Monday, January 23, 2012


Playing my first game of Stratego with one of the boys...
Me:  How does the game end?
Him:  What?
Me:  How can you tell when someone has won?
Him:  (cheerful assurance)  They say, "Look, I won!"
And another obvious answer...
Brother 1 to Brother 2:  (Dressed in a clone trooper mask, Power Ranger gloves, elbow pads, knee pads, laser tag vest on chest, plastic shield strapped to back, bungee cord around waist to hold small weapons, bathrobe sash tied across chest to hold larger weapons)  (with confidence) I look cool, right? 
Brother 2:  (emphatically) Yeah!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Graveyard Book...

The Graveyard Book is the story of Nobody (Bod) Owens.  (How can you not love a book whose hero is named Nobody Owens?)  As a toddler, Bod narrowly escapes the grisly deaths his parents and sister suffer.  He toddles his way into a graveyard where he is granted the Freedom of the Graveyard and adopted by ghosts.

The book reads almost like a collection of short stories with the thread of Bod's unusual journey to manhood and growing need to understand his past and obtain justice, or arguably vengeance, woven throughout.  Bod's other-worldly guardian wrestles with how to balance Bod's love of learning and desire to experience the world, specifically school, with the need to keep him safe.  (Hmmm, thought provoking for the homeschool community.)  I love this exchange between Bod and a bully at school:
"You're weird," she said.  "You don't have any friends."
"I didn't come here for friends," said Bod truthfully.  "I came here to learn."
Mo's nose twitched.  "Do you know how weird that is?"  She asked.  "Nobody comes to school to learn.  I mean, you come because you have to."

The beauty of this book is in the details.  I love the epitaphs...

I was a stranger and you took me in.  

Who Did No Harm to No Man all the Dais of Her Life.  Reader, Can You Say Lykewise?

And the minor characters like
Nehemiah Trot
who exacted revenge on his literary critics by having himself buried with his unpublished poetry, forcing them to dig up his body once his genius was, inevitably, recognized. 

Bod:  And after you died, they dug you up, and they printed the poems?
Trot:  Not yet, no.  But there is still plenty of time.  Posterity is vast.


This is a perfect book for a rainy weekend.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

JESUS > religion

You may have seen this video.  It's been all over Facebook.  I love it.  I saved it to a Pinterest board for when the boys are older.  I'm surprised by the number and variety of Facebook friends who posted it.  I'm intrigued because I think almost every believer I know would say this guy is right on.  More Jesus. Less religion.  But if we overwhelmingly agree, why does the American church suck at this so spectacularly?  Why do I suck at this so spectacularly?  I've had snatches of JESUS > religion in my life, by I inevitably gravitate toward rules and performance.  The answers I've come up with so far are religion is familiar and Jesus is hard - simple but hard.

Religion is "spiritual capitalism."*  It's getting good church grades and being better than enough other people.  We're soaked in it from birth.  I'm an American, I've been performing for gold stars since I could grab one with my chubby little hand and stick it to my shirt, and my spiritual life has so often been just another place to dance.  Am I doing enough - praying enough, reading the Bible enough, teaching my kids enough, serving enough...  Religion is comfortable.  It just takes faith and makes it like everything else in my life where I'm trying to be good enough.

But if religion is my comfortable armchair, and Jesus is rock scrambling on a beautiful day, once I've experienced the beauty and exhilaration of the hike, why do I find myself back in the armchair over and over and over and over again?

I was reading about Solomon recently and was struck by how well he started and how poorly he finished.  He wanted the things of God.  What happened? I don't think he stopped wanting to be faithful, he just wanted some other stuff, too.  Saying yes to things that probably seemed neutral to him at the time, actually meant saying no to God.

Choosing Jesus is hard - simple but hard.  Seriously, there's TV in there with the armchair.  I can do internet shopping and eat all my favorite food.**  It seems like, in theory, I should be able to take all that stuff with me on the hike because, really, if I'm excited about the hike and willing to go, who cares if I bring my favorite snacks.  But it turns out that saying yes to all that "innocuous" stuff is actually saying no to the cool hike, so the comfortable, if slightly stinky, chair is really my only option.

So, it's not so much that I want religion and not Jesus.  It's that I want Jesus plus a lot of other stuff, too.  And that's not what following Jesus IS.  So I inevitably end back at religion without Jesus, ad nauseum.
Romans 7:17 - 25, The Message
17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
 21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
 24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
 25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. 

*The term, "spiritual capitalism," is stolen from a wonderful daily meditation that a friend sent me and I have since lost. 
 ** I wish these were more metaphorical.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Getting metal...

Warning:  This is one of those intimidating housekeeping posts I was warning you about. 

The writing curriculum we use (Writing With Ease) involves listening to literary passages, answering questions about the content and coming up with a summary of what you've just heard.  Jacob has a problem with daydreaming while I'm reading the passage and then having no idea what I'm talking about when I ask the questions. 

Recently, our passage began:
Today is Monday, today is Monday.
Monday, wash day.
All you happy people, we sing the same to you!

Today is Tuesday, today is Tuesday.
Tuesday, iron.
Monday, wash day.
All you happy people, we sing the same to you! ...

After reading the passage, ...
Me:  What happens on Tuesday?
Jacob:  They get metal.
Me:  (internal monologue)  Grrrr.  He wasn't listening AGAIN.  Ugh.  I don't feel like reading that whole stupid poem again.  Wait a minute.  Metal.  Iron...  He has no idea what ironing is.  He's never seen me do that.  Ba, ha, ha, ha.

To commemorate this hilarious conversation (half of it in my head, I know), I took a skirt - one that I love but have been unable to wear for two years because it's horribly wrinkled - and ironed it and wore it to church that week. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

A letter to 20 year old me...

This post is dedicated to the man who "loved me less yesterday than he does today."*

Chris surprised me with tickets to see Robert Earl Keen at the House of Blues on our 15th anniversary.  It's the Little Things** that made it a perfect night.

  1. House of Blues has crazy quilt stage curtains.
  2. The opening act was really good.  I'm looking forward to hearing more from Kacey Musgraves.
  3. Robert Earl Keen was playing in Houston on my anniversary.  There is no one I'd rather see in concert.
In the glow of my perfect anniversary, with Gringo Honeymoon playing in the background, I was thinking about that pair of toddlers (Seriously, how has this worked?  We were babies.) that jumped in the deep end together on December 28, 1996.  Thinking about everything I didn't know makes me smile/laugh/cry/cringe.

Here are some notes to 20 year-old me...
  • Your cooking repertoire will need to expand beyond Rice-A-Roni and chocolate chip cookie dough.  It will, but not before your first Thanksgiving meal is a disaster.
  • You will fight over some spectacularly stupid stuff.  Your first big married fight will be over who gets which dresser drawer.
  • You will have some pretty wimpy medical moments together, including your first joint trip to the ER to... wait for it... remove a tick.  Clearly, you will not be birthing your children at home.
  • At least 80% of the time when he's mad, it doesn't have anything to do with you.  If you're in the car, you can up that to 95%.  
  • When he hurts himself, just walk away.  You'll feel cold-hearted, but in his version of the universe, that's the kind thing to do.
  • Don't start an emotionally charged conversation after 9:00 p.m.  You are not night people.  
  • Don't pout if he doesn't hold your hand in church.  Seriously, that's sad on so many levels.
  • When you're in a fight, try to see things from his point of view.  Don't just listen to gather ammo.
  • Never underestimate the extent to which you can misunderstand one another.
  • Let him take care of you.
  • Sometimes he's not trying to be mean, he just has no idea what you want.
  • You are difficult to live with.  I know that deep down you don't believe that, but you are.  Everyone is.
  • A few years from now he's going to figure out that, sometimes, proving he's right is not worth it and hugging you is the wiser course.  Everyone will be happier.***
  • When you can manage it, this marriage works best when you're looking out for his best interests, and he's looking out for yours.  The difficulty is in figuring out who goes first.
  • Years 3-6 are going to rip out both your hearts and chop them into little pieces.  Neither of you will be the same.  But those years will be redeemed.  Good will come of them.
  • He's going to be good for you.

    He'll talk you out of

    "Fixing" the haircut you hate by yourself
    Getting a second dog (the first one will push you over the edge by kid #2)
    Giving away the children
He'll talk you into
          Backpacking Europe together
          Giving up Diet Coke
          Calling friends when you're lonely



* Chris feels that the fact that this statement is logically equivalent to "I love you more today than I did yesterday" is somehow relevant. 
** One of my favorite REK songs is It's the Little Things (about you that piss me off).
*** This point might possibly be included in an unbloggable note to 21-year-old Chris. 

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