A Nigerian cook, air bubbles and homeschooling

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/harrison-odjegba-okene-survived-3-days-in-air-bubble-under-water-1.2449565

Okene, a Nigerian tugboat cook, was trapped under 100 feet of water in a small bathroom—a bathroom turned air bubble that saved his life. After 72* hours, just 7 hours shy of the approximate time it would take to succumb to carbon dioxide toxicity**, he was rescued by divers who were there to retrieve dead bodies. An air bubble. Divine Providence. Wow.

Sometimes in my homemaker/homeschooling mom role the air gets a bit stale. The chores, the discipline, the planning & prepping, the “I’m-just-keeping-up” . . . it wears me down to a dull nub. The excitement of projects in my head in juxtaposition with necessary basics a constant battle; wishing for hot air balloon days versus working through phonics . . . Where’s the balance? Where’s the escape hatch?

But after reading about Okene, a man whom God did not forget–a man assumed lost at sea, I realized that perhaps I am not giving God credit for the one thing sustaining my life: His Providence and an air bubble.

The Lord knows what we need before we even ask Him. Our food and water will be sure. He hides us in the cleft of a Rock to protect us from the elements. This is the oxygen in our air bubble. But we must breathe in, and deeply. On days when I feel under water with my four children and traveling husband, just getting that precious oxygen into my lungs is a challenge. I’m assuming I’m not alone in our homeschooling world . . .

A personal time with God, reading & praying, is breathing that oxygen to the fullest. And then there are little things we can do to decompress on the way to the surface; stops that prevent deadly nitrogen from building up in our blood and provide safety as we travel upward.

Recently, one of those decompression stops found me. I can’t claim credit: I was only a frustrated, tired mom with a crying baby and a 3 year old who refused to nap. In desperation, I plopped in the rocker with the baby, proceeded to nurse her and instructed my 3 and 7 year olds to sit on the couch and “bring me a book”! It was the beginning of a beautiful ritual in our house.

Reading Time brings out the best in us all. My 7 year old boy, not necessarily a reluctant reader, but not one to voluntarily read by himself, has a stack of “read already” books in his room growing by the day. Reading aloud has inspired him to explore other material on his own! The baby falls asleep hearing words she’s not been exposed to; a positive thing for a child who is making new developmental strides every day. Reading provides a physical break (rest time!) for the 3-turned-4 year old who otherwise won’t stop moving. It’s an hour or two of mental gymnastics rather than jumping on the bed when she should be napping! And I get a rest. No, it’s not all by myself, but it’s enough.

Reading to my children gives us physical closeness and rest, adventures to share, and a quietness that’s almost sacred to us now. We treasure the time set apart for reading together. I choose books that my older son read before I even had the chance to crack them, so the reading is of interest to me, as well! In four months, we have traversed the wilderness and prairie with the first three “The Little House on the Prairie” books, laughed and wondered with four of Sam Campbell’s books, and reminisced with “Grandma’s Attic”.

If for some reason our Bible story has been cut short or missed, Reading Time catches us up with Bible, too. It’s a good time for conversations about living in Bible times or discussing matters of spiritual importance. For example, my 7 year old is studying ancient history. One day his reading was about Greece: their brass weaponry and physical prowess. It just so happened that I’d been reading about the prophecies of Daniel 2. Since it was just simple enough for him to understand, I read an excerpt to him during Reading Time. How excited he was to be able to contribute his knowledge to the conversation! He clearly understood the symbolism of gold (Babylon), silver (Medo-Persia), brass/bronze (Greece) and iron (Rome) in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision! We could have accomplished this during “school time”, but Reading Time made the subject matter seem less “scholastic” and much more fun.

Reading Time is a decompression tool, and I’m thankful for it. I’m also learning to be thankful for my air bubble—and if the air is stale, that’s my own fault. God has provided me with all I need. Resting in Him is the challenge.

Does Reading Time sound like a much-needed break for your family? Or is there another activity or method for decompression in your household you could share? Homeschooling is a gift, but how do you keep the air from becoming stale? Inspire us! And blessings to you as you breathe more fully what God provides.

 

*The 72 hour figure comes from the referenced link. Other sources, including National Geographic, have reported that Okene was trapped underwater for 60 hours.

**Source for estimations of Okene’s air supply and carbon dioxide toxicity calculations: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131204-nigerian-air-bubble-survival-shipwreck-viral-video-science/

Where Am I?

 

It is a beautiful, warm summer here in Australia and my friend and I were enjoying the lovely beach together. We had driven to a bay of sparkling waters of varied hues of blue, that lapped gently onto white, clean sands. Scattered across the beach were clusters of content people all enjoying the refreshing waters. We placed our beach bags and towels in an easily accessible place on the sand, and with our body boards in hand, we strolled into the cooling waters. We were busy chatting and laughing in the spirit of friendship as we lay on our boards floating under the warm, summer sun as a gentle breeze played lightly on the waters. We were captivated by the little grey fish swimming safely in schools beneath us. Stinger-free jellyfish intrigued us as they maneuvered gracefully through the calm waters beside us. Suddenly we looked up at the sandy shoreline and unknown to us, we had drifted slowly down the beach, still close to shore, but away from our belongings. We had been so happily absorbed in the treasured moments of friendship and the delights of the sea creatures that we had failed to recognise that we were slowly being carried away with the gentle current beneath us. It took some effort on our behalf to swim against the flow but we soon made it back to our starting point.

The new year is upon is. This is often a time to reflect on the varied goals we have or have not accomplished in the past year. This is often a time to ponder and maybe implement new objectives, new plans and new ideas for the family. It’s a time of the wonderment of a new year spread out before us.  At this time I pause to thoughtfully consider the question, am I where I want to be spiritually? Have I been so busy, preoccupied and caught up in life that I have drifted unknowingly from that quiet place close to Jesus’s heart? Do I need to retrace my steps and get back to where God wants me to be?

May this new year find us all  in close fellowship with Him and as the year progresses may we not stray but keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him.

1 Peter 3:15 “But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts..” NET

Bring Nature Indoors

 

One of my favorite authors writes that “nature study should be an important part of your child’s daily program. This may include working with plants, pots, or window boxes indoors, or a bigger garden outdoors; collecting, identifying, and classifying leaves, rocks, shells, etc.; starting a nature experiment; or taking a walk to see what can be found to study.” [Home Grown Kids, p. 154]

Sometimes weather conditions, living conditions, and circumstances make daily nature study difficult.  Videos, pictures, books, etc. can fill the gap, but when a child or adult finds something live to touch, see, and experience, natures lessons are clearly illustrated at the highest levels of learning and comprehension.  Let’s explore one way that nature can be studied in a controlled environment in the home.

 

Bringing nature into the house is fun and a fresh way to see how things grow in their own, self-contained ecosystem.  A terrarium can be made out of a variety of glass containers and are a beautiful addition to any living space.  To make a terrarium you will need:

1)  Natural materials from nature:  if possible, take a walk in the woods or along a creek bank to gather small plants and objects (violets, wild ginger, moss, rocks, twigs).  Visit a plant nursery and/or the plant and flower department at the supermarket.  Select and buy several small houseplants (2″ containers or 6-pack containers).

2)  Purchase or gather materials for the foundation.  You will need to layer, in this order, charcoal, gravel, and potting soil.



3)  Find a container that is large and clear with an open top. WalMart has brandy snifters and clear glass vases that will work for a terrarium.  A fish bowl or fish tank also works nicely.  After experienced has been gained in building terrariums, you might want to use a large, commercial-style glass water bottle.  The opening is small, but with a straightened, wire coat hanger, you can place plants and objects in the container to create a beautiful terrarium.

4)  Make sure your glass container is sparkling clean.  It is more difficult to polish the glass after it is filled with soil and plants.

 

5)  Then, place a layer of charcoal in the base of the container.  If using purchased charcoal, be sure it is a type that does not have chemicals or petroleum added.  If the charcoal is in lumps, place it in a plastic bag and then pound it with a heavy glass or hammer to break into small pieces or powder.  The charcoal acts as a purifier to absorb toxins and mold.

6)  Next, add a layer of gravel, covering the charcoal completely. The gravel creates a bed for drainage.

7)  Now it is time to add a layer of potting soil.  This will be a thicker layer than the charcoal or gravel.  Smooth it throughout the container.  It does not need to be level.  Instead, a mound or a slope can be created for the scene.

 

8)  Plan the scene, deciding upon the placement of plants.  At this point, a decision to make a pond or stream in the scene should be made.  They can be added by placing a small, low dish on the soil in the terrarium, or by placing a small mirror or aluminum foil for the illusion of water.  Working with odd numbers of plants is recommended for artistic effect and should be used to create the anchor for the scene.  Smaller plants can then be added to complete the design. Using odd numbers is still recommended.  Sometimes it is difficult to reach into the bottom of the container to dig holes for the plants.  A table knife or a long handled iced tea spoon work as helpful tools for planting.  Moss can be added in open spaces between plants to create
ground cover.

9)  Add objects from nature to create a natural scene.  Stones, twigs, and sea shells add contrast to the plants and create interest and ‘spark’.

10)  Add small figurines or toys to add interest.  Ceramic or plastic animals, Lego creations, tiny toy boats, a toy helicopter, or figurines of people make a terrarium interesting to children.  A little twig cabin or house inside also sparks imagination.

11)  A terrarium is a great habitat for little critters found in nature.  Frogs, toads, salamanders, and chameleons will enjoy the moist and lush place to live.  Insects like ladybugs or worms also give life to the habitat.

12)  A terrarium is a closed habitat when a cover is added to the top.   If an aquarium is used, a mesh cover that fits tightly can be purchased.  For a glass vase or brandy snifter, a plate set on top works to keep moisture inside.  Watering will not be necessary very often because the moisture will recycle in the container, forming condensation on the sides.  Observing this is a great opportunity to teach the cycle of water to the ocean, clouds, and rain.  Sometimes a terrarium can become too moist, so keep watch and slide the plate aside to make a small crack for moisture to escape.  If it becomes too moist, the plants will rot and spoil.

 

A terrarium can be used to teach lessons from nature and to spark the interest and imagination of the children who craft and observe what’s inside.  Seeing how plants grow or how they need trimmed so they don’t overgrow the container involves the child actively on a daily basis. Gathering new objects can be done on daily walks and the child can add or remove things from the scene to improve it or to keep up with the seasons.  Its interactive nature is especially observed when little critters are added.  The terrarium as a self-contained habitat can provide hours of involvement in learning for the child and can give them the opportunity to observe nature up close and naturally in their home environment.  It’s a great way to involve the family in a fun and beautiful nature activity.

The Best Gift of Christmas

I wonder what Mary was thinking about along the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

 

In her last month of pregnancy, Mary spent over a week on the back of a donkey as she and Joseph journeyed the 80 miles to Joseph’s homeland to register for the census.

 

You’d think that Cesar might cut the girl a break and let them mail in their registration. But no.

 

Eighty miles on an unpaved, primitive road riding on a donkey.

 

So often we think of Mary as a women having a child. But she was little more than a child herself, around 13. If a 13-year old get pregnant these days, it’s scandal. For Mary, the only scandal she faced was her swollen abdomen before the marriage was sealed. That’s a pretty big “only.” The man she had vowed to be faithful to for the rest of her life could have stoned her to death.

 

“But before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”

 

Mary often gets all the credit, and let’s face it, she should. If you’ve birthed a child you know it’s hardest thing a woman can do. But Joseph is kinda a hero here too. He must have been so angry and hurt and confused and dejected. The hours in between finding out his future wife is pregnant and a visit from an angel must have been agonizing.

 

“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

 

He was going to divorce her quietly. He finally decided. He would spare her life, and write her out of his. I wonder what he was doing before the angel came to him in a dream. Was he still nursing his wounded ego or had he thrown himself into his work?

 

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”

 

What a guy. What faith it took to believe something so outlandish. Pregnant by the Holy Spirit. It had to have been the craziest thing Joseph had ever heard. But he took her home, only to find out he had to take her, 8 months pregnant, 80 miles away to Bethlehem.

 

I wonder if the trip was awkward at first. “So, thanks for not stoning me…” Did they talk about parenting philosophies or discipline methods? They didn’t have to think of what to call him. “His name shall be Jesus.”

 

Eighty miles on foot. Under the best conditions they could cover 20 miles in a day. But so many things could have slowed them down – weather, terrain, pregnancy. It likely took them over a week.

 

What was Mary thinking about this whole time? She accepted the angel’s message without hesitation. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered, “May it be to me as you have said.” Was there ever any doubts in her mind? Was she scared?

 

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born.”

 

A 13-year old girl stood in a stranger’s stable, about to give birth to the Savior of the world. With every pang of birth pains, she knew there was no going back. Did she want to? Was she ready?

 

“She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.”

 

Was it one of those fast, easy births I’ve heard rumors of? Or did she labor for hours? Ever since becoming a mother myself I’ve wondered about the details of Jesus’s birth. How did Mary feel about birthing her Savior in a barn? As she looked at her son for the first time, was she instantly captivated by him? Or did it take a while for the bonding process like with some mothers and children?

 

There are so many unknowns about the birth of Jesus, so many details I hope I’ll hear about in Heaven someday. But there are some things we do know. Important things. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

 

Do you need to hear that again? He will save His people from their sins. From your sins. From my sins.

 

My friends, He did what He came to do. It is finished. You have been saved from your sins.

 

The love of Jesus is unconditional. He gives it freely. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to be “good enough.” You, in whatever varying state of sin you find yourself in, are loved.

 

Praise the Lord!

 

Just as you are. Just where you are. He’s waiting for you to turn your eyes and look full in His wonderful face. He’s waiting for you to accept the gift He’s been holding out to you. Take it. Don’t be shy. Accept His love. Accept His sacrifice. Accept your Savior.

 

Today, as you unwrap presents, fellowship with friends and family, and partake of the bounty of blessings you might have, do so with the full knowledge that your Savior came to this earth for you. He was born so that you can live forever with Him. Your heart is the most precious gift you can give to Him. Won’t you give yourself to Him today?

 

**To read the story of Jesus’s birth for yourself, look in the book of Luke, chapters one and two. You’ll also find stories from Jesus’s life and ministry on Earth, as well as His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. The Bible is available for free online and in the app market for smart phones.**

The Unintended Effects of Homeschooling

I remember the first time I felt panic at the thought of where my children were going to go to school. I must have been about three months pregnant with my first child.

As an Adventist, it would seem that the choice would be easy! After all, Adventists have an elaborate educational system stretching from pre-school up through graduate programs. Where was the problem?

The problem was that I’d been raised in Adventist schools and to say that my experiences were less than stellar would be an understatement. In academy, the social politics, the substandard education, all came to a head during my academy years.

The closest school available to my children was the one I’d left in order to complete my high schooling with a GED certificate. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

Now, there were shining exceptions. There were teachers who stood out, who cared, who made a difference! But they were sadly few and far between.

Because of financial difficulties, I’d gone to a public school in a small town my eighth and ninth grade years. But at the end of ninth grade, we moved back to a metropolitan area; public school, in my parents’ minds, was not an option. And so I entered a local day academy.

In the previous two years, I had been singled out by the public school teachers to enter the honors program doing work beyond my grade level.

At the Adventist academy, I was given a strange schedule since some of the classes weren’t available to me because of my grade and others I’d already completed.

For example, I entered 10th grade having done both Algebra and Geometry; I didn’t take another math class until college. I never took a typing class; I am self-taught.

Typing. I haven’t thought about teaching myself to type in years! But in writing those words, it comes into sharp focus: this epitomizes to me the process of learning that I’ve committed to for my children.

The year was 1986 (give or take) and computers were not my motivating factor. I just realized that if I was going to learn to type, it was up to me. I sat in our typewriter lab at school and, using a book, taught myself the fundamentals: correct finger position and memorizing keys. I was a passable typer.

Years later when I found myself consulting, on the road, in a hotel room by myself, I became a proficient, even speedy typer messaging four and five people simultaneously, husband, friends and family.

At the age of sixteen, I recognized an area of need – and interest – and, using tools at hand, taught myself basics and then when necessity arose, achieved a level of proficiency.

That’s how humans learn. That’s how we’re programmed to learn. Moreover, we are programmed to learn at the feet of a master, namely parents. So much the better when parents sit at the feet of Someone to learn and gain wisdom.

It is my profound belief – and experience backs it up – that children are going to learn less from what we say or “teach” than what they see us doing. Sitting at someone’s feet is not epitomized by completing worksheets, watching educational videos or attending coop classes.

It is watching the beliefs and values show through in every day interactions. Interactions between parent and child, between a child’s parents and others. This is the good news…and sometimes the very bad news…about teaching your children at home.

And so I made the decision to homeschool fifteen years ago. I might talk more about our journey at another time, but I have been profoundly touched in the last few days by something I’ve witnessed in my children. And I’d like to share it with you.

Two years ago, we placed my father in a facility because of his advanced Alzheimer’s Disease. In the last two months he has had a series of strokes, we’ve deduced, and declined rapidly.

Hand in hand with that situation, my 100-year old grandmother – my father’s mother – went into the hospital last Tuesday with flu-like symptoms.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, this is what we’ve been dealing with: the impending loss of two family members.

Those who have dealt with Alzheimer’s know that not only does your loved one behave strangely, sometimes inappropriately, when they are in a facility they are surrounded by people who behave strangely, speak oddly and are sometimes inappropriate.

When Dad went to live at Mountain Vista, I thought long and hard about what I should do with my kids: force them to go see Grandpa? Refuse to take them? Or just let them make the decision even if it meant that they didn’t visit.

At first, I discouraged their requests to go with me. I didn’t want to traumatize them. However, my girls – my youngest children at ages four and a half and seven then (currently six and a half and almost nine) – bugged me every single time I mentioned going to see Dad! They clamored to go with! I reluctantly agreed.

My fears soon subsided as I watched my little girls embrace not just their grandpa, but everyone who lived there with him! Nurses and patients alike! There were none to “odd” or “scary” but what my little ones didn’t heap love and kindness on them!

How very different from my memories of visiting nursing homes as a child! The fear and uncertainty of what to say, how to interact – mostly react – to these people who were so different from me were nowhere to be seen lurking in the eyes and gentle hands of my babies.

Lowell chose to go visit Grandpa as well and had the same nonchalance of the younger girls although it was mixed with the natural reserve of an older child. He was unflustered by the atmosphere and behavior of his grandpa or the other residents.

Of all my children, Ethan alone showed hesitancy in visiting Dad. His dread stemmed from seeing the changes, not seeing his grandfather anymore, but a stranger.

He was much more traumatized by the events leading up to Dad being put in a facility. It was not a pretty process. And he remembered the old Grandpa – the good, the bad and the ugly – much better than the younger kids.

He went to see Grandpa seven months after his admission to the facility and despite his fears, handled the situation with grace and poise.

At the end of October after Dad suffered the first stroke, we didn’t think he would regain consciousness. Those of us living in Denver came to say our good byes and that included my children.

There was a lot of sadness; my Ethan seemed hit the hardest. My heart broke with sadness and yet relief that all of my children approached, touched and kissed Grandpa as if he were just napping. Sadness, yes. Fear, no.

And now my grandmother (their great-grandmother) was in the hospital and after initial testing, it was clear that she wouldn’t make it through. We had one day where she rallied (her first full day in the hospital), but then went downhill quickly.

Because of the uncertainty of her condition – there were some pretty hideous issues we dealt with on nights two and three – I hadn’t invited the kids to come say good bye. I wavered as to whether I should have them come.

When she stabilized physically, I talked to my husband knowing that it was now or never. I told him to ask them, offer them the opportunity, and that if any didn’t want to see her, they could either stay in the car or in the lobby outside her room.

Every single one of my children made the choice to say their good byes to their great grandmother. Each looked death in the eye and behaved with grace, dignity and love. Each touched her sweet, balding head, kissed her face and said loudly in her good ear, “I love you, Grandma!”

She opened her eyes briefly and even smiled at my Emme. I just looked on and cried.

That was Friday night. Saturday night, my sister, niece and I were still with Grandma but planning to visit Dad later that night too having moved Grandma to a beautiful inpatient hospice facility. After four all-night vigils and five days, we needed to visit Daddy as well. We knew he wasn’t doing well either.

My best friend (and pastor’s wife who has triplets) texted me to ask the address for Dad’s facility. The kids had been making ornaments in Sabbath School and they’d delivered many of them to facilities in the area. Everyone else was done, but she was going to take her triplets and my two girls – who were headed back to the church for movie night afterward – and go see Dad.

As it turned out, my sister, niece and I arrived about five minutes after Lori and the girls!

My weary heart watched my sweet Emme take the lead as all five girls went from resident to resident asking to give them hugs. I realized in wonder that regardless of whether or not the patient was able to speak, they all held their arms up as if they just knew what a hug was! A hug was exactly what they needed…exactly what I needed to see.

You see, when I started homeschooling, I didn’t think, nobly, to myself: “I want to raise compassionate, caring, respectful kids (of course, I wanted to). I want them to treat everyone, young, old, ‘weird’ or ‘scary’ with love.”

It was more of a, “Shoot! I don’t want to send them to Adventist schools!” Okay, I’ll admit it, the interjection as a little stronger than that in my head. And it wasn’t noble. My intention wasn’t purposeful.

And yet over the course of our journey, those goals have crystallized into why we continue homeschool! It’s not the actual learning of fact, figures or other details. That can be done anywhere! It’s the foundational things, the needful things, that I see my children demonstrating that humbles me and makes me one grateful mom.

I know that lots of children come from traditional schools with these very values. Many of my friends and family have children who are amazing, kind and loving. It’s not that homeschooling is a requisite. But more than anything, I get to be a front-row witness, 24/7, to what God is bringing about in my children’s lives and the lives that they touch and will touch.