Wednesday, November 28, 2007
For those of you who didn't win, there's still time to order your own before Advent begins. The first day's activity is making an advent wreath, and you don't really need the book for that. I'm working on a Jesse Tree banner from this book, with some modifications to the scriptural references and symbols. My husband is really into reading the Old Testament christologically, so he was all over this one. Since there are tons of variations on which scriptures to use, he thought it was okay to modify this one a bit. I'll try to post pics once I get it done.
And go check out the Advent Carnival at At a Hen's Pace.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Calvin: "Mommy, what do those people have on top of their car?"
Me: "That's a Christmas tree, they are taking it back to their house for Christmas."
C: "But it isn't Christmas yet. When does Advent come?"
Me: "It starts on Sunday."
C (every day since that conversation): "Oh! I can't wait for Advent to come. Then we can get ready for Christmas! When is Advent coming? I want to light to candles. On Christmas we can light the white candle!"
Who needs Santa when you have the white candle?
C (while watching Daddy stain the cross we use in prayer): "Oh, I do not know if I like that."
Daddy: "Don't you like the nice, dark color I'm making the cross?"
C: "I do not like it, but I think I love it. But I don't like it."
Daddy: "Calvin, you're having some complicated emotions over my staining this cross."
C (singing in the living room later): "Oh, my complications, complications, oooh."
How many kids are attached enough to a cross that they have to sing about their complications over it?
And, Hobbes, lest he be left out, is also learning to be attached to our liturgical symbols. Tonight, as we were putting away the cross, candles, and icon we had out for prayer, he grabbed the icon and said, "Mine! My i-dawn!" The child only has 40 or so words, and "icon" is one of them?
Welcome to my crazy world. I love it, though. Having my kids fight over who gets to put the cross and icon back is much better than having them fight over a product tie-in toy from the latest movie.
Monday, November 26, 2007
I left middle school behind and started my journey toward becoming my own person, not someone just lost in the crowd. I said good-bye to pop music and started the only place I knew to look for some good sounds, my dad’s album collection. I discovered Abbey Road and found my voice. I had found the soundtrack of my life, unfortunately I was living in the wrong era. Thankfully, I found some friends who were, too, and memories were made, for better and worse.
This part of my story could be a novel, so instead of a narrative, I offer a playlist, with a few songs from my generation thrown in for good measure.
Brown Eyed Girl, Cecilia, and Blue Sky (by the Allman Brothers) are long nights with two older boys and my neighborhood girl friend, driving around in my mom’s Jeep Cherokee, singing and talking, stopping to climb on old railroad bridges, driving up to the mountains to watch the stars fade and the morning fog roll in, or finally giving up to go home and watch The Breakfast Club and talk until we all fell asleep on the couch.
Jewel’s You Were Meant for Me and James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James are getting in the car at a playground, late at night, after a heartbreaking kiss from one of those older boys, a dark, brooding, poetic boy who would one day truly break my heart.
Ramblin’ Man is a July 4th Allman Brothers concert at World’s Fair Park in Knoxville with that same boy and his college roommates.
The entire U2 Joshua Tree album is wanting so badly to get in that boy’s car and ramble across the country but being too responsible to do it.
Blessid Union of Souls’ first album is my senior year boyfriend and gang of friends, late nights watching stars from the boat in the middle of the lake, pizza after the football game on Friday night, staying too late at my boyfriend’s house and trying so hard not to get in trouble. A summer of carefree, mountain kid fun, no moonshine involved, trying to forget the dark, brooding boy away at college, and knowing that I broke his heart on purpose because he scared me.
The Bridge by Eddie from Ohio is newfound freedom my senior year of college, dancing with new friends at my first InterVarsity retreat.
Gillian Welch, Lyle Lovett, and Townes Van Zandt are discovering new music with my dad and going home to the mountains for concerts at the Down Home.
Long December by the Counting Crows is going to Tucson for Spring Break to visit the boy, hoping I can hide how much I like him while I listen to him talk about the girl of his dreams, sitting out in the desert at night and looking up at the stars, feeling as arid as my surroundings.
The Sound of Silence is the summer after my freshman year, when that boy came back and kissed me and we lay in the grass watching the stars and saying so much without saying anything. Funny, I can’t really remember any other songs from that summer, just words like “marry” and “forever” and “Arizona.”
April, Come She Will is sitting in my dorm room that September, reading a way too short and impersonal e-mail after weeks of silence while my insides go numb.
There is too much dark and depressing and melancholy music too mention from the next few years, but there were some moments of light. Bobby McGee is my crazy friend Katie doing her Janis impersonation at an InterVarsity retreat and making me laugh. Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls is my roommates and high school friends coming together for front row seats at the Indigo Girls concert. Like a Rolling Stone is driving two hours with Mary from Minnesota to see Dylan in concert with a bunch of folks our parents’ age. The Weight by The Band is my Southern Lit class taking a road trip to Oxford, pouring a libation on Faulkner’s grave, and drinking too much Jack and Coke in his honor. Nanci Griffith and the Floating Men are road trips up to the mountains, just to get away from the darkness for a while.
And Lucinda Williams and Dar Williams are trying to get over him by running off to Europe for the summer before beginning my “real life.”
At some point after college, I threw out a lot of that music that reminded me of him, and I started over. I moved into a commune and learned to trust people, I entered a healthy relationship with the man I was to marry, I actually got married, and I have two beautiful boys. I still love music and enjoy introducing my boys to it. We started with bluegrass, Rich Mullins, and Johnny Cash. And as I settle into a life that is less dramatic and more secure, I am rediscovering some of my old friends. I'm making my Dad proud by teaching my boys the Beatles and singing them to sleep with Simon and Garfunkel. Thanks to the internet, I may even buy a few of those songs back from the darkness and give them some new memories.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
As I slammed my fist into hard objects and watched my team play into four overtimes yesterday (and win!!!), I commented that I would hate to be the kicker. Games so often come down to a field goal or an extra point, especially in overtime. Having just made that observation, I read this post by my friend Farrah. It seems I am a football kicker, or at least a lot like one. I'd love to hear what you think, and I'm sure my friend would, too. Go on over and add your thoughts on the pressures of motherhood.
And don't forget my giveaway! All you need to do is leave a comment on my post with your e-mail address if I don't have access to it through your blog.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
In the spirit of the season, I am sponsoring my first giveaway. I have already written about what our family does for Advent. If you are interested in some fun activities for Advent and Christmas, Before and After Christmas is a great book. It has activities and scripture readings for each day of Advent and the Twelve Days of Christmas. I have no idea how to do Mr. Linky, and my HTML savvy husband is elsewhere. So let's do this the old-fashioned way. Leave me a comment and make sure I have an e-mail address to contact you. Help me to make this a real contest by linking to this post on your blog if you think your readers would be interested. The deadline is Tuesday at midnight. I will choose a winner on Wednesday the 28th so that I can get you the book by the time Advent begins. The Holidays have begun. May yours be joyous!
Friday, November 23, 2007
If you had a better education than I, you probably know more about Wilberforce than I did before watching this film. His story is one that should not be lost, and it is one that we can learn a lot from today. When I think of the causes that seem hopeless in this world, of the horrors in Sudan, of the children who work in slavery, of all of the injustice that exists in the world, I feel that there is nothing that I can do. In truth, we live in a world where instant gratification is the expectation, and we give up quickly if we don't see instant results. Wilberforce, in contrast, fought for his entire life to abolish slavery. His bill was rejected multiple times. He suffered ill health and spent his youth for the cause of justice. For whatever cause that we may seek justice, we can learn from the perseverance of William Wilberforce and his friends, from his willingness to get his hands dirty and to be in the world of politics in order to change things for the better.
Slavery did not end when Wilberforce's bill passed or when the Civil War ended; it exists in this world today. Injustice exists in our country and abroad. The basic humanity of many is discarded. There is much we can learn from our past. I will be reading more about Wilberforce, and you can be sure that my boys will learn about him and see this film.
Bonus points if you know the reference for the title of this post...
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Merry's Cloister on Thanksgiving and Sacrifice
Wittingshire with Lincoln's words at Thanksgiving
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Music has power. It creates moods. It takes us back to a specific place in our memories. It heals people. It wounds people. It lifts our hearts up to the eternal. For me, music can be a way of returning to my roots, of remembering the people and experiences that have shaped me, of reminding me of lessons I have learned, and of taking me back to raw, real emotion when I feel that my senses are dulled.
My first memories of music come from my father, and his influence on my musical taste and experiences will weave this narrative together. More than anything else, music provides a way for me to stay connected with my Daddy. My first musical memories are of him rocking me in the chair in my parents’ bedroom, singing “Hush Little Baby.” Not too long after that, he moved on to old hymns. I had forgotten some of these memories until I had children of my own and began singing the same songs to them.
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Daddy’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…
Not content to leave my musical education at that, my father soon introduced his version of the classics. I’m pretty sure I knew the words to “The Boxer” long before I had any idea who Simon and Garfunkel were, and I knew tons of Beatles songs before I knew anything of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Though my Dad tried to teach me to appreciate Bob Dylan, I used to tell him to turn off that “man who can’t sing right.” Appreciating Dylan’s unique style would have to wait until I was older, but Simon and Garfunkel were a good start.
…still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…
Some of my clearest memories of childhood and beyond center around concerts. I still remember a school night in first grade, getting dressed in my 1980’s fruit print shorts and shirt with matching pineapple earrings, rocking with my dad and brother under the speakers at a super-loud John Cougar Mellencamp concert, coming home way past my bedtime only to be thrown into the tub while my mom scrubbed off that sweet-smelling smoke. I wonder what would have happened if I had gone to my small town elementary school smelling like pot the next day?
...Oh, but ain't that America, for you and me. Ain't that America, somethin' to see baby…
Not to be undone, my brother also worked his magic on my musical tastes, making sure I learned to enjoy Prince and Duran Duran. I think I still have a few of those singles (in record form, mind you) stored at my mother’s house.
But somewhere along the way, I became a preteen girl, with preteen girl friends and terrible musical taste. Oh, how I wish I could leave this part out, but it is part of my story. It started out innocently enough, Michael Jackson and “Thriller” were all the rage. Prince was still in style, and I had their posters on my bedroom wall. But then THEY came along. If you were raised in the late 80’s and early 90’s, you know about whom I am speaking. New Kids On The Block. Yep, I loved them. I collected trading cards, went to concerts, stalked them in their hotel, and got a picture of Joey, my crush. Perhaps this awkward, cringing feeling that I have as I write that confession is appropriate. After all, this was the defining music of my preteen years, a time we almost all look back on and cringe as we think of the poor, awkward people that we were. Thankfully, this is not the end of my life in music. Keep “hangin’ tough,” and we’ll get to the good parts. Somewhere along the way, I realized that my parents and their music were much better to listen to than my friends.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I interrupt these thoughts with a funny Calvin story:
Calvin and I talked today about all of the things we have to be thankful for, and I explained that we thank God for these things because he made them (or made us with the intelligence to make them). I wasn't sure how much he took that all in, but I should have known he was ruminating on it all day. At dinner tonight he asked, "Mommy, was God made?" Woah. Nothing like a little deep philosophical probing from a three-year-old.
I am thankful for that little mind, that never stops working, and for the ways that raising Calvin and Hobbes helps me to seek new meaning in old traditions. As we prepare to enter the feast, I am choosing to meditate on this:
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
A Psalm for giving thanks.
100:1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Monday, November 19, 2007
During his bath tonight, Calvin got in trouble for dumping water out of the tub when I had just told him not to do so. In the middle of his punishment, Calvin cried, "I don't like the mood I am in! I don't want to be in this kind of mood! Make the mood go away!"
Melt my heart! How do you discipline someone like that? We instantly wrapped him in a towel and cuddled with him on the couch to make his "mood" go away. It's amazing what comes from the mouth of a three-year-old who can articulate like an adult. It sure gets him out of a lot of punishment because we can talk things through with him.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
My friends Rachel and Farrah have both asked for ideas about doing Advent with little ones. We are just figuring this out for ourselves, so I am not sure how much help I will be. I definitely recommend searching the blogosphere and internet for Catholic and Anglican family ideas. But here is what did last year and what we hope to do this year. Don't get overwhelmed. We aren't doing all of this. It's best to start small and focus on a couple of things.
I definitely recommend having one of these. You could get crafty and have your little ones help you make it, or you could buy one. I made one out of fake garland and red berries and nestled short candle holders in it. Put it in a central place in your home, either the dining room table or coffee table. We tended to do our Advent devotions after dinner in the living room, so ours sat on the coffee table. We may have to change that this year, since Hobbes will not be likely to keep his hands off of it. Wherever you put it, light the candle(s) every night during devotions or dinner. Calvin was so excited to get to Christmas and be able to light the "Jesus candle" in the middle. It is a great, tangible way to anticipate Christmas.
Books and Toys
I have heard that the Jotham's Journey trilogy is great for Advent. Unfortunately, they are out of print and expensive to buy. If you find them cheap, get me a set too! We have really loved this book. It is great for devotional time or for breakfast reading. Each day has a door you can open with a bit of the Christmas story. The illustrations are beautiful.
We also have a plastic nativity that we picked up at a garage sale. We leave that set up under out tree for the kids to play with. There are lots of options out there. I think you can even get a stuffed Advent wreath. I am hoping to find some more good Christmas board books, one to introduce every few days of Advent.
This depends on the age of your children. Last year, we used the Advent book for the boys and then did some readings our church had prepared for us. The boys are used to sitting through a decent amount of reading at night during devotions. We also used Advent hymns. If you really look, you can find quite a few. Focus on a couple that you can teach the kids. We did a different verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel each night. (There are about a gazillion.)
This year, we are doing a Jesse Tree with scripture readings. I ordered these books, and I am planning to eventually make these ornaments. This year we may just do ornaments cut out of paper!
Waiting For Christmas
This is the most difficult part of Advent in our culture. Everything around us is telling us to get up the lights, decorate the tree, start singing carols. A radio station here is already playing Christmas Carols 24 hours a day! Like I said, we sing Advent hymns until Christmas Eve. We put up our tree and stockings before Christmas, but we decorate the tree on Christmas Eve or shortly before, depending on where we will be Christmas day. We put up the stable for our nativity and bring the figures out slowly. I think this year we will have Mary and Joseph travel through the house, set the shepherds up across the room, and let the wise men travel (hide them around the house) from Christmas to Epiphany. Baby Jesus never comes out until Christmas.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
This is probably my favorite part of Advent and Christmas. We don't give our children a big gift bash on Christmas. We try to reserve this day for family. This year we are really looking forward to doing Christmas morning at home with just our stocking gifts. Of course, we can't avoid the gift insanity that happens when visiting grandparents! We do give our children gifts. We do mostly small gifts over the 12 days of Christmas, one opened each morning. We will do a couple of bigger gifts in there, with the biggest on Epiphany. This give the kids time to enjoy each present and makes Christmas Day more about celebrating Jesus' birth and being with family.
Rest and Relax
This is a lot of information. I am overwhelmed just looking at it! Take a few things that will work for you and go with them. There is a lot of information out there that can help. I would love to hear your ideas about what you are doing. Things will change for us every year as we figure out what works for our family. Mostly I love how Advent allows me to prepare for Christmas in a less-frenzied way. I try to get most of my shopping done before Advent begins, and I also try to minimize my Christmas party activities. I'll try to keep you updated on how things are going this year, but I also know that I plan to scale back blogging for Advent. Peace to you!
1. What are three things you are passionate about (besides your hubby and children) and why?
I’ll try not to focus on the things you may already now from reading my blog. I am passionate about learning from different cultures. My husband and I are preparing to minister overseas, and I am especially fascinated to see how the gospel speaks into various cultures, not to make them more Western but to make them even more true pictures of the diversity that God created. I love the variety and beauty of humanity and how it shows me different aspects of God that my limited, Western, individualistic mind can often miss.
I am also passionate about the liturgical traditions of the church. This is something I will blog more about later, but this time of year gets me especially excited. While everyone else is out buying presents, putting up trees before Thanksgiving, and burning out before Christmas day arrives, the church calendar dictates that I sit back and contemplate. I love being part of the ancient rhythm of the church, using Advent to prepare for celebrating the coming of Christ, having twelve days of feasting and fun afterward, entering into Lent, and, most of all, rejoicing in Easter with a heart that is prepared. I missed out on these things growing up, and I love using them to teach my children about God’s story.
On a lighter note, I am passionate about good chocolate and good wine. Chocolate does not get any better than these truffles. And having in-laws who lived in France for three years means that I am learning all about good wine and getting to taste plenty of it.
2. How has mothering Calvin and Hobbes been different for each boy and what has been the same?
I’m not sure it has been the same at all, except for the superficial things like changing diapers and making baby food. Each boy is so different. Calvin was a terrible sleeper for his first year. Hobbes was pretty average. Calvin was an early talker. Hobbes was early at everything physical. One is mentally draining, the other physically. And I can already tell that discipline with Hobbes is going to look very different than discipline with Calvin. That’s why my parenting motto has become “Know you child.” I don’t think any two children are the same, and you can’t parent them the same. Of course, that makes for interesting issues of fairness when they get older…
3. What is the biggest way you are like your dad?
Hmmm, this is a hard one. We are alike in so many ways. I will give one positive and one negative. First, I inherited my dad’s love for our mountain culture, from country ham to bluegrass, from mountain drives in the snow to the importance of family. Negatively, I am a huge control freak, just like my father, and stubborn as a mule. I guess the stubbornness has its benefits.
4. Favorite guilty pleasure
That would be wine and chocolate (see above). But for the sake of interest I will add another. I NEVER watch TV other than sports, but my husband and I just got hooked on our first ever reality TV show, Beauty and the Geek. I am embarrassed to admit it, but it is really good! The people in the show may actually be learning some valuable life lessons while stabbing each other in the back and competing for a fortune.
5. If you and your family are stranded on a deserted island for 90 days, what 3 things would you want with you and why?
Radio Tower, Hamm (sp?) Radio, my diaper bag. I’d want to make communication with the outside world and get out of there as quickly as possible. Anything else we could possibly need is in that diaper bag!
Now it's your turn. If you want to be interviewed, leave me a comment including the words "Interview me." I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions. If you don't have a valid email address on your blog, please provide one. You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
...for the rain that fell this morning
...for the moment of peace looking down at Hobbes' beautifully long eyelashes spilling over his fair cheeks after he fell asleep in my arms
...for Calvin's willingness to work on obeying a little better today
...for the beef and barely soup in my crockpot and the fun the boys and I will have trying to make homemade bread to go with it this afternoon
...for health insurance that afforded me some freedom from fear through a doctor's visit
...for my amazing sister-in-law who watched my boys this morning and loves them so well
...for a moment to read and drink my favorite drink at Caribou while I was out
...for a roof over my head and heat in my house as the temperature drops today
...for my husband who appreciates and supports me even when I don't do the same for him
...for so many things that I take for granted every day
It's just one of those days. I need to practice gratitude more often so that every day can be one.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I will not forget the day that my Daddy called to tell me that he had cancer. It was July of 2003. I was in grad school in Illinois, farther away from my home than I had ever lived in my life. My husband and I had been married only a year. I remember that it was dark. I remember that I was so thankful for my husband’s arms holding me. I remember that one of my high school friends and one of the most amazing Christian women I know called me immediately after receiving my e-mail to pray with me. I remember immediately going online to find out all I could about multiple myeloma. I remember not sleeping much. And I remember more than anything not wanting to lose my Daddy.
My Dad was a doctor, a fantastic doctor, who never missed work for illness. He was so fit and chiseled that, in his late forties, he still put fear in the hearts of all of my guy friends in high school. But he was nothing to be afraid of, really. My Dad was a quiet man because he was shy, not because he wanted to be intimidating. My girl friends in high school knew this, and many of them called him “Dad” because they loved him so much. He was a good man, not perfect, but good. And I was his girl. We were (still are) two of a kind.
My Daddy’s battle with cancer lasted for a little over three years, and I think the loss and grief came slowly for all of us over the course of those years. When he died last September, however, it was rather sudden. He had been relatively healthy for the months before that, and the doctors were optimistic about an experimental drug that he had just started. We went home for Labor Day weekend, and I could tell something was wrong. His normally sharp mind was lapsing. He forgot that he had watched the football game with me that weekend. And he slowly became more and more delirious. Anyone who has been near someone dying of cancer knows that it is not pretty. That was the most difficult week of my life, and I don’t want to chronicle it here. I can relive it in bits and pieces, but not all at once.
Instead of focusing on the loss of my Daddy, which has been the hardest loss of my life. I want to write about what I have gained from his illness and death. The most tangible and beautiful things that our family gained from my Daddy’s illness are three beautiful children. My niece was born in May of 2004, and Calvin followed in August. Hobbes was born a year and a half later. I’m pretty sure that my brother and I would not have talked our spouses into trying for children that soon if not for my dad’s illness. I treasure the memories of my Dad being PopPop to my boys. Having grandchildren opened him up so much and made him smile more than I had seen him smile in my whole life before that. He taught Calvin one of his first words, “golf.” And Calvin still loves to watch and play golf to this day. I think he has his PopPop’s skill at the game. While I would love to have my Daddy back, I am so thankful for the light that my niece and sons bring to our family.
I gained less tangible gifts from my Dad’s death, too. During the three years that my father battled cancer, the thing that I dreaded most was his death. I was sure I could not face it, that I could not be there when it happened, that I could not see my strong, capable, intelligent Daddy slowly decline. I’m not saying that being there was easy, but it was a sacred time, a time when the veil between the temporal and the eternal was removed. As my Dad’s mind and body, the things that he had relied on to succeed in life, began to fail, his soul began to shine through. I could see him the way his Father saw him, flaws and raw beauty and all, the things that are now perfected in the Father’s presence.
As I have processed my Daddy’s death and grieved my loss, the Holy Spirit has granted me the most amazing assurance of eternity. I thought that the days and weeks and months after my Dad’s death would be ones of darkness and depression. I sink so easily into that state. But they were not. Instead of drowning in sadness, I found myself experiencing peace and joy, not happiness, really, but joy in the assurance of the truth. This past Easter was one of the greatest of my life. The realities of the resurrection, of Christ’s trampling down of death, and of His coming again to establish his new creation were so vivid. I will see my Daddy again. We will walk in our mountains again. He will play golf with Calvin and football with Hobbes. I cannot explain the difference except to say that I once knew about eternity and now I know of it. That is a gift that infuses all of my life.
This gift of eternal perspective spills over into the lives of my children. My children can learn now not to be afraid of death, to be sad, yes, but not afraid. Calvin often comments that he can’t wait for Jesus to come back and bring PopPop. He talks about Jesus and PopPop playing golf in heaven. I can tell Hobbes stories about a man he won’t remember but who is every bit as alive to us now as he was when he was with us on earth. My children will not grow up without one grandfather. They will grow up with the realization that their PopPop is more alive than even they are, just far away for now.
It is true, what the apostle Paul says:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
Oh, Death, where is your victory?
Oh, Death, where is your sting?
1 Corinthians 15:54-55
Go read the whole chapter. It’s a good one!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
When I do have something I really want to write about, I need more than a day to finish it. I am finding that this every day commitment is keeping me from writing really well about things that I am really thinking about. It's is so much like my life, where the mundane tasks of laundry and cleaning and paying bills can keep me from really living or thinking. I am a list maker. I can't sit down to do big things unless I get all of the unimportant things on my to-do list checked off first. And I need to break free from that.
And so...I may or may not throw away this insane to-do list called NaBloPoMo. You might hear from me tomorrow. You might hear from me in a week. You might not even need to listen, but stay tuned if you want.
Monday, November 12, 2007
We needn't have worried. Hobbes is making his own way in the world and into our hearts just fine. He may still only say a few intelligible words at nearly 20 months, but he is no less charming than his brother. Those big blue eyes with the eyelashes to die for say plenty on their own.
Most of the time they say, "I love you. I love life. Let's have fun." From the moment he was born, Hobbes was a laid-back little guy. He took so long to cry that the nurses and midwives were worried about him. It turned out just to be his personality. He loves live and sort of wanders through it with a smile on his face. He is such a social little fellow, loving all his family members, pulling us around by the finger, crawling up on us to give kisses. He laughs all the time, and he loves to be tickled, begging for "more." His smile is infectious. He is so sweet!
Until he isn't. Hobbes is definitely my child, strong-willed and determined. Seems like a weird combination, laid back and strong-willed, but it is so true. Those times when the will sets in, his eyes give me a look that says, "I am going to do this. I can do whatever my brother is doing and more. I will NOT let you win this battle. Oh, and let me tease a few more gray hairs onto you while I'm at it." At the age of 9 months, he was playing in the backyard where we had just installed a new swingset. I turned my back, and when I turned to find Hobbes, he was at the top of the slide. He had crawled up the ladder after his brother and was standing dangerously close to the edge of the slide, putting one foot out, and laughing at me. I could tell so many more stories, and it is just going to get better (or worse) from here.
Strong-willed and loving life, that is my Hobbes. And that's not the only way he is like me. The kid loves football, or "duh-dow ball" (touchdown ball) as he calls it. He reads my Sports Illustrated before I can. He loves to be outside. But just so he has a little of his dad's family in him, he is an engineer at heart. He loves to figure out how things work, and he is amazing with puzzles. Hobbes is already getting the most out of life, and he will have no problem making his way in this world.
I never thought we could have another child as adorable and funny and lovable and smart as Calvin. I never thought I could love someone as much as I love him. Hobbes has risen to the challenge. He is just as amazing as his brother, and if you ask him, he'll tell you he's just as old.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
While Hobbes is working on modifiers, Calvin is off figuring out how the world works. Sometimes you can see the gears grinding in that head of his. We have sort of made it standard practice to answer whatever questions he asks to the best of our ability. When, at the ripe old age of two, he asked his aunt how a light bulb worked, she explained it to him. For months after that, he took great pleasure in telling people all about how incandescent light bulbs have little pieces of metal with electricity shooting through them.
Now that he is three, Calvin has moved onto more adult topics. He is currently obsessed with the idea of having another baby in our house. (He's going to have to hold out a while for that one.) Last night at dinner, he was talking about it yet again. When he stopped to think for a minute, the husband and I looked at each other and knew we were in trouble.
"But how does the baby get inside of Mommy?" he asked.
My husband rattled off something about Daddy planting the seed inside of Mommy here, and I am so glad Calvin didn't hear that. I'm not even sure what I answered, but we thankfully got onto the subject of how the baby grows inside of mommy. Much easier to deal with.
In retrospect, this would have been the perfect time for Hobbes to yell out, "Hot Mama!" Yep, that about sums it up.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
For the Father up above is looking down in love.
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
I was singing this to Hobbes as I was rocking him to sleep for his nap today. (There wasn't any football on TV yet.) As I sang to him, I realized what a great song this is for kids, it may just be one of my favorites. So often, children hear from us, "Don't do that or you'll get in big trouble" or "Mommy will be angry" or some other version of that. We hold out the threat of punishment or rejection in order to discipline instead of the promise of love. (I suppose I shouldn't speak for everyone here, but that is often my default in parenting.)
My pastor's wife spoke on the topic of love at a women's meeting this summer. One of the qualities of love that she pointed out was hope. I don't remember exactly what she said, but what I came away with was the idea of parenting our children by laying hope before them. Instead of saying not to do something because they will get in trouble, I can say that I know that God is making them into someone amazing and that they have the chance to begin growing into that person now. For example, when Calvin goes to hit his brother over a toy, I can stop him and say, "You are such a good big brother who loves Hobbes. Can you think of a better thing to do." On the few occasions where I try this, it actually works.
I think that God does that a lot in His interactions with His people. There is certainly plenty of discipline and punishment handed out, but he also always calls them back to the higher vision he has for their life. He renames people, he reminds them of his faithfulness to them, and he holds out the hope of who he is making them out to be. Imagine how different children would be if we loved them in the hope of who God is making them into, speaking that reality to them daily, and calling them to something higher, not just away from punishment but to a better way of being.
So I love this song, this message of which is "Do good, not because God will be angry at you, but because He is watching you in love as he molds you into the person he has created you to be."
Friday, November 9, 2007
Anyway, before we had to leave because of overtired kids, he took a break from singing to answer some questions. Someone asked him what he thought of the Christian music industry, and he didn't have great things to say. He said that it started out as a good thing for musicians who wanted to be able to mention Jesus in their songs but that it has turned into reverse censorship. In other words, musicians have to "go and stick in a few more Jesuses" in order to get their album recorded. For the record, he is not signed with a Christian recording agency, and he is not connected to that part of the music industry. But his songs are some of the most profoundly spiritually true songs I have heard.
So on the way home, as Calvin screamed that he would "never get to do anything fun ever again!!!!!" in the backseat, my husband and I tried to discuss where people like this singer fit in. Most popular labels won't take a guy who sings about Jesus and God in a reverent way, and the Christian music certainly wouldn't have gone for his murder ballad (which was our favorite of the night).
I started thinking about other singers who fit this mold. Nearly all of them were in my list of favorites, and nearly all of them fit in the ambiguous "folk" or "bluegrass" category. (The other categories that have this blend of the spiritual and troubling sides of life are the traditionally African American styles of music like the blues.) I hardly have to ask why this is. Separating spiritual life and "real" life was never even an issue for me growing up where I did. In rural Appalachia (and other poor, rural parts of this country) the rhythms of life and death, planting and harvest, marriage and childbirth are bound up in the spiritual truths that they represent. There is no sacred and secular. There is just life, and Jesus and God and the devil and the kinfolk all inhabit it in some way. That is why I loved that house concert the other night. The artist sang from a holistic life, where a murder ballad could stir my soul just as much as a song about Jesus.
On that note, here are some other musicians I love. Some of them are Christian, some are not. Some sing of explicitly Christian themes, and others sing and write of truths that are deeply spiritual because they are real life. There are many more than I list here. And I am always looking for new artists to add, now that I have entered the 21st century and use iTunes!
She may have been born in Hollywood, but that was a mistake. This woman looks and sings and writes like an Appalachian mountain girl. I never miss a concert if she is near. My favorite song is Barroom Girls, but there are so many good ones.
Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs
My boys have already been to concerts by both of these legends of bluegrass. A highlight of my summer was hearing Doc sing Nights in White Satan at an outdoor concert at our art museum. That voice is so good!
He is part of the Christian music industry, but he tells a good story. Many of his songs are sacramental looks at everyday life without being overtly "Jesusy."
He will always be my favorite songwriter. I have yet to find someone who matches him.
The Cowboy Junkies
They will haunt you. Their music is often dark. But it is an honest look at life. Black Eyed Man has been a favorite album of mine for years.
I love him. What else can I say? Calvin and Hobbes' current favorite song is The Truck Song.
The Indigo Girls
They are here if for no other reason than The Wood Song. I listened to them nonstop in my melancholy college days, and my devotion has cooled. But they still rank up there in my list of people who get it.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
You read that right; I am endorsing a movie that put me to sleep. I fell asleep, not because I was bored but because I was so at peace and relaxed. I felt as though I had entered a time of silent retreat into a very sacred and holy place. As I watched the monks quietly and purposefully living out the everyday chores and prayers and rhythms of life in a monastery, I could feel all of the worry and stress and need for control that keeps me tightly wound slipping away. I felt as though I were entering into the very presence of the Creator and being embraced by his mercy and love and power to sustain life. It was one of the most amazing spiritual experiences I have had in a long time, and I still have almost two more hours of that to experience!
I would love for some of you who have seen the film to tell me your impressions, and I would really love to know what people who are not Christians think of it. It seems that the silent and deep spirituality of these men would resonate with those of other faiths, but I am a Christian and can only speak from my experience. I do know that, no matter what your spiritual leaning, this film is a unique experience. Rather than assaulting your senses with noise and dialogue and bright color and flashy images, it invites you into a muted, gentle, peaceful world of rhythmic beauty.
There are many more things I could say, so many images that stick with me, but I will stop there to go enjoy one of these cookies and a cup of my favorite tea while both of my boys sleep. See, you still get to learn one of my favorite things. Peace to you all.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I sat down planning to write about some of the things I love about Calvin. We had had such a good day, but then he started throwing a major tantrum when I tried to help him settle in bed. I definitely don't feel like writing this entry now, all the more reason to do so.
There really are so many things I love about Calvin. I love how his face has always looked old and wise, even as a newborn. Sometimes I can look at him now and see how he will look as a teenager, a father, an old man. And he has the verbal skills and vocabulary to go along with it. He says the most amazing things for a three-year-old. It can be really funny when he is in trouble or getting ready to disobey and is thinking out loud: "But I will NOT take a nap now because I want to build an icosahedron with my magnet toy. That is definitely the reason." Yep, he really says stuff like that.
But Calvin is so much more than an old person trapped in a little boy's body. He has an incredibly compassionate and sensitive heart. His heart breaks, his face crumples, and tears begin to fall at the mere thought of someone being sad or hurt. When I read him the story of Jesus in the garden at Gethsemane this Easter, he was so worried: "Why is Jesus so sad, Mommy? Why won't his friends stay awake with him?" That heart is so trusting and loving, he doesn't think of holding back affection from anyone. When his girl cousin told him, "You're not my best friend anymore," Calvin replied, "But I AM your friend." There is no thought of playing games or withholding love.
One of my favorite things about Calvin is his endless ability to entertain those around him. He could spend all day playing on his little guitar or drum and giving a concert. He has been known to sing all of "Arise, My Soul, Arise." Or he may choose to give a juggling show instead, repeating verbatem the show of the juggle who performs at our mall and whom we have to take him to see on a regular basis. Calvin is a performer, thought he does it on his terms. From an early age, he understood humor and loved to find ways to make us laugh. I remember sitting at the dinner table with my in-laws when Calvin was 14 or 15 months old and he realized that things that he said could make us laugh. He would find that one thing and say it over and over, looking for a response. My mom used to say he would grow up to be a preacher, that or a juggler. He does love to mimic anyone he sees in front of a crowd. He is a great kid.
So even if you do throw uncontrollable fits over little things, I love you, my smart, funny, compassionate firstborn. I wouldn't take anyone in your place. And I am so very grateful to our Father for giving us you.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
I had been wanting to try these for a while and finally did tonight. My husband isn't big on hazelnuts, but I think these are like Nutella in cookie form. Oh, so good!
Sunday, November 4, 2007
First, I love good Chinese food, and I don't mean General Tso's breaded, sticky, spicy chicken with fried rice and a fortune cookie. I mean go to the restaurant and ask the waitress to bring you whatever the staff is eating in the kitchen Chinese food. My first trip to China taught me many things, but one of the most important was that "Chinese food" in America has little resemblance to the stuff in China. You can get the real stuff in Chinatowns in big cities or by getting to know your local Chinese restaurant owner really well and convincing him/her that you really will like the real stuff. Some of my favorites: egg and tomato, mapo dofu (Szechuan style spicy tofu), and a big steaming plate of jiao zi (dumplings). I could go on and on...
And on this side of the planet, I love good barbeque. This is controversial issue in the South. What is barbeque? Is it large hunks of meat on the grill like in Texas? Is it vinegar-based spicy shredded meat like in North Carolina? Is it smoky dry-rubbed ribs like in Memphis? Where I come from, it is beef or pork, smoked all day, sliced and slathered in sweet, spicy, tomato-based sauce. This place is a legend in the part of the world where I grew up. Their baked beans and big, greasy fries are to die for...eat too much and your heart might just agree.
Last, but not least, I love a traditional Southern "meat 'n' three" restaurant. (That's one meat and three "vegetables" for those of you who aren't lucky enough to have one of these.) My Grandma's Sunday country fried steak with mashed potatoes, greasy green beans, creamed corn, and biscuits definitely trumps any restaurant, but this isn't a bad substitute. The cornbread salad and soup beans are so yummy, and the sweet tea is like syrup. We ate here on our trip last weekend, and ordered up a family style meal. Hobbes gobbled up the country ham and cooked apples like he hadn't eaten in weeks. If you eat dinner there, you may even get some old-time or bluegrass music to sweeten the deal.
Those are just some of my favorites, though my culinary tastes do go beyond Southern, lard-fried delicacies. My brother is a chef, and I can enjoy fine food and wine any time we get away from the kids. Our family favorite is a local Indian restaurant. Basically, I will try anything once and usually end up liking it if the food is decent quality. The places above are just the ones nearest to my heart. What are your favorites?
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Neither of my boys were cuddlers as babies. They fought sleep and had to be bounced and jiggled and swayed. They hated rocking chairs. But as they have gotten a bit older, they have certainly made up for that. We don't have a family bed (at least not past four or five months of age), but we do allow the boys to come into our room when they wake up in the morning. There is nothing I like better than being awakened by the sound of Calvin's feet running down the hall and his voice saying "It's light outside" as he carefully opens our door. If Hobbes hasn't already woken up and called out for us, he usually joins us pretty soon after. What follows is the highlight of my day. A short time of cuddles and kisses and hugs all around, little hands reaching up to our cheeks and saying "Mama" and "Dada," my boys hugging each other good morning, a few minutes of sweetness and peace before the day begins. And sometimes there is a little wrestling thrown in. They are boys, after all. No matter what sort of tantrums, arguments, missed naps, or unmet expectations follow, the days always come back around to this. Morning cuddlefest. One of my favorite things.
Friday, November 2, 2007
Favorite Thing Number One:
Caribou coffee's Hot Apple Blast. I cannot get enough of this drink. It's like liquid apple pie. I don't drink coffee, so this is my splurge. I have started buying apple cider and making my own at home, but it just isn't as good. Go get one now. If you don't have Caribou near you, I'm so sorry. Starbucks just doesn't compare.
Now on to naptime.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
One of the things I love about being Anglican is discovering the church calendar. Protestant Evangelical Americans miss out on so much when we throw away the feast days and Advent and Lent! All Saints Day has a fond place in my heart because Calvin was baptized on All Saints Sunday. I am sad to say that we almost forgot about it today and didn't do anything with the kids to celebrate.
I am already making plans to make All Saints a bigger deal than Halloween next year. I want Calvin and Hobbes to learn about those who have paid a great cost for the Gospel and to remember those whom we love, who may not have been great martyrs, but who are still part of the saints. Maybe their PopPop is hanging out with Augustine or having a chat with Cuthbert. (My theology of what happens between death and the second coming is a bit fuzzy. Being Catholic would be so much easier.) No matter, there are a lot of amazing people whom we will one day meet and whose lives, in the meantime, can inspire us. So on this feast day, I leave you with this hymn.
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost: