31 July 2007

The Feminine Mistake -ish

To start with, I want to make clear that I have NOT read The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts. This is not a critique of her book, but rather a reaction to this piece written by the author and this interview (tipping my hat to you, Sarah, dear). I don't plan to read the book. Whether that makes me an ignoramus with a loud opinion, y'all can decide. Personally, I've got too many other new books to read and then I want to re-read Harry Potter. And then back-issues of The Onion and then the geneologies of the Bible at least 10 times and then probably my husband's American Riflemen magazines before I get to this book.
So, as I said, this is a reaction to Bennetts' post and the interview on Book TV. And it's my blog so if I want to an uninformed ignoramus, I can. So there.
ANYWAY, here is my take on this (and Sarah, I'm reprinting some of my comments here... I'm so unoriginal).

If the Feminine Mistake is believing that our futures can be assured by our husbands, I agree with the author. However, I’d go further. If we believe that our futures can be assured by anyone including ourselves, we have made a mistake. As believers, we proclaim that it is only our gracious God who holds and shapes our lives.

For this reason, I don’t really think a conversation of what we are "sacrificing" can take place between a secular statistician/ author and Christians called to, well… anything. We will always approach our purpose and meaning and “destinies” in life fundamentally differently. At least, we should, in my opinion.

As Christians, if we believe Christ calls us to work at home, we should expect to sacrifice some things. If we believe Christ calls us to work at a bank or school or town dump, we should expect to sacrifice some things. Our lives are about sacrifice. We may not want it to be that way, but when one is in relationship with other people and with God, like it or not, one has to give up a little or a lot of one's own desires and wants.

Several of the author’s points about financial independence did get me thinking, however. Bennetts seems to suggest that women who find themselves without material resources at some point in their lives are a drain on everyone around them. In the interview, she maintains that this was the case with her grandmother. I realized when I heard this implication that I don’t know any stay-at-home mother OR working mother who wouldn’t do everything necessary, possible or seemingly impossible to make sure that their children are secure. Divorce, untimely death of a spouse, loss of a partner’s wages… would only serve to strengthen that conviction in the people I know. Further, I think most normal and sane individuals don't regard "personal sacrifice" in these sorts of extreme circumstances as elective. I base this not on thousands of hours of research and interviews like the author but on a quick mental tally of folks I have known and met throughout my life. Yes, there are a few who would feel as though they were blindsided by their loss and thus "owed" something, but MOST would do anything and everything to make their lives a success.
And it strikes me as odd to maintain that there are women who honestly have never thought of the possibility of tragedy or refuse to consider the possibility. Are these people morons? I have been in bed next to my sleeping husband thinking about how his father died suddenly at 62, weeping, and praying that will not be the case for our family, but it is a possibility. It’s a possibility that I’ll dead tomorrow. I think most people consider possibilities. If the morons don't, so be it. But their entry into the workforce is not going to save the nation.

Perhaps if there is one gift that Bennetts has given to those of us who stay home or want to stay home, it is to consider the possibilities with more attention. But it just doesn’t follow that we must therefore launch ourselves en force back into the working world, as though that will provide us ultimate security. It won't. The reality is that we are humans who make mistakes and we are on a planet with other people who make mistakes. A nice, steady career may provide us with financial security, but it does not provide us with ultimate security. And it is only in the eye of the beholder as to whether financial security, emotional security, physical security, spiritual security, etc. is superior. As people of faith, when we make the choice to follow a calling to stay home, we must recognize that we are making a choice that might not present us the highest degree of financial security. On the other hand, following a call we believe to be presented from God affords a spiritual security that forcing oneself into employment for the sake of being employed does not.

Actually, this interview and this article has once again strengthened my resolve to not only get to a point where I CAN stay completely at home with my children, but has also reminded me to present that as a possibility to my daughter and son as they grow older. I want them to know that if God calls them to be neurosurgeons they have our blessing. If God calls them to be plumbers, they have our blessing. If God calls them to stay home with their families, they have our blessing.

I want them to know as they grow that this is a worthy calling. And a high calling. And as such, it deserves to be treated with respect. The choices they make as a young woman or man could determine whether staying at home is a possibility for them. So I will be teaching them, in the words of Indiana's Grail Knight, to “choose wisely” that to which they devote their resources. And similarly, it reminds me that we, Dennis and I, need to choose wisely so that they might be gifted at some point in their life with enough material resources to make staying at home more of a possibility.

Can you tell I’m the daughter of a financial planner?

Anyway, as I said before, I think this is a completely different conversation, though, than the one that Bennetts and Schappell are having. People of faith are called to trust God. We are called to KNOW God will provide where God calls. We are called to KNOW that sometimes God calls to sacrificial circumstances. We are called to KNOW it’s still God calling and we sure as heck are called KNOW that if it’s God, we’d better follow. Because God doesn't go away when God puts a call on a life. It's one of His more annoying habits.

I hate to say that those of us with this perspective are better, but, um… well...let’s just say I’m glad that I’m on this side of the non-discussion…

For once, my antagonistic relationship with numbers pays off

It's July 31, not August 1! Tomorrow we'll turn off the tv.

Or not.

The first seven hours "without" tv

And by"without," I mean "with." My resolve lasted less than 5 hours. Annalivia was awake a little before 5 a.m. and did not go back to bed after being up and sick off and on all night last night. Daniel is sick, too, and was slightly less disruptive, but needy nonetheless all night. When I picked him up this morning to burp him, he threw up -- not spit up -- threw up all over me and my hair. I am tired. I am now very smelly. I am also very grumpy.
Needless to say, tv went on. How else does one entertain sick children and remove baby vomit from one's head at the same time?

30 July 2007

Turning off, tuning in

We have decided to accept the challenge to turn off our tv entirely for the month of August. Because Dennis and I don't watch much tv, I don't anticipate that we will miss watching any shows. What I think will be difficult for us is to not depend on the tv as a babysitter for our kids. When Annalivia wakes up at 5:45-6:15 in the morning, I usually put on a dvd for her to watch while Daniel and I sleep a bit more. The problem is that I also put on a dvd for her to watch when Daniel is being fed. And one when I need to get lunch on the table. And dinner. And... well, you get the picture.
So. We are unplugging the tv and will have to rely on parental ingenuity to entertain our child and the grace of God alone to drag my sorry rear out of the bed in the morning. Pray for us, eh?
In addition to unplugging from tv, I'm going to be unplugging from the computer. I will try to blog frequently for our family and friends who are not here and just will miss the minutiae of our lives terribly if I were to stop entirely (*snort, snort*) but they won't be large posts, I don't think. Who knows...
In the meantime I am going to try to read three -- that's 3 -- as in three more than I read now -- books this month. I have a stack to get through and they're just multiplying all over the place so it's now or never, I suppose.
It's my hope that unplugging like this and being more conscious of my leisure choices will help me tune into my life a bit more. Anyone else want to take the challenge? And be my accountability pal with reading?

29 July 2007

In honor of HP

Posted by Picasa
A picture of Annalivia the day that #6 was released.


Little Annalivia is sick this weekend. She went to bed on Friday night and shortly thereafter developed a barking cough which kept her and us up much of the night. I didn't notice that she was getting sick before that and I wonder whether I was just negligent or whether she really wasn't exhibiting symptoms. The kid is sick so rarely, I think I just wasn't paying attention.
Anyway, she is sick and Dennis is tired so he and the kids stayed home from church today. I went, of course, and then came home to have lunch and take a nap with Annalivia. Upon awaking, I realized I don't feel too great either.
And Daniel has been awfully fussy today, too. I am imagining that tomorrow might be a day to spend at the doctor's office.
In the meantime, Dennis is taking spectacular care of everyone. He let me sleep a little more and took Daniel on a little outing during Annalivia's nap and now has built Annalivia a fort using the couch pillows in the living room.
Feeling icky is not much fun, but I'm glad we have Dennis around. He's a good antidote to whatever ails us.

27 July 2007


Ignorance is bliss

Warning! HP spoilers ahead!!
Today is the fifth day since I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that I have picked up the book to read again some of the story and hear Rowling's powerful narrative of hope, faith, love and redemption. It has gripped me these last few days.
Tonight I remembered a silly article by Lev Grossman in Time titled, "Who Dies in Harry Potter? God." and looked it up to re-read it. It ticked me off then, but I tried to consider if fairly. I just couldn't get there, even after having read only the first six books. Now, after book seven, I wonder if he has any second thoughts about the analysis he applied in that article...
From that spot in the blogosphere, I managed to find far too many bloggers who are convinced that Harry Potter is a threat to Christendom. I am fairly certain that most of these folks have not actually read any of the previous HP books. They were, for the most part, doing an excellent job of quoting other people such as Mr. Grossman, and not actually any of the books or Rowling. And my guess is that most of these folks certainly have not read this last book. Uninformed though they may be, they are quite sure that a crystal gazing ball and the casting of spells and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah are the direct work of Satan.
Poor JK. I think she is owed one heck of a spectactular apology by the Christians who have been skewering her over the last 10 years. She won't get one, of course. But, thankfully, there are many evangelicals out there of a differing opinion who are speaking their appreciation for Harry openly. There's this relatively unknown guy named Rick Warren, for one. And then there's this great article from Christianity Today. An excerpt...

"When C.S. Lewis started out to write The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he didn't have Christianity in mind. "Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something abut Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tales as an instrument, then collect information about child psychology and decided what age group I'd write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them," Lewis once wrote. "This is all pure moonshine. I couldn't write in that way at all."
"Everything began with images," Lewis continued. "A faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sled, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't anything Christian about them. That element pushed itself in of its own accord."

It seems to me that where Christ wants to be presented, there's not a whole lot that can stop it. And it certainly makes sense to me that a book that sells 8.3 million copies the first day might be an ideal vehicle. And, obviously, to me, at least, He's there in this book. Pretty much everywhere. Which makes it very worth reading, by pretty much everyone. Me. You. Lev and friends, too.

25 July 2007

No sympathy

Tonight as I was showering with one arm held over my head, wrapped in a plastic bag and feeling a little perturbed by the whole endless saga, I remembered how, right after the accident, I was talking to the insurance agent assigned to our case on the phone. He was asking me some questions and I was trying to rifle through papers to find the info, one-handed, of course. I apologized for the time it was taking and said something like, "It's hard to do this stuff with only one hand."
To which the lovely man replied, "I understand. I actually have only one arm, myself."

Rarin' to go

As I recall, when Annalivia was a baby, she awakened in stages. She went from sound asleep to slightly fitful to opening her eyes and then dozing in and out of consciousness. Finally, she'd rouse herself and be fully awake.
Daniel, on the other hand, seems to go from asleep to fully awake and ready to go. He just woke up from a nap (right his sister fell asleep, of course *sigh*). So I picked him up and tried to get him back to sleep. But he just popped up his head and grinned, stuck out his tongue, and blew a few raspberries while flapping his arms and legs.
I wish I woke up like that.

24 July 2007

Recipe: Waffling about

Well, I have made a load of blueberry waffles and am posting the mix recipe I use for Liz. I hope it helps, Liz.
I adapted this from a recipe given at Saving Dinner. This one reflects my personal preference for a hearty pancake or waffle. It's not heavy, but is definitely not delicate. It's pretty forgiving if you'd like to play with it.

Waffle and Pancake Mix
8 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups coarser whole-wheat flour (I use Hodgson Mill stone-ground)
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (I use Montana Wheat Prairie Gold)
1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal
1 1/2 cups oat flour (or you can use oatmeal blended in the blender til powdery -- makes it a bit lighter)
2 cups buttermilk powder (I found this in the condensed/ dried milk section of Walmart)
5 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 cup sucanat or white or brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt

Mix all together. Makes 1 gallon. Store in freezer.

To make waffles or pancakes... Whisk together 1 cup water, 1/4 cup oil, 2 eggs and at least 2 teaspoons vanilla. Add 2 cups of mix and whisk til lumps are gone. If needed, add more water or mix. Can be halved or multiplied as necessary.

I folded in about 1 1/2 cups blueberries this morning. It made 12 waffles in my waffle-maker. I only remembered about 3/4 of the way through my batch that my waffle iron's ready light goes OFF when the waffles are ready as opposed to going ON. Once I got that figured out, the waffles were a whole lot prettier.
I spread the rest of mine out on a cooling rack and am going to freeze them individually. They can be toasted without thawing.
Have fun!

23 July 2007

A beautiful day

We had a good day here in McStew-dom. It was a beautiful day -- about 83 at the highest and sunny with a lovely breeze. Just a near-perfect day, really.
Annalivia and Daniel and I were all up early, so we took advantage of our early rising and headed over to Clinton, IA to get groceries. Clinton is a nice 30 mile drive from us and, as I think I've mentioned before, it not only has a great grocery store with carts shaped like fire trucks, gas 30 cents cheaper than ours, and goat's milk at a much reduced price than we can find around here; it also has a drive thru coffee place that distributes punches on a card and after the 10th punch, the coffee drink is free. That is always our first stop in Clinton -- an iced latte for Mommy.
After that, we headed over to Target where I found TONS of clothes on clearance for $.98 - $1.98 each for both Annalivia and Daniel. I got Daniel a whole bunch of polo shirts in sizes all the way up to 5T figuring that he will wear them someday and if he only fits a size in the winter, he can wear them with a sweater over them, if necessary. I did the same thing before Easter at Walmart and got him a bunch of button-down oxfords and corduroy pants and blazers left over from Christmas. Of course, he has no 6-9 month clothes, but he's set once he moves into 2T.
When we got done at Target, we went to the grocery and got just a few things. Annalivia drove her fire truck and said "Hello," to pretty much anyone who looked at her or warned people to "Watch out!" as we were coming through. Every once in a while, someone would talk to her and get an explanation from her about how she had just gotten Dora underwear or that she was going to have a donut or that we were buying Daniel's milk. I like to let these conversations occur without much interpretation from me. Unless the target is a family member. It's more fun for me.
Since Annalivia had chosen to have great behavior at both places, we went to a park to eat our lunch. As we drove into the park, I was talking to my dad on the cell phone and Annalivia saw a bunch of kids playing on the equipment. She was yelling, "Hi, guys! I'm coming playing!" When I let her out of the van, I went to go get Daniel and turned around and Annalivia had run over to an enormous two-story spiral slide with a big sign on it that said, "Not for use by elementary children." She, of course, was climbing the stairs with kids behind her. So I didn't really hear the last part of the conversation with Dad because I was trying to figure out if she was going to make it or how in the heck I would rescue her, should she need it. She didn't. She slid down the slide with no fear and I caught her at the bottom and took her to the little kids' playground right next to the big slide. And she yelled at any children she saw to come and play with her. She's such a social child. I have no idea where she gets that! :)
Then we got back in the van and Annalivia fell asleep and Daniel woke up so I fed him and he and I went into a store together to use some merchandise credit to our advantage. Then when Annalivia woke up, we went to Walmart and got some more good deals on future clothes. Also, a 24-pack of Crayola crayons and a 2-stick package of Elmer's glue are 20 cents there! This is the time to stock up on Sunday School supplies, I guess.
So after that, we came home to drop off the groceries that had been in the cooler and since Daniel was still asleep, we went to Dixon to pick up The Message on cd that I ordered with my professional expense account from the local Christian bookstore. Which is not open on Mondays. So we went to my favorite bookstore, where I got another latte and Annalivia bought a Dora nighttime book and I ordered the Kathleen Norris Quotidian Mysteries book that I've been wanting to read.
We got home about 15 minutes before Dennis and Annalivia and I made some Eggplant Parmesan for dinner, which Dennis and I disliked, but Annalivia ate willingly. While it cooked, Annalivia and Dennis went out to his house to get pavers and after he bathed the kiddos, he dug a spot and set our grill on the pavers beside our deck. So now our deck has much more room on it. He's still out there doing miscellaneous projects now and Daniel has finally fallen asleep, so I'm going to do some picking up and take a shower and then try to read a bit. I've had plenty of espresso today, so I think I should be able to knock a couple chapters off of one of my many books. But maybe not.
Tomorrow my plan is to do a lot of baking early in the morning, since Dennis stopped to get eggs from his aunt today and I have all the necessary ingredients to make some whole grain baking mixes. I'm hoping to make some banana bread mixes, waffle/ pancake mix, and some zucchini bread mixes and then stick them in bags to be stored in the chest freezer. I also am hoping to make a whole bunch of blueberry waffles and freeze them and maybe some blueberry muffins, too. Blueberries were on sale this week. Can you tell?
And tomorrow, I think I'm going to start doing some intentional potty-training with Annalivia. She has some new Dora underwear and a Dora toilet seat (and a Dora outfit, for that matter), and she's very excited, so we're going to see how it goes.
So. That's our big day and there are our big plans. And now it's time to say, goodnight!

21 July 2007

Something's gotta give

When we got married, my great-aunt and my father's cousin gave us a lovely set of bath towels, handtowels, and washcloths. They were beautiful, plush Egyptian cotton. After a few washings, they were exquisite and we enjoyed using them.
Then we had children and it seemed like the washcloths were constantly in the laundry. They began to be less plush and then slightly fraying and then the occasional hole appeared. Then it seemed like they never were entirely clean. Frequent launderings, color-safe or regular bleach or ammonia with the best laundry detergent didn't seem to make a difference.
So, the other day at Target, I picked up three packages of four washcloths each. Designed for dorm rooms, they are flat -- not at all plush or cushy, but rather are sparsely threaded with something akin to the plastic mesh bags in which oranges are sold instead of Egyptian cotton. Their best feature was their ridiculously low price and the possibility that they can be discarded sometime in the future when they wear out and smell funky.
And tonight when I used one, I realized that they are not only functional, but quite possibly, necessary. The threads scrape off the top layer of one's skin so much more quickly than our old washcloths and when trying to time a shower for how long a baby will sleep, it's actually a positive that exfoliation needs no additional surface pressure from the exfoliator. Just slap some soap on it and go.
And the resultant redness fades in an hour or so...

Potter!! Potter!! Potter!!

Well, I'm done and all I can say for the whole thing is HURRAH!! Great book. Great.

Without a doubt, my favorite line was delivered by Mary Weasley in the last pages of the book. Made me want to cheer out loud.

You know, I'm not even sad that the whole thing is over, it was so good. Hurrah for Harry Potter !

Now I think I'll get a little sleep.

20 July 2007

Exactly 45 minutes from now...

...everyone will know what happens to Harry. I'm on my way to get my copy from my favorite bookstore in the next town. They are having a party tonight so I'm arriving in time to get my book and be on my way with hopes that no one reads the last page and aloud while waiting to pay. Boy, I hope they have the espresso machine running. Have a great weekend. I'll be reading.

Rain delayed

For the first time this week, it is not raining. And, more importantly, for the first time this week, a thunderstorm is not waking Annalivia up at an insane hour. Daniel and I are awake, but it is 7:30 and she's still snuggled into our bed.

It is a gorgeous day here. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the air is blessedly cool. All of the windows are open and the fans are on, giving us a lovely little breeze in here.

Daniel is on the floor on his belly. He just got to his hands and knees and rocked a few times. I think that's the first time he's done that. This child is going to be crawling far too soon. Annalivia crawled right before her first birthday, as I recall. He's got things to do, apparently, and is not going to be satisfied with that schedule.

19 July 2007


One of the ongoing problems resulting from our September accident has been difficulty using our ankles that were sprained. Because they are lower extremity sprains, and really bad to begin with, they have been very slow to heal. What this means is that some days, it is very hard to walk or climb stairs or do much movement at all. It is further compounded when we favor the sore ankle and thus cause stress to the other foot or knees or even hips. (We're incredibly pitiful, can you tell?) And probably the biggest thing working against the healing of these joints is that we're, well -- no need to sugarcoat it -- massively huge individuals.
This has created a vicious process. The more we sit around, the more huge we get. The more huge we get, the more we sit around. Fun times.
This week, however, I had a glimmer of hope when a friend suggested to me that we get into water aerobics or swimming. I have never been able to do any sport in my life, but swimming -- well I was actually passable. And I love it.
So I checked into various programs and found that though our local Y is pretty expensive for a family membership, they offer a child care service during one of the water fitness classes and again at times when Dennis could swim. It would be worth it, if we'd use it.
I was excited. I was all ready to get us signed up this afternoon.
Until the glaring obstacle occured to me that anyone who has seen me in the past month or has read this blog would readily recognize. I have a huge, freakin' fiberglass cast on my arm! And that might, maybe, just a little, impede water activities like, oh, say... swimming, water aerobics or, as I experience every day... showering.
So. Setback. But at least there's an option for the future. That helps a little.

17 July 2007

Higher expectations

I have been thinking a lot lately about the expectations we have or don't have for ourselves, our children, our family, our churches, and our society in general. Does it ever occur to anyone else out there that we are shortchanging ourselves in all of those areas?
I began thinking about this a couple of months ago when we took Annalivia and Daniel to their doctor for Annalivia's 2 year checkup and Daniel's 2 month check. It was about an hour past Annalivia's regular naptime and her behavior was, I thought, attrocious. She kept playing with the examining table, going through the diaper bag, running back and forth between me and the door... I was really very embarrassed.
At the end of the visit, our doctor told me that Annalivia was a very well-behaved child. I laughed out loud thinking that she was being sarcastic. She wasn't. It turns out that compared to most 2 year olds she sees, Annalivia's behavior was good. She was complimenting me on having an only partial-hellion on my hands.
In the past few months, well-meaning friends have attempted to comfort me regarding my parenting failures. One dear one asked, "Did you children eat today? Are they sitting in their own filth? Have any of them been beaten lately? No? You're doing fine."
In one way this beloved was correct. On most days, I am doing fine. The problem is, I don't want to settle for "fine". I want to do "well". I want do "faithful".
And frankly, I think that this is what my faith in Jesus is asking me to do. I personally think that, as Christians, we have settled for a lot of compromises in what we expect from ourselves and others in the name of Grace. It is not good enough to raise kids who don't rob the liquor store. It's not good enough to create a family that doesn't fall apart at some point. It's not good enough to pastor a church who doesn't spend over the budget or doesn't fight or doesn't do whatever it is that means a church is a failure. I think the life of a Christ-follower is to a higher calling than that.
And further, I think that we settle for lots because we don't want to feel a little icky about ourselves and our accomplishments or lack thereof. And we don't want others to feel uncomfortable about themselves and their accomplishments, or, ahem... the lack thereof. And I wonder if that's really the tactic we should take? I mean, please, please, please -- let's communicate that God always, always offers love and forgiveness to his children -- but let's also communicate that honoring God's work in our lives, claiming Christ as our Savior, means that we have to strive a little higher, work a little harder, be a little better than whatever it was we accepted from ourselves previously. (Yes, I said, "be a little better." I meant it.) I don't think that striving to attain high standards means we need to stand around spirtually, emotionally or physically flogging ourselves when we don't attain the prayed-for goal. In fact, we probably need to recognize that most of the time, we won't actually get where we are trying to head and at the same time continue to head in that direction as hard as we can.
I think it's time that we ask ourselves and others around us, in relationship and fellowship with us, for more. Yes, we cling to grace. Grace is the only thing that will allow us to do that which is beyond ourselves. And I really believe new life in Christ calls us beyond ourselves, and certainly beyond most standards expressed in the commons these days. We must press on, not in arrogance but in dependence on the love of Jesus to focus and sustain us. Probably all of this can be said much better here...
"So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision - you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it. Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I've warned you of them many times; sadly, I'm having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ's Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make
their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him."
Philippians 3: 15-21 from The Message

15 July 2007

Ken Burns and the pulse of America

Has anyone else noticed an increase of information about WWII recently? I don't know whether it is just because I'm listening/looking for it, but I've been seeing and hearing a lot of interesting reflections lately.
Personally, my interest was piqued reading about Ken Burns' new documentary, The War. I had read that it was in the works and about the controversy about the lack of info included in the piece about Latino involvement in the war. Then a couple of weeks ago, I saw a preview after Masterpiece Theater's showing of Foyle's War, with one of my English celebrity boyfriends, Michael Kitchen. As much as I am enthralled by Michael Kitchen's portrayal of imagined WWII era events, I'm more excited to see The War. It looks like it will be a great program.
Today, I heard a really interesting program from a local NPR program featuring the oral histories of WWII vets in the Quad Cities area. Today I caught the program at an interview by an army nurse. It was just fascinating. I didn't want it to end, but the secondary interview was a guy responsible for transmitting the news that the Ludendorff Bridge was still intact to headquarters. Amazing stuff.
It reminded me about a member of my congregation, Smitty, who passed away a couple of years ago. In the War, he had been under Patton and drove a half-track tank. At some point, his unit came into a city that the Germans had abandoned and Smitty found an abandoned, broken German motorcycle which he fixed up. He had a great time zipping around on it until his commander asked to see him. The commander told him that he was not to drive the motorcycle anymore and that it was to be delivered to him by the next morning. Smitty knew that the commander just wanted the bike to be able to drive himself, but he also knew that he couldn't disobey the order.
So when the commander woke up the next morning, he found a German motorcycle outside his door. There was a problem with it though. It had been run over by a half-track.
Anyway, I'm glad Ken Burns is doing his documentary and glad that others are capturing these stories and glad that it is moving to the front of consciousness. If not the nations' consciousness, then at least mine. These are important stories. And they need to be told.

13 July 2007

The kind of morning that should earn a mother medals

Today has been a very nice day, but at the beginning of it, I was quite sure that it was going to be a truly frightful Friday the 13th.
It started out with me going to bed entirely too late. Way, way, way too late - around 2 a.m. I used to be able to do that in the days of my youth. Uh... now... not so much.
It proceded with Annalivia waking up at 5:15 a.m. This, was, of course, entirely too early for her to wake up and she was traumatized. She stood in the hallway outside of her bedroom and yelped for me to come and get her some milk which her father had forgotten to put out for her on his way out the door. Since the parsonage is a ranch style house with the three bedrooms all situated within three feet of one another, this meant she was standing outside MY bedroom door yelling for me to help her get milk.
I got out of bed groggily, but quickly because Daniel had managed to sleep in his own bedroom in his own crib instead of the co-sleeper in our room for the entire evening. And since, as I mentioned, the ranch style parsonage has three bedrooms within three feet of each other, Annalivia standing and yelling outside her bedroom meant that not only was she also outside MY bedroom, but she was also outside Daniel's room.
So. I took her out to get milk in her sippy cup and found that all the sippy cups were in various stages of undress. Since my wrist is broken and casted, it has been up to Dennis to not only do laundry as per our premarital agreement, but also do dishes (my part of our premarital agreement) and since said ranch style parsonage does not have a dishwasher, this is a job of constant demand. He has also had to bathe the kids entirely himself and parent them into bed since I've been at Bible School all week. AND he's had to get up at 4 to be at work by 5:30 so that he can build up some extra hours to take care of me after my next surgery. Oh, and since it is Friday, he had to put out the trash and recycling. So, needless to say, the poor man was exhausted last night and went to bed without doing dishes and then was unable to do them in the morning.
All of which meant that I had to wash the sippy cup with one hand, which was excruciatingly slow for poor, sleep-deprived Annalivia. So she began weeping. Loudly.
When I produced the milk she was momentarily placated. Then I looked at the clock and figured out what time it was -- too darn early to be awake and told her she had to go back to bed. And because it was too darn early to be awake, she began weeping. Loudly.
I got her to sob quietly and we headed in to go to bed in my room. But she climbed in the bed a little too enthusiastically and bonked her head on the headboard and began weeping again. Loudly.
By this time Daniel was stirring so I had to get him out of the crib and bring him to bed and my momentary absence as I walked the 20 feet to Daniel's room to get him out of the crib was the final straw for Annalivia. She was inconsolable and in her grief, moved to my pillow and took my spot in the bed so when I came back in the room with her baby brother and found myself allotted about 10 inches of space in the king-sized bed, I asked her to scoot over. Which again broke her little heart.
So. By this time, Daniel was awake and crying. Annalivia was distraught and had managed to scoot over and give me about a foot of room. Then I laid down on the bed and her hand was under me and though I know she was not harmed, she was deeply disturbed and cried harder.
So there I lay between a weeping toddler pressed into my back and a crying infant in my arms. I sang to them both, got them calmed down and they both began to get sleepy.
Then the freezing cold sippy cup lodged itself into my back.
But I was SO tired and punky myself that I just let it stay there. And by the time we all woke up at 8:30, there was a big wet spot of milk in the bed. But we had slept and after a morning like today's, an excuse for clean sheets tonight is its own reward.

12 July 2007

VBS and possible daquiris

We have been having a great time at Vacation Bible School this week. This is the first time my little church has done VBS for at least the last seven years, but I think it has been more like 10.
Sidenote -- it is hilarious to me that some folks talk about the last time that we did VBS as something that was just last year or so. I'm in my 7th year here and we've never done VBS. Church time just functions differently than the rest of the world, I guess.
Anyway, this year, we are doing VBS and it has been fun. Really fun. Tiring, of course, but great, not only for the kids who have come (which is up to 19 now, not counting mine -- a 1900% increase over worship attendance by children other than Annalivia and Daniel) but for the adults, also.
The funny thing is that our theme is water-centered and on a rotation model where the kids visit four different stations during the evening, so folks have been making jokes about how the adults will need to have a special margarita/ daquiri station the last night of Bible school after the kids go home. And now, there is an actual party in the planning.
I've enjoyed joking around with them, but I'm not sure whether I should go to the party. I am not opposed to drinking alcohol, I just don't do it anymore really. If I was a 40 year old pastor of a congregation, I might go and throw back a daquiri with my middle-aged congregants. But as the young girl who came here a little too recently-departed from college-frat-party age, I feel a little odd about it. Probably I will go for a bit, enjoy the frivolity sans fruity drink, and then leave them to their crazy fun without the pastoral presence to hem them in.
I don't know... I'm probably being too stuffy, aren't I? A few years ago (closer to the college-frat-party age), I wouldn't have thought twice about joining in. I'm such an old fuddy-duddy now.
Well, regardless, VBS has been great. I think we'll all be ready for it next year. And for us, that's what really deserves a celebration!

10 July 2007

The magic corner

One of the bloggers who inspires me has a daughter who is the same age as Annalivia. She writes about the joys and challenges she experiences in her two-year-old at the same time, or shortly before, I get to experience them. She also has the advantage of having parented four other children through this age, so when she talks, I tend to listen closely.
From her, I got a technique for dealing with whining and fussing that has been SOOOOOOO incredibly helpful for us. Basically when Annalivia fusses or whines, I calmly and politely ask her to go stand in the corner and when she is quiet and can talk nicely, she can come out. This is the only behavior that illicits this consequence. The corner is in the living room near us, but not with us. The "corner" also travels -- at my parents' house it was a chair in the main room.
So far, she has been in the corner four or five times. The first few times produced a big fit. (My poor grandfather was subjected to one last week. He wanted to rescue her and I wouldn't let him. He said, "Well, a woman in tears..." What a sweetie.) I ignored her for the most part, though I did remind her that when she was quiet and could speak nicely, she could come out. When she quieted down, I invited her to come out and she came and got lots of hugs and kisses. The last few times when I've asked her to go to the corner, she has composed herself very quickly. She still collects on the hugs and kisses though.
Today, she sounded as though she was going to start whining a few times and I asked her very calmly and smilingly if she was fussing or whining. She immediately said no and asked politely for what she wanted.
That corner is magic, I tell you. We have gone from constant toddler fussing/ whining meltdowns to NONE. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
The magic corner. It might work for you, too.

My little tomato

So we've been using some parenting techniques lately that have made our lives much happier and when I say "our," I mean mine, Dennis', Annalivia's, and, I'm assuming, Daniel's. I learned of these techniques from some evangelical blog friends of mine. Have I mentioned before how gosh-dern grateful I am that the blogosphere can bring together so many voices from so many different places and experiences? It's truly miraculous, I think.

Anyhoo, prompted by the kind of relationship I saw developing in the lives of these families, we've begun doing some things differently. All of our changes derive from an attempt to be much more proactively attentive to Annalivia and head off a behavior problem in its infancy. Basically, I try to be plugged in to her most of the day and "tomato-stake" her. That term derives from the gardener's observation that a tomato that has been improperly supported may grow huge, but will not bear fruit consistently. In contrast, a tomato that has been properly staked can grow to its full potential and bear good fruit. In case you missed the analogy -- Annalivia: tomato / Mama: stake.

It's been a huge learning process for me. My instinct is to be pretty inattentive as a parent and therefore, be pretty reactionary. Which is just not helpful for any of us. In reactionary mode, Annalivia doesn't hear from Mama except when corrected. She also doesn't know of expectations before she encounters a situation.
The advantage to this tomato staking is that it first and foremost draws on the relationship between parent and child. If I'm celebrating her victories and interacting with her positively throughout the morning, it's easier to encourage good behaviors and she receives correction with much more grace. And lest I infer that it involves direction and intrusion into her play, it doesn't, really. Mostly, Daniel and I watch Annalivia and interact with her. When I need to do something like make lunch, I have her come with me and help.
I guess most of this is just common sense to some parents. For me, I have been resistant to this sort of attentiveness because it seemed as though it would be just exhausting. I finally did it just because I felt like God was giving me a kick in the rear about the whole thing; THIS is the work to which I've been called through the gift of my children right now. There's nothing more important. So, I am having to save church work and computer time and phone calling for nap time and bedtime.
The beautiful gift has been that it is NOT exhausting at all. In fact, it has been exhilarating in some ways. Being proactively involved with my daughter throughout the day requires so much less energy than reacting to her.
So. That's what we've been up to here and that's why posts have been on the slow side until they occur all at once. Parenting is the important stuff -- the meat and potatoes of my life right now. The rest is mostly frosting. :)

09 July 2007

Menu plan Monday for the week of July 8-14

Three things are focusing my menu planning this week.

1. It's hot here.
2. It's Vacation Bible School week every evening at church. As pastor, I sort of have to be there.
3. It's hot here.

So, this week, for lunch, Annalivia and I will be having popcorn, cheese and apples one day and pasta salad for me/ pb&j for her, the next. All week. Dennis can take leftovers from this weekend for the next two days and then leftovers from the night before the other days. Snacks this week are going to be yogurt smoothie pops

For dinner -- it's SANDWICH WEEK!! Easy, tasty (most of the time), cold/ cooked outside, and did I mention -- easy?

Monday -- Egg salad or Turkey and Ham deli sandwiches, apples and salad.

Tuesday -- Grilled chicken, mushroom and onion with Muenster cheese on garlic ciabatta rolls, cantaloupe, salad

Wednesday -- Tuna salad sandwiches, crudites and dip, grapes

Thursday -- Hot Dogs from the grill, pretzels, watermelon

Friday -- Cheeseburgers from the grill, watermelon again, pretzels, and the rest of the salad

Saturday and Sunday, we may just lie about and groan. And eat sandwiches.

For legitimate menu help, see here.

07 July 2007

Tidbits Meme

My friend, Heather, tagged me, so here are some random tidbits. In 5's.

Five Things I Was Doing Ten Years Ago...
  1. Getting ready to leave Eureka to go to seminary
  2. Crying about getting ready to leave Eureka to go to seminary
  3. Preaching at New Bedford Christian Church for the summer
  4. Not thinking about how I had no business preaching anywhere for the summer
  5. Annoying my sistahs while home from college for the summer

Five Snacks I Enjoy...
  1. Oil popped popcorn with just salt
  2. Really crisp and cold apples
  3. Colby cheese slices
  4. Lindt extra dark chocolate truffles
  5. Butter flavored pretzel braids

Five Songs I Know the Lyrics to...
  1. Great is Thy Faithfulness (the processional hymn at our wedding)
  2. Be Thou My Vision (sung at my ordination and wedding and Annalivia's infant dedication)
  3. Amazing Grace
  4. You're a Grand Old Flag
  5. Theme Song to Kipper the Dog

Five Things I'd Do if I Were a Millionaire...
  1. Give -- to my church and Eureka College and CARE International
  2. Pay off all debt
  3. Invest for retirement, children's educations, etc.
  4. Quit my job and be a 100% at home wife/ mom
  5. Buy a house that we love and can live in for a long time

Five Bad Habits...
  1. Nervous eating
  2. Total lack of exercise
  3. Fingernail chewing
  4. Blog over-checking
  5. Rampant sarcasm

Five Things I'd Never Wear Again...
  1. My wedding dress (I loved it, but, uh... what's the point?)
  2. Sleeveless tops (because nobody wants to see that)
  3. White socks and dark shoes
  4. Pegged jeans (not even if they come back into style)
  5. A cast in the middle of summer, if I had the option

Five Things I Like To Do...
  1. Mother my children
  2. Smooch on my husband
  3. Cook good food
  4. Hang out with friends
  5. Obsess about complex and probably meaningless theological issues

Five Favorite Toys...
  1. Baby dolls
  2. Wood blocks and marble runs
  3. Third-world toys like this
  4. Nativity sets
  5. Play kitchen sets

Five People I'm Tagging
  1. Kalin, my sistah, whose answers will probably make me laugh til I cry
  2. Jimmy, who blogs erratically, and this should be plenty easy to do
  3. Joby, who needs something to do, I'm sure
  4. Amalee, whose answers I mightn't fully understand but will be fascinating because she's one very cool chica
  5. Tonya, because if she actually reads this blog I will faint. I kind of want to be her.

    04 July 2007

    Four fabulous years

    Four years ago today, I did the smartest thing I have ever done and promised before God to love Dennis Stewart for the rest of my life. I said, "Dennis, you are my beloved, my true love. Today I come to you to be your wife. All that I have and all that I am, I will gladly share with you. I promise to accept you for the person you have been, love you for the person you are and help you to grow into the person God wants you to be. All of these things I promise to you now and for the rest of our lives."

    And I do, sweetheart.

    I love you.

    Thank you for four beautiful years.

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    03 July 2007

    Transformation of a backyard part 3

    And as soon as the construction was finished, the playset was put into use even though the sandbox is not filled yet.

    My niece Cleya enjoyed it.

    And Annalivia is pretty excited about her "house."

    And now the parsonage has a real backyard.
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    Transformation of a backyard part 2

    Last week, my brother in law came up to help Dennis remove a huge blue spruce in the middle of the backyard. The white thing in the bottom right corner is the roofline of the neighbor's house, which helps illustrate how tall the tree was.
    It was a kind of hot day, but Jake was wearing proper tree cutting clothing. He looks sort of like a catalog model, eh?

    Especially in this shot.

    And this one. Even when expressing disappointment over the chainsaw that didn't work, he looks like an ad for Gander Mountain.

    Dennis on the other hand, uh... not so much. He doesn't dress the part, but he's got street cred. He took that sucker down with a sawzall.
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    The transformation of a backyard part 1

    Last week while Gramps was here, Dennis started on the big project of putting together the playset we got for my birthday.

    Dennis had some very capable helpers.

    As soon as the swingset was up, Daniel and Annalivia took their first swing with Daddy.
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    Mr. Charmer

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    In which my mainline friends disown me

    So last Sunday at FCC Rock Falls, we had a patriotic sing instead of the sermon. It was a full-fledged we-love-America-palooza with national hymns, secular songs both fun and more serious.
    In preparing for this event, I talked to a couple of pastor friends and told them the plan. Their response was something like, "Are you serious?" or "Oh no..." I told them I had thought about ways to justify it theologically and that I didn't want to embarrass either them or me, so I'd not share the thoughts, but as I've been thinking about it more, I want to do so and then get feedback from anyone who is willing to talk about it.
    I'll begin by saying that I believe that using the Bible to support national superiority is wrong. I don't want England or France to be reading the Psalms or Romans with that sort of interpretation, so I feel like the same should apply to us. But I am just not sure that any national celebration or recognition in the church is "wrong."
    As I told my church before we sang had our America-fest, I think most of us are smart enough to realize that when we say that our country is blessed, we don't believe that others in their countries are less blessed. Most of us don't apply a belief of selective blessing to our families, do we? I mean, I believe the McStews are abundantly blessed by God, but I would never assume that meant that God does not bless the Jones family and the Razinskis and the Al-Shamas. When I say "God bless America", that is my heartfelt prayer -- that God will bless our country. It is not a prayer that God will not bless England or France or Iran or wherever.
    And as for expressing gratitude for the blessing we have received and will receive as a nation in the setting of corporate worship in the church building, I frankly don't understand the idea that we shouldn't bring these realms together. If the church does not exist to speak to our everyday lives, including how we live as citizens of a country or members of a family (in the case of Mothers/ Fathers Day which also tends to be loathed by mainline pastors) or brothers and sisters in the realm of God, I guess I wonder -- why do we exist?
    I have to admit, I was a person who, for many years of ministry, resisted all of the things I was supposed to resist as a mainline pastor -- patriotism, overt displays of Christian identification in marriage, child-rearing and family formation (more about that later), celebration or recognition of "secular" concerns...but I have to say -- I don't know why I did. I wasn't thinking critically nor was I praying about where God would have me lead. Now, I really believe I *am* thinking critically. And I most certainly am spending a lot of time in prayer and believe that God is leading me the direction of recognizing that being a Christian is about bringing faith to bear on absolutely all areas of life including our national identity.
    So -- those of you who heartily disagree with anything I've said -- what has led you to your conclusions? I really honestly would like to know, because I think I've missed something. And if anyone can tell me what that is -- well, I'd sure appreciate it.
    In the meantime -- God bless America. And happy Independence Day.

    19 days to go...

    Hope this, this, this and this will sustain your trip back to Hogwarts.