Monthly Archives: April 2010

Scarlet: King Raven Trilogy II

Book Two

One of Lawhead’s writing styles that you either love or hate involves total character-switching. My husband was several chapters into The Silver Hand (another great trilogy you should check out) before he realized that the main speaker was not the protagonist of the previous book. So you’ve gotta be quick.

With Scarlet, the switch is very obvious. Lawhead’s narrative in Hood is third person omnipotent, but in Scarlet, the condemned forester IS our narrator, speaking directly to the reader, and then telling his tale to the monk who is supposed to be taking his confessions. In classic style, we know right away that Will Scarlet is condemned to death by hanging, and that he is only being kept alive to tell his tale to the young monk, Odo. But precisely why Scarlet is in prison or when he is scheduled to die is not revealed until the midpoint of the narrative (totally classic medieval story telling: I love it!).

Along the way, the reader sees King Bran from the previous novel from an outsider’s point of view. It makes his relationship with Mérian much more interesting because everyone else knows that the two are hopelessly in love, but they still think they hate each other. My favorite parts are the bold use of disguise and intrigue and I actually yelled at Anthony that he HAD TO READ this book when I finished, it was so fun (he still hasn’t).

Of the three books in the series, this one was my favorite.


To be content

Sometimes I wonder if I’m slightly manic/depressive, or maybe I have ADD. Or maybe I’m just discontent, always searching for something new and different. And I don’t understand why I am this way.

Two days ago, I was so blissfully happy in my job as stay-at-home-mother, homeschooler and domestic goddess. I got up and cleaned, fed the kids, stayed cheerful during school time (which is a big deal when teaching a distracted 4-year-old and 2-year-old who wants to do school but isn’t really ready yet), and did a bit of work for my cousin. During nap time, I snuggled with Joshua, drowning in the blissful smell of precious baby boy… a baby boy who loves me and smiles at me like I mean the entire world to him.

The sweetest feeling ever: sleeping baby.

I was so happy that this is my calling and life… I sang “O Come Let Us Adore Him” to Joshua (sacrilegious? perhaps. but I do SO adore him!) and reveled in my domestic tranquility. Proudly, I maintained the cleanliness of the home until Anthony came home. The day was a success!

Then yesterday, a few phone calls sent me off my rocker a bit, and as I went into my “rescue mode”, I began to think about working, and how much we fall short of our monthly budget, and how I could help close that gap and all of that horrible, nasty financial stuff that never ceases to drag me down into the depths of despair. If only I could work, then we wouldn’t struggle with money (such a lie, I know, but I was thinking it). So then the rest of my day, I had a hard time concentrating on the kids, or completing my chores, because in my head are all these thoughts of how what I’m doing isn’t as important as it could be, because I could be out making money, and instead, I’m here with these kids and these dirty dishes and this endless laundry, and how am I having any sort of effect on the family?

Sadly, my effect yesterday was huge. The kids’ attitudes slowly deteriorated as I emotionally neglected them. Of course I cared for their physical needs, but I was not present as a mother. Finally, as they napped, I told myself to get a grip and snap out of it. I AM doing the most important job. If I were to work, SOMEONE ELSE would be adoring Joshua, fixing Hannah’s ponytails,oh those stubborn little pigtails!or teaching Jonathan to read. Jonathan and Hannah love the rhythm of wordsI don’t want anyone else to do my job! Yes, it is really hard to wait for the finances to come in line, but we’re not destitute, we’re just waiting for paychecks to catch up with the hours Anthony has put in.  By next month, we’re going to be just fine. THIS week is hard, but who’s to say next week won’t improve?

I’m just frustrated with myself that I cannot maintain my contentment, but always have to vacillate between this need to provide (which is totally Anthony’s job right now), and my CALLING of mothering our children.

I don’t have the answer yet. Do you? How do you remain content with your calling and station in life?

The King Raven Trilogy~Part I “Hood”

Hood, Scarlet, TuckIt’s taken me more than a month to read this trilogy, and not because I’m a slow reader, or because the story was not interesting. I’ve just had a LOT going on in my life, which has forced me to read slower than normal. Like, read a paragraph, unpack a box, read a few pages while nursing, make lunch, try to finish a chapter before passing out in bed… you get it.

However, reading slowly has wonderful advantages: I got to escape to the primeval, shadowy forest of Wales and follow Rhi Bran and the Grellon through their adventures when I needed a break from my own stressful life. And Stephen Lawhead (as always) does an amazing job recreating the world as it could have been when the legend of Robin Hood was born.

In the first novel, readers are introduced to the petulant young prince Bran, heir to his father’s small kingdom, and impishly selfish. When the king and his entire war band are attacked by French soldiers without provocation, Iwan (or John in English) is the only survivor and returns to inform Bran that he is now the king AND the French are coming to claim the entire kingdom.

Bran decides to hide his people and go appeal to the High King, William II, meeting a corpulent monk named Athelfirth along the way. Iwan’s Welsh tongue has a hard time with the monk’s name, so dubs him Friar Tuck, who promptly returns the favor by deeming him Little John (get it?). Unfortunately, the king is out of town at the moment, so Bran is forced to deal with a slimy cleric who demands a ridiculous sum of money for the repurchase of Bran’s ancestral home, which has legally been sold to a French baron.

Dejected and furious at the impossible amount required, Bran does what all good kings do in a crisis: he runs away (but is mortally wounded in the process). Lucky for him, the last Bard of Britain, the bánfaith Angharad finds him deep in the forest and nurses him back to health. As she heals his body, Angharad calls deep to Bran’s soul with songs and stories of Welsh heroes (mini stories that are fantastic bedtime tales for wiggly 4-year-olds, I’ve found), so by the time Bran is physically ready to move, he is mentally ready to be the king his people desperately need.

What I loved: Blending of ancient Welsh stories and language with the familiar Robin Hood legend and fleshing out the historical context to a compelling and believable point. I also loved Lawhead’s persuasive essay at the end of the novel detailing his reasonings for moving the very ENGLISH Robin Hood legend to the forest of Wales (it was brain-candy for this nerdy Mediaevalist!)

What I didn’t like: Um… I wish the maps had been a little more detailed. I really didn’t have much not to like! Bran’s transition from invalid to forest superhero jumps faster than I felt was satisfyingly realistic, but since you kinda know where the story is going, rushing that point can be forgiven.

I’ll be posting Part II and III in the next few days (if Josh decides to give me more than 10 minutes break from nursing… he’s getting teeth!). But tell me, have you read this book? What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it, what is your favorite Lawhead tale? And if you’ve never heard of Stephen Lawhead, well, I don’t know if we can be friends anymore….  =P

Cleaning with Essential Oils

So here’s a total deviation from my usual posts: some cleaning tips I’ve discovered!

If you’ve known me for any amount of time at all, you know that I’m pretty crunchy, as in, I love to keep things in my life as natural as possible. OK, yes, I do have an issue with refined white sugar, but one thing at a time, right?  Since we have three young kids, and I have asthma, we try to stay away from harsh cleansers (although this isn’t always possible). Enter (dum-duh-da-daaa!) Essential Oils!

I was introduced to essential oils when I was a kid and my parents became Young Living distributers. Young Living sells therapeutic-grade essential oils, meaning that they extract their oils in such a fashion that it can be used in clinical settings, on the skin, and, in some cases, can be ingested. The benefits of using essential oils for home remedies quickly became apparent, and I was the resident oil expert in our home, pulling out my oily first aid kit at the first sign of any injury, ache or complaint. However, the cost of Young Living’s oils made me cautious to use them for any other purpose than on humans, although I did see that they could be used as household cleansers.

When we arrived in Arizona, my brilliant cousin pointed out that, when using oils for housework, you don’t have to use the high-end essential oils, the cheaper quality oils work just fine. Now why didn’t I think of that?

So, off she went to Sprouts Farmer’s Market, and returned armed with empty spray bottles and Lemon and Citronella essential oils from the inexpensive (but non-therapeutic-grade) Aura Cacia line.  We mixed 50 drops of Lemon with 25 drops of Citronella and added it to the almost-full spray bottle and used that mixture to attack the smokey smelling walls and blinds in our new apartment.  Now, this wasn’t a cure all, but after two applications of spraying and wiping down, the grime was dissolved and the smoke smell was significantly lessened. Now I keep a bottle with this same mixture under the kitchen sink, and use it to spray down the table and counters. The oils do a great job of loosening grease and sticky stuff, so I’m hardly ever needing to scrub at stubborn spots; they’re already being dissolved by the oils! The other perk is that I’m not worried about my kids getting this stuff on their skin, so I’ve been able to make cleaning the table my 2-year-old’s morning chore. Obviously, she still needs supervision, but she loves to spray and wipe!

The other blend that I use every day is my linen spray.  I added 75 drops of Peppermint, 25 drops of Rosemary and 25 drops of Eucalyptus to the water in the spray bottle and use it to spray down the beds before we make them every morning. The wonderful thing about this blend is that it smells so fresh and lovely, I generally want to get back in bed after I’ve sprayed! Plus, this blend is specifically hated by bed bugs (not that we have those). Also, I pour a little of this blend in the medicine cup of the kids humidifier at night, since all three of these essential oils are known to be beneficial to the respiratory system.

My third bottle contains a 50/50 mixture of water and white vinegar.  Although not an essential oil, I figured I couldn’t leave out my other secret weapon.  I use this mix to wash windows and do my FlyLady Swish and Swipe of the bathrooms.  It isn’t a lovely smell like my other sprays, but it cleans marvelously, and I just turn the fan on before I leave the bathroom and the smell evaporates quickly. White vinegar is known for it’s awesome powers as a “green cleaner“, and I can get a gallon of it for about $1, so it is totally worth checking out!

What tips have you discovered when cleaning with kids in the house?

Flavored Honesty

Being a good blogger requires the personality of a narcissist; coming up with something new and profound to write about. And many days, although I have a lot happening that I could talk about, I honestly don’t feel like I have anything to offer that would be remotely interesting to anyone else, including my husband.

Hi Honey, how was your day?

Fine. I changed diapers, schooled kids, cleaned the house, then watched as they tore it up again. I’d like to drink a beer in the bathtub with only my book, but I still need to clean the kitchen and fold a mountain of laundry before I pass out in an exhausted heap. And no, I do not feel romantic tonight.

It’s not like I have deep revelations from God every morning (although I constantly pray for them) that will change your life (or mine). Recently, my cherished quiet times have been accompanied by my sweet-faced baby boy, who is now so intrinsically linked to my sleep cycles, that he cannot possibly stay asleep when I am not laying beside him.  This means my previously child-free meditation/writing times come punctuated with coos and squeals from a freshly-rested bundle of life, with plenty of frustrated grunts as the young one tries to figure out how to get his toys closer, or how to roll from his stomach to his back. An interesting addition has been the pigeons…

Mr. and Mrs. Pigeon moved into our patio’s storage closet a few weeks ago, when the door was accidently left open.  For an afternoon, the kids and I watched, fascinated, as they flew back and forth with sticks in their beaks, building a little nest behind the water heater. Anthony was not OK with the idea of more critters in our space (have I mentioned that we have a bug problem?), and shut the door. I felt so bad: the birds had spent all day getting that tiny pile of sticks back in the closet, and now all their hard work was closed off.  But they haven’t given up. They are now making a new nest behind Anthony’s bike (which does not fit in the storage closet). He’s relented. As long as they don’t mess up the satellite dish, they can stay.

So every morning, when Joshua and I come into the living room for sunrise, I open up the sliding glass door to our patio, and Mr. and Mrs. Pigeon coo a morning song to Joshua. And he is fascinated! He lays on his play mat perfectly still as the birds hum and talk. When they stop, he begins to kick and wiggle and sing his own song until the birds begin again. This morning, that drama was much more exciting to me than the thick passage of Deuteronomy I was attempting to delve through.  Josh’s exuberance is so total; so embodied! Every part of him quakes and anticipates the sound of the bird’s song, and then ceases to move a muscle while they converse in their strange way.

So, ignoring the blessings and curses in the Old Testament, today I meditated on that child-like anticipation. When I come before the presence of God, it is rarely with quaking and trembling, or even an elevated sense of excitement. At best, my attitude is that of duty and habit. And when I hear the Voice begin to sing morning songs to me, I’m often so overwhelmed with all the other sounds (my to-do list, my worries), that I am not still and quiet. But, even if the Voice has nothing revelatory to say, but simply sings for the joy of singing, isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t I just be still and bask in the beauty and wonder that this Voice sings to me? That God loves me so much that He will sing for me?

“The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

I continue to struggle to learn this lesson, of being quieted with His love, but I think having my children as an example helps.

Joshua at Rest

How do you cultivate child-like faith in the Presence of this God who sings over us??

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