Monday, January 31, 2011

Gender sensitivity...

We're sick.  I'm wallowing.  David kept harassing me to make something for dinner.  That involved me getting off the couch.  I don't know what I was trying to accomplish with the comments below.  I think I have a bottomless need for people to validate that it's hard to be the mom.  Really, when you leave for college, you don't fully get that nobody cares that you're sick the way your mom does.  You will never live with another person who will baby you like that when you don't feel good.  (Again, what was I expecting from my seven year old???)

Me:  David, you know how bad you feel right now?  Imagine you still had to do all your schoolwork, even though you're sick.  I still have to do all my work right now.  Doesn't that stink.
David:  Yeah.  I'm glad I'm not a girl.

So, I didn't have the gender sensitive discussion with him that I should have had.  But I laughed at myself, assured him that dads work really hard, too and got up and threw together something for their dinner.  Future daughters-in-law:  it's not much, but it's all I have in me right now.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Simon says...

We played Simon Says last night.  There was mayhem.  There were dirty tricks.  There was a fundamental misapprehension of the object of the game.
The misunderstanding...
Bryan:  Simon says jump.
Bryan:  Simon says pull your ear.
Bryan:  Simon says read a book...
(Continue for five minutes with every instruction preceded by, "Simon says."
Bryan:  Simon says spin around
Me:  (whispering)  You have to not say, "Simon says' somtimes,
Bryan:  Simon says sit down.
Chris:  (laughing) Bryan, don't say "Simon says,"
Bryan:  Simon says touch your head.
Me and Chris:  Okay, someone else's turn now...

The mayhem...
David:  Simon says spank Mommy.
Me:  No.  Try again.
David:  Simon says spank yourself.
David:  Simon says kick each other...

And in a shameless use of parental insight...
Me:  Simon says pat your belly.
Me:  Pretend fight with lightsabers.
I caught all three of them.

Monday, January 24, 2011

As lightfooted as an elephant and as humble as a peacock...

As a born appeaser and committed conflict avoider, I have deep respect for folks who are willing to speak publicly of their faith, especially in situations that leave them open to criticism and ridicule.  My graduate school adviser is a Messianic Jew and a gifted chemistry professor.  He has periodically taken out an ad in the school paper stating the basics of his Christian beliefs.  I think it's gutsy and God-honoring and life-giving for the students who need to know that there are well-respected and brilliant professors on campus who are Christians.*  Academics can be harsh and condescending to students of faith.  

There are, however, public and ballsy statements of faith that are, I think, damaging.  A friend sent me Rabbi Jonathan Miller's response to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's remarks at a church service following his inauguration.  Governor Bentley said,
"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit.  But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister. . . Now I will have to say, that if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."
Rabbi Miller's response was gracious.  He seemed to feel both disenfranchised and degraded.  He said,
"Governor Bentley, as a non-Christian, I felt disenfranchised from your grace as our leader in the immediate hours after your inauguration. If you were an archbishop or the pastor of a church, I could take issue with these statements, or even ignore them. But you are my Governor. Our great nation, by law and tradition, provides us with religious freedom. And even though we do not believe exactly alike, we ought to see each other with brotherly affection, and as equals in conscience and human worth."
I'm going to set aside the issue of what is and is not appropriate in a political leader.  As his sister in Christ, I think Governor Bentley's remarks are wrong for other reasons.  As believers, when we speak of our faith to non-Christians, our attitude should not be 
"I'm in a club you're not in.  Don't you wish you were me."
That's prideful, annoying and completely off-putting.  In his letter, Rabbi Miller speaks of all of humanity as brothers and sisters and as children of God.  I think what he's saying to Christians is, "Don't put yourself on a different level than me."  He has a point.  Our attitude should be instead,
"We're in the same club in terms of being screwed up.  I'm messed up, and I'm confident you are too.  Left to my own resources, I'm the kind of person who is needy, demanding, self-righteous and self-centered with my husband.  I'm angry, demanding and unkind to my children.  On my own, I'm completely self-absorbed in my relationships with others."
From a posture of humility, gentleness and respect, I'm called to share that there is hope - that God's solution is not for us to grit our teeth and try really hard to become better people, the kind of people who don't yell at their kids, aren't demanding and self-absorbed with their spouses,...  His solution was to send his Son to take on the responsibility for my sins.  If I accept that solution, I gain access to the Holy Spirit.  According to his own wisdom and somewhat in relation to the degree I'm willing to live my life God's way - the way Jesus would have if he had been me,** God changes me by his Holy Spirit.  There are some things I don't struggle with, because of the particular way God made me.  I don't cut people off on the road.  I'm naturally patient with any one of my children when we're alone together and don't have a task to complete.  But, give me more than one child at a time or something to accomplish, and I really struggle with anger.  Without God's help, I yell.  A lot.  But by the work of the Holy Spirit, God is changing me.  Through prayer, the wisdom in the Bible and through fellowship with other believers, my character is changing, albeit painfully slowly.

There's purity of heart and wisdom needed in when and how to share the hope we have found in Jesus.  A great deal of damage is done when it's shared at the wrong time or from a place of pride and condescension, as I believe it was in the governor's speech.  Jesus instructed his followers to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.  What's the wisdom of a serpent?  It's to strike only at the right time.  What's the innocence of a dove?  A dove is gentle and without ulterior motive.  It is guileless.***  In sharing our faith, evangelicals too often have the trampling feet of an elephant and the pride of a peacock. 

*If you're interested in reading more about Dr. Tour, see this article or his personal statement on his website here.
**Shamelessly stolen from Dallas Willard.  See The Divine Conspiracy.
***Again, shamelessly stolen from Dallas Willard.

Friday, January 21, 2011


If you love Jane Austen and have ever been on the more pathetic end of the needy and desperate - cool and confident dating spectrum, this is a book you should read.  Austenland tells the story of Jane, a thrity-ish year old woman whose obsession with Mr. Darcy has actually affected her life.  Jane is bequeathed a vacation to an English resort where women embrace Regency era speech and dress and are courted by actors playing out Austen-like rolls.  A refreshing and surprising story follows where Jane finds Jane and not some more elegant and reserved version of herself.  She finds Jane with all of her ridiculousness. 

In trying to think of other good Austen material to recommend, I just realized that I own all the Austen books, The Jane Austen Book Club, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Marvel's Pride and Prejudice comic book, a Jane Austen figurine, all the Jane Austen movies and a Mr. Darcy paper doll.  I think that puts me on the wrong end of another kind of spectrum.

The boys helped me clean house today.  It cost me about a half gallon of Windex.  The lower halves of all my windows look fantastic.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mean girlillas...

We watched the Primate episode of BBC's Life last weekend.  It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact of that much beauty and complexity in the world that I'll probably never see.  It almost makes me want to pack up and move to Africa - I write as I sip my chai latte.

So one of the species in this episode is the Hamadryas baboon of Ethiopia.  The live in patriarchal societies with many females and young led by a male.  If one of the females breaks discipline, she is roughly, sometimes brutally corrected by the lead male.  It is harsh and disturbing to watch.

The next primate, the Japanese macaque, lives in matriarchal groups with rigid social structure.  A male stands guard and only females and young from high enough social circles are allowed to bath in the best spots, eat the good food and huddle with the "in" crowd for warmth.  Because the macaques live in such an extreme climate, the coldest among primates with winter temperatures of -4F, social status means life or death for the macaques. 

So basically, if you step out of line in a male-led society, you get smacked and then rejoin the group.  Life goes on.  In a female-led group, if you are not "cool" enough, you and your children will be socially persecuted until you die.  This sounds like junior high or high school, or as G.K. Chesterton more eloquently said...
Nature is not our mother; nature is our sister

Friday, January 14, 2011

The road...

If you want to spend some time meditating on what in your life is extraneous, this is a good book.  It follows a man and his son struggling to survive in a post-apocalypse world.  This man wants food, fire and for himself and his son to not be cannibalized.  In a post-apocalypse world, how much of my life would look vain, wasteful, or just plain unnecessary? 

The father really wants more than that, though.  He's trying to protect the light in his son - his belief in goodness and his yearning to walk upright in a world devoid of hope.  The child wants to be a "good guy" and to help the few bedraggled survivors they encounter.  The father wants to guard and protect that light in his son but is also saddled with the burden of their day to day survival.

It's painful to read but  also thought provoking and beautifully written.  Here are some excerpts...
"He knew only that the child was his warrant."*

"Creedless shells of men"

"By day the sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp."

"The world shrinking down about a raw core of parsible entities.  The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion.  Colors.  The names of birds.  Things to eat.  Finally the names of things one believed to be true.  More fragile than he would have thought."

"Do you wish you wish you would die?
No.  But I might wish I had died.
Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave."

"There is no God and we are his prophets."

Concerning the boy
Other survivor:  "Maybe he believes in God."
Father:  "I don't know what he believes in."
Other survivor:  "He'll get over it."
Father:  "No he wont."

Father to son
"You have my whole heart.  You always did.  You're the best guy.  You always were."

*I had to look up the actual definition of warrant.  
warrant - something that serves to give reliable or formal assurance of something;guarantee, pledge, or security.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Toilet tax and something serious...

I've been griping at the boys for the last year about the unflushed toilet situation around here. It's such an easy, low energy thing to flush a toilet, I've felt like surely I could appeal to their reason through the force of cold logic, okay, more like relentless nagging. I've been spectacularly unsuccessful until this week. On Monday I instituted the rule I've been threatening for several months - anytime I find an unflushed toilet, everyone loses a quarter from their allowance. They lost 75 cents Monday, another 25 cents on Tuesday, and nothing today. Unflushed toilets successfully shifted from my problem to theirs. All those episodes of Intervention have paid off.
About once a week I hear " Mommy, come quick, it's something SERIOUS." I know what's awaiting me will be

1. Life threatening for one of the brothers h
2. Hugely annoying to me (mayhem and destruction) OR
3. Highly entertaining

Well, there were no screams with the urgent summons today, so I knew I was facing situation 2 or 3 and finished up the dishes before investigating. I found this.

I have no idea how or why, but he managed to buckle his upper body into the car seat and couldn't move. It's a testament to his sunny nature that he laughed and said yes when I asked if I could grab the camera and take a picture before freeing him. I think life is going to be easy on him in a way that it will not be on a couple of his brothers.  Although if he does this kind of stupid stuff without peer pressure, he'll have problems of his own.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, January 10, 2011

Margin of error...

I love watching preschoolers undergo non-traumatic tests that depend on some sort of voluntary response from them.  When Jacob was two, we had to get his vision tested.  He was supposed to identify various black and white pictures.  As soon as he saw the birthday cake, he was so excited that he yelled "BIRTHDAY CAKE" no matter what they showed him.  At Bryan's four-year-old checkup he had a hearing test.  The nurse asked him to say, "Beep," whenever he heard a beeping sound.  It went down something like this...
Stage 1:  (30 seconds)  Bryan is shy and will not respond to the nurse in any way.
Stage 2:  (5 seconds)  Bryan has warmed up and says, "Beep," whenever he hears a beep.
Stage 3:  (30 seconds)  Bryan decides it's more fun to just yell, "BEEP, BEEP, BEEP," whenever he feels like it.
Stage 4:  (10 seconds)  The nurse changes tactics and asks Bryan to lift up his arms when he hears a beep.  Bryan complies.
Stage 5:  (30 seconds)  The test is boring, but lifting his arms is fun, so Bryan starts flapping his arms franctically and says, "Look, I'm a bird."  The nurse gives up.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Magic hair...

We gave each of the boys a date as one of their Christmas gifts this year.  Chris and his dad took David and Jacob skiing.  It was a huge hit.  It's somewhat reconciling me to the fact that in a matter of days, I'll be done with crawling babies FOREVER.  There are perks to getting everyone past infancy.  Rand's date was Chick-fil-A and the mall play area.  Bryan and I went to see Tangled and to eat at Pizzeria Uno.  I had so much fun having him on my own.  Highlights:
  1. The parking garage was almost full so we had to park on level 8.  It was one of the most thrilling things that has ever happened to Bryan.  He builds parking garages almost every day.  He said goodbye to each level during the thirty minutes it took us to exit the parking garage.
  2. He sat on my lap during the movie.   About half way through he got really upset worrying over whether Rapunzel was going to get back to her real mom and dad.  I love that the boy/girl relationship is not even noticeable to him right now.  I had to pull a Bert and Ernie and tell him the end of the story.*
  3. We went to visit Chris at work after the movie.  Bryan pronounced, "Aunt Angela has magic hair.  Daddy does not have magic hair."
Aunt Angela
*In Elmo in Grouchland, Bert and Ernie burst on the screen halfway through the movie to assure the kids that Elmo is really going to get his blankie back from the bad guy in the end.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Before Sinai...

I read this yesterday morning:
"Exodus does not start with God and Moses on Mt. Sinai.  It starts with five women* giving Moses life, protection and training.  The great books of Samuel do not begin with Samuel, Saul or David.  They start with Hannah struggling to bring forth a son...David was in Bethlehem because two women (Naomi and Ruth) came back there to make a home and to start again God's way."**
It gave me vision for my day yesterday.  I need frequent reminders that this mothering gig is important.  I almost always know it in my head, but I get tired and forget it in my heart.
Chris and his dad took the two big boys skiing today.  With a 50% reduction in little boys in this house, I may actually finish my list today.

This is one of those pictures that makes it look like your morning went down much differently than it actually did.  I'll leave it at that.

*The five women are the two Hebrew midwives who refused to kill all the newborn boys, Moses' mother and sister, and Pharaoh's daughter.
**From The Five Aspects of Woman by Barbara Mouser.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Guns, church and meat...

We had a great time with my brothers. Here are some scenes from Alabama...

Normally its tacky to take pictures in church, but there's an exception when your brother's the pastor. I love seeing the way he's grown from kind of a goofy little brother to a man of God.

I love this picture of David sitting between his cousins in church.

And, because "hot dogs" is much less appetizing than...

"meat wieners".

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Somehow we lost a piece to Rand's car seat in Meridian, Mississippi. Ron, my awesome father-in-law who's driving me all over the country this week, thinks the blame lies with the klutz who took him out of the seat (me). But every mystery I ever read said you must ask the question, "Who stands to gain from the crime?" Well, this was Rand before we stopped.

He got an extra 30 minutes crawling around the car while we searched frantically for that stupid piece. I think he's a baby criminal genius. He must have hid it somewhere. Ron ended up buying heavy duty plastic ties and scissors, so now we have to cut him out at every stop.

We made it to John's house. Aaron and the girls came down too.

John and Karen and I stayed up late talking and playing guitar. Conversation...

Me: Did you just pick up guitar on your own?
John: No, I had lessons.
Me: When? How did I not notice that?
John: Ninth grade - you were probably busy looking at index cards.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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