April update 2013 (Facebook compilation)

April 6: Down to one row of rabbits! (Californians went to their new home today.) So thankful for the increased breathing room.

April 7: Melody cried, complained, delayed and “forgot” enough.  She wanted a low-maintenance haircut, Jay gave her one before church.

Shaved Melody 3

Sibling reactions (M came out of the bathroom, griShaved Melody 2nning to sShaved Melody 1plit her face).

Sib reaction 1 Sib reaction 2 Sib reaction 3

April 8: Person of Interest is now my favorite show. On so many levels. I don’t gush, but if you asked me to, I could make a starter list below.

  • Short list (since Becky asked), in no particular order (except #1 is #1)
    • 1. huge value placed on the individual– every life is worth protecting, even when you don’t know who they are or what they contribute to society. They are human: one of us, and therefore worth protecting.
    • The style of humor
    • Nobody yells
    • opportunities for “sexy” visuals are minimized or skipped completely (at least compared to the other shows I’ve seen).
      • I just learned the actor who plays John Reese is a practicing Catholic who refused to do a bedroom scene in an earlier movie because of his beliefs. That’s big-points in my book, makes me glad I’m supporting his work.
    • Smart writing
    • Layered, multi-strand stories
    • Things change almost every episode (i.e., no “Status quo is god” stuff. Even core characters appear to grow)
    • core characters are established, then stretched (i.e., “the brain” and “the brawn” have to swap or at least share roles at times.
    • “No one has to walk alone.”

April 9: (Me- shouting to be heard over the girls’ arguing:)

“Natasha and Melody! May I remind you that you will be living together for the next TEN. YEARS. You need to find a way to get along and communicate without yelling at one another.”


*Quiet conversation.* [Bless God.]

Also April 9: E [gasping in the midst of his story]: I barely got away. Had to kill them with my rubber band. They were *really* hard to kill.

April 10: Had my first business presentation tonight. Well-received, and good feedback from my TM mentor.

This is feeling more real by the day.

Next step might be to rework the UT site to be a more-fitting landing page for a business. (ETA: business website is now WritingHope.com instead of UT)

Surreal as well as real. I’m excited and getting into something I’m also good at.

April 13: Cleaned the girls’ room today– by putting each kid’s stuff on her bed.

Stuff always gets left on the floor b/c no one wants to take responsibility. Now that I’ve got the floor clear & vacuumed it’s pretty clear who needs to deal with what.

(Now to see if they finish the aways before bedtime.)

April 17: Anybody else– Okay, any other WOMEN– tired of the “modesty” talks females are repeatedly subjected to? Anybody think it’s time men had their turn? Please enjoy.

April 18: I love this. Especially the bit about finding something that gives you the energy to put the hours in– so true.

April 19: Melody got a new, pre-named toy.

M: Chalky [new toy] doesn’t make me feel ‘safe and cared for’ [the words in his description tag]. *You* make me feel ‘safe and cared for.'”

April 24: Woohoo! Jay got me the first season of Person of Interest for my Bday!

SO fun. Watched the fist two eps tonight.

Only downside is that J likes it too, now, so I can’t just binge my way through the season. :} Have to wait for him.

April 30: “Human beings are the only creatures who are allowed to fail. If an ant fails, it’s dead. But we’re allowed to learn from our mistakes and from our failures. And that’s how I learn, by falling flat on my face and picking myself up and starting all over again.”
? Madeleine L’Engle

Myers-Briggs, phase two: 4 Groups

So a while back I started talking about M-B and how it works.

Phase two is taking the spread of 16 types (2 x 2 x 2 x 2 options works out to 16 distinct combinations) and dividing them into subgroups in order to make generalizations and shortcuts.

Yes, this might be called creating stereotypes, but I prefer to think of them as jumping-off places.  A common language (again) that allows for a starting point from which to look at individual variation.

Convention in M-B discussions does this dividing primarily by combining two letters and describing the characteristics common to types sharing that pair of traits:

  • SJ
  • SP
  • NF
  • NT

These groups conform roughly (depending on whom you read) to the series of divisions throughout history where prominent thinkers also divided humanity into four groups in order to make generalizations.

The most common (or popular?) one when I was in school was an indirect descendant of the “humors” theory using the original Greek terms Choleric, Sanguine, Melancholic, and Phlegmatic.  Thankfully with a broader application and a more complex set of assumptions than personality being caused by an “excess of certain fluids in the body.” (Which was the original explanation.)

The four M-B groups have also been named by various writers and researchers

  • Stabilizers (aka Guardians or SJs)
  • Innovators (aka Artisans or SPs)
  • Catalysts (aka Idealists or NFs)
  • Theorists (aka Rationals or NTs)

Continue reading

The Other Difficulty With Differences

I outlined my basic observation of differences here.

Another angle is that by doing things differently we begin to measure personal success in terms of success of the model we employ.

For example some parents (usually of only one child), directly attribute their child’s good behavior to their exceptional parenting skills.

This could be accurate, or it could be self-delusion.  I tend to take their gushing advice with a grain of salt, wary of such a small sample size.

Just yesterday I was talking with another mom about homeschooling and we were comparing methods (not competing, just finding out. She’s literature-based; I do half our subjects with workbooks and the other half orally).  I felt a warm, cozy comfort at our easy conversation, how we both tied our choices to our personalities and lifestyles, rather than the inherint *rightness* of the method itself.

I said so to her, saying how thankful I am to have several years “this way” behind me now, so I can compare a  track long-enough to let me see both when and how my method really works and when it doesn’t.  But how, over all, it averages out as effective.

My biggest discomfort in these “differences” interactions (whether it’s about parenting or schooling) is when someone attributes to the method what could just as easily be individual variation.  For “failures” or “successes.”

Natasha was reading by age five.  Melody, in the same environment, was still slogging through her phonics workbook at age six.  Some people asked if we were doing the right thing. If we were using the right curriculum.  And I did compare it to some other options, but felt nothing offered more than what we were using already.

Now seven, and nearly finished with those questioned phonics workbooks, Melody has a *solid* foundation that she builds on every day.  She has developed independent study skills, problem-solving skills (we’re still working on focus and speed, but we’ve got time), and I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress she’s made.

~ ~ ~

There is so much individual variation between children that I really think once you have something solid (by any objective standard you can measure), as long as it’s not actually making life more complicated (we had one of those, too), it’s a matter of persevering.

Elisha has begun the same series of workbooks– despite my intent to hold him back one more year– and I can already see that he, like Melody a year ago, isn’t quite clicking with it.

~ ~ ~

I haven’t decided if I’ll do an enforced hold until he’s older (my original plan) or keep working intensively with him.  One of the reasons I love the 50% workbooks approach is that it allows me to work independently too.

The books we use are so gradually advancing that the kids can frequently “self teach,” which is really important to me.  Not because I want to keep them out of my hair (they wouldn’t be homeschooled if that was important to me), but because I se my life as been one long string of self-teaching.

I consider it one of the most-valuable life skills they can learn, so I’m thankful to have found texts that reenforce this value of mine.

~ ~ ~

One of the reasons studying personality has been so important to me is how it allows me incorporate that understanding of equality into interactions where differences could start to look like mistakes. Like someone “getting it wrong.”

What I want to remember, what I want to extend grace over, is that correct can be a lot-broader of a path than I choose to walk myself.

Myers-Briggs and Why it Matters

I’ve referenced M-B a load of times in conversations since March, and figured it was worth while to take a moment to say why. As well as update those who’ve fallen through the cracks.

That is to say, anyone who’s missed out on my jiffy-summaries in real life.

To begin with, I really like what Camile had to say about this being a valuable exercise. It’s not just splitting hairs and certainly not setting up a hierarchy.

But I have one huge reason why I love the framing power of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

The #1 Reason:

It is a vocabulary.

Language is the best way ever discovered of imposing order on reality.  And by having this vocabulary (especially when having it as a shared vocabulary) people can save so. much. time– and emotional angst– that can be better spent on real things, rather than misunderstandings.

Continue reading

If We’re not Striving for Perfect

What’s the alternative?

Has anything is this world been accomplished by pursuing the mediocre? Or the minimum?  Jesus himself set the bar pretty high: Be perfect.

I understand the calls away from such “impossible” standards, though.  We could get terrifically discouraged by never meeting a goal we were seriously striving for. So where’s the middle ground?

One of my measures I use for “appropriate engagement” (if perfectionism is a bad word) is Paul’s admonition “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

I thought that it was brilliant when I first came up with it.  After all, I’m human, and weak and all that, so I’m not shooting too high. And I’m not comparing myself with someone else.

But as I tried actively to apply it I still became discouraged, because, well, I really do have moments of amazing. And they are far less than consistent.

How can I justify that?  How can I explain the difference between that woman who can corral and motivate a dozen children between the ages of 3 and 7, and the woman who has to remind herself to smile and speak kindly to those same delightful children when she’s completely uninterested?

How can I — when I’m not even working on my novel— explain the difference between effortless maintenance of my home and the soul-swallowing discouragement of a kitchen I can’t keep clean.

I don’t quite beat myself up over it, but I have wondered a long time.

When I guessed there might be a hormonal connection I got really discouraged, because here was something completely beyond my control.  It made me feel incredibly weak (or insulted) to imagine I only had a particular ability because of largely random timing. That I couldn’t expect it to last.

It felt so unfair and unnatural.

Then I thought of your typical cold-blooded lizard.

I swear this is not a reflection on my self-image. 😉

Here is a creature *completely* dependent on elements outside its control.

A lizard on a sunny day can seem almost magically fast, energized, and even clever.  That same critter in winter (or in the cool of night) seems like a different animal altogether.

The encouraging thing, if one chooses to see it this way, is that the lizards don’t even try to do the same things (or not to the same level) when it’s not warm enough to engage their full powers.

In addition they have coping/survival skills in place for those anticipated times when they will be vulnerable. They make different choices and behave differently in order to maximize their available resources.

So that’s been my thinking lately– how best to maintain an even keel when the energy is lacking in a particular area. How to have a meaningful double standard for those things I don’t (consistently) soar in.

I am not interested in “curing” perfectionism.  I still strive for it, because I believe in that I am being obedient to Christ. But I maintain hope, because of God’s promise that

He knows what we are made of,
remembering that we are dust.

And I know that if I wasn’t “striving,” I would not have discovered the many delights God was ready to bless me in.

The official Blurb:

Great location! Only five minutes’ walk from the Joy Elementary School playground and five minutes’ driving from Fairbanks’s largest shopping district, this well-maintained home features laminate flooring, fresh paint, and a double vanity in the master suite. Along with extensive counter space and generous cupboards, the kitchen is equipped with a glass-top range and a brand new dishwasher. The kitchen island is perfect for including children in culinary adventures or entertaining guests in the adjoining living room and dining area. The double garage includes a workbench and lots of shelving. Outside, the lawn is well-established in a fully fenced yard and a small garden plot is waiting, with irises already beginning to grow.

~ ~ ~

They kept trying to use the cheezy, Location, location, location, and I said I’d rather have an exclemation point than repitition.

And the kitchen was described as “functional.”

I can’t speak for every woman, but for me that is a red flag word.

Anyway, I feel about this type of blurb as I do myself: even if it isn’t the most attractive, it’s honest and accurate.

“If I’m to be hanged, let it be for something real.”

Ask a simple question…

The children are “ice skating” to their self-created music in the nook normally used as the dining area.

Jay is filling out some huge survey, occasionally trying to engage me by asking questions.

I am trying to cruise through my reconceptualized novel despite the activity, and Jay reads from the survey:

“Do you have trouble concentrating or making decisions?”

Me: “YES!”


This has been the most peaceful trip Jay’s ever been on.

And that was with the 7-years-old birthday party with crafts, donuts and snow-in-the-house.

I can’t imagine it being this peaceful if we had to keep a schedule with the outside world (school, outside work, playdates), but slowing down and doing everything with less intensity.

We’ve gone to bed later, and the kids have slept later, both of which has given me enough of my own space (in the quiet of the house) to maintain a patient, healthy attitude for them.

We’ve continued the 2-chapters-a-day Bible reading Jay started in December, and worked on the house each day as well.

Elisha has, as planned, given up diapers.  This has not (as numerous people seem to predict) resulted in the pre-potty-trained child “making a connection” and using the toilet more.  It does mean he’s mastered the phrase, “I have ah ax-i-dent.”

But, again, the work God is doing in our home (and in me) is such that even multiple changes of clothes and daily laundry haven’t squelched this peace and delight in being together.

I may never be able to articulate everything that has been growing since just before the new year began, but we are currently living in a shower of blessing, and I am grateful for a God who give good gifts.

Opening 2010. Lots going on.

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written here.

A lot’s been going on, but I’ve waited because none of it “stable” enough for me to write about it; to set in stone as “reality.”

But now I figure if I wait till it’s all at that level I might not remember enough to record a bunch of the neat things that God has provided recently.

While Jay was home over the holidays we made a major effort to pull the house together and (since then) to maintain it on a daily basis.  Two weeks now we’ve maintained the house at what I would call a company-ready level. (A *major* accomplishment for us.)

We have two or three “clean-up sessions” a day: one after breakfast, a sweep somewhere between lunch and Jay coming home and sometimes a third before bedtime.  The kids are getting a little better at responding to the daily (small) tidying, but they’re still not fully on board when it comes to the bigger work days (e.g., when there are 6 baskets of laundry to fold and put away).

They are nearly perfect on their morning staples though: beds made, breakfast cleared, jammies away after getting dressed.  I’m relieved at least one set of jobs is becoming automatic.  I use it as hope for the future, that there will come a time when even more things will happen un- (or minimally-) prompted.

A few days before the end of the year Jay initiated family bible reading.

Our church is following the M’Chayne bible-in-a-year reading plan for the second time this year, and Jay began before the year ended with the assignments for those days.  We read two chapters a day “privately” and two Jay reads aloud to everyone.

It’s a total of four chapters a day, a pace I’ve never been able to maintain before, but reading two per morning and snuggling the kids a bit later while Jay reads us the rest; that’s been quite comfortable.  Morning reading works especially well for us because the children are already inclined to be still and snuggly when they first wake, and having scripture be one of the first things they hear in the day seems very appropriate.

Jay started reading to us from the version he reads from (ESV) but now we’re reading from the NIrV, an adaptation of the NIV to a 3rd-grade reading level.

At the beginning of the year I pulled out my cardfile boxes (the only chore system I’ve ever attempted/maintained with a measure of success) and set it up between what I remembered the “guidelines” being and what I felt I needed to maintain.

The original system (that I maintained between Melody’s and Elisha’s births) divided card color based on chore frequency (yellow was daily, blue weekly, green monthly, etc.).  My current system is divided by assignment, and it works very well for us, allowing for a single (mom-maintained) box that everyone–sans Jay– can work from: Blue are mom’s jobs, yellow the kids and pink are school.

Frequency is listed on the top right corner, and as each job is completed (or day ended) the cards are moved to the next day that assignment is scheduled for, allowing for a perpetually renewed to-do list that requires no additional set up on the day of working.

This in intensely useful in two ways:

  • I don’t have to discover/find/remember what needs to be done in a particular day; it’s already laid out.
    • The biggest thing I learned form my exercise in scheduling last year is that anything already settled doesn’t require further energy from me.
  • I know when I’m *DONE*
    • Everybody reading this knows that housework is never finished, that there is always more to do, and if I ever feel discouraged “at home” it is usually for that reason.  With this system I know that I’ve already planned for the proper time/intervals to accomplish everything that needs to be done, so I only need to wait until the next assigned day comes around.

It was toward the end of our first full week of maintaining this system (and the rest of the house, as I mentioned before; the card system helped with that), that I saw some unexpected maturity bumps (as in, leveling up) in both Melody and me.

Actually, all the children seem more level and “secure” to me, and I’ve had (overall) more patience and perspective in parenting as we’ve been closing our days.  There are more factors and elements than the cardfile, of course, but having the clear plan to work with each morning has helped all of those areas.  I pray now that this will continue to be an effective tool.

~ ~ ~

Jay put Elisha in underwear all day his last several days at home, hoping the experience would motivate Elisha to use the toilet more.  It didn’t.

This week (Tuesday, actually) I asked Elisha in some exasperation if he wasn’t ready to leave diapers behind.  He said no, and I asked when he would be ready.

“In a week,” he said matter-of-factly.

Staying calm I carefully asked if he was ready to put his last diaper day on the calendar and he agreed.  So we are looking at January 11 being special to Elisha and Natasha both. (I’m very thankful we don’t have many places to go that week. Lord-willing we’ll have several days to solidify things before church and the busier following week.)

January 11 is special to Natasha because she gets both her birthday and party on the same day.

I’m thankful because she agreed peacefully to a very small party (few people) and that excites me as a chance to do interesting stuff (i.e., slightly complicated stuff) with a smaller group, and I think that will make for a more memorable party.

I “picked up” my novel again for the first time in hmmm, 3 months? and cut over 12,000 words in the first go.  I’ve got another perspective on the story and hope working it into reality will both make it better and bring down the word-count significantly.

Just now those words seem like an, “I’ll eat less and exercise more” resolution in its vague meaninglessness, but I’ll try to refine it as I clarify for myself what they look like in reality.

Today was the first in a series of planning meetings for the 2010 Care Net Sonshine Tea that Mom and I co-chaired last year.

We’ve both committed to lead again this year, hoping before we’re done to form a template for whomever comes after us.

Also this week the girls re-started ballet.

Natasha is more enmeshed than ever, moving gracefully through the day (often with sweeping arm-movements), but Melody indicated she might want out.

It was in a tired-but-lucid moment, and I’m praying about how to handle the question.  I’m beginning to sense the beginning of  a desire to differentiate from her sister– something that has not been very strong up to this point.  I want to support her in that (I sometimes imagine I’m a better parent to Melody than Natasha, having grown up the middle kid), but I don’t want her to leave ballet too soon.

And I had my first ESL (English as a second language) class with the two homeschool moms in my group who asked me in December to teach them.

This was amazing, and I wonder if this is the beginning of the more meaningful friendships with women I’ve been praying for.

In all the “class” was simply perfect.  No matter what I talked about it was useful and of relevance.  These are two smart women fluent enough in English to converse with and listen to me, but new enough that specialized words (bias, paraphrase, paradox, extrapolate) still need explanation.

This resulted in a situation where my tendency to fill most of the conversation (and fill it with extensive–if relevant– tangents covering all manner of life and experience) was perfectly suited for the setting.  I pray this interaction continues to be useful and mutually encouraging.

Melody seems to be picking up her interest in reading.

Earlier this week she read to Elisha a book Natasha read to her. Some of it might have been memorized, but we’d just gotten it from the library and if she can recite after one or two hearings she’s a different kind of genius.

Even so, she used her finger under the words with perfect one-to-one correlation, so at lest some of it was word recognition. I’m very excited for her.

Really, I think I was more excited than she was.  My hanging over her shoulder seemed to unnerve her and she asked what a particular line said before she finished the page.

She’s been watching me giving Natasha spelling tests and has asked for her own.  I think we’ll be starting simple 3-letter words on Monday.

This is what I meant by a maturity bump– she seems becoming aware of the world outside herself and beginning to look for her place in it.  By turns I see in her a desire to fit in, stand out, be independent and be catered to.  This is why I’m moving very slowly (for me) in relation to the question about ballet; she’s still learning her own mind, and I want to let it be her mind that is expressed in the conclusion we reach.

In Value Village last night Natasha was cooing over the horse coloring book we found, burbling about the pictures she was going to color first, when a subdued Melody admitted, “I like horses too.” Natasha expressed genuine surprise. “I thought you just liked kittens!” “I didn’t learn I liked horses till just now.  I’m still learning things about myself.” She sounded defensive and confused.

I assured her it was just fine to continue learning new things about one’s self, and that I’m still learning things about myself too.  She seemed surprised and relieved at this and visibly relaxed.

Another first with Melody was a discussion about her appearance, where I was able to tell her exactly what I find beautiful about her and that seemed to be very effective– not to mention God’s good timing.  (I’ve always been reluctant to complement one child at a time– about the same thing– and to complement everyone at the same time, well, I never trusted that kind of complement, since I couldn’t be sure if it came out of fairness rather than full truth.)

And Melody was the first one up so we had a very sweet and meaningful time together where I could focus just on her.

SO there you have it.  The last couple weeks, basically, but mostly the last three days.

Can’t promise I’ll do better with posting in future, but I know I don’t want to forget these steps.  God’s good faithfulness is beyond words.

~ ~ ~

Last Sunday the topic under discussion was Psalm 1.  The question was offered, What is *BLESSING*?

Most answers thrown out were along the lines of “happy” “good” and variations on that theme, sometimes with material implications.

When I hear “blessing” the word seems more like being wrapped in a huge blanket.

It’s nothing small enough to hand to someone or wrap in another single word.

After a few minutes listening I couldn’t sit quiet any more and burst out, “It’s so much more than something you feel or get!”

I felt an unexpected surge of emotion and felt a desperate need to say more; to say something that had meaning to more than me.  My mind was swirling with the hugeness of what God has given me– the tangible, yes, but so much ineffable beyond that that the physical things are just an outward manifestation of.

I knew I didn’t have much time and I fought to keep the emotion out of my voice as I tried to hold the floor long enough for my words to reach the essence of my thought.  I finally lost the first battle as I won the second: “Have you ever had the feeling like falling back into a ball pit and being completely buried?”

You know, those play places with the bins of light, colorful balls are piled in an area almost deep enough to swim in. At least a few people seemed to know what I was talking about.

That‘s what it feels like God is doing for me.  It continually feels unreal; how so many things just work, how the connections happen, and the *joy* that permeates it all.

“How can I keep from singing?”

About a Week

That’s how long it took me to get from I’m *freezing*! How will I survive winter missing 20 lbs. of insulation? to  *Man* it’s been a long time since I went walking! When’s Jay going to be home?

I took the dog out for a walk to Cold Spot Feed for a pair of oddments, and felt I could have been out twice as long without being either wornout or cold.  It’s been too long…

Fortunately Jay’s agreed to let me dash out on a walk as soon as he gets home from work– to catch the last of the light and get the walk in before we want to put the kids down.