Monday, June 21, 2010

Jacob Eliav Tindall, My Grandson

Our first grandson, Jacob Eliav Tindall, was born this evening (Monday, June 21) at 7:28, weighing 7 lbs 1 oz.

Congratulations Mary and Ryan!

Grandma's turn to hold the little sweetie!

I am too tired to write any more tonight!


Sunday, June 13, 2010


Dear friends,

Grace!  We sure need it, don't we?  Unfortunately, we don't always experience it.  That can change.

The title of this video is "When You Get Tired Enough." I found it on-line after someone gave me an audio CD labeled "Grace" by the same man, John Lynch, on the same basic topic.  This one was for the students at Biola University.  John Lynch is the pastor of Open Doors Fellowship in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as an author.  I find his perspective extremely refreshing and motivational  just about now.   God's love for us is not at all based on how well we perform or how well we hide.

I highly encourage you to watch it!  (He's pretty entertaining, too!)  I'd love to hear what you think, so hit the comment button when you're done.

Grace, peace and joy to you!
Virginia Knowles

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Honey Italian Potato Salad

Honey Italian Potato Salad

 Mix all of the following ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate.  
  • 10 medium potatoes, washed, cut into thirds, boiled, cut into bite size chunks and cooled
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup chopped fresh broccoli florets (not stems)
  • diced green, red, and/or orange peppers (optional)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (can be low-fat)
  • 1 cup Italian dressing (can be fat-free)
  • 1/4 cup honey
I made this recipe up a few weeks ago but can't find the photo I took of it, but it was yummy and the family liked it.  I just now found the e-mail I sent to myself with the ingredients that I typed in so I wouldn't forget them -- and I'm sharing with you, too!

Virginia Knowles

Friday, June 4, 2010

Creativity AND Order (They Aren't Mutually Exclusive!)

Creativity AND Order
(They Aren't Mutually Exclusive!)
by Virginia Knowles

[Note: This was the feature article in the May issue of my Hope Chest e-magazine.]
Creativity! Orderliness! Imagination! Productivity! I've thought so much about these topics in recent months. It's going to be a challenge to channel all of the ideas buzzing and bouncing in my brain through my fingers, onto the keyboard, and out to you in cyberspace. But I'm going to try.

One thing that hugely irritates me is when people use fallacies called false dichotomies, framing situations in tight either-or constructions. In their minds, something must be EITHER this OR that, and can't be both or neither. It's all black and white, with no grays and certainly no colorful rainbows. One of the most common false dichotomies is that individual people are either creative OR orderly. In truth, we are all a mix of both, though some of us lean disproportionately in one direction or another. I'm saddened when I see an imbalance lead to personal dysfunction or family conflict. It doesn't have to be creativity versus order, as if we are pitting enemies. Creativity and order need to work together to create beauty and productivity. People who tend to be more logical and analytical can help create a useful infrastructure of life for their more creative counterparts. In return, the creative souls can enliven and envision their more technically-oriented comrades. A passion for whatever we do -- whether creative or more orderly -- can either burn and consume people, or fuel itself up on God's energy to love, light, and warm other people. In a marriage, we can see our creative or orderly personalities as an offering to serve our spouses, rather than a reason to demand that things always be done our own way. And we can see our spouse's requests to us not as threats, but as opportunities to show love.

You may have sensed by now that I am more of a creative and imaginative person rather than orderly, logical, and technical one like my husband. Yes, this sometimes drives him crazy since I tend to "fly by the seat of my pants." I do have to work at using my creativity to actually get things done around the house, reminding myself that tidying up a room or even cleaning out the refrigerator is like creating art since it brings beauty out of chaos. This morning I put this into practice by cleaning our master bedroom. It's amazing what a bit of decluttering, dusting, vacuuming, making the bed, cleaning the mirror, and rearranging nicknacks and pictures can do to make a room beautiful! I felt like an artist!

As Alice Bass writes in her book The Creative Life, "We label people creative, then grant them immunity from being like the rest of us. We put them in a special category. God does not treat his artistry with such a cavalier attitude. He takes care of the details and claims sovereignty over the outcome. What that means to your creative life is that unearthing your creativity does not grant you immunity from doing dishes. Sorry. But the good news is that your creativity includes everything in your life, not just the artistic projects on your list…. Being creative does not require you to step out of your life and into an artistic activity… If you figured out a way to potty train your resistant toddler, it wasn't artistic but it was creative."

Alice recommends a book called A Whack on the Side of the "Head: How You Can Be More Creative by Roger von Oech. It's an older book but I found it in our public library. (It is not written from a Christian perspective, and I don't agree with everything in it, but it's still quite useful.) Von Oech talks about soft (creative) and hard (analytical) thinkers and shows how each of us needs to use both the imaginative and practical phases of developing new ideas. For example, in the imaginative phase, we brainstorm to sprout fresh ideas. Even if some of the ideas seem silly at first, the mental leap just might take us somewhere else we need to go. In the practical phase, we evaluate, select, and plan our options so we can actually carry them out in a useful way instead of merely dreaming and dawdling.

So instead of seeing creativity as merely being "artsy" I can apply my imagination to solve problems around the house. A couple of weeks ago, my kids spotted two Little Tykes slides, a little one and a bigger one, at a neighbor's curb waiting for trash pickup. We snatched them as the garbage trucks were rumbling down the street. One of them was missing the stabilizer bar and would collapse without it. I told the kids that we needed a metal bar at just the right length and diameter. One of them remembered a piece of steel rebar in the storage room. It fit the holes, but stuck out a bit on each side so we covered the ends with a sturdy padding of plastic bags and duct tape so no one would get hurt. This is creativity in action. Then a few days ago, I needed some knobs to put on the doors of a bathroom cabinet that we had recycled from a neighbor's house. I remembered seeing some pretty porcelain knobs in a hardware bin in our storage room when I was looking for replacement parts for that Little Tykes slide. The cool thing is that a while back I spent several hours reorganizing all of our tools and hardware supplies into bins, tool boxes, tool bags, and zip-lock baggies. This made the knobs very easy to find! This is how practicality and organization served my creative decorating efforts today. You can read Organizing with Plastic Zip-Style Bags at Home and On the Go for tips on how to put your games, puzzles, school supplies, art supplies, flash cards, car supplies, pantry, first aid supplies, hardware, diaper bag, and family momentos in order!  You might also like A Place for Everything.

What about cooking? Everyone needs to eat, which is a practical thing, but how creative can we be at the same time? Sometimes I find the need to adapt recipes to our tastes and whatever ingredients we have on hand. 
I am not necessarily artsy all of the time (though I do like to sing, draw, and make things) but like I said, I've always got ideas buzzing and bouncing in my brain. I love to write. I can't NOT write. (Yes, I know that is a double negative, but it's the only way to say it.) These past four years, I've focused a lot of that creative energy on lesson plans for teaching an English class at our home school co-op, but I've been itching to put that back into more direct teaching of my younger five kids the way we did in our earlier years with my five adult and teen daughters. Now that we're done with co-op classes for the year, I've had a blast in the past week or so firming up plans for next year at home with my own kids. We will be doing American history through literature, writing, art, and music. Fortunately, not all of this planning has been random imagination. I'm learning to use my creativity for being orderly and productive, too. On Monday, for example, I totally reorganized our school bookcases in the dining room so that our first semester's worth of books are generally located on two shelves. I also have a Word table document on my computer listing all of these books by title, author, reading level, historical time period, and geographic setting -- as well as page numbers for individual stories and poems in larger anthologies.

Despite my distaste for un-creative busy work, my four younger kids (ages 4-10) all insisted that they wanted some workbooks to do over the summer. We do like the Comprehensive Curriculum workbooks that you can buy at Sam's Club for less than $8. They are at quite colorful, mind-stimulating and well-organized. The kids are going to do the entire math section as a refresher during the summer, and we'll use the most of the English section throughout the school year for language arts skills. (I am not buying any other packaged English curriculum since we are doing Charlotte Mason style copy work and oral/written narration with lots of literature and writing.) Melody loves the activities like matching and coloring shapes in hers. Micah, who is both very creative and very orderly, insisted that I tell him exactly how many pages of math he needs to do each day to finish by the start of our new school year on. I told him that he had 95 pages to finish in 28 week days (which I figured out later was incorrect!), for an average of 3.39 pages a day. He wanted to know exactly how many days he needed to do three pages, and how many days he needs to do four. So, I had to pull a little algebra out of my brain to do a simultaneous equation. See if you can follow along…  
  • 95 pages in 28 days=3.3928571428571428571428571428571
  • 3x+4y=95 (x=days for 3 pages, y=days for 4 pages)
  • x+y=28 (total days)
  • y=28-x (expressing y in terms of x)
  • 3x+4(28-x)=95 (substituting the new x expression for y in the formula)
  • 3x+112-4x=95 (calculating it out)
  • 3x-4x=95-112 (grouping like terms: variable expressions on left, constants on right)
  • x=17 (here's our answer for the number of days he needs to do 3 pages!)
  • Check: 17*3 + 11*4 = 95 pages and 51+44=95 days
  • So, on 17 days he will do 3 pages, and on 11 pages he will do 4 pages

Now, for extra credit, look at the original full decimal number 3.39285714285714285714285714285714 (Do you notice a repeating pattern in the decimals? You can write this as 3.39285714 with a line over the 285714 since those numbers repeat into infinity.)

Uh oh! Not done yet! The next day when we were driving in the van, I realized that I had miscalculated the number of weeks before school starts again. It is actually seven weeks from this Monday. [Note on June 4: I was STILL wrong on this.  It was nine weeks.  Oy!]  I tried to do the new simultaneous equation in my head, but I'm not that sharp. However, I did remember a much quicker way to do it. I knew that the new average number of pages per day was between 2 and 3. So I figured out how many pages he would do at the rate of 2 pages per day for 36 days. Then I subtracted from the total pages to find out how many were left over, which is the same number of days he would need to do an extra page. So since he had 92 pages left for 36 days, I multiplied 36*2 to get 72. Then 92 - 72 = 20. So he needs to do 3 pages per day on 20 days, and 2 pages per day on 16 days. Checking the math, 3*20 + 2*16 = 60+32 =92 pages. 20+16=36 days. Bingo! I am glad I thought of an alternate way of figuring out these numbers. Sometimes there is more than one way to solve a problem. The more you are used to brainstorming and gathering information, the more prepared you will be to find creative and orderly solutions to the situations you face, whether they are math or not.

What's that? You didn't know you were going to get a math lesson in an article on creativity? I guess after teaching my kids math for 20 years that I do have a little bit of technical in me after all to serve the greater good -- or at least to amuse you for a moment. None of us are completely random-creative or completely orderly-technical. What about God creating the world? He is the Ultimate Artist, as well as the Ultimate Organizer. Imagine all of the bizarre and colorful things he made to delight our senses! But he was orderly, too, creating certain things on certain days, putting animals and plants into species and families with recognizable traits, assigning Adam to name each kind. Even mathematics is full of order and beauty! Have you ever wondered at some of the marvels of the patterns of numbers? Read my little article The Mystery of Math!

I know this article has been sort of random and bounce-aroundy. I've actually written more about these topics in an ORDERLY (organized and edited) way! The following two blog links are from my book The Real Life Home School Mom.

Let Our Ordered Lives Confess the Beauty of Thy Peace…?

The two other full articles I included in the May issue were:


There were lots of other articles linked, but you'll just have to poke around on my blogs for those!


Virginia Knowles
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