Saturday, June 28, 2008

You Can Call Me Old-Fashioned


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

Mothers are Like Roses

“Aren’t you supposed to prune this?” my husband asked, gesturing to the climbing rose, going on three years old, that is now almost as high as our house.

“Yes, I should,” I responded wistfully.

My ultimate goal is for roses of all varieties to take over my yard, crawling all over the house, gardens, fences, and other outdoor hardscape.

It is difficult for me to grasp the fact that by cutting back I will get more. When I see a new bush finally bloom forth its first rose, I know the best thing for the bush is to clip the rose and put it in a vase. But to take the one flower it has to show, seems to me like depriving it of its very rose-ness.

I do have one new rose bush, a miniature ever-blooming prairie bush, which has filled vases in every room of the house all through the month of June and promises to continue to do likewise for several weeks to come. Each small, delicate branch must have a dozen small roses. All I need is one cut and I have a bouquet to reward one of the girls for cleaning her room, or to grace the kitchen table, or accent the dining room.

You can see from the picture where I have cut ruthlessly. New, strong, lively red branches sprout from a once-delicate section of the bush. I can only imagine what kind of hardy plant will be coming back next spring in its place.

With my fingers carefully searching for a five-leaflet above which to prune, I think of how mothers are like roses, and God the gardener that prunes us.

Society tells us that our beauty has been stolen by pregnancy and childbirth, but in its place is strength and beauty of another, more mature quality. We give and give to our children, as the rose bush yields its flowers, only to be cut off. The fragrance and visual loveliness brings joy to a room for several days before fading away. A thoughtful person may harvest its petals to extend the flowers’ usefulness even further. If the stems had remained uncut, the petals would have eventually dropped, with no new flower taking its place.

Roses need food and water, but not too much. Too much food fries the plant, and too much water produces mold. Mothers need to tend to themselves, but not in an indulgent fashion.

Injuries must be mended by the gardener, so that disease will not enter the plant. Sometimes this requires further, careful cutting with a sharp knife, followed by a kind and careful looking-after. The rose must yield to its caretaker. We must yield to our maker.

Roses have thorns, and so do we. They are still considered the most prized of all the flowers, maybe because they are so difficult. An easier plant to care for might not be so highly valued.

“I am a flower of Sharon, a lily of the valley.” Song of Songs 2:1

Saturday, June 21, 2008

First Day of Summer

No, I did not have writers’ block this week. I was just really, really busy!

School was over for my children at 10:30 A.M. this Thursday. I had spent the week getting things done that I knew I would have difficulty doing with them all home. I thought of a friend who, upon my changeover from homeschooling to Catholic School, asked me, “Are you going to become one of those moms who can’t wait for their kids to leave for school?”

I do know people who say they dread having their children home for the summer. I believe I have blogged on this before, but I think the topic begs revisiting after my second full year of having my children in school. Have I become one of those moms?

No, I have not. I do believe I have struck quite a happy balance, enjoying both the times with all my kids home and the times without. While they are gone, I am happy that they are in a nurturing environment with wonderful, loving, Christ-loving teachers who are imparting the same values as us in a different venue. I hear the stories of their friends in school, and have met many of them, and am thankful they are able to spend quality time with other nice children.

When they are home, I remember all of the older mothers who have stopped me in the stores and said, “This time goes by so fast. Enjoy it while you can.” I feel like there is so much living to be done in the time we have together. Because the time is less, I treasure it all the more.

My nine-year-old’s friend came home with her on the bus. She stayed until dinner time, after which we went to get my son’s fifth pair of glasses for the year. We polished off the day with a trip to the library. We brought all the kids’ summer recommended reading lists so they could pick which books they wanted to read for the summer.

Our first full day home, Friday, we went shoe shopping. I caught one of the BOGO sales at Payless Shoe Source and was able to get two pairs of wedding shoes for my girls (who will be junior bridesmaids at my sister’s wedding); two pairs of school shoes for my son (in his present size as well as the next size); and two pairs of flip-flips (for me and my eleven-year old, who is now a half-size bigger than me).

We had a tough time finding school shoes for the girls. The kids’ shoe department stops at size 4 ½. Then women’s shoes starts at size 5. But a size 7 women’s is the same as a size 4 girl’s. Can anyone explain that to me? We have to try to find a women’s shoe that fits my girls’ feet. “Why don’t they make children’s shoes in larger sizes?” my girls wanted to know. I would like to know the same thing.

We went to another store, where my eleven-year old found a quality pair that were a “cool” style. I guess they don’t say “cool” anymore, but it still means the same thing to me, ala Billy Joel. My nine-year-old tried on three pairs and hated them all. She said she was the only one who did not go shopping and I tried to explain that one is still technically “shopping”, even if one does not purchase anything.

Today my next-door-neighbor’s three children came over for two hours. Then my kids went over to her house for two hours. Upon their return, my daughters reported that my son had misbehaved over there. We required that he write an apology note and my husband escorted him to deliver it.

I found some more treasures over at my across-the-street-neighbor’s moving sale. An eight-foot-ladder, some baskets, a toaster oven, a VCR, and some plywood. My husband would like for me to stop bringing home other people’s junk.

It has been a delightful week! I hope the summer has much more of the same in store for us!

“As long as the earth lasts,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
and day and night
shall not cease.”

Genesis 8:22

Painting: The Boating Party by Mary Cassatt

Sunday, June 15, 2008

When the Fastest Way is the Longest Way

How long does it take to change a flat bicycle tire?

If you’re me, it takes 7 days.

“7 days!” You may think, “And with all the bicycling you do!”

My parents wisely taught me that “Haste Makes Waste,” a saying I always think of when I am hastily cleaning a counter and knock over a glass of water. Or when I try to water my hanging angel plant without taking it down, and it spills all over my dining room furniture.

But it can also apply to using shortcuts rather than following proper protocol when trying to fix things. Inevitably the shortcut will come to bite you and you will wind up wasting lots and lots of time and having to do it the long way in the end.

This is what happened in the unhappy case of my bicycle tire. In fact, this silly problem has caused me such distress that I have been unable to write for several days!

The back tire had been slowly losing air ever since I last changed it in the spring. Almost every time I wanted to ride, I had to put some more air in. Not wanting to spend the amount of time it had taken me to fix the tire in the spring, I tried every shortcut I could.

While in the auto parts store, I picked up a can of instant flat tire fix. You spray it into the tire and it instantly blows it up and takes care of the hole. I did this and it was very messy! It also did not last. ($5 wasted and a big mess of smelly white fuzz in my garage; happily I was wearing my glasses and did not get sprayed in the eyes.)

Then I picked up some bike “slime” that is also put into the tire. It finds the hole and blocks it up. This also did not last. (Another $5 wasted and green slime all over the tire and garage floor.)

DAY 1. I finally decided to go and fix the tire. Not wanting another flat, I thought I would try the tube that is pre-filled with green slime, so that in case of a puncture it would not go flat. I have a 27-inch tire and purchased a 26-inch tube because it was the largest size they carried. I stretched it to fit. Then I had to really struggle to get the tire to fit over the tube. This took so long that I had to leave the bicycle upside-down on the front porch overnight and leave it to the next day.

DAY 2. Two hours and two sore thumbs later, I put about 10 pounds of air into the tire before checking to make sure the edges were properly fit into the rim. I noticed that a small amount of tube was sticking out of the tire. I went to push it in. I was now working in the dark, so my face was very close to the tire.

BOOM! It was like a firecracker went off in my ear, on the left side. I screamed and ran into the house. I took some ibuprofen, afraid that I had burst my eardrum. Soon the pain started, interestingly in the right ear. Thankfully, the pain went away within two hours and no permanent damage was done.

DAY 3. The next day, I found a half-inch hole where the tube had burst. Another $6 down the drain, on top of much hard labor and all my pains.

DAYS 4 – 5. I tried to patch the hole, but the green slime kept coming out and would not let the patches adhere to the tube. I stuck some painters’ tape over it and it finally held some air. I kept trying to put air in it for two days.

DAY 6. Finally, I went to the store and got a good old-fashioned $3 tube, the right size this time, and had it on within an hour. But it was already too late to ride, so I had to leave the testing until the next day.

DAY 7. We are now able to ride again – 7 days later – and I am able to write again!

“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
Matthew 7:26-27

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The L-Shaped Room

Just in case you thought the recent boom in “she’s having her baby” movies was a modern one, I would like to bring to your attention the 1962 black-and-white movie “The L-Shaped Room”.

Leslie Caron plays Jane Fossett, an unmarried French woman who goes to London in her second month of pregnancy, hoping to live out the duration in relative anonymity before returning home. Although she hides her situation from her fellow boarders, she does seek out medical advice and reveals that she had left the father of her own accord. She later confides that she had had a moment of weakness with this fellow, losing her virginity and becoming impregnated at the same time.

She soon finds that no-one seems to think she should have the baby. The obstetrician makes an appointment for her to terminate the pregnancy, assuming that was what was warranted. She leaves, insulted and determined to keep the baby. Another boarder, who overhears her telephone call to the doctor, offers her pills to end the pregnancy. She puts them in her pocket and leaves.

In a rash and terrible moment, she takes the pills. When she collapses in the street, she is brought to a hospital, where she finally receives some quality prenatal care. She is thankful that the abortive attempt was unsuccessful. The film ends with a healthy birth and an open ending as to how a romantic interest might play out.

This is a wonderful movie starring an excellent actress. Some adult situations, mild in comparison with today's films. I would preview this film before viewing it with your older teenage daughter.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Great Gatsby and the Heat of June

Today was a scorcher – relatively speaking – for us Long Islanders who have had little prelude to summer. Our pool was not yet open and the air conditioning not ready to be turned on. My bicycle had a flat tire.

We took turns putting our feet in the baby’s kiddie pool, which is about one yard in diameter. When she got tired of it, we dumped it for safety’s sake.

Then we could think of nothing to do. A rarety for us! My husband was out in the yard mowing, soaking in the rays and uncomplaining.

This morning we had purchased a student desk from our neighbor who was moving. I told my eldest daughter, the recipient, to spray it down with Liquid Gold before bringing it in. I think the polish got all over the front porch and we all brought it in on our feet, because later on the front hallway felt slippery. I gave it a quick mop, which I believe spread the Liquid Gold in a thin sheen that spread across the entire floor, which runs the length of my house from front to back.

When the baby got up from her nap, she noticed the floor looked wet, and was wisely hesitant to walk on it. I told my 9-year-old daughter to mop the floor with soap. Still the floor was slippery. Then my 11-year-old daughter mopped it, to no avail. So the baby was stuck in the living room, as were we.

Everyone was complaining.

“It’s too hot.”

“I’m too tired.”

I thought of the long, boring chapter in The Great Gatsby in which Nick accompanies his bickering acquaintances to a hot, upper-story apartment in a non-descript part of town. They are all sitting around, drinking cocktails and getting on each other’s nerves. I remember reading that in high school and not being able to make much sense out of that particular chapter. When I reread it last year, the long, drawn-out scene still irritated me and eventually put me to sleep.

As I thought of that, I wondered how I could put this story into my blog, and what moral I could tell with it. Could I write myself a lesson to get out of my own unpleasant mood?

I could think of nothing, and our own long, drawn-out scene soon played itself out. The shade appeared and we were able to enjoy the backyard once again. We barbecued and put the baby to bed. The kids were ordered to watch “Snow White”, as a lesson on how to “whistle while you work”, while I gave the floor the most elbow-grease it has gotten in a year.

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” Phillipians 2:14

You can read "The Great Gatsby", by F. Scott Fitzgerald, online at this link.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fighting a Caspian-like Battle on the Home Front

I took the children to see Prince Caspian this weekend. I thought the movie was incredibly well-done. One of the great things about movies based on classic literature is that you basically know what you will be getting. In fact, very rarely will I take the children to see any movie that is not based upon a book that I have read. Even if the movie is rated G, there may be materials I find objectionable because they run counter to our beliefs. Or, it might be so inane that I find it a waste of our time and mental energy.

Caspian was rated PG for violence, but it was not senseless violence. As scary as the battle scenes may be, you know the good side is going to beat the evil side. And good and evil are clearly defined. Children also need to know that there are battles worth fighting.

Just like many of our American men felt a strong urge to go fight for our country after the attacks on 9/11/01, I came out of the movie with a desire to fight for something worthwhile. After making dinner and cleaning up, I did a cross-stitch while the children watched a BBC version of Prince Caspian that we had on VHS.

How can I fight for something worthwhile? I thought, thinking that I was doing next-to-nothing. To paraphrase A.A. Milne in his Winnie-the-Pooh stories, Christopher Robin says that “nothing” is what you tell your parents you’re doing when you go outside to play. We all know the importance of childhood playtime. So, “Nothing” can actually be “something” worthwhile.

I pondered that for a while and realized that the “nothing” I was presently doing was really quite something. I was enjoying my children while they filled their minds with great stories. I was relaxing, taking delight in the wonderful family life God has granted us. I was making a handmade gift for someone, something the family in that household can take joy from for many years to come, rather than writing out a check or buying something off a registry.

We mothers are indeed fighting a holy war in our homes. We are fighting a culture that says things are more important than people, morals are relative, and God is a creation of our minds.

King Miraz feared the truth and brainwashed his people until they came to believe that the Narnians were extinct. The secular establishment fears the righteous, and brainwashes us through the media, textbooks, and schools to believe that really good people are extinct. Good politicians are considered oxymorons, brides are generally assumed to be unworthy of wearing white, men are believed to be incapable of remaining faithful in both mind and body, and religion is held to be something for the weak-minded.

In the book, Prince Caspian’s nurse (who was not mentioned in the movie) was sent away for disobeying the king. She and the tutor who takes her place, Doctor Cornelius, raise a righteous leader by defying the King and secretly telling the child all the stories of Narnia. Like them, we can do our part in bringing up righteous citizens by instilling God’s Word in our children’s hearts and rearing them in homes that live uprightly.

“Rather, the law of the Lord is their joy; God’s law they study day and night.”
Psalm 1:3