Saturday, March 27, 2010

"That's exactly why I'm not heavy into activities" (Or I wasn't, anyway.)

Bonus points if you know the movie I'm quoting. In this week's 7 Quick Takes, I promised a post about soccer.

I have sworn since Calvin was first born that I was not going to have my kids involved in a lot of activities and spend all of our time in the car. In fact, avoiding "minivanitis," as a friend puts it, is one of the reasons I am looking forward to moving to Asia. Now, I took piano lessons and spent nearly every day at the ballet studio as a teenager, so I am not sure why I am so opposed to the idea. Perhaps it's because I want to avoid living an over-scheduled life. Maybe it's because I don't want my children burning out before they reach middle school. Most likely it is because my rebellious nature causes me to dig in my heels every time I find myself taking one more step toward a conventional, suburban, American life.

So when I suggested to my husband that we sign Calvin up for soccer, he pretty much thought I was crazy. I pretty much thought I was crazy, too. Calvin had been kicking the ball around with Auntie M and really fell in love with it. When he found out that kids his age played real games on real teams, he was ecstatic. With great hesitation, we signed him up for the Spring youth league that started in March.

That was in January. Over the past two and a half months, we have become increasingly certain that our decision was actually a good one. Calvin spends a lot of time outside playing sports of all kinds by himself these days, kicking the soccer ball, hitting golf balls, asking us to pitch a softball to him so he can practice batting. But he is always by himself.

When Calvin competes with an actual person, his good sportsmanship skills leave a lot to be desired. An innocent board game like Candy Land often ends with the board turned over, pieces scattered, and Calvin stomping off, fists on hips, ready to punch anyone who gets in his way. Bike rides turn into screaming, hysterical meltdowns if Hobbes gets a head start and is in front of him for even one second. Never mind that Calvin always passes his brother in the end. He is a remarkably bad loser. Every time. I would say it's just a kid thing, but Hobbes is not like Calvin, not to that extent.

With this is mind, we headed to the fields today, Calvin in his sky-blue shirt, ready for the first game of the season. I wasn't expecting much, since the only practice had been sort of chaotic, but when the whistle blew, a miracle happened right before my eyes. Sure, the kids all sort of ran in a clump around the ball. And they kicked it out of bounds or into the other team's goal more than into their own. Players tripped their teammates. No one kept score, and there were not many rules to follow.

But Calvin ran and dribbled and kicked and tripped with the best of them. He ran hard, determination and joy mingling on his face. He celebrated when his team got a goal, whether he kicked it in or not. He gave high fives and listened to his coaches and actually tried to play the game with his team instead of in spite of them. When the other team scored, or he accidentally kicked it into their goal, those hands went to his hips for a minute, a scowl threatening on his face. Just as quickly, the ball moved in the other direction, and his scowl was lost in joy as he ran back down the field. When the game ended and the teams lined up to shake hands, he didn't just give a slap and a mumbled "good game" to each passing player. He walked down the line, huge grin covering his entire face, giving each player a hearty handshake as he went.

At the end of the game, two players on each team got the "MVP" award and received a coupon for a free ice cream treat. The idea is that each child will receive one by the end of the season. Part of me cringes at that, at the way our society wants to make everyone feel like a winner when I want my kids to realize that they will lose sometimes. Part of me hates that they don't keep scores at kids' games so that feelings don't get hurt. But most of me knows that minimizing competition is a really good thing for Calvin right now. His joy in the game might just be enough to move him a little closer to good sportsmanship, and if he can just learn to think less and move faster, he might even become decent at this sport.

Then again, this is Calvin, the king of overthinking. I don't really care how good he becomes, as long as he learns to lose and win with grace. Missed goals and all, when he ran to show me his award tonight, there wasn't a prouder mom on the soccer field. Then he showed me the certificate and said, with much disappointment, "Mommy, it just says a free waffle cone."

"Don't worry, Calvin, it means a waffle cone with ice cream."

And now I'm off to wash a uniform for tomorrow's game. Maybe afterward we'll celebrate with that ice cream cone.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

7 Quick Takes

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen at Conversion Diary. I'll probably be quiet around here next week. A blessed Holy Week to you.

So it may be Holy Week next week, but there is another religion that takes precedence in March around these parts. We are not much into basketball in the TwoSquare household, having a strong preference for the true Southern sport, football. The bookworm in me found this alternate Tournament of Novels much more exciting. There is a vote each day (starting yesterday) until it gets down to a champion, so go over to help decide if The Brothers Karamozov truly is the greatest novel ever. I am only disappointed that Absalom, Absalom didn't make it. I'm sure Rosa Coldfield would've made a great point guard.

Speaking of Holy Week, I am totally unprepared. I have done NOTHING with my kids for Lent this year other than going to an amazing Stations of the Cross that our youth pastor coordinated. It was a really meaningful time for all of us, with art and sensory experiences to tell the story of the Passion. But other than that, nothing. Any ideas for easy ways to at least make next week meaningful?

We did do a pretty good job of keeping up with our fast from artificial light after sundown. We were often out of town or at my in-laws', so it didn't always happen. But when it has, it has been really good. I think we will keep it up one night a week after Lent.

My personal Lent has not been much better than what I did with the kids. I always find myself suddenly wanting to be more serious about it right around now, a few days before Holy Week. But it is hard to practice self-denial and be in a somber mood when the world outside is already in full bloom. The boys brought me this lovely bouquet from Auntie M's house this week. See why it is hard to keep a Lenten mind in this part of the country in March?

So I think I am going to try just a couple of things from now until Easter Sunday. I am going to get up early to pray, and I am going to try to fast from sweets/refined sugar. I know I can't completely avoid sugar that is already in things without a major lifestyle change, but just avoiding sweet foods and sugar in my tea and such will be hard enough.

I also finally made a Lenten playlist for my iPhone this week. It has some classic Lenten hymns on it and some parts of Handel's Messiah, but it also has such classic Lenten selections as Good Friday by the Cowboy Junkies and The Weight as sung by Bob Dylan. Oh, and let's not forget Let It Be, Blackbird, and Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles, along with some Johnny Cash, U2, and Indigo Girls for good measure. Seriously, they are all songs that speak of longing and loss and a need for redemption. It has helped to sober my mind, even as I drive past large patches of daffodils on the side of the interstate.

Soon Easter will be here, and we are deciding what we will take up for the season, as we have given up some things for Lent. I think Daddy TwoSquare and I are going to take up exercise, perhaps in the form of the Couch25K program. If you know me, and know how much I hate running, you may think this should have been a Lenten discipline. But I am at the point where I know any sort of commitment to exercise, especially with my husband doing it too, will make me happy in the long run. We will probably also do lots of feasting and enjoying family time outdoors...when we aren't at Calvin's soccer games, that is. But that is a post for another time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Revised Calvin Version

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11, ESV)

Hobbes: I want to learn to read, Mommy.

Mommy: I could teach you if you want.

Calvin: I already know how to read. I could read when I was only three years old!

Mommy (trying to temper the pride coming from the backseat of the van): That's right, Calvin. Being that good at reading is a gift that God gave you. He definitely gave you the gift of language.

Calvin: Yeah, and he gave Hobbes the gift of making pouty lips.

(Hobbes sticks his bottom lip out as far as possible and bats his long eyelashes.)

End Scene.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Cake Wreck-Keeping It Real

So you don't think that this is normal. Here is a photo of Linus' first birthday cake.

Now that was a failure. With the insanity and travel around Christmas, I got into town late on the 23rd only to realize I needed a cake for the babe. I ran out and bought some mix and canned frosting. (All of my cakes are from mixes, by the way. I can't bake a cake to save my life.) I baked a lopsided two-layer cake with some hastily slapped-on frosting and M&M's for decoration. Then, in my sleep-deprived and over-busy state, I put it in the cake saver the wrong way. We basically had to dump it out upside down and turn it back over because the plate was wedged tight in the saver. Linus was so tired by the time we got around to celebrating his birthday that he didn't even want to look at the cake. Yep, that goes down the in loser mom category for sure. We didn't even get him a present. I'm just glad they don't remember their first birthdays. Maybe I should delete the photographic evidence?

So, thanks for the compliments, but without some internet images of R2 and this tutorial, I would have been lost.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Finding His Place

(photo credit to my youngest sister-in-law)

And so it is complete, that transition from baby to boy. So much growing up happens between three and four. I saw it with your brother, so I knew it was coming with you, too. Still, I am in awe to see it again, watching as your face and body grow long and agile and strong with the play of boyhood, seeing you grow more daring and independent, watching you run into childhood and leave the baby years behind.

I am glad, though, that you have not lost you sweet spirit and love of beautiful things as you enter the kingdom of boys. You are such a gift to us, Hobbes, and we too often forget to notice. You are kind and helpful and loving, you like to spend time just being with the people you love. Grandpa still seems to be your favorite. He bought you a big bag of candy for your birthday, and the way you beamed at him, your whole face smiling, made all of us glad. The only person who beats out Grandpa is your baby brother. You love Linus so protectively, going in to his crib to play with him when he is crying in the morning, bringing him toys, and feeding him while he sits in his high chair. You are a good big brother.

You have such a great imagination and enjoy making beautiful things, painting and blowing bubbles and sculpting play-dough. Your daddy and I got you art lessons for your birthday, and I can't wait to see you at work in the studio. If there is a paint brush out, you beg to have it in your hand. You have such a busy little mind, working to create and build scenes from computer games you play with Daddy or making up your own creations. You are comfortable in your own skin and mind now and can play without Calvin, creating your own worlds and stories.
You are entering your boy years with such a wonderful spirit, quirky sense of humor, and lively imagination, and my joy at the boy you are becoming far outweighs my sadness at your growing. It doesn't hurt that you still love your people enough to come back to us after a good adventure.

Go forth, dear Hobbes, to slay dragons and build cities and paint masterpieces and run barefoot in the wild. I know you will always be home for dinner and maybe, if I am lucky, for a few more years of cuddling at bedtime.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The R2D2 Cake

I'm no cake decorator, but this one turned out okay. I used a couple of ideas from other folks on the web. It was much easier than the space shuttles I made for Calvin's 4th and Hobbes' 3rd. Hobbes liked it, anyway...almost as much as the big bag of candy he got from Grandpa. We had a lovely birthday party for Hobbes and Auntie M today. The weather was warm and sunny and perfect for a picnic by the waterfall at the farm. Couldn't have been better.

Friday, March 19, 2010

7 Quick Takes-Just Barely In Time

I wasn't going to write at all today, but I thought I could at least share what is keeping me from writing. For more Quick Takes, visit Jen.

Hobbes turned four today. Four! When did that happen? I am so proud of the quirky, smart, sensitive, funny boy he is becoming, but I do wish he had asked for something easier than an R2D2 cake for his party tomorrow (pictures to come...maybe).

I just finished Hannah Coulter a couple of days ago. Wendell Berry did it again. Maybe it is just because I am an Appalachian woman descended from many Appalachian women, but I have never read a book that told the story of being a woman so truly and beautifully. I am pretty sure every woman should read this book, and I know I will read it again and again and again at different transition times during my life. I may write more about it later, but in the meantime, go read it.

While we are on the theme of Appalachia, I have been thoroughly enjoying my latest issue of Now & Then magazine. For those with any interest whatsoever in Appalachia, I can't recommend this little publication enough. It is always full of lovely stories and poems and essays and photographs. It makes me itch to try to get published...maybe one day.

Linus is just about to walk, finally! He is taking several steps in a row and getting more and more brave about it by the day. I am ready for it, as he is getting heavy to carry around, even in my Ergo. And he is adding stubborness to his charm. He is trying so hard to talk and learn signs. But when we ask him to sign "please" for something when doesn't want to, a battle of wills takes place, complete with tantrums, often ending in a standoff. It is a sight to behold. He is perfecting the pouty lip already. He's going to be an interesting one, this kid.

It's Spring! The daffodils and redbuds are adding color everywhere. New grass is coming up in the perfect St. Patrick's Day color, and the trees are full of buds, some ready to burst into bloom any day now. We have spent most of our daylight hours outside this week, playing in our (finally dried out) back yard, taking walks, riding bikes, and being at the in-laws' farm.

The farm. Sometimes I think we live such a lovely life. It is hard, as all lives are, but we get to go out to 70 acres of woods and fields and streams and play with goat kids and puppies. If all goes well, we hope to have our house on the market and be living there before too long, focusing more intently on getting to Asia.

And, yes, that move is still looming over me. So much to do and absolutely no time in which to do it. How to people with children get anything accomplished other than laundry and food and keeping kids alive? Really, I want to know.

Monday, March 15, 2010


This is technically my 300th post, but let's just pretend it isn't. I should have something clever or moving or fun or interesting for my 300th post, but I am stuck. Any ideas? If I don't hear any, you may just get 300 random thoughts from my head, which is never a good idea.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Cleaning

I spent this past weekend in the mountains with my husband and his siblings. It was our second sibling retreat weekend at my uncle's cabin. Our first was in the Fall, when the mountains were bursting with color. But this one was still clearly in the Winter. When we left home on Wednesday, it was still cold and gray here. They have had a hard winter in the mountains, so there was still plenty of snow on the ground and some coming down on our drive. In fact, the boys and I woke up to snow at my mom's house on Thursday morning, and our view from the lake that weekend was of a bare mountain still covered with a dusting of snow.

We have had a hard winter here, too, in the TwoSquare house, and Lent has been a time of wrestling with the sin that mars relationships, the impatience and anger and selfishness and pride that keep us from really loving one another and fulfilling the mission God has called us to as a family. The rain and snow and cold and gray of the world outside has matched perfectly with our lives inside. We came to the mountains weary and still very much in the midst of struggle.

On Saturday, we ventured to the top of the Roan, tramping over the snow covered bald mountain, with drifts so deep that my husband and his brother found themselves buried up to their waists (and once to my brother-in-law's shoulders). The view was breathtaking. I had never been up there when there was so much snow and so much clear sky and warmth all at the same time. Winter was still very much in control, but there was a hint of something new. The deepest drifts were covering rhododendron, waiting patiently for the sun and warmth to come, pink buds hiding inside waiting to push their way out. When they bloom in June, there is no greater sight in the mountains.* But there is a lot of snow that needs to melt first.

When we got home late last night, life was no better here than we had left it. We walked in to a house needing much work and to piles of laundry and to lives upside down and searching for healing and purity and goodness. So when I walked out this morning and saw the crocuses blooming in our weedy, rocky, overgrown front flower bed, I was shocked by their beauty. So much beauty in the midst of so much mess. A promise.

Winter is not all bad. The cold and gray and mud and mess can be overwhelming. The snow can be cold and the wind piercing. But that blanket of white is a promise, too, a promise that God takes the mess and slowly purifies and makes clean. It is painful, being buried under all of that snow, but He is working. Resurrection day is coming and, with it, those beautiful pink blossoms that will make the top of the Roan blush in newness of life. And in the meantime, He gives us small promises. Little purple blossoms in the midst of the mess.

*I had trouble finding a photo that I could use freely, but if you look up "Roan Mountain Rhododendron" on Google images, you will see what I mean. (Oh, and the snowy photo of the Roan is courtesy of my youngest sister-in-law.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Time Away

No 7 Quick Takes this week. No posts this weekend. I'm in my mountains, with my family, getting ready for a retreat at the cabin with my amazing siblings-in-law. See ya 'round.