Do you ever get stressed out with your children and not realize it? I just realized that’s what has been happening to me. Thankfully, I have a lovely monthly Charlotte Mason book study to attend and mentally recharge for two hours. It’s good to go someplace where you are reminded to stay relational with your children, to fill their different needs, to build their character rather than their conduct. It’s wonderful to remember that I need to step out of the way of the Holy Spirit. Serve my children, give them what they need, be quiet and trust in the Lord. Lean not on my own understanding.
This is hard to do. Especially when the children are very loud and annoying. But if God can provide this little two hour break for me once a month, then that’s something to rejoice about. I tend to worry that these parenting things don’t work if both parents aren’t doing them. But then again, if I am doing something positive and relational in my children’s lives, that is much better than if I wasn’t. I’m doing what I can. I’m going to pray more about it. And maybe peace will come.
When I was young in the mountains, we sat on the porch swing in the evenings, and Grandfather sharpened my pencils with his pocketknife. Grandmother sometimes shelled beans and sometimes braided my hair. The dogs lay around us, and the stars sparkled in the sky.
— from When I Was Young In The Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Diane Goode (1982)
This beautiful picture book is very calming with its rhythmical repetition, its mellow pictures, and its description of a simple, old-fashioned mountain life. The theme of contentment builds through the pages, and I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book about contentment before.* It’s refreshing and thought-provoking at the same time.
My youngest daughter and I read this book as part of our Five In A Row curriculum this week. We made a graph, counting different things in the illustrations. We talked about contentment, but my little talk seemed completely insignificant. The book speaks for itself. We looked at pictures of the Appalachian Mountains, and that was lovely. Did you know there are Green Mountains and White Mountains? We ran across a picture of a Mohican longhouse, and that was interesting. We also talked about food and good nutrition, making a placemat to remind my snacky daughter that vegetables and fruit are important, too. My daughter enjoyed the picture of Mr. and Mrs. Crawford, who looked alike. She’d cover up the bun in Mrs. Crawford’s hair and say, “Now she’s Mr. Crawford.” Such lovely, happy people in this book.
*I’ve just now thought of another book about contentment: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. But that was a bull. It’s easier for a bull to be content than a person.
Sometimes I think I don’t do enough school in my homeschool. Those are the days when we’ve done all the subjects we need to do in two hours or so. I shouldn’t worry, though. It all evens out. There come days when we do schoolwork all day long. Today, for instance, we began with our normal schedule of schoolwork. I planned on staying home all day, so I decided to work on a fun project we had prepped for a couple weeks ago. This project involved cutting apart paper bags and taping them into large sheets of paper, then tracing my kids on the paper, then cutting out the outlines. Then came the fun/educational part for the kids. They cut out the various words and phrases and sentences they dictated to me a couple weeks ago (things about themselves) and glued them all over their paper bag bodies. Then we hung them up on the walls. Then we read some more of Little Town on the Prairie (We love Almanzo! We love to hate Nellie Oleson!). At some point I had to make supper and feed the calves and cats. We looked at the clouds outside (cirrus, we think) for our new science unit study about clouds. Afterward we came back to the book and the body art. They read the words and acted out the different things (silly! wild! wiggly! sensitive… how do I act sensitive? My son says, “Easy, I’ll punch you and you’ll be sensitive to it.”) We did normal getting-ready-for-bed things. They were still interacting with their fun school project. But then they got too wild and silly and wiggly and I had to put them to bed. But hey! It was a good day.
The Niagara Falls come up in our conversations sometimes. They usually take on a mythical flavor because the kids haven’t been there (or to any big waterfalls). We have read books about daredevils going down the falls in barrels. Even Paddle-to-the-Sea goes down the Niagara Falls. Mirette and Bellini walk across the Niagara Falls on a high wire. The falls show up in poems about America. They are often photographed and painted. But for us, all those things are quiet. I would like to go there someday and feel the spray and hear the roar. I’d like to get dizzy from staring at them so long.
Usually, I’m okay being limited to places I can drive to within an hour or so. I’m okay not going overseas to get immersed in other cultures. I’m fine with Wisconsin. But there really is something about Niagara Falls that makes me want to see it. From a safe distance, of course.
This past week I overheard three Christian ladies counseling a poor woman who was having trouble with her marriage. I wasn’t really eavesdropping. I know all the ladies, but I ended up in the same room as them after their conversation was going already, so I didn’t feel comfortable to join in. Anyway, the good counseling stuck with me. I thought I’d share what I learned.
I learned about something called polarization, where if one spouse is something to an extreme, the other spouse goes to the opposite extreme (either consciously or unconsciously), as if to make up for the other one somehow. Dean and I do that, sometimes. I don’t know that I’d recognize it right away, but knowing that concept might help.
The woman with marriage problems couldn’t see that her situation with her husband would ever change. And this one lady jumps in and says that the more we depend on Jesus and throw our problems on Him, the more we are going to see change. The change may not be in our marital situation, but it will be in our hearts as we grow nearer and nearer to Christ. And different things will be more important or less important. I really like that. I might want someone else to change, but the change that God wants is inside me, not outside me.
I don’t know if the words were what the distressed woman wanted to hear. Probably not. She probably wanted someone to tell her to get a job and leave her husband. That’s the problem with counseling, I think. When it is needed, it is really hard to hear the right things. But when I overhear counseling at a time that I am thinking rationally, and I’m not desperate or in despair, I can really benefit from it! It’s like preventative maintenance. I wonder if I can get my husband to accidentally pop into a counseling session… 🙂
Have you ever read a novel that takes place in your hometown? Maybe if you live someplace like New York City that’s not so amazing, but when you live in rural Wisconsin, a local story featuring familiar restaurants, the library, Main Street, and other recognizable landmarks (the promiscuous statue in front of City Hall) is something worth posting!
The book is called Never So Long As We Live by A. Kragt and L. L. Gappa (2016). I don’t personally know the authors, but I know one of their mothers. It makes it even more special.
Plus, the book has a fairy tale theme. True, it’s a very dark fairy tale theme. This is a murder mystery and a thriller. There are some gruesome things about the story. I stayed up late into the night to finish it (because it’s good, but also because I knew I’d have bad dreams if I left off in one of the scary spots). I did enjoy the characters: two independent young women match up with two very different policemen. The dialog between these characters keeps the pages flipping! As much as I truly enjoyed the characterization and the setting, I believe the dialog is the best thing about the book.
This artist is from Illinois, which explains why the landscape is familiar and home-like to me. Illinois isn’t very far off from Wisconsin. In its sparseness I find comfort. It is simple, not too bright to dazzle me, and not too dark to sadden me. I like the puddles and the straight horizon. I like the two tall trees on the fenceline. I even like the cows, probably because they are just two cows and don’t seem to be the most important thing here.
What is important? If you don’t mind, I’d like to tie in some homeschooling thoughts here. What is important is the stretch of meadow, the expanse to walk through. It is important to have puddles to splash in, and equally important to have dry spots interspersed so you don’t always have to be in the water. Like school, this expanse is regular enough to not be scary and rugged enough to provide special experiences. There is a gate to head toward. There are some things around to attract your attention when you get bored with the puddles. But most of all, the education is the whole expanse you walk through. There’s that gate, but no brick path with arrows. There’s the fence, but lots of space. There are slow, chewing creatures around, and maybe in my metaphor, they are like me, the teacher, and mostly I just watch the student and moo at him occasionally, keep my eye on him, walk toward a new clump of meadow and see if he will follow me there.
I am often more rigid than that, but lately, I’ve been feeling like that meadow-approach is better than other approaches.