Ministry of Magic—that is to say, the state . . . In a world where magic exists with an immense capacity for human flourishing, a good percentage of wizards become magical bureaucrats. This is a terrific failure of imagination."

The comments are also delightfully nerdy.

5)

Silly links time:
 

This pop song is too philosophical!

Best Amazon reviewer ever?

Hilarious reasons for getting detention.

6)

This is darling: newborn twins clinging to one another. It seems like they must have been positioned that way in the womb.

7)

After mounting a long resistance to the charms of musical "reality" shows like American Idol, I have become mildly obsessed with NBC's The Voice. It started back in March when I was spending hours on end nursing a newborn-- I needed something to amuse me, and this fit the bill. We don't have a real TV but I watch episodes on Hulu the day after. There's even a dude from Lancaster on this season, which gives me a semi-patriotic reason to watch.

Anyhoodle, one of the contestants recently sang "My Kind of Love" by Emeli Sande. (Because I am not up to date on my muzak, I'd never heard it before.) What a good song. And it strikes me that many women could sing these lyrics truthfully. Though women have acquired a reputation for being emotional and impulsive, our love typically burns long and steady.
You won't see me at the parties, I guess I'm just no fun
I won't be turning up the radio, singing baby you're the one

But don't ever question if my heart beats only for you
I think of countless wives who demonstrate this "kind of love." Without glitz or glam, they come through when nobody else does, and prove repeatedly that their heart is wholly given to that one man.

Not to say men aren't capable of steadfast love, because they certainly are. But I think that many women show love in this quiet, determined, understated way-- a way that contradicts their popular reputation as romantic, head-in-the-clouds drama queens. And that deserves to be honored. My meandering for today. :)

18 November 2013

but I have calmed and quieted my soul

Mother and Child, Mary Cassatt
My daughter wants to be with me almost constantly. If she feels out of sorts, comfort only comes from Mama, and she'll raise a ruckus until I come to her rescue. When she's nursing she grabs my shirt and stares up at my face, as if she's making sure that I won't disappear. She needs her mother and is not ashamed to admit it; she loves to look at me, touch me, and smile back at me.

How might my life look if I'd cling to God as tightly as Ellie clings to me?

Life wouldn't look much different, I imagine, as I'd still be going about my daily tasks. But I would be different as I did those things.

If I was that desperate to see God's face . . . if I cried out to Him whenever I felt confused or stressed or afraid . . . if I would, spiritually speaking, regularly climb into His arms and relinquish my burdens?

I think that peace and joy would suffuse my soul anew. While ironing or sweeping or grading papers or trimming my daughter's fingernails, His peace and joy would wrap about my busy mind and give me a hopeful song to sing. I do experience those qualities even now. I just want more. I desire to "pray without ceasing," so that my everyday would be shot through with His presence. That means ceasing to pretend that I have my act together, and admitting that yes, Lord, I need you now and always.

The best part of all this is that I don't need to find a revolutionary new way to experience God. He abides with me already. May my eyes be open and my hand closed tight around His finger . . . as Ellie's is around mine.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother . . .
 
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.

-Psalm 131

15 November 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #14

Linked up with Conversion Diary.

1)

J: So that's my idea. Does its logic seem unassailable to you?
Me: Honey, determining the quality of logic is not my strong point.
J: Oh, fine. Does that idea feel good to you?

2)

Ellie figured out how to sit up on her own, and she is also having a lot of fun on her play mat: wiggling in circles on her belly, rolling back and forth, sticking her big diapered bottom up in the air in an attempt to crawl. It's very funny and cute.

It also makes me realize just how much she has grown. Not physically (she's still a shrimp) so much as in her ability-- only seven and a half months ago, she was a sleepy little lump who barely knew how to nurse. Now look at her! Even her voice has changed and sounds "older." I am amazed at how quickly her personality is unfolding, and how much fun she brings to our home.

3)

I adore Improv Everywhere. Carousel races in the park!

4)

Also to make you laugh, animals trying to fit in small spaces.

5)

The 12 most annoying email habits. I don't find some of these as irritating as the author does (some are more applicable to business email than to personal) but for the most part, please, everybody read and apply . . .

6)

I want to live here.

7)

Rambling, history-packed, fascinating article on the dehumanization of public figures, specifically those who occupy a throne: "Royal Bodies." Just a couple of excerpts for you.
A few years ago I saw the Prince of Wales at a public award ceremony. I had never seen him before, and at once I thought: what a beautiful suit! What sublime tailoring! It’s for Shakespeare to penetrate the heart of a prince, and for me to study his cuff buttons. I found it hard to see the man inside the clothes . . . I couldn’t help winding the fabric back onto the bolt and pricing him by the yard.

Popular fiction about the Tudors has also been a form of moral teaching about women’s lives, though what is taught varies with moral fashion. It used to be that Anne Boleyn was a man-stealer who got paid out. Often, now, the lesson is that if Katherine of Aragon had been a bit more foxy, she could have hung on to her husband. Anne as opportunist and sexual predator finds herself recruited to the cause of feminism.

11 November 2013

ahoy, discoveries! vol. 13 [staying warm edition]

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday.

Do you enjoy shivering? No? Neither do I. Here area a few of my favorite ways to keep the chill off.

1) Blankets: very important for cuddling. Currently adorning our living room furniture are this fluffy striped one from West Elm and a slightly heavier but very soft one from Target. The Target blanket is big enough for two. :)

2) Little Mouse also has a thick Pottery Barn stroller blanket that keeps her toasty on walks or on the trip from house to car.

3) Eddie Bauer makes perfect down vests; I admit that I've collected more than my fair share over the years. They are obviously warm and well-made, but they also have a nice tailored shape, so you don't look like a walking marshmallow.

4) I own far too many pashmina scarves. I say "too many" because I have nowhere to conveniently store them all, and I only wear a few on a regular basis anyway. My long-standing favorite is from La Purse: the walnut color matches all of my other clothes and the fabric is lovely.

5) Hats! I lurve this one from LL Bean. Its fleece lining really does keep the wind out. Ellie has a striped cap from Under the Nile-- it's soft and stretchy, and I appreciate that it's more substantial than your typical uber-thin jobbers.

6) How about feet? I don't wear slippers, preferring a good pair of warm socks and some wonderfully clunky Danskos. Old lady chic, thank you. My brother brought me wool socks from Ireland when he was across the pond, but if you're not so fortunate as to have a globe-trotting relative these from LL Bean look toasty.

7) I've sung their praises before, but I'll do it again: HALO fleece sleep sacks are perfect for wiggly babies. Ellie would escape from a blanket (or worse, pull it over her head) but she can't Houdini her way out of these.

8) You also want something to warm your insides. Okay, there's always Johnnie Walker . . . but for everyday use how about some delicious Kenyan coffee?

08 November 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #13

Linked up with ye olde Conversion Diary.

1)

Green beans: not just for eating anymore.


(That pathetic specimen is what you get after 10 minutes of slobbering, squeezing, and whacking from a seven-month-old. She didn't actually consume any of it. It afforded us a relatively peaceful dinnertime, though.)

2)

World War II on Twitter!

3)

I could probably link you to something by Matt Walsh every single week. He's bold, sometimes over the top, but also very well worth the read. I appreciate his willingness to say what a lot of the rest of us are thinking!

This time, stop telling other people how to raise their children. "As far as I can tell, from my own .000000001 percent experience, there is only one strategy that absolutely every parent in the world ought to adopt: love your children. Love them . . . The opinions of the self-appointed jury don’t matter, because those people don’t love your kids. Not like you do. They also don’t know them. Not like you do. They speak in the abstract, based on their experience with their own children. But their own children aren’t your children, and the distinction is absolutely relevant."

(Reminds me of this funny onesie. I wouldn't go quite that far, as I actually appreciate advice, but I would say: don't expect me to implement all your suggestions. I will certainly listen to you, but in the end, I'm the mom and this is my baby!)

4)

"Let's Not Cut Christ to Pieces": Michael Horton on truth and homosexuality in Christianity Today. "It's precisely because our bodies are too important to the biblical drama that they cannot be exempted from biblical discipleship."

5)

Hehe.

6)

So sweet: "One Day Young," portraits of mothers and babies one day postpartum. We have pictures of me and (a very squishy) Ellie that early on, but they aren't nearly as beautiful as these. :)

7)

If you enjoy natural living resources-- from real food recipes to homemade skin care to medicinal herbs and essential oils-- you might be interested in an amazing deal available right now: The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. For only $29.97, you get over $1000 worth of e-books, video courses, and live conference calls with super-smart people. Not to mention cool bonuses . . . like a free sourdough starter!

I purchased this bundle and wanted to share the opportunity with ya'll too. Honestly, the bonuses alone make it worthwhile. (Like the $15 coupon for Trilight Health, where I was going to place an order anyway this winter. That coupon recoups half of the bundle price already!) Of course, I am psyched about the 86 e-books too. Believe me, I will actually use this stuff.

 If you'd like to check it out, know that there are only 2 days left: the deal ends tomorrow.

06 November 2013

(chiro)practically speaking

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday

Look, I made a pun! It will never happen again.

If you are expecting a baby, I highly recommend finding a good chiro practice. I've been going to the same chiropractor for 14 years, and I took Ellie as a matter of course once she arrived. Not only did he adjust me all through pregnancy, which I'm convinced was the cause of Ellie's perfect positioning during delivery, but he also saw Ellie when she was only a month old and will continue to have her as a patient as long as she wants.

She has actually been there four times as often as she has been to the pediatrician. (Which was exactly once. They said that I should have given Ellie the Hep B vaccine immediately after she was born, tsk tsk, and that I would never forgive myself for letting her sleep on her stomach. I said goodbye.)

Here's why you need to find a chiropractor you trust: it will look like he is hurting your baby. He isn't, but you need to be confident about that, because she will probably holler like the dickens and get redder than a pickled beet.

To listen to Little Mouse during her adjustment, you'd think she was in the worst pain of her life. I know that my chiro is very skilled and careful, though, and that she is crying out of confusion rather than pain. Who is this strange person and why is he touching my leg? This feels weird! Get me out of here! As soon as he gives her back to me, she buries her sniffles into my shoulder and stops wailing.

not Ellie, but this sums up her opinion of the chiropractor

I don't like it when my daughter cries, but the benefits of chiropractic care are worth five minutes of screeching. I was dumbfounded by the difference made by Ellie's first adjustment. She was so much more relaxed! Before, she had been either scrunching up like a pillbug or hyperextending her back. After, she could lie completely straight, without any tension in her muscles. Her collarbone and hips had been locked up from birth.

In conclusion, do think about looking into a good chiropractor for your bebe. Birth is physically traumatic, even if it goes "smoothly." And a baby's sleep and digestion can be helped tremendously by proper alignment-- not to mention an array of health issues like congestion, allergies, and ear infections. I am grateful for the excellent care we've received from our chiropractor and think that more people should know about this alternative, even for the tiniest ones in the family.

(OBVIOUSLY I am not a doctor . . . these are my experiences for you to consider. I feel that I must put in a disclaimer, lest anyone sue me and my empty piggy bank. And yes, there are shady chiropractors out there. Google "chiropractic baby health" and you'll get some horror stories; suspicious characters taint every medical profession, even if they are an extreme rarity. So as always, please please do your research and don't be scared by the bad apples.)

04 November 2013

it's pretty special dust

Adam and Eve Driven Out (detail), Gustave Dore
We just don't know how to think about bodies anymore.

Jared and I often take walks around the city. A few months ago, as we pushed Ellie's stroller through the square, we passed a young man in a t-shirt that proclaimed his love for a certain part of female anatomy. I couldn't believe my eyes. He carried no hint of shame. Evidently, the human body can now be dissected and lewdly splattered on an article of clothing; I bet the only consequence that young man got was laughs from the bros.

Of course you constantly see this kind of sad objectification in advertising, even when it's not obscene. Most commercials and billboards use bodies to sell product. Ever see an ugly person in a Got Milk ad? Thought not.

Sadly, because of this crude cheapening of the body, formerly everyday things have taken on a questionable tint. Nursing babies, for example. Although there's nothing scandalous about feeding a child, many folks today act like there is. You know why? Because once you make everything about sex, that's all people see.

As another example, I have some really cute pictures of Ellie in the bathtub, but they'll never see the light of the internet. I don't see anything wrong with an innocent little baby in her birthday suit, but there are perverts trawling the web for exactly such images. Honestly, I have considered erasing most of the Ellie pictures I've posted on my blog. I don't want to be paranoid but I know that it's a nasty world out there, and it can be hard to find the line between "open" and "overshare."

---

In much of Western culture our bodies have become mere vehicles for expressing and experiencing an eviscerated sexuality. This offends and angers me at times; mostly, it just makes me sad. We're so much more than that. Our souls, and yes our bodies, bear the imprint of God. We may be mere dust, but it's pretty special dust.

I wonder how much it must grieve Him to see His creation prostituted on the altar of self. I wonder how much He must long to see our minds renewed, to see ourselves and one another for what we are: men and women shaped to show His glory.

When I see desperate pop stars making fools of themselves, or fifth graders strutting down the sidewalk in booty shorts, I tend to feel more pity than outrage. Our world is so confused.

---

Sidenote: despite my strong opinions in favor of nursing I do not promote, shall we say, "militant breastfeeding." I feed my baby when she is hungry, but I don't have to flash the world in the process. I hardly think that shock tactics are going to change people's minds, and in the hopes that a mom quietly nursing her baby will soon be no more remarkable than a mom warming up a bottle, I believe that I can help the cause along by being normal instead of obnoxious.

More thoughts later.

01 November 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #12

Linked up with Conversion Diary.

1)

"You are my favorite hedgehog."
-J gets his flattery on

2)

Ellie is really into growling and roaring. The other night I put her to bed and she grrrrrr'd at the sheets for about fifteen minutes before falling asleep. A fierce one, this child.

Her favorite toys at the moment are a pith-helmeted Duplo man, the zipper on Mama's sweatshirt, and vitamin bottles (they rattle!).

3)

Fascinating story: the most honored photograph in US military history.


4)

"Strike a Pose": good thoughts from a friend of mine on social media "self-portraits" and the importance of examining our motivations.

5)

Now it's time for funny things!

Putting pop lyrics to classical melodies.

Proof that Plato was really Dumbledore . . . or vice versa.

IKEA or Death, the game that tests your knowledge of IKEA product names and black metal bands. I only scored 12/20, so come on, surely you can beat that.

What would happen if slogan writers were honest. ("Kmart: We Still Exist.")

6)

I've come across several nice Tumblrs in my search for a new Firefox home page: Inspired, Hello Pretty Things, Life Is Beautiful, Grey and Scout, Scattered as My Mother's Pearls, and-- the current winner-- You Make Beautiful Things. I enjoy seeing "beautiful" when I open up the computer.

(What is your home page and why did you choose it?)

7)

Now I leave you with the eternal question, courtesy of Smithsonian. Why were medieval knights always fighting snails?

28 October 2013

sausage and rice casserole

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday.

Casseroles have a bum rap. Kind of like meatloaf. Do they deserve it? Maybe, if they use cream of celery soup and Spam for a foundation. Not when they're piled with real food like this one. Time for redemption, casseroles.

It's not fancy-- and I'm no food photographer, so bear with my badly lit snaps before dinner-- but we do love it. If you have leftover cooked rice this comes together even more quickly. Actually, recipes like this would be a good reason to freeze rice. I should probably get on that.

---

Sausage and Rice Casserole
(inspired by a recipe from Bitchin Camero)

3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups dry brown rice
1 pound Italian sausage
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
5 cups chopped mixed vegetables*
2 cups shredded cheese**
4 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1) Bring stock and rice to boil in small pot. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 1 hour. Turn off heat and let sit, covered for 10 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, cook sausage in 1/2 tablespoon butter until no longer pink; slice into rounds and set aside.
3) Saute vegetables in remaining butter just until tender.
4) Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9x13 baking dish.
5) In large mixing bowl, stir together cooked rice, sausage, vegetables, and all remaining ingredients; turn into prepared baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.


*This is a way for you to clean out the produce drawer. I always include a cup of diced onion and one diced bell pepper. Use anything that you think will taste good with the sausage, and that is still slightly firm when cooked-- broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, peas.
**Monterey Jack, cheddar, and Colby are all good.

25 October 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #11

Linked up with Conversion Diary . . . well, actually Clan Donaldson today.

1)

"If you were an animal you would be a puffer fish wildly flapping its fins."
-well, husband, that's because you keep tickling me

2)

Between BB's and Cherry Hill, I bought 150 pounds of apples this week. When perfectly good "seconds" are going for .45/lb, one must stock up. Little Mouse likes to nibble on half an apple while I can sauce or freeze slices.

Edit: I got at least 36 quarts of sauce, several crisps, and at least 8 quarts of sliced, quartered apples for baking and smoothies.

3)

This is really funny (but some non-child-friendly language, so please be warned): The Primate Awards. I need a pygmy marmot, stat.

4)

Time for videos of people being awesome! Sweet tap dancing and magical costume changes.

5)

What does each country lead the world in?

6)

Why are we so afraid of large families? "Who, knowing anything about human flourishing throughout history, would think that it’s impossible to be a good parent to six kids? Since when did having kids become something that Americans irrationally fear and loathe?"

7)

And I wrote two more guest posts! Our love story, part 1 and part 2.

21 October 2013

you put what in your smoothie?!

Still loving the Blendtec. You'll find us dumping plenty of normal ingredients into our breakfast smoothies: yogurt, blueberries, frozen bananas (I purposefully buy too many bananas and freeze the overripe extras). Often more exotic things sneak in too, like grapefruit chunks or whole kiwi, along with the typical "health nut" stuff like coconut milk, kefir, and flax seeds.

And then there are the really weird ingredients: sliced cucumbers, raw carrots, Roma tomatoes, cooked sweet potatoes, cold espresso, lime slices.

Not all in the same smoothie. But still.

The vegetables were actually Jared's idea. Cukes give a fresh, light flavor; carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes all have natural sugars that blend seamlessly with fruit. The espresso made its way in when we brewed too much for breakfast, the limes when we bought too many for guacamole. Both are delicious.

(I don't know how things would turn out without a Blendtec or Vitamix, but with one, there aren't ever any weird textures from the vegetable peels or seeds.)

Finally, I have to take bentonite clay for six weeks as I try to deal with a gluten allergy. I eyed it up for a while-- what am I supposed to do with you?-- and then decided to put some in my smoothie. Works perfectly. I was afraid that it would taste like dirt, but nothing of the sort. Adding some raw honey really helps.

18 October 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #10

Linked up with Conversion Diary.

1)

"You know, you're allowed to think about happy things sometimes."
-Jared after yet another wifely meltdown over a theoretical disaster

2)

What Ellie lacks in size she makes up for in volume. She's essentially a baby foghorn.

And she's so cute I can't STAND it.

3)

They say this might be the world's most romantic proposal. Eh, it's fun to watch . . . but I liked just having me and Jared. I am a private person in some ways (despite having a blog).

4)

Ooh, interesting: perimortem C-sections may not only save babies, but when done quickly, increase maternal survival rates as well.

5)

Nothing like a good insult to liven up your day. Twenty-one disparaging remarks by classical composers about their unfortunate peers. "I liked the opera very much. Everything but the music."

6)

Because I know you have nothing better to do: I wrote a guest post for The Mirror.

7)

Ah, excellent: seventeen overly optimistic book titles. Didn't you want to know how to find uranium?

17 October 2013

pretty happy funny real #9

{pretty}


The basil is blooming. I have several quarts of pesto in the freezer, so I let the plants go and now they're providing some fall beauty. :)

{happy}


We found a great chest freezer on Craigslist. Now I can buy massive amounts of shredded cheese and chicken thighs!

{funny}


Owls are the style world's animal du jour, as you can see by looking at Ellie's outfit. Without even trying, I ended up putting her in an owl diaper, an owl onesie, and owl leg warmers!

{real}


Things in our room . . . returns, "for Goodwill," "to sell on Craigslist," so on and so forth.

14 October 2013

the quotable princess bride #6

The Reading by Renoir
"I am not a planner. I follow. Tell me what to do and no man does it better. But my mind is like fine wine; it travels badly. I go from thought to thought but not with logic, and I forget things, and help me, Fezzik, what am I to do?"

I feel you, Inigo.

I like to tell myself that I'm smart and I have bright ideas. However, the truth of the matter is far more humbling. I really don't have bright ideas (or if I do, they only come after long and laborious cogitation). In college, I got top grades on my writing but you know what? The themes were never particularly brilliant. I had just developed a knack for making mediocre ideas sound impressive-- that's what vocabulary and syntax can do for you, kids.

So I love it when other people give me suggestions and I can run with them. That's where I excel: helping to execute somebody else's idea!

And no, logic does not make a regular appearance in my brain. Sometimes I try to explain my thoughts and they just jumble around until I don't even understand them myself. Fezzik, what am I to do?

I plan to make logic a cornerstone of my children's homeschool curriculum. Sort of for their sakes, but mostly for mine. (This is also the reason we will be studying Asian history: I don't know a single thing about it!)

11 October 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #9

Linked up with Conversion Diary

1)

It has been raining for two days. Piglet is entirely surrounded by water! So we sat on the porch and watched.

Hmm, interesting.

Ellie has amassed quite a collection of "funny noises." From fake coughing to gurgling to incredibly high pitched squealing, she knows how to express her silliness.

2)

A quirky experiment: what will the US Postal Service send?

3)

Two interesting interview/profiles for you. First, Justice Antonin Scalia. "I am something of a contrarian, I suppose. I feel less comfortable when everybody agrees with me."


4)

Second, Harry Po-- sorry, I mean Daniel Radcliffe. "New York is the only place in the world where people might say they like your work but they don’t ask you for anything."

5)

Speaking of The Potter, here are 30 amusing behind-the-scenes photos from filming.

6)

Your politics for this week: the lying Obamacare poster child, and the nasty surprises in store for many middle-class Americans. ("'Of course, I want people to have health care,' Vinson said. 'I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.'")

7)

Debunking the overpopulation myth. As the oldest of six children and a mother who also would love to have a large family . . . I appreciate it when people bust that lie.

10 October 2013

ahoy, discoveries! vol. 12 [the first six months edition]

carseat and Moose: ready to rumble
Put the Baby In It

After Ellie graduated from her bouncy seat, she learned how much fun one can have jumping. I always put Trumpette socks on her so she doesn't rough up her feet on the wooden floors.

I know that some people don't find them all that useful, but we like our Bumbo and tray a lot. (Look for one on Craigslist; they're everywhere. And make sure that you send in for the free add-on kit with straps.) Ellie often sits in it while we eat dinner, scraping on a carrot stick or begging pieces of fruit from her soft-hearted father.

Our infant carseat is a Chicco Keyfit30. It's fairly heavy but also has high safety ratings, and it's wide enough to let a baby's legs fall into the frog position rather than holding them straight. It will fit Ellie up to 30 pounds, after which, I'm not sure. Any suggestions for the next step?

Our stroller is another large item I'd recommend-- it's a Baby Jogger City Elite. At the moment we use the carseat adapter to clip in the Keyfit (since Ellie can't sit up on her own yet). I like the City Elite because the three-wheel design works great on uneven city sidewalks, because it's easy to maneuver, because it has an adjustable handle, because it has a decent sized basket and storage pockets by the handle, because it folds up with one quick motion, and because it is surprisingly lightweight for such a sturdy contraption. It also seems to have decent suspension: Ellie doesn't mind bumping along over the cracks and curbs.

Cleaning Up

I also use the Bumbo for bathtime. Stick her in, run the water, and she's free to splash away.

Speaking of which, Burt's Bees makes a really nice bubble bath soap. Ellie really enjoys the mounds of bubbles floating around her! It is expensive, though, so I plan to experiment with my own concoction once the bottle runs out. :)

I had a couple of small baby towels for when she was really tiny, but now I've started to just use one of ours and that's perfectly fine since they are all so soft.

Green Sprouts bibs feature a waterproof inner layer, so your little droolbucket doesn't immediately soak the clothes beneath the bib. Ellie is constantly dripping . . . so we have two dozen of these . . . and I still run out.

Fun!

Mortimer the Moose (or just "Moose" as we call him) is Ellie's favorite toy, apart from anything Mama happens to be holding. He has a squishable body and hard antlers, which are great for teething. We keep him in the car and when we're on the road, you can usually hear Ellie crinkling his feet as she stuffs them in her mouth.

She's also a fan of IKEA children's tableware, particularly cups and spoons. As I write this she's lying on her back with her face stuffed into a cup, singing happily and kicking the floor. Whatever works, baby girl.

Medical-ish

Over the past six months I have wanted to take Ellie's temperature several times; I use this spiffy folding model from Safety 1st. She has never objected, and actually seems to think it's pretty funny when I stick it under her arm. She ran a fever once, but I just took off her clothes and kept her hydrated, and it went away on its own (as fevers usually do). Seemed to be related to teething.

Little Mouse sometimes gets cradle cap. I rub coconut oil all over her head, and after 20 minutes start combing it all out, being careful to pick up all the flaky skin I can. After a thorough bath, the cradle cap is just about gone. This little comb and brush set from American Red Cross works nicely.

Not medical, but related to safety: you should probably get a sunshade for the window next to your baby's carseat. We have one from UPPAbaby and I like it so far.

Sleepytime

When we go on trips or if Ellie needs to sleep at someone else's house, we put her in a basic Graco Pack and Play with an organic crib sheet.

Sleep sacks are fantastic. I have a few lightweight ones for naptime and fleece for colder nights. Warm, easy, and very cute. Just layer a onesie underneath and you are set! For some reason, Ellie loves putting on her jammies and gets very silly once she's in a sleep sack. :)

Linked up with Simple Lives Thursday

07 October 2013

the quotable princess bride #5

La Promenade by Renoir
"Buttercup was searching somewhere for sufficiency of courage. Evidently, she found it in his eyes."

The mushiest. Yet so true of me.

The most intense instance of this came when Ellie was on her way out. I know for a stone-carved fact that if it weren't for Jared's presence I would have given up an hour into active labor. Not because it hurt so much at the moment, but because six . . . seven . . . twelve more hours of it sounded like too much to handle. And they would have been, had I faced them alone.

I'm not sure why a companion can give you courage, but that's exactly what happened. While I lay in the hot tub, breathing slowly and relaxing every muscle in my power, Jared sat by the edge holding my hand. The knowledge that my husband was with me made each contraction seem like something I could handle. Labor wasn't going to beat me. We were going to do this thing. And we did.

04 October 2013

Weekend linkage // 7QT #8

Linked up with Seven Quick Takes.

1)

"Well, if I have any feelings, I will be sure to let you know."
-Jared resolves to be a more communicative husband

"Did you tell her to put down the crack pipe and take a chill pill?"
-Jared's advice on how to deal with a parent making strange remarks about my class policies

2)
OOH A CAMERA CAN I PLAY WITH IT

3)

At The Federalist: It's time to start talking about the global persecution of Christians.

4)

Valentino's Spring 2014 collection is kind of awesome. If #22 showed up on my doorstep I would wear it. Or #32. It's gorgeous and I could pretend to be, I don't know, Mary Queen of Scots.

5)

This is funny: how to taste your freshly baked cake without ruining it.

6)

*cough*

*coughcough*

*coughcoughcough*

OK I'm done now.

7)

Just kidding. One more.