28 November 2006

Early Settlers II

Welcome to this addition of "What Life Was Like Back Then!" I'm your host, the homeschooling mom who nearly set her apron on fire.

This week, we examine what the early settlers might have eaten and the games the children might have played.

First, work up an appetite by doing a lot of chores. In this case, move a log into position so we can play a game after we eat.

The moms never found out if early settlers would have eaten scrambled eggs, but it's easy to cook in a cast iron skillet over a fire made from twigs, so we went with it.

Anna tastes eggs and "salt pork" (cold ham). Water wasn't clean in those days, so most settler children drank beer. We opted for apple cider.

Johnnycakes with maple syrup. We all agreed they were delicious!

Make sure there is absolutely NO syrup left on your spoon.

Johnnycake in the skillet
For dessert- baked apples. Did they eat dessert in 1607?

The kids learn a balancing game popular in the Colonies.

Balance, Anna!

Good settlers learn the Pledge of Allegiance. And there wasn't even an America at the time! (Aren't we forward-thinking?)

P.S. Lest you think I'm just totally inept, there was another fire burning off to the side here. It was bigger, with taller flames, and that is where my apron kept billowing. (Ok, so that still doesn't disprove my ineptitude, but I feel a little better by telling you that.)

21 November 2006

Early Settlers I

Greetings ye merry, thankful folk! Our poorish, pilgrim brood boards the vessel, Dodge Caravan, on the morn to sail to the New World. Until our mast approaches thy fayre shores once more, we bid thee a joyous and blessed weekende.
We're studying the Early Settlers as part of our Responsibility Unit. Chris has done a bang-up job planning our co-op days. At this particular get together, we pondered the question, "What would happen to the settlement if only a few members worked and the rest lazed around?" *This actually happened at the Jamestown Settlement and in New Netherlands (now New York)*

Ye Olde Layzye Settlers

"Wonder what's on TV tonight. yawn."

Two overworked and lonely settlers struggle to build a shelter
The entire settlement pitches in to help sow the crops
Things go a lot faster when we all take responsibility!
Corn seed, with a fish for fertilizer, in a mound of earth. Gee, the ground looks as though they've had a dry year. ;)
Hunting to feed the settlement
Mouse (species: Mickey and Minnie), bear, hippo... uh.. wild pig, and rabbit.
After our "social experiment" in responsibility, Chris had the settlers trade beads with the friendly natives for corn.
Trading for wampum

A delightfully tow-headed native
Sits-in-Velvet offers Fruit Loop necklaces in trade

Pocahontas make heap big haul!

19 November 2006

Make Mine a Handkerchief

-Consumerism and Accumulation-

Consumerism and accumulation are the seedy sidekicks of materialism. Sad to say, I keep company with all three of those characters far too much.

I'd define consumerism as a Kleenex approach to life. Buy it, use it, pitch it. Repeat.

Accumulation is getting a Costco-sized palette of Kleenex. Just in case.

In contrast, stewardship is a handkerchief approach to life. Buy it, use it, wash it, fold it neatly, use it again. And again. And again. As long as it lasts.

Here's the conversation I've had with myself this week as I've wandered around my home, getting ready for the upcoming holidays:
Hey you! In the mirror! Wipe off that frothy moustache and put down the Starbucks cup. Yeah you. How many times this month did you re-route your errands so you could swing by for your "fix"? Is there perhaps a missionary you know that could buy some Bibles or supplies with that extra money you're plunking down for a Venti Fill-in-the-Blank?

Excuse me. Yes, you. In the mirror. Would you kindly count the number of black shoes in your closet? Now kindly REcount how you recently got rid of a perfectly good pair because they were slightly scuffed and no longer seem to coordinate with your wardrobe. How many black shoes are too many? How many shoes are too many? Wanna talk about purses and bags too? (Ummm... the addict in me says... N O.)

Hey lady. Yeah, I'm talking to you and your cosmetological self. How many shades of nail polish do you own?
Oh, let me count the ways of fancy lotions, smelly shampoos and hair tonics thou keepest near perchance occasion. Seekest thou another fragrance, come Yuletide? Fie! Shalt thou hoard the rainbow? Shalt thou seize the scented fields for thine privy trousseau? A pox upon thee, if 'tis true!

Books- (I LOVE books!) How about, Lady in the Mirror, instead of buying your books new, you see what the local library's got? How about we try to work that interlibrary loan system a little bit? How about we ask friends if they might have the book that we can borrow and return unharmed? ;)
Bibles- How many ya got? How many ya reading? Regularly?

Ahem. Ma'am? Yes, the one shopping for more Christmas wrapping paper. You there, the one that looks like the same lady with all those black shoes. What are you doing on the Christmas wrap aisle when you've got yards and rolls of wrapping paper carefully stowed away? Yes I know, the new designs are so cute this year. Yes, your children would flip for Care Bears frolicking in the snow. But you already HAVE paper. Lots. Loads. Hoardes. Put the paper down and back away, nice and slow. That's it.

You there! In the mirror! What are you planning to do with that plastic tub full of socks, waiting for a sock famine?! Either use them or find someone who WILL.
All of this thinking and self-examination started because I have one daughter in particular that is easily overwhelmed by the amount of clothing she owns. It's not an abnormally large wardrobe in my opinion, but the sweet little thing has a right-brained mind.
Remembering to fold it, to keep it in the drawer, on the hanger, in the hamper... is too much for her to bear. Not being naturally skilled at keeping on top of her laundry and clothing, she's frazzled.
She asked me this morning if we could please pare down the clothing in her dresser. (Have you ever heard a young American girl in 2006 complain that she's got too many clothes?!) For Ellie, I'm doing her a favor when I simplify her wardrobe choices. Her spirit is more at ease when the choice is between 2 shirts, as opposed to 12.
Hmmm, one pair of socks left? That means the other 2 pairs are dirty. Better get to doing the wash. Simple.

I realized have been trying to get her to tackle life like it's a box of Kleenex, when she is far better suited for handkerchiefs.

So I have challenged myself. In two areas.

1) Use-Your-Stash Challenge
What have I got languishing in my pantry? What's been passed over so many times as I reach for the favorite food group, that I just don't even see it anymore? Clam chowder, Saltines, a can of kidney beans, Jello packets. What's lurking in there that is taking up space and NOT being used? Use your stash, Erin! Become a gourmet and invent a recipe that incorporates a few of those "foods of mysterious origin."

I also have a big bin of fabric in my basement that is sitting there, waiting for "someday."
Well, Mr. Big Bin of Fabric, "someday" starts on Wednesday. (evil eye and finger pointing at the overflowing bin in the corner) We're taking our Thanksgiving roadtrip to TN, and that there fabric has a 9 hour date with destiny. Bwhahahahaha!

Anyone else got a stash they want to use? Socks? Straws? Canned ham? Toilet paper? Crayons?

2) Meet my coffee pot

This old girl came to me by way of my mother, who came by it when her church was getting rid of it in favor of a perky new percolator. (Punny, no?) Mom may have even fished it out of the church dumpster... but let's not go there.

Ol' Whitey works perfectly fine, though she's not much to look at. Between you and me, all she does is brew. That's it. No frothing, grinding, steaming, or whizzing. J u s t b r e w i n g.
I've been wanting a new coffee maker for several years now, and thought that this year I might ask for one for Christmas. Something deluxe. Something sleek and shiny. Something that does more than j u s t b r e w. I mean, if I'm expected to give up Starbies to help support a missionary, I gotta have SOME compensation, right?

I think though, that after all this simplicity talk, I'm going to keep the old girl around until she breathes her last Hazelnutty breath. I think I'm going to learn to be content with the coffee Ol' Whitey makes. (It really is good coffee.) I reject the idea that in order to be content I need the latest-and-greatest. I reject that part of my flesh that desires to consume and dispose, consume and dispose, accumulate, accumulate, consume and dispose.

I think, like Ellie, I'm better suited for handkerchiefs too.

15 November 2006

Merry Xmas from Your Friends at StuffMart

I'm redefining the term "Xmas."
Used to be that it was shorthand for "Christmas," that blessed remembrance of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. "X" resembles the cross upon which Christ was crucified. (Very honorable for mere shorthand- which is notoriously lacking in couth- if you ask me.) So Xmas became the fast way to still personalize all your holiday cards while keeping Christ the focus. Kinda.

Henceforth, for me, Xmas is going to mean, "the thing we do on December 25th that has nothing to do with the Savior of the world, but has everything to do with going into debt so we can impress our co-workers and neighbors; buy our children's love; gain the admiration of our in-laws; and live the American dream- in which you CAN (and deserve to) have it all."
It's the "Sign your name by the X, please," kind of Xmas.
You don't need me to tell you that America is by far- BY FAR- one of the wealthiest countries in history. You don't need a guilt trip. America is, well, richer than snot. You may not feel so rich compared to the Paris' and Donald's in the U.S., but trust me, if you're not boiling grass for dinner tonight, you're doing better than a lot of other members of our planet.

I Corinthians 7:17, 23-24 says this:

Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches...
You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.
It begs the question- what situation has God called me to?

Which leads to other questions-
Am I using credit to fund a lifestyle to which I have not been called?
Have I been trying to maintain the standard of living I enjoyed under Mommy and Daddy's roof as a child?
Am I attempting to keep up with the Joneses at church, the Joneses next door, the Joneses on TV, the Joneses in the mall...?
Has the Lord even assigned me the same station as the Joneses?

America, we are baaaaaad at this! Victims and perpetrators of the lie that next year's model is the only one worthy of our money. Credit is so easily obtained. Bad credit so hard to expunge. And with this millstone around our neck, we're drowning.

True Confession: I have realized that, as a Christian-of-a-certain -station-to-which-the-Lord-has-assigned-me, there are certain stores and parts of town that I have no business being in.

Simply because of what it does to my heart. It shatters my contentment. Suddenly, I discover that the car I've been happily driving for 6 years is, like, so passe'. And my shoes, well, they ought to have been outlawed long ago. My cell phone doesn't do text messaging? How on earth have I survived this long?!
Wohoa! Fifteen minutes ago I was as happy as a clam, and now I'm the pouty French fruit, Madame Blueberry. Can't find a cotton pickin' thing in my life to be grateful for. "Ah'm zo blue-hoo-hoo, blue-hoo-hoo, blue-hoo-hoo-HOO!"
How does all this relate to Xmas? (Psssst! It's coming up, you know.) 'Tis the season for catalogs, commercials, brochures and flyers. 'Tis the season for StuffMart, Wally World and Maison de Junque to send us valuable coupons tucked inside festive seasonal cards. 'Tis the season when Zales, DeBoers, and Tiffany compete with Lexus, Lincoln and Humvee for your Xmas-y credit accounts.

Here's where I want to encourage a paradigm shift.
Is there some way that you and your family can make your holidays about CHRIST rather than about signing on the X of the charge card slip? To make it Christmas rather than Xmas?

Some ideas that our family has tried in recent past:
- Each person draws one different family member. Give that person a gift beginning with the first letter of their first name. $20 limit.
- Draw names for one family member. Any amount you would normally spend on a gift for that person, instead, send to a charity of their choosing. Compassion International, Samaritan's Purse, and Care Net (or another local crisis pregnancy center) are good ones, to start with.
- Vote on a theme for the gift giving, then limit the price range to a v e r y low amount.
Last year, my family chose "bundle." This year our family will vote between, "handmade," "point," "around," "flimsy," and "season." (Yeah, totally open to interpretation, but that's what makes Christmas morning so fun. We get to see how everyone interprets the theme. And because we only draw one person's name, we don't spend the entire day watching the mountian of holiday wrap bulge the doors. We visit, and eat, and play games, and nap, and eat more, and laugh about how a coffee carafe can somehow be considered a "bundle.")
- Spend Christmas together as a family, in worship! Remember as a group, the Word that became flesh. Contemplate together about what it means to have the King of the Universe squalling in the mud and the muck of our human gene pool. That means something. Profound.
Many of us have family members (or ourselves) who just plain like giving and getting gifts. It's our love language and we ain't giving it up. I'm not trying to rob you. Merely encouraging all of us to think outside the box (you know, the box shaped like a Super Target) this year. Could your "box" be the thrift store? Or the drug store? People on your gift list probably need more deodorant and toothpaste anyway.

If you'll click on my MP3 player, you can hear Jerry Lewis singing of the festive
Xmas season. (His voice is annoying, so you have to willingly press play if you wanna hear him. I'm not that Grinchy.)

07 November 2006

Shoots, Gourds and Leaves

My husband says he didn't understand much of my last 5 or 6 posts. He tells me that he didn't realize simplicity was such a complicated subject, which is a comment that totally cracks me up.

Sorry Babe, must be the melancholy in me.

What say we switch gears to something easy? Leaves. Falling. From. Trees. Simple enough?

Here's what Autumn has been like in these parts.

Went to a corn maze with the kids and Steve just HAD to flex his testosterone by shooting the pumpkin cannon. Yep, three tries to shoot a gourd out of a high-powered pneumatic cannon and hit your choice of targets...

There's the selection of tierd 50 gallon drums, the retired lawn tractors, the decrepit mini van, or the penultimate victory- the motor boat. Steve and Ellie together managed to nail a pyramid of 50 gallon drums AND knock a bull's eye off of a tractor tire. Not too bad for three shots from 200 yards away!

Our driveway. Downright purdy!
Pretty People Picking Pumpkins

Ellie answers her super-secret Gourd Hotline
"Calling all pumpkin shooters! Report to your battle stations immediately!"

05 November 2006

One Word

In an effort to prove to myself, and all the rest of you skeptics, that (when pressed) I really can be concise and simple when dealing in language.

I want to share one of my all-time favorite words with you.

This word embodies an eternity of beauty and a lifeage of meaning.
Mankind will never fully connect this word's definition to this word's experience.
Not in this lifetime, at least.


04 November 2006

Simplicity Central

I prayed for you, yes you, sitting there staring at all this blither blather I've posted all week (shell shocked, aren't ya?). I prayed that you would not feel the noose tightening, but feel it loosening.
And dropping to the floor.
As you whirl away with your Savior in a dance of freedom and life.

And that God will whisper to your heart how He desires for you to find Abundance nestled in the heart of simplicity.

I can only write about myself and what I know. What God is doing with me. Chris, Greta and Mary have recently written about what God's saying to them about simplification.

03 November 2006

Be Brief Already!

Charles Dickens takes an awfully long time getting into the plot of his stories. My kind of guy.

As a child, I whiled away the precious minutes before school with a bowl of cereal and the phone book, the latest sale catalogs and mailers, Dad's road atlas, or the dictionary. (Why just eat a bowl of limp Raisin Bran when you can eat limp Raisin Bran and surround yourself with words at the same time?)

In the world of language, there are words and there are meanings of those words.
We're all taught to boil language down to the simplest, most concise term possible, but, ya know, I gotta ask- why opt for just ONE word, when the definition of that word itself tempts you with THIRTEEN lovely gems?

Definition: the action or the power of describing, explaining, or making definite and clear.

My sentiments exactly, Mr. Webster.

point! you
her see
making why
to it
around takes
get Erin
to such
time a


Much thinking happening over here lately.

Time for some levity. I've got 2 stories for ya. Read on.

:Raging Bull:

Yesterday, Anna, my 2 year old, was in quite a snit. These days, she vascillates between getting away with murder and being excluded from every activity on the face of the planet. The third child. The little sister. If I had money to leave her an inheritance, I'd have to tack on a couple more zeros, just to cover the counseling.

So, yesterday, after repeatedly getting into somebody's something and making a general nuisance of herself; after my repeated warnings to keep herself occupied with something wholesome and acceptable; after her continual disobedience of that warning; after my very generous invitation that she distract herself by doing laundry with Mommy; after I swatted her hiney, physically picked her up and manhandled her to the laundry room, and closed the door behind me. She was rather, uh, perturbed.

Deprived of all pleasure in her two year old life, she could only see red. (She's funny. She can be in the foulest mood but still have an intelligable conversation with you- through the wails and screams.) The girl was mad, mad, mad. But since she was in the laundry room now, she might as well have a little fun in her mad, mad, mad life.
Her favorite fun thing when she helps me with laundry is cleaning the lint screen. She must see me use the old dryer sheet to wipe the lint screen, and think that's the one-and-only way it can be done, because yesterday, amidst the mad screams, she kept pointing to the box of dryer sheets and demanding that I hand her one.
"No Sweetie. You don't need one of those. Just use your
"Honey, that doesn't clean the lint. Mommy just uses the old one to throw it
all away at one time."
"I'm NOT giving you a brand new dryer sheet to wipe out the lint
screen. Would you quit?!"

She'd had enough. Anna is a raging bull in a Smurf's body when she's. Had. Enough.

I'm sure that, by her reckoning, the world was careening, the guillotine was dropping, and she was being flung to the wild corners of the universe. With fire in her eyes, snot leaking from her nose, her tiny frame quivering with rage... she opened her ferocious jaws... and chomped down... on a fistful of LINT.


That raging bull came tumbling back to reality. Her teary eyes pleaded with me for answers, for comfort, for a drink of water. Her fuzzy tongue stuck out as far as it could go as she delicately picked off pieces of sweaters and towels. And then she wanted Mommy to hold her.
Sweet baby. She really can't catch a break. I'm going to have to seriously look into some inheritance money.

:Somebody Stop Me:

Homeschoolers are strange people. You can spot us a mile away. You can hear us coming. (Because we're talking about astronomy and Native American composting techniques in the 17th century.)

The kids and I are studying Early Settlers this month, so as a bonus we've made some simple Jamestown-ish costumes. Coifs, dresses, collars, aprons... whatever we can piece together to help us get in the spirit of things.
Our co-op came over Wednesday to learn about what the settlers would've eaten and how they would've cooked it. Over and open fire in my backyard, to be precise.
So I'm standing there in my billowy apron and settler dress, trying to stoke the fire for some baked apples and scrambled eggs, and this apron just keeps flapping into the flames. Not once or twice, but many a time.

I can see the headlines now:

Homeschool Quack Sets Self, House on Fire for Cooking Experiment
- "I wanted to be authentic. I never thought the apron would drag through the
flames and melt my shoes. The cider was good though."

Oy vey. I should have just worn blue jeans.

01 November 2006

Over Simplifying

I realize it's very easy to throw the baby out with the bath water when you begin to wrestle with things like simplification.

Although God handed Moses the 10 Commandments, He also instructed the Israelites to approach worship and interaction with Himself in a very particular manner. Ensuring the righteousness of a sinful people as they approached a holy and blameless God was bound to require a fair amount of do's and don'ts. Please don't misinterpret me then, when I say I want to simplify my Christian walk. I want to get down to the firm foundation of my faith. I am not interested in taking communion and remembering Christ's sacrifice for me with angel food cake and espresso. To me, that type of informality insults what Christ did for humankind. Yahweh is not my good buddy. He calls me "friend," but He is NOT my pal. Simplification does not equal shallowness.

In the near future, I'll touch on materialism and consumerism, and I will issue a "use your stash" challenge. Whether it's food in our pantry, scraps in our fabric bin, Christmas wrap we've saved over the years, or socks in our sock drawer, we frequently overlook things sitting right in front of us in favor of something new and crisp.
That said, I also know there are eventualities like Avian Flu and biological/chemical warfare floating about, and we're encouraged to be prepared. Plus, you might just get the opportunity to minister to angels unaware with that unopened box of spaghetti in your pantry. Or your unbelieving neighbor, for that matter.
So, don't go purging every corner of your house, just 'cause I said so. Look at your belongings with a critical eye and a mindset that asks, "How can I best use this to glorify God and minister to others? Is keeping this item around a good use of space, effort, money, and the item itself?" If you can't come up with a satisfactory answer, maybe you ought to find it a new home. Simplification still requires stewardship.

With that, I'm going to make my family some dinner and give you all an ever lovin' break from my preachin'.

A Christian All-You-Can-Eat

Let's say I'm discipling a new Christian.
This is what she knows:

1) God is perfect and requires perfection. Anything less deserves death.
2) Which presents a problem- I'm not perfect. I deserve death.
3) Jesus, who is perfect, paid the debt of death for me.
4) Somehow (amazingly), when I trust that Jesus' death is good enough in God's economy, my sins are no longer an issue to God. He considers me perfect.

This is ALL she knows about being a Christian. That's it.

As this girl's mentor, what is my next step?
Is the above knowledge enough?

Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

As mentors, disciplers, churches, ministries, seminaries, Bible Study groups, missionary organizations, worship teams, Sunday School classes, peer relationships, parachurch groups, etc. what yoke of burden are we placing upon other believers that is unnecessary? What yokes are we placing on ourselves? How much of what the Pharisees added to the Law was really necessary? I imagine, if God thought it was necessary, He'd have written the 678 Commandments.

This is something I really struggle with myself. How much of "the Christian life" is too much? I'm logging hours in christendom, but am I being transformed by Christ in the process? There is a monumental difference between being in the same room with Jesus, and being at the feet of Jesus. Ask Mary and Martha.

Most churches I've been a part of offer many programs and classes. There is always something going on to help me be a better Christian. I find myself looking for the next program or study to join so that I can keep myself sharp, gain more spiritual knowledge, or tuck more training under my belt. Piling more "stuff" on the buffet plate so I can get spiritually obese.

True confession: I spend more time adding shiny new things into my Christian journey than I spend obeying what I already know.

Avoidance? Selfishness? Laziness? Cowardice? Pride? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

Truthfully, it feels better to take a class on the Book of Amos than honor my husband with my tongue.
More fun to join the worship team than to wash my children's potty training clothes with the heart of a servant.
Praying at home, alone, for missionaries? Taking some canned goods down to the local rescue mission ? Yawn. I'm going to the newest Women's Bible Study up at church.

I'm really not trying to be contentious. I just want to know- if I burned the dross off of my Christian life; if I let it be SIMPLE; if I actually began doing what I already know to do- to let Jesus do through me- and let all the other "stuff" fall away, how would things be different?