Wednesday, January 26, 2011

a thinking heart

Recently in an email to a family member, I was reflecting on my thoughts and emotions surrounding the realization that Kate was most likely going to be born with Down Syndrome. I was around twenty-two weeks gestation and had been through a series of ultrasounds looking for signs of her condition. Her heart was in perfect shape and no conclusive percentage was offered. But after looking at a 3-D ultrasound image of her profile, there was no real doubt in my mind that she would have Down Syndrome.
I can still remember sitting on the edge of our bed, tears streaming down my face as I prayed for God to help me. What follows is what I remember thinking that day and in the days that followed.

If I was forming a baby, my baby, I would make it perfect. No defects, no problems, no diseases, no chromosomal issues. Perfectly whole. So why would God do anything less? Do I love my baby more than God does? No, I'm a sinful mother and God is God. I'm full of failing love and He is full of unfailing love. So how did I reconcile that He was making a baby that most likely was not going to be completely whole and perfect and that He is still full of unfailing love? I had to tell myself that Kate's DS was God's perfect and best plan for our family at this time. That was hard and I think that is what brought the tears at that moment. God's plans and purposes were greater than mine and I needed to stop thinking like me and think more like Him.

little sisters

I didn't intend for this to be a developmental update on the girls but it has taken on a life of its own so I'm going with it.

Our children are all basically healthy after a Christmas Eve sickness that lasted into the new Year. The girls still have a cough and some days their noses run a bit, but they are active and happy. Well, Kate is happy. Laura is happy as long as she is not unhappy, you catch my drift? Not the most easy-going, especially at mealtimes. Of course, compared to Kate, we are all miserable wretches. What a happy and content little person she is. I hope it doesn't wear off as she gets older and wiser.

Kate is tolerating standing with support better in the last six weeks or so and will actually try to keep her legs stiff and feet planted on the floor instead of buckling her knees or hiking up her feet like usual. So we are encouraged and I try to spend different times each day with her having her stand to play. We are expecting that it will take her of all this new year to actually be walking but perhaps something will click sooner than that.
Laura is practicing walking often throughout the day but still relies on crawling for some of her motoring around. She will be eighteen months at the end of January so it has been a long time in coming.

As for their levels of communication, Kate understands everything I tell her and responds appropriately 99% of the time. Laura understands a lot and responds much of the time. She is trying make initial sounds, like "mo" for more as she signs with her hands. And today she has been saying "Hi" very clearly and very intentionally, like when she heard the front door opening. Kate will sign "more" but doesn't try to make the /m/ sound. However, Kate does say, "Bu" for "bye" as she waves her little hand. She does it most frequently as she sets off to disappear around a corner into the kitchen or living room. Lately, she tries on boots or gloves left out on the doormat and with one on each foot as she sits on the floor, she waves the over-sized glove on her hand. They both make the sign for "all done" and Laura tries to mimic the sound of my voice but doesn't really match the letter sounds yet. Kate makes the sign if I say the words which is typical of how she signs in general. Laura seems to initiate signing without me saying it first or asking her. Kate isn't quite there yet.

Both girls love to find the pantry doors open and amuse themselves by finding different packages and containers to haul out for further examination. Many of those are put back after a firm, "No girls, put that back, please." Other items are deemed harmless and provide much amusement, like the brightly colored boxes of soup bullion. Both are dragged out several times a day to be hauled around the house. The tall box of straws went on vacation after much active play and will return for a brief time on occasion. Rolling and throwing light bouncy balls is a major sport around here and Kate has recently learned to catch the ball in the air using her face and chest to help land the catch. She then rubs or pats her nose or cheek to show that it connected and perhaps she should mind. But she doesn't really and the play continues.
Kate has also mastered our ride-on toy that requires using your feet to go forwards and backwards. She can now do both very well which came as a surprise considering how little she uses her feet in the course of a day.
Sitting at a table together with crayons or colored pencils and paper is a fun time which usually leads to much trading of pencil and paper and scribbling on whoever's paper is closer at the minute. Laura is still tempted to put the crayons in her mouth and must be watched and warned from time to time. Kate likes to play with paper and listen to the sounds of it rustling on the table or waving rapidly in the air. Laura spends more time actually scribbling on the paper, which to date, has never really captivated Kate's attention.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Books on Ancient Greece and Rome

As we head into our studies of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, here's a quick post to show most of the books we will be using along with The Story of the World.

I'll post more details about our study as we progress including the additional books I'm still tracking down.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Letter of Comfort from Guido de Brès to His Wife

A Reformation Martyr Comforts His Wife

It was written by the author of our Belgic Confession, Guido de Brès. It was written in April, 1567. He was in prison and he knew that he was going to die for what he had confessed.

Letter of Comfort from Guido de Brès to His Wife

The grace and mercy of our good God and heavenly Father, and the love of His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, be with you, my dearly beloved.

Catherine Ramon, my dear and beloved wife and sister in our Lord Jesus Christ: your anguish and sadness disturbs somewhat my joy and the happiness of my heart, so I am writing this for the consolation of both of us, and especially for your consolation, since you have always loved me with an ardent affection, and because it pleases the Lord to separate us from each other. I feel your sorrow over this separation more keenly than mine. I pray you not to be troubled too much over this, for fear of offending God. You knew when you married me that you were taking a mortal husband, who was uncertain of life, and yet it has pleased God to permit us to live together for seven years, giving us five children. If the Lord had wished us to live together longer, he would have provided the way. But it did not please him to do this and may his will be done.

Now remember that I did not fall into the hands of my enemies by mere chance, but through the providence of my God who controls and governs all things, the least as well as the greatest. This is shown by the words of Christ, “Be not afraid. Your very hairs are numbered. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall to the ground without the will of your Father. Then fear nothing. You are more excellent than many sparrows.” These words of divine wisdom say that God knows the number of my hairs. How then can harm come to me without the command and providence of God? It could not happen, unless one should say that God is no longer God. This is why the Prophet says that there is no affliction in the city that the Lord has not willed.

Many saintly persons who were before us consoled themselves in their afflictions and tribulations with this doctrine. Joseph, having been sold by his brothers and taken into Egypt, says, “You did a wicked deed, but God has turned it to your good. God sent me into Egypt before you for your profit.” (Genesis 50). David also experienced this when Shimei cursed him. So too in the case of Job and many others.

And that is why the Evangelists write so carefully of the sufferings and of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, adding, “And this was done that that which was written of Him might be accomplished.” The same should be said of all the members of Christ.

It is very true that human reason rebels against this doctrine and resists it as much as possible and I have very strongly experienced this myself. When I was arrested, I would say to myself, “So many of us should not have traveled together. We were betrayed by this one or that one. We ought not to have been arrested.” With such thoughts I became overwhelmed, until my spirits were raised by meditation on the providence of God. Then my heart began to feel a great repose. I began then to say, “My God, you have caused me to be born in the time you have ordained. During all the time of my life you have kept me and preserved me from great dangers and you have delivered me from them all – and if at present my hour has come in which I will pass from this life to you, may your will be done. I cannot escape from your hands. And if I could, I would not, since it is happiness for me to conform to your will.” These thoughts made my heart cheerful again.

And I pray you, my dear and faithful companion, to join me in thanking God for what he has done. For he does nothing that is not just and very equitable, and you should believe that it is for my good and for my peace. You have seen and felt my labours, cross, persecutions, and afflictions which I have endured, and have even had a part in them when you accompanied me in my travels during the time of my exile. Now my God has extended his hand to receive me into his blessed kingdom. I shall see it before you and when it shall please the Lord, you will follow me. This separation is not for all time. The Lord will receive you also to join us together again in our head, Jesus Christ.

This is not the place of our habitation – that is in heaven. This is only the place of our journey. That is why we long for our true country, which is heaven. We desire to be received in the home of our Heavenly Father, to see our Brother, Head, and Saviour Jesus Christ, to see the noble company of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and many thousands of martyrs, into whose company I hope to be received when I have finished the course of my work which I received from my Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray you, my dearly beloved, to console yourself with meditation on these things. Consider the honour that God has done you, in giving you a husband who was not only a minister of the Son of God, but so esteemed of God that he allowed him to have the crown of martyrs. It is an honour the like of which God has never even given to the angels.

I am happy; my heart is light and it lacks nothing in my afflictions. I am so filled with the abundance of the richness of my God that I have enough for me and all those to whom I can speak. So I pray my God that he will continue his kindness to me, his prisoner. The One in whom I have trusted will do it, for I have found by experience that he will never leave those who have trusted in him. I would never have thought that God would have been so kind to such a poor creature as I. I feel the faithfulness of my Lord Jesus Christ.

I am practicing now what I have preached to others. And I must confess that when I preached I would speak about the things I am actually experiencing as a blind man speaks of colour. Since I was taken prisoner I have profited more and learned more than during all the rest of my life. I am in a very good school: the Holy Spirit inspires me continually and teaches me how to use the weapons in this combat. On the other side is Satan, the adversary of all children of God. He is like a boisterous, roaring lion. He constantly surrounds me and seeks to wound me. But he who has said, “Fear not, for I have overcome the world,” makes me victorious. And already I see that the Lord puts Satan under my feet and I feel the power of God perfected in my weakness.

Our Lord permits me on the one hand to feel my weakness and my smallness, that I am but a small vessel on the earth, very fragile, to the end that he would humble me, so that all the glory of the victory may be given to him. On the other hand, he fortifies me and consoles me in an unbelievable way. I have more comfort than the enemies of the gospel. I eat, drink and rest better than they do. I am held in a very strong prison, very bleak, obscure and dark. The prison is known by the obscure name “Brunain.” The air is poor and it stinks. On my feet and hands I have irons, big and heavy. They are a continual hell, hollowing my limbs up to my poor bones. The chief constable comes to look at my irons two or three times a day, fearing that I will escape. There are three guards of forty men before the door of the prison.

I have also the visits of Monsieur de Hamaide. He comes to see me, to console me, and to exhort me to patience, as he says. However, he comes after dinner, after he has wine in the head and a full stomach. You can imagine what these consolations are. He threatens me and says to me that if I would show any intention of escaping he would have me chained by the neck, the body and legs, so that I could not move a finger; and he says many other things in this order. But for all that, my God does not take away his promises, consoling my heart, giving me very much contentment.

Since such things have happened, my dear sister and faithful wife, I implore you to find comfort from the Lord in your afflictions and to place your troubles with him. He is the husband of believing widows and the father of poor orphans. He will never leave you – of that I can assure you. Conduct yourself as a Christian woman, faithful in the fear of God, as you always have been, honouring by your good life and conversation the doctrine of the Son of God, which your husband has preached.

As you have always loved me with great affection, I pray that you will continue this love toward our little children, instructing them in the knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jesus Christ. Be their father and their mother, and take care that they use honestly the little that God has given you. If God does you the favour to permit you to live in widowhood with our children after my death, that will be well. If you cannot, and the means are lacking, then go to some good man, faithful and fearing God. And when I can, I shall write to our friends to watch over you. I think that they will not let you want for anything. Take up your regular routine after the Lord has taken me. You have our daughter Sarah who will soon be grown. She will be your companion and help you in your troubles. She will console you in your tribulations and the Lord will always be with you. Greet our good friends in my name, and let them pray to God for me, that he may give me strength, speech, and the wisdom and ability to uphold the truth of the Son of God to the end and to the last breath of my life.

Farewell, Catherine, my dearly beloved. I pray my God that he will comfort you and give you contentment in his good will. I hope that God has given me the grace to write for your benefit, in such a way that you may be consoled in this poor world. Keep my letter for a remembrance of me. It is badly written, but it is what I am able to do, and not what I wish to do. Commend me to my good mother. I hope to write some consolation to her, if it pleases God. Greet also my good sister. May she take her affliction to God. Grace be with you.

At the prison, April 12, 1567.

Your faithful husband, Guy de Brès, minister of the Word of God at Valenciennes, and presently prisoner for the Son of God at the aforesaid place.

He was hung on May 31, 1567.

I have kept in the format that Amy posted it so it can be read easily and often in the future.

Here is the original link to the article in which it was cited.

homeschooling info

I have been working on updating the What We Do For Homeschool section in my left sidebar to make the information as complete and current as possible. I still have some work to do but in case you are in interested in any changes I have made, please click around on the subject links.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

homemade with love

I alluded to a incomplete Christmas project here and since it has since been delivered and unwrapped, I can now show you the whole project. Please let me say at the outset, I had an idea here but no definite pattern or plan. In other more plain words, I just made it up as we went along. So I would never consider this post a tutorial, I'm thinking it's more like a show-and-tell post.

Disclaimers aside, the burlap was used simply because this is the fabric that Seth has been learning to sew straight stitches onto. That said, with the exception of the bottom of the tree and its trunk, none of these stitches are straight lines, so I completed most of the stitching and saved those stitches for him. He wasn't exactly begging to do more, so I think it was a fair division of labor. :)

The cardinal came out better than I hoped although it would have nicer to make it look like it was actually resting on the tree and not hovering over it like a hen on her nest. I also tried to keep it a generic scene so that it could be enjoyed after the traditional Christmas decorations are put away.

So while we were sewing, I was toying with stuffing the burlap with something in the spice family. However I was concerned that anything I chose might eventually start coming out of the large weave of the burlap. So enter, the spice sachet! I found a scrap of muslin, folded it over and started sewing it up like a pillowcase. Then we stuck in some cinnamon sticks and a small handful of cloves.

Sewing up the spices in their own sack was an easy solution and their scent was very fragrant even through the layers of fabric.

As you can see, attaching the ribbon to the spice sack was an afterthought. I realized we wouldn't be able to secure the ribbon to the burlap with just one or two of Seth's straight stitches, so I made a mess of stitches which would have remained a secret except for these photos. :)

We then stuffed the sachet inside and out of sight, applied fray check to keep the burlap weave from fraying and then Seth began to sew straight stitches around the folded fabric.

He had to be careful not to go too close to the edge since the burlap is such a loose weave, it would be easy to lose some of the threads. But with only a few mishaps, he carefully sewed all three open edges and secured the spices inside.

And here is the completed ornament ready to be wrapped and shipped off to the grandparents.

Actually, what really happened was that Seth decided he wanted me to have the ornament, so off he snuck with it, gift wrapped it and made a tag that said, "To Mommy, From Seth". Within a day, I grew concerned when I could not find it on the pile of stuff that overtook our school table. Finally, hoping against hope that it had not found its way accidently to the garbage, I asked Seth if he had seen it. One sheepish look and he confessed that he had gift wrapped it for me and it was up tucked away in his room. While I appreciated his sweet gesture, I reminded him that we were sending it as a homemade present and we could always make another one for us. I felt bad opening up his "gift" but I had no idea he would do that considering we had discussed many times who we were making it for. So cute!

So I guess we'll be making more of these little spicy fir trees as we continue to practice our sewing stitches, now that we know what we're doing, lol.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

new bread on the block

I have entered a new phase to baking homemade bread: my own personal loaf. :)

In my efforts to clear up my face, I have switched to gluten-free bread and pasta for myself and so far I have been quite pleased with the results. Besides not eating whole wheat bread and pasta, I have simply cut back on how much other wheat-based products I indulge in like crackers, pretzels and cookie-type stuff. I have also ventured into the world of rice crisps, which is astounding given how much I hated them previous to this diet change. But I have found a few brands which have a good flavor and seasoning and make them quite palatable and knowing they are easy on my body makes them actually enjoyable. Life is full of ironic surprises like that. So while my husband makes faces over these new food items hanging out in the pantry, I just smile and remind him, he's not the one who has to eat the stuff, dear!

Given the high price of this mix, I will be next attempting to make my own bread from scratch based on the recipes from Gluten-Free Goddess. I have bought all the ingredients but was waiting to finish this loaf first. Oh, that and work up some ambition since battling the Christmas Plague. The kids are still coughing and blowing noses but Seth and I got back into our schoolwork on Monday and have stayed the course so far. So the extra baking may have to wait until the weekend and I am nervous about how it will come out. I just hope it's edible. :)

Sunday, January 02, 2011


With Christmas behind us and a long winter ahead of us, Raymond Brigg's wordless story of a boy and his snowman is just the cure to keep the winter blues away. Set to beautiful music, this movie with no dialogue illustrates the delightful adventures of a having a snowman for a friend. A truly magical movie, I love it!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

more real life moments

On another day, here we find the two mischief-makers minding their own business when a box of tissues was conveniently left where Laura could reach it while Momma folded laundry just a few steps away in her room.

Yes, that is a lot of tissues packed into one small box, Laura thinks as she counts them all out, "One for you, one for me, two for you, two for me...".

And in case you're wondering, I did not throw them all away...only a few very used ones. We are a one-income family, you just can't waste perfectly pulled tissues. :)

a bazillion reasons

Here is a photo essay of evidence that I tried very hard this year to photograph our three delightfully cooperative children for a picturesque photo to send to all our friends and family near and far for this holiday season. Please note the past tense. This plan failed miserably and I am now appealing for your pity as we struggle to emerge from the plague that hit our house the Eve before Christmas Eve. There will be no Christmas card mailing. There will be no sweet family photo showing our five faces smiling and happy sitting somewhere seasonally appropriate. This is it. Enjoy the confusion and mayhem, it was real.

Note the tissue in her hand, it was the only thing holding her together at that moment.

Tissue is gone and in a moment so is the temporary good humor.

"Sing we now of Christmas, sing we all Noel". Boo-hoo

The only one left standing, uh, sitting.


One last try...nope!

Plan B?
All dressed up at church, on their best behavior, of course. And look this way, children!


Another fail for Momma as Kate attempts to encourage her pew mate. There's always next year!