Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Since I crave cold, slidy things...

Going to try this one later...

Applesauce Gelatin Snacks

What You Need:

4 (1/4oz.) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 C banana, mashed
2 C 100% natural cherry fruit juice
1 C all natural applesauce

How to Make It:

Place the gelatin powder into a large mixing bowl.
Add the mashed bananas and mix together until completely combined.
Pour the juice into a saucepan and place over medium heat.
Fold in the applesauce and allow mixture to come to a rapid boil.
Stir in the banana gelatin mixture.
Continue cooking and stirring constantly for 4 minutes or until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
Pour the mixture into a large rectangle baking pan.
Cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or until firm.

24 Servings

This is a wonderful snack to give to toddlers. Use their favorite juice just be sure it’s a 100% natural. (

P.S. Got a Neti pot... love it... but this infection is big & bad. Now I have a horrible bronchial cough on top of not being able to breathe or talk. At least the headaches are gone. Please pray for my sustenance.

** Edit: I made the gelatin snacks using grape juice, and a banana that wasn't as ripe as it could have been. My assessment is that it tastes like those fruit leather packets you can get in the health-food section. Not bad, definitely fruity, and semi-sweet. It would indeed be a PERFECT snack for a toddler, especially if you'd not let yours get a massive white-sugar-addicted sweet tooth yet. I'm going to try it with a different juice, too, and see if that makes it any different.

So... how big is $100 million, anyway?

Thanks to Jeannette for this little video, that gives a scale for these "big numbers" with a lot of zeroes... I tend to be one of those people who has a "big number problem," so I found this helpful:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Love this Quote!

“The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.”

- Timothy Keller

(HT: Tim Keller Wiki)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An "Heirloom" Tomato

...very brief post before I go back to lie down-- the sinus infection leaves me drained. I'll spare you the details. :) My concert Friday night went really well- the Lord gave me the strength to conduct all 70 kids without collapsing or killing any of them. :) The kids really made me proud-- "Oh Shenandoah" brought down the house! My midwife worked me in that morning and diagnosed the sinus infection (that had me draggin' since Monday), got me on antibiotics, and so I'm sure that helped. The fever's mostly gone, at least! Anyway, I am now 19 weeks along and it's time to update how big our munchkin is! I think I'm done throwing up, but I can't be sure because a nasty side-effect of all the sinus drainage is an irritated stomach. I'm also definitely pregnant-looking now- I had to wear a maternity shirt to conduct! This week I just sort of popped out!

So there you have it-- I conducted a concert carrying around a little tomato, and a lot of bugs. :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A "Baby Gap" in Politics

I somewhat randomly stumbled across this article, from 2004, on the division of America along red-blue lines and its correlation to area fertility rates. It's really very interesting... I'm still thinking about it...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It Was Kind of Like Christmas...

Firstly, because all our Presley family was there.

The "kids table" (hehe yes Ryan & I were still there) at breakfast Sunday morning

Secondly, because I got lots of awesome presents! (sort of =D)

Let me explain: Ryan's mama turned 50 this month (wahoo!!), and to celebrate, we all snuck over the mountains to Grandpa & Grandma Presley's house to surprise her! By "we all" I meant Aunt Karen (Mom's sister), Uncle Jeff, and their daughters Kelly (17) and Kasey (15); Ryan & I, and all his siblings-- Greg & Kendi, Nathan, and Courtney-- and of course the unwitting guest of honor herself, brought ENTIRELY unawares by Ryan's step-dad! Oh it was a great surprise. :) I was on Spring Break, and Ryan's job is now portable, so we took off Thursday night, and arrived in Abingdon, VA around 11 that night. It was a great weekend, and Ryan even got a full day's work in. :) (I got some work done, too... reading for a French curriculum)

The gifts? Well, those were actually hand-me-downs for the baby. :) My Tia Virginia lives in D.C. and so do Greg & Kendi. They very generously agreed to cart 3 boxes full of unisex newborn -3 mos clothes, baby towels, baby gear and an an infant bath tub to us. I had so much fun opening and sorting everything! To think this is just for a little itty bitty baby!

Topping of the german chocolate cake Kendi made (it was from scratch, and from what I heard, it was delectable!). I LOVED the "RSVP" headstone!

The other cake -- a picture of Mom when she was a baby, and another family pic from Greg & Kendi's wedding last fall.

Ryan working hard. I was so proud of him. :)

Candid of Nathan & Mom, who were deep in conversation.

Uncle Jeff & Aunt Karen. Later they regaled us with quotes off of Kelly's blog. HILARIOUS.

Grandpa grilling out for us all. Yummy!

More pics from the weekend are available here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

America's Scariest Drives

This little article on Yahoo Travel, "America's Scariest Drives," made me shudder... and laugh as I thought of your honeymoon horror-drive story, Jacqui! :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Books to Strengthen Resolve and Inspire Integrity

While I love fantasy, I didn't truly delve into them until well into high school. My Dad had whet my appetite with The Hobbit and stories from The Lord of the Rings, and we read Lawhead's Dragon King trilogy together as a bedtime story when I was 8 or so... but as we lived in France, far from libraries of English-speaking books, I read in French and what we had around the house (and what I got for Christmas!). The French aren't known for their fantasy or sci-fi (with the notable exception of Jules Verne). My favorite genre was historical fiction, my bread-and-butter and dearest joy. Sure, I loved mysteries, but they never impacted me like history did. I was forever changed by reading "La Jeunesse d'Une Petite Reine" (the youth of a little queen), a history of Mary, Queen of Scots-- it was the first book to make me cry, and birthed in me a lifelong love for the monarchies and family trees of Europe. That said, here are some of my favorites, roughly in order of age appropriateness:

- Ben & Me, Robert Lawson
- Time Cat, Lloyd Alexander
- Huguenot Garden, Douglas Jones
- Ink on His Fingers, Louise Vernon
- Captive Treasure, Milly Howard
- Sarah, Plain & Tall, Patricia MacLachlan
- Sir Gibbie, George MacDonald
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick - the illustrations make this book a unique experience
- Little House in the Big Woods and all its sequels, Laura Ingalls Wilder (probably single-handedly responsible for my love for "the frontier")
- Life in the Great Ice Age, Michael J. Oard
- The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare
- Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
- Anything by Scott O'Dell; my favorite was The Hawk that Dare Not Hunt By Day
- A Gathering of Days, Joan W. Blos
- The Midwife's Apprentice, Karen Cushman
- The Christian Heritage Series, Nancy Rue (I read "The Salem Years" titles, because they were what I had, but I'm sure the following Williamsburg and Chicago sets are just as good).
- North to Freedom or I Am David, Anne Holm
- Kidnapped and Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
- Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe (yes, it's a loose definition of "historical fiction")
- Across Five Aprils, Irene Hunt
- Rifles for Watie, Harold Keith
- Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates, Mary Mapes Dodge
- The Count of Monte Cristo (my favorite book as a 5th grader), Alexandre Dumas, pere
- The Bronze Bow, Elizabeth George Speare (helped me to love Jesus as never before)
- Little Women and Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
- Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor
- The Slave Dancer, Paula Fox
- I've heard that the G. A. Henty books are really well-loved, especially by boys, but I've never tried them.

- Queen of the Reformation, Charles Ludwig
- The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom (not fiction)
- Mimosa, Amy Carmichael (not fiction)
- Missions & the Millers (short missionary biographies)

One of my favorite things about the "classical method" of teaching is that it roots everything in the flow of history. So a literature unit will often revolve around books set in the time period or place which the student is studying in history or geography. That's when historical fiction comes in SO handy, biographies, too! (Of course other genres are brought in easily, tied in by their thematic elements. And kids are encouraged to read on their own for fun, without being told to do it!)

My Favorite Side-Effects of Prgnancy :)

1. The hiccup.  I don't get "the hiccups."  I get "the hiccup!"  At regular intervals I suddenly have ONE lonely hiccup, then no more!  It cracks me & Ryan up.
2. Loss of my sweet tooth-- bye-bye craving for sweets, coffee and chocolate.  While I still like them in small doses, they just don't sound very appealing to me, and there's no temptation to have "too much."  This is a HUGE plus for me, as my mom, grandma & great-grandma all had at least gestational diabetes!
3. Getting to park in the expectant mothers parking.  I took advantage of this for the first time last week, when I was feeling very sick, and I was SO thankful!
4. The baby bump- tis all I have to show for the past 4 months (so far).  It also makes me able to get away with parking in the expectant moms spot! ;)
5. The ability to eat LOTS of cheese, LOTS of fats, and just about anything else I can keep down, which, unfortunately does not seem to include vitamins.
6. Hearing my baby's heartbeat, feeling him move, and imagining what he already looks like.  It boggles my mind to think that so much of his/her personality, abilities, likes/dislikes, and definitely appearance is already determined by the DNA already replicating in his cells... God already knows him, and I can't wait 'til we do, too!
7. MASSIVE sneeze power.  It's really quite amazing.  I sneeze, and it's an all-body, wall-shattering event.  Mama, mia, indeed! (I couldn't resist the pun)

My least favorite:
1. An incredibly perceptive schnoz-- I smell EVERYTHING!  I can't stand the smell of my own spice cabinet!  Going to the supermarket can be a nightmare, as you can imagine.  Sometimes I push the cart with one hand and cover my nose with another, lol.
2. Unabated, nearly constant, ravenous hunger.  Goodness, I never thought I'd get so tired of eating!
3. Cinnamon-induced heartburn.  While it's an interestingly novel sensation, I miss cinnamon!

And sort of my very favorite/my very least favorite:
Not being able to complete so many of my household chores.  Sure, we're eating and wearing clean clothes, and the bathroom gets overhauled regularly, but... dishes, sweeping, vacuuming, bed-making... these all escape me.  I hate leaving my home in such shambles, but it's been so sweet to have Ryan step up and help in a hundred little ways.  He doesn't complain about eating the same foods over & over (I just make one or two meals a week, and then we re-heat, because I don't usually have more than 1 or 2 evenings good enough to cook), either.  Not that he didn't help before, because he did, but now I guess he has so much more opportunity, and so much in ADDITION to what he already does, as I lay on the couch or in bed, and it just warms my heart.  Having my husband serve me so much is humbling, and so endearing.  I love him all the more for it.  When I feel better I'll kiss him to prove it. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Local, Organic Produce Anyone??

anyone living in Louisville wanting to split a CSA ("Community Supported Agriculture") produce (veggies, greens & some beans & fruits) box with us this summer? The boxes come each week full of organic local produce and we LOVED them last year... but we can't eat a whole box. The price works out to about $6.00 a week, with more than enough for a couple or family with one or two children to eat in a week. It's an awesome deal! PLEASE email or message me if you are interested!  

** Ok, we got it covered! :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Smiles

My Mommy came to visit me for a long Easter weekend.  As a teacher, she doesn't get much time off, either, so it was now-or-never kinda thing!  She hitched a ride with some friends whom my Dad knows through work back in Greenville, and whose kids go to Immanuel (how cool is that!?), and got dropped off at my school on Thursday afternoon.  She got to watch (had to endure?) me teach my last two choir classes of the day, then rode home with me!  We got to go to my Seminary Wives class that night-- she is a huge fan of Dr. Whitney, whose wife teaches my class-- and that was a blessing for both of us.  Friday I had one of my periodic "bad days," and spent the day running to the bathroom and dozing on the couch.  We got to talk a little between bouts of my... sickness... and it was a miracle how all sorts of things around the house were cleaned while I was sick!  Every time my Mom visits, so does our household brownie! ;)  Anyway  Saturday I was feeling a little better so we made the rounds of Peddler Malls (looking for a secondhand dresser/changing table that I can strip and refinish), errands, and maternity clothes shopping.  She even treated me to lunch at P.F. Chang's, my favorite chinese bistro!  It was so nice just to have a mommy to talk to; someone who is glad to listen to all my prattle (hehe she hasn't had to for the past few months, so it's a nice change I guess), who is always on my side by default, who understands pregnancy and marriage and child-rearing, and who is always trying to serve me and my family.  I miss her so much now that she's gone.  I'll get to see her in Canada next month, or else the wait would be so much less bearable-- maybe I'll make it down to visit HER in Greenville this July, but it might be August before I see her, when she comes up to help with the nursery.  Here are a few pictures from our visit... more to come to Facebook soon, and I'll post a link here.

Pre-K Cuteness

Some great quotes from my kiddos:

-- "My brother's the oldest, I'm the middlest, and then my other brother's the youngest."
-- [upon seeing a picture of "Mr. Ryan"] "Oh! It's your very very very cute Daddy!"  When asked WHY he was my "very cute" daddy, the answer was "His very very cute curls."  This from a four-year old curly-head herself.
-- (student:) "You don't live with your Mommy anymore, do you?" (Me:) "No- she lives far away, and I miss her." [student ponders a while, then with the grin of a wonderful new idea:] "I know!  When you grow up, you could marry her!  Then you'll always be together!"  LOLOLOL
-- [upon hearing the likely name of our baby, should she be a girl] "And then when she grows up, I guess you can give her a real name."
-- (Me:) "Remember, never give your name to a stranger on the phone." (Student, laughing hysterically as if I'd just said the funniest thing ever:) "Of course not!  Strangers are only in the FOREST!"
-- [while playing "house"] "Oh no!  The babies are sick!  I think they have RA (rheumatoid arthritis)!! We'd better take them to the doctor!"  [this child's Daddy was recently diagnosed with that disease]
-- [part of a discussion of why I couldn't go to Disney World with her family this summer] "Mr. Ryan could just hold the baby!"
-- "Wealthy.... oooh!  Yike (like) you have yots (lots) of dollars!..." 
-- (discussing a mysterious plant growing in my garden:) "I'll bet it's a killing flower."
-- [while outside, watching a bird flying overhead] (seriously, with no trace of emotion:) "You know, there's a kind of bird that will rip open a child."
-- [on the story of the crucifixion:] "Dat was not nice to kill Jesus.  Dat was not nice at all."  (Sometimes the understatements are harder to take in stride than the crazy things they come up with.)
-- [on the leech sisters of Proverbs 30:15, who are greedy and selfish:] "They need to be born again."

Two isms my kids use:
- "What's us'n gonna do?"  ("What are we going to do?")
- "What that is?"  ("What is that?")

And my current favorite, related to me by a parent:
Parent: "It's hard to obey God sometimes, isn't it?  It's usually easier to sin than do the right thing.  Who do we need to ask for help when we are having a hard time wanting to obey?"
Child: "Ummmm"  (thinks for a while and is totally stumped)
Parent: "Who helps us obey God?"
Child, after thinking for a while again,: "ummmm.... Mrs. Szrama?"

HAHAHAHHA now they're confusing me with the Holy Spirit!!! LOL! 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Our Onion-Turnip

With "week 17" now underway, our little baby is about as big as an onion, and weighs roughly the same as a turnip, lol. Quite vegetable-stewish sounding! He or she is getting bony bones instead of cartilegeous ones, and even has his own unique fingerprints now! I think I felt him kick for the first time in church this morning, while we were LOUDLY singing "Up from the Grave He Arose!" Fitting, huh? I'm not sure that's what it was, of course, but it was a new feeling, one that made me stop and say "now WHAT was that!?" I've been feeling little flutters (against my bladder, heheh) for the past few days, and now I'm wondering if those were little baby saying "Hi, Mommy!" :) We can't wait to find out what to name you, little one-- cooperate on May 4th, ok? (our ultrasound date!) We're selling admission, so if you want a spot to get to be in on the first viewing of our baby, let me know...

Happy Easter!!

Long a favorite of mine, I cannot think of a better hymn to sing on Resurrection Sunday-- indeed a day "gloriously bright!" I was THRILLED when we sang it at church this morning... along with "O Church Arise," "Up From the Grave He Arose (and Ben taught the guys their part, which made my day!!!)" and "Jesus Paid It All." Wonderful to hear God's people rejoicing, remembering this, our Day of Hope!! Amen!! I can't wait to hear such praise forever from perfectly joyful never-tiring tongues in Heaven!

"And we are raised with Him-
Death is dead, Love has won-- Christ has conquered!
And we shall reign with Him,

As we were reminded in church this morning, "He is Risen, indeed!"

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


You know I liked it a lot when I saw it a few months back, and here is a blog post by pastor & author Douglas Wilson that kind of explains why.  

One quote: If I set myself to think of couples in marriages that I think would be greatly helped by watching this movie, I would run out of fingers inside of a minute. I can also think of Christians who would be offended by the schlock, but many of them would be those who know more about how a movie ought to be made than about how a woman ought to be treated. And they would rather watch a movie about a woman being abused so long as the movie was made right than to have the woman treated right in a movie that offended their refined sensibilities. So which is the altar and which is the sacrifice? Makes me think of Augustine's comment about rhetors who cared far more about avoiding grammatical misuse of the word man than they cared about their actual treatment of actual men.
[BTW: The comments following the blog post are interesting and in some cases, unbelievable!  I know I can get hung up on what my friends & I used to call "TCPC crap" (theologically correct politically correct), but some of those commenting take it to a whole new level.  Yikes!  As if people who are used to a counterfeit finding a common jive in the real somehow indicates that the real is deficient... (I mean the allegation that if a Mormon isn't offended by it, the movie must be awful)]

I personally enjoyed a movie with no sex, no nudity, no profanity, and lots of hard real-life love, real "this is so stupid but I still am going to fight with you about it" husband-wife moments, humor, and a clear Gospel presentation.  I LOVED being able to leave feeling only encouraged, without any phrases or scenes to try to block out of my head.  I hope more such movies are made, and that they get better and better and better!  I guess the best way to make that happen is to promote these initial tries (which ARE getting better style-wise), and keep encouraging improvement!

Addendum to the Defense

Ryan pointed out to me that some concerned parents might see a child confusing "pretend magic" with the all-too-real version: the occult as far more dangerous- damning, even- than confusing superpowers with well... gravity.  One could result in life-long or eternal slavery to evil, while another could result in very serious, but temporal, physical injury.  

Remember that any fairy tale your child reads will have magic of some form in it, be it a genie, a fairy, a dryad, a god, a talking creature, or a magician.  If you are to be consistent, you must either A) forbid your child from reading, hearing or seeing any story with any amount of magic in it (including all Disney movies and The Nutcracker), or B) have a conversation with your child about magic early on.  I think it's obvious which one is preferable, and better for your child!! :)  

Having had many such conversations with various children already, here's what I've found most helpful:  "Now, in this story, there are ____ (talking creatures, let's say), aren't there?  Are there really ____ in our world?  No.  God made people in His image, so only they can really think and talk like that.  In stories, sometimes people or animals use magic.  It's just pretend, but it sure is fun to imagine, isn't it!?  In the real world, in our world, there is not magic, but there is Power.  Real people who try to use magic are actually trying to use the power of the Devil or his angels.  Do you think that is pleasing to our God?  No! He is the One with all the power, and if we trust Him, we don't need to try to use the devil's power- that would be wicked."  It's really not that hard for a child to grasp the difference between real power and pretend magic- they pretend to be princes and princesses all the time, or monsters or animals, and they know full well they're none of those things. If you don't make it a huge deal, then they won't either. You'll be able to tell when your child is ready to hear about pretend magic.  Just start talking EARLY, and don't stop!  (this could also come up from the "other side" of real power, when you read about the Witch of Endor in 1 Samuel, or a New Testament deliverance from demon oppression)

This can be followed up later with conversations about power-users in our world and how that is something God hates and which is wicked.  Talks about ghosts and spirits should be handled as they come up-- talks about where souls go after death-- not to haunt the earth but to either love and enjoy God in Heaven or to be consumed by endless regret in Hell...  All these will come up readily, especially if your child is a thinker, a story-spinner or an imaginer... a.k.a. a preschooler. :)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Defense, Cont.

All right. Hopefully I've convinced any doubters about the lack of inherent evil in Harry Potter. There are "bad guys" in Harry Potter, for sure, and there are parts where evil is portrayed as very real. Because of that, it may not be suitable for your youngest readers. The later books deal with teen romance, with (hilarious!) guy-girl misunderstandings and interactions.  VERY helpful and insightful for your older child,  but probably not suitable for your preteens, or not without parental guidance and input. Because of this (and just general good writing) these are great read-aloud books, giving you a chance to guide thinking and discussion of the book, and allowing the entire family to enjoy the same story.  Always, JK Rowling's bad guys are clearly bad, and bad actions are clearly bad actions. Don't get me wrong; the characters are complex, realistically so. Even the "good guys" do bad things, and there are many characters whose goodness or badness is questioned for a time-- but the good comes out in the end and is lauded as good. There is very little moral confusion within the stories.  Rowling herself has said that each book has one or more particular "moral lessons" in it, and they are woven throughout the series. More on this later.

But why would I care enough about these books to defend them? Well, you can go read my big passionate reasons in the previous post... but just because something isn't all bad doesn't mean I want to spend my time defending it. I defend these books in particular because they have so much to offer our children, and all who read them. These books are well-written. They get children in the habit of reading for understanding. Children who wanted hints as to what happened next have been known to re-read the entire book, searching for clues and making predictions. That's critical thinking for you! Mrs. Rowling is without a doubt an amazing story-spinner, and her work shows layer upon layer of thought, planning, meaning, and false leads. Once you've read all 7 and go back to read the first, you'll be amazed at how many "seeds" are there which completely pass undetected. But beyond that. I mean, Dune is a lot like that, but I wouldn't care to spend time defending it and encouraging its reading, especially by children(that's just me personally-- nothing against a book in both my dad & husband's top 10).

What has Harry Potter got, then?  Let's start with the moral lessons:
The true nature and power of love; Harry's mother died to save him, and he must be willing to himself die for his friends to save them.  Lord  Voldemort (the ultimate villain)'s undoing is due to his lack of ability to love.  The preciousness and sanctity of human life, no matter the person's family or background.  The wrongness of racism.  Dedication to truth.  A need to be discerning of what hears or reads in the media or popular culture.  The lack of fear in death for the righteous.  Loyalty to friends.  The need to stand up for what's right, no matter the cost.  Courage-- even to stand up to your friends and tell them what they do NOT want to hear.  The value of family.  Respect for parents and adults (though Harry & his friends do disobey or mouth off at various points (again, realistic) they are expected to take their punishments, and they do.  The family dynamics within the Weasley family are hilarious, and wholesome.  The children are expected to obey their parents, and even the oldest boys quail under their mother's wrath or instantly obey their father's quiet command.)
  I could go on, but it'd be a pretty exhaustive list.  One quote that has gotten me through hard times: "It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live."  Good ol' Dumbledore.

One of my favorite parts of the story is its portrayal of politics and how they usually work (or don't).  Kids reading this book come away with a healthy doubt of politicians, the dangers of the press, the need for freedom of the press, and a reality-check on bureaucracy.  When Lord Voldemort returns, the government's response is to refuse to admit it because of the effect on public morale and their own popularity.  Denial becomes the official policy, and any who doubt are punished and/or taken for fools.  One particularly nasty faction is portrayed --chillingly Pharisaical-- obsessed with "obeying the rules," making more rules, promoting racism and elitism, and glad to inflict severe punishments mercilessly on rule-breakers.  Harry and his friends are taken aback, because these are supposedly the "good guys," on their side against Voldemort.  Harry goes to his godfather for guidance, and I thought Sirius' answer was right on: "Harry, the world's not divided into good people and Death Eaters (Lord Voldemort's followers)."  He goes on to explain how many are just as wicked and wrong, just masquarading behind a facade of "righteousness."  True rightness is seen in justice tempered with mercy, in willingness to forgive and befriend, and ultimately, to die to defend.  

THAT's the kind of stuff I want my children reading, thinking, and talking about.

Friday, April 03, 2009

In Defense of Magic

(cross-posted to my other children's book review website)

Well, I've finally had enough "pushes" to actually do this, something I've contemplated for the past ... goodness... a long time. :) Here I am going to walk all who care to read through a defense of Harry Potter, and of fantasy literature in general. Here goes! Why do I care so much? Because I am passionate about two things: first) leaving people's consciences free where Christ has not bound them, and second) encouraging strong imagination in all people everywhere. There's a third reason, too. I love old stories, the myths, legends, histories so embellished they leave us wondering what actually happened, and those who so vehemently oppose Harry Potter logically have to throw those out, too. The story-teller in me just cringes at the thought of that happening.

The most-launched criticism of Harry Potter is along the lines that it "flirts with the occult," or "takes what is inherently evil and dresses it up in nice clothes that would confuse any child reading it." Scripture is clear in us avoiding even the appearance of evil, so if either allegation were true, I'd have to say "yup. Chuck the books, and don't encourage any child you know to read them."

Before I truly delve in, I'd like to ask a separate question: is any book with any bad character in it "an imitation of evil"? Well, obviously not! The Bible is full of examples of both truly wicked men, and men who made truly evil choices, though they themselves were not wholly given to evil. What the Bible does in every situation, though, is to clearly label sin as sin, and condemn it as evil. We are very seldom left to wonder God's opinion of any action His creation has done. So "bad guys" in stories cannot be inherently dangerous. Princes always have to save the Princess from SOME dangerous foe, right? (of course parents have to exercise caution and not expose their children to things that will unduly scar or terrify them) What is dangerous and unedifying is a story wherein "good" & "bad" characters were unclear or confused. 

Now on to this idea of HP being an imitation of evil. Most people jump to that conclusion because they've heard that the books are about kids learning to practice witchcraft. If I were a mom and I heard that, I'd want to take a second look, too! But that's if you understand "witchcraft" as it exists in the real, factual world. Here, witches and sorcerers seek contact with real spirits-- either demonic or dead-- and seek to manipulate real, existing spiritual power. We call this "invocative magic" because it invokes a being of supernatural power. As a Christian, I know that there are indeed powerful forces at work in our world-- forces of the Devil and his minions. Real-life witchcraft is not something to play at; it is something to hate as opposed to my Father and Savior. Real-live witches and wizards are seeking to play god, and they are immersing themselves into waters deeper than they understand. Is Harry Potter about that kind of witchcraft? Anyone who's read it will say emphatically, "no!" Just like any fiction, the author has freedom to re-write the laws of his/her book's world. In some books, animals can talk. Are those animals possessed by demons or evil spirits? No. It's just a different "thing that is" in that book's world. In other tales, beans grow to the sky and there are geese who lay golden eggs. Are those beans operating by demonic forces? No. It's "magic." Think about all the fairy tales, legends and myths you have ever heard... 1001 Arabian Nights... Grimm's fairytales... Greek/Roman myths... Egyptian spinxes... Irish myths of faeries and the dangerous shape-shifting sidhe... Rapunzel... Superman... pretty much ANY culture's "fairy tales" deal with magic in some way, shape or form. There are genies, dryads, enchanters, fairy godmothers, and magical creatures (centaurs, dragons, fairies, pixies, unicorns, pegases). Are these operating by evil powers? Well, it all depends on the "rules" in their homeworlds. Those fictitious worlds have different laws, sure and abiding as gravity. It's just "the way things "are."" That's how the magic is in Harry Potter. It's part of a whole fictitional system JRR Tolkien has created, including broomsticks, wands, dragons, giants, spell words, potions and the usual ingredients of any good fairy tale. Harry and his friends don't learn to do magic by invoking the powers of demons; they learn do "do" magic. That's it. This is known as "incantational magic"- where no being is being invoked, but rather certain words (incantations) have certain effects.  Nothing else about it. It's a skill that they have to hone, sure as real-live human children have to work to write, work sums and reason. So, to those of you who say "magic can't be separated from the occult," I say it can. And if you hold that it truly can't, I think you'd better start getting rid of your fairy tale books, your mythology, your legends, and all your superhero comic books.

One argument I've heard is that children can't tell the difference between the harmless "it is because it is in that world" magic of HP and Wicca. Well, my friend John tried to leap off his porch at the age of 5- wearing a bedsheet - because he thought it would make him fly like Superman. Clearly, he hadn't differentiated fact & fiction. Does that mean Superman is inherently dangerous and evil. No. It means he wasn't old enough to process it without parental guidance yet. So don't throw it out... maybe just wait until he's 9 to let him see it.

Far MORE dangerous to your child (or your)'s moral compass are shows like Avatar (which I love in spite of this...), with its clear Buddhist worldview, or Star Wars, whose Force belies a thinly disguised Buddhist/ New Age worldview. Another clear risk is Pullman's The Golden Compass, despite its original story line and very cool armored bears. Its author set out to write a story teaching children that God is dead and that the church is the source of our societal problems-- and as one who has read this story, it is clear within the series. That is a story I would keep children from reading, and would allow teenagers who wanted to read it to read it only with discussion and guidance from godly adults (aka me & Ryan as their parents).

All right, I've more to say but I need to leave the computer now. More tomorrow! 'Til then, go enjoy the imagination God gave you and some very talented story-weavers! :)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ryan & I

This most recent family pic was taken at Adam & Felicia Pryor's wedding in March. Ahh, the ever-growing hair of my husband. Don't worry; mine is STILL longer. At church the other day, an usher greeted us as "the long-haired couple." So at least Baby will know who Daddy is and who Mommy is... that and the fact that Ryan keeps shouting into my belly... should keep the poor tyke fleeing to Mommy's NON-threatening voice... :)

And this was just me having fun with the camera while waiting for the bridal party to come in...