What I learned in February

It's been a tumultuous few weeks, with everything from spring-like thaw to deep-freeze blizzard to brilliant sunshine and freezing rain. And yet, the day keeps getting longer, and Lent is underway. The straggle month is coming to end, and I'm wrapping it up by joining Emily to share what it's taught me.

Here's what I've learned in February:

Broken bamboo will eventually grow new shoots. Back in September, I shared about my experience trying to save preschooler-pruned bamboo. Since then, the denuded stems have indeed sprouted new leaves. The taller one started sprouting back in October, but the original victim just finally came back to life this past month. Given the gap in production, I'm going to presume that the taller bamboo reads my blog and the shorter one's an underachiever. I blame their apparent sentience on the lack of pandas.

The names and locations of all the countries in Africa. Every so often, I read an article bemoaning North American ignorance of African geography. As a Canadian, I can sympathize (I won't be running into your friend from Toronto. He's one of 2.5 million people in a city over 3,000 km away). So I took advantage of some late night nursing insomnia to see how many countries I could name and place in my head. I came up with 26 names, but could only confidently place six of them. Not so great. A bit of hunting found me this map quiz to help with the rest. I've now got all 54 down pat, and my memory loved the exercise. I got quite the (thankfully internal) thrill when I met someone from Burkina Faso - a country I hadn't known existed until I found my little quiz and still knew nothing about. I now know that it gets insanely hot there in January, and that they sing "Happy Birthday" in French. Who knew geography could be so fun?

It's okay to limit educational computer games, even when your second-grader claims they're homework. For the majority of our children's lives, we've kept an electronic-game-free home (that map quiz was the first I'd played in years). I don't mind if my kids play the odd game with a friend, but there aren't any games on Mommy or Daddy's phone, and we never offered to let them find any on the computer. It was a comfortably low-tech existence, and done without issuing any bans. Then my daughter came home insisting "Madam said" she had to sign on to Mathletics and RazKids every day, and the battles for boundaries began. After a few weeks of failing to coax her to go back to reading paper books or do her other math homework, I finally put my foot down and put computer games into the same category as TV: something fun to do for a limited amount of time once the real homework and after-school chores were out of the way. Thankfully, her teachers backed me up - the games aren't required, just suggested. So far, the new routine is working for us, and it keeps me from trying to memorize the world before dinner. We'll see how we navigate research projects in the land of Google.

The following, since pretty much forever:
"That's what shame does, though. It whispers to us that everyone is as obsessed with our failings as we are. It insists that there is, in fact, a watchdog group devoted completely to my weight or her wrinkles or his shrinking bank account. Shame tricks us into believing there's a cable channel that runs video footage of us in our underpants twenty-four hours a day, and that all the people we respect have seen it. Shame tells us that we're wrong for having the audacity to be happy when we're so clearly terrible. Shame wants us to be deeply apologetic for just daring to exist. 
But I've been watching that footage on a loop for too long. I've been my own watchdog group for decades. I want to do something risky. I want to dare to exist and, more than that, to live audaciously, in all my imperfect, lumpy, scarred glory, because the alternative is letting shame win."
-Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p. 230
It's been said that to be a Christian is to fall and keep getting up again. Shame would have me beating myself up for having fallen while everyone is watching. Better off ignoring the lie and work on getting up. It's Lent, so I'm glad for the reminder.


  1. Kudos on your African geography! And thanks for the link. I'm working on the US States geography because even though I live in the US, I migrated from the Philippines & totally missed that 5th grade lesson unit! Stopping by from Emily's Chatting At the Sky linkup party :-)

    1. You're very welcome! I was pretty tickled to see all those areas on one site. I'm currently working on the Middle East, but I might try US States too - I know the ones right beneath my province and the West Coast, but the interior is pretty fuzzy. Thanks for the visit!

  2. I LOVE your geography project! Especially because just last week I thought to myself: I want to study geography again. :-) You've inspired me to follow through on that desire. :-) And how I love that quote. So, so, so good. XO


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