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

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


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.