Saturday, December 01, 2012

Please, tell me a story.

My kids say this to me all the time. "Mom, please, tell us a story."

And I usually make up something silly, half-based on a book or fairy tale or movie I think they might not know as well. But sometimes, some rare nights, I tell a truth. An anecdote from my own life, or something we've done together, or a piece of history. And those are the best.

And I'm just now figuring out why.

We've been back home five days and I still struggle when people ask me, "So, how was your Thanksgiving?" If I just say it was fine, I'm lying. If I say it wasn't great, people might think I'm disparaging my time with my family. I usually say something along the lines of: "It was okay, it was hard, but good to be with family." Something generic.

But my life these days is anything but generic. I'm raising three boys. I'm usually bursting at the seams with ideas for blog posts -- crazy things my kids have done, brilliant thoughts I have while scrubbing the bathroom, ideas for novels. So many things I never take the time to catalog. But mostly, in the midst of the everyday, I want to write about my mom. And I want details.

I am starting to understand why I felt empty, even in the midst of many people, over the long Thanksgiving weekend. I finally sat down and read this article, given to me by my mom's younger sister, the one who shares her birthday. The line that choked me up was this:
I've learned, now, how to talk to someone who is grieving. My first lesson came in the hospital, when the nurses, who were aware my mother was slipping away, asked my father, "How did you meet?" which gave him the pleasure of recollecting and sharing that moment when their eyes locked over a campfire in college.When someone is gone, we are hungry to talk about them, to conjure them from memories, to linger long enough to recall vivid moments.
Though I had filled my belly full of good food, and felt satiated with family and fellowship and some rest, and had made little mentions here and there about my mom over the course of the Thanksgiving weekend, it was not what I needed. I needed real story. I needed space to "recall vivid moments" and I wanted to hear them from those who knew her best.

When my dad and I visited my mom's grave together after the funeral, I remember asking him what his favorite date they had been on together. Until that day, I don't think I had ever before heard about his laundry-delivery route and how they got to know each other in conversations in the car as he hauled dirty frat-boy clothes from the fraternity houses to the cleaners. And on the night of her funeral, he told a wonderful story about how she took him riding on the farm when they were dating and she gave him the wildest horse they had, almost as if to test him. And he tamed it!

Those are the kind of tales I need to hear. They are bits and pieces of her tapestry, and I'd like to know them better.

So, if you see me, and you knew my mother, please, tell me a story.

And if you didn't know her, just ask. I'm sure I can think of something.

concert, just us girls, circa 2006

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Practice of Public Gratefulness

During the month of November I posted one thing each day for which I am thankful on Facebook. All the cool kids were doing it, and so originally I shunned it. However, on November 2, the one-month anniversary of my mother's death, I realized I would need it more than ever this year. The trivial and the Truth. So I'm copying them here to find them easily later. And so I can add them to my list.

  • Day 1: I'm thankful for the 32 years, 3 months, and 15 days I had with my mom.
  • Day 2: I'm thankful for the nice man outside of Costco who helped us to our van when I accidentally ran over Jacob's foot with the loaded shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot.
  • Day 3 - Thankful for my children and their active imaginations - playing pirates, battling sea monsters, making friends with a dragon & creating "desks" using puzzles and Duplo blocks.
  • Day 4: The body of Christ who has embraced, comforted, fed (literally & figuratively) and exhorted us, especially this last month. I appreciate our communion. We are so grateful.
  • Day 5: Thankful for my husband, Gaines, who celebrates his birthday today. He is wise, patient, understanding, funny, encouraging, an excellent teacher, a diligent student, a faithful provider, a loving husband and great father and role model to our three boys. Oh, and he also has exceptional taste in music and can play a mean guitar. ;)
  • Day 6: Grateful for umbrellas, hot chocolate, warm socks, doughnuts, a car heater that works, and polling places-- including all the people that volunteer their time to work there and those who voted, like me, even in the rain.
  • Days 7- 8: Thankful for my hometown, a good home-cooked meal, wide open spaces and giant trees, and stillness and stars in the early morning before the sun.
  • Day 9: Thankful for my family. I miss my mom today, but am grateful for my husband, boys, father, and extended relatives, with whom we can still celebrate and be joy-full.
  • Day 10: College football. Particularly when it goes your way, but even when it doesn't, I'm still thankful I've grown up enjoying such a crazy, unpredictable, memorable, fantastic sport. Go Jackets! War Eagle! Yeah!
  • Day 11: Sunday afternoon naps. Just woke up from a nap on the sofa with two of my three sick boys sleeping with me. Yay for rest.
  • Day 12: Thankful for freezer bounty (fried rice, Trader Joe's mandarin chicken) so we can have warm, yummy "take-out" at home tonight -- in a flash!
  • Day 13: Thankful for an awesome neighbor/friend who helped me tackle some big projects today! My hallway is box free! My van is clean! Yahoo!
  • Day 14: I'm thankful for thankfulness. Seriously. Because it helps me to always remember my Benefactor, that everything I have, has been given to me. May I never be ungrateful
  • Day 15: We are blessed with healthy kids. Sure, they get sick like everyone else, but there are many parents I know dealing with all sorts of much more serious issues. Praying for them tonight!
  • Day 16: Thankful I have a reliable vehicle that has room for extra passengers. Once we had two kids the Honda Civic wasn't much for offering rides. Now, even with three, I still can help others. I never before thought I'd be so grateful for a minivan!
  • Day 17:I heart good Southern BBQ and friends to share it with! Thankful for Slope's in Sandy Springs and in Roswell, who have always been welcoming, even when we bring in a horde of kids!
  • Day 18: For the delight my 5-year-old has in shopping and packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child. If he could, I think he would've given a trunk full instead of a shoebox!
  • Day 19: Just...thankful. For a friend who walks three miles to my house just to say hello to the boys. For going to the grocery store at just the right time to run into someone we helped a few weeks back. For a toddler's looooooong afternoon nap. For all this...for grace.
  • Day 20: Extremely thankful for Jessica Renee Vaughan who spent four hours with me cleaning out our office yesterday. We're halfway there! If you need a professional organizer, I can get you in touch with her -- she's awesome! Also thankful for my friend Melisa, who let both Jacob and Ethan play at her house the entire day so we could work! (And for her kids for being so welcoming!)
  • Day 21: I am thankful that there is grace for me, and that my kids forgive me when I lose my cool in front of them. Many, many, many times over.
  • Day 22: Thankful for double gatherings of family today. And for fireworks. Now that's the American way to celebrate all the Chinese have given us! ;-)
  • Day 23: Nothing runs like a Deere. Thankful for a very generous great-uncle who has made all three of my boys extremely happy today.
  • Day 24: Thankful for polished toes and time with my sister-in-law.
  • Day 25: For family cookouts and cousins playing together and a cancer-survivor's birthday to celebrate. Happy birthday, Papa
  • Day 26: For my cousin, Mitch. In January, on the 4th anniversary of his hunting accident, he is organizing a hunting outing for those who, like him, must use a wheelchair. I am thankful for his generosity, his courage, his fortitude, and his hope
  • Day 27: Thank you, Aunt Rheata, for coming to Atlanta to babysit the boys while we went to the concert! The boys had a blast and I hope you did, too! We love you, Rhe Rhe!
  • Day 28: For stringing cranberries & popcorn on dental floss in the company of friends--for trying something new to me that's a very old holiday tradition.
  • Day 29: Grateful I had a quiet early morning with Jacob to work on our Bible study together.
  •  Day 30: Thankful that I have hoarded craft supplies for the last 20+ years. I think we can complete all 25 crafts from the Truth in the Tinsel Advent book without actually buying anything!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Book Review - Christ and the Desert Tabernacle

The Introduction to J.V. Fesko's Christ and the Desert Tabernacle immediately resonated with me, as he described an all-too-familiar phenomenon: the attempt to read through the Bible in a year. More specifically, I resonated with how jarring it can be to transition from the narrative of Genesis and Exodus into the detailed, often tedious instructions for building the tabernacle. For many Christians, these chapters are alien and seemingly irrelevant to their faith and practice. Fesko's book is an attempt to help faithful readers see the significance of these chapters, not only for God's Old Testament people, but also for believers today. Though Fesko is a professor of theology at Westminster Seminary, California, he has written a very accessible book. As one blurb on the back cover states, "while the book is geared toward the average layperson, it is not simplistic, but profound." Having its origins in a sermon series on Exodus, the book conveys Fesko's pastoral concerns for Christians to understand and appreciate how the entire Bible works together to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The format of the book is pretty straight-forward: Fesko starts in Exodus 25 and works through the instructions given for the construction of the tabernacle. Each chapter focuses on a different section, such as the Building Materials, the Ark of the Covenant, the Table and Bread of the Presence, etc. For each section, Fesko begins by explaining the details given in the Exodus text, indicating the significance of particular items and possible symbolism (e.g., the requirement that a blue curtain be used to separate the most holy place from the rest of the tabernacle is meant to evoke the sky, and more specifically, the recurring motif of God's throne being in heaven). He then turns to the New Testament to interpret the tabernacle construction in light of the person and work of Christ (e.g., just as the Old Testament tabernacle represents God's presence among his people, John 1 uses that same word "tabernacle" to describe the incarnation of the Son of God, who took on flesh to dwell among his people). Finally, in each section, Fesko draws practical applications for Christian believers (e.g., the Israelites were to donate the building supplies for the tabernacle voluntarily, out of a generous heart -- their involvement in building the tabernacle was never described as repayment for God delivering them from Egypt. In the same way, Christians should respond to the grace we have received in Christ by giving generously to the building of his church, not out of obligation but from a desire to see the Gospel spread into all the world.) Having experience as both a professor and a pastor, Fesko is able to exegete the Old Testament text, interpret its theological significance in light of the New Testament, and then apply it to the Christian life in a very relevant and meaningful way.

The book is relatively short (133 pages), so it could be a quick read. But there's plenty to warrant pondering over. Each chapter strikes a good balance between content and application, and I could easily see it being used for small group Bible study, as well as devotional reading. 

Overall, Christ and the Desert Tabernacle is recommended for anyone interested in learning not only about the Old Testament tabernacle, but also about how it fits into God's overall plan of redemption through Christ. 

(Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book in exchange for writing a review. I was and am under no obligation to provide a favorable review.)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Halloween Then and Now


Since we moved into our current house almost three years ago, we have celebrated Halloween according to our neighborhood's traditional parade. On the 31st, we dress the kids up, meet at a main intersection around 5pm and walk the half-mile or so down a long sloping street and down a steep hill to the pavilion at the Swim & Tennis center, where there are hot dogs to enjoy before the trick-or-treating begins. All the while we take part in people-watching and the excellent fall weather. So far, it has never rained.

As the shadows fell long on our parade route yesterday evening, I couldn't help but remember last year's Halloween. Gaines wasn't able to be with us for some reason -- he probably had a class or couldn't get off work. But my mom came up for the event. The evening shadows fell long, then, too.

She was there, I remember. Jacob remembers. Ethan remembered. Last night, he remembered walking with DD "beside a large tree." (Which in our neighborhood, could be anywhere!) I vaguely remember introducing her to some neighbors. I hope I was in a good mood, but I was probably slightly annoyed at something, and took it out on her, what with my failing to procure a proper ghost costume for Jacob and settling on a white pillowcase with holes for eyes. It kept slipping off, and both he and I kept getting frustrated, so he finally just took it off. 

J 2011  
But Ethan as Elmo was pretty cute. 

E & J 2011

E 2011

I'm not sure why Calvin didn't wear his yellow jacket costume for the parade -- only for a few photos afterward. I think here he is being a "Yellow Jacket Fan." Better last year than this year, buddy.

C 2011
I remember she didn't talk much while we walked the parade route. I remember it was cold. I remember how last year, at the end of the parade, while I went in line to get the hot dogs, my mom waited with Calvin and started talking to a neighbor I hadn't met before, a new mom, and ended up telling her the story of my preemie birth. I remember we had chili, and how it made me think of my parents' golf course and how they had started out selling chili dogs and sandwiches at lunch and now have a real restaurant upstairs. We didn't trick-or-treat long that night, only a few houses (luckily the kids weren't old enough to care!). We came home, warmed up, put them all to bed. At some point Gaines came home before bedtime, because at least I have some pictures of the boys with him.

I have been looking back at pictures from October of last year searching for something, anything with her in it from that night. Anything. All I found was this:

Oct 31, 2011

 I'm not even sure which direction the picture should go, but you get the idea. Mom relaxing with her youngest grandbaby on her lap. Discarded bee/Buzz costume on the sofa next to the tissues and a stack of children's Bibles. Seems about right. She was always reading to them. This was probably taken after the older two were in bed and we were probably watching HGTV or the Food Network.

And this year, this year was fun, yes. I was more relaxed for some reason, even though I didn't finish Ethan's robot costume until THE very last minute. (I was still adding foil tape to the box when our friends arrived and I completely forgot to cut up and add the 5 feet of dryer vent duct stuff we were planning to use for Ethan's robot arms and legs bought just for this occasion. Sigh.)

E 2012
The boys had a blast. I enjoyed myself, enjoyed seeing everyone. Still, the shadows were a little too long for me yesterday.

up the hill 2012

In between chasing down the kids on their bikes and keeping them from running into people or falling head over heels onto the pavement, I had time to reflect on the difference twelve months makes in our lives. How, at Calvin's birthday party this year, my mom told me to "take pictures of me with the boys, because I may not be here next year." And I didn't believe her.

Tomorrow will be an entire month since Mom died, and I still keep wanting to call her and tell her about all we are doing. I keep waiting for her to comment on my album on Facebook. I keep expecting her to drive up and spend the night in the basement, in the bed with the sheets that I still haven't washed since the last time she visited in August. I still keep crying over letters and photos and missed moments. I wasn't going to cry while writing this blog post, but I find myself with tears running down my face.

Last night, there were neighbors who knew about my mom, who had even met her, but who I hadn't seen in a while. They offered wonderful hugs. And there were neighbors who didn't know, and I ended up telling, who offered comforting words. One said she was surprised I was "doing so well," because when her husband's parent died he didn't leave the house for two months. In that case, I guess I'm alright. God has certainly been sustaining me, been ever-present and real in the midst of grief.

My children have been so mature beyond their years, so understanding. They know I am sad more often these days. They know I am usually sad because "DD is gone." One day last week, while riding to church in the van I was sobbing, quietly, at a letter that had arrived in the mail from one of my mom's friends. Jacob told me, "I want to give you a surprise when we get there." And he got out, ran around the van, and gave me my surprise: a giant hug. And then he looked up at me, touched my tear-streaked face and said, "Now let me wipe those tears away for you." Oh, my, I've got a sweetheart. He's going to make someone a very good husband some day.

I've realized I am now the sole keeper of the family photos. She will never organize them, like she'd always planned to do "someday." I am the only one who will send out Christmas cards. I am the thank-you note writer, the historian, the collector. Yesterday, I realized I am the only actual administrator on the Facebook page for my parents' golf course. (I probably should teach my dad how to use Facebook, but I'm not sure he ever will). I suppose I should update it. Or not. I'm still not sure exactly what to do with my days.

For now, I will write. I will write memories as they come, and I will write about things that are happening to us just as if she were there to read them. Because even if no one else reads these words, they help to ease the pain just enough for me to keep going. One day, one event, one holiday at a time. I know the shadows will not be long forever. The sun is coming.

 I know the mountains will rise high again,
 I know the letters will make words again,
 I know the winter will grow warm again.
-- Eric Peters


Thursday, October 04, 2012

For my mother

Dixie Dozier Lee
November 9, 1945 - October 2, 2012

Ten years ago, I wrote a poem for my grandmother’s death. I couldn’t do that today.

But my mother, like her mother before her, shared similar qualities of love, faithfulness, generosity, and talkativeness – she might’ve been the fastest talker this side of the Mason-Dixon line (though her sisters might disagree).

She spoke almost always first of others. She knew to ask about your health issues or your brother’s knee surgery or your mother’s cancer or a move or a job or a loss – whatever needed prayer.

My mom was bubbly and bright, a flame that flashes out too soon. I was going to say she was like a candle, but I think she was more like a firecracker. Or a floodlight.

She lit up this whole town with her smile.

We’ve said this often, and she probably said it of herself, but she never did meet a stranger. Wherever she went, she spoke of her family and her story. The story of me. The story of her grandchildren.

I’m thankful that our son, Jacob, her oldest grandchild, is just like her. He, too, shares his stories with the world.

But there’s always more to the story.

A million little gifts make up a life well lived. And she was constantly giving her life away.

She gave her life to her friends wherever she lived. She cooked countless meals that she brought in joy or in grief, shared news over countless walks, and hosted parties and dinners with a graciousness that was far better than any Martha Stewart d├ęcor.

She gave her life to her siblings, whom she loved. She loved loads of family – nieces and nephews and cousins and second cousins and third cousins once removed.

She gave her life to my dad some 43 years ago. They truly danced through minefields together. Gracefully. And they remained unscathed.

And when she gave me life, she gave her life to me.

When I was born, premature, at 28 weeks, she came to the hospital every day to hold me. She pumped ounces of precious milk for me to drink and, apparently, fought off a few nurses who tried to give me bottles of formula instead.

When I was a child, she gave my friends and me room to play. And when we came in from the creek, muddy and dripping and spent, she had hot chocolate waiting inside, with mini marshmallows and powdered-sugar doughnuts.

She gave away her life when she worked, as a bookkeeper, or seller of office products, or real estate agent, as a golf course manager, and as a restaurant manager/hostess/waitress/busboy/dishwasher. Somehow it is appropriate she ended up in the “service industry.” She always did the hard work, the part that others sometimes shirked, because she was foremost a servant to us all.

When I was a sophomore in college she often came to my dorm room to stay for a few days. While I was in class, she folded my laundry, chatted with my roommates, and somehow became lifelong friends with the cleaning lady. Of course.

When I moved to Atlanta she came still. She chatted with our apartment neighbors, she took me shopping for proper professional attire, and she could always be counted on for staying up for a late conversation with my night-owl husband, Gaines.

When I was pregnant with Jacob, she came to my 28-week ultrasound, and when she saw that he was healthy, and that he weighed more than I did when I was born, she cried tears of joy.

She gave her life to her grandsons, to my children. She made the long drive often, as often as she could, every month or so, to see them. She assembled Lightning McQueen puzzles with them on the floor, she rocked them and held them, she read fairy tales to them, she traced letters on their backs at night before they went to sleep.

And when those grandsons came here, to visit, she showed them her world. She taught them how to take care of flowers and plants, how to serve up good food, and how to hit a golf ball clean across the pond.

I don’t know everything about my mother’s stories, only a small corner of the patchwork quilt that the Lord has been weaving out of our lives. We only see the underside, the messy part, the loose threads and crooked stitches, the tears and seams and patches. But God sees the completed quilt, the tapestry of all of our lives sewn together in love. And my Mom did a lot of sewing in her days.

Last night, I was reminded of something I wrote a few years back, reflecting on my grandmother’s passing.

“Some glad morning, I know, when all our tears have been wiped away, we will sit together at a glorious kitchen table in the New Creation. [My grandmother] will tell me about Cousin So-and-So, with whom we are somewhat distantly related to by marriage, and about her neighbor who used to live down the street who just happens to be a cousin of ours, too. And will we be introduced, I and those oft-mentioned relatives whom I never met while she was alive.”

And my mother will be at that Table, too, and will introduce me to all the siblings that I never met, those who were knitted together in her womb that she never got to hold. And we will rise up from the Table well-fed, with new, unbroken and glorious bodies, full of more life and vigor and health than we ever had in this world. And we will know fully, as now we are fully known.

I hold on to that Hope.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Tale of Two Goodgames and the Little Concert that Could

When I was in college, I heard about this guy named Randall Goodgame. If his name alone wasn't enough to get your attention (or at least become the fodder for bad jokes), his songwriting certainly stopped traffic. His lyrics were insightful, lighthearted, and melodic. Catchy. Turns out he was an alumni of my alma mater, BSC, (located, of course, on Arkadelphia Road, not far from the laundromat). And so somehow (I don't remember exactly how it came to be), I got to pick him up from the airport when he came to play a concert at our school. I remember three things from that experience: hearing him play "John 11" in Yielding Chapel, how he helped me revise some of my poetry for Professor Sprayberry's class (he'd taken her class, too, and man he was really nice because I look back on some of those poems now and they were awful), and how he talked on and on about his lovely daughter, Livi, who had recently been born to him and his wife, Amy, also a BSC alum.

This weekend my experiences with Randall Goodgame came full circle. I got to see that beautiful daughter Livi all grown up into a gracious 6th grader, playing violin alongside her Daddy. And hear her sing along with his songs. In my friends' backyard. With about a million kids running around. Eucharisteo!

this is how I spent my Saturday night

Here's how it came to be: For the past few years, Randall has felt this calling to minister to children through his music. It began when he and his buddy Andrew created a kids' album with some silly (and some more spiritual songs) called Slugs and Bugs and Lullabies. There was, apparently, a show scheduled for this past Saturday in Atlanta. My friends and I and our brood of little ones had all been excited about it for ages -- we were needing a Slugs and Bugs concert fix. However, on Wednesday evening, we found out it was cancelled. "Egads!" we said. "This cannot be! Someone, please, think about the children!"

So, I wrote Randall and asked if he was still planning on coming to town and if we could find a place for him to play, would he come?! And he said yes!

There were lots of e-mails back and forth. A group of my mom friends had been planning a book group for that night (appropriately, on parenting), so many of us already had Saturday evening reserved. So we did the right thing, rescheduled book club, and had a Slugs and Bugs concert in the Sayler's backyard instead! (Thanks again, guys, for hosting and setting up and everything!) It was the shortest time I've ever promoted a concert, much simpler than anything I've ever done, a far cry from the concerts I used to book in the Cellar at BSC and not at all like the one I'm promoting for September 29. But it was fun!

One of the best parts about experiencing a Slugs and Bugs live event is seeing the lovely animated cartoons and watching Randall sing along with the background music and also lead the hand motions. It's like some kind of acrobatic act.
"I Wanna Help" -- the S&B version of "We Will Rock You"
Thankfully, we even found some folks with a projector and a screen, willing to bring them. The funny thing is that by Saturday morning, we had TWO different sets of folks willing to bring projectors and screens. All day I kept thinking that I needed to tell Ron that he didn't need to bring his set, but I was out running errands away from the internet and I forgot. However, it turns out that the other folks (Becky's parents) got stuck in traffic, so it was fortunate (providential, even) that Ron showed up early and ready to go with a projector and portable screen! So thanks, man!

Team Redd also got stuck in traffic. The news and the internets misled us about the extent of construction on I-285, and we thought it was only the eastbound lanes. Alas, we spent an hour and a half on the road, moving very slowly. On the bright side, two little Redds got naps and the parents got to chat. When we arrived, it was apparently perfect timing, as we sat down on a shared picnic blanket just as Randall began his first song, "God Made Me."

The concert itself was amazing. About ten families sitting on lawn chairs and picnic blankets in a shady yard on a perfect fall evening under a clear sky, enjoying one of our favorite musicians perform our kids' favorite songs. I found Randall even more entertaining in such a small setting, and cracked up a few times at his exaggerated expressions to entertain the kids. Livi is an excellent assistant for her Dad, reminding him of song lyrics and demonstrating song motions, as well as playing along on a few tunes on her violin and singing BGV's. She even played the foil in the "Under where?" song, stealing her poor father's favorite stuffed bunny.

 (Thanks, Hwangs, for sharing your blanket with us!)

Still waking up from naptime in the car.

At one point, Randall took requests, and Jacob got to hear his favorite S&B song, "Who's got the ball?!" I don't know why he likes it so much, but it is memorable, and the song involves the names of Andrew and Randall's kids, and the acutal Livi was in attendance, so that was kind of cool. And the video is fun, with all the kids acting out the ball game and running around like crazy. About halfway through, though, Randall remarked, "I forgot how long this song is!" while strumming along on his guitar as Andrew's voice narrated the action. Good time for a water break!

During the concert, the kids learned new hand motions, and got to parade around the backyard, sing and dance and clap their hands. Or they could just sit and listen, if they so desired, like mine. And where else but at a backyard show can you bring your picnic dinner with you and enjoy it while you sing? We were also treated to two brand-new animated videos from the latest Slugs and Bugs record.

Last night was a lovely evening full of lovely people. As my friend Becky mused, "It felt like we won some kind of contest!" I'm pretty sure a "backyard house show" was one of the upper levels in the latest Slugs and Bugs Kickstarter campaign, so yeah, it was quite the special experience! We are just going to have to do this again sometime -- in fact, I suggest if there's another Kickstarter offer, that we all pool our money to get them to play another backyard show. Jacob asked me if we could get Randall to come to our neighborhood. We shall see.

Ethan also had a request. At the very end of the evening, when everyone was leaving, I asked Randall to play Ethan's favorite song. It's not from the Slugs and Bugs albums, but he requests it every time we ask him what he would like to hear from our music collection. Though Jacob wasn't feeling well and I had to take him to the van during part of the song, I was able to hear Randall finish playing "Bluebird" as the sky darkened and the evening came to a close. His daughter joined in and she sounded so much like her mother! I hope I never forget the look on Ethan's face as he watched them play and sing. What a beautiful way to end the night. We sang that song and talked about the show all the way home. "Bluebird, bluebird, don't you fly away..."
Here are the rest of my photos from the concert. I tried to actually just enjoy the show and the moment instead of cataloging it all through the camera (in this case, my ipod), and I think, in that, I succeeded.

Mesmerized, I tell you.

delightful daddy-daughter duo

Friday, August 10, 2012

One Decade Ago...

Team Redd officially began.

Happy Anniversary to us! May there be many more to come.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Don't Count Your Pull-Ups Before They Hatch

So, I found this post tonight from November 2010:

Yesterday, Ethan went to the potty all by himself without any prompting. We hadn't even been considering potty training, really. We'd just put the little blue potty in the bathroom because he asked for it one day. He's been sitting on it sometimes, usually clothed but sometimes without a diaper, though so far there had been no success. So when I had to change him after lunch yesterday, he just sat himself down on the little seat naked as a jaybird and went tee-tee all on his own. We clapped and cheered and did the potty dance and I think he was as shocked as we were! Nineteen months old, I tell you! I love the thought of having NO kids in diapers...
Um, yeah. So it wasn't until about two months ago (age 3 years and 4 months) that Ethan was completely out of pull-ups and in underwear all day. We've had at least two kids in diapers or training pants for the past three and a half years. I don't know what we did wrong, but apparently that early indication of potty-training was a fluke. I thought it seemed like a long time that we had been potty-training, but I didn't realize it had been a year and a half!

Now, thankfully, he wears underwear like a big boy and stays dry all day. I even talked him out of wearing a swim diaper. If only he wouldn't wait until he has his nighttime pull-up on to do his other business! Every night, almost without fail, after bedtime, he will come running in to the den and say, "Mommy! Guess what!? I went poopy in my diaper!" and wait for us to change him into a fresh, clean Pull-Up before he goes to sleep. Sigh. One day, this will be over. And I'm sure I will be sad. NOT.

Update: Thursday, August 9 -- on his own, without prompting, our 3.5 year old went poopy on the potty! All by himself! In the middle of the day! YAY! Thanks, loyal readers, for understanding. I have to celebrate it somewhere... :)

This is the Church

This is the steeple
Open the doors
And see all the people!

We haven't written many posts (if any) about our church life since we began this blog over eight years ago.

Mostly, I think, because we have been so immersed and involved in our local body, but also, because we have experienced bumps along the way, and challenges, and things that are probably better kept to ourselves. When this blog began we attended a small, urban, mostly college-age church near Georgia Tech; now we attend a slightly larger, though still small, suburban church, with a congregation of both older and younger members. And in both cases, we have been mightily blessed.

Today, the blessing came in the form of four new members, a family we are delighted to call our friends.

zoo train

The first day I met Emily, I believe she had visited our church at least once before. I had a newborn and had been in the nursery quite often, so I think I missed her. She had her oldest son with her and was unsure of where to sit. I think she said it was the first time she had been to church without her husband. So, I walked them right up to the front with us (probably to her chagrin!) and told her to sit next to us, and that it was perfectly OK that her 3 year old wandered in the aisle during the service. Which it was. He was learning what church was all about! (Aren't we all?!)


A few weeks later, we had an opportunity to go out for coffee. I am ever grateful to the ladies who run our church's Mothers' Morning Out/Preschool program, who gave us the morning off from taking care of the boys so we could sit and chat. During our conversation, when I discovered she didn't have a Bible of her own, we went to a nearby B&N and bought her one. I haven't had that much fun in a bookstore in a long time, if ever.

I can't find a photo of her without sunglasses

Since then, we have had many opportunities to talk, and share, and go on adventures together. We've explored local parks. She gave me a fantastic haircut. I've taken her to go berry-picking and we made strawberry jam together. She brought me a yummy meal when I had surgery. We went on a trip to the zoo. Her family invited us to celebrate the boys' birthdays at a baseball game. And she worked extremely hard to turn our church into the Great Outdoors for our camp-themed VBS this year, and it was amazing. I wish I had pictures!

baseball game

This morning, Emily, her husband, and their two boys joined our church, and the boys were baptized. Gaines stood with them at the front as their elder, and I got to be a witness (in absentia, because I was in the nursery taking care of the results of last year's baby-explosion in our congregation...). Usually, I try to stay focused on ministering to my family, because it is the most important thing I do. But sometimes, I feel like I should be doing something more -- visiting the sick, feeding the homeless, whatever. I think God has given us all seasons in our outreach, and right now, this is mine, this being a friend to other moms. A simple thing, really, being a friend, but as I discovered today, it makes a difference. From now on, whenever I start to think that my kingdom-work outside my family is limited or lacking, I will remember this day, and my friend Emily and her family, and be glad.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review - A Theology of Luke and Acts

A Theology of Luke and Acts, by Darrell Bock, is the second installment (of eight planned) in Zondervan's Biblical Theology of the New Testament series. As the publisher's website states,
The Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) series provides upper college and seminary-level textbooks for students of New Testament theology, interpretation, and exegesis. Pastors and discerning theology readers alike will also benefit from this series. Written at the highest level of academic excellence by recognized experts in the field, the BTNT series not only offers a comprehensive exploration of the theology of every book of the New Testament, including introductory issues and major themes, but also shows how each book relates to the broad picture of New Testament theology.
Bock, having spent over three decades studying and writing about both Luke and Acts, is certainly qualified for the task, and his volume is a suitable contribution to the BTNT series. A closer examination of a representative chapter demonstrates both the overall format and the intended goals of the book and series.

Chapter 3 presents "The Case for the Unity of Luke-Acts and Reading the Volumes as Luke-Acts and as Luke and Acts." As Bock states from the chapter's outset, "Before one can work with Luke and Acts and present their theology as a unified whole, one must make the case that these volumes were intended to be seen as a literary unit and can be read as such."  Since Bock's work contains 17 chapters worth of discussion on various theological themes appearing in Luke and Acts, there's a good bit riding on his case that Luke and Acts present a unified theology!

The chapter begins with a bibliography of sources relevant to the discussion. One noteworthy feature is that Bock interacts with sources which were published predominantly within the last 5-10 years, in keeping with the BTNT's goal of providing a survey of recent scholarship. In Chapter 3, Bock presents the case that Luke and Acts were originally designed and written to tell one basic story. As various scholars have observed, the two books correspond at several important points, such as the similarities of their respective prologues, the description of Israel's tragic rejection of their Messiah, the portrayal of Jesus' interaction with the main characters of each book (i.e., Peter and Paul), and the emphasis on the Gentile mission (hinted at in Luke but coming to fruition in Acts) - not to mention structural details linking Luke 24 with Acts 1. The preponderance of these features strongly indicate that Luke and Acts should be read not merely as two books by the same author, but as a literary unity.

However, not all scholars have accepted this position, and Bock surveys the two major categories of objections: one, that certain tensions between the two books challenge a unified reading, and two, that the early church's use of the books (especially in the ordering of the canon) indicate that they were not viewed as a single unit. Bock treats these objections evenhandedly, but also responding to each point from additional relevant scholarship. To the first objection, Bock concludes that the sheer amount of similarities and connections between the two books far outweighs the purported tensions. As to the second objection, he argues that the early church's treatment of the books as separate ends up being a matter of nuance, and not a factor which undermines the literary unity of Luke-Acts. Ultimately, he allows for the value that can come from reading Luke and Acts as separate units on their own terms, but holds firm to the case that the two are best seen as a unified work. In the end, the suitability of the two different perspectives depends on the intended use: in terms of developing a biblical theology, Luke-Acts should be seen as a whole, whereas the church's canonical division between Luke and Acts serves as a reminder of the drastic new-ness of the faithful community created after the death and resurrection of Christ.

Having set the stage in Chapter 3 with this argument for the unity of Luke-Acts, Bock then spends the rest of the book surveying the text to discuss several theological themes, examples of which include the Person and Work of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Israel, the Gentiles, Discipleship, Ethics, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology. In each chapter, he interacts with applicable scholarship, and provides plenty of bibliographical material for further study.

Overall, Bock succeeds in providing a useful overview of the major themes of Luke-Acts. The interaction with scholarly literature allows for a nuanced discussion, although Bock never intends his work to be a mere compendium of scholarship - that is, he presents his own assessment of the topic of hand. As expected in a book of this sort (and one whose primary object of study presents such a wide range of topics for discussion!), Bock often has to greatly summarize the positions with which he is dialoguing, but the detailed bibliography gives plenty of entry-points for these wishing to go deeper. Anyone seeking to study the theology of Luke-Acts would be well advised to consult A Theology of Luke and Acts by Darrell Bock.

(Disclaimer: the publisher provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for writing a review. I was and am under no obligation to provide a favorable review.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Order and Wonder

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
—G.K. Chesterton,
The above quote is from this article from Art House America, and the following is a reader's response, if you will.

This time last summer, when we were eagerly waiting the birth of our third son, I foolishly thought to myself, "Now's not the time to set schedules, to be confined to a routine. I need to be flexible, spontaneous! I'll have a newborn, after all!"

And so, our world was pretty topsy-turvy. (And has been for a long time.) There was no set order, no pattern, no day-to-day schedule or ritual. Of course, I knew where we needed to be and what we needed to do, but my kids did not. (Thank goodness for electronic calendars.) There were playdates and well-checks,  Mother's Morning Out and church affairs and meetings and park excursions, a mid-semester decision to join a homeschool co-op, a myriad of field trips and holiday parties with various like-minded groups, and about the only constant was that on Wednesday mornings we went to CBS and on Sundays we went to church. I felt scattered, they felt scattered, and I had no idea how to get out of it all. I tried setting up daily routines, but of course, they almost never were followed. Why, you ask?

I woke up one Friday morning, about mid-November, about to head out to yet another "planned" event, and realized that I wasn't enjoying my time at home. In fact, I was never AT home. That week, I had planned five "good" events, one for each morning. Church circle, two days of mother's morning out, Bible study, and co-op. My kids, not socialized? Ha! Our problem was that we never actually stayed at home. And the fact that my home was and is a disorganized mess of paper and clutter and toys and clothes only fueled the desire to stay away. I have been running away now for a long, long, time.

It has taken me an entire year, okay, make that five years -- or more-- to realize the importance of structure. When I was a student, or later, a teacher, I thrived on those hourly bells and the expectation of "this is when I eat lunch," even if it was at 10:30 in the morning. Ten years ago, when I became a young wife and homemaker and apartment ministry organizer, and later, after teaching, when I became a stay-at-home mom, I realized I had never been a person of order, no matter how much I might have enjoyed alphabetizing my music collection. My days have never been "well-planned."

This is my "command center." In shambles.
So now, slowly, I am reforming our daily life around ritual, habits, and an expectation that these are the basic building blocks of our days: breakfast, chores, school, playtime, lunch, quiet time, playtime, cleanup, dinner, baths, books, bed. It seems so simple when I write it like that -- so monotonous-- and a part of me stiffens and wants to rebel. "But a schedule is so BORING! So predictable! I am creative! I can't be contained or confined!"

And then, an article like the one above, a word fitly spoken, comes along and wakes me up! Ritual, remembrance-- THIS is where I need to be, in this daily rhythm, at HOME, not jet-setting from one errand to another, from one playdate to the next, from school to home to store to church and back. No matter how "good" and "beneficial" and "necessary" I may think these things are, there is NOTHING more important than being with my children, being with my family.

The best advice I've ever heard on this idea comes from Auntie Leila's blog, of whom I much admire but have yet, until now, to take her full advice. The most important thing for a home to have, she says, is Order and Wonder. She writes:

Think about it: if you can't get dinner under control, how can you help your children explore the world with delight? I keep wanting to say to these questioning ladies: are you peaceful with your own duties? Do you see how many amazing things there are for your children to learn? Have you fed them recently? Washed their faces? Gotten up on time? Read a book?

Order and wonder. Too much of one, and we are out of balance, burning out and convinced we can't do any of it!

The important thing is to try.

So, here we go. I'm trying! What is my first step in establishing the patterns and places I want my children to remember? Staying at home. Real-life friends, if I refuse a playdate or turn down what you think is a very reasonable request, please understand. I tend toward busyness, toward chaos. This is my weakness. So, I'm going to swing the pendulum back a bit and add in more routine.  I'm going to say "No!" more. We are going to stay home more. I am choosing what is valuable over what is fleeting. It may take me an entire year to actually stick to a written schedule for an entire day. "Mrs. Redd's Academy for Boys" may not be the epitome of a perfect, rigid, clockwork organization, but at least I hope our children will know that when the schedule says "lunch," we will be eating lunch! My oldest in particular, the organized one, will thrive in this type of environment. So I am changing for them. I am developing new habits for myself, but everyone will benefit. I want my children to remember their home as a happy place, where they can revel in the familiar and the routine, with enough wonder thrown in that their sweet minds have plenty of room to grow.

I only expose you to this in hopes that I can add the "after" photo to this "before" picture in a future post.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Some friends' little boys had their birthday party at the ballpark on Saturday night. It was, I'm a bit ashamed to say, the first baseball game of any kind the boys have ever seen. But it was awesome. Even the rain held off for us!

This is my attempt at getting rid of clutter by taking photos of ticket stubs.

We drove up to Coolray Field to see the Gwinnett Braves play. I don't think I'd ever driven by the place, much less been to a game there. Just from my limited experience, it was well laid-out with good views even from the concession areas, a nice lawn past the outfield, convenient restrooms, and the largest screen I've seen outside Turner Field. I've been to two Atlanta Braves games in my entire life and both were before I went to college. (Don't hate on me. I know I live in Atlanta, we're just not baseball people.)

We watched the opening with wide-eyes: I couldn't believe my kids had never seen a real, live marching band before! Apparently, I haven't taken them to any parades in their recent memory. We will have to rectify this soon! But there were lots of other things we enjoyed that were just as exciting, though perhaps not as new to us.

For the kids, there was a party package with classic ballpark dinner food: hot dogs, chips, Cracker Jacks, and lemonade. And off past the outfield fence, bounce houses and inflatable games decorated the lawn, perfect for getting kids to burn off some of that extra energy while the adults "watched" the game. Ahem. Despite the threat of thunderstorms, we DID get to enjoy some batting practice...and pitching...

He is READY. Look at that stance!

Yes, we have a lefty. He's still figuring it all out.

I promise he did hit a few -- I just never captured it on film.

Direct hit! Yay!

Did you notice the number on the board? That was his previous pitch -- 35 mph is decent for a 5 yr old, right?!

My baby's first baseball game!

My big boy's first baseball game!

My middle child (L) with the birthday boy, doing what he does best -- eating!

 It took Jacob a while to actually want to watch the game, but he finally warmed up to the rhythm and by the third inning we had to drag him home despite the crushing loss of the home team already in progress.

We had a great time, and would've stayed longer, but we had already been through long week of late nights (evening VBS -- a post to itself) and both Gaines and I had to teach Sunday School the next morning.

We do plan to go back as a family -- they have made it quite the family-friendly venue. It almost reminded me of a fancier, much more crowded version of going down to the baseball fields in my hometown to watch the high school boys play (minus those painful metal bleachers). And it was SO much easier (and cheaper!) than trying to go downtown to Turner Field and find parking and fight the crowds....if we want to watch live baseball, this is the place for us.

Thank you, friends who invited us to the Gwinnett Braves! And thank you to all the folks at Coolray Field for a great evening! We'll be back!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bedtime Stories

Tonight at bedtime, while the storms raged outside, Ethan, the almost three-and-a-half-year old, told the most fabulous story about all sorts of mythical creatures, a rabbit named Peter, a boy, and a rainstorm. My favorite part, though, was when he described an epic battle:

"And then, a bear came up. And then, a dragon came up to them. And then, a monster came. And a scarrry ghost. And then, a DINOSAUR came. And they all got into this huge fight. And then, the Dinosaur WON!"

He then repeated almost verbatim parts of a story I had just made up about a bunny named Harold and a little boy, and how on the third night he petted the bunny "so gently." Of course, then there was another battle, later on, and Ethan ended it with this pronouncement: "And the car won. And he ate all the other bodies up."

I love that kid.

Ethan, ecstatic at a recent party, on left. Calvin, right, seems perplexed.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Boy on a String

We met some homeschooling friends this morning at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center for their summer puppet series, which I've always heard is fantastic. It was our first-ever trip to a puppet show! This week they are showing Rumplestiltzkin, and I didn't realize they are doing multiple shows, so if you have a chance you should go! They characters are all marionettes, which for some reason makes me think of Mr. Rogers neighborhood, even though his were hand puppets. I think it's the wooden faces. The master puppeteer himself today, when introducing the play, actually acknowledged that when a puppet stares at you, "it can be creepy," so I don't feel so bad for being weird-ed out by puppets all these years. Gaines refuses to see them at all.

The performance by the Frisch Marionette Company was excellent, though slightly odd. Truth be told, the story of Rumplestiltzkin itself is a bit strange anyway. We read two different versions at bedtime, and one ended with the traditional splitting in two by saying "all Rumplestiltzkins are, of course, made out of gingerbread." (What the...?!) The play added some additional elements (like a queen and a prince), though I realized afterward it was due to the fact that there were only two puppeteers -- a man and a woman -- so of course they needed more female roles! In the original stories the king was a greedy, vile, evil man and if I was the miller's daughter I think I'd rather face death than marry him, much less have his baby. They soften it up a bit for the play, using the Queen as the fall guy who inflicts punishment and having the Miller's daughter marry her son, the Prince. They also add the Miller himself as a larger character in the narrative, using his foolish boasting as an object lesson.

In this puppeted version, they add a scene which might be troubling to some youngsters -- a visit by the Miller to "Goblin's Hollow" to find Rumplestiltzkin's name. I think the scenery and the musical interlude and dancing goblins confused the kids as to WHY they were in the play, more than the fright factor. Ethan kept asking about the "ghosts," though neither of my boys seemed to be scared by the marionette monsters, and there were even some humorous part where the monsters bump into each other or get spooked themselves that brought out some laughs. Jacob watched quietly and intently the whole show, while Ethan clapped along and laughed loudly at the funny parts. I was so glad to see him enjoying himself! Calvin was a literal handful, squirming and wiggling in my arms the entire show, but it was a darkened theater and thankfully we knew the people sitting directly behind us. I even changed his diaper on the floor in the middle of the play, but I'm not sure anyone would have known if I hadn't just told you that, since it was quite dark.

Overall, I would say we had a most excellent time! If you have children between the ages of 3-8 and are looking for something more affordable that the Center for Puppetry Arts, I would heartily recommend the Roswell summer series. Next week they are showing Hansel & Gretel, by the same troupe of puppeteers. Also, outside the cultural center, if you cross the bridge and walk over towards the gazebo, there is a shady area with excellent climbing trees. See?
Jacob, age 5

The List

Things I've been meaning to blog about:
  • the boys' February and March
  • that music series I promised you 6 months ago
  • our trip to the beach in June
  • various field trips I've almost forgotten about except I have pictures
  • my birthday
  • a karate free-trial lesson the boys went to with a friend last week
  • 4th of July parade
  • awesome food I've made recently
  • stone mountain park
  • free-range parenting
  • Christian virtues
  • a review of a fiction book I read last month
  • homeschooling

Though it's the week before our church's VBS and I'm in charge of crafts, I am feeling the need to write something. We'll see how far I get, eh?!

Friday, May 25, 2012

On Habit-Forming

 Our pastor gave a sermon illustration a few weeks ago about a man he knew who had been married a long while. (This is my remembered version, so if I get some details wrong, forgive me.) Once, while the pastor was visiting him, he was pouring coffee and accidentally spilled some on the counter. He noticed the man immediately cleaned up the spill, almost without thinking. When the man was a bachelor, he lived a slovenly life and would never have thought twice about leaving it there. When asked about it, he told the pastor that his wife always cleaned up messes quickly to avoid trouble later. Since he and his wife had been living together for so long, the wife's habits had become ingrained in him as well.

The point of the illustration was that if we spend more time with Jesus (praying, studying the Word, etc.), then we will become more like Him. I got that, of course. Still, as I sat there I also realized that my husband probably hasn't picked up many of those types of habits from me, even though we've been married almost ten years. If you've ever been to my house, you know that I struggle with discipline in this area of maintaining order. Housekeeping in general has been a struggle whenever I've lived in more than 100 square feet (camp cabin, dorm room -- those were easier). I still alphabetize and categorize my books, but other, more obvious things just overwhelm me.

So, I've set about on a slow course to become more orderly. I'm realizing it all starts with retraining myself and forming new habits. Good habits. Like cleaning up messes as they happen. Emptying the dishwasher every morning and keeping the sink clean. Paying attention to my children and looking them in the eye when they talk to me. Exercising often. Putting away laundry as soon as it is folded. And, especially, spending time in the Bible first thing in the morning, before the day gets away from me. I used to think that was a silly rule for myself, to say that I HAD to read my Bible early in the morning. However, this past week I've been going back and finishing all the CBS lessons I skipped over the course of the last year. I've come to realize that if it's not my first priority, I probably won't get to it. (So, keep me accountable, please, any real-life friends who read this.)

[Character] doesn't come by accident. It comes through the self-discipline required to do anything in life really well-- to learn a musical instrument, to mend a tractor, to give a lecture, to run an orphanage. Or, indeed, to live as a wise human being. Again and again, when you're working hard at a difficult or complex task, the mind will try to jump away, to focus on something easier or more enticing. And again and again, if you're going to get the job done, you have to force your mind back onto the job and away from the distraction. And the mental muscles you require if you're going to do that have to be trained, just as much as the physical muscles do when you're working up for sustained and strenuous exercise. (This, by the way, is one of the underlying reasons why watching television for hours on end can be such a bad habit. Programs are carefully designed to be enticing and undemanding. They offer "training" in avoiding hard work, in "going with the flow." Which is fine for relaxation, but not for learning the mental habits you need for a fully human existence.)

The above excerpt is from a book I've begun reading which is all about developing Christian virtues and forming character, which is timely. But it's also timely for me as a parent. Over the coming summer months and the next school year especially I want to focus on developing virtuous habits in our children. And, of course, it starts with me! I have to set the example. For myself, I'm starting with Attention and Order. Less TV. More books. Limited Facebook. More household duties as priorities. And an end to my Angry Birds addiction. (I think I may need an intervention on that one.) Lord, give me strength!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Left to Their Own Devices

Television is both a fun diversion and the bane of my existence. If it gets turned on during the day, I have a tendency to use it as a quick babysitter for things like taking a shower, talking on the phone, writing e-mails, and the like. But sometimes, those "quick" TV breaks become longer or more frequent. And then the whining begins. And so I make them --and make myself-- turn it off. (Television: Teacher. Mother. Secret lover.)

This week, although we have had the TV on at least some time during the day, I've been making a point to turn it off, to shoo them away, to keep the cabinet closed. And it amazes me some things the boys have done on their own. Mind you, these are all COMPLETELY spontaneous and independently motivated. (I was usually busy with a sick, snot-nosed, sad little baby or trying to stay on top of laundry and meals.)

 -- created a car "store" complete with homemade fake paper money, prices on the cars, a parking lot, and sales "desks" (that looked eerily as cluttered and paper-filled as their parents' after only a few hours) Sadly, I did not get a picture before we cleaned it up. Little pieces of paper and crawling babies don't mix.
Calvin was their second customer

-- built an incredibly huge wooden train track that stretches across the entire living room floor and even goes through the inside of their wooden castle

(Ok, so I did make the castle suggestion -- it was sitting there, blocking their way, so I thought they could at least make it useful.)
you can't go over it, you can't go under it, you have to go THROUGH it!

-- made up a game called "Silly Band Treasure Hunt" in which Jacob created a treasure hunt map of the house in order for Ethan to search for and find their box of Silly bands. I think he just liked telling him where to go. The map was cool, though. It even has an "X" to mark the spot!

-- created a "boat train airplane park" with every single toy vehicle we own lined up in neat little rows
the monster cometh

-- at least three blanket forts have been created and demolished since Monday. This afternoon, Jacob was singing a little song "I'm the soft floor repairman. I am coming to your driveway. I repair your soft floor!" I had to ask what that was all about -- apparently he was putting a sleeping bag down in their latest blanket/furniture fort. He was giving them a "soft floor."

Plus, we still have a "DANGER Construction Zone" handmade signs taped all around our house from last week when they were building child-sized cars out of cardboard boxes in the living room.

we're still working on Z's

These are the things I want them to remember about their childhood when they get older. (Not the names of all the characters on their favorite shows, though I still remember those, too, and I turned out alright. I think.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A King and a Kingdom

One (of many) radical thoughts I am trying to grasp from tonight's Bible study at church:

When the kingdom of God is being intoned ("Thy kingdom come...") the focus is NOT about the size or scope of the kingdom or about the stuff IN the kingdom, it is about the POWER of the King. The Kingdom is present because the King is present.

Now, go read all those passages in the gospels or in other places that deal with the kingdom. Mind-blowing, eh? I'm still wrapping my brain around it, and it's making me want to go read more Scripture and more books, which is always a good thing.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

These are the Days'll remember.

Or, at least, these are the days I WANT to remember.

My oldest, who is five, was the first one up this morning. At 6:45 a.m. I attempted to read with him while the baby played on the floor. We just started reading chapter books and finished Charlotte's Web in a flash this week due to a bout of sickness. He was really being whiny and I couldn't tell how he was feeling. I tried starting The Hobbit, but it may have been too advanced for him. (Or maybe he just felt bad and so nothing was appealing?!) We have plenty of kids' books right now, but not many chapter books that I think he would enjoy. Maybe James and the Giant Peach? I plan to check out Treasure Island from the library soon. I think he'd enjoy the pirates.

Soon, middle brother awoke, in a bleary-eyed three year old way. He wanted TV. But, I would have none of it. Yesterday in the car we listened to Andrew Peterson's song "Little Boy Heart Alive" and the line: "Open the door and run outside, little boy heart alive into the morning light, into the deep and wide..." kept running through my head. So I tried to get us all to see how glorious it was early in the day, while it was still cool. And so we went outside. In our PJ's, nonetheless. Two of us were barefoot.

That adventure didn't last long because middle brother began clamoring for breakfast, and the baby, too. Bagels and cream cheese for all, scavenged from Daddy's work, leftover from a meeting. What can I say? We were out of bagels and they were there, so I encouraged him to take all he could fit in his lunchbox, which was exactly 4.

Eldest brother complained the entire morning, through breakfast and everything. Which happens sometimes and is to be expected, but I was going to have none of it at the table. I felt bad, though, later, after he went to the bathroom and had a horrible upset tummy. No wonder he was complaining, poor kid.

He still felt bad and wanted to stay in, but Mommy needed to GET OUT and get some fresh air. So, I left Daddy with the boy on the couch. Daddy wanted to take a shower, so there went the "no TV" admonition for the day. I took the middler and the baby in the double stroller for a jog. I'm only on Day 3 of the nine-week Couch to 5K program. It's only taken me, er, close to two weeks to get started. I was motivated at the beginning and even went to the gym two days in a row, but then life happened and everyone got sick. I was proud to just complete the workout today. It was hot. And there were hills. And did I mention I was pushing two kids in a huge jogging stroller? Yeah.

When I returned, Daddy escaped. He's finishing up a final paper for his class on OT prophets and needed some Starbucks. Our coffee maker (RIP!) died this week. We have yet to get a new one. Le sigh. Shower for me, more TV for the middle and eldest, nap for the baby, lunch, playing outside happened somewhere in there, and then Daddy called.

We loaded into the van to pick him up at the local auto repair shop, where he was dropping off his car. This was planned, b/c he'd been having trouble for a while. Off we all went to Costco, where all three boys fell asleep in the drive down to the store.

Excellent. Mommy gets to go solo! I picked up two cakes for a farewell party our church is having for some dear friends. Then, I proceeded to go down the list. I used to visit a warehouse store (BJ's, Costco) once a quarter, but this year I'm finding that a once-a-month trip is necessary. I keep a running list of items we need on the fridge, and it was a treat to complete it in solitude. It also meant more time for me to enjoy the samples. Picked up pizza and soda for lunch for Daddy, who was waiting in the car, studiously reading, while all three boys slept. We dropped off the cakes at church and went home.

Daddy left us again to get a haircut and two out of three were still sleeping, but when everyone woke up they all seemed to feel great. We had the most amazing little mostly impromptu water party in our neighbor's yard. Ok, so it was supposed to be in OUR yard, and we'd invited a few people earlier in the week, planning to set out the baby pool and the sprinkler, much like our down-the-street neighbor did for us last week. But apparently the spray nozzle on the hose on the front of the house refuses to come off (even our really strong contractor-friend tried and he couldn't do it) and thwarted our plan. So, our across-the-street neighbors (who were coming over and bringing a cool inflatable pool) volunteered their nice green grass. And I proceeded to bring on the people! (And the popsicles!) Two five-year-old girls, a five and a six-year-old boy, three more boys ages 3, 2, and 1, the neighbor's little 2-yr old girl, and our little chillin' Calvin, who is now eight months old. Oh, and their parents. Mostly the moms. Wish I'd gotten pictures, but I foresee more of these in our future!

Dinner was homemade hamburger helper. Because apparently I can only eat the stuff if I put it together. It was tasty, actually, and quick. Daddy left us yet again to set up for communion at church. Bath and bedtime was comparatively smooth, and I pulled out one of my old Childcraft books for story-time. Did you know that the 5th of May is also a national holiday in Japan called Boys' Day? Neither did I! Next year we need to make carp-shaped flags to hang in our yard honoring our house full of boys. Or maybe we could change it up and use a different animal. Whenever I read the Three Billy Goats Gruff, I pretend they are the Three Billy Goats Redd and try to eat them up.

We're still enjoying the 365 Great Bible Stories alongside our frequented and favorite The Jesus Storybook Bible. Tonight's 365 story was from I Kings, about Ahab and how he went to battle despite God's wishes, then tried to stay out of the sight of the enemy by dressing as a common soldier. Instead, a "random" arrow from the Syrians came through a chink in his armor and eventually killed him. You can't hide from God, fool. He is Lord over even the most powerful kings.

And now I think I'm going to go look at the SUPERMOON with my dear husband, fold some more laundry, finish preparing for tomorrow and all it brings, and maybe fall asleep reading about Bilbo Baggins and his adventures with Gandalf the Grey.