Saturday, December 8, 2007

Two Homes and Their Lessons

Almost hidden under the shadows of two large elm trees there is a small cottage with only four rooms, all on the ground floor, flanked by a woodshed. It sits in a garden that runs all round the house; in front spangled with the blossoms of nasturtiums and petunias, behind filled with useful vegetables, kept free from weeds by a hoe wielded by a woman’s hand. The furniture in the house cannot be worth more than a hundred dollars, and yet it is the home of one of the happiest, busiest women that I know. She makes a palace of if for her husband and her child; it is the pleasure and pride of her life, to be kept clean and cared for as though she knew it was God’s gift, as perhaps it is. She was a child sent by a city institution to a farmer’s family to be child and drudge, and while growing into womanhood drifted from family to family. She had no possessions of her own safe the poor clothes she wore, no position in social life, no love till the one man came; and when marriage to a farm day worker gave this cottage into her care, all the love that girls give dolls, parents and playmates was given to her husband and her home.

A ways from here a friend has a mansion, so perfect as a human dwelling-place that if any material source gave soul content, this house surely would. The art treasures in it are costly enough to maintain a family in luxury if they yielded interest in gold, and two men work in the garden and greenhouse that the setting may match the architecture and make the whole complete. Yet often as I have been in the house I have never heard the owner give utterance tone sentence that bore witness to a satisfied heart, and this is the more singular because the house was of his own contriving. His wife is a saint, his children are full of promise; but in not one hour spent with all these sources of human joy has the spirit of them touched with the hand of peace the perturbed heart of the owner.

There is a lesson for all mothers here: They can educate their children in certain habits of mind. The whole of life is colored by the inward light if that light comes from God.

This woman of wealth had in youth but one real consolation; she loved books, and read the best. Her life witnessed their power, her common thought was directed by some of the world’s divinest teachers, and she made everything about her reflect their spirit.

The mental attitude of the man was pugilistic—his life was one long fight, his home and fortune the prizes he had won; but the fighting spirit was the man’s master, and the big interests of earth were in the market-place where he fought for gold. All these haunted the man. The home counted for little more than a witness that he had won, and not lost. The rest, the satisfaction, the love, the sense of reward the home should have given, were smothered, either by the remembrance or the anticipation of battle. The woman on bent knees, weeding the onions, knew more of love and life’s best than he.

The philosophy of it all for mothers is very simple. Something holds people’s hearts, and that something is the best of life.There must be a spiritual atmosphere to turn a house, large or small, into a home with a soul of content in it, and nothing purely wordly can do this. Two geraniums on the windowsill gave the little woman who cared for them more joy than the orchids in the rich man’s greenhouse gave to him. How was it so? It was more than love; it was the determination love makes to take the gifts life brings and from every one of them extract the last atom of goodness

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Influence of Clothes on Children's Character

This article is from the February 1909 issue of the Mother's Magazine.
What insight!

The baby of one year, or less, is attracted by pretty things. Notice how the little hand goes up to mother’s neck to pull at her brooch. It will pick at the setting of a ring on one’s hand, and grasp in its little fist the ribbon bow on sister’s hair. When baby is two years old it knows the meaning of being dressed in its best. It prefers new shoes to old ones.
At the age of three there comes, with further appreciation of clothes and articles of personal adornment, a distinct personal sense. Baby knows that it is itself. It makes use of the terms I, me and mine understandingly. It is conscious, not only of self, but of self in an environment, an atmosphere. Its belongings, clothes and toys, also parents, brothers and sisters, servants, house and furniture, make up its environment – an objective environment that enters into thoughts of its personality.
It is important that the mother recognize the child’s sense of environment. She should provide, so far as possible, an environment of objects that will react favorably on the child’s character. If anyone doubts that environment affects the character of children, let him compare a group from the slums of a city with a group of children of prosperous parents. The difference will be found not only in the dress and cleanliness of person, but in the expressions of the little faces, tones of the voices, and poses of the little bodies. The difference is a matter of environment, more than of birth and heredity. For if the unfortunate of the slums be transplanted into a favorable environment, if it be given all the accessories for character-development that the children of the well-to-do possess, there will be a new creature. The shadows that lurked in the eyes will disappear. Instead of the shrinking manner, there will be self-possession; instead of awkwardness, graces. Social extremes are cited; but the principle enunciated, that environment exerts a powerful influence on the characters of children, holds good among people of all intermediate grades.
Of objects making up the thing called environment, perhaps none so nearly touches the child as clothes. Clothes are thought of in a child’s concept of self. It can get away from an unattractive home, but it cannot get away from clothes.
Through the medium of clothes, habits of personal neatness and cleanliness may be fostered in early childhood, and mistakes in taste corrected. It will be obvious to the ordinary little person’s intelligence that fresh, clean clothes call for a clean little person; that it would be most unfit to put on clean clothes without first taking a bath. When a child has learned that dainty, clean garments, including undergarments, properly fitted and adjusted, are nicer than tawdry outside finery worn with soiled or shabby undergarments, it has unconsciously grasped a moral truth.
The effect of pretty clothes upon the little wearer of them, is to a large extend vitiated if the motive of the mother in providing the clothes was a love of display.
The child knows what is in the mother’s heart. Wearing its fine clothes under such conditions, it catches a taint of mother’s artificial views and unworthy ideals.
The shallow mother who encourages vanity in her children has her antitype in the mother who thinks it makes little difference how her children are dressed, provided their clothes are whole and clean and adapted to the season.
She credits her child’s fondness for pretty things to acquired tastes, and sets before the child her own mature ideas on the subject. She says to the dissatisfied little girl: “Stop coaxing me for new clothes. You have better clothes than I had at your age.” She forgets, or, if she remembers, thinks it very unimportant, that as a child, she too fretted about having to wear unbecoming clothes.
One of the anomalies of everyday life is that of a parent, who would not think of compelling a child to bear a physical burden unfitted for its years, expecting in the same child the moral development, and the heroism, of an adult in the matter of submitting to objectionable clothes.
Many grown people testify to the pain they endured as children on account of having to wear clothes that were distasteful to them. Doubtless the strange shyness and timidity of others is to be attributed to the origin of dress. Like grown people, children are at their best when they approve of themselves.
A teacher relates this incident from her experience, showing the influence of clothes on the character of children: “My pupils were, with two exceptions, the children of well-to-do working people. The exceptions were the little son of a very wealthy man and a little ragged fellow, the child of shiftless parents. Strangely enough, the perfectly-dressed little boy chose his opposite for a chum.
“It was painful to see the sense of inferiority and abjectness that the less fortunate child manifested. One day he came up to my desk and asked if Frederic and he might go out together. Going out by twos was a privilege sometimes granted. This time I refused. In a short time the boy returned to the desk, repeating the request, and backing it up by a reason that seemed to him all-sufficient. “Frederic wants to go!’ he emphasized, with a look that seemed to say, ‘It doesn’t matter about me, but surely you won’t refuse Frederic!’ My second ‘no’ quite bewildered the little fellow. Soon after I called him to me when I was alone and explained that I would not be any more likely to favor Frederic than he in the matter of letting them go out together, or in any other way; that at school they were all on an equality. I shall never forget the strange stare of astonishment on the little face that looked into mine as I tried to talk ‘Americanism.” The soul that animated the ill-clad little body seemed to partake of the nature of rags and patches.”
While a strong character can rise superior to the accident of clothes, as the success of many a barefoot boy and ragged girl attests, the rule that environment, and more especially dress, exerts an influence for good or ill on the moral and intellectual life of the young, holds for the majority.

Our Family Campout

Here are a few photos of some family fun from this summer (Okay, so it's a few months late!)-I guess I have to admit that I'm a reptiliophile (not sure if that's a real word, I just made it up!)-I've loved snakes, lizards, and turtles since I was wee.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Master Franklin David Graham

Here are some photos of our baby boy, little Frankie!

A Tribute to Children

“We behold a child. Who is it? Whose is it? What is it? It is in the center of fantastic light, and only a dim revealed form appears. It is God’s own child, as all children are. The blood Adam and Eve, through how many soever channels diverging, runs in its veins; and the spirit of the Eternal, which blows everywhere, has animated it. It opens its eyes upon us, stretches out its hands to us as all children do. Can you love it? It may be an heir of a throne,--does it interest you? Or of a milking-stool,---do not despise it. It is a miracle of the All-working; it is endowed by the All-gifted. Smile upon it, it will a smile give back again; prick it, it will cry.

Where does it belong? In what zone or climate? It may have been born on the Thames or the Amazon, the Hoang-ho or the Mississippi. It is God’s child still, and its mother’s. It is curiously and wonderfully made. The inspiration of the Almighty hath given it understanding. It will look after God by how many soever names he may be called; it will seek to know; it will long to be loved; it will sin and be miserable; if it has none to care for it, it will die.” ~Judd’s Margaret

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Mother and Variety

The Mother and Variety

Perhaps the mother is especially tempted to overlook the benefits of variety, of change in her program and life, since her duties seem almost to force her into a fixed routine; but the value of variation of activities is so great that it is advisable that she make every effort to break through habit and give change a place in her daily life. Health of body, mind, and spirit demands a reasonable amount of variety.
Many mothers may say they already realize fully the need of a vacation, of a long rest, a prolonged visit somewhere, a trip to the seashore or mountains, but that these are out of the question. These matters being obvious, we refer here to smaller variations of routine and the ones that are ordinarily practicable. Moreover, except when one is really worn out, it is not the great and prolonged change that does one most good; it is rather the little changes sprinkled through the days, the minor diversions, that recuperate one. There is usually no need that one should work without break through many hours; the sewing, for instance, can be dropped half a dozen times during the day for five minutes’ diversion in the garden among the flowers. The change of position, the breath of fresh air, the glimpse of flowers, grass and sky act as a tonic. Two or three minutes taken every now and then to glance at a book, kept open and ready, will divert the thoughts. There should be moments of this or like kind scattered through the day. The recuperative power of these brief relaxations is much more considerable than we realize until we have tried.
The introducing of variety includes also changing directions of effort. If the mother will arrange her tasks in such a way that she can carry several things along at once, changing from one to another every hour or so, this helps. Writers commonly keep on hand several themes or books at the same time. When the mind seems to have exhausted its interest in one, it may work easily if another is taken up. Painters do the same thing—keep at work on several pictures at once. The mother who cultivates the habit of working awhile on this and then on that will do both tasks more easily and with less wear and tear.
Changing the directions of daily walks; rearranging the decorations and furniture of rooms, dressing a little differently from day to day, if only in the matter of ribbons, changing the shoes in the later part of the day—these and a hundred little matters give slight variations that please the mind, ease the body, divert, break up monotony, and aid in producing and maintaining interest and so health. Some people have a pleasant genius in such directions, but all others can cultivate the habit of variety. It is well worthwhile; it eases the strain and adds to happiness. _Mother’s Magazine, December 1908

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Patience With Ideals

Patience with Ideals

By Helen A. Hawley

There is hardly a lesson which a wife and mother more needs to learn than to have patience with her ideals. The learning of this lesson will do as much as any one thing to smooth out the roughnesses of daily living. Someone has spoken of our ideals as tyrants. They may be tyrants, or they may be encouragers.
The young woman who marries has, as a rule, idealized her husband, and if she finds out soon that he is of common clay like the rest of the world, there comes a day when her happiness is in peril. Very few women can say what a wife once said to me. It was this: “I never have seen any faults in my husband which I did not see as plainly before I married him, and I have discovered many good qualities in him which I never knew before.” But she was a woman of remarkably clear brain and insight. It takes a patient love in a wife to sift the perfect from the imperfect in her husband’s make-up, if, indeed, there is any perfection yet to be found there, and to acknowledge the fact that, though he has not reached her ideal, he is surely on the road to it. It will be, also, a wholesome thought that perhaps she herself has not come up to his ideal, and thus the common sense, mutual forbearance, is attainable.
Doubtless the next disappointment is in her own housekeeping. She was to be the ideal housekeeper-no disorder, no dust, no anything which was not irreproachable. But her inexperience meets many failures, her two hands cannot do everything, she does not yet know “the fine art of slighting;” probably she thinks that would be a sin. Thus worry comes, and then irritability, and then a discontent which spreads to others. Here, again, there must be patience with the ideals, and the consciousness that they are not to be reached with a bound.
Perhaps the greatest disappointment comes when the wife and homemaker has her brood of children about her. Of course, they are to be ideal children, obedient, truthful, unselfish, not quarrelsome. And then, after all her instructions in truthfulness, Tommy tells a lie, Marion is greedily selfish, she finds the two boys fighting, and so on. It really seems as if her ideals has gone to smash, and it wouldn’t pay to gather up the fragments. A mother of a large family, who had given her children most careful training, once said to me, “It is discouraging to see that my children are no better than Louise,” mentioning a girl who was coming up in a rather hit-or-miss style. That mother was tempted to think that her careful training did not count; but it did count, as the after years plainly showed. There was, later on, a marked difference between her daughters and the girl who had been carelessly reared. To a mother who feels impatient over this failure to measure up to her ideals, there comes this wise word from a wise man: “How can a mother expect her children to be perfect, when she recalls her own childhood?” There is the encouragement, in a nutshell. As a child, she had her own little tempers, her small rebellions, her crossnesses, perhaps her fibbing; she can recall them distinctly, yet she has grown out of these disagreeable traits into a self-controlled, truthful woman. Why not believe that with proper, prayerful care, her children will do the same?
The road to ideals certainly does wind up hill all the way, but the ascent must be patient, gradual, one step at a time. Taken in this fashion, it becomes, not laborious, but exhilarating, by reasons of successive attainments.

-Mother's Magazine, December 1908