Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Left to Tell -- Book Review

Many have heard about Immaculee Ilibagiza’s incredible story of survival during the 1994 Rwandan Holocaust. She spent 91 days hiding with 7 other women in a tiny, closet-sized bathroom while her friends and family were being savagely hunted down. She gives some explanation of what led to the genocide, but it is not meant to be an in-depth history. The book is more about her life, forgiveness, and the grace of God.

The authors are to be commended for their sensitive handling of an event filled with horror. Gory details, which are necessary to accurately convey what the people suffered, are stated in a matter-of-fact manner with little descriptive language. Anyone familiar with the Jewish holocaust of WWII will be well-prepared for this book, which is appropriate for a mature audience.

Readers should be forewarned that there are several Catholic references, the religion that Immaculee was raised up in and remains in as of publication. She placed a high value on her father’s rosary and on Jesus’ mother Mary. However, being one who is aggressively opposed to many Catholic doctrines, I was still able to enjoy the book. Immaculee’s obviously intense love for God and her incredible spiritual experiences far outshine the Catholic trappings, in my opinion. I believe she is one of those people with a heart of gold despite deeply ingrained manmade traditions.

The forward is written by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, who heaps an excessive amount of praise on Immaculee, referring to her as “a uniquely divine woman.” He elaborates on how this book will change the reader’s life forever, how it is the most “moving and poignantly significant” in the vast library that comprises his lifetime, and that it will give a new perspective on what the "field of possibilities" looks like.

I feel that Dr. Dyer’s assertions are grossly exaggerated and provide a perfect example of the human weakness for elevating men to a status we do not deserve. Immaculee, on the other hand, gives no indication of undue pride in her story. I believe she understands exactly Who deserves all the glory. This book was moving (I cried several times) and could prove life-changing for someone with little knowledge of the power of God, but I do not feel it has more potential to be life-changing than other books I have read, particularly those written about missionaries.

Simply stated, Left to Tell is worth reading because it is a wonderful testimony. The historical and cultural information is a bonus, and it can be finished in an evening or two. Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite parts:

    I drifted off to sleep shortly before dawn and had the most intense dream of my life. I saw Jesus standing in front of me, his arms out-stretched as though he were about to embrace me. He was wearing a piece of cloth wrapped about his waist, and his long hair spilled down around his shoulders. I remember being struck by how thin he looked: His ribs protruded, and his cheeks were lean and hollow. Yet his eyes sparkled like stars when he looked at me, and his voice was as soft as a gentle breeze.

    “When you leave this room, you will find that almost everyone you know and love is dead and gone,” he said. “I am here to tell you not to fear. You will not be alone – I will be with you. I will be your family. Be at peace and trust in me, for I will always be at your side. Don’t mourn too long for your family, Immaculee. They are with me now, and they have joy.”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

St. Patrick's Day 2009

Our theme day didn't go quite according to plan, but it was still fun!

The night before, after Kylen was settled snugly in his bed and Greg had bid him goodnight, I told him the legend of how leprechauns visit homes the night before St. Patrick's Day. Of course, he knew it was just a story.

Well, apparently we have done a fantastic job teaching the difference between truth and fairy tales, because he came up with plenty of explanations for the green water in the toilet, and none involved leprechauns! First, he thought that the people at the "sewage place" dyed the water to play a trick on everyone for St. Patrick's Day. I thought that was pretty smart! (I found out later the prep work had been a bit more involved than simply dropping a tablet of dye in. Greg told me how strange it felt to be sitting on the edge of the tub slowly stirring the water with a flexi-straw like a big pot of soup. Yummy!) Kylen also suggested that Greg or I did it.

There was some degree of shock and horror when he turned on his faucet to wash his hands and green water splattered all over inside of the sink. He immediately turned off the tap and just sort of stood there looking worried and bewildered, wondering if it was poison on his skin. He suggested we not drink anything until we had done some investigating. Maybe there was something wrong with the water?

In the end he said, "I still think you had something to do with it."

He knows me so well.

Here he is wearing plenty of green, including a green shamrock sticker on his arm.

He moved a workbook to find a "squashed leprechaun" underneath! His reaction? "What is silly putty doing under here??"

We read about St. Patrick's Day, did logic puzzles, I told him several jokes. These were his two favorites:

Why is a river rich?
Because it has two banks!

Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Irish who?
Irish you a happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Our snack was mint hot cocoa and biscotti for dipping.

We both enjoyed the Jolly Green Giant ads and listening to Irish music on the internet. He wanted to work on typing, so I played the songs while looking up their lyrics, then sang them while he practiced. All went well until Cockles and Mussels when Kylen said, "That's a very unappetizing song." He thought the girl was selling real muscles from her wheelbarrow! I explained what it really meant, but the next few meals he had a hard time eating, because he kept losing his appetite!

At the end, we took turns reading chapters from Leprechauns Don't Play Fetch (from Bailey's School Kids, one of his favorite series). I thought it was neat how they tied in lots of St. Patrick's Day lore and facts about Ireland.

Our dinner plans were changed rather last minute, so we didn't make our dessert. Perhaps next year!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. Patrick's Theme Day

There was a time when I intended to have one homeschooling theme day each month in place of the usual routine and curricula. Subjects and fun activities are built around a theme, often related to a holiday. Since we haven’t had one of these in a long, long, LOOOOOOOOOONG time, I am going all out for our St. Patrick’s Theme Day. We will be covering a variety of things, but in the future I might focus on the country of Ireland (perhaps create a lapbook), clover (and actually grow some!), or the color green.

Here are my current plans, in case any other homeschool moms are looking for a few last minute ideas. (Gleaned from a variety of sources on the internet.)

Kylen will wake up to find that mischievous leprechauns invaded our home during the night. Signs of their visit include:

  • Green water in the toilet and flowing from the tap when he washes his hands.
  • His milk magically turning green (if use link, scroll down to "magic milk") in the cup as he pours it out to make his current favorite breakfast of Ovaltine and toast.
  • Chocolate coins discovered in the strangest places with tale tell smatterings of gold dust.
  • A blob of green goo underneath a book. Oops! One less leprechaun in the world!

Once he has recovered from these shocking events, we will don our green shamrock glitter stickers and get started! History of the holiday, logic puzzles, and a little experiment called, “Letting Go of the Gold.” Then we’ll read a children’s story from the library and enjoy a magical green snack from the leprechauns (if use link, look in the comments section).

Break for some jokes! Perhaps listen to some Irish music . . .

I’ll take a trip down memory lane as we watch old ads of the Jolly Green Giant. This will help Greg and I settle our longstanding argument on whether “Ho ho ho” comes before or after the chorus “Green giant!”

Kylen will get a new book (Starring . . . You guessed it! Leprechauns!) from one of his favorite series. He’ll devour it in under an hour. Since he enjoys cooking, perhaps he’d like to help me make a new Irish dessert for dinner. (Which Greg will not eat, because he doesn’t like mint. More for us!) Of course, we’ll incorporate green foods into our meals.

Finally, we’ll wrap up the day by watching Darby O’Gill and the Little People or The Gnome-Mobile! I’ll post pics when I have them!

Monday, March 2, 2009

We're Back!

We took a short business trip to California so Greg could decide whether to accept a job offer there. After much deliberation, discussion, and prayer (including exploring the area and housing options), we decided it made most sense to stay put! Praise the Lord for His guidance! We appreciate everyone who prayed for us!

Since we skipped our vacation last year, we felt it would be a good opportunity to extend our trip by seven days in Anaheim. It was a welcome and refreshing break leaving behind all our responsibilities and concerns for a short time. The weather was perfect: 70’s and sunny! Made coming home to snow a little strange!

One day was devoted to Legoland, which may have been Kylen's favorite part. Here are my smart boys!

I love the apple fries with whipped cream! Granny Smith sticks are dipped in batter and fried. Tartness mixed with cinnamon and sugar! Mmmm!
This LEGO man was a great actor and fun to watch!
Greg's most anticipated part of the trip: picking out LEGOs from bins in their store! It was his favorite part of a similar trip we took three years ago, too!
Greg always insists on stopping at least a few minutes if we are anywhere near the coast. (Fine with me!) I was unable to get a good picture, as our camera doesn't do night shots well without a tripod. We found a great parking right next to the shore line (full of cars even after sundown). They removed shoes, rolled up pants and chased waves in the freezing water for about ten minutes.
My uncle recommended we eat at Knott's Berry Farm, which was about ten minutes away. We didn't go in their amusement park, but we enjoyed the famous chicken dinner and browsed shops.
Disneyland was my favorite! Three years ago, we had a good experience with the character breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen. This time we decided to try the Plaza Inn and weren't disappointed! Another fantastic buffet in a fantastic setting with a guarantee that several Disney characters will stop by your table.
That one with the weird face isn't a character; it's my husband. :-) Er, wait . . . My husband IS a weird character!
Last time we took one of Kylen's favorite storybooks, Disney Bedtime Stories and had those who came by sign on a blank page. We did the same thing this time and got three new signatures. Kylen said he wasn't as shy about seeing Pooh as the others, "because I've known him ever since I was a baby."
Kylen got over his fear of coasters!! Or so he says! We'll see! At any rate, he dreaded nearly every ride and ended up liking them all, even Splash Mountain (pictured below) with the 40 foot drop!

This garbage can was a really creative touch and caused quite a stir! It moved around on it's own, talking to people, singing, and making jokes! We think it was done by remote, as there didn't appear to be anyone inside. I actually threw garbage through the lid (by invitation), and it appeared mostly hollow. The cool part was that it carried on conversations. Whoever controlled it was able to hear people and transmit his voice directly to the can. These weren't prerecorded sentences. The funniest part was the kid's reactions, especially the little ones!

We had a memorable lunch at the Blue Bayou. Besides the food being excellent, it was neat watching boats (full of people) go past from the Pirates ride. Kylen kept wanting to wave! Though the restaurant is completely indoors, it is designed to feel like you are sitting just outside at night. That is exactly how it felt, though it was actually midday!

After several days going on rides together, I spent most of one day shopping at a relaxed pace while the boys did their own thing. Didn't buy much, but I sure had fun! Here is Kylen looking at me through one of the store windows.

A portion of California Adventure under serious construction!
Of course, we had to get a picture of me next to the big "F." That was the last thing we did before saying goodbye to "the happiest place on earth."