Friday, April 30, 2010

Great Math Resource for Homeschoolers

I've posted before about, a great resource for children learning to read.  I looked and looked for a site that would be just as good as Starfall, but that would teach basic math skills, perhaps with simple math games.  (How I wish that the old MathBlaster game was still around--the new versions look awful!)  Well, I didn't have much success in finding a site for math activities, until today, when I found this one:

Math Magician

If you're like me and you're not thrilled about "magic"-themed activities for little ones, rest assured that the "magic" is in the title only.  The math games themselves are very simple and easy to operate; and like Starfall, there are no ads.  I'm looking forward to using this site with Elijah to strengthen his math skills.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Recipe: Pumpkin Cake

One of my favorite desserts to make is pumpkin cake.  It's similar to carrot cake, but without the hassle of shredding all those carrots.  It's a quick and easy recipe, and it's reasonably healthy, too.  Not only that, but everyone likes it, and I'm often asked for the recipe.  Without further ado, here you go:

Pumpkin Cake
2 cups sugar (I use half white, half brown)
3/4 cups unsweetened applesauce OR sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups canned pumpkin
4 eggs
2 cups flour (I use half whole wheat)
1 T baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 T cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
Blend the dry ingredients together (except for the sugar).  Set aside.  Blend wet ingredients and the sugar; add dry ingredients and stir till combined.  Cook in a greased 9 by 13 pan for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Frost with the following (you might have leftover frosting):

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 8-oz packages of cream cheese
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
Soften the cream cheese and butter in the microwave.  Cream together.  Stir in the vanilla.   Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until the frosting is the desired consistency (a lot of times I only need 1 1/2 cups of the sugar).

Enjoy. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Memorize the Catechisms: A Helpful Tool

I came across this online tool that is designed to help older children and adults with memorizing the Shorter and Larger Catechisms.  Type in the answer to the question; if your answer is incorrect, you can click "view correct answer," and you will be shown your answer with the errors in red, and the corrections in green. 

Click on "Shorter Catechism Quiz" or "Larger Catechism Quiz."

Westminster Standards Database

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Census and Race

When we got our Census forms in the mail the other day, I looked them over and thought "Oh, this looks pretty simple."  For each member of the family, I needed to supply name, age, and...race?

The race question made me hesitate for a minute.  I was kind of tempted to check "other" and fill in the blank "human," but after a little thought, I decided that I wanted to represent for my multi-ethnic babies.  So I checked both "white" and "black" under each of my sons' names, feeling thankful that at least I could check more than one box, an option that didn't exist as recently as the 1990 Census.

I've tried a few times to explain "race" to Elijah, and there's something about seeing things through a five-year-old's eyes that makes you realize how ridiculous it all is.  I try to explain what it means to be black, and how most people would probably call him black; and as the words are coming out of my mouth, I'm thinking, he's not going to understand this because it doesn't make any sense.  And sure enough, he looks at me blankly, then tells me about how he is kind of lightish brown, Noah is darkish-lightish brown, Daddy is all-the-way-dark brown, and Mama is brighter brown, by which I think he means lighter brown.

Now if I can't even explain race to him, how am I going to explain racism?  Not that I haven't tried--for instance, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I tried to explain who MLK was; but in order to explain what he stood for, I have to explain what he stood against; and it's all just so ridiculous.  "Back in the day a lot of white people thought that black people shouldn't enjoy the same privileges they did."  "But why, Mama?"  "Uh, um, I don't know, because people are stupid?"  Except that I can't say that, because we don't call people stupid in our house. :p

I was thinking about this again today as I came across a couple of articles about the Census and race (here's an example).  I also came across this site:, which argues from a Biblical standpoint that "there is one race, the human race," an argument I've heard before from Mr. Voddie Baucham, and with which I'm inclined to agree.*  What I hadn't realized before perusing this site was the connection between race theory and evolutionary theory.  This site is also strong on the topic of interracial marriage.  I highly recommend that y'all check it out. :)

*I'm not saying that we need to be "color-blind" or that we should give up labeling ethnic groups entirely--I think it's equally silly to pretend that there are no differences between us at all.  Of course we have our cultural differences, and I think that we should make an effort to learn about those differences and to appreciate them.  And I think we need to be conscious of the fact that we tend to be afraid of people who are different from us, and be careful that we don't allow those fears to stop us from reaching out to those people.  Why do I feel like I'm being preachy?  Maybe because I am?  *sigh* Okay, I give up, no more blogging about race.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mercy. :)

Today is my little sister's birthday.  She is now 23 years old.

I don't get credit for this picture, as it was taken by Samuel--Samuel is quite the photographer.  (Sam, I hope you don't mind my swiping this picture from Facebook. :p )

So, give Mercy a call, send her an e-mail, or hop on over to her blog and wish her a happy birthday. :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010


This spring, I planted a garden for the first time in a dozen years.  I gardened with my Mom as a child and teenager, but since leaving home at 18, I haven't had a spot of earth to call my own.  I did attempt some container gardening a few times, with mixed success.  But this spring, I'm living in my parents' home again, and they have enough of a yard that I can plant a real garden.  The soil here is terrible (they call it "gumbo" and it's a heavy clay, very sticky when wet, and rock-hard when dry) but I added some peat moss, and so far things are growing well.

This morning, I investigated my little garden and discovered that my tomatoes are officially in bloom:
When I was cropping this photo, I noticed the little green bug, just above the flower.  Can you see him?  He's the same color as the leaf.  What kind of bug is he?  A good bug or a bad bug?
EDIT: it's a bad guy!  See the comments section.

My tomatoes are looking happy.  Which makes me happy.  I need to get some cages around these things pretty soon. 

For comparison, here they are a couple of days after planting, on April 2nd.  I got them in the ground kind of late; hopefully I'll get a good crop of tomatoes before it gets too hot.

And my basil is sprouting!  I left the seed packet out in the rain and the seeds got moldy, so I wasn't sure if they would sprout.  But it looks like almost all have sprouted (I planted the basil in pots).  By the way, I ordered my seeds from this company: and I would highly recommend them.  They sell only heirloom seeds, no hybrids or genetically modified stuff.  Their customer service was great and shipping was super fast.

I also have a bed of yellow bell peppers and jalapenos, which are looking great except for one plant which may or may not make it.  I still need to plant my okra and purple-hulled cowpeas.  It's getting pretty late to be planting things, but supposedly okra and cowpeas love the heat, so perhaps they will be okay.

On another "green" note, happy Earth Day. :)  I'm not sure how I feel about Earth Day.  On the one hand, I think it's wise to take a moment to thank the Lord for the resources He has blessed us with, and to think about how we can use those resources most wisely, and not be wasteful.

On the other hand, I know that a lot of people associate Earth Day with the more radical environmentalists--the sort who talk about Gaia and Mother Nature, and view humans as parasites on the earth.  And the people in Washington making a big hoopla about Earth Day, and advocating for environmental issues on a regular basis, are often the same people advocating for abortion rights and gay rights. 

But I worry that many Christians reject the "green" movement entirely because of those associated with it; when really, environmental issues are something that we ought to be concerned with for Biblical reasons.  Here's an excerpt of a statement by the Southern Baptist Convention about environmental issues.  Obligatory disclaimer: I don't support or agree with everything the SBC says or does.  I just thought the points listed below were well said.
  • We must care about environmental and climate issues because of our love for God...through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is not our world, it is God’s. Therefore, any damage we do to this world is an offense against God Himself (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16).
  • We must care about environmental issues because of our commitment to God’s Holy and inerrant Word...Within these Scriptures we are reminded that when God made mankind, He commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures (Gen. 1:26-28). Therefore, our motivation for facing failures to exercise proper stewardship is not primarily political, social or economic—it is primarily biblical.
  • We must care about environmental and climate issues because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us and to protect and care for the “least of these” (Mt. 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46). The consequences of these problems will most likely hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected are in the world’s poorest regions. Poor nations and individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. Therefore, “we should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy … [and] the helpless”... through proper stewardship.
If you visit the site, skip down to section 3, though I thought section 2, about the science behind climate change, was also pretty good. 
    Another thing that we as Christians ought to have in common with the "environmentalist" movement is the rejection of materialism and consumerism--the "buy more stuff" mentality that seems so prevalent in our culture.  Matthew 6:24-34

    Anyway, I might be in the minority here with my wacky "green" ideas, but it's my blog, not yours, and y'all think I'm nuts anyway, right?

    Seems like I haven't been getting as many blog comments lately, though the conversation about women's dress continues behind the scenes.  Please feel free to comment even if--or dare I say, especially if--you disagree with me. :)

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    These kids!

    In the space of 24 hours, Noah finally got his pronouns sorted out.  He now uses "he" and "him" when referring to males, and "she" and "her" when referring to females.  This is quite a breakthrough!  In the same 24-hour period, he also learned to pronounce his L's and his R's!  Way to go Noah!

    And....Elijah set a new record yesterday when he memorized his Shorter Catechism question and proof text in fifteen minutes flat!  We do fifteen minutes of memory work a day (well, most days), and he is usually able to learn one question or one verse in that time frame; but yesterday he was moving at double speed.  He learned question #34, What is adoption?  And the proof text was 1 John 3:1.

    I think that most of my readers are probably quite familiar with the Shorter Catechism, but in case you're not, here's an explanation which I will lift from the Wikipedia article:
    The purpose of the Shorter Catechism is to educate lay persons in matters of doctrine and belief. The WSC is in a simple question and answer format to facilitate memorization. Typically, the parents and the church would use the shorter catechism to train their children in the ways of the Lord.

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    April 10th

    Today I rode the train downtown for the first time (the real train, not the cute little red train that goes around the park).  There's just one train line (so far) running from southwest to northeast, so it's of limited usefulness, but can come in handy when you expect to have difficulty finding parking spots at, say, Herman Park, or the zoo.  Today was the "Japan Fest" in Herman Park, so we rode the train.  It was very clean and nice and I would recommend it even to those who are a little bit afraid of public transport (like myself).

    At the Japan Fest we saw men in skirts.  Don't worry, it's traditional Japanese garb so they get a "pass."  Or do they, since we're not in Japan?  What about the ones who are participating in Japanese martial arts, but are not themselves Japanese?  Hmmm.

    Another guy in a skirt.  This one was under the illusion that he was at the Scotland Fest. 

    Personally, I would rather see a guy in hakama or a kilt than a guy wearing those horrid skinny jeans that seem to be "in" right now.  Androgyny is a trend that I could do without. 

    I was hoping to hear some Japanese music but all I heard were some taiko drum performances before I took off for a long walk to the bookstore.  At the bookstore I came across a couple of awesome books which I will have to tell you about later.  On my way back from the bookstore, I came across this group of ladies camped out along the sidewalk who cheered and clapped loudly.  At first I assumed they were cheering for someone behind me, but when I got closer, they got in my face and gave me high fives.  Apparently today there was this Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and since I was walking that way, they assumed I was participating, even though I wasn't wearing pink like all the other participants.

    Last but not least, I leave you with a picture of some pretty ducks.  Does anyone know what kind of ducks these are?  They are small and graceful with red beaks.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Smoothie Recipe

    Here's a nice recipe that I just tried for the first time and thought I would share with y'all.

    Here are the ingredients:
    Three banana peels, with the woody stems cut off.
    Three days' worth of used coffee grounds.  No need to be picky; a little mold is fine.
    A few cups of water.  I used tap water, but mud-puddle water would do just as well.

    Blend in the blender until well liquefied.  Voila!  Doesn't it look great?

    Okay, now take this delicious concoction and share it with...

    ...your plants!  You didn't think I expected you to drink it, did you?  Please tell me you haven't tried it yet.

    Why it works: the banana peels are loaded with potassium, just as the bananas inside them are.  Rosebushes and tomatoes (I have both) like a little extra potassium.  And the coffee grounds are a treat for the worms, who supposedly love them.  Worms are good for your soil (they aerate it, and their castings are very fertile) so it's not a bad idea to keep them happy. :)

    Of course, you don't actually have to make a smoothie out of these ingredients; you can "plant" banana peels beneath your tomatoes or rosebushes, or just toss them on the ground around the plants.  But my planting is done already, and I was afraid that banana peels lying around would be too smelly and attractive to varmints.  So I chose this slightly more labor-intensive method. 

    Coffee grounds are also good for lawns, so if you don't have a garden, you can still put those grounds to use (or save them for me!)

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Did you know...

    ...that there is a Texan-French Alliance for the Arts?  Don't go to the website unless you want to see a logo that appears to be the Eiffel Tower turned into an oil well (*shudder*).  This alliance has unleashed works such as the following upon the unsuspecting public.
    This is the monumental work of renowned French artist Bernar Venet.  A nearby sign reads "We hope that all Houstonians and visitors to our great city may enjoy the experience of viewing and studying, first hand, these intriguing works of art thoughtfully placed throughout our beautiful Hermann Park." 

    At least the kids like to climb on it.  But wait; the sign says "Please DO NOT CLIMB on sculptures."

    Oh well, let's go play in the duck pond.