31 December 2014

pregnant thoughts

Ellie is upstairs, playing with her favorite Christmas presents: an IKEA kitchen, plus "the works" to accompany it (food! pots! tea set!), and a huge collection of matchbox vehicles. I bet you didn't know that you can make Sportscar and Watermelon Stew. Well, you can if you're Ellie, especially when you're wearing an enormous purple tutu.

So here I am downstairs, sitting on my giant exercise ball in an attempt to get Jellybean to swivel in the right direction-- no sunny-side-up deliveries, please. She has a new movement pattern these days. Turn a few perfunctory somersaults around lunchtime, and then wiggle gleefully all night long. This does not bode well for my sleep after she's born.

Christmas is always good but I especially enjoy it while I'm pregnant. The physicality of the Incarnation hit me hard the year I was pregnant with Ellie, and once again this year, when I am even further along. I look down at my enormous belly and wonder how Mary ever made it to Bethlehem. I feel Jellybean's tiny body shove against my diaphragm and wonder how Jesus ever fit His divine glory into such a small package.

During our Christmas Eve service, I was overcome with emotion as I thought about what that holy child's arrival means for my own children: that because He became a baby, my babies have an eternal hope.

I have been reading through the book of Joshua in the mornings. I got bored halfway through and slacked off my Scripture reading for a while. I've read all this before, it's pretty much just a list of kings and territories, blah blah blah. Then I got my rear in gear and realized how much I was missing. Joshua seems perfectly tailored for this moment in my life. (Of course, that's what happens when you read God's word with faith. He speaks to you straight from the page! I know that, but putting it into practice is another matter.)
- "Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" . . . as I stare down labor and delivery, knowing I can do this, but not exactly leaping for joy at the thought.
- "I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant" . . . a reminder of how generously God provides for his children, as I feel weak, tired, and fairly useless.
- "And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass" . . . wonderful words of peace, tied to the unfailing character of our God.
Almost done. This baby feels ready to hatch. I'll be 39 weeks on Saturday and I keep hoping that I will go early, as I did with Ellie. But I know that she'll come "in the fullness of time" :)

30 December 2014

no frigate like a book #5

Linked up with Call Her Happy.


A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

Hard to describe, but I would call this a post-apocalyptic retelling of Western history. After a nuclear holocaust in the 20th century, the survivors include a hardy group of American monks. They preserve the few spared fragments of learning in much the same way that European religious orders protected ancient manuscripts through the medieval era.

Once the nuclear fallout subsides, humanity progresses through recognizable historical stages-- from a rampaging Dark Ages to a politically conniving Enlightenment to a futuristic space age. It's fascinating to see these familiar elements of history recast in new places and with new names, and to wonder if the march of human events really is so inevitable.
They shook hands gingerly, but Dom Paulo knew that it was no token of any truce but only of mutual respect between foes. Perhaps it would never be more.

But why must it all be acted again? The answer was near at hand; there was still the serpent whispering: For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods. The old father of lies was very clever at telling half-truths: How shall you "know" good and evil, until you shall have sampled a little? Taste and be as Gods.
But neither infinite power nor infinite wisdom could bestow godhood upon men. For that there would have to be infinite love as well.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

A brilliant Harvard psychology professor is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. The most unique aspect of this book is the narrative style. While it is told in third-person, we still view things from Alice's perspective, because Genova does not furnish us with any details that Alice herself wouldn't know. For example, as Alice loses her memory, the other characters are referred to with increasingly vague names: we go from reading about "Lydia" to "her youngest daughter" to simply "the actress." If Alice misses something, we do too, and just like her, we have to figure it out later. I thought this was very well done.

At first I did not like Alice. She seemed to personify everything I hate about modern feminism: looking down on young mothers, finding all her worth in her career, believing that she must be self-sufficient at all costs, clinging to a very narrow definition of success. So I thought that I would struggle to sympathize with her as the book went on. However, I got over my initial dislike and enjoyed the story. I was also pleasantly surprised at how her disease shifts her perspective. Alice realizes that in a time of crisis, all she cares about is her family, about their love and loyalty, not accolades from an academic association. (Sadly, her husband-- equally career-driven-- does not seem to share her new perspective and continues to prioritize his work.)

I fear mental disease more than physical, because I worry about losing control and somehow losing my own identity. If my self-awareness and memory melt away, what do I have left? Have I disappeared too? Is my life worth anything anymore? So I liked what Alice had to say:
My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I'll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I'll forget it some tomorrow doesn't mean that I didn't live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn't mean that today didn't matter.

In the Province of Saints by Thomas O'Malley

I am glad I read this one. (I brought it home from the library and said "I picked this off the shelf because it looked good." Jared peered at the cover and said "No, you picked it because it looked Celtic." Fair point, my love.)

It's got some salty language and it is neither uplifting nor inspirational, but then I don't usually go for inspirational. It's real, and its darkness is the kind worth reading about: presented well, even quite beautifully. Sometimes you need to read about the hardness of life. I think it's best to read about it in a way that makes your life better-- because it makes you reflect on sober truths or gives you a better eye for hope-- not in a way that makes you throw the book across the room and say "well fine, why don't we all kill ourselves then." (This novel is an example of the former way. For an example of the latter way, see #5.)

Summary: this story follows a young Irish boy through adolescence as he deals with a severely ill mother, an absent father, and the various political/social pressures of poor village life in 1970s-80s Ireland. It has strong themes of betrayal and loyalty, especially concerning the conflicting loyalties we may find ourselves sorting through: demands from our family, from our beliefs, from from our history. The protagonist must choose at several points to whom (or to what cause) he will be faithful. He also has the opportunity to compare himself to the older men in his life, many of whom fail to fulfill responsibilities to their families or communities. I thought the ending was very strong, not at all happy-go-lucky, but full of gritty resolve. And I like grit.
I stopped at a grotto to the Virgin that lay nestled in the side of a hill, and I said a prayer for my mother and my father although I knew it would do no good. My words frosted the air. The Goddess's weather-beaten face, worn smooth and soft, shone beatific in the moon glow. Hers was an altar of rowan branches, wildflowers and moss heather, lichen, and pools of bog water, the type of old-contry shrine that once dotted the lanes and hillsides.

Wrapped in thorns yet serene and calm, the Goddess assured me that everything would be all right, if only I believed. But the thing was, though I wanted to believe, I didn't.

Ellis Island and Other Stories by Mark Helprin

Clearly I have no problem repeating authors. If I enjoy one of his books, why stop there? This one is different because it's a slim collection of short stories, not an enormous novel. Overall, I prefer the novels, because his characters are so great that I want them to go on almost-forever. (Actually, I like novels more than short stories, period. It's so nice to slip into a story and sustain that narrative for a week, two weeks, rather than be done with it in thirty minutes.) It might be especially good for a car trip, when-- if you are like me-- there are snacks and rest stops and whiny toddlers to interrupt your reading flow.


And now for something completely different, I will mention The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan. This one is horrible, so it does not technically belong on a "five favorites" list. Yet here it is! Simply so I can tell you how horrible it is. It is meandering and depressing and full of terrible sex, as one might expect from a novel about Chinese prostitutes. I read half of it and should have stopped much sooner. Please don't bother.

19 December 2014

Weekend linkage

Here's an interesting article on the Christmas tree industry, specifically in the Pacific Northwest.
In Hal Schudel’s 96 years on earth, he served as a B-24 bomber pilot in World War II, earned a doctorate in agricultural philosophy, raised three sons, bred champion quarter horses and Black Angus cattle. He also fundamentally changed our idea of what a Christmas tree should look like. Hal's innovation took us from the hunter-gatherer age of Christmas trees into today's massive Christmas tree agricultural complex.
Well, this is cool: "Spectacular Ice Formations Atop a Windswept Mountain in Slovenia."

LOOK SOME OF MY FAVORITE THINGS RANDOMLY SMASHED INTO ONE VIDEO! (Specifically Oxford architecture, men singing and being really silly, and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas.")

"Bored Coworkers Recreate Classic Paintings Using Office Supplies." They're good.

18 December 2014

spending the big bucks, or not

Unless it lives in gorgonzola cheese, I am staunchly anti-mold. I loathe it almost as much as the smell of melted butter during my first trimester, which is to say, a lot. The nasty stuff likes to taunt me from the corners of the bathroom. I've tried a number of high-end shower curtains that advertise themselves as "mold repellant." But they always get pink and black streaks along the bottom within a month or two, and sometimes they don't even come clean with bleach.

Finally I gave up and bought a couple of super cheap curtains at Target-- and behold, the cheap curtains stayed mold-free every bit as long as the fancy ones did. When I washed them with hot water and bleach they looked good as new. So you see that spending more money does not always pay off in the long run.

The Moneylender and His Wife by Quentin Metsys

Two things that are worth lots of pennies:

Tea. I am snobby about my tea. (And even expensive tea is cheaper than coffee, so I can still maintain a sense of smug superiority to my coffee-addicted husband.) Lipton tastes like grass cuttings, Bigelow is almost uniformly repulsive, and don't even get me started on Tazo, which I believe is composed of factory floor sweepings. I will drink cheap tea in a pinch-- I'm cold and I need caffeine and this is all I could find in the hotel lobby-- but my own stash consists of the good stuff: Yorkshire Gold, Twining's, Harney and Sons.

Actually, come to think of it, the nationality of the tea company seems to matter more than the price point. Moral: American tea bad. English tea good.

Shoes. Expensive shoes-- so long as the expense means quality and comfort, rather than name recognition-- reward the investment. I've thrown out countless cheap shoes that squeaked, slipped, and fell apart long before I wanted to buy replacements. Meanwhile, a pair of Bass snowboots purchased early on in college are trekking on valiantly. I'm still wearing my wedding shoes five years later and they are in near-perfect condition. I get a new pair of Dansko professional clogs every couple of years for everyday wear, and even after they are scuffed beyond rescue, they stay structurally sound and just turn into my weeding/painting/running-errands-on-a-rainy-day shoes.

The other advantage of only buying pricey shoes is that you end up with fewer pairs and need less storage space. ;-)

Two things that are not:

Pillar candles. Buy them from IKEA! They're pretty and they don't sputter or give off tons of smoke! And because they are so cheap, you can get tons and burn them all the time without feeling like a wastrel.

Wrapping paper. You can find adorable prints for a million dollars at Anthropologie. When the paper costs more than the gift (and gets tossed out anyway), who really wins here? Just go to the dollar store and get simple paper. Add pretty ribbon, maybe a free printable tag or two. Tada!

14 December 2014

family snippets // weekend linkage

At the Seashore by Edward Henry Potthast

It has been a long weekend, in several senses of the word. My grandma passed away recently; her funeral and memorial service were on Friday. Everyone who could (and there were a lot of us) packed up and drove to Fremont, Ohio, where she lived almost her entire life. The services were really lovely. It was sweet to recall all the memories we have of Grandma, and it was good to see so many extended family members, since we are geographically far-flung and don't have the opportunity to get together very often.

Time for parental bragging. Ellie is the best traveler you can imagine. She had to sit in her carseat for about eight hours each way, not to mention all the running around while in Fremont, the new people, the odd schedule, the unfamiliar sleeping environment . . . but she seemed entirely unfazed.

Both she and I did pick up a bad cold, and I ended up with quite a few contractions on the trip back. So today all of us stayed home from church to recuperate, with the help of lots of elderberry, vitamin C, and Vivaldi.

Now links. I have a lot.

Some excellent articles about parenthood: "Mothering in the Internet Age" by Betsy Childs, "A Mother's Repentance" by Rebecca Reynolds, and "The Cult of Kiddie Danger" by Lenore Skenazy.
Today it is a sin — and sometimes a crime — not to imagine your children dead the moment [you] take your eyes off them. The moment they skip to school with a Chapstick, wait in the car a minute, or play at the park. We think we are enlightened in this quest to keep kids completely safe. Actually, we have entered a new Dark Ages, fearing evil all around us.
About food and home: a fascinating interview with Christopher Kimball, founder of Cooks Illustrated, and thoughts on the true nature of "home economics" by Daniel Bearman.

The funnies: Brits try to label a US map, an Aaron Sorkin monologue generator, and 25 kids' jokes "so terrible they're hilarious." They are.

Just plain interesting: 10 ways that companies can trick you into buying more, from Money magazine, and "Why We Don't Need Mrs. Jesus" by Maureen Farrell Garcia at CT.
We don’t need Jesus to be married to know that he was fully human—our orthodox conception of Christ as the God-Man already demonstrates that. We don’t need a female deity to affirm the value of women—the One who created both sexes in the image of God does that already.

05 December 2014

Family snippets

Jellybean is trying to decide if she wants to go head down or not. Mostly she does, but she also likes to switch it up and lie diagonally. I've been doing a lot of yoga poses to encourage her towards the correct position. Ellie gets annoyed by this, because most involve me being head-down, and she wants to see my face at all times. So she runs up to me, grabs my head and pushes, yelling "Off! Off!" (That is her all-purpose preposition and in this case it means get up.) I have to explain to her that no, she may not push Mommy, and Mommy is going to stand like this for as long as I want, whether she approves or not. Sorry.

I had a midwife appointment this morning. I go every two weeks at the end of my pregnancy; I can't believe that we might only have a month left before Jellybean comes, only one or two more appointments before the actual birth. I hope she does come early. It won't be the end of the world if she is late, and I don't put much stock in due dates, but even when I am freaking out about how I'm going to juggle two small children, I do want her to arrive soon. We can't wait to see what she looks like.

This week Ellie proudly formed her first sentence: "This is a toe!" (while pointing at my bare feet, festively adorned with Water Street Blue). Followed by "This is our car!' and "This is a jacket!" She loves to demonstrate her naming knowledge.

I am finding that as Ellie's mobility grows, so does her mischief. It's not necessarily intentional. This week she has fallen into the bathtub, dumped salt and pepper on the floor, upended a candleholder filled with Indian corn kernels, shut herself into the coat closet, and split open her lip, all out of innocent curiosity. Other times it's clearly premeditated: pulling out all the books on the shelf, pushing a dining room chair over to the whiteboard and drawing on it, splashing in the toilet, putting her sippy cup into the trash can, decorating her face with (washable) markers.

I think she goes on troublemaking streaks. She'll be a little angel all morning and then cram her craziness into the half hour before lunch.

22 November 2014

Weekend linkage

Elizabethan superheroes. Iron Man in a neck ruff!

Timelapse video of one day in UK airspace. Amazing.

Jim Gaffigan on binge-watching. Ha! I am currently on a self-imposed hiatus from Netflix because I just managed to watch all 5 seasons of Chuck in less than six weeks. Which is quite enough for a while. #ohyes #ilovechuck #ialsolovejimgaffigan

This is clever: a typeface for dyslexics.

Russell Moore's address from the recent Vatican Colloquium on Marriage and Family.
People are looking for a cosmic mystery, for a love that is stronger than death. They cannot articulate it, and perhaps would be horrified to know it, but they are looking for God. The Sexual Revolution leads to the burned-over boredom of sex shorn of mystery, of relationship shorn of covenant. The question for us, as we pass through the Samaria of the Sexual Revolution, is whether we have water for Samaria, or only fire. In the wake of the disappointment sexual libertarianism brings, there must be a new word about more permanent things, such as the joy of marriage as a permanent, conjugal, one-flesh reality between a man and woman. We must keep lit the way to the old paths.
Great TED talk: Leana Wen on "What your doctor won't disclose."
If you go to your doctor because of back pain, you might want to know he's getting paid 5,000 dollars to perform spine surgery versus 25 dollars to refer you to see a physical therapist, or if he's getting paid the same thing no matter what he recommends.
 An interesting perspective from the American Enterprise Institute: "The Crucial Importance of Stay-At-Home Wives," specifically in terms of social capital.
It is entirely understandable that some wives work full time, either for the fulfillment of a vocation or to make money–the same reasons men work full time. But when either partner in a marriage—and it will usually be the wife—chooses to devote full time to being a parent and neighbor instead, that choice should not just be accepted, but celebrated.

21 November 2014

Family snippets

"Ellie, if you don't behave we are going to box you up and ship you to Kamchatka."
-Daddy takes parenting cues from Risk

Ellie's capacity for imitation and imagination astounds me. Most of her activities begin with what she sees me do, but she gives them her own spin.

She enthusiastically pushes the Swiffer and hurls clothes into hampers. She uses dishcloths to clean everything from baseboards to blocks. She switches on her musical toys, then performs wild dances around the living room. She "reads" her books with great animation. She builds increasingly complex Duplo architecture. She provides sound effects for her toy cars. She rocks her baby doll while singing a wordless lullaby; she gives it water and feeds it. (Chocolate, mmm! she says.)

Pregnancy is still fine. A healthy and squirming Jellybean, no medical complications or undue hardship. I passed my gestational diabetes test with flying colors-- since Ellie was so big, I thought I should take the test, but no cause for alarm-- and my iron levels are even normal this time.

All that said, I have already told Jared that I feel ready to be done. I am tired of being large.

Jared has been working on Ellie's new bedroom every free weekend. It required some plaster and paint work, and had a rather vigorous draft that needed to be fixed, but all that should be finished before long; I am looking forward to the decorating portion of the project. Though Jellybean probably won't sleep in the nursery at first, we will move Ellie out of the nursery and into her "big girl room" as soon as we can, just to get the transition over with. I think she might sleep in a pack-n-play at first, rather than in her new toddler bed. I don't feel like teaching her to stay in bed at the same time that I'm trying to figure out a newborn. :)

17 November 2014

things I have told Ellie not to eat

Unpeeled tangerines
Candy wrappers
Coffee grounds
Pine needles
Other people's toothbrushes
Toilet paper
Diaper cream
Price tags
Sharpie markers
Rotten tomatoes
Grocery lists
My keys
Battery-operated candles
Semi-raw chicken from the trash can
Spent matches
A piece of cement

And crayons. So many crayons-- I don't know what Crayola puts in those things but they are toddler crack.

13 November 2014

phfr #14


Jared keeps a plant at work, and it had become far too large for its pot. He brought it home and I split it; one for me, one for him. Mine now lives on top of the china cabinet.


I'm getting Jellybean's clothes ready. After some Carter's and Zulily shopping, here are some of my favorite new pieces: a tiny pointelle onesie, warm mint-green pants, and soft satin shoes.


I came home from an afternoon out with friends to find Ellie helping Daddy rake leaves. She was mildly excited to see me and very excited to drink out of my water bottle. A bit of dribbling and sputtering ensued, but she's getting pretty good at it.

She wants to be exactly like me and it is overwhelming sometimes. I know that she won't want that forever. She'll become her own person with different interests, and besides, once she gets old enough she will be able to see my weaknesses-- I won't be the perfect heroine of her life anymore. All the same, I want to be the kind of woman who is worth imitating.

File this one under Pregnancy Is Rarely Glamorous: I just bought a maternity support brace for my back, and it is awesome. My hip feels so much better when I wear it. I think orthotic sneakers will be next.

07 November 2014

Weekend linkage

"Adventures with George Washington." I giggle easily, but only a few things can actually elicit rip-roaring laughter, and this was one of them.

What kids all around the world eat for breakfast. I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. The pictures of the girls from Istanbul made me miss Turkish breakfasts desperately. Perhaps I should start buying cucumbers and feta to accompany our usual morning fare (which is a panful of eggs, either fried or scrambled, and sourdough bread with lots of butter).

"Undisguised Blessings."
I can look at my life and say I am blessed because I have this hardworking husband. Because I have a house – with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fenced-in yard, and a refrigerator so full of food that I lose track of things and end up throwing some of it away. Because I have this daughter – who came to life where babies before her did not, who is healthy and robust and vibrant and sleeps almost all night . . . 
[But] I was blessed –that is, receiving undeserved gifts from God– before this, when I did not have a baby. And there is blessing in challenging babies, awkward-looking babies, non-sleeping babies, or babies who won’t latch on to nurse… and there is profound blessing in babies who develop differently. So we misuse the word blessing when we think it only references things we want to call “good.”

"Literary Starbucks." Cute. Haven't you always wondered what your favorite authors and fictional characters would order?

I try to avoid indulging in schadenfreude. But the past week's frantic kerfuffle over that street harassment video has been too good to pass up. From National Review, "How The Far Left Hijacked A Cat-Calling Debate and Started to Eat Itself."

31 October 2014

Family snippets

"I am horrible oppressive Tyrant Daddy! No fun allowed in this kingdom!"
-Jared, as he runs around the living room with a giggling Ellie slung over his shoulder

Ellie cracks us up. She is learning new words all the time ("chocolate," "clock," "dirty," "hot," and "see ya" are her recent additions, though most are only comprehensible to her doting parents). She has also decided that she needs to match me as much as possible. One of her favorite activities is Tell Me What That Is Called; she points at stuff and demands that I say its name. Well, she especially loves to point out things that she and I have in common.

"Those are your socks. And these are my socks."
"That's your fork. Yes, I have a fork too."

My second pregnancy has definitely been different. I have prescription steroid cream, deployed sparingly but regularly, which takes care of my eczema--so I don't have to deal with the horrendous rash of last time. I am endlessly thankful for that, because the time I spent fighting that rash was the most traumatic period of my life so far. I can recall all sorts of unpleasant experiences without a twinge, but if I even start to think about those miserable months, I feel panicky and desperate and want to cry.

Other positive differences: morning sickness disappeared sooner, I know what I am doing pregnancy-wise and don't have to research my brains out over every decision, I am a lot more confident about my ability to birth a baby, Jellybean moves alllllll the time and that's fun, and even though I feel enormous I don't look too big (well, not big for 30 weeks pregnant). We think I'm carrying her higher than I did Ellie.

Negative differences: I worry more about this baby's health, mostly out of a weird sense of guilt. I think about her less during the day because I'm busy with other things--mostly her nutty older sister--and I forget to take my prenatal vitamins and so forth. Then I worry that my neglect will cause her to have poor health or some unexpected birth defect (or in my most frantic moods, a stillbirth). Also, I've had major issues with my hip this time around. My left sacroiliac joint goes out easily and so depending on the day, I experience anything from a small "ouch" when I move suddenly to constant pain.

27 October 2014

what is God up to?

To put it baldly, I spend most of my day cleaning messes. Vacuuming cracker crumbs, washing stinky diapers. In the middle of this I often feel like a hamster spinning a very menial wheel. I start to wonder what I am doing with my life. My answers aren't terribly satisfying: I am ironing yet another hamper of wrinkled shirts. I am buying yet another tube of toothpaste. I am pulling yet another heap of weeds.


Then I remember that I am not the main character in this story. God is the protagonist of history, including my private slice of it, and He is an active God. He is always at work. He is always succeeding in His work. My work just falls into line behind His.

Watering the Garden, E. Ridgeway Knight

What is God doing? I ask. Can I see what's really going on here?

That question transforms my perception of the day. I quickly see that God is busy: He is providing for our family, increasing our love for one another, and shaping a toddler's tiny heart (and two big adult ones). He is making us more like His son and building us into the church, His bride. He is enabling us to carry out His commands. What's more, He chooses to accomplish a lot of that work through me. I start to see the connections between His agenda and the little tasks I'm doing.

That excites me. It makes me realize how honorable those tasks are. Even when they look boring--even fruitless--from the outside.
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil--this is God's gift to man.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him.

-Ecclesiastes 3:12-14

21 October 2014

running from time

Every advertisement in America assumes that we want to look younger, and since advertisers are pretty good at sussing out the mood of the populace, I guess we do. Apparently we are all trying to return to the best days of our lives (defined as "the days when we were unwrinkled, skinny, and burdened by as few responsibilities as possible").

This passion for youthfulness bears ugly fruit: orange spray tans and reconstructed noses always ring false. It's also a phenomenal waste. People shell out extravagant sums for plastic surgery, spend hours sculpting their muscles at Crossfit, and fret endlessly over one too many appetizers eaten at the party last night. Imagine what all that money, time, and energy could achieve! Exercise is great. I love cosmetics and clothes. But how sad to see them demand more of us than our love for God and all He has called us to. (Even worse is when we think that we need to have our appearance nailed down before we can attend to those other things.)

Mrs Adrian Iselin by J.S. Sargent
Anyway, we all lose life eventually. No one defeats age, and I think that embracing truth is typically more attractive than painting on a lie. As we care for ourselves, do we endeavor to  honor what God has created, or do we try to turn ourselves into someone else entirely, a mythical ideal concocted of magazine clippings and hairspray? There's such a difference.

I see wise older women acknowledging who they are, enjoying the beauty that is reserved for their own age, and looking so amazing because of that. Then I see women forcing themselves into a cheap imitation of who they were decades ago, running from time, only to find themselves exhausted, unhappy, and decidedly plasticized.

I am still young myself, but I already notice age altering my hands. They work hard: plunged into hot dishwater, sorting through dirty vegetables, scrubbing mold from shower tiles. The work shows. They're starting to wrinkle and lose their elasticity. I know that one day the rest of my body will follow suit. My veins will stand out and my skin will droop. Some of the damage will be due to the march of time, some to nourishing children, and some to the unforseen mishaps of life. That's okay. I am not interested in fighting reality. I am interested in embracing the beauty God gives me every day.

16 October 2014

phfr #13

Linked up with Like Mother, Like Daughter.


I made a cute mobile for the nursery, using an embroidery hoop and a collection of doll ornaments. (We have so many ornaments that we can barely fit them on our Christmas tree, so I decided to use these to decorate the girls' room instead.)

Applesauce season is underway. I've canned sixteen quarts so far (that was 38 pounds of apples . . . lots of peeling) and I plan to put up at least 40.


Ellie is learning to put Duplos together. She has to concentrate very, very hard.


Ugh, receipts.

09 October 2014

Weekend linkage

A good deal of serious material this week.

"He's Not Scary, He's a Little Boy." I found this very helpful. If Ellie made a rude comment about someone's appearance, my first instinct would be to hush her and scurry away. But this mom says:
If you are the parent whose child says another child looks funny or scary, don’t simply say "That isn’t a nice thing to say." While you are right, it’s not nice, simply saying that and walking away still isolates my child.  The next time follow that statement up and tell your child, "I’m sure he’s a very nice boy, let’s go meet him."
"My Husband Divorced Me For His Gay Lover, Then Took Our Children." A sobering story that needs to be told.

An NPR feature on plastic surgery in Brazil. Some of these women's comments were so sad: beauty is the foundation of a good life, and beauty is defined by a very narrow set of standards (not that different from our own culture, but apparently Brazilians are more open about resorting to surgery to achieve their ideal). I'm not against these procedures but find their extravagant overuse disturbing.

"50 Classy People From the Past." Some of the captions are adorably naive, but the pictures are fun.

08 October 2014

Ellie and her words

Ellie has exactly four words so far.

daddy (often used as a catch-all word that means "something having to do with parents")
uh-oh (a constant refrain: she dropped her fork, I dropped a book, the squirrel she's watching dropped an acorn)
tea (repeated rapid-fire whenever she spots my mug)
teeth (sounds remarkably like tea: she just really likes to brush her teeth)

In addition, she uses signs for food, water, and all done; employs a sort of quizzical squeak to request things or ask what they are called, or otherwise get my attention; and shakes her head violently to signal no.

I look forward to the time when she will be able to articulate her thoughts, but for now, she communicates pretty well in her way.

06 October 2014

don't be a dumb-dumb, or, just a few catchphrases

Know what really gets steam coming out of my ears? People who cherry-pick Scripture. To faithfully interpret God's word, you have to consider the whole thing, not prance about picking verses you happen to like and shouting lalala I can't heeeeeear you to the rest of it. Consider my most un-favorite category: the false teachers who claim that since the apostles commanded wives to "be submissive to their own husbands," if a husband is abusive, his wife must quietly accept his abuse in order to honor God.

Self-Portrait With His Wife Isabella, Peter Paul Rubens
My first instinct is to say "what a bunch of dumb-dumbs," but I'll attempt to be more articulate: anyone who even entertains that interpretive possibility is not using God's word to help them understand His will.

To start out, Peter reminds husbands that their wives are fellow heirs in the kingdom of God. Thus everything that God says to believers in general includes wives. For example, we are told by Jesus Himself that if Christians have a grievance against another, they have recourse to a careful process of justice within the church. God provides protection for His people through the care of fellow believers. Scripture nowhere suggestions that wives are suddenly excluded from that process and protection just because they got married.

The government is endowed with authority to prosecute wrongdoers. A husband who abuses his wife is doing wrong and deserves prosecution. But how is the government supposed to mete out justice if the wife refuses to speak out of a sense of "duty?"

Further, a wife's role is not primarily defined in terms of submission. Way back in Genesis, God defines a wife's role in terms of helper: he creates a noble and capable soul given the task of supporting and sharpening her husband. She is called to do those things submissively, sure, but submission does not preclude a wife from carrying out the rest of Scripture's commands. If she sees her husband locked in sin, it would in be completely unloving on her part to let him continue unchallenged, either by her or by the church elders.

After you read all of those Scriptures (and more!) and ask yourself if a wife should accept abuse in the name of submission, you say no, clearly not. She should lovingly rebuke her husband, appeal to the church for her own protection and her husband's good, and seek aid from civil authority. That's straight from the word of God. Then when you get around to the verses about submission, it's clear that-- taking into account everything else God has said in His word-- the submission He commands cannot possibly mean "putting up with" a husband's unrepentant, grievous sin (whether that's abuse or something else). Biblical submission means a lot of things, and plenty of them are unpopular in this era, but it sure doesn't mean that.

In my opinion, this applies to a lot of other bad teaching. You take one or two verses that seem to make a clear statement on a particular topic, and you start spinning a new theology of parenting, or politics, or sexuality. Of course, you don't bother to consider what any other passage of Scripture has to contribute to the discussion. Usually that consideration would force you to significantly adjust your initial interpretation. Inconvenient for you, perhaps, but ultimately bearing much better fruit.

This is why God calls us to study the entire Bible, not just a few catchphrases. That was the real point of this post, but I took the long way round just so I could pontificate on one of my own pet topics. :)

29 September 2014

a fruit in season

It is a little funny, America's annual affair with pumpkin. That chunky orange sphere is one of the few foods that actually holds up really well over time, and that tastes perfectly fine after being preserved. You can make an equally delicious pumpkin cake in March as in October. But somehow we've got it into our heads that we must make all of our pumpkin rolls and lattes and pies in the autumn, or bust.

(Now asparagus? Blueberries, tomatoes? Those seasonal obsessions I understand. They are truly wretched out of season.)

Perhaps the autumn pumpkin fling is a way for us to pretend that we're still close to nature, that we care about the seasons God created, when really, we have separated ourselves as much as possible. Ironically, I think the people who are most into pumpkin lattes tend to live furthest away from the natural way of things: the big city hipsters who have probably never seen a cornfield or petted a pig.

Not that I dislike big cities. I also like my air conditioning, which allows me to escape seasonal heat, and my car, which allows me to drive south to the beach when it's freezing at home. But I sometimes think that living seasonally is good for us. It reminds us that we can't have everything we want, when we want it. That the world moves in a rhythm larger than our own whims.

I wish I could find a luscious peach in darkest February, though. Though I could find a peach, "luscious" would not describe it.

26 September 2014

Weekend linkage // Family snippets

J: Maybe we could talk about this on our next date night.
Me: Sigh. I'm not a very fun date.
J: Or we could just talk about chipmunks.

Me: We went to Pine View and Ellie terrorized the cows with her screeching.
J: Now they know how I feel.

Ellie's fun for the week included "helping" to unload the dishwasher, visiting the tractors and goats at the fair, chucking a teddy bear into the tub and turning on the water, covertly eating crayons but being betrayed by her blue mouth, picking a huge bowl of tomatoes (at least half were still green), and insisting that Baby Sister lives inside her belly.


So, this may be the best use ever made of the internet. (I say this as an English major and a secret lover of atrocious pop music.)


Speaking of my major, Things English Majors Are Tired of Hearing. Nobody says this stuff to me anymore because I have successfully conducted my life for five years post-graduation, but . . . I remember well.


We just got a dishwasher, so this pin seems apropos.


"What An Elite Ballerina Sees When She Looks In The Mirror." This simultaneously causes me to want to get back into ballet, and thank the good Lord above that I got out of it.

18 September 2014

pretty happy funny real #12

Linked up with Like Mother Like Daughter.

Maybe not many people would consider a large collection of produce "pretty," but I do.


I have two happy things this week.

First, a huge whiteboard on which to organize my life. Meal plans, weekly chores, extra things to do, shopping lists, you name it.

I needed a new, large diaper bag before Jellybean's arrival and I was prepared to spend $100+ on a good one. Well, this week I found a perfect Eddie Bauer bag at Target. What's more, even though it's in perfect condition, it was only $10 because someone had ordered it online and returned it to the store! Huge blessing.


Ellie's new pastimes include playing with her Melissa and Doug animal magnets . . . and wearing my shoes.


What the living room looks like after fifteen minutes of Ellie.

13 September 2014

Weekend linkage


Laura Ingalls Wilder's original memoir was a lot . . . earthier than Little House.
It contains stories omitted from her novels, tales that Wilder herself felt "would not be appropriate" for children, such as her family's sojourn in the town of Burr Oak, where she once saw a man became so drunk that, when he lit a cigar, the whisky fumes on his breath ignited and killed him instantly.

Your guide to medieval shopping.
A vintner caught selling foul wine is dragged to the pillory on a hurdle, forced to drink a draught of the offending liquor, and then set in the pillory where the remainder is poured over his head. The sweetness of the revenge makes up for the sourness of the wine.

"Great Mistakes In English Medieval Architecture." Most amusing.


From The Federalist: being pro-life isn't about defending "beautiful" babies.
The babies whom we wish to save will not all be happy, healthy children who will be adopted by picture-perfect, loving families. Some of them will grow up in tragic circumstances. Some will suffer tragic illnesses. All of them, one way or another, will face the brokenness of life in this world. Knowing this, all we can do is give. Barbarism takes. Civilization gives.

09 September 2014

4 ways in which I am just like my toddler

Or she is just like me.

1) I get very excited about breakfast.

Ellie requests breakfast within fifteen minutes of waking up. She eats a lot of it, too. I have always been the same. I typically need a couple of eggs, some fruit, and something else-- cheese? toast? yogurt?-- to get me going. I don't think I have ever skipped breakfast in my life. The very thought is horrible. How do you "coffee and half a banana" people make it through the morning?

2) I have a hard time dealing with large crowds.

Not that either of us are afraid of people. It's just that we can't handle interacting with more than one or two of them at a time. More than that and we get cranky and overwhelmed. When there are a lot of people, all talking at once, we both start zoning out and go off to do our own thing. (After church, for example, Ellie will dart around the lobby, intent on her private exploration and totally refusing to interact with any of the people around her. THERE ARE TOO MANY OF YOU LEAVE ME ALONE.)

3) I like shoes.

Ellie is obsessed with shoes. If she sees an unworn pair sitting around, she becomes very distressed  and tries to find someone to put them on. If you tell her that we're going to put on shoes to go outside, she makes an excited beeline for the closet.

Myself, I don't have a huge collection, but those I do have are very nice. I buy good shoes, ones I can wear for years without growing tired of them or getting blisters on my heels. My wedding shoes, for example, were a pair of gorgeous gray suede pumps from Naturalizer. I'm still wearing them five years later and they just have (very) minor scuffing on the toes. I don't need twenty pairs to choose from; I prefer having five that I really like.

4) I complain a lot.

We have started to tell Ellie "No whining" and "No complaining" when she breaks down over minor mishaps, such as a slight delay in snacktime. She has very little patience and tends to shriek in anger or just burst into tears, and we'd like for her to learn self-control. That requires lots of hand-holding, comforting, and generally showing her that no, this is not the end of the world and she can choose to be cheerful if she wants to.

Anyway, at the end of one long hot afternoon, I found myself sprawled on the couch whining over everything I'd had to do that day, everything I had failed to do, all the pregnancy aches and pains I had to deal with, etc. I realized that I sounded just like Ellie when she doesn't want to clean up her toys. My new mantra is "No complaining."

05 September 2014

Weekend linkage // Family snippets

Ellie's latest life skills include prancing about on tiptoe; scribbling with crayons; perfecting her princess wave; not yanking out her hair clips; correctly identifying her head, ears, nose, and belly; pretending to give her stuffed animals water out of her sippy cup; and making "soup" with kitchen tools purloined from my cupboards.


Here's a great post from Time Warp Wife on what it means for us to be our husbands' "helpers":

You are not called to make him sandwiches or refill his drinks, though that is a nice thing to do. Your calling is be such a strength and power in the life of your husband that your conduct, your words, and your actions point him to Christ and make him want to be a more godly person.

If you live around here and are looking for fun this weekend, why don't you hit up The Importance of Being Earnest, performed by the Servant Stage Company at the Lancaster Trust? It's going to be a fab production, as Wilde is wont to be (my brother is playing Jack).

Tickets are $12 at the door . . . follow the link for more info.


Something pretty: a carpet of 750,000 flowers in Belgium.

29 August 2014

Family snippets

"Why do I have a little girl sitting on my head?"
-Jared grapples with the reality of fatherhood

"Aww, are you just a big ball of hormones?"
-Jared is a compassionate husband

I feel just as weepy-waily as I did last pregnancy around this point . . . everything is sad, terrifying, or otherwise disastrous.

Oh wait, it's not all disastrous. Jellybean is a girl!!! We just found out this week. And that is happy. I can't wait for Ellie to meet her sister.

The summer has been uneventful overall, apart from baby-growing and garden-tending. I canned nearly two dozen quarts of peaches a couple weekends ago, and the tomatoes are coming on, possibly providing fodder for more canning. Last week we visited my grandma in Ohio, a long trip for a little girl (survived with the help of bunny crackers and raisins). We went to the fair while we were out there, which was fun, especially for animal-loving Ellie.

26 August 2014

crunchy dill pickles

For about a month in the middle of the summer, cucumbers invaded my garden. And kitchen counter. And refrigerator. They were "Solly Beiler" cukes, especially bred for making pickles, and they were remarkably fruitful. (I ordered the seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.) Next year I will plant them again, but only two-thirds the number, so as not to be utterly overrun.

Of course this invasion meant plenty of pickling. Here is the recipe I used: it's based on one I found in More With Less, an old Mennonite cookbook, and dressed up with a few more spices. Pickles are much easier than I suspected. In fact, canning is much easier than I suspected. It involves a lot of hot water and slicing, but I always thought it was rocket science that required five thermometers and a calculator. As it turns out, it's just cooking on a large scale, with more than usual attention paid to the timer.


Dill Pickles
(given quantities are enough for 8-9 quarts)

fresh unpeeled cucumbers
fresh dill
peeled garlic cloves
mustard seeds
black peppercorns
red pepper flakes
optional but recommended: Ball Pickle Crisp

12 cups water
6 cups white vinegar
1 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar

1) To prepare: thoroughly wash and rinse eight quart jars in hot water, and let airdry in clean area. Place lids in shallow pan of water, bring to boil, and let simmer for a few minutes. Fill large pot or canner halfway full of water and bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and cover pot.
2) Pack each clean jar full of scrubbed cucumbers (whole or sliced), two stems of dill, one garlic clove, a pinch each of mustard seeds, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes, and a rounded 1/4 teaspoons of Pickle Crisp. Fill jars up to the shoulder.
3) Meanwhile, dissolve water, vinegar, salt, and sugar together in large pot and bring to boil. Let cool slightly, then pour over packed jars until liquid reaches the top of the shoulder with an inch of headspace. (If you have enough liquid for more than eight quarts, go ahead and fill more jars with cucumbers!)
4) Place sterilized lids on prepared jars and screw on rings. Lower gently into hot water and return to boil. Process in boiling water for 5 minutes, then remove from water and re-tighten lids. I can fit three to four jars in my large stockpot, so it takes a few go-rounds to process them all.
 5) Let jars cool on counter; lids should seal as the pickles cool. If any fail to seal, just stick them in the fridge and enjoy them over the next few days. Store sealed pickles in a cool, dark place and let sit for at least two weeks before eating.

22 August 2014

Weekend linkage

"You gotta start them from seedlings."
-Jared explains how babies are made


NYT obit for Tom Tierney, who revolutionized paper dolls and "made them into an art form." (What, you don't think paper dolls are interesting? Sorry.)


A British soldier's military kit through the centuries.


Funnies: "I'm Getting Really Tired of Living In This Quaint English Village."
The shipwrecked foreign soldiers I understand. They had no choice to wash up here, and Lord knows we need something for our suspiciously young horde of rich widows with mysterious pasts to do with their time. I suppose all those babies that turn up on the church’s doorstep help with the numbers. It would be nice if they left some identifying papers or medical histories along with the child, rather than broken lockets, faded portraits, or scuffed ancient rings set with moonstone.

"Hello, Stranger On the Street, Could You Please Tell Me How to Take Care of My Baby?"
Oh nice lady, you are probably right! I should definitely cover his face always so he doesn’t get sun on it. If he is exposed to the sun for even one moment, even as I am simply walking from the mechanic to a coffee shop where I have to unexpectedly stop to feed him because my car broke down, he will probably immediately get sun disease or burst into flames.

Kids Rate Fall Fashion Campaigns. ("She’s wearing feathers because she’s a bird werewolf howling at the moon.")


"Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt."
In terms of parenting, marriage, home, clothes – I will not be a slave to the Tyranny of Trend any longer. I am almost 40 years old and no catalog is the Boss of Me anymore. I am free. I am not bound to spend my precious days on Earth trying to keep up with the Joneses- because the Joneses are really just a bunch of folks in conference rooms changing “trends” rapidly to create fake monthly emergencies for us.

This is a really excellent post from Tim Challies: "Character Is King." It is primarily about the Mark Driscoll thing-- but even if you don't know or care about that (I don't), still a good word in a culture obsessed with youth, glamour, and edginess.
When the Bible lays out qualifications to ministry, it is character that rules every time. The Bible says little about skill and less still about results. It heralds character. 

15 August 2014

Family snippets

Ellie's language skills are expanding bit by bit. She shouts "hi" regularly and often says "da-tee" when she sees Jared. Thanks to her Eric Carle and Priddy books, she also has an arsenal of animal noises: kittens meow, snakes hiss, chicks peep, piggies snort, bees buzz, lions and tigers roar. Oh, and penguins shake their heads. From Head to Toe says so.

She loves to imitate me, whether I am stretching on my yoga mat, folding laundry, or mopping the floor. She'll grab her little broom and dustpan and toddle around industriously, "cleaning" just like me. She can put away her toys and has started to try to throw away trash, which is adorable but dangerous (I keep wondering if she's tossed in a Duplo or two). Sometimes she quietly stands and looks out the window. Sometimes she runs helter-skelter through the house, shrieking for the sheer fun of it. And this week she discovered ballet dancing: we turn up the classical music and spin all over the living room.

I think she's pretty amazing.

Her miniature sibling grows apace. I can often sense it moving, and if I lie on my back, both Jared and I can feel its hard head pushing against my skin. Soon we'll get to see it on a screen: an ultrasound is scheduled for the 26th and after that, we will know if the jellybean is pink or blue. :)

13 August 2014

no frigate like a book #4

Linked up with Five Favorites.


Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic

This is a pithy book written by a Christian mother to five young ones, offering short bites of encouragement and gentle prodding specifically for moms during "the little years." I enjoyed it very much and will return to it in the future. It would be a great gift for a new mama: that is how it came to me, in fact.
"You may have known families who seemed to have it all together. Everyone to his own military bunk. Dinner from the crockpot at 6:00 pm on the dot. Family worship in the living room. Children quietly doing the dishes afterwards. Then, as the children hit their teen years, you start to see that alongside all that organization was some serious neglect and hurt. It is possible to organize your children right out of the church. So while your children are little, cultivate an attitude of sacrifice. Sacrifice your peace fro their fun, your clean kitchen floor for their help cracking eggs, your quiet moment for their long retelling of a dream that a friend of theirs allegedly had. Prioritize your children far and away above the other work you need to get done. They are the only part of your work that really matters."

Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin

I have quoted from this before but I never actually wrote a review. I read it again this month, and it was just as great as the first time around. To sum up, this hilarious book is about the insane Prince of Wales (Freddy), his vapid wife (Fredericka), and their quest to reconquer the United States of America, during which they discover that they are neither insane nor vapid, but instead marvelous human beings who love each other-- and America-- beyond all reason. It's always hard to sum up Helprin but that's the best I can do.

A representative passage:
". . . automobiles are the river of life in this country. When you get one, even this one, you're back in the game, but as soon as you lose one, you're in trouble. Haven't you noticed that? In America, the car is the second chance. They lift you from your troubles and set you into the heartbeat of the country."
"And what is the heartbeat of the country?" Fredericka asked sceptically.

"Being nowhere, on the way to somewhere, with music, on the open road," Freddy told her. "All the rest is the baggage of Europe, sometimes well developed and extended, sometimes not. But this motion, this ongoingness, this rolling, these hypnotic wheels, this particular glory, is exclusively American-- their transcendence."

"Freddy, shut up!"
And one more:
He dreamt of her and she of him. She became his world, and he hers. He found in her, in her body, in her laugh, in the way she moved, in what she said, more than he ever had thought he could find. And she found in him the same.

They had a forbidding lake and supernatural winds. They had night, cold, and the exhaustion of work. And they had the stainless steel vat and their warm bed. One evening, as they stared into the kerosene fire, he said, "We're like poor people, who have nothing but each other, and are happy. What is it called when two people have such a passion only for one another?"
(I actually think Helprin should have shortened Freddy and Fredericka by twenty-five percent. At one point far too much time is spent on a set of secondary characters, causing the Prince and Princess to fall by the wayside, and the story drags. Once we get back to the main storyline, everything vastly improves.)


In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

This was a book club selection, one I never would have picked up otherwise. It's semi-autobiographical. We agreed, in our discussion, that its defining characteristic was beauty: though her novel covers the horrendous events of the Khmer Rouge regime during the late 1970s, Ratner manages to leave a lasting impression of lovely things and people. The protagonist, Rami, is supposed to be seven years old but has a deeper, more philosophical understanding of the world than any seven-year-old I know.


Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunally

Oh man. This is good. After having this Norwegian trilogy ceaselessly recommended to me for about a year, I finally read it, and found it immensely satisfying.

The characters: Kristin and her strong, sad parents, Erlend with his dangerous charm, Gunnulf and Brynhild and the many others who populate this vivid world. The setting: I knew nothing about medieval Norway beforehand, but thanks to Undset's careful research (and some helpful forewords) I fell straight into it. The fullness: I tend to like long books because they actually finish telling the story, rather than squashing a truncated version into a slim-spined paperback. With the ten-pound doorstops beloved of my heart-- The Lord of the Rings, A Soldier of the Great War, The Count of Monte Cristo-- I can stay in a fictional world long enough to get to know it.

One thing I found especially interesting was the portrayal of women in Kristin's society. On one hand, they were subject to some of the classic prejudices you might think of: many were excluded from political affairs on grounds of a weak intellect, they usually received a second-rate education, and their sexual indiscretions were far more harshly judged than those of a man. On the other hand, a married woman exerted a great deal of authority over her husband's household-- in practice even if not officially-- including land management, servants, finances, and so forth. One of Erlend's first actions as a husband is to fasten a large ring of keys to Kristin's belt, signifying her high place on his estate. It was also illegal to marry girls off against their will, and for those who entered a convent (not always their choice) there awaited a life quite independent of "male control," apart from the spiritual authority of bishops and popes.

One thing I found especially annoying was the names. Kristin is the daughter of Lavrans Bjorgulfsson, hence Lavransdatter as her surname. Erlend is the son of Nikulaus Munanson, and so his surname is Nikulauss√łn. Meanwhile, Kristin and Erlend's sons bear the surname Erlendsson, and any daughters would have been Erlendsdatter. Basically, families don't share consistent surnames and it drove me crazy trying to figure out who was related to whom!


1491 by Charles C. Mann

Jared is probably glad that I finished this book, because I talked his ear off while I was making my way through it. As Mann says, it is about "the Western Hemisphere before 1492," which was
. . . a thriving, stunningly diverse place, a tumult of languages, trade, and culture, a region where tens of millions of people loved and hated and worshipped as people do everywhere. Much of this world vanished after Columbus, swept away by disease and subjugation. So thorough was the erasure that within a few generations neither conquerer nor conquered knew that this world had existed. Now, though, it is returning to view. It seems incumbent on us to take a look.
Two main points stick in my memory: first, the fickleness of "settled science." I've thought about this in relation to other topics, mainly medicine and diet, but it was confirmed clearly here. Mann repeatedly shows how scientists allow their reputations, ideologies, and even political agendas to interfere with objective research or reporting. History is supposedly settled by a particular archeological dig, and textbooks for decades afterwards teach, say, that mankind came to America via a shortlived land bridge-- had a relatively small population-- and led a nomadic, hunter-gatherer type of life. When evidence turns up flatly contradicting that original narrative, the original archeologists throw a fit instead of revising their ideas. As a result, students keep learning an outdated model of history instead of being able to appreciate a more full (and interesting) story.

Second, the enormous scope of humanity. One of Mann's main points is that the Indians were not a passive people, floating in a state of suspended animation and childlike "union with Mother Earth" for millennia. That is the popular image today, one that purports to be respectful but is in reality rather degrading. After all, it is absurd to think that people would live generation after generation in the same manner, failing to grow in any appreciable way. Everywhere else in the world, people philosophized, built civilizations, and shaped their environments. How silly to assume that the Indians did not do the same thing.

As Mann points out, there is abundant evidence to show that-- just like everybody else on planet Earth-- Indians in both North and South America were incredibly numerous before Columbus arrived, that they wrote poetry and engineered sophisticated cities, and that they shaped Nature to fit their own ends. We are rediscovering what they must have achieved, from terracing mile-high slopes of the Andes to turning the Amazon basin into an artificial orchard, and it's pretty fantastic.

I love this, because instead of asking us to "respect the poor Indians" out of guilt, or trying to make us admire their primitive "simplicity," Mann demonstrates that they were normal humans, with just as much dignity and creativity as the rest of us. Too many portrayals of Native Americans paint them as a separate race, either as the noble savage or the uncivilized terror. What about seeing them as people?

08 August 2014

Weekend linkage


An interactive documentary of the First World War.


The quintessential Trendy Restaurant Menu. I'll take the fish slivers!


From one of my favorite blogs, a post about five "housewifely" things . . . . one of the reasons I love Leila is that she talks about normal stuff in a way that makes you see how important it could be, and points out truths that should have been obvious but somehow got obscured. (She has successfully raised seven children, so if you ask me, she has quite a lot of credibility.)


100 Actual Titles of 18th-Century Novels. ("The Spectres, Or, Lord Oswald And Lady Rosa, Including An Account Of The Marchioness Of Cevetti Who Was Basely Consigned To A Dungeon Beneath Her Castle By Her Eldest Son, Whose Cruel Avarice Plunged Him Into The Commission Of The Worst Of Crimes, That Stains The Annals Of The Human Race." That has to be a good one.)


Personal ads from the 19th-century New York Times. ("A gentleman, young, with a fair a portion of cash and very large expectations, desires to make some good and handsome girl his wife. Her happiness will be his own, and the sincere object of marital relations; money no object, but youth indispensable. Old maids, widows, and ugly women over 18 need not respond." Most excellent.)

07 August 2014

pretty happy funny real #11

Linked up with LMLD.


I have untold multitudes of zinnias-- they never fail me. In this bouquet you can also see flowering Genovese basil, which I'd never cut for a vase before. It has lasted beautifully.


We bought these wall shelves at IKEA eons ago, but only got around to mounting them sometime in the past month. I love vertical storage space.


I just think that bean sprouts are funny-looking, especially the gangly ones in back. I'm starting these indoors and will transplant them this weekend.


We had a touch of something earlier this week; Jared got it the worst, a combination of fever, aches, and a headache for two solid days. So I started dosing myself with elderberry and other antivirals, and gave Ellie some elderberry syrup as well (she heroically downed each dose, with much spluttering afterwards).

I did experience a bad headache, but peppermint essential oil provided relief for that, and otherwise the ladies of the family seem to be fine.

06 August 2014

I pretty much kissed dating goodbye, and I'm not sorry, so there

Rustic Courtship, William H Midwood
In high school I was single. In college I was single. I never had a boyfriend to squire me to dinner on Friday nights or bring me flowers on Valentine's Day.  In fact, neither Jared nor I dated anyone before our own relationship began. We were completely inexperienced.

Boo hoo for us.

In the past couple years I have read a lot of articles protesting the concept of courtship-- claiming that it represses young people, ruins relationships, makes dating too serious, and sets up weak marriages. I find those articles rather lame.

To be generous, I'll assume they are primarily protesting the unbiblical flimflam that got tagged onto courtship. Every godly relationship leads to marriage, or women should constantly be under some man's authority and live at home until their wedding day, or don't touch each other lest you fall into eternal damnation . . . hand-wringing dreck of that sort. I protest it too, and with great gusto.

But still I call those articles lame. Why? I think it's lazy to attack the flimflam with such indiscriminate strokes. The authors earnestly tell the internet how much they regret missing out on The Dating Scene (yeah, I hear it's really wonderful). Good for them, I guess, but you know what? I don't regret it at all. And while their articles busy themselves with cheap shots in order to garner blog hits, they skim over the logic and wisdom of courtship's central ideas.

Or intentional dating, or just dating, whatever you want to call it.

Here are the central ideas I have in mind:
- Standards are good. One doesn't need a boyfriend simply for the sake of having a boyfriend. Start dating after you are ready to get married, and date people you can actually see yourself marrying, as doing otherwise is typically a colossal waste of time.
- Along the same lines, use your time together for developing your friendship and having fun, but for goodness' sake also use it to find out if you want to marry one another; don't apologize for that purposeful mindset. After all, the two of you aren't going to somehow wander into marriage after years of beating-round-the-bush. A good marriage is intentional and dating should be too.
- Get input from other people. Their perspective is especially valuable for younger couples, who are more likely to be bedazzled by chemical attraction and forget to ask, you know, "Do we agree on XYZ crucial issue?!"
Those are the bare bones of courtship, at least as I experienced it. No chastity belts in sight.

The people who believe in those ideas each get a radically unique story, because God leads all His children differently. They are sometimes young, sometimes decidedly not. They sometimes get married within a month of meeting one another, sometimes after a five-year engagement. They sometimes marry the first person they go on a date with, sometimes the twenty-first. And none of them live in magical fairy tales; no matter how it's arranged a relationship always involves confusion, mistakes, and heartache. Crossed wires are built into every human interaction. These principles, however, are remarkably adaptable and good.

I am not writing some manifesto on how the world should go about its romantic business, here. I'm not sitting up on my throne of wisdom judging the lowly passersby. I just wish that amidst the well-deserved backlash against Oppressively Controlling Patriarchalism, more people would take time to see that courtship can be-- actually, should be-- a perfectly free and dignified way of pursuing marriage.