Eating like an Immigrant, Part I: Out of this Kitchen

July 27, 2009 by joannabug  
Filed under Grace for Life, Loving

Comments Off

This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time (and been meaning to blog about for quite awhile). It’s sort of become a whole philosophy of food for me, especially through participating in the My Kitchen, My World challenges every couple of weeks. We just watched a really cool PBS series entitled The Meaning of Food, which illustrated how food helps to preserve and pass on identity (I’ll talk more of that in a later post), which sort of pushed me to go ahead and do this series. And I also know many people are trying to find creative ways to eat for less money in this economy, so maybe this could be helpful. I’ll try to include a recipe or food suggestion with each post

So, let me start out with a cookbook that I read a few years back that I think was the yeast that started fomenting these ideas in my head.

Out of this Kitchen: A History of the Ethnic Groups and Their Foods in the Steel Valley

It started when I was in Pittsburgh and one of my professors gave me a cookbook that his ethnomusicologist-turned-regional-historian wife had worked on, featuring recipes, oral histories, and newspaper clippings over the past century from the different ethnic groups who came to work in the steel mills in the Pittsburgh area.

Each immigrant group–Lithuanian, Slovakian, Italian, etc.–has navigated its own path to adapt and preserve its own native foodways to the new land and new economy. It wasn’t so much about Authenticity (like you would find in some gourmet cookbook that calls for rare and expensive ingredients so that you make it exactly right), but about adaptation–preserving a heritage within a new culture, and using your little bit of money to feed your family (probably large and/or extended).

Tim’s own family heritage is Slovokian, so it was fun reading over the foods and culture that the Slovokians brought to Western PA. My mom’s side of the family, too, has Eastern European influences, mainly Polish from my mom’s side. So reading through this cookbook brought me in touch with the immigrant history of my own family’s past. Tim’s great-grandparents (on both sides), and my great-grandparents (on my mom’s side) immigrated over from the same side of the world.

This article has several links to recipes in the cookbook.

Here’s my own Not Authentic take on pierogis, sort of continuing with the adaptation theme.

Cross-posted from In Search of Lost Time.

Arts and Culture: For a Four Year Old

July 23, 2009 by diber  
Filed under Grace for Life, Teaching

I wanted to share some of our current favorite books.

This first is my favorite, and the kids just get to reap the benefits. If you have young children, this book is a must-have, in my opinion. It will get you through some dark, long, lonely, crabby afternoons. Mary Ann Kohl’s First Art : Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos. I love Kohl’s philosophy of art for young children, that it is a process, without so much the finished “product” in mind. It’s about learning, experimenting, doing, touching.

Kohl says:

During the process, toddlers and twos discover their own independence, as well as the mystery of combinations, the joy of exploration, the delight of creating, and the frustration of challenges–all important pieces in the puzzle of learning… The art process allows toddlers and twos to explore, discover, and manipulate their worlds…Art process can be a way to ‘get the wiggles out’ or to smash a ball of clay instead of another child. The adult’s job is simply to allow this process to happen!

There are six chapters full of activities (and recipes!!) divided under the categories:

  • paint activities,
  • dough and clay activities
  • making marks in various ways
  • sticking on and gluing things
  • making prints
  • activities for adults to enhance their children’s explorations

There’s a great variety of activities which are specific enough to help you figure out what to do, but general enough to act as a launching for further creativity. There’s also a helpful key with each project so that you’ll have an idea how long it may take and what the mess level might be.

I know the book is listed for toddlers and twos, but my four-year-old and one-year-old are both having a great time. In fact, I even used some of the ideas for our church’s VBS crafts–all the way to 5th grade, so don’t let the title scare you. (Though Mary Ann Kohl has many other tantalizing books.)

Other books we’ve been enjoying this summer (now that I’ve finally paid the, ahem, library fine) are the “Small” books by children’s author Lois Lenski (1893-1974). When I was kid, I read her Strawberry Girl
over and over, so I was tickled to find this other series of books for my son. There’s Fireman Small, The Little Train, The Little Auto, The Little Sailboat, etc. Each book features the main character, Mr. Small, as he goes about his day on whichever adventure. Brief explanations of trains, sailboats, autos, etc are woven into the story. And since these books were written around the 1930s, it’s a fun little history lesson, too, because traffic laws for Policeman Small are much different than what we know today.  The illustrations are simple and charming. We have been enjoying these books immensely, and I’m tucking them away as Christmas present ideas.


Choosing a School or Why Cornerstone?

July 22, 2009 by kristen  
Filed under Grace for Life, Learning

A year ago, we were in the midst of trying to start a small grammar campus in the city – starting with just one class – of the local classical school that is sponsored by a large suburban PCA church. In a lot of ways, this was our ideal. School in the city, with an urban culture, but under the oversight of an established school and its board, with most of the factors such as curricula already decided for us.  Michael taught at the upper school before law school, and we saw firsthand its many benefits and excellent results. However, the idea of sending our children 15 miles into the depths of the suburbs for 13 years of education (and driving our fair share of carpools there and back) was not that attractive. So the idea of a grammar school in the city (and then maybe a bus!) sat well with us, and we were very hopeful that we had a good chance of pulling it off.  Both of us have taught in private schools, and tutored homeschoolers in both class and one-on-one settings, and feel led to have our children in school if possible, some we were not considering homeschooling very seriously.

Due to a number of different disappointing factors, things never coalesced, and we never reached the momentum we’d need to open with even ONE class. In mourning the loss of a great idea unrealized, I had a really hard time getting excited about the good and fine grammar school in the suburbs. Trying to think about how I would make it work even with carpooling gave me a headache, since the preschool we love that our second daughter attends is 5 miles in the other direction (and it takes 40+ minutes to drive between the two.)  And I feared the headache would continue every school day for the next two years as I drove non-stop, tiring myself out.

And then, another option came out of nowhere. An established Christian school in the city, almost 20 years old, SACS accredited and doing neat things academically, located just a mile or so from Lexi’s preschool. There’s a simple reason this option never occurred to us before: this school has traditionally had a uniformly black student body. The board, faculty and staff are diverse, and the school was founded by the white father of a fellow church member (we actually know a good number of people who have been involved there.) As an excellent school, it has long attracted a socially and economically diverse student body, but as they went through accreditation and looked forward to the future (including starting an International Baccalaureate primary program this fall and a very exciting move downtown the following fall) the leadership felt that the school needed more racial diversity to best educate students.

Another family at church is jumping into this endeavor with us, so between the two of us, we have K4, K5 and 1st grade students (with Lexi on deck for next year’s K4.) I’ve appreciated the welcome I’ve felt from parents I have met at kindergarten testing and around the school. It’s not a huge shift in demographics, but it may be the start of something big. Even if it isn’t, we can think of many advantages in giving this a good college try. Relatively few middle class white kids experience being a minority, and our children get to do that in a loving, Christian environment where they will share a great deal of common values with their fellow pupils. They will see the church more broadly than the our denomination and circles, and I hope that it will shape them to be gracious and welcoming to other believers. We avoid sending our children to spend most of their waking moments outside the city, and get to connect with others in the city we never would have met.

This isn’t a contract in blood, and even if the school adds a high school (it has always been K4-8th grade) I am not sure that we will stay forever. Our desires for our children at different points may be better fulfilled other places, even if it means a drive. But right now (and for the foreseeable future if things go well) I wholeheartedly believe that this is the place that best fits the values we want to instill in our kids: solid basic academics, Christian nurture and loving our city as neighbors. It also complements the culture of our home and church by filling in some of our gaps.

If this is the sort of thing that makes you excited, pray with us, for Kate, Brady and Riley, and for their parents, as we learn to navigate the inevitable cultural differences and find grace along the way. Five weeks until the first day of school.

Cross-posted at This Classical Life

Summer Reading

July 20, 2009 by MommyGirl  
Filed under Grace for Life, Reading Circle

What books are you reading this summer? Come join our Reading Circle discussion. . .


The Best Way Maybe

July 17, 2009 by MommyGirl  
Filed under Theology for Moms

What About Mine?

When you cried as a little baby
Mom and daddy let you cry
Thought that that was the best way maybe
To make you grow all strong inside
Now that you’re older
You need someone’s shoulder
What about mine?

Growing’ up your mind was closed
For repairs for a long long time
You could feel the loneliness in your hairstyle
Just like mine
Now that you’ve grown up
You still need that shoulder
What the hell are you waiting’ for?
It’s mine

I promise not to chase you
Only to embrace you
I promise not to bug you
Only just to hug you all night

When you was a little baby
Mom and dad they let you cry
They thought that’s the best way maybe
To make you all strong inside
(Were they) wrong? (Yes)
Mine……What about mine?

(Written by Paul Westerberg, Played by Jon Barlow)

MbG Giveaway Winner!

July 13, 2009 by MommyGirl  
Filed under Grace for Life, Reading Circle

We have a winner in our first MbG giveaway, for the book Families Where Grace Is in Place. Actually with so many people responding with enthusiasm, we decided to pick TWO winners to send the book.

And the winners are. . .



Alex and Candace. . . Congratulations! Check your email for more details. . . Thank you for all who participated in and promoted this giveaway.

John Calvin, Lactivist

July 10, 2009 by MommyGirl  
Filed under Grace for Life, Mothering, Theology for Moms

Comments Off

“. . .the Lord does not in vain prepare nutriment for children in their mothers’ bosoms, before they are born.

But those on whom he confers the honor of mothers, he, in this way, constitutes nurses; and they who deem it a hardship to nourish their own offspring, break, as far as they are able, the sacred bond of nature.

If disease, or anything of that kind, is the hindrance, they have a just excuse; but for mothers voluntarily, and for their own pleasure, to avoid the trouble of nursing, and thus to make themselves only half-mothers, is a shameful corruption.”

John Calvin

Today, July 10th, marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. Not only was he a great theologian and world changer, he was also a breastfeeding advocate and encourager to moms!

I find it interesting to note that he addressed the same issues we have in our own day — how hard it can be and how sometimes things don’t function as they were designed. That is the reality of living in a fallen world, and a real struggle for many. And yet, what a wonderful way God has designed breastfeeding to nourish and nurture our children!

For more info and encouragement on breastfeeding:
Mothering by Grace Breastfeeding Forum
One Piece of Advice for New Breastfeeding Moms
Parenting Freedom: Breastfeeding
KellyMom: Evidence Based Breastfeeding Info


(Print by Cornelius Bega, 1664)

Real Love for Real Life

July 7, 2009 by kristen  
Filed under Reading Circle

Andi Ashworth’s Real Love for Real Life is an excellent treatment of the Christian call to hospitality. Subtitled “the Art and Work of Caring,” the book is of particular encouragement to those who are serving as caregivers on a full-time basis. In a world that pushes efficiency, speed and uniformity, Ashworth fights for the personal touch, for giving others our time and energy. Through her wonderful anecdotes, she helps readers to understand the importance giving of ourselves to create beauty and to make others welcome.

Ashworth helps readers to navigate the path of hospitality not entertainment and of true caring and not martyrdom. She doesn’t sugar coat caring or pretend that each day will be wonderful and feel fulfilling. She is also careful not to overwhelm readers and spends time explaining that giving care does not mean always saying yes or seeing yourself as the only one capable of caring. She emphasizes the importance of making room in our busy lives to care for others well.

Real Love for Real Life was a call for me to glorify God in the details, not to impress people but to show them that I love them. It was a reminder that even if I don’t always feel validated or encouraged for what I do as a full-time caregiver, I’m valuable and my work is of tremendous importance. I’d recommend this to any Christian woman, single or married, stay at home or working. It will be a tremendous encouragement to you.


July 6, 2009 by ponderer  
Filed under Grace for Life, Positive Parenting, Teaching


On Mothers’ Day earlier this year I heard Colin Buchanan, singer/songwriter and one-time Play School presenter, pay tribute to his mum. He described a carefree childhood in which all his needs were met, and said that it was only when he became an adult and parent himself that it dawned on him just how much his mum had been doing and how hard and constantly she had worked to give him the happy, healthy and secure childhood he’d enjoyed. He likened being a kid to being on a holiday cruise, in which food automatically appears at regular intervals, as do clean clothes every day, and a warm bed each night. Entertainment too, and activities were organised for him, so he remained oblivious to the fact that there was a very busy Engineer, his mum, powering the cruise, making it all happen, and putting heaps of energy into maintaining the voyage.

Kids are supposed to enjoy childhood. I’m glad Colin recognised the efforts expended for his sake. But I wonder whether many C21st mums and dads would be entirely happy with that model? Do I really want to be Captain, Engineer, Cook, Launderer, Cleaner and Entertainment Officer rolled into one, and is it even possible? It would take the skill of a Cirque de Soleil juggler to keep all those balls in the air. And where is the enjoyment for the parent?

I prefer the analogy of the Wheel of Parenting, where the spokes are all those functions and facets of what you do, but where there is a central role that keeps it all going. The Hub is the single most important job you have – to develop a loving, connected relationship with your kid. All your other roles are secondary, but they radiate out from this Hub of Connection, and depend upon it, really. It won’t matter if some of the spokes get damaged, or go missing – the Wheel will still roll.

Kath Kvols, writer of  the Redirecting Children’s Behaviour parenting course suggested a daily mechanism to keep the Hub in good order. With a nod to Dorothy L Briggs’ idea of Genuine Encounter she has coined the anagram GEM,  Genunie Encounter Moment. GEMs are short interactions of authentic connection – precious indeed, because they almost magically infuse a parent/child relationship with joy and wonder and solidarity.

Some parents already use this mechanism without having been taught, and find that the resulting closeness makes everything easier as a parent.

But let me tell you how it works. Your child rushes up to you wanting you to respond to something he’s just gotten excited about. Normally you are on auto-pilot, smile briefly, say “That’s great!” and get on with what you’re doing. A GEM is a bit different. This is what you do:

  1. You get on your child’s physical level by crouching down, or sitting together or lifting him up to your lap. Take his hand, or stroke his arm or back gently.
  2. You make good eye-contact with your child, and soften your face into a friendly, loving gaze.
  3. You listen intently to whatever he is saying. Push out of your mind your internal “To Do” list, adult agenda or preoccupying anxieties and tune yourself into what is going on for your little one. What is the expression on his face? Amazement? Wonder? Okay, imagine what that feels like, and let yourself share it a little.
  4. Now that you are interested, and can see how important it is to your child, express your shared enthusiasm, or ask a couple of interested questions. But you don’t want to put on your teaching hat too quickly and take over the conversation with a lot of information. It’s your child’s moment – and you are there to enjoy it with him.
  5. Enjoy the glow of mutual love and connection!

Yes, it takes some more energy initially, but this is a FAST way of making your child feel loved, valued and secure. GEMs help your kids feel affirmed and noticed, so their need to get your attention in negative ways decreases. Your energy levels will rise as you enjoy your child and remember what it’s all about. By focusing on your child and meeting their emotional needs for connection you are actually taking care of yourself at the same time. It takes only a few minutes to have a GEM, yet the positive effects last for ages.

Best of all, GEMs help create the kind of connected relationship we parents want with our kids. It ennobles your role as a parent. You are not just an Engineer, constantly busy fulfilling a relentlessly repeating set of tasks. You are a person developing an ongoing relationship with another unique person – your child. No-one else can connect with your little one in a more significant way than you.

So, several GEMs a day keeps the parenting blues away, and keeps the Wheel of Parenting rolling on track. Oh, and they work just as beautifully with partners too!

MbG Giveaway! Families Where Grace Is In Place

July 6, 2009 by MommyGirl  
Filed under Grace for Life, Learning, Reading Circle

We love giveaways — both the giving and getting of unexpected goodies. Our first MbG giveaway is Jeff VonVonderen’s great book, “Families Where Grace Is in Place.”

Here’s a mini-review of the book:

Families Where Grace Is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen.

This book jarred us both from the unbiblical errors and extra-biblical extremes that run rampant in our previous life. Most startling is VanVonderen’s rather matter-of-fact correction that the Bible doesn’t say that I’m supposed to make my husband love me, nor is he supposed to make me submit. I have my responsibility to submit, and he has his responsibility to love. That’s our division of labor, so to speak.

The same goes with parents and children. My responsibility to not provoke my sons to wrath is actually greater than their responsibility to obey/honor me. I can’t make them honor me, but I need to act honorably. VanVonderen was the first for me that made that very simple, mind-blowing point.

This book is great for refocusing our hearts on Christ and having that overflow of the Gospel impact our families — and I wish we could send everyone a copy! But since we can’t, we’re doing a drawing with lots of ways to be eligible to win.

Three ways to enter. . .

1. Comment on this thread (make sure the email address you put in is correct — it won’t show, though, when you comment.) Limit one entry by commenting.

2. Mention MbG and the giveaway on your blog, facebook, twitter, community forum or an email to friends. You have to comment again, to let us know that you did that. Limit five entries — one for each avenue.

3. If you already have the book, but want to win this one to give away, share something from the book that impacted you in the comments. Limit one entry.

The contest will close Saturday, July 11th, at 7 pm Eastern. The winner will be picked by random drawing. The winner will be emailed and announced here, and Amazon will deliver Families Where Grace Is in Place to your doorstep!

Families Where Grace Is in Place has provided much food for thought and conversation here at MbG, including the following threads. If you want to join the conversation, it’s easy to register at MbG.

Quotes from Grace-Based Parenting Books on Discipline
I need a grace filled parenting bootcamp. STAT.
How do you help your child really know that God loves them?
Heading down the Positive Discipline Journey
Why graceful parenting………
Needing Input: What Do I Do (to Help Children Obey)?
Hebrews 12 and Positive Discipline
Books and Your Theology

7/11/09: Comments closed! Thanks for helping make our first MbG giveaway a success! The winner will be announced soon!

Next Page »