Saturday, December 14, 2013
In no particular order these are books that have influenced me or my reading...
2. Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins - I told my friend Kara that I did not understand poetry, and she recommended Billy Collins. I love reading his poems because I understand (I think) what he's talking about. (for the poetry novice I also recommend Good Poems collected by Garrison Keillor.
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - This isn't my favorite classic, but it's an important first for me. I saw it on my Senior reading list in high school and groaned because it sounded so boring. Wuthering... withering... ughhh. I was so surprised to find that it's actually interesting. The story grabbed a hold of me and gave me confidence to try Pride and Prejudice, The Count of Monte Cristo and more.
4. Incidents in the of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs - This was written by a runaway slave in the mid-1800's. The scariest part of this book to me was the damage that was done by generally well-meaning people who lacked the courage or oomph to do the hard right thing. It's a fascinating window into what it was like to live with slavery. It turned me on to good historical nonfiction books.
5. The Histories by Herodotus - This was not easy to read, but it was worth it. It helped me see how much we inherit from Judaic law. And there are so many good stories here: the culture that auctioned off its unmarried women in order of beauty (men were paid to take the ugly ones and had to pay for the good looking ones), the Spartans brushing their hair and dancing as a pre-battle routine,...
6. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - I think this was the first REALLY good children's book I fell in love with. I wanted to be Anne. I kind of still do.
7. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - For years Chris tried to get me to read this, but I had no confidence that he could pick something I'd find readable. Someone else recommended it, so I read it (he'll be mad about that until the end of time) and really enjoyed it. Now Chris is my fantasy guru. He knows what I will and will not like and has recommended several other good ones - Name of the Wind, Way of Kings, Wheel of Time, ...
8. Winnie the Pooh - I read this in college on a whim and was surprised to find much more sophisticated humor than I expected (I've read it to my kids a few times, and the older kids always enjoy it in a different way than they did when they were younger.) It was the beginning of rediscovering children's literature as an adult.
9. Where is God When It Hurts by Philip Yancey - I read this at a time when I felt set upon by God. I was too angry to read the Bible but wanted to read something spiritualish. This book helped me understand that I was not the only person in the world who had been hurt and helped me come to terms with my unanswered questions.
10. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy - I tried to read this in college and found it unbelievably boring. I picked up again as an adult and loved it. It's one of my all time favorites now. So, this book helped me give a whole category of books a second chance. Some (Madame Bovary) I still hate, but some that I hated as a teenager I was able to enjoy as an adult.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
It's hard to find Christmas crafts for boys. A friend sent this awesome option. It's cool, and it works. All you need is a printer, paper, scissors and an exacto knife. Be sure and watch the video on how to fold.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
It's been a rough couple of weeks. Chris' chemo regimen changed and we thought he was going to feel better, but it's been so much worse. Twice in the past week I've thought, "He's in as much pain as I've seen him in," and I watched him get a fourth of his leg replaced last spring. The bar is pretty high.
And it's hard to deal kindly and gently with the boys when I'm tired and worried and when Chris needs me so much. I had good intentions tonight but was way too harsh with David. After the boys were in bed...
Chris: Is David okay? Remember the advice we got about making it right with the boys at bed time? You should get one of the nerf guns and go shoot David.
Me: That's a great idea.
So, because I ambushed him with a nerf machine gun, David and I are now okay. Boys are so weird.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Inner dialogue: Why am I in a good mood? Hmmmm... Chris doesn't have cancer in his lungs right now, and the boys are loving school.
Monday, October 7, 2013
I spend a lot of time in waiting rooms these days. A cancer waiting room is fraught with potential for all kinds of inappropriate things, and I've seen some real gems. I'd like to think these particular selections were made with an ironic smile, but I doubt it.
This was on a table in a waiting room a few months ago...
There's really nothing else to say about that.
And today, blaring on the television in the crowded waiting room of the oncologist, was a soap opera. To fully appreciate this, picture the waiting room. The patients included a teenaged girl, a nursing mother, a young man with his mom and many, many more hurting people in the middle of heartbreaking situations. Most were just breathing deeply and trying to get through this next appointment. And in the background we have heavily made up, hysterical people wailing about things that are definitely not cancer. Chris and I got the giggles over it. I made eye contact with the mother of the young man sitting across from us. I smiled. She rolled her eyes. We didn't need any words.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
- Thinking man is always turned butt out. This was not my vision for him when I bought him.
- At dinner a few weeks ago...
Bryan: Rand, put your finger in your mouth.
Rand: (innocently obeys)
Bryan: Now put your finger in your ear.
Rand: (complies again)
David, Jacob and Bryan: (Uproarious laughter) He gave himself a wet willy!
- Later during the same meal...
Jacob: (finger gun pointing at Rand) Bam, bam, bam.
Rand: (theatrically collapses to the floor)
Chris: Rand, get back in your seat.
Rand: (slowly stands up, arms outstretched toward Bryan) (weird, loud monotone) OHM, OHM, OHM!
Me: I think he's a zombie. Just give him a second.
Rand: (pretends to eat Bryan's brain and then calmly sits back in his chair to eat his roll and ignore his soup)
- After school today Bryan made Rand a super hero suit. Rand's self-proclaimed super hero name is Super Aunt Janet. Seriously, these guys make my heart happy.
"Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power which no subsequent connections can supply." Jane Austen
Sunday, September 15, 2013
From last weekend...
I'm living under a shadow. Most days I can walk here with, if not nonchalance, then composure. But today was too much for me. There was nothing new or unexpected, but the weight of what my family is battling lay particularly heavy on me. And so, of course, the boys sat on the front row at church, and by the time I dropped off Rand at his class and joined them, the seats were full and there was no other option. And anyway, how do you explain to your children that sitting in the front row of church is weird and the closest the normal people go is about the third row or so. It's too... I don't know, raw and naked, like Mary anointing Jesus' feet with perfume and wiping them with her hair and her tears. That scene would have been less awkward if she'd just teared up and kind of spritzed some perfume in his general area.
So, thanks to my children who don't yet know how to hold back part of themselves, I was in the front row when we sang "It is well with my soul..." and "From the depths of woe I raise to thee the voice of lamentation..." Most days I can sing those songs with, perhaps a few isolated tears, but not today. Today I crossed from composed sadness to undignified grief. The only tissue I had was decorated with bright purple, pink and yellow flowers. I felt like a self-conscious, overweight 15-year-old in a too-short skirt who knows everyone is looking at her and thinking she is ridiculous.
Then communion was served. The congregants walked to the front of the sanctuary row by row, so I received the bread and the wine first. Not wanting to make eye contact with anyone in my disheveled state, I closed my eyes and listened as the man standing in front of me serving communion bread said, "The body of Christ, broken for you," about two hundred times.
The body of Christ, broken for you. The body of Christ, broken for you. The body of Christ, broken for you. The body of Christ, broken for you. The body of Christ, broken for you...
This is what makes a day like today survivable for me: the broken body of Jesus on the cross is not only about the forgiveness of my sin; it is also God taking my suffering seriously.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering. Isaiah 53:4a
Thursday, September 5, 2013
I'm about to indulge in a parenting brag, so to maintain balance, I'm going to admit something embarrassing. I have a hard time keeping up with my children in crowded public places. You know that terrifying story most families have about temporarily misplacing a child? My family has... more than one. I think my problem is an unfortunate mix of ADD and optimism. I assume they're where I want them to be, and I'm chronically distracted.
Now, let's move on to something more flattering. This story is from a while back. I felt like things were off with one of the boys (I'll call him H). He had been distant and surly for a while. I couldn't decide if he was just going through a phase, but something seemed off. Chris and I decided to make a particular effort to spend time alone with him. We each pursued him on our own. One night Chris was playing a WWII board game with him. Things were not going well for H. His army was in a hopeless spot, and he started to get very upset. Watching this scene go down, I was immediately annoyed. My first instinct was to say,
Hey, bud. Your father worked a very long, hard day, and then spent a couple of hours playing this game with you because he loves you. Do you think your attitude is showing him that you appreciate this?
But a soft voice in my heart, one that I've come to recognize as the Spirit of God, said, "Slow down. This is a time for mercy." So I brought H a bowl of chocolate chips and said,
When my men are facing imminent slaughter, chocolate always makes me feel better.
The attitude slipped away; he smiled and resigned himself to the destruction of his army and the loss of the game (in Household H there is sometimes mercy in relationships but never in board games), and the evening ended well.
I'm not saying there's not a time to be on a kid like "white on rice in a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snow storm"* - actually my 3 year old could use some more of that action, as evidenced by the whining situation around here. But there is a time for mercy, for withholding what he deserves, justice, not out of weariness or laziness or distraction but because it is the right thing for his soul.
But how do you know when it's right to choose mercy over justice? You don't. It has to do with his soul, and that is a thing of God and not of you. All I can say is that when I'm in a place of pursuing God there is sometimes a subtle, whispery leading that is not there when my life is crowded with too much food, too much TV, too much time spent mentally nursing personal grievances.
And the stakes are high. One of the reasons I remember this scene so well is because of what happened afterward. Just a few days after the chocolate board game incident, H came to us with something serious. It's something we needed to know, and I don't think we would have ever discovered it if he hadn't volunteered the information. I believe the reason he felt safe enough to come to us is that he had been pursued mercifully that week. It makes me wonder what we've missed over the years through laziness and self-involved anger.
So, I realize this post is shamefully braggy, but I'm not going to apologize for my arrogance. To the children out there who need mercy this week, I pray that you find it. To the ones who require something much less pleasant (ahem, Rand), I heartily wish you get what you need as well.
* Major Payne
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Lots of things are changing around here. Our first several months of cancer as a family were about everyone's most basic needs. It was like being in the ER. The goal was to get everyone stable. So, we got Chris treatment, made sure the children's most basic physical and emotional needs were met and brazenly cast aside the nonessential (grammar lessons, team sports, organized meals,... ). Now, we're nine months into treatment, and we have at least nine more to go. We have to figure out how to live with this. So, we're changing some things...
First, about five minutes after Chris was diagnosed, I realized that I didn't have the bandwidth for homeschool and cancer. We winged it for the spring semester last year and decided on a university-model school for this fall. The boys go to school Monday and Wednesday and do the rest of their work at home. They started this week and had a wonderful first day. They had a wonderful half a day schooling at home on Tuesday. We rocked it out until about 11:00 AM and then limped to the finish line from there. Here's our first day of school picture.
Second, Household H has grown. I am no longer the lone female, civilizing force in the house. We found a wonderful and brave young woman from Denmark to come and live with us for the next year. Her name is Cecilie, and she arrived about two weeks ago. Here she is learning to drive in Houston.*
I read Cecilie's application on an au pair website and emailed her. She replied with good, thoughtful questions. In my response, I tried to err on the side of brutal honesty concerning four boys, some school at home and living with cancer. I suggested she think it over carefully and discuss it with her parents before we proceeded. Then, I read through her application more carefully and read her references and realized I had sent a really frightening email to someone who is definitely awesome. And then it was like junior high all over again. I scurried over to my friend's house to talk it out...
There's this girl. I'm afraid I scared her away. I gave her my number and told her to call me, but should I go ahead and call her? Is that weird and desperate? Should I wait for her to call me? What if someone else calls her first?
Well, I didn't scare her away with my CANCER IS HARD and BOYS ARE GROSS AND LOUD diatribe, and Cecilie arrived two weeks ago. She's wonderful. We love her. And really, guys, to be willing to take on Household H at this moment in our story is no small thing. You could select, at random, an American family with young children and 99.5% of the time you'll pick someone whose house is less work than mine right now.
For everyone keeping up with Chris, he made it out of the hospital after a few days. It was hard for him to recover from this round. He just started regaining some strength a few days ago, but... he's starting another round today. It'll start to get bad again the end of next week. We'd appreciate your prayers.
* I did not appreciate the rude texts from my husband, father, brothers and uncles about my ability to teach anyone to drive.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Sunday, August 11, 2013
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease." Jeremiah 29:4-6
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
The rest of our week...
Dad and I took the big boys on what was my favorite hike.
We played games,
David and Jacob got poison ivy, but they must have been successfully distracted by the pocket knives and fire because they really weren't fussy about it. It was a great week.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
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