The Birthday Club: Time to Stroll Lowell

Do you have trouble finding time to get together with your friends no matter how much you want to be together? I’ve found that “time” has gotten to be more of an issue than ever before. Who would have guessed you get busier as you get older? I remember my father joking after he retired that he needed to go back to work so he could take a week off. Thirty years ago, I just thought it was funny. Now, I know what he meant!

Nevertheless, six weeks after the fact, Susan, Cindi, and I met up for a “Stroll through Lowell” (Michigan) to celebrate my birthday!

We started with coffee and tea at the new coffee shop, Brody’s Be (actually in Ada, the little berg next door to Lowell).

Brody’s Be was inspired by Brody’s mom, who opened her heart to make room in this world for the developmentally disabled, starting with her Down Syndrome son.

It was a great place to fill our cups and souls, remembering again how God can bring joy out of sorrow and goodness from grief.

Lowell is a little community about eighteen miles east of Grand Rapids, and it looks like it’s straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie! (They have a Christmas Parade coming up on December 7th that looks like it’s going to be a really fun event.)

Lowell has all sorts of cute shops on their Main St., and although I didn’t think I had anything on my “Wish List” as we wandered about, I quickly found several items that I’d actually been wanting but hadn’t taken time to track down in Grand Rapids, such as some blue netting for my orchid plants and a Christmas Advent calendar. Springrove Variety also has great prices on their spices. Believe it or not, this tiny 5&10 cent store saved me both time and money! Who would have thought?!!

After just enough shopping to get a flavor for the town and whet our appetites, the girls took me to the Flat Iron Grill for lunch. Definitely excellent food, and the company—as always—was unparalleled! 🙂

However, we were apparently taking a tour of all the best eateries in the area as well as enjoying the shopping, because “the best” in desserts (according to hearsay Susan had learned) was to be found at the Sweet Seasons Bakery, which is renowned for providing cheesecakes for certain celebrities in town.

I tried their pumpkin cheesecake, and it was wonderful . . . definitely worth attempting to imitate!! (I’ll work on it!)

Of course, no party would be complete without cards or gifts, and I got both!

Among several thoughtful and useful gifts, I particularly enjoyed the children’s book Cindi gave me, called Miss Rumphius (because, she said, it reminded her of me). I know my grandchildren are going to love this book about a librarian who travels the world and scatters flower seeds!

“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.”

Susan found “the perfect” card that says it all. What would the world be without friends?

Ability Weavers: Weaving with a Purpose

We finished our stroll through Lowell with a four-hour craft project, making handmade rugs and table runners. I hope to tell you more about our experience weaving, but for today, I want to share that this weaving shop, “Ability Weavers,” is another not-for-profit ministry borne out of the love of a mother for her autistic daughter with a heart to provide meaningful employment for people with disabilities.

Honestly, I was blown away by the commitment of these two families in caring and providing for their disabled kids. Beryl (in the photo above) was a pharmacist who gave up her career in order to start a business where her daughter (and others with special needs) could have work, respect, and hope. They pay more than minimum wage and provide an opportunity for many young people to contribute to society by making beautiful rugs. Isn’t this brilliant? Praise God for mothers who sacrifice themselves and choose to invest their time and energy in their children and communities!

One last sidebar, and I’ll quit, but I’m halfway through reading Kisses from Katie. Oh, wow! If you want to read a wonderful (true) story of love for those in need, read this! It will break your heart and make your day! Talk about using time well and living with the purpose of loving others!

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”
(Psalm 9:9)

The B.I.B.L.E . . .What is That?

Did you know that “Bible” simply means “book” in both Greek (Byblos) and Latin (Biblia)? It’s THE book. It is the best book in the world, and it’s also the best-selling book in the world. If you haven’t read it yet, then may I invite you to try reading just one chapter today? Granted, there are many passages in the Bible that are not easy to understand, but the Bible does come with the promise that it will speak to you if you listen. If you find the Bible puzzling or confusing, try this method of Bible meditation, which was recommended by my pastor this past Sunday in church:

  1. Pick a passage. Any passage. We were studying Isaiah 55 in church, which is so beautiful that I memorized it as a girl. That would be one good option. Or, you could just open your Bible and read whatever chapter comes up, or you could try one of the traditional “favorites,” such as Psalm 1, John 14, Romans 12, or 1 Corinthians 13.
  2. Sit down and pray before you start reading, asking God to speak to you through the passage. If you don’t believe in God, ask God to reveal himself to you if he is real . . . to give you a sense of his presence and his love for you. Listen for a still, small voice in your heart! Quiet yourself and clear your mind. If you are aware of any sin or rebellion in your heart against God—anything that makes you angry so that you really don’t even WANT to believe in God, even if he does exist—confess it to God. If you want to get to know God, you have to be “real” with him, too! Ask him to give you a desire to know him, to forgive you for any way in which you’ve been resisting him or deceiving yourself, and to cleanse your heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
  3. Read the passage thoughtfully, noticing anything that stands out to you. Is there anything at all that strikes you as true, or strange, or mysterious, or wise? Find something to “meditate” on . . . to chew on, like a cow chewing on her cud. Ponder its meaning.
  4. Think through how this passage or verse might apply to you today. Is there a good example to follow? A bad example to avoid? A bit of wisdom to remember? Something that might: impact a relationship? help with making a decision? prompt you to an action, change your direction in some area of your life? Find one nugget of thought to take away from your study, and ask God for the grace to allow this insight to impact your life in a positive way.
  5. Share what you’ve been thinking about with a friend. Also, this type of meditative study of the Bible can be done in community. You could read a passage with someone you love and work together on thinking through what the passage might mean. For many years, we were part of a small group that worked together, chapter by chapter, week by week, through many books in the Bible, doing just this! The more you study, the more you can test your thoughts against other passages from the Bible to make sure your thinking is clear and correct, good and true!
  6. Trust God to produce good spiritual fruit in your life from this practice. Meditation is like watering your soul. It might not change your life in a day, but it will change your life for good over time. That’s why it’s called “spiritual life” and “spiritual growth.” It’s not magic, but it’s even better! It’s transformation: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

The Bible, God’s Word, is alive in a way that no other book is. It’s a light to guide us, a sword to help us discern good and evil. It’s sweeter than honey, pure, and true. It’s like a hammer to convict us and help us change where we need it. Through studying the Bible, we find wisdom, understanding, and eternal life. If you’ve read it once or twice, don’t quit! I think I’m on about my 50+ time of meditating my way through its pages, and I keep finding new insights and understand more passages that seemed esoteric before. Become a life-long spiritual learner! If you want to get to know God, or know him better, there is no better way! Besides, the Bible comes with this guarantee: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Want success? Try meditating daily on the Bible for one month, and see if it doesn’t make a positive difference in your life.

(Just to get you started if you can’t think of a passage you want to read! Here is Isaiah 55.)

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.

Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Saying Goodbye to Christopher Robin

Although I grew up cherishing Winnie-the-Pooh stories, my children grew up practically quoting some of the stories by heart, and a couple of my grandchildren remind me of Christopher Robin (like this one, whom I’ve been visiting the last while, and who’s recently become a big brother, again!),

I never knew much about A.A. Milne, who authored the tales of Christopher Robin and his plush playmates. Goodbye, Christopher Robin (2017, PG, rated 7.1 on IMDb) tells the heart-rending back story of the Milne family.                 A.A. Milne, and his wife Dorothy, were rich British socialites.

In the movie, the real Christopher Robin (nicknamed “Billy Moon” by his parents) appears to have been largely neglected by his mother, although according to his biography, it was his mother who came into the nursery and told him stories about what Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends did and said, and he felt that it was his mother who actually created most of the ideas for Milne’s books. However, it was absolutely true that little Billy was very devoted to his nanny, Olive, who was responsible for his daily care. (I gather this is often true for children who grow up with caring nannies!) Milne had suffered severely from (probable) PTSD after serving in World War I and wished to use his talents as an author to write something that would inspire the world to stop resorting to war as a way of “resolving” conflicts.

Although Milne published a serious plea against war, Peace with Honour, he became famous for was his playful, four-book series based on his son and the little boy’s stuffed animals. These books were incredibly successful, and the Milne family became extremely rich!

Billy Moon (aka Christopher Robin) didn’t mind becoming a celebrity as a child…until he was sent away to boarding school at age eight, where he was mercilessly bullied for his fame.

In response, Billy enlisted in the army during World War II, where he contracted malaria and took some shrapnel to his head (although he recovered completely). It was during the war that Billy came to terms with all the difficulties in his life, because he realized that the Winnie-the-Pooh stories helped people recover from the pain and disillusionment of war by allowing them to retreat into the happy bliss of childhood innocence. Since the original books were written (almost 100 years ago), they have never been out of print, and they have sold over 20 million copies in 50 languages! However, Christopher Robin never accepted royalties from any of the books.  Instead, he married his cousin, Lesley de Sélincourt, founded the Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth, and wrote a book of his own, Enchanted Places, finding it more gratifying to make his own life rather than live in his father’s shadow.

Now, you may fairly criticize me for telling you so much of the story, but in order to experience all the depth of pathos and charm, I highly recommend that you see Goodbye Christopher Robin for yourself! It made me appreciate that life is always much more complicated and difficult than we can ever imagine, and even the joyous affirmations of innocent childhood—in the real world—often come at great cost.

I also want to say that, unlike Christopher Robin, who didn’t want to stand in his father’s shadow, I am eternally grateful for our loving heavenly Father, who invites us all to stand safely under His shadow! “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice” (Psalm 63:7).

               Beneath the Cross of Jesus
(Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868)

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch that wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Savior’s cross to me, a ladder up to heaven.

There lies beneath its shadow but on the further side
The darkness of an awful grave that gapes both deep and wide
And there between us stands the cross two arms outstretched to save
A watchman set to guard the way from that eternal grave.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

grand daughter holding 1st edition copies of winnie the poohP.S.—While I was helping out with my new grandson in Italy this July, my son’s landlord graciously took  us on a tour of his villa, and guess what? This Italian count has first edition copies of all the Winnie the Pooh books, so they really have been famous the world around!



Overcoming the Green-Eyed Monster

“Nana, I just overcame the Green-eyed Monster!” Amélie announced with bright-eyed pleasure. “Sophie’s present is bigger than mine, but I don’t mind.”  Since the girls have been with us, I’ve probably read through all the Berenstain Bear books multiple times (as has Uncle Joel and other doting adults).  The books date back to the  years my kids were growing up, and they tell stories about children grappling with all the common challenges kids face, such as the importance of telling the truth and learning good manners, dealing with friends (and not so friendly kids), going to school, the dentist, church, etc.  The authors (and those of us caregivers who read them) are definitely trying to instill good habits and moral values into our kids, but you never really know seriously kids are taking the lessons.  The Green-eyed Monster is about learning to overcome envy, and what a joy to see Amélie’s excitement over understanding the problem and implementing the solution in her own life!  Weary caregivers, take heart! Little ones do hear. I think most people hear. May we be faithful to keep planting seeds of Truth into the lives of those we love!

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).                                          “Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness”

“Show a little bit of love and kindness,
Never go around with hatred’s blindness,
Take a little time to reach for joy, and wear a happy face!
Sing a little bit when the days are dreary!
Give a little help to a friend that’s weary!
That’s the way to make the world a happy place!

“Sing a song! Spread some cheer!
There are sad and lonely people everywhere!
Be a friend. Show some love.
It will lift them from the dungeons of despair.

“Offer help! Bring some hope!
Through the fainting and discourage on life’s road!
See a need! Lend a hand!
There are many who are crushed beneath life’s load!”
(—I don’t know who composed this children’s chorus; do  you?)

Have You Considered Giving The Gift of Love This Christmas?

gift-love-dvd-lgLooking for a sweet Christmas story to watch this holiday season? Alan found an old adaptation of O. Henry’s immortal short story, “The Gift of the Magi,” which was turned into a G-rated costume drama back in 1978 and stars Marie Osmond. The world of video stores and DVD’s didn’t exist back then, and as we didn’t go to the movies per se, we totally missed this charming classic. It got an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.5 by IMDb, and Alan and I shared it over a bowl of popcorn, feeling warm and fuzzy the entire time. couple-skating-in-the-gift-of-love-1978In this story, the hero is a poor Swiss immigrant and the heroine is from an affluent family, and I won’t tell you anymore because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it comes down to what we’ve all learned over the years: True love expresses itself in self Christmas, I hope we all find ways of giving the gift of love to those around us, whether or not they’re lovable! There’s a world of hurting people out there who need love and compassion, and even with our kith and kin it’s often hard to be self-sacrificing. Shall we try anyway??  🙂singing-at-piano-in-the-gift-of-love-1978-movie

Beloved, let us love one another,  for love is from God,
and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God
” (1 John 4:7, 

Rewriting Stories: Jungle Book

jungle-book-coverHave you seen Disney’s new version of The Jungle Book? How did you like it?  jungle-book-2I’d definitely recommend it, and I especially loved their fantastic graphics.
The world of reality and imagination are merging at an incredible pace!

jungle-book-3Although I appreciated the advances in sophisticated graphic design techniques, the movie was a little disappointing to me. It was scarier and less humorous than Disney’s original cartoon classic…more tension; less relaxation and fun. jungle-book-cartoon-versionAdmittedly, I own a copy of Disney’s original version, and we’ve watched it so often as a family (kids and now grand kids) that we know all the songs by heart and use classic lines to pepper our family’s own peculiar inside-joke culture. baloo-and-mowgli-singing-in-disneys-jungle-bookSo, I guess I’m not surprised that the new version is a bit of a let down. Who can forget all the good song and dance routines, and who will never miss them?  🙂

mowgli-1895-illustration-by-j-lockwood-kipling-father-of-rudyard-kiplingHowever, I was doing okay until the ending. What? No romantic “happily ever after”? In Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Mowgli enters the village, is adopted by a human family, marries, and has a son of his own, which is portended in Disney’s original cartoon version. The thought of Mowgli spending his life in the jungle is simply unacceptable to me! I want all my endings to be happy, and “happy” usually ends with wedding bells and a “happily ever after.”

Thankfully, my comfort isn’t riding on how accurately Disney portrays Kipling’s book, but my comfort is riding on how accurately churches portray the end of the Christian story. The Bible is clear that there will be a happily ever after ending for all who believe and come to the Lamb of God. If you go to a church where they’ve rewritten the ending to the story of life, I hope you’re not content. Find a church where the story of man’s need for redemption and the marriage supper of the Lamb is still told!   summer-sun-and-cloudsThen a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.‘”
(Revelation 19:5-9, NIV)


Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for the Ninth Month, Week 39)

Baby Reid Smiling_2299267. Anticipating Needs

“And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

PRAYER: Dear Jehovah-Shammah, thank you for being our Lord who is present with us all the time! Thank you for Jesus Christ, who is our advocate, our mediator, our intercessor…the one who prays for us when no one else even knows what we need! Thank you that so often you know what we need and provide for us even before we think to ask you! Help me to be such a wise and wonderful advocate and intercessor for Baby, too! May your Holy Spirit whisper in my ear: “This is the way, walk in it!”…and bless me with the energy and grace to obey!

THOUGHT: I nursed Aaron (and all seven of my kids) last thing at night until he was over a year old. I’ve since been told that this is hard on teeth, although all seven of the kids loved the quiet, relaxed bonding ala bedtime snack. But, often babies wake up and cry to be held more after being put to bed. When the baby just couldn’t seem to settle down to sleep, I would sit beside the crib in my rocking chair, reach my hand through the slats of the crib, and gently massage the baby’s back or pat his diapered little bottom while singing softly to him.

ACTIVITY: Sometimes long songs with almost monotonous tunes are great for lulling kids to sleep, and one of my favorite for such occasions was “Over in the Meadow.” Turtle on log“Over in the Meadow”

(Written by Olive A. Wadsworth in the 1800’s) “Over in the meadow in the sand and the sun, lived an old mother turtle, and her little turtle one. ‘Dig!’ said the mother. ‘I dig,’ said the one. So they dug all day in the sand and the sun.

Over in the meadow where the stream runs blue, lived an old mother fish, and her little fishies two.‘Swim!’ said the mother. ‘We swim,’ said the two. So they swam all day where the stream runs blue.

Over in the meadow in a hole in a tree, lived an old mother bluebird, and her little birdies three. ‘Sing!’ said the mother. ‘We sing,’ said the three. So they sang and were glad in their hole in the tree.

Over in the meadow in the reeds on the shore, lived an old mother muskrat and her little ratties four. ‘Dive!’ said the mother. ‘We dive!’ said the four. So they dived and they burrowed in the reeds on the shore.

Over in the meadow in a snug beehive, lived a mother honeybee and her little bees five. ‘Buzz!’ said the mother. ‘We buzz!’ said the five. So they buzzed and they hummed in the snug beehive.

Over in the meadow in a nest built of sticks, lived a black mother crow and her little crows six. ‘Caw!’ said the mother. ‘We caw!’ said the six. So they cawed and they called in their nest built of sticks.

Over in the meadow where the grass is so even, lived a gay mother cricket and her little crickets seven. ‘Chirp!’ said the mother. ‘We chirp!’ said the seven. So they chirped cheery notes in the grass soft and even.

Over in the meadow on the old, mossy gate, lived an old mother lizard and her little lizards eight. ‘Bask!’ said the mother. ‘We bask!’ said the eight. So they basked in the sun on the old mossy gate.

Over in the meadow where the quiet pools shine, lived an old mother frog and her little froggies nine. ‘Croak!’ said the mother. ‘We croak!’ said the nine. So they croaked and they splashed where the quiet pools shine.

Over in the meadow in a sly little den, lived a gray mother spider and her little spiders ten. ‘Spin!’ said the mother. ‘We spin!’ said the ten. So they spun lacy webs in their sly little den.”

Sick mom and baby268. Sick Days

“And the people…followed him [Jesus]: and he received them, and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.” Luke 9:11

PRAYER: Oh Father, I love all the names you’ve given us in your word to help us understand more about who you are! Thank you for being “Jehovah-Rapha”…the Lord who is our healer. It is so hard to be sick, and so very, very hard to take care of Baby when I’m sick. Thank you for being our healer! Help me to be take good care of baby even when I’m feeling yukky. Please heal us quickly and completely when we get ill, and whenever I’m seriously ill, please provide others to help take care of both Baby and me.

THOUGHT: What can be done for fun when Mama is too sick to take care of everybody?

ACTIVITY: If Baby’s well enough, one special treat would be to send him off with Daddy to a McDonald’s Play Park or other fast food restaurant with an amusement area for children. Baby and Daddy can bond (and bring supper home to Mom) while Mom gets caught up on her sleep! Or, a special trip to a park with a drive-through stop for fast food on the way home works too. Babies love being “in arms” to swing, go down slides or through tunnels. In fact, most babies love tunnels and small spaces. If you find that your baby really loves the tunnel experience, there are lots of toy companies that sell vinyl tunnels for play at home Or, Daddy and Baby could make a simple supper for Mama together and then go on a “camping trip” where they eat their finger food picnic (like cheese bits, tiny crackers, apple chunks, raisins, etc.) in a tent made out of a sheet draped over a broom secured over the tops of two chairs (with a plastic sheet underneath if you’re on a carpeted surface). When Mom get’s better, she can join in the fun again.

Flower. Mom. Baby269. Of Flowers and Birds

“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” Song of Solomon 2:12

PRAYER: Dear Heavenly bridegroom—my Lord Jesus, you have been called the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valleys, and it’s been said that even your name is more fragrant than the perfume of roses and lilies. Thank you for loving us and calling us to yourself to become your bride! Thank you also for the Holy Spirit, who came like a heavenly dove to rest on Jesus and whispers in our ears. May we hear your voice singing and joying over us. Bless Baby and me with ears to hear and respond to your melodies of love!

THOUGHT: Have you taught Baby to recognize the sight and sounds of birds?Blackbird in lakeACTIVITY: When he sees one, say, “Bird!” excitedly, pointing to the bird, and then make a gesture for bird. I used to imitate birds by flapping my arms like wings, but the American Sign Language sign for “bird” is to take your forefinger and thumb and pinch them together several times with your hand close to your mouth, as if you’re imitating a bird opening and closing its beak. See if you can get Baby to imitate you. He might be able to get out a “brr” sound, but if not, he may be able to make the “bird” sign, and the next time he sees a bird, he may be able to let you know just what he sees and remembers! You might also sing this little nursery song to Baby:

“Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty black birds, baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.
Now wasn’t this a dainty dish to set before the king!”

Kissing and Baby270. Love and Kisses

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.”
Song of Solomon 1:2

PRAYER: Dear LORD God, thank you for being Jehovah-Nissi, “the Lord our banner.” Truly you have purchased me with your blood, sealed me with your Holy Spirit, and fly your banner of possession over me. But, I love it, because I know from the Song of Solomon 2:4 that your banner over me is love! Thank you for being my banner! Thank you that the “flag” and guiding principle of my life is you, and you are love. Bless Baby, dear LORD! I pray that you will claim her for yourself, draw her to yourself, and protect her from all evil with your banner of love. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

THOUGHT: I may be stepping on toes, but it is my firm belief that husbands needs our undivided, private attention at night…every night, and that one of the greatest gifts we can give our husbands is the freedom to love us body, soul, and spirit without having to compete with the needs of our children for hours after they’ve been tucked into bed. Obviously, if an infant cries, you’re going to want to check out what’s going on so that he isn’t neglected, but please give your husband the gift of your undistracted love for at least part of the night!

ACTIVITY: Is there anything more precious than giving and receiving love? When Aaron got big enough to give us kisses, it sent us right to baby heaven! Here is a gentle kissing game that Baby will love! As you say the rhyme, kiss Baby on each place mentioned, ending with three kisses on his forehead and a big hug:

“Kiss your fingers, kiss your toes, kiss your cheek and kiss your nose.
Kiss your ear and kiss your hair. Kiss my baby everywhere!”

Bring on the Books!271. Doubly Good

“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.” Isaiah 49:13

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for being my father and mother! Thank you for being El-Shaddai. I’ve heard that this means “God of the Mountains,” or “God Almighty,” but I’ve also heard that this means “The Breasted One” and I know that you are the nourisher and sustainer of all life. Thank you for being all that Baby and I, and our family, need!

THOUGHT: Reciting nursery rhymes—especially if it’s done so often over the course of the child’s early years that she spontaneously memorizes them—is actually far from frivolous. Rather, it’s considered excellent preparation for learning to read because it teaches “phonemic awareness.” Reading requires several skills, but one important one is learning to understand the idea of component sounds within words. For this reason, being able to hear, create, imitate, and eventually recognize on a page word pairs helps the child recognize similarity in word sounds and is an important precursor to reading acquisition.

ACTIVITY: So, bring on Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss! Invest in some classic children’s poetry, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and don’t be afraid to sing some of those silly little songs that you’ve heard forever! Here’s a favorite that all my kids would recognize and my mother used to sing to me (both of my grandmothers went by the name “Daisy”):

“Daisy, daisy, give me your answer do!” (Clap hands together.)
“I’m half crazy, all for the love of you!” (Put hands up to Baby’s cheeks.)
“It won’t be a stylish marriage.” (Shrug shoulders and bring hands up and out.)
“I can’t afford a carriage. (Shake head sadly “no.”)
“But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat…” (Point to Baby.)
“Of a bicycle built for two!” (Make pedaling movements, then hug Baby.)

Baby's Office. Special Space to Play272. Limits and Freedoms

“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29

PRAYER: Ah, Holy Father. You are El-Elyon, the “most high God.” You are the great lawgiver. You rule over the raging of the sea, and you appoint the number of days that we will live. You tell us what should be, and what we should and should not do. You are also our judge…“the Judge of all the earth” that Abraham knew would always do right! Help Baby and me to trust you with every day and every decision of our lives. May we rest content with what we cannot understand or change, and may we treasure those things which are revealed to us so that we will be wise and obey you, knowing that your commands are for our good and given because you love us and want us to be blessed. Help me to be a wise lawgiver for Baby. May the rules in our home be based on love for all and a desire for Baby to be safe and happy rather than ever on selfish convenience.

THOUGHT: If you haven’t already thought of this, it may be a great time to give Baby his very own cupboard or kitchen drawer. I called Aaron’s his “tiny treasure drawer.”

ACTIVITY: If you can spare a space for Baby that is totally his, he will find great freedom and pleasure in having something that isn’t “off limits,” and he will love having his own space in the kitchen while you’re busy working there. Baby will feel loved and honored, and I also believe having some privileges makes it easier for a child to accept the fact that he has limits too! Besides, children love surprises, new toys (that can be old household items), small gifts, little spaces, tiny treasures, and discovering secrets! Slip in a little surprise from time to time, and see how much he loves his very own space!

Feeding Baby273. Sign Language

“For the abundance of milk that they shall give, he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.” Isaiah 7:22

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you are my shepherd, Jehovah-Rohi…the good shepherd! Thank you for leading us and providing your goodness and mercy to follow us as we go.

THOUGHT: Baby is now old enough to begin understanding the concept of “more.” “Do you want more?” You might use a gesture such as making fists and knocking your knuckles together. This is called a baby sign. Teach Baby some signs, and pretty soon she will be communicating with some dignified sign language as well as grunts and squeals! (“More” and “All done!” were two of Grandson Reuben’s most helpful and commonly used signs.) There are various camps on the sign language issue. My son, Aaron, and his wife, Carleen, used American Sign Language (ASL) rather than baby signs per se, since ASL is more standardized and universal so logically would seem to have more long-term use.

ACTIVITY: Baby can probably start understanding some simple concepts, nouns, and verbs. It will take her many months before she can begin to speak the words or count for you, but you can start helping her understand the names for various objects and the idea of one, two, three, and a bunch. If you make it a part of finger feeding, she will soon know what you mean. “Look at the strawberries! One, two, three” (as you point to them). “Here is a sandwich: one sandwich.” “Here are a three grapes: one, two, three!” (just halves so she doesn’t choke). “Here are two crackers.” You can ask her questions too: “Would you like one slice of banana or two?” (Hold out your hands, one with one slice and the other with two slices, and see which one she picks.)

The Armstrong Archives (93): Childcraft Bliss

Friday, January 9, 1981 The boys are just finishing some very fierce wolf and bat paper plate masks from the Make and Do Childcraft book. We have been having an absolutely marvelous time with your Christmas presents! We’ve read 200 pages out of the Animal Kingdom book. And 100 pages out of the Children Everywhere book. Each of the sixteen books is about 300 pages long, so I suspect it will take us a year to get through all of them! The only one that’s too hard right now is the Mathemagic book. The games—or at least many of them—are still too hard for Aaron. Alan and I are going great guns on the encyclopedias and Atlas, thinking about all the places we may consider when we get ready to settle. Aaron also uses them to find out what color bats are or how the state of Michigan looks, etc. So, we just wanted to tell you again—THANKS! What a fantastic treasure of presents! [In many ways the internet has superseded the treasure found in encyclopedias, although the Childcraft books are probably still excellent resources for small children.]

J’s sleeping. He has a new tooth and is a real leg-climber these days. He begs for somebody to take him walking. We all went to the dentist Tuesday. Neither of the boys have any cavities, but they got a good lecture on candy and gum. Wednesday after lunch Aaron got some gum out of his Christmas candy. “Aaron, we’re not supposed to chew gum!” Michael reprimanded. Aaron looked sick, spit out the gum, threw the rest of the unused gum in the trash, and BRUSHED HIS TEETH! Boy, I hope that keeps us! So, skip the gum!

Monday, January 12, 1981  It’s a sunshiny, snowy afternoon. Alan worked all last night (got a nap from 5:10-6:00 am), so he got off early. He took Aaron ice-skating! They’ll be home soon for supper, and then Alan’s going to crash for the night. Michael was disappointed, but he and Jonathan are playing now, so he seems pretty content.

We’ve almost decided not to start Aaron [turning five in the fall] in school. We have one more week to decide. He has been working in some preschool workbooks I got and does very well. We observed in the kindergarten class last week. There are just lots of pros and cons.

Monday, January 19, 1981 It’s a gorgeous day out! Alan and the boys have really been enjoying the winter. They’ve been sledding several times and skating twice. Aaron can actually skate now, but Michael is still trying to just stand up and step forward. He’s only ‘Free” you know! (However, thanks to Grandpa, he can say “Th…ree.”)

Did I tell you we’ve had a couple of gourmet candlelight diners with the boys? We even got them to try wilted spinach salad, mushroom caps, cauliflower soup, etc. We use our real china and cloth napkins, etc, and practice good manners. We wait until J’s asleep, and the bigger boys really respond well!

We finished the Animal Kingdom book and are now working on the Planet World (with stories, etc. from the others). We also use the encyclopedias daily. For example, this week we discovered that the Challenger Deep is deeper than Mt. Everest is high, camels can go over a month without water (sometimes) and are slower than horses, chameleons have sticky bulbs on the end of their tongues, etc. Aaron used an encyclopedia to paint you this picture of a chameleon catching a grasshopper. [on the backside of one page of this letter] He asks all sorts of questions, and we run right over to the encyclopedias to see if can find out the answers! The Childcraft and World Book sets fit perfectly on one shelf of our bookcase, and we keep them at fingertip reach by the reading chair in the living room. We just love them!!!

Last Friday we took the boys to Weber’s Inn for a very special treat. The boys and I spent all afternoon in the pool. Aaron is a good swimmer now (with his water wings on) and is very independent as long as I watch him carefully. Michael is still quite hesitant when the water’s cold. He went down the slide once but Alan (who was supposed to catch him) missed, and after that he preferred climbing up and down the stairs to our room.AA93:07.12.14 Michael 1981[At this age, I’d have Aaron and Michael paint picutures  for Grandma and Grandpa and then after they dried, I’d use the unpainted side as stationery.]

 Tuesday, January 27, 1981  We’re spending a quiet Tuesday doing the mending, sewing, building a giant castle in the sandbox, watching the snow, and listening to “Bog’s” organ music. Remember the big box we had in the basement? Well, we took apart the box that the exercise bike came in and made the table into a “lower floor” of a clubhouse with a foam rubber pad. The box on top is now the second floor of their clubhouse, and the “jumpoline” sits right under the door so they can jump from the table onto the trampoline.

We just got out February World magazine and read it through from cover to cover while Jonny napped. The boys are great animal lovers, and this issue had articles on angora rabbits and arctic foxes, so there was no stopping until I’d read everything! Actually, we usually read at least an hour every day, and I think I learn as much and enjoy it as much as they do. Aaron is starting to surprise Alan with all sorts of new things that he knows.

Jonathan is going from “rug rat” to upright monkey. He is almost big enough to bump his head on the bottom of the kitchen table and bathroom sink…imagine such a tiny little bit of real humanity. He spends most of his time scavenging for onions, potatoes, or other delectable treats from the cupboards, banging pans, or sitting in the middle of the legos suitcase kicking his heels and smiling coyly at Aaron. I’m amazed at how patient the “big guys” are, and I’m so glad, because if Jonny weren’t well-loved, he could really be frustrating to them at this stage of explore and destroy!

Aaron has been wanting me to teach him to read, so we usually have “school” a little every day. I hope I don’t teach him “the wrong way” if such exists. Next week, when he has a small basic vocabulary of words he recognizes, I’ll go to the library and look for some books on how to teach reading and some beginning readers.

One of my girl friend’s (Betsy D., who’s expecting twins in five weeks) husband is in the hospital (nothing serious), so I’ve been keeping her little girl. She’s almost Michael’s age and they really play together well. Michael reminds me a lot of your Robert. He is really smooth socially and knows just how to get along with everybody.

[The Childcraft books are no longer being printed, although I noticed there is one complete set that you can buy through Etsy for $110, which includes 18 volumes (1975-1978 annuals included). My kids and I read them pretty much from cover to cover, and some got quite worn from repeated use.]




Abishai Learns His ABC’s

LookingOur grandkids love Abishai, our German shepherd, and since our oldest Scaringgrandchildren are now learning how to read, I thought it might be fun to make Restingan ABC book of dog pictures…a bit more challenging to read, but hopefully fun!AccompanyingACCOMPANYINGBitingBITINGComingCOMING DrinkingDRINKING EatingEATING FocusingFOCUSING Guarding RuGUARDING (AS ALL GOOD SHEPHERDS DO) Helping JoelHELPING (OR AT LEAST HE THINKS HE IS) InvestigatingINVESTIGATING JumpingJUMPING Knowing where he's going...KNOWING (WHERE HE IS GOING) Looking AroundLOOKING LoungingLOUNGING MarkingMARKING (THE TRAIL SO HE WON’T GET LOST) NappingNAPPING OrganizingORGANIZING (OR AT LEAST HE’D LIKE TO BE) PlayingPLAYING QuestioningQUESTIONING RollingROLLING ShepherdingSHEPHERDINGSittingSITTINGSubmittingSUBMITTING (HE CAN DO ALL SORTS OF THINGS THAT START WITH S) TrackingTRACKING UnderstandingUNDERSTANDING (SEE HOW HE HAS SEEN THE LIGHT! 🙂 ) SuggestingVERIFYING (WHICH WAY SHALL WE GO?) VerifyingWATCHING AND WALKING RespondingX-TREME SPORTING…X-ERCISING…X-TRA HAPPY…HMMMM…YawningYAWNING X-treme sportingZIPPING

      “All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small,          All things wise and wonderful,  The Lord God made them all.”                                —Cecil Francis Alexander