Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The State of Things

It's been a bit crazy, though at least no one has had the flu.

We instituted dire threats (my purse is full of socks and rubber bands) and they are doing better at keeping hands out of mouths. We'll see how long it works.

DOB's feet continue poorly, rapidly followed by the rest of him, and he is now waiting on the insurance company to approve and the doohickey companies to make braces and a shiny new wheelchair so that he can get around again under his own power and hopefully build strength back.

In the meantime, to keep the case load from completely exploding, I've been spending more time at his office. I'm trying to get case management software set up and do random miscellaneous research and drafting projects of the variety that he hates and I love. It works out fairly well, although perhaps I should stop trying to Keep School On Schedule at the same time. Still, it's something we'd like to make work long-term, so maybe I shouldn't.

We finished sorting through the books and now have all the books we want to keep on the shelves. It is a very happy thing. Until we get more books.

The children are planning to go to a church carnival tonight and have, as usual, assembled their own costumes out of things they found in the basement. Someday I hope my children remember me for encouraging their initiative, creativity and independence. That is, I hope they don't remember me for never doing creative things for them.

And in related news (that is, news of relatives), Toolboy's recovery from stomach surgery is not going so well after all and he is flat on his back again until it finishes. Meanwhile, Toolbaby number two is due no later than Friday. Prayers for a rapid recovery and a very smooth delivery would be appreciated.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What are We Good For?

The Veggietales situation as well as an interesting discussion on the homeschool forum that I seldom wish to be snarky on reminds me of one of my ongoing issues as a parent: What is the point of teaching children to behave?

Yes, I have to think through things like this. I cannot do something consistently if I don't have a good reason for doing it. When the children were very small, this lead to conversations with Wondergirl like this:

Wondergirl: Are your children allowed to climb on the coffee table?
Me: I don't know, none of them have gotten up there before. Let me think about it.
Child, falling off the table: WAAAAHHH!!
Me: OK, that's a reason. I guess not.

When it comes to moral behavior, though, I think it's an especially important question. Not only is it important for me to be clear in my mind why I am requiring good behavior of them, it's important for me to communicate it clearly to them.

Most of the books about how to be a Good Christian Parent take the duty of inculcating moral behavior very, very seriously, but I'm not usually very comfortable with the idea of why. Are we hoping to make our children better Christians by teaching them to behave? Well, that's patently wrong. Anything that gives them the impression they are more acceptable in God's sight because they behave themselves is just raising a little Pharisee who won't even think they need a savior. (And, as icky as I find it to imagine saying, "You make Mommy very sad when you do that," I find it ten times ickier to say, "You make Jesus very sad when you do that," as if Jesus gets his feelings hurt and is going to sulk until we apologize nicely.)

Then there are the people who come in opposition to that to say that the point of our parenting should be to reveal to our children just how evil their little hearts are. If we come down off Mount Sinai with smashing tablets, or just preach a come-to-Jesus sermon every time they slug their little brother, we may, someday, lead them to cry 'mercy' and find Jesus. While this has some internal logic, I have yet to see it be effective in practice, leading usually to children who simply give up before they get to the grace part.

I am not the Holy Spirit. I cannot convict of sin. I cannot bring repentance. I cannot bring forgiveness. I cannot bring sanctification. I am just a fellow sinner and recipient of grace, sharing what I know.

So what's the point of teaching them to behave? It's kind of like the exchange between George Bailey and Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life:
George: You don't happen to have 8,000 bucks on you?
Clarence (chuckling): No, we don't use money in Heaven.
George: Well, it comes in real handy down here, bud!

Good behavior isn't needed for Heaven. But it comes in handy down here. It's not always the easiest or most pleasant thing to do, but overall, it was given to us for our good. And knowing about what is right helps us understand more about who God is--about the beauty and order and relationships he made us to have.

Ultimately, we learn to behave simply because it's right. You don't hit your little brother, not because of how it makes Jesus or Mommy feel, but because it's wrong to treat other people that way. Jesus can take our badness (in fact, he already has), but little brother is smooshable and needs to be treated rightly.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hygiene, Fluids, and Why I Don't Care That Much for Veggietales

Some day, we will have had all the stomach viruses there are. Except maybe dysentery, I'm hoping we can skip that.

Another possibility is that we will someday convince the children that licking their hands in public places is not a good idea. But they are like the Bulgy Bears in Prince Caspian and all our prayers and tears and threats cannot seem to keep them from absent-mindedly stuffing them in. 

Anyway, this was the second round this year, though thankfully this one did not affect grownups nearly so severely. I think I had it last week, but mostly I just felt tired and icky for several days. Duchess threw up once, spent the next day moping about and sipping clear fluids, and demanded to start school last Monday.

The rest of the kids waited until this weekend. Dash got it first and worst. By the time we got to Monday morning, he had kept nothing down for four days and was barely opening his eyes. I had tried the full round of hydration tricks to no avail. I took him in to the doctor, who put him on an IV for a couple of hours. That got him coherent enough to comment on the numbers at the pharmacy windows, but not enough to stand on his own two feet. He spent another two days inert on the couch. I figured he was better this morning when he started yelling for more breakfast to be brought. He hadn't spoken above a whimper since Saturday. When he started telling knock-knock jokes, I knew for sure. Dot and Deux were never in danger, but they were still very out of it for a few days.

The funny thing is, thanks to the three messiest children being unable to get up, the house stayed tidier than ever throughout the course of the sickness. They're out busy messing it up right now. But it was good while it lasted.

Yesterday I finally gave in and permitted them to watch some Veggietales to pass the time. We have some Veggietales from pre-children days. We have not, up until now, really allowed them to watch them. But they were handy and it kept everybody from hollering while I took the garbages out and scrubbed the bathroom.

My misgivings about them were confirmed when Dot chirpily said to me at supper, "Did you know God is happy when we share?" In other words, the message is (a) we learn about God so that we can know how to behave properly and (b) our good behavior makes us acceptable to God. Not to mention the whole talking down to children, as if all they can handle is sanitized moralizing in the simplest terms. (This is, after all, a child who carried on a prolonged conversation with me about whether God could be real or not if we couldn't see Him. She can handle richer fare than "God wants us to share.")

I do like the humor in Veggietales. But the only part I really find suitable for impressionable children is Silly Songs with Larry: "If you go a little loopy better keep your nurse well-paid." Now there's an important moral.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Around the block

We squeezed in another trip after summer had officially ended but before the rains came. This one took us all the way around the Olympic Peninsula. Our first stop was at Hurricane Ridge, where we at long last got to go up in the mountains. Everybody is sketching pictures of forest fires in the picture, although there were none visible that day. (There was some smoke blowing over from the Cascades, though. Canada looked pretty hazy.) DOB had the excitement of driving down mountain roads in a new truck with hand controls. We all got to practice being very, very quiet.
The next day we had wanted to go all the way out to Neah Bay, Cape Flattery and the northwesternmost corner of the state (and the contiguous United States), but we decided it was too far of a drive. Instead we settled on lunch at Lake Crescent, which is a dazzling blue lake dropped in the middle of the mountains (and conveniently located right off Highway 101).

We spent the next two nights in a vacation rental on the Bogachiel River, relaxing, throwing rocks in the river, and feeding cows.

Then we ventured on south, to the Hoh Rain Forest. (That's a fallen tree the kids are walking down, in case you can't tell.) It felt pretty dry, for the rain forest, but everything has its season.

Ron managed to persuade a camp robber (gray jay) to eat off his hat. You had to eat fast if you wanted to keep your sandwich.

Our last two nights were down in Pacific Beach and were less photogenic. We took advantage of YMCA reciprocality, found out our favorite nature center was closed during the week, and spent a couple more hours at the beach, which, surprisingly, still had plenty of sand. We did what we could to remedy that, and we watched "Pirates of Penzance" (kids) "The Princess Bride" (everybody, minus the ROUS and Pit of Despair), and "Horatio Hornblower" (grownups).