Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen

I’m passionate about training my children to one day be capable young adults. This overwhelming desire to prepare my children for life tends to diminish in the day to day requirements of home schooling. In this world there are many things we have no control over, but we can and must control what we feed ourselves.

My two eldest children have never really been interested in helping to cook (can I lick the beater is about it!), but my third jumps at the chance quite regularly. I hear of other homeschooling families where the children prepare dinner and are very helpful and I often feel we aren’t quite cutting it, especially in the kitchen.

I came up with a thought, that by the time each child turned 10 they would be expected to pick a meal to prepare and cook once a week. The day my eldest turned 9 I told him he would have to start helping me prepare one meal each week so by the time he was 10 he could manage unassisted. He protested briefly but seemed to accept the challenge.

Today was our first attempt. My boy surprised me with enthusiasm. The plan is to teach him five to ten meals that are simple and easy. Hopefully he will know these off the top of his head and won’t need a recipe book. OK maybe I’m shooting a little high, I’ll probably prepare a personalized recipe book for each child with their favorites.

Our first meal was pasta bake. We had so much fun together. I felt like I was on a cooking show, talking through everything we did and why we did things in a certain order. My boy was also surprised with how much fun he was having. He chopped, he stirred, he poured, he was very hands on. Now he’s asking if he can help twice a week.

This was a mountain for me, an area that I felt I wasn’t achieving results that I desired. I’m so glad we’ve started, and I’m looking forward to the journey of teaching my children to cook a variety of quick healthy meals, a skill they will keep and hopefully use forever.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Shack

Book Review of WM. Paul Young’s
Michelle Dennis Evans

The Shack by WM. Paul Young, published by Windblown Media, has a somewhat slow yet descriptive start. In the forward at the beginning of the book we learn the history of Mackenzie Allen Philips known to close friends as Mack. The forward is by Willie who then becomes the narrator. The drawn out process of scene setting is almost boring and doesn’t reflect the rhythm of the body of the story.

WM. Paul Young’s gripping account of the abduction of Mack’s daughter Missy, is intense, as I read this account I had to read the book cover to check that is was definitely a fictional story. Mack and his wife Nannette have 5 children, 2 grown up and moved out and 3 still living with them. Mack takes his 3 younger children camping while his wife is at a conference. The last day of the camp the older two children take a turn in a canoe. While waving to her dad Kate capsizes the canoe and Mack dives in to release Josh who is stuck under the canoe in the water. When every one is safe they look up to see that Missy is gone. With extensive rescue and police searches all that’s found is her bloody dress in an old shack in the middle of the wilderness. The outcome and her whereabouts are left up in the air. Kate is overcome with guilt, blaming herself. Mack doesn’t realize Kate thinks it’s her fault because he is so heavy with the burden himself. He took them camping and took his eyes off his young daughter Missy – it was his fault. He carries the tragedy with him calling this time the Great Sadness.

Three and a half years later Mack is still overshadowed by the whole nightmare. Its winter in Canada and a cold front comes down the Gorge from the east of Oregon. The rain turns to ice on impact and everything is frozen and slippery. Mack slides down his driveway, splitting his head, to retrieve an obscure note in his letterbox from Papa, inviting him to the shack. His wife Nan calls God Papa. Is this a cruel joke or is it really God, he tortures himself in wonder that this could be the answer to the Great Sadness. He hides the letter away but it hangs over him heavily. Mack is so affected by the letter he’s drawn back to the town of the abduction, and back to the ‘Shack’ fearful yet yearning to understand more. Angry with both God and the person who stole his 6 year old daughter, he heads off, not telling his wife or 4 other children about his planned trip.

‘The Shack’ doesn’t contain a whole lot of action the pages are filled mostly with dialogue. The language flows and is simple yet sophisticated and contemporary. WM Paul Young delves into common questions on spirituality and religion. The reader is taken on a journey of thoughts, desires and attitudes, much laughter and many tears through Mack’s conversations with God. These aren’t conversations with the unknown or unseen but a real, true as life tangible God, the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Mack spends a week-end with God at the Shack. In his perception he’s reunited with passed family. God enlightens Mack about forgiveness, judgment and love.

This fictional story allows a deep personal journey. Just how would you feel if a child was abducted? Who would you blame? Who is the real judge, us or God? Then in this convincing story we can ask ourselves how does God show his love? How does God love equally when at times all we can see is pain heartache and justified blame and condemnation? Obviously because there is so much focus on God in this book, an atheist may find it hard to read, but I'm sure they'd enjoy the journey. This novel is more than just thought evoking; it opens up amazing conversations with other ‘Shack’ readers.

The story finds a relaxing rhythm and seems all wrapped up and winding down. Then suddenly the beat is ripped from the reader. Another facet completely unexpected is overturned. Mack is led to another discovery and must find strength in himself to ask more questions to delve deeper into understanding. At times the story seems so far away from reality but conversations make it all seem so true.

The twist at the end comes as an unexpected shock, twisting the story towards a completely uprooted direction. WM. Paul Young beautifully ties it all together in a gripping and credible conclusion.

This novel is brilliantly written, enticing and compelling with every page entering a new dimension it’s almost impossible to put down. A great read for all ages.