Home on the Range Ball Field

I’ve mentioned before my attachment disorder to homes. When you move as often as we have in the 13 years we’ve been married, it becomes harder and harder to call a place home.

Our house is taking time, but it is slowly starting to feel like ours and is becoming home. But community wise, it has been a harder one for me. Periodically, Craig asks me if St. Louis feels like home yet and I always hesitate to answer. Honestly? I’m not sure what feels like home anymore.

When we lived in Colorado Springs (apart from the time we thought we might be moving to Uganda), I truly didn’t think we’d ever move away. Colorado Springs was home: we weren’t from there, and didn’t have extended family history with the place, but we did have our shared history of starting adult and married life together, so thus it became the default home for me.

Going back to Oklahoma is, of course, my home because my parents are there, but the town I grew up in has changed so drastically I hardly recognize it anymore. Apart from the people, it no longer really feels like home, either.

St. Louis should. We’ve lived here for almost 5 years now, yet something has held me back all this time. I think at first it was the perceived temporary nature to our move: we came for seminary and we thought we’d move again after seminary.

Moving off campus did help with the whole “Oh, we really do live in St. Louis” mentality, but living somewhere and calling it home are two different things. I was still stuck in a nomadic existence and not sure what to do with that.

Today, I was riding home with three other women from our church‘s ladies retreat. As we entered St. Louis from the east side, I suddenly realized all four of us were transplants to St. Louis. I asked them when they felt like St. Louis had become home to them.

Not everyone answered, as somewhere in the middle of that conversation we almost got hit by a car and the topic changed, but I do remember this: as we drove past Busch Stadium, I wondered if it might be baseball that represents home here in St. Louis.

Why baseball? It isn’t even because Craig loves it so much (though if he didn’t, then I wouldn’t really have a reason to). But baseball might very well be the one stabilizing factor to our five semi-transient years here in St. Louis.

2005 was our first year here, as well as the year I discovered all the different library systems around that all give away Cardinals tickets as reading prizes. We went to two games that year because of this. We went to a third because my parents came to town and sprung for tickets.

Ever since then we’ve played the library reading program game, but two years ago I also started buying discount group tickets and selling them so that we could go to more games.

All told, last summer I attended 7 games; Craig  at least 10. We’re on track for more of the same this year.

We love baseball. And driving by the stadium today felt right. It may be the only big thing about St. Louis that I can claim right now; everything else still makes me feel like a tourist in my own town. I still have to Google map just about everywhere I go. I still get seriously lost at least once every six weeks. I still see the Arch as a place to take guests to, but not a place to frequent.

But baseball is ours. I know the stadium. I know the route to get there. I know the best place to park. I know how to pack dinner so we don’t pay for anything inside. I know how to share directions and tips and tricks with others. I would miss life without it.

I know. I need to get out in my city and learn it. I need to explore it and understand it and work hard to develop a personal history with it.

But until that happens, I have baseball. And as funny as it sounds, that one simple thing grounds me to this place and makes it feel like home.

To Brainwash a Parent

When my first child was born, a woman I had known many years handed me
a book. She told me it would be helpful as I raised my daughter as it
had helped her train her own kids. That book? To Train Up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl…(read the rest here at WORLDMag.com)

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When my first child was born, a woman I had known many years handed me a book. She told me it would be helpful as I raised my daughter as it had helped her train her own kids. That book? To Train Up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl.

It wasn’t a very long book—just the right size for a new mom to read in between feedings and changings. But still, something about the book didn’t sit right with me at that time and I never bothered to read it all the way through until later. Until five years later, when I had four kids between the ages of 0 and 5.

It was about this time I started keeping a blog, and when I finally got around to reading the book, you know what? My suspicions were confirmed. I was so saddened by what I read that I wrote about it and started a pretty significant discussion on what I perceived to be dangerous teachings the Pearls were presenting. There were many suggestions that seemed borderline abusive, but the most bewildering things was their likening of child training to that of training a mule:

“If you are just beginning to attempt to control an already rebellious child who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring, and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.”

Unfortunately, some parents have taken this teaching to its very literal and fatal conclusion. Maybe you’ve heard of this tragedy already, but just last week 7-year-old Lydia Schatz was “disciplined” to death by her homeschooling parents, Kevin and Elizabeth. Her 11-year-old sister Zariah was also hospitalized for extensive injuries. The parents used the teachings of the Pearls to “train” their children, whipping their kids with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line—the very thing the Pearls suggest parents use.

There has been quite a bit of internet buzz about this, as well there should be. This is not the first time a parent has killed his or her child after following the parenting advice of the Pearls. Four years ago, 4-year-old Sean Paddock died after his mother wrapped him up so tightly in blankets he was unable to breathe.

When is enough enough? When are Christians going to call this what it is—abuse—and stop defending the teaching just because the Pearls claim them to be biblical truth? When are Christians going to stop blindly following garbage teaching and THINK?

Lynn Harris of Salon.com wrote:

“It’s one thing for those of us outside the fundamentalist Christian/Christian home-schooling world to point fingers at the Pearls and voice outrage at their methods. What really matters, and what stands to have actual impact, is the outrage inside the Pearls’ world. And right now, more than ever, an anti-Pearl movement within the conservative Christian community is rising up in heated, if sometimes whispered, fury. Some say—even pray—that Lydia Schatz’s death will bring Michael and Debi Pearl exactly the kind of attention they deserve.”

Indeed, it may be finally happening (See the blogs of Karen, Dana, Kathy, and Laurie), but at what price?

Elizabeth Esther, a Christian, writer, and mother of five, asks, “How many more children will die before the Christian community holds Michael and Debi Pearl to account?” She goes on to give the following analogy:

“Consider the current massive recall of Toyota cars. Do all Toyotas have the same fatal flaw? No. But the flaw is significant enough that drastic measures are being taken. Today, in fact, the CEO of Toyota is being critically questioned in a congressional hearing.This is how I view the Pearls’ child-training methods. Sure, maybe some parents are able to safely ‘drive’ the Pearl model. But there is a significant flaw in the Pearl method and tragically, for at least two young children, it has proved fatal.”

Former MTW Ukraine missionary and homeschooling parent Alexandra Bush of TulipGirl fame offers these reasons why some families have not spoken out before:

“It is easy to filter out the harsher teachings, the extremism, when surrounded by word pictures of peaceful, loving, fun families. The Pearls seem to tell parents that they just have to ‘win’ once and make sure their children know who is in charge, and then they will never have to spank again. That’s how parents get sucked in—promises of a fun, peaceful home, minimal confrontation, doing the ‘right thing’ for their children. Basically, the BS detectors are turned off by the pretty promises that are made.”

Getting Our Group-on

So if you are one of my Facebook friends or Twitter pals, you probably know I have a serious love of all things Groupon. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, though, and don’t know what Groupon is, it is basically a shared group discount to local businesses/restaurants. The discounts are usually pretty good. The little trick is that there needs to be a minimum number of people to buy in to the discount before it goes “live.” But so far, nothing we’ve participated in has failed to happen due to lack of interest.

Also, every time someone uses my referral link and ends up making a Groupon purchase themselves, I get $10 worth of Groupon money deposited into my account towards a future Groupon purchase.

Confused yet? Bottom line: I have a nice little savings account of Groupon money stored up right now. Sweet.

Anyway, last month one of the local Groupons of the Day was this: For $20 you get a $50 certificate to Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood restaurant. I looked at the fine print a little closer and noticed they would let you use two of these for a table of 8 or more.

Now I’ve never been to Mike Shannon’s before, but thought it sounded like a nicer family restaurant. It’s baseball themed, for the love of Pete! I thought this: my parents are coming to town soon. Wouldn’t that make a nice evening out for the eight of us? I was thinking $100 would easily feed 8 people. I was thinking it would cost $40 worth of my Groupon money, but not really cost me anything at all. That was what I was thinking. I bought two.

I told my friend, Anna, what I was thinking. She asked me, “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?” Okay, so she didn’t shout at me, but she very kindly suggested I check out the menu prices before hauling my entire family over there for a budget-friendly dinner out. So I did.

Did you click the link? Did you laugh at me? Did you find out, like I did, that there is no stinking way on the planet you can feed eight people there for $100, even if four of those eight are under twelve?

Not. Gonna. Happen.

So last night we sent my parents out for a nice dinner. Tonight, Craig and I went.

If you checked the menu prices, you will know that in addition to it being impossible for eight people to eat for $100 at Mike Shannon’s, but it is also impossible for two people to eat for $50 there. It is impossible unless…unless you plan ahead. We did that. We decided before we got there we would share our meal. Knowing you are going to do that on the front end makes it much easier to scan the menu for what will work once you get there.

Here’s how we made it work: We ordered the 20oz Prime Rib for $35, the Butcher Style Caesar Salad for $8 and the Hand Cut Fries for $8. Our total came to $50 even. I know. If you do the math, it comes to $51, but when our bill came, it was $50 plus tax ($5.xx).

All we had to pay was tax and tip and we had one very excellent salad, steak, and fries for $17 and some change.

And I can tell you this – it was plenty of food for two people. I’m not sorry at all we had to share.

It was one of those once-in-our-lifetime experiences, but for $17, it was a super one!

Anyway, that’s my long way of saying, if you haven’t heard of Groupon, you should check it out. And click my link on your way. *wink*

On Struggle and Failure

Here’s my WORLDMag.com post for this week. Ever have one of those posts in which you sort of wish you could just go back and do it again? Yeah, I’m sort of wishing that about this one. I would go in and explain myself to the two people who left comments and misunderstood me completely, but something tells me I’d just be wasting my time.

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I forgot to grade my kids’ math assignments all week long last week. Yesterday I sat down to do just that, only to find that one of my girls missed a major concept on Tuesday and then repeated the same mistake twice on two different days the rest of the week. As a result, she failed the test on Friday.

Fortunately for her, I’m not holding her to those grades. It isn’t her fault that she repeated the same mistake; she was never corrected and told what needed to happen, so she kept doing what she had been doing, assuming it was the way it needed to be. I brought her in beside me and redid the first page while she was watching, slowly explaining the concept again. I then watched her as she redid the next page on her own, making sure she understood things this time. I also gave her the opportunity to redo all of those pages this week and retake the test this Friday. We’re both sure she will do much better.

Correction is nobody’s idea of a good time (I know it isn’t mine). Yet what happens when we’re allowed to continue on with our mistakes as though nothing was wrong? What happens if math concepts are missed, piano scales skipped through, and relationship basics ignored?

One word: failure. And often for what reason? Lack of feedback.

Repetition may build habits, but feedback is the breakfast of champions.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful,” Hebrews 12:11 reminds us. “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

It often isn’t fun being on either end of the correcting process. In my situation, grading math papers takes a fair amount of time—time that I apparently couldn’t fit in last week. But failing to do my part in our homeschooling education equation meant failure for my daughter to be able to do hers.

Sending out a long list of rule reminders to those in the homeschool group I direct was not a fun but necessary thing to do this week because, well everybody had gotten seriously lax.

Sitting at the table last week listening to my husband challenge me (again) about my shocking lack of attention to our family budget was not pleasant for either of us.

But all of it was necessary.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time. It is painful. It is painful to be told you are failing in an area and to know your behavior is causing frustration to another.

But what’s more painful is being allowed to sink further and further into those areas of struggle. There’s no love in that . . . just failure.

 

2010 Booklist

Okay, I said I was going to read more this year and I have been. So far, so good, though it is ALL fiction. But I do not apologize for that. Not one bit.

January

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri – This was a book club selection from last fall sometime. I was unable to make it to book club that month (come to think of it, I think I've only even ever been ONCE…) but still wanted to read the book. I'm not sorry I did. It is hard for me to name exactly what struck me about this story, but something did. I think it has to do with the third culture idea and the hope mixed with confusion mixed with bitterness mixed with loneliness mixed with…something. Anyway, the writing is good and the story is captivating. We just watched the movie tonight and it only made sense in light of the book. Had I not read it, the movie would have just been this collection of fragments.

I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson- This is a reread for me. A friend asked me to read it several years ago for my stay-at-home-mom take on the working mom story. I'm hosting the book club this month (yes, the one I've only attended ONCE so far…) and this was one of my choices for everyone to pick from. Here's my little disclaimer: I'd forgotten just how much shocking language was in the book, but the story was still very powerful for me to read. And even more so now, probably seven years after I first read it. I think it has something to do with the fact that I do carry a part-time job now that I didn't even dream of seven years ago. Granted, my part-time job is right here on the computer and done at night at home. But there is still a pull it puts on me and that pull (tiny though it is) identified more with Kate's pull than it did seven years ago. There is a tension there that is worthy of discussion and I'm looking forward to hosting it in a few weeks.

The Patron Saint of Liars
by Ann Patchett – This was another one of my selections for book club this month and though not the one chosen, one I still wanted to read. My word. Ann Patchett can tell a story. I read Bel Canto many years ago and really only remember liking her writing, but thinking it took me forever to read it. Not so with The Patron Saint of Liars. If you are the type of reader who must have the story tied up neatly with a pretty bow on the top by the end, then skip this one. It isn't for you. But if you are in the mood for a story that will make you race to the finish and then be sorry it is over, then this may be something you will enjoy. In short, the main character, Rose, is headed from California to Kentucky to a Catholic home for unwed mothers who plan to give their babies away after birth. Problem? Rose is married. She lives a life of secrets and lies, hence the title of the book. Worth reading.

The Master Puppeteer by Katherine Paterson – This was read out loud to the girls in conjunction with Sonlight's Core 5 program. I'll be honest – some of the school readers we read put me to sleep. Not this one. It was a very interesting story and we all enjoyed it. The girls kept begging me to keep reading after I'd read our daily 2 chapters. I held them off until the very end when there were only two chapters to go to the finish – we read four that day. Paterson also wrote Bridge to Terabithia which we didn't realize until the end of the story, but made sense. The writing is very good.

Next Up:

The Brothers K by David James Duncan – At 645 pages, I asked Craig if I could count this one as two books. He laughed at me. But so far? So good.