Friday, December 25, 2009

One Year Ago

One year ago today you made your appearance, and Christmas will never be the same again. Whenever I contemplate the birth of our Savior and imagine Mary holding the tiny King of the Universe in her arms, I will also remember the moment I first held you, wet and red and slippery from the birthing tub. We had no idea then what sort of baby you were, but perhaps the fact that you chose Christ's Mass to enter our lives revealed some of your personality. On the most joyful and quietly beautiful day of the church calendar, you came home to us.

Linus, we could not be more in love with you and your sweet, joyful, and unassuming approach to life. We don't stop often enough to enjoy you. You are so quietly content most of the time, though thrilled when we stop to play with you or take your picture or enjoy your sweet babble. You seem to be saying, "Excuse me, wonderful people around me, I know that you are busy doing something important, but if you have time, I would love to throw this ball to you. I'm equally happy to keep playing here near you, though. This is nice, isn't it?"

You have really started to become a little person in the past few weeks, and it is a gift to see you discover your own abilities. You are learning to communicate with a combination of sign language and your own adorable gestures and noises. You don't really talk yet, and you don't seem to be in much of a hurry to do that or to walk. And you still don't have teeth. You are delighted to let these developments happen as they will, enjoying each moment and not being too anxious to grow up. You may think it is amazing to see this in a baby, but your brother Calvin was the complete opposite of this, always striving, from birth, to do more and to be more than he was ready to do or to be. You, on the other hand, are content just to take life as it comes.

You were born with eyes of wonder at the world, on a day of great wonder for the whole world. May you never lose that, and may it be a gift to our family, to all of us who often take life too seriously and look at the world through anxious eyes.

Words truly cannot express the immense joy you bring to our lives, our beautiful Christmas baby. We love you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thirty-Two

And in the midst of celebrating while getting ready to celebrate the birth of sweet Linus and, of course, the birth of the One whose life has given meaning to those thirty-two years. Planning to have a lot of good family time between now and Epiphany. I may be around, but most likely, I will be back here sometime in 2010. Happy celebrating to all of you who are!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Coming of the Light (Reposted)

I am reposting this post from Advent 2007 for some dear friends who are mourning a sad anniversary today. They are not the same friends whom I mention in this post. Those friends had their own sad news, but the news I heard that day did turn out well. Still, in the midst of the very real goodness of life, there is so much to remind us that this world is broken and that we long for the King to come and make it right. Come quickly.

I just talked to a dear friend today who has some sobering news. I want so badly for it to turn out well and end in joy, not sorrow. There seems to be so much sorrow and brokenness in so many places. The older I get, the more I realize that this world is broken. And the more brokenness I see, the more I must learn to rest in the quiet hope of Advent. While I want all of the problems fixed now, I must sit with the voice that says "Just wait. One day all will be made right. Just wait. One day all the sick will be healed, the dead will rise, the tears will be wiped away. Just wait. One day, the darkness will flee in the Presence of the Light. He will come..."

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4, ESV)

Sometimes in my busy, self-focused life I lose sight of this amazing truth..the dwelling place of God is with man. He came to live among us. He will come back and set things right. God with us. Emmanuel. And so, for my friend, and for all of you, I offer the words of this very ancient Advent hymn. It's language may be a bit difficult to take, but it offers such a hopeful picture of a powerful God who willingly comes to live with us, to feed us, and, eventually, to vanquish the darkness. Let us keep hoping.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wing├Ęd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Friday, December 11, 2009

7 Quick Takes

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen.

Just in case you were wondering why I haven't been around this space...

-1-
We haven't taken off and moved to Asia yet. I am just choosing other things and/or trying to keep my sanity and make it a somewhat meaningful Advent. So far, that isn't going so well. We are having major behavior issues, and chaos reigns. Currently, our Advent wreath is hidden among the piles of books and mail and a laptop on our coffee table, and the Jesse tree banner hangs crookedly beside our TV while the ornaments are somewhere hidden under the mess of our living room.

-2-
Do you ever have times where nothing about any of your relationships is easy? In addition to the above mentioned discipline problems with the boys, I can't think of a single close relationship that is easy right now. Even my really close friends have troubles of their own that make time together for us less than refreshing because neither has much peace to offer. My marriage is not in a bad place but we are definitely having growing pains. And extended family problems always like to surface at Christmas. There have been times when I have been showered with sweet, peaceful, good times of refreshing in so many relationships, but this is not one of those times.

-3-
Even baby Linus is getting in on the action. He is still sweet as ever, but he is a sweet almost one-year-old, which means he is into everything. I can no longer sit and watch him play contentedly while I read. Now he is climbing onto the coffee table and rocking chair and generally trying to give himself a concussion. So even my alone times with him are draining.

-4-
Needless to say, Christmas preparations are not coming along so smoothly. I have a few gifts purchased, but I am far from ready. I was all set to write a post about our handmade gifts for the boys, but now I am just hoping to get them done. I am excited about them. We are hoping to make a bow and arrows for Calvin. (Bad idea, I know.) And my mother-in-law is going to help me paint a mat for driving cars on for Hobbes. It will have all of the places we go (our house, the in-laws', church, school, Nana's, Neyland Stadium...you know, important places in his life) painted on it and roads for his cars to drive on. I had one of these as a kid that someone made for me and my brother, and it is one of the few toys I really remember playing with and loving.

-5-
I didn't mean for this to be a complaining 7 Quick Takes. Really, life is not all bad. Advent is still my favorite time of year. We had our second annual St. Nicholas Day party this year, with 15 kids and 8 moms in our tiny house decorating cookies, learning about the saint, and playing the "toss the gold (chocolate) coin in the shoe" game. It was a lot of fun. And watching the boys, Hobbes especially, as they take in the wonder of Christmas trees and lights all around is still a lot of fun.

-6-
And my boys still make me laugh. A lot. Calvin is really into knights these days and has been reading a lot of King Arthur books. Hobbes is along for the ride, as usual. The other day, Hobbes said to me, "Maybe his name use to be Alot, and then he got a lance and became Lancelot."

-7-
And Calvin, oh Calvin. I swear he will be a lawyer one day. Yesterday, he came up to me with a clever smile on his face and said, "Mommy, if you need to get things done around the house, and I bet you do, you could just put me on the Wii." He thought he was being so clever. I love these boys, even on the worst of days.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Easy Advent Wreath Tutorial



Isn't this lovely? I'm going to tell you how to make it. But first, don't forget the Advent Carnival over at Kerry's blog. I've been so busy catching up from all of the Thanksgiving travel that I haven't had time to sit down and read the entries yet, but I plan to do it today.

Now, on to the wreath. I know many of you already have your Advent wreaths out and are all organized for the season. On the off chance that there are some of you out there who (like me) are still pulling out the Advent candles and Jesse tree ornaments and Christmas books, here's an easy way to make a lovely wreath. Thank you, wonderful women at my church, who organized this wreath making at our Sunday's Advent potluck. Otherwise, we still wouldn't have a wreath.

All you need for this is an aluminum pie plate, a cube of florist's oasis (that green foamy stuff that holds water), some greenery clipped from your yard, Christmas tree, neighbor's garden, or the roadside, clippers or scissors to trim the greens, and candles.

I am TERRIBLE at arranging flowers, and I can do this. I know you can, too.

Soak the oasis to get it good and wet and set it in the pie plate. You want it square, not round, for holding all of the candles. To make the wreath look round, just use shorter pieces of greenery on the corners.

Starting at the bottom, insert greenery in the wreath. It's nice to use bigger stuff on the bottom and alternate more feathery and smooth greenery, but any way you do it, it will look nice.

Insert the candles at the top. (Caution, you only have one shot at this, as once they are inserted you can't pull them out and get them to stay again. The hole will be too big.)

Use smaller greenery to cover the oasis on the top around the candles.

Don't make anything too tall or the candles will burn it once they get low, and the greenery, likely to be dried out by then, will burst into flames causing a major Christmas catastrophe...or something like that.

Keep water in the bottom of the pie plate to keep the wreath fresh. If greenery dries out, you can always clip some more and replace it.

Isn't that easy? And pretty?

Friday, November 27, 2009

God Made Flesh

Advent and Christmas are a time mixed with great joy and sadness for so many. For us, Advent is a time of longing for the second coming of Jesus, of being reunited with loved ones who are with the saints. This year, we long for my Grandma to be well enough to enjoy this (most likely her last) Christmas with us. Her hand is pictured below, with sweet Linus' fingers. So much sadness and so much joy in those moments together, the dying and the just beginning to live.

Newborn and old, living and dying, all come together in Jesus, swallowed up in His coming glory, into a life that never dies. May you enjoy this time of preparing for the Christ child and for His return in glory.



It was a simple question. “Hobbes, what are we waiting for during Advent?”

“For the baby to come. Our baby. Baby Jesus.”

I suppose it was inevitable, with my due date being only a week after Christmas, but we all still thought it was funny that he kept confusing our baby with the baby Jesus. They were such separate things, after all. Our baby was just a simple human, beautiful but flawed. But Jesus? He was Emmanuel, God with us! He was no simple human. He came as the Messiah. He was God made flesh.

God in a womb, with a tiny heart beating, tiny fingers and toes forming, tiny lungs growing. God joyfully kicking a rib cage and weighing down a tired, pregnant woman on the rough roads to Bethlehem. God making His way into the world through the painful work of labor. God born into the meager shelter of a cave with only animals to watch.

Did you ever really stop to think what that means? Our nativity scenes and carols seem so benign, too pristine and peaceful to convey what really must have happened that night. It was a beautiful and sacred moment, no doubt. But it was also a messy, difficult, and terrifying one. Any woman who has been through labor knows that all is not calm when a baby makes his entrance into the world.

I will admit that I wasn’t meditating much on the nativity of Jesus or on what Mary must have felt as I navigated my way through that long Christmas Day of labor. For many of the hours, and certainly in that last painful, violent hour, I just wanted the pain to end. I had a clean room and caring midwives and nurses. I was in a familiar place with family nearby. I had all of the advantages of modern medicine, but it was still an exhausting and messy affair.

But when I held my third son in my arms, so tiny and beautiful and red from the reality of labor, I understood what it meant to be “made flesh.” Maybe Hobbes wasn’t so wrong after all. Jesus and our baby were so very different and so very much alike.

In Christ, God stepped into our world, in all of its messiness and pain and exhaustion and fear. He became flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. The Creator entered His creation to bring to birth that for which creation, and we, are groaning. And just as I longed for that painful day to end and my baby to come, so we all long for His coming, for the end of suffering and the glory of His Kingdom.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." ( Romans 8:18-23, ESV)

For more entries in the Advent Carnival, go on over to Kerry's blog. If you want to know more about how our family celebrates Advent, read here or here or here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Missing Girl

Once upon a time there was a mountain girl who dreamed big dreams. She dreamed of traveling the world, learning three languages, blazing a pioneer trail to some remote village to share the gospel and help those in need, living an independent life, and then returning home to get a PhD in comparative literature, settle down, and have a family. She had passion...for God, for adventure, for learning, for life. She was good at what she did, got scholarships and awards and recognition. She could have made a career of teaching literature and writing scholarly papers. And if she had chosen not to, it would have been because she was called to something even more exciting. Then she graduated college, got married, finished grad school, had a few kids, and lost herself.

What? This is your story, too?

I am feeling a bit lost right now under the pressure of caring for three kids, taking care of the household and finances, and trying to prepare for an overseas move. All of those adventures I longed for and thought I was called to are coming to fruition is some ways, but the girl that I was when I dreamed those dreams is buried...if not lost completely. Now I am going as a wife, a mother, a cook, a maid. I fear that my life overseas will look exactly like my life here. That my ministry will still be limited only to my family. I know my family is my primary work right now, but I long for there to be something more, too.

Invisible. That's how I feel. Anyone else out there ever felt this way? All of the ways I used to define myself are no longer valid. And I have not done a graceful job of accepting my current roles. I am finding myself bitter and tired and angry much more than I would like, and I am not sure how to change things.

I tried the good "Christian" way (at least in some Christian circles) of accepting my vocation as a mother and doing that job well. And it has been very good for me to think through how I run the household and how to order our family life. I am not saying that staying at home and being really good at being a mom is a bad thing. It just isn't working well for me, and the culture around me and my own inner voice tell me that it is because of some character weakness. There are plenty of weaknesses that I am aware of (and many more I am not), and I do want to work on those and become a better woman and mother.

But something tells me that no matter how much God matures and changes me and fits me for motherhood, I will always desire something more. That mountain girl who longed to do something with the brains and passion God gave her is still in here somewhere. Certainly, there are plenty of outlets for using my skills and passions in homemaking and parenting, but my heart says that I am not ever going to be satisfied staying at home. God has called me to that, but He has also called me to other things, too.

I think I am needing some wisdom from you other women out there. Is it okay to long for something more than what I have? Do I need to just learn to be content in the roles I have to play? Is it possible to learn to be content and to still yearn to do more? Will I ever find that girl again? I miss her.

Advent Carnival Coming Up!

The Carnival of Anglican Advent Traditions is coming up. If you want to participate, write a post about Advent, what it means to you, how you or your family observes it, etc. Details are over at Kerry's blog. Posts due November 27.

I highly recommend you participate or at least read the posts. I have met some incredibly insightful and inspiring bloggers through the Advent Carnival, not to mention the amazing ideas I've collected for celebrating with my family.

Go on and write! Hopefully I'll see you there!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

7 Quick Takes-I Miss This Blog!

I miss writing and processing and using this space to help me think more clearly! But life is just so very busy now that Linus is on the move. I'm grateful more than ever these days for Quick Takes on Fridays. Otherwise, I might never get a post up. Head on over to Jen's blog for more Quick Takes.

1

We have recently discovered Howard Pyle's books here in the TwoSquare household. Have you read him? If you have boys in your home, you really must. (Recommendations for other good boy books are appreciated!) We are reading Men of Iron aloud right now, and Calvin loves it. He walks around all day speaking in this lovely antiquated language. "Nay, mother, I will not do that, quoth he." It's hilarious, except that he thinks it's clever to say "no" to us this way.

2

We discovered Pyle because we were looking for good versions of the King Arthur legend for Calvin. It seems the space obsession is fading, and we are into all things King Arthur around here. I am excited about the possibilities here. A medieval themed dinner, a knight's quest party for some boys, and making swords with Daddy are all possibilities. This is what my husband has been waiting for since Calvin was born. Considering he owns swords and chain mail, is it so surprising?

3

It has been raining for three days here, and today is likely to be another one. Over four inches of cold, miserable rain, three days stuck in our tiny house, and a baby brother who needs some bit of quiet to nap made for some restless boys. So yesterday we pulled out the couch bed, popped some popcorn and watched movies for the afternoon. It was SO good for me to just enjoy being with my boys and stop worrying about all that needs to be done around here. SO GOOD. I need more of that.

4

You may be noticing that these snippets of family life don't include a lot of real homeschooling. I think I am already a homeschool failure. I certainly don't think we are doing what works for our family. I scrapped any plans I had and am starting to pay attention to how we work as a family and how my boys learn best. Unschooling is seeming more and more appealing, combined with some more structured classical learning when they get older. Is that even possible?

5

One schooling thing that is working is Chinese Preschool. For so long I wondered what we were paying the tuition for, but in the past few weeks, both Calvin and Hobbes have discovered the fun of showing off their Chinese for us. I often hear them singing Chinese songs and using Chinese words around one another, and they are finally willing to speak it for us. I am amazed how kids learn a second language so intuitively. I studied this, so I should know it. But seeing it in real life is so fascinating!

6

Advent is in less than three weeks. Are you ready? I ordered a few new Christmas books for the kids, and I found a couple of Advent activity books that I may try to use. We are planning to do our usual Jesse Tree and other Advent traditions. Check out this post and this one and this one if you are interested in knowing what we do around here. And this post tells what we do about Santa. Let me know what you're doing, too!

7

So...not that anyone but me cares....but things aren't looking so good for Tennessee's football players. I have long thought the quality of the players reflected the caliber of the coach, his ability to inspire discipline and hard work and his modeling of a life of integrity. It will be interesting to see if this current disaster is a reflection of the way things are going to be at UT under our new coach. I sure hope not. I'd hate to be ashamed to wear my orange.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Pilgrimage and Some Calvinisms


So, I have a good excuse for not being around this weekend. Saturday night, after nine years of talking about it, I finally took my husband to watch my team at the 8th Wonder of the World. All three boys came with us, and though it was exhausting, it was totally worth it. The weather was perfect, our team won, and the boys loved it. Even Linus was too excited to sleep.

Watching Calvin was even more fun than watching the game. He is definitely excited about football right now, and when we suggested leaving with six minutes left to go and a score of 56-28, he exclaimed, "But we can't go! A LOT can happen in six minutes!" (Fortunately for the Vols, a lot didn't happen.)

...

I don't have time to write much other than that, what with needing to catch up on my sleep. (Twelve hours of driving in three days, a weekend away from home, and boys off any semblance of a sleeping schedule have done me in for the time being.) So I leave you with some Calvinisms.


Angry at something that didn't go his way: "I'm not just a little bit sad! This is a much bigger sad. I am MEGA SAD!"

When I asked him if he would be warm enough in his t-shirt outside this evening: "I won't get COLD; it's a Star Wars shirt!"

Enjoying the thrills of cable television at my mom's (ESPN, anyway) and watching some NBA clips (which we have obviously never watched before): "Look, Mommy, those hoops are really short!" "No, Calvin, those men are just really tall."

After listening to me rant about the terrible traffic on our drive over Friday: "Mommy, I just prayed for God to get you out of this terrible traffic."

...

I have so many things on my mind that I would love to write about now, but they will have to wait. Until then, leave a comment, even if you usually don't, and let me know what's going on in your corner of the blogosphere. Peace.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Won't Stop Talking Until Big Coal Stops Blasting

Did you call the President?

If not, you can still send an e-mail. iLoveMountains.org is asking organizations across the nation to join forces today to stop the blasting of Coal River Mountain, a potential source of alternative wind energy and a symbol of the fight between big coal companies and those who think the mountains and Appalachian people are worth saving.

It only takes a minute. Isn't a that worth saving a mountain and her people, stopping one of the worst ecological disasters going on today, and caring for the creation that has been put under our stewardship?

Please, please, please, go fill out the form. Today.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wonderful Art Giveaway

Looking for a unique gift for Christmas? My cousin, Beth Stone, is a talented artist. She has prints, notecards, and originals for sale on her site. She is also hosting a Thanksgiving giveaway on her blog. Head on over and see how to enter the giveaway. I especially love her newest murals based on hymns, and I'm thinking of ordering some prints for Christmas presents.

Go on. Support an artist. I dare you.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

7 Quick Takes-What's Inspiring Me

I somehow managed to waste the first half of my week and am making up for it by spending the second half on major purging and reorganizing projects, always needing to be done in preparation for moving next year. In lieu of any good words from me, check out these posts.

And, as always, visit Jen's blog for some more Quick Takes.

1
This post is from a blog I just discovered. I was saying "amen" through the whole post. Introverts out there, you know what she is talking about.

2
This post offers some good thoughts about the obsession with sex in our culture and how the community of the church can answer to that deeper longing. I always love Anthony Esolen's writing.

3&4
This post by Rae made me cry. I so often wonder what happened to the person and child I once was. She is buried somewhere under laundry and bills and constant, mundane tasks. I miss her. Rae writes, But not all of a woman is made to work. The soul of a woman contains so much more- there is a girl-child inside, ready to play! And her list for finding that spirit of play in the midst of work is fantastic. I may need to write one of my own.

5
This post on taking a day of rest for the whole family goes so well with those last two. Without a Sabbath rest each week, I am certain I would have given up on this motherhood/homemaker thing a long time ago.

6
Gratitude. I am hearing God speak this word to me from so many directions lately. I know that joy comes from practicing gratitude and not from a change in life circumstances, but I don't really practice it. This post...and this one...and this one...all came to me this week. It was the same time I was studying Jesus' parables on money and true kingdom treasures. I am thinking it is time to start a gratitude list of my own.

7
On a completely different topic, but still an inspiration, check out my dear friend, former commune housemate, amazing cook, creative mama extraordinaire's new food blog. Join in the feast! She is cooking all kinds of yummy recipes from her CSA box. I got to live with this woman and eat her cooking weekly. Aren't you jealous?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm calling the President tomorrow. What are you doing?

Update. I did it! Calling the White House was pretty empowering. Isn't it amazing we have a country where we can do that?

I'm not usually very forceful or strongly opinionated on this blog, but some things just make me mad, and I have to speak up.

If you have a few minutes...and we all do. Help me save a mountain.

Blasting has begun on Coal River Mountain in West Virginia and must be stopped NOW! This mountain could be used to harvest wind energy forever, providing safe jobs and a diversified economy to local residents, if its top isn't blown off and dumped into toxic waste ponds that are upstream from whole communities.

This is an atrocity! It not only destroys the landscape forever; it threatens the drinking water, homes, and lives of those who live downstream. This is not something we can stand by and let happen. People in these mountain communities do not have the money or power to fight big coal unless the rest of America steps in to help them. If Coal River is destroyed, it can never be used for alternative wind power because its majestic mountaintop will be gone.

A mountaintop gone. A landscape changed forever. People drinking poisoned water. Homes endangered by floods. Doesn't anyone care?

Will you help me? Call President Obama and ask him to persuade Governor Manchin of West Virginia to stop the blasting at Coal River Mountain.

202-456-1414.

Do it! Leave me a comment to let me know you did. Spread the word on your blogs. Come on blogosphere!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

In Two Months...

...we will celebrate your birth. How did I miss so much of this year, sweet Linus? It seems that Calvin's first year was in slow motion. I had time to watch him while he slept, to play games with him, to record every moment, every tiny new development. Even Hobbes' first year had plenty of slow moments. We were still so very much in the baby phase of life.

But you, third child with the much older brothers, you just come along for the ride. You sleep in your car seat where I can't see you. On the rare days we are at home for your naps, I am just thankful that I can put you down and let you soothe yourself to sleep. I rarely stop to watch your beautiful baby rest.

Or to play with you. You have to remind me to do that. Lately, you have started initiating peek-a-boo with us, covering your face with your quilt in the crib and then pulling it down and squealing with delight when we say, "Where is Linus? Peek-a-boo!" And you love to play ball, sitting in the floor throwing or handing the ball to me for me to throw back.

Somewhere in there you have learned to crawl and pull up and feed yourself. You are trying so hard to balance on your own, and I am sure you will be walking next time I remember to turn around and look at you. And you are working on all sorts of language in your head. I can tell. I hear the garbled sounds coming out, attempts to say your brothers' names or the names of objects. I swear you have said "all done" and "more" and "bath" on more than one occasion. You definitely say "DaDa" a lot. You love your daddy.

All of these things have happened without my really noticing, really enjoying the moments. I don't completely ignore you. No one could, with your engaging smile, contagious joy, and sweet spirit. But I do wish I had slowed down more often this past ten months to really just enjoy being your mama.

I will try to do that more sweet one, as we prepare and wait for the coming of the King and for the celebration of your birth. That's one day I do remember. Every detail of it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Calvinisms

It's been awhile...

Stubborn Prayers
Calvin and I had a rough night tonight, and he was angry when he went to bed. I asked if he would like to pray and ask God to help him get rid of the anger. He prayed, "Dear God, please help the anger to stay inside of me."

Hobbes piped in, "Dear God, please help the anger to go out of Calvin."

Calvin countered, "Dear God, please don't listen to Hobbes. Make the anger stay inside of me. I want to be angry forever, so just don't listen to Hobbes."

Thankfully, he decided that wasn't a good option, and he went to sleep having made up with me. I guess God listened to Hobbes.

Enjoying Life, Calvin Style
We were hiking at a local river the other day, and as we headed down to the water, Calvin said, "I am so pleased. Oh, I am so very pleased that we are at the river. This is such a wonderful place, isn't it?" He talks like this all the time, with very adult, literary turns of phrase.

Naked Exclamations
Calvin and Hobbes were spending the night at my in-laws' the other night. Auntie M was just leaving, and Grampa was in charge of bathtime. He was also downloading a computer game for them to play once the bath was over. Calvin ran out of the house, naked except for one sock, yelling, "Wait, Auntie M! Wait! I have to tell you something. The download is sixty-two percent complete!" Let me tell you, she was so very glad to know that before she left.


There are so many more that I can't remember right now. Maybe there will be another installment when my mind is working better. He may be impossible to handle sometimes, but I am learning more and more to just enjoy Calvin for who he is, brilliant, quirky mind and all.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Someone forgot to tell the rhododendron...


...that Summer is over.

I snapped this picture this past weekend at my uncle's cabin on the lake. The sounds of falling leaves in the mountains were all around me. The air smelled of snow. And the rhododendron were blooming...a second time or a first, I don't know.

I'm sure there's a spiritual lesson in there somewhere. I'm so very tired and so very busy and so very overwhelmed that I don't have time to extrapolate it.

For now, I am going to recover from our amazing weekend in the mountains, make some apple butter in my crock pot from our apple picking expedition, and try to get us settled into a new rhythm now that Daddy TwoSquare is working from home. (That's right, he already has a new contract job that will pay the bills, allow him to work fewer hours, and give me some help PREPARING FOR THE MOVE IN A YEAR.)

We are blessed. Busy, but blessed. I leave you with my morning view from this past weekend, a weekend with no Calvin and Hobbes, three lovely siblings-in-law, sweet Linus, cold mountain air, and lots of alone time and good adult conversation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Coup

Hi, TwoSquare's blog here. Apparently, she has decided she no longer needs me. I guess I'll just have to stage a takeover of this space. I heard her talking with her husband about some new job possibilities for him...and then there was something about getting up to the mountains to enjoy the Fall foliage.

If she doesn't get back to writing soon, expect to hear more from me. I'm sure I can come up with all sorts of interesting posts. Anyone want to know the finer points of HTML? How to spice up those boring templates? Troubleshooting problems with links? I've got it all here. If you are really good, maybe we can talk some CSS...

No, wait! Come back! She'll be back soon! I promise! (just as soon as she gets herself out from under that mountain of paperwork, insurance info, homeschooling curriculum, and laundry...)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Charting a New Course

So, things have been a little bit crazy around the Two Square household this past week. Daddy Two Square (the poor man needs a blog alias of some sort) was laid off last Thursday, along with half of his company. We have no reason to complain and are so blessed compared to many people these days. We have money in the bank, my husband already has several potential contracting positions, and my in-laws keep us supplied in eggs and milk and would even take us in if we had to sell our house.

In a crazy way, this is probably an answer to pray and the solution to many problems for us. Until last Thursday, I was drowning in the Things To Do Ocean, wondering how we would ever get support raised, prep our house to put it on the market, homeschool Calvin, get ready to move overseas, and manage the daily tasks of life. I did the math. It was impossible. The weight of stress was so heavy that I felt I couldn't breathe.

Now we are looking at having my husband working from home, likely taking the jobs he wants for the number of hours he wants a week. This support raising and move may become a reality. I feel like I am finally coming up for air.

Unfortunately, I came up to a storm of boys anxious and unsure about what it means that Daddy lost his job and is home all of the time. We are all trying to figure it out, find a new rhythm, settle into yet another new daily and weekly schedule. But God's hand is all over this situation, and we are thankful. He is moving us on to the next phase of our journey. It just might be a rough few weeks getting the boat to sail smoothly.

In the meantime, I am learning all kinds of things about His presence in the details of our lives. But I'll save that for another post. Hopefully I'll be back at it once things settle around here. I miss writing.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

These Are The Days

Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home.

-Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

These are the days of cool breezes and trees on fire. These are the days of wet grass in the morning and hot tea in the evening. These are the days of sweaters wrapped around shoulders and eyes turned westward. These are the days I long to get back to my mountains. To my soul. To my home.

Friday, September 25, 2009

7 Quick Takes-Just Stop Buying Stuff and Grow Something!

For more (and better) Quick Takes, visit Jen.

Oh, I do have a restless mind these days. There is so much going on, so much to accomplish toward our goal of being overseas next Summer, so many little people with big needs and even bigger smiles. I am overwhelmed. Then there are the big problems of the world that always seem to crash full force into my brain all at once. I start thinking I need to solve the problem of injustice, save the environment, get my house perfect to put on the market, teach my children poetry and music, and have all the laundry folded and put away. Something has to give...but usually I just get paralyzed and collapse on the couch unable even to get dinner on the table. Ever feel that way?

1. Big Problem of the Week: Consumerism
I was passing a dollar store today and saw a sign in the window that said "Be Part of the Solution" with a photo of a reusable dollar store bag. Now I am all for reusable bags, but isn't the whole dollar store (home of cheap, plastic, landfill-cluttering goods) a bigger problem than my occasional plastic bag? Besides, do all of these bags that stores are now selling come from recycled plastic? Maybe. Isn't it better to just use random canvas tote bags that you already have around than to buy new bags? I hate how we have turned even being green into a chance to consume.

2. Fair Trade and Justice
I think I mentioned the book Everyday Justice last Quick Takes. The first words of the book are "Don't panic" (or something like that). I am supposed to read the book and think about baby steps I can take. But that is not how my mind works, so I just get overwhelmed thinking I will never be able to make sure everything I buy is from fair trade sources. Then I give up.

3. Consumerism Mecca: The Mall
We were at the mall yesterday eating lunch with the hubby, and I couldn't even enjoy it at all. I kept wondering where and how my Chick-fil-A chicken was raised and what conditions the workers in the slaughterhouse worked under. Then I looked around at all of the stuff for people to buy. SO MUCH STUFF! And I thought that even if I buy everything second-hand, use Freecycle for stuff I no longer need, and cut down on consumption of things that aren't fair trade it would never be enough.

4. Sometimes I just wish Jesus would come back and make us all agrarian again. Speaking of that, I get to hear Norman Wirzba tonight. I love living here!

5. I need rest.
And these this lovely blog post by my friend Catherine was exactly what I needed to read today.

6. Things that do not worry me? Swine flu (excuse me, H1N1) and the economic crisis.

I know we could get the flu, but we live in such a privileged place, that it is highly unlikely the outcome would be bad. And we would all have stronger immune systems.

I know my husband could lose his job, but we have resourceful families and could make it in a depression. If this crisis could stop the awful, cheap urban sprawl building that is destroying our good land, force more people to learn to grow their own food or buy it locally, and make more conservationists out of consumers, then it is a good thing. Unfortunately, I fear we are too hasty to turn things around and are just propping up our economy on more greed and consumerism.

7. And now, to end it with some humor...

Thanks to Jennifer for this excellent link on the new Dan Brown book (speaking of stuff not to buy). If you hate his books as much as I do, you'll love this.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Even Tax Collectors Get a Saint

Happy Feast of St. Matthew.

We haven't ever really celebrated saint's days, but I figure now is as good a time as any. I have been using the Divine Hours books by Phyllis Tickle for my prayer time, and she always notes the feast days. Maybe I'll read the boys the story of Levi (Matthew before Jesus called him and changed his name). If you are interested, here are a few links:

Venerable Bede on St. Matthew (a convicting sermon)

Brief summary of St. Matthew with ideas for celebrating today

A blog post I stumbled upon with good ideas for celebrating

Also, one website suggested baking a cake with coins in it and reading the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13.

All good ideas. What are you planning to do?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

7 Quick Takes-Good Links Edition

With nothing much to say of my own, I turn to some great links to check out. Be sure not to miss number 7, it's the best!

1. I have often found links that I love that turn out to be from Slate. Meandering around the internet tonight, I have decided that I love that site. So good. As an English major, I despise Dan Brown's novels on a purely aesthetic level. I can't get past a few sentences. This Dan Brown plot generator made me laugh...heartily.

2. While we are on the topic of English majors, now I know where all of those folks I graduated with get jobs. I think I have found a way to bring in some income while being a stay-at-home mom. My favorite part of this article:

I began to feel guilty. Some poor writer somewhere was plowing through this tome, then concocting a meaningless mishmash of words simply to fill four pages and satisfy the bizarre whims of a solitary, heartless taskmaster (me). But then I realized this is exactly what I did for all four years of college—and I paid them for the privilege!

3. And here's some good advice on engaging the health care debate.

4. Moving on from Slate, Tipper's series on old Civil War letters is fascinating, a little peek into a common Confederate soldier's thoughts, complete with Appalachian dialect. Her site is a great way to learn about Appalachia, anyway. Check her out.

5. My husband and I become more convicted every day about what we consume and where it comes from, and this site is a great place to begin. I am glad Christians are a big part of this movement for justice. Time to find some fair trade chocolate.

6. This post from Jen was especially convicting to me this week. How often do I get so focused on my own perspective of situations that I miss the bigger picture?

7. And, finally, the link you can't miss...A Bob Dylan Christmas album...I thought it was a joke. I LOVE Bob Dylan, but this is, well, I don't know what to do with it. But I will probably own it. Go listen to the links. You have to! (HT to First Things.com)

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen.

Sometimes Droids Are Just Easier

Thanks to Uncle M, the boys have been introduced to the world of Star Wars. They have only seen Episode IV, but because Calvin can read the backs of the DVD cases, they know the basic plots of Episode V and VI. The following was conversation over breakfast this morning. Sometimes I wonder how poor Hobbes will survive being Calvin's younger brother.

H: "Han Solo gets captured by The Jaba Hunt, and Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia rescue him."

C: "No! They use the Force to rescue him."

H: "Yes, they use the Force."

C: "Do you even know what the Force does? They use it to freeze people so they can't move."

H: "They use it to make people freezed." (Shivers as if freezing.)

C: "Do you even know what the Force is?"

H: "No"

C: "They believe it's all living things."

H: "It's all obal things."

C: "No! It's all LIVING things."

H: "Oh. All living things."

This conversation went on for a while longer, but I was cleaning up breakfast dishes. I'm pretty sure Calvin corrected Hobbes on all important aspects of Star Wars trivia, whether he knew the correct facts himself or not. Then they asked me whether or not Yoda ever gets any bigger.

Me: "Yoda and Princess Leia were my favorite characters when I was little."

C: "Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi are my favorites."

H: "R2D2, R5D4, and C3PO are my favorites."

Yes, dear Hobbes, sometimes robots that you can boss around are much easier to live with than older brothers. Then again, there's always Han Solo. If he can ever get away from The Jaba Hunt, that is.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

That Half Is So Big

My sweet, funny, charming, quirky Hobbes,

You turn three and a half in a few days. That half is so big. This time last year, I sent you off to Chinese preschool way too soon. You were so young. There was still so much baby in you, in the pudginess around your face, in your neediness when I rocked you to sleep, in the way you followed your big brother's lead in everything. Your articulation was full of adorable mistakes that made you seem even younger than you were.

Six months ago you started becoming a little boy. You were almost three months into the role of big brother, and you loved every minute of it. You still wanted a space shuttle birthday cake, just like Calvin. There was still some pudginess clinging to the edges of your face. You still needed me to lie with you at bedtime. Your words were still often difficult to understand, but they were getting clearer every day.

And soon you will be the oh-so-big three and a half. There is no baby fat left on the angular boy face, a face that already shows me some of what you will look like as a man. You are no longer the littlest boy at school, and though you still prefer to be home with mommy, you walk into class with more confidence than before. You are asserting your individual preferences every day, contradicting your brother's will in play, and insisting that he follow your idea for the adventure or game. You are no longer Calvin's shadow, often to his great frustration. You love being responsible for your baby brother. Your imagination is coming alive and sometimes blows me away. Sometimes it frustrates me, too, like when you have a battle between the good guy and bad guy spoons when you are supposed to be putting away the silverware. Your speech is more clear. Your body is thin and strong. You are not a toddler any more.

I should not have been surprised. I've been through it once before, this transformation. But it caught me by surprise. That half is so big.

But Sunday, when you agreed to let me rock you instead of having to go down for a nap, when you fell asleep in my arms, your long body draped across me and your sharp chin digging into my shoulder, there was still some bit of the baby you were hanging on inside of you. And at night, when you still need me to lie with you, I think you are not quite grown up yet. Not yet.

I love the boy you are becoming and the light that you bring.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ramblin' (wo)Man

I feel the need to write, but I have no coherent thoughts. Ever feel that way? My mind is swirling.

I am thinking about health care and these two posts and what it all means and if our country is going to make a big mistake and how much it really matters, anyway.

I am thinking about the mountains that I just left behind yesterday, about how beautiful they were and how much I enjoyed the hike with my husband and Calvin and Linus. Calvin ran most of the mile downhill to the waterfall and most of the mile back up, occasionally asking for a ride on his daddy's shoulders because "I think I am going to fall down on the job. I don't know what that means, but I keep saying it."

I am thinking about sweet Hobbes and how he is learning to claim the alone time he needs with people. Yesterday it was with his Nana at a park in "Mitford" while we hiked. Saturday it was alone with Uncle M's old Star Wars toys, making up stories and using voices. "Darth Vader do you want to go get the good guys? Yes, let's blow them up, but first we have to load our ship. Okay, that sounds like an exciting idea...."

I am thinking about my daddy, who died three years ago and whom we remembered this weekend by repeating a Labor Day family tradition of spending the night here and enjoying the Parkway.

I am thinking about how Linus woke up ready to move, unwilling even to sit in his high chair to eat breakfast, trying so hard to crawl and getting so angry that he couldn't do it instantly. He will be crawling soon, and the house is not ready for that!

I am thinking about Fall, probably our last in the States for awhile, and how much I love this season.

I am thinking.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Excuse Me...

...while I watch some football. First Saturday of the season. Best day of the year.

Friday, September 4, 2009

7 Quick Takes-What's Working Right Now

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen at Conversion Diary.

My brain is slowly atrophying. I am so busy with mothering stuff and homemaking stuff and moving overseas-support raising stuff that I am finding it hard to read or to keep up with current events or even to watch movies. Certainly, I am not finding time to write about any of those things.
All that to say that this is yet another boring parenting post. But some of you might find it interesting or at least be able to weigh in on some of it. If you could care less about parenting, just skip to number 7 for what's really important.

1. Attentiveness. Responsibility. Respect. A friend of mine recently mentioned these as three character traits that are the focus of the Christian, classical school where her husband teaches. I thought they were pretty good words for what we want to foster around home as well, and they seem to encompass most of the problem areas of behavior. So the boys and I made a poster with those three words, talked about what they meant, and drew pictures and wrote some ideas under each word. It's great to have key concepts to point out ("Calvin, is that showing respect?") that the boys can then attach to certain behaviors.

2. Reward charts. I resisted them for so long because I so snottily assumed they would teach my kids to work for external reward and/or to be people pleasers. Know what? Those things are okay! They are how kids are wired, and with maturity comes a greater pull to internal gratification. In the meantime, we have two charts with space shuttles in the corner, blasting off from Earth and following a trail through the solar system to Pluto. Once all of the dots on the trail are covered with star stickers and the shuttles reach Pluto, the boys get a treat. Each time I see them making a special effort to be attentive, responsible, or respectful without having to be asked and/or without complaining, they get a star. Calvin is especially into it, and Hobbes is because his brother is.

3. M&M's for dinner. Okay, I'm not really feeding the boys candy for dinner, but this is another reward system that is working for us. During some meals, when I want the boys to work on a particular table manner, like staying in their seats or, heaven forbid, eating with utensils instead of hands, I put five M&M's on the table for each of them. When they do whatever we are working on avoiding, I take a candy away. They get to eat whatever pieces are left at the end of the meal. Sometimes Hobbes says he didn't want candy anyway, so I am not sure this external reward thing is as effective with him.

4. Not-so-baby food. Linus still has not developed the coordination to feed himself, has no teeth, and is constantly hungry, like a linebacker. My only solution has been using this food mill to grind up our dinners whenever possible and feed them to him. It is the only way to get enough food into him without sitting there for hours. He is still always hungry and nursing every three hours during the day, but we are slowly figuring out how to feed him.

5. Common Sense Advice. Have I mentioned my new favorite blog? Go check out Like Mother, Like Daughter for some fantastic common sense, mommy-guilt-free advice about parenting and homemaking. Her worksheets on the sidebar are excellent. Really, delete all other parenting blogs from your reader and read hers. It is SO refreshing.

6. Homeschool. Yep, I'm giving it a try. Calvin loves Saxon math, but may be done with the first grade curriculum before Christmas at this pace. He begs to do more each day. I am hoping to get into a morning routine of doing the calendar and weather and daily/weekly schedule. Since we have a small house, I decided to make a small, portable "bulletin board" out of a pocket folder. I know this idea isn't original, but I thought I would throw it out there. I will do the calendar and weather on one side of the inside and the schedule on the other. I plan to use a combination of sticky notes and velcro tabs for attaching the month, day, weather, and schedule cards to the sides, storing the extra pieces in the folder pockets. I'll let you know how it goes.

7. Football. More important than the previous 6 points. The season starts tomorrow. Go Vols!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September

In real life, I was driving down the interstate in my minivan on a cool morning, baby Linus babbling in his carseat. I was planning to knock out some errands while the other boys were doing "Auntie M School." I had a run to Wal-Mart and some groceries to buy at Trader Joe's. It should have been one of those boring but necessary sorts of mornings.

But I put "Blue Sky" on the stereo, and in my heart, I was a 17-year-old, long-haired girl, dancing barefoot in my bellbottom jeans at an Allman Brothers concert. Some songs just do that to you.

Friday, August 28, 2009

7 Quick Takes-Politics Edition

I don't usually get on a soapbox and rant on this blog. But I am sort of in the mood to do it. I am just overcome by the craziness in our culture right now. Visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes, many of which are not rants and are better than this post.

1. Have you read my post about health care yet? If not, quit reading this, and go do it. I am totally lost on this issue and really do want some help. It is so hard to find arguments for either side that are based on reason and not trying to manipulate my emotions. Tell me what you think and why. Convince me.

2. I am sure Senator Kennedy wasn't a horrible person. I am also sure he was not a great person. He championed a lot of causes he believed in, but he also seemed to be just a sleazy as the next politician, especially when it came to women. Really, I don't like making people into saints just because they die. And I especially don't understand why feminists would weep over the senator's passing. I just don't get it. I hope he came to the end of his life with an honest view of his rights and wrongs and a spirit of humility and repentance. I hope I can do the same, acknowledging my faults before God, dependent on His grace, and knowing that I have done some good. Please, don't feel the need to say things about me that aren't true, just because I am dead.

3. Have you read about the 13-year-old Dutch girl who wants to sail around the world? The government has taken temporary custody of her, and psychologists are saying the isolation of the two-year-trip would be bad for her and that she is too young to attempt it. Maybe she is too young, but she was born on a boat, has sailed alone since 10, and is supported in this by her parents. It seems to me that being separated from girls her own age right now, attempting something so incredibly challenging, and gaining a broad perspective on life would be a GREAT thing for a teenage girl to do. I certainly think her parents, and not state courts and psychologists should be able to decide this one.

4. Want to do something good in the world of politics? Go here and let the Army Corps of Engineers know you don't approve of permits for Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining. Yep, I'm asking again. Why? Because it is the worst environmental disaster in our country, hands down. Help. Please!

5. I am slowly working my way through Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. And it is fascinating. I don't agree with everything, and I am not sure I am going to agree with the author's solution of better government programs. I do agree with her assessment of American overparenting. We have such an obsession with arranging our children's learning environments, their experiences and activities, to create successful, perfect people. We have forgotten how to let our kids be kids. I am seeing the fruits of this now, with Calvin, who just needs me to back off and let him do his thing. Linus is such a different, and more well-adjusted, child because I haven't obsessed over him so much.

6. Did you know Reading Rainbow is no longer going to be made? So many issues come up in this article. I was devastated when my local PBS station stopped showing Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood except at 6:30 on Saturday mornings. I don't like ANY of the new shows on PBS. They are so flashy and quick and assaulting to senses. I don't think television should be used to teach reading, as the article mentions. Children don't need to learn to read before they are in school; they need to learn it in school. Reading Rainbow simply encouraged a love of books. It was a good show. Now no one is willing to pay to keep it on because we need one more ugly cartoon to teach kids phonics? I think this ties into the Perfect Madness book somehow. I may have a longer post here.

7. I heard on my local NPR station yesterday that parents should be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms in children starting back to school. Apparently, the swine flu is expected to go around, and, get this, BE JUST LIKE ANY OTHER FLU. It may spread more easily, but it poses no more threat to the majority of the population than other seasonal flu strains. Just one more reason 24-hour media is a bad idea. When there was nothing to talk about, H1N1 was the next great plague. Now that we have Kennedy's death, Jackson's homicide, universal health care, and all sorts of things to talk about, it is just another seasonal illness that may be a bit worse than most.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Let's Talk Health Care

It has been a rough few weeks of illness around here, which we finally decided was some undiagnosable GI bug (which is currently giving sweet Linus a fever and stomach pain). As I was sitting in the ER Friday morning with Hobbes, trying to find the source of two days and two nights of stomach cramps every 20 minutes, I thought about a lot of things.

I thought about how much I love my middle son, that impish, mischievous, quirky way he has about him. And I though about how perfect our family is because he is right there in the middle, driving Calvin crazy when he needs to be and bonding with Linus in the most adorable way.

I thought about how much I hate hospitals. I am glad we have such good health care in this country, but I am even more glad that I have rarely needed it.

I thought about how annoying it is that so many ridiculous tests have to be run, so much time and money wasted, just so that malpractice lawyers can't sue doctors, the majority of whom are competent, caring individuals.

I thought about my dad, who was an amazing doctor who loved bringing new babies into the world and caring for women. And I looked at the kind doctors in the pediatric ER and knew that they were there for the same reasons my dad had been, to take care of sick people, to bring healing...NOT to make money. I knew that they would serve my son, screaming in pain in my arms, whether we had health coverage or not.

I thought about this article and how the health care reform could drive some really good people out of a profession they love. Let's face it, how many people would give up the prime years of their lives and many hours of sleep, time with family, and a life outside of work to work in an inefficient system with poor pay? Money did not make up for the time I didn't have with my father, but the lack of fair wages may have kept him and many others out of medicine. Even really good people will not go into a profession that sucks year of a life away if there is no fair compensation.

I thought about our crappy, unethical health insurance provider and wondered if they would pay this bill. We have good coverage through my husband's work, but we have to fight to get every big bill paid, including Calvin's heart surgery, for which we had an approval letter from them. That bill took over six months, and I knew how to navigate the system since I had once filed insurance for a doctor. Still, we had to call my husband's HR person to get it paid. What do people do who don't know how to work the system?

I wondered what that morning would look like under the new health care plan. Would we have to wait days for access to tests to find out if Hobbes' pain was something more serious that a virus? Or would things stay the same? Would people who weren't able to afford good care now be able to get it? We are lucky, I know.

This are the things I was thinking about. I am pretty conflicted on the health care issue, and I have yet to find a good, balanced perspective on it. If you can give me some thoughtful, balanced ideas on this, please do, but don't try to sway me with emotional arguments. I want facts.

I am pretty traditionally conservative when it comes to my view of the government running things. In general, I think more government bureaucracy leads to greater inefficiency and poorer quality. Things generally do better when run on a local level and tailored to the needs of a local community.

I have no problem with going after health insurance companies, which I think are a totally unethical and corrupt group of businesses, with a few exceptions. If they only reason folks are fighting universal health care is to protect these guys, then I say it's not worth it.

I respect and trust doctors and think they give up a lot in order to serve the common good. They should be able to work in an environment that rewards them for their sacrifice and allows them to choose to offer services or not based on their conscience.

I think that all of those 18-30ish uninsured adults out there who have decided the cost savings are worth the risk should be allowed to opt out of health insurance.

I don't believe we have a right to immortality, but I do believe we have a duty to provide basic health care to our citizens.

I am conflicted. But I am very glad that Hobbes only had a virus.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Q&A

I provide the Q. You provide the A.

1. Should I "homeschool" Calvin and how much?

He is in Chinese preschool two mornings a week again with the possibility of staying for their extended day program those two days if I choose. Auntie M is also coming one half day a week to do "Auntie Em School" with the boys, which will consist of art and nature and science and whatever fun they can come up with. They will also be at the in-laws' farm one day most weeks.

That leaves me with two and a half unplanned days. It doesn't seem like much, but I think Calvin really needs some structured activities. He is ready to learn. He also needs to be free to play. What would you do with a five-year-old boy who is reading chapter books and doing basic math?

2. What do I do with Hobbes?

If I do homeschool Calvin, should I also work out some sort of curriculum for Hobbes? Any suggestions for a three-year-old? Yes, I know I should have been thinking about this months ago. I am a slacker like that.

3. Are reward charts a good idea?

They are sort of time-honored, but I also know plenty of people who think kids needs to learn to be motivated from within. Not sure how that works. Stickers and rewards for full charts DO seem to work. But can I use them for chores or just for good behaviors we are working on? Should chores just be expected and not rewarded? Thoughts?

4. What can I feed Linus?

He got over baby food a long time ago, but he still has no teeth. I put a lot of our food through the food mill for him at dinner, but I am running out of healthy breakfast and lunch ideas for him to gum up into swallowable pieces. We already do oatmeal, yogurt, bagels, cheese, rice cakes, toast, soft veggies, and fruit. Any creative ideas are appreciated. He eats A LOT, and if he doesn't get enough, he wakes up hungry at night.

Just some of what's on my mind this week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

7 Quick Takes-Review Edition

Though I have not managed to write much over the past three weeks, I have managed to read a few books and watch a few movies. Most of those during vacation at the beach. Since it doesn't look like I'll be having much time to write real reviews anytime soon, here are my abbreviated versions. For more Quick Takes, visit Jen.

1. Doubt was an excellent film! I had avoided seeing it because I assumed any movie about the Catholic church that Hollywood actually liked would just be a thinly veiled attack on the church. Also, Phillip Seymour Hoffman creeps me out in real life. It is a testament to this film (and therefore to the play upon which it is based), that I managed to stay up way past my bedtime discussing it with my husband. Usually nothing keeps me up past my bedtime.

The movie was brilliantly acted, and I was blown away, once again, by Meryl Streep. That woman is amazing! I actually found myself liking Hoffman's character in some scenes. (See above statement about being creeped out.) And, although I would like to see Amy Adams play something other than the sweet, innocent young woman, I do love her. (I have loved her since Junebug, which is another movie you should definitely see, especially if you are from North Carolina...or not from NC. It simultaneously affirms your stereotypes about Southerners and blows them out of the water.)

Anyway, some have criticized Doubt for being too stiff and literary and reliant on symbolism. It IS based on a play, and I like literary movies full of symbolism. I didn't completely agree with the playwright's premise, too much nihilism for me. But I do think that doubt which leads to faith or away from it is an important topic. Watch it. Come away with a lot of questions. And let me know what you think.

2. I read The Last Chinese Chef for a bookclub with other moms at the boys' Chinese school. It was a fun read, perfect for summer, and I learned so much about traditional Chinese cuisine that I didn't know. Since I have experience with real (non-Americanized) Chinese food, the descriptions of the meals left my mouth watering and made me excited to move to China. I suppose the plot was good, but the novel seemed mostly just an excuse to explore the world of Chinese cooking, definitely a topic worth exploring!

3. In case you missed it, I have three boys. When someone gave me Raising Cain to read, I was reluctant. I didn't want yet another expert telling me that boys need to learn to express their feminine side and quell their natural tendency toward aggression rather than channeling it somewhere healthy.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Kindlon and Thompson's book. It takes a look at the main problems facing boys in today's American culture, like violence, anger, depression, substance abuse, and immature relationships, and looks at some of the ways our culture keeps boys from realizing their full potential as men. The authors, both psychologists with school counseling experience, use examples of boys they have counseled to show how the culture of cruelty and the pressure to "be a man" keep boys from forming meaningful and emotionally mature relationships with one another.

There is so much good information in there, along with some important warnings from the lives of boys. This is the best book I have read so far on helping boys to become mature, emotionally secure men while still recognizing the difference between men and women. I highly recommend it!

4. On a lighter note, I read The Mysterious Benedict Society last summer at the beach, so I picked up the second in the series to read this year. They are super-fun juvenile fiction with smart, weird, misfit kids as heroes. I am definitely holding onto these for my boys!

5. I grew up loving the Frances books, so when I realized we didn't own any, I went out and bought Bedtime for Frances for the boys. Hobbes has asked me to read it again, and again, and again. If you don't own these, check them out.

6. I finally started Perfect Madness, and while I already don't agree with everything the author assumes, I am finding it a fascinating read. The biggest issue I have is that I don't assume that children shouldn't get in the way of living my adult life. The selfish attitude that has led to a declining birth rate in Western Europe is not necessarily a good thing. At the same time, I think our child-centered mothering culture, where we worry more about affirming our children's self-esteem and making them the center of the universe than teaching them to respect authority, can learn something from Europe. There is a balance somewhere in there of accepting children as a gift and responsibility that will mess up your life a bit while not making them the total focus. Maybe I will write more once I have read the whole book. I'd love to hear from anyone else who has read it.

7. Finally, did I mention that my husband and I just finished watching Brideshead Revisited? We watched the miniseries from the 80's. Do NOT watch the new movie. The series was long and often painful, and I was certain there was no good reason to watch it. Over and over again, we almost stopped. But we just couldn't. The characters were too intriguing. Also, many people we respected had said it was well worth watching. It was, in the end, a profound statement about God's grace and His ability to work through and in the very screwed up lives of His church. I almost want to go back and watch it again. Almost. I would need a lot of time.

Reality

Calvin has a fever. Hobbes is whining. They are starting to fight. Linus is on the floor crying. The breakfast and lunch dishes are scattered over the table and counters and sink. The dining room floor is covered in filthy crumbs. Laundry sits in the washer and dryer needing to be switched out and folded. Clean dishes are still in the dishwasher. The bathrooms haven't been cleaned in weeks. In fact, none of the house has been cleaned in at least a week, most of it much longer than that. Beds are unmade. No one has napped well. Every surface of the house is covered in papers and books and toys and mess. The "spare" room has not been spared and is cluttered with projects half completed. The yard is a jungle, well over a week past due for a mowing. The "garden" is a few sick tomato plants managing to produce some fruit amid the crabgrass. We need groceries. I have not prayed regularly or exercised or eaten well in weeks. I have alternately yelled at my kids and ignored them.

Just in case you have any illusions about my life. This is what it is like more often than I would like these days. Constant travel and the end of summer, ready for a schedule and school blues have not helped.

Just living up to my imperfect blog title. Here's to a more peaceful, orderly, meaningful Fall. Oh, and to football...soon.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Screws fall out all the time."

"The world's an imperfect place." John Hughes is dead.

I have seen The Breakfast Club more than any other movie. Much more. Ask my college roommates. I am pretty sure I watched it once a week in college. I quote it all the time. My two best guy friends in high school often bugged me by calling me Claire. It is brilliant on so many levels, but most of all, it is brilliant because it captures so truly and perfectly the high school experience. Johns Hughes understood teenagers and took them seriously, not too seriously, but just seriously enough. Others have said it better than I.

I am sad. May God's peace be with him and his family. I will leave it at that.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

He has more important things to do.

Sunday was Calvin's fifth birthday! Maybe I will write more on that later. We celebrated at the beach on Friday night, but I called him Sunday to wish him a "Happy Birthday." He was in the car with my mom, just returning from church where half of my relatives probably wished him the same.

"Happy Birthday, Calvin!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what everybody says to me."

End of conversation.

He's five now. He has more important things to do.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Knock, Knock

Is anyone home?

She peers sheepishly around the corner.

We just returned from a week at the beach. Calvin and Hobbes went back to Tennessee with my mom for a few days. We have more travel coming up. I hope you'll excuse me if I take the next week or so off to get some work done in real life. I may stop by to say, "hi," but it isn't likely. It's not often I have only the baby and can actually tackle big projects around the house. Maybe I will show up with some movie or book suggestions now and then. See you closer to the school year.

TwoSquare

Friday, July 24, 2009

7 Quick Takes-On The Road Again...And Again...And Again...

Once upon a time, there was a woman named TwoSquare who had a blog, but she got a serious case of summer and was never heard from again.

It feels like I have been away from this space forever, and I won't be back anytime soon. It is mostly for good reasons.

1. I say mostly because my husband has been working crazy hours and his software job, and I have had a lot of LONG days alone with the boys. We are tired and crabby. All of us. Except Linus, who is perfect, as always. (And who ate a huge jar of baby mac & cheese, two egg yolks, and half a slice of cantaloupe for lunch. He only weighs 15 pounds at 7 months. Where does he put it?)

2. So we have been spending a lot of time at the pool. Yes, I have lived there this summer, and it is starting to show. The boys are tan, and Calvin is swimming on his own. Once he learned, there was no stopping him. Wednesday, we were there with a friend, and he was jumping in and swimming to her while I had the two other boys in the baby pool. At some point, I turned around to see him diving into the water! She had not told him to do that, and she was just as surprised as I was to see him try. Apparently, he just decided it was time.

3. Speaking of Calvin, he will be FIVE in a week and couple of days. FIVE! How did that happen? In honor of his birthday (or maybe just because we all need it and it was planned months ago), we are going to the beach for a week with my family. I can't wait! After that, the boys head home with their Nana for a few days, and I get some time with just the baby, hopefully to get some projects done around the house in time for the Fall.

4. Not that we are sitting still until school starts. After the beach, we have a crazy long weekend trip to the midwest for the hubby's Grandma's 90th birthday and a big family reunion.

5. And somewhere in between there and school starting, we need to get back to the homeplace and visit my Grandma, who decided to get chemo and is doing pretty well, though her prognosis is still only for a year at most.

6. Oh, and then there is the little matter of getting ready to move to Asia. When that is going to happen, I am not sure. But our dear friend who has been there for two years was home on a visit and with us a couple of days this week. She said the phrase "put on my face" (in reference to her make-up), and Hobbes thought it was great. I heard him in bed last night saying, "Calvin, I need to put on my face. I'm putting on my face. Look at me put on my face." Funny. Since I haven't purchased makeup since my wedding seven years ago, he would have never heard that from me!

7. With all of this moving around, we need a little time sitting still to read. I am re-reading The Brothers Karamozov in the best translation, and I am taking The Last Chinese Chef to the beach, along with a stack of books I may or may not get to. And the boys and I are really loving Tomie DePaola lately, especially the Strega Nona books.

What about you? Where have you been traveling and what's on your summer reading list? Visit Jen for more Quick Takes.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

7 Quick Takes, Ending With a Calvinism


1. We are in the verge of a lesson in "Nature, red in tooth and claw" at the Two Square house. A bird built a nest in our very dead hanging plant on our front porch, and we noticed Wednesday that the eggs had hatched. They must have hatched a while ago, because yesterday we had a fledgling trying hard to learn how to fly. The boys and I have loved watching the mommy bird bring food to her babies and encourage them to fly.

The problem? Our neighbor's cat has also enjoyed watching them, a little too much. So we spent yesterday helping the fledgling back to its nest every time it made a failed attempt at flying. We would take the hanging basket down, let the bird hop back up, and hang it back on the porch, hoping the cat didn't see its next fall before we did. Unfortunately, we came home from dinner out to find the fledgling missing and the cat waiting eagerly for another one to fall. Could get interesting today.

2. Speaking of hungry animals, I have enjoyed making lists of all of the foods Linus has tried at this point. I wonder how he ever survived just on breastmilk, honestly. He has tried all of the major fruits and veggies, rice, barley, oats, yogurt, chicken, beef, and turkey. That's the short list. Some of this is store bought baby food. Some of it is made by me. Seems the store bought kind is too smooth for this bottomless pit of a baby. He likes it as close to the real texture as he can get. In fact, he was happy to down some banana pudding and blueberry batter pie at our 4th of July picnic. And plain rice cakes that he can feed himself? Those are good for 30 minutes of entertainment, at least.

3. This constant eating is finally producing better sleep. Though Linus is not completely sleeping through the night for 10 or 12 hours, he is usually only waking once. Bliss!

4. Have you heard of this book? I have been thinking a long time about how our culture tries to turn motherhood into a profession that can be perfected and about how the attachment parenting movement, despite its good intentions, has left so many mothers feeling like failures because they can never give enough of themselves. Seems I'm not the only one. I'm looking forward to reading this and seeing what she has to say. I don't know if she explores the effect this type of over-anxious parenting may have on our kids, but I would be interested to know.

5. Speaking of parenting books, has anyone read Siblings Without Rivalry? If so, do you recommend it? Calvin and Hobbes are driving each other (and me) up the wall. I know some fighting is normal, especially between two boys so close in age, but really, does every playtime have to end in a fist fight? Mothers of boys, how much should I just overlook?


Lest you think they are terrors, here are two cute moments from yesterday:

6. Today's the day the dinosaurs have their picnic...

I love my boys' growing imaginations. This was set up before breakfast this morning...before I even got out of bed. Apparently, dinos eat Nerf balls. Who knew?


7. And, saving the best for last, a Calvinism for today:

Me (talking on the phone to my mom about my mother-in-law's fam): "They're great problem solvers. They'll figure something out."

Calvin: "I'm not a great problem-solver."

Me: "Yes, you are, Calvin!"

Calvin: "No, I'm not a great problem solver. I'm a problem maker."

Truer words were never spoken. For more quick takes, visit Jen at Conversion Diary.