Friday, December 31, 2010

Cousin trek day 5...

I took Bryan and Brady on a books and donuts date this morning. The two-and four-year-old crowd can summon a lot of enthusiasm over donut selection.

I took the big boys on a Starbucks and Lego game date yesterday. It costs more to buy two chai lattes and two mini donuts from Starbucks than it does to buy two drinks, five large donuts and two dozen donut holes at the donut store.

Jacob and Maggie's Disney World conversation:

Jacob: Did you ride any cat rides?
Me: (Confused. Was there some kind of Cat in the Hat ride???)
Maggie: (Without missing a beat, statement not a question) You mean kiddie rides. Yes.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


I know I'm back in Texas because...

1. I'm wearing short sleeves in December.
2. My hair has reached a new level of frizziness.
3. My son shot a bb gun today.
4. I passed a coffee shop with a cowboy hat roof.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cousin trek day 4...

Mimi and Grandaddy are here.

Grandaddy taught us magic tricks.

Bryan has fallen asleep on the couch almost every night.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cousin trek day 3...

We played kickball in Papa T's school gym. I carried Rand on my back in the Ergo. We decided that if I got tagged out on Rand, it didn't count, but if I scored with Rand on my back, it counted as two runs. The human shield was worth the weight and really enjoyed the ride.

Rand loves Amy. He fusses for her when I'm holding him.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cousin trek day 2...

Date with Jacob and Maggie

Feeding Rand

Chuck E Cheese

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cousin trek day 1...

We're off to see all our cousins. Day 1 was a race against the snow. It looked dicey here and there in Virginia, but we made it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas meal...

Main Course
Chips and queso
Arrogant Bastard Ale
Mike's Hard Lemonade
Capri Sun
Chocolate Truffle Cake
Peppermint Pie

Friday, December 24, 2010

In my continuing campaign for mother of the year...

We went to the Christmas Eve service tonight. About 15 minutes after we got home, Mom asked where Bryan was. David said he must still be in the car. Mom and I dismissed him out of hand. Five minutes later, three adults were offering up lame excuses as to why it definitely was not our fault.*. That's right, we left a four year old outside asleep in a dark car in 30 degree weather.

*Chris would like to go on official Internet record as not having ridden in that car.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't blame Beethoven...

Philip Yancey is one of my favorite authors.  His book, Where is God When It Hurts got me through a time when I was too angry to read my Bible.  He says the things many people think but are unwilling to say.  I love his titles - Church: Why Bother, What Good is God, Prayer: Does It Make a Difference, Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church, ...

I came across this Yancey quote concerning the kinds of people God uses.  I think it also works as a commentary on the inadequacies of the church.
Thinking back over the Christian personalities I’ve known, as well as those featured in both Old and New Testaments, I’ve come up with the following principle: God uses the talent pool available.

To adapt an analogy I heard recently, when the Pueblo, Colorado, Symphony Orchestra plays Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—don’t blame Beethoven.  On the other hand, the only way many Coloradans will ever hear Beethoven is through that struggling ensemble.  Unlike Christopher Hitchens and the defenders of non-religion, I can still hear strains of the Good News wherever I go in the world, which is why I keep writing about it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Poopy barbie and psycho santa...

We drove around looking at Christmas lights tonight and I think I drove through some sort of portal back to Texas.  One of the houses had Santa up in a tree, dressed in camouflage and pointing a gun at Rudolph grazing below.  Awesome.  Virginia, I under- (or maybe over-) estimated you.

Check out this link.  I think I may buy this Barbie toy for my boys because...
  1. It's an object lesson in why I don't want a dog.
  2. Anything poop related is hugely popular at my house.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The nuclear option...

While waiting for his candy yesterday, one of my children said to me,
"Just give me the lifesaver, idiot."
Once my brain had fully processed what this person I birthed had said to me, I calmly and sternly informed him what was going to happen when we got home.  While internally congratulating myself on my restraint, it occurred to me that blatant infractions do not typically flip me out as a parent.  While I may be appalled and deeply concerned, just having a clear course of action calms me down.
"This is a Pearl Harbor situation.  I've got to go with the nuclear option."
It's ambiguity that turns me into a fire-breathing mommy monster - suspected lies, "accidental" fraternal injuries, "forgotten" instructions, ...
I had a wrapping party last night.  Wrapping party essentials:
1.  Wrapping paper, tape, blah, blah, blah,...
2.  First and only season of Firefly, possibly the greatest show of all time
3.  Mountain Dew to keep me going into the wee hours
4.  More stocking candy than is technically required

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snowmaggedon and gingerbread houses...

The snow was a lot more picturesque before I remembered that with Chris out of town, I was going to have to shovel it.

I know, 2 inches wasn't exactly Snowmaggedon, but it was annoying until my neighbor informed me that 7 year olds can shovel. So then I just enslaved her son and mine.

We made gingerbread houses out of graham crackers yesterday. Everyone wanted to have their own this year, and I'm too cheap to buy 3 kits.  I love taking pictures of my living room from this angle where you can't see the junk on the floor.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A radical commitment to laziness...

While I do not understand why anyone would want to play outside in snowless sub-thirty degree weather, I must say that having to be compelled to...
wear socks,
zip up your jacket,
wear gloves,
put your hood on,...
demonstrates a pretty radical commitment to laziness.  In a more nuanced demonstration of laziness mixed with righteous indignation...
All the boys are in the basement with their respective water bottles. 
Bryan:  (stomping up the stairs with righteous indignation) David's not letting me decide for myself.
Me:  What are you wanting to do?
Bryan:  He's just not letting me decide for myself.
Me:  (suspicious)  Bryan, what were you trying to do?
Bryan:  I just wanted to touch his water bottle.
Me:  Why can't you just touch your water bottle?
Bryan:  Mine wasn't next to me.
Me:  (amused) You walked upstairs to tell me that? 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Run, run as fast as you can...

You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man.

I'm teaching the preschool class in our co-op. We read The Gingerbread Man yesterday. It didn't occur to me that it might be a little disturbing until we got to the end where the gingerbread man gets eaten by a fox. I had hidden gingerbread men and told the kids we were going to find the escaped gingerbread men and eat them at snack time.

Confused 4 year old: So we're like the fox?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The get...

I served with my church at a homeless shelter last weekend.  Looking in the eyes of each of those men, the mother in me saw somebody's little boy.  There were several very warm and gracious men there and at least one artist.  He had drawn a spectacular self portrait in pencil and had written the following poem, that I love.*   

The Get by Paul Proliaska
I got good taste but it turned bad
Got strong feelings, mostly sad
Got some class but it's all low
Got conclusions but still don't know
Got some thoughts I must define
Got lotsa problems and they be mine
Got some quality mostly poor
Got this hole directly to my core
Got some happiness, a small token
Got some spirit but it's broken
Got the facts still to be checked
Got a life which I have wrecked
Got some virtue though many demons
Got my shame for many reasons
Got some choices, I still choose wrong
Got words and music but no song
Got the answers still I'm not sure
Got some conscience, not exactly pure
Got a past which I regret
Got to gain faith and not forget
Got some love that I'm free to give
Got some hope that I might live
Got my reasons to survive
Got God's reason I'm still alive.
Reading this, it occurred to me that it must be very difficult, as a man, to walk into a shelter and receive food.  The place of your need and failure is out there for the world to see.  But to know and admit you're in need, that's something.  

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
* He gave me permission to print it here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Rand is a year old today.  I want to remember...
The unbridled rage he can summon over things that happen to him daily.

When he sees me unexpectedly, his face lights up, he flaps his arms and then crawls to me as fast as he can.

If I'm holding him and Chris walks up, he hurls himself to Chris.  If he's hungry, he requires that I not walk away during this demonstration of filial love.  Early life lesson:  When you are hungry, keep your food lady close.
The boys are crazy about him.  When they hear me put him down for a nap, they run upstairs and kiss and hug him goodnight.  When he wakes up, one of them usually goes up to his room before me.  Jacob has a list of games they play.  Most involve Jacob hiding in Rand's room somewhere and jumping out, possibly with screaming.  Really, I'm wondering if one of Rand's most painful life lessons may be when he realizes that the world at large was not created for his personal entertainment.

Playing with a ball is a complicated process.  We start sitting across from each other.  Less than ten seconds into the game, Rand remembers that I am a rock star and he must come and grab my shirt and suck his thumb.  Eventually, I roll the ball away from us.  Rand remembers the game and crawls after it.  He grabs the ball and sits but now his back is facing me.  He looks over his shoulder at me, befuddled.  Before long, he remembers his signature (and only) trick and throws the ball in a random direction, smiles and claps vigorously for himself.

He's got a smash and grab strategy when it comes to getting into forbidden things.  If he sniffs on the air that the Lego cabinet is open, the stairs are ungated, or the bathroom door  is open, he tucks his head down and crawls frantically for the relevant area.  Here's hoping that his strategies don't improve in his teenage years.

I love you, buddy.  I can't believe it's been a year.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I surrender a lot, but slowly and under duress...

When I started this motherhood gig, I was thrilled to begin this fulfilling, rewarding part of life.  There was this underlying assumption that it would be an amazing addition, like a favorite sweater you wear most of the day but can set aside at will when it gets uncomfortable. I didn't understand that it would change my life.  That it would be less in my control than I thought - more like skin than a sweater.

My first whispered hint that motherhood might be more than a life accessory came just a few weeks into my first pregnancy.  As I watched my sister-in-law with her newborn, I noticed that it was more time-consuming and invasive than I had imagined.  I couldn't have put it in so many words at the time.  It was more of a vague sense of uneasiness.

Because we lost that first sweet baby and the next, bringing home David was more of a stress-reliever than a reality check in terms of the demands of motherhood.  It wasn't until we brought Jacob home* that the realities of motherhood began to hit for me.  It felt like I was always on.  Someone needed me all the time.  I couldn't go to the doctor, get my haircut, work, ... without making arrangements that seemed more complex than arranging a U.N. summit.  It was hard to not have the freedom to just decide to do something and do it.  It made me feel like a sub-person.  Jacob was around 6 months old when I was struck in that clear and foreign way that I recognize as the leading of God - I was living for the times that they slept.  During my time with them, I was just running out the clock. Not that I never enjoyed them but that my posture was one of getting done.  Away from them, I could really be me and do important and enjoyable things.  That first surrender was to just be where I am - to enjoy the time with them, be present and stop fighting it.  To really accept that my life is different now and my time is no longer my own.

About 5 minutes after my post-Jacob epiphany, I got pregnant with Bryan.  Rand came a few years later and this first year of his life has been fraught with surrender.  Some of it has been spiritual.  I have long had angst about whether I really live out my faith.  "Shouldn't I be doing more for God?  How can I possibly be honoring God living as a comfortable suburban stay-at-home mom?  Surely I have to run some sort of ministry to be pleasing to God."  This is followed quickly by, "Holy crap.  How in the world am I going to do that.  I can't do the things I'm already obligated to do."  The response I got to that "God what do you want me to do?  What do you want me to do?  What do you want me to do???" was "You come to Me like I'm demanding."  It was what my pastor calls a thought bomb - a voice in your head that you know is not you.  It was the beginning of a shift for me.  What if what God wants is me and not the awesome stuff I can do?

Part of what has come out of it is a new way of looking at motherhood.  It's not something that interferes with my ability to serve God faithfully.  I'm called to live my current life in a way that honors God - in the way Jesus would had he been me.  Not someone else's life but mine.  My circumstances don't have to change first.  That's actually a very subtle and powerful lie.  So now I'm trying to transfer my emotional energy and thought life from angst and discontent to embracing and pouring myself into my current role - wife to Chris and mother to the brothers h.  And the thing is, God has sent meaningful opportunities apart from the household h - more I think than were there when I was devoting a lot of my waking hours to worrying about it.  So, the spiritual surrender has been to embrace wife and motherhood as a spiritual calling - an area where I can be pleasing to God.  Accepting that while it's not the only spiritual service for me right now, it's the main thing.

The next big surrender has been vocational.  I have had an awesome part time work situation since David was a baby.  I didn't realize how important the work was to my self-image and security until I had to give it up.  The decision wasn't hard and wasn't the place of surrender, but the aftermath has been unsettling.  It's hard to embrace a role of service in a culture that places such emphasis on material compensation and upward mobility and equates service with inferiority.  The surrender has been more in embracing the actual work I do every day as important and worthwhile alongside releasing the need to know what will come next for me or that if I do a good job, these guys will turn out the way I pray they will.  I want to find a place of doing motherhood with excellence but without demandingness.

Figuring out the territory to surrender, permanently or not, and the territory to defend is tough, and just as holding more territory than you can defend has dangers, surrender is dangerous - anger at what you've had to do, an expectation that you're owed something in return or giving up ground that you should defend.  Right now some of the "me territory" I'm defending is time alone, time for meaningful reading and learning to play the guitar.  So I'm praying for wisdom in determining the right ground to surrender and for an attitude not of earning but of God-honoring effort seasoned with grace.

Fourteen years ago, I had a detailed and controlled plan.  We would have two kids, 18 months apart.  I would take 2-3 years off work, then back to a fulfilling and rewarding career as a tenure-track professor at a research institution.  The reality of motherhood has been a wilder ride - more heart wrenching, unpredictable, demanding, gross**, laughter-inducing and thoroughly out of my control than I envisioned.  It's nearly torn my heart out in places, but it's a good work - worth the best of me.

 I can't end this little sketch without a word of thanks to...
...Chris who respects my need to go off by myself sometimes and talks me off the ledge. parents and in-laws for taking over the parenting duties for us now and then.  I want to be like you for my kids someday.
...Amy who prays for me.
...My church ladies further down the mothering road who speak life-giving words about the importance and fleeting nature of this stage.
...George MacDonald for his writings on the dignity of God-honoring service.
...Dallas Willard for his writings on what it looks like to live as a disciple of Jesus.
...God who has been open-handed with me in the matter of babies. 
*Jacob was our easiest baby.  It was just the newborn/toddler combination that got me. 
**I have had to stick my hand in some nasty stuff.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Unwise and unwiser...

See pencil mark to the forehead
1.  Brandishing your light saber when your light saber is a pencil you keep in the neck of your shirt.
Two right shoes of different sizes and colors
2.  (Running late for a doctor's appointment)  Telling your four year old, "I don't care which shoes you put on.  Just find some shoes you can put on by yourself."
3.  Sitting vigorously when you have a Star Wars gun wedged in your pants.
4.  Consoling a crying five year old (see #3) by letting him say "I got hurt on the butt!" as much as he wants on the way to buy a Christmas tree.*
5.  When the seven year old is annoyed by #4, announce,"I'll turn the music up louder to drown him out."
6.  Laughing at the logical consequence of #5.
7.  Announcing that you've awoken for the day by shooting your mother with a nerf crossbow** in a dark hallway at 6:30 a.m.***

*They're not allowed to say "butt".  I think he felt like he was dropping the f-bomb for free.
**Big shout out to Nana for buying nerf crossbows for the boys.
***When I typed this at 11:15, it was a lot funnier.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brothersh center for international studies...

Bryan:  There's a wot of countries, right?
Me:  That's right.
Bryan:  I know some of them...Africa, America, Virginia, Peter Pan (Japan)...

Every day for the past two weeks, Jacob practices his Chinese handwriting.

Popular Posts