Monthly Archives: February 2014

Happy, Appy Friday: Geography Version

Like many homeschoolers, I suppose, Fridays are frequently field trip days.  We pack a lunch or eat out, and don’t slow ourselves down by schlepping around heavy books.  Instead, we try to read a chapter en route, take time to appreciate a brief observation in nature, and, of course make real use of our ipad.  Netflix, Youtube and a variety of learning apps have been a wonderful way for us to supplement our day, or refocus when things go awry.  The boys’ favorites are the geography apps.

All apps listed can be purchased for only $1.99 or $.99.

GeoBee Challenge HD by National Geographic

iPad Screenshot 1

Do you think  you know geography?  This will whip you in shape whether you are looking to kill a few minutes waiting in line, or seriously preparing for the National Geography Bee.  There are three types of play with this app.  The first is a series of constantly new, multiple choice questions.  The second is pinpointing the locations of countries and cities on the global map.  The third, and most challenging level, is identifying the location of unidentified photographs.  Some are landscapes, others are famous landmarks.  There is currently a problem with the second level freezing, but they should be fixing this soon.

Geomaster 2

iPhone Screenshot 1

This was our first geography app, and none of us are tired of it yet.  Geomaster quizzes you on the locations of countries, cities, regions and flags.  Not only are you timed, but you also acquire extra points the more accurate you are.  I dare you to pinpoint Djibouti, Djibouti with 100% accuracy.

Stack the States

iPhone Screenshot 1

This is S’s favorite app.  It is probably the most visually appealing to a child, and gives plenty of incentives.  Once you sign in you are able to collect states as you answer questions on  states, capitals, flags, and landmarks.  Be careful you stack the states properly or they just might topple over.  There are different games you can open once you pass various levels.

Stack the Countries

iPhone Screenshot 1

S plays Stack the States, but A enjoys the extra challenge of Stack the Countries.  This app is set up precisely the same way but with a global focus.  Photographs of scenes from around the globe serve as the background.

A Montessori  Approach to Geography

iPad Screenshot 1

Montessori has a series of wonderful geography apps to familiarize children to maps and the globe.  With standard Montessori colors, this app teaches and quizzes the user on the shapes, names and locations of countries, continents, rivers and oceans.  The image shown is just for the Europe app.

Geography remains an important subject to study.  It allows younger students a greater understanding of who and where they are in the world.  For older ones, it facilitates a larger interest in humanity.  Geography encompasses not only the study of maps and  topography, but also anthropology, religions, politics, cultures and languages.  For my aspie, geography provides a field of study which encourages flexible thinking.  If we can accept another’s way of life across the globe as legitimate,  perhaps we can tolerate the person down the street, as well.

Primarily, however, we study geography for the same reasons we study nature and science and history : it is all part of God’s creativity.

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”  Psalm 24:1-2


Dale Chihuly Spaghetti

Chihuly hanging sculpture in the entrance to a Glendale, AZ library
Chihuly hanging sculpture in the entrance to a Glendale, AZ library

Artist Dale Chihuly wears an eye patch.  Sadly, this is from losing an eye in an automobile accident several years ago, and yet, this only adds to his cool factor for little boys.  Think pirates.  Mr. Chihuly is famous world-wide for his colorful blown-glass sculptures which can be found in city parks, in front of museums, in private homes and inside museums and libraries.  My three know his work intimately from the nation’s largest children’s museum in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Not only has he contributed a  massive scultpure which extends up four levels in the center of the museum, but there is also a wonderful exhibit attached.  Children can create their own Chihuly-inspired sculpture using plastic replicas of the glass pieces, and can try their hand at virtual glass blowing on the computers.

Chihuly's Fire of Glass

Chihuly has provided us with some truly impressive views as we make our way up the ramps at the museum.  It is more than just something to look at on our way from the Dinosphere to the Science Works.


And I thought dusting around the crystal in our china cabinet was tedious.

This piece is entitled Fireworks of Glass, but G has always referred to it as “Chihuly’s Spaghetti.”  It does look a bit like wiggly pasta strands.

This naturally led to the epiphany of  cooking our own “Dale Chihuly spaghetti.”  I have seen so many postings and photos of colored spaghetti, but we have never done it ourselves.  G was very excited about the idea.

colored spaghetti

We simply used several drops of food dye in our boiling water for the pasta.  It did not turn out as brightly colored as I was hoping, but it worked for our purposes.  G (and his brothers) were impressed and wanted to taste it.  I tossed it lightly with a capful of oil so the noodles would not stick together as they cooled.


My neat and tidy G was fairly tentative at first about digging his hands in to the mess.  He generally does not like to get dirty.  Although, after a bit of coaxing, we finally convinced him to go for it.



Dale Chihuly spaghetti

Here it is: our Dale Chihuly spaghetti.  I liked this sensory play even more since we were able to connect it with a specific artist.  It was more meaningful for him, and it will give us something to talk about and remember the next time we head to the Children’s Museum.

Skilled and Chosen

His hand holds the grey drawing pencil at an angle.  He sweeps downward, then across.  Now he leans in to work more closely on a detail, his wrist hovering in barely perceptible, clock-wise movements.

At ten years old S is capable of something I never will be.  Through his black and lime-green frames he sees clearly, notices and observes.  The pencil is under his control as he manipulates it.  A half circle of the wrist and his left hand moves and lifts up slightly off the paper.    The knight’s chain mail is completed carefully in tiny, individual circles, yet appearing coehesive, virtually impenetrable as the thirteenth century boasted.

It is a skill.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri from the tribe of Judah….I have filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God and have given him the skill, ability, and knowledge to do all kinds of work.  He is able to design pieces to be made from gold, silver, and bronze, to cut jewels and put them in metal, to carve wood, and to do all kinds of work.  I have also chosen Oholiab…to work with Bezalel.  I have given skills to all the craftsmen, and they will be able to make all these things I have commanded you: the Meeting Tent, the Ark of the Agreement, the lid that covers the Ark, and everything in the Tent.”  Exodus 31:1-7

God has chosen.  God has given.  God has filled.  Here is the first time in Scripture someone is said to be filled with the Spirit of God.

How did these men learn their crafts?  Were they artisan slaves to Pharaoh back in Egypt?  Did the Lord miraculously teach them to work with their hands with no prior experience?  Surely they had melted gold down before.   Certainly their hands knew how to hold a chisel against wood, a press for the olives, the needle for the fine tapestries and textiles.  Regardless, His very Spirit filled them with the knowledge and creativity to complete these tasks for the sake of beauty and worship.  As Bezalel carves floral designs, birds or fruit into the wood, gilding them with the gold, covering them in silver, I realize I am also filled with His Spirit, expected to leave a decorative and practical imprint on His holy temple.  For we are His temple.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

And here before me are three temples, entrusted to me to show off all my artisan skill, all for His glory.  The responsibility weighs on me mightily.  How could he entrust me with so great a task?  However, Bezalel and Oholiab speak quietly through the pages of Scripture and through their hard labor.  If God commands, then He will also enable.  If God expects, then He will also inspire.  If God gives, then He will do so abundantly.

What tools has God placed in my hands?  For what purpose has He chosen me?  Do I understand that I am filled with His presence?  The task is too beautiful and too daunting.  I am equal to the task of teaching fractions and literary themes.  I do not quake at the thought of lessons in cooking and folding laundry.  Chosen.  Skilled.  Filled.  Yet, how is it possible to carve empathy into another human soul?  How do I chisel gratitude for God’s grace into my child’s heart?  Where will I find the needle and fine thread to create something so skillful, so beautiful, so worthy of the worship He deserves?

Never will I comprehend.  A pencil in my hands is hardly a tool.  Although S may create worlds with it, never will it bring to life anything from my efforts.  It is merely for scratching down a grocery list, jotting down a Bible verse, demonstrating a division problem.  But the Spirit between us is the same.  My ministry, his temples, are before me daily, hourly.  I gaze on them, overwhelmed at times with the sheer magnitude of the task.

Were Bezalel and Oholiab overwhelmed?

Then, I know.  When God commands, He also enables.  When He chooses, He also provides the skills.  May we all know His presence.

Holiness in the Humdrum

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“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”  I Peter 1:9a

My life is holy.

However, my days are filled with cooking oatmeal and making turkey sandwiches, sauteeing vegetables and filling the dishwasher.  Every day I either do laundry or clean a bathroom.  From early morning I am trying to review the steps to dividing fractions, or listening to a ten-year-old recount the events which created the Varangian Guard, while playing a board game with my three-year-old.

Is your life holy?

Are you frequently stuck in traffic?  Do you often reflect on how to avoid the next mandatory meeting at work?  Doesn’t it seem like there are thousands of daily annoyances?


My life is bursting full of blessings, too many to enumerate, but so often holy is just not how I feel.  How is it possible to have holiness in the humdrum of daily living?  Perhaps God has not yet given me any real troubles in life, because I still seem to find daily living enough of a challenge.

The waves must have been high, the wind sporadic, strong, unpredictable.  He had seemed so close until Peter had stepped out of the boat and onto the crashing, rolling, unholy sea.  And yet he had walked.  Not because he had the power to do so, not because of his own significance, but because he had fixed his eyes on Jesus.  Then Peter remembered who he was, but forgot who Jesus was.  And everything seemed ordinary and horrible.

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid.”  Matthew 14:30

Peter’s eyes were fixed on Jesus.  For a little while.  I am not necessarily afraid, but I feel I spend too much time sinking when I should be staying focused on him.

Is there holiness in folding socks?  In putting mittens and boots on little ones?  In the humdrum activities of every day existence?  In paying bills?  I am thankful I do not have to concentrate against tumultuous waves and stormy seas, because, honestly, getting dinner on the table and the children in bed are enough sometimes.

“Often times we are not taken over by evil powers, but we are taken over by trivial powers.”

This is a quote  from a sermon our minister delivered back in November.  It speaks, to my dismay, at my lack of focus.  I want to be focused on Christ, so that when my three-year-old gives me a hug, I can see how holy we are.  I want to know that when my oldest asks me a question about Arabian horses I can know our conversation is a prime example of the holiness in the humdrum.  Christ has imbued our every moment with his purpose and his grace.  I must not look at my life as though I am walking through a storm.  Or a mundane path.  Instead, he is guiding me, upholding me by his grace.

My day to day life often seems trivial and insignificant.  I am distracted.  I nag.  I fix my eyes on trivialities, petty demons which I create, instead of “fixing [my] eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  Hebrews 12:2a

Conquering the trivial powers.  Fixing my eyes on Jesus.  With sincere love for one another, loving one another deeply from the heart. (I Peter 1:22).  These three boys waking up in my kitchen, wondering if they can eat the last waffle, deserve to experience some of that purpose and grace.  And let me not forget my husband.  He is holy, too.  And may I not forget you.  May my frustration in household chores and boredom with laundry never rob you of a kind word.

You are holy, as well.