Happy Sugar Rush Day

We jump-started the annual attempt to fill our kids to the brim with as much sugar and sticky goo as humanly possible by going to the Magic House, where they generously offered an all-you-can-handle donut and chocolate milk buffet.

My kids are doing better about recognizing their need to stop when they’ve consumed so much sweetness their cheeks are attached to their eyebrows. They limited themselves to one donut and, surprisingly, only two chose chocolate milk over the standard white milk or orange juice. I guess there really is such as thing as too much of a good thing (that, and they know what’s coming tonight).

Speaking of the Magic House, a couple of weeks ago we were asked to join them for a little project they were doing for a local news station. That “room full of kids” mentioned by the reporter would be two-thirds mine (and yes, they tend to take up an entire room wherever they go *grin*).

The clip was a fun find today because when it actually came on the news, a train went by our house, knocking out our TV signal during this short 1 minute, 22 seconds of fame. The girls, who were thrilled to be filmed initially, got a very cold dose of reality TV when their fifteen minutes of fame were reduced to what they were. Katie was especially concerned that the only part of her you actually see is her backside. (You can actually see her after that, sans costume, working on a craft at the table, but she was still fairly mortified by this clip of her.)

Anyway, that’s about the extent of our day: Magic House this morning, home this afternoon, gather up as much chocolate booty as possible tonight.

Happy HFCS day, everyone.

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Here I Stand, I Can Do No Other

Okay, so that’s taking Martin Luther a bit out of context, but I’d like to think that were he still with us, he would be a lot more vocal than I about the way we tend to just ignore the way the collective “we” have sanctioned the killing of pre-born children.

Some arguments I’ve heard from the mouths of professing believers:

  • Abortion has not been over-ruled in a Republican government.
  • Abortion is not the only issue at stake.
  • It doesn’t matter how we vote, nothing will change the abortion laws in our country.

I’m here to say this: I will not use any of those arguments or any others to make myself feel better about voting for a man who clearly supports the murder of these babies.
I linked to this article by John Piper a while ago in my sidebar, but it deserves a front page. He wrote it in 1995. I think it has never been more relevant than it is right now. There are many issues I can agree to disagree about. There is one I will never do so on.
Before God and before you, I will not sit this election out. I will not support Barack Obama. I will pray for this election. I will cast my vote in the direction of life.

Here I stand. I can do no other.

Our Hero


Meet Tim. Tim works for Laclede Gas. We called Laclede today to investigate a gas odor we discovered when we came home today. Tim to the rescue! Not only did he find the source of the leak (a $98 present left behind by melonhead Mr. Radiator, who left the gas turned on to the non-lit pilot light!), Tim actually TURNED ON THE BOILER FOR US. Oh yes he did. As I type, my fingers are in the process of defrosting. It’s a beautiful thing.

He was so great, so unassuming, so not trying to take advantage of us. He went beyond doing his job (figuring out the gas leak) and instead fixed everything. He told us we should be able to get another year out of the boiler, but that, of course, something could always happen (we’d know if there’s a leak if we go downstairs and see a bunch of water on the floor). Sounded like a fair warning, and a good plan.

We tried to pay him, but he wouldn’t take anything from us. We finally forced him to take $1 in quarters for a Diet Coke at the QT down the street. We told him he just restored the two years of my life that Mr. Radiator took away yesterday. We told him if we ever have a boy, we will name him Tim (kidding – we didn’t say that, but if we do ever have a boy, not only would it be a major surprise, but we really might name him Tim just in honor of tonight).

So, here we are: warming up, developing a plan to save up for a new boiler for next year, feeling the tension leaving my shoulders right now. Blessings.

Thanks for praying, as so many of you told us you were. The man pictured above is your answer…and ours.

A Chilling Perspective

When I’m warm and it’s cold outside, I sometimes think of those who have no homes, who must really be cold right now. I think of them. I feel sad for them. I move about my business.

Now I’m cold, and all I can do is think of them. And, all things considered, it really isn’t even *that* cold yet, though try telling that to my fingers which are having trouble typing even now, or to my head, which isn’t content unless my knitted cap is securely in place (it’s been there since 1:00 yesterday afternoon, save for two hours today when I worked the bookstore – it was warm in there).

I think of these folks because they aren’t just cold like we are; they are cold and displaced. No beds, no bundles of warm blankets, no borrowed space heater to heat the area right in front of where their kids aren’t watching Charlie Brown on TV right now like mine are.

I threw a bona-fide fit today. I’m not happy about that, but there you have it. Mr. Radiator came in and, in the course of 10 minutes, told me that what was going to be a simple “let’s get this thing started” turned into a “well, I’m going to have to wah wah wah wah wah wah $700 wah wah wah wah.” I called Craig out of class. He okayed whatever it is Mr. Radiator said he had to do and, I’m not joking, 10 minutes later, he came up with another round of wah wah wah wah wah $7,000 wah wah wah (can you tell I’m listening to Charlie Brown right now?).

That’s when I turned into waaa waaa waaa. I called Craig out of class again. We told Mr. Radiator thanks for coming, but we can’t do that right now. He smiled and handed me a bill for $98. I didn’t handle that well. I looked at him and said, “What, are you kidding me?” He said, “No.” I said, “Seriously? $98 for doing nothing?” He said, “Wah wah wah wah wah wah.” I wrote him a check for $98. I kind of tossed it at him and glared him right out of my house. I’m usually a little more polite, but I’ve had it with repair guys trying to take advantage of me. I’m done with that.

So he left, and my mature, let’s-set-a-good-example-for-the-children response was to scream. And I’m not talking a little, “Eeeeek! A mouse!” scream, but, the kind of scream you’d expect from any self-respecting two-year old who ate half a lollipop and had the remainder taken away. That kind of scream.

I cried so much I’m really tired right now. Really tired. And yet, what am I so depressed about? It’s less about the cold and more about the control – we had a good, strong plan to pay off some accumulated debt this year that, before today, we were on track to pay off in May. If we have to buy a new boiler (and we simply do), we’ll pay things off later than May, but it’s out of my control and that’s scary to me.

What I fail to remember is that we’re indoors where the wind can’t get to us. We have electricity, which allows for us to snuggle underneath electric blankets. We have friends who practically force us to come to their homes during the day so we can stay warm. We’re protected. And we have the ability to come up with a plan. It’s not plan A, but it’s still in the play book and we’ll make it work.

So many people this winter don’t even have a play book. And I can only imagine the despair they feel. When you are cold (even only 50 degrees cold) all you can think about is meeting your basic need. It’s hard to think about doing anything else. Eating, maybe, but school? Not so much; the girls’ fingers are too cold. I can’t imagine having no place to live and being this cold and even colder for the entire winter with no hope in sight, no plan on the horizon at all. When your basic needs aren’t met, despair comes quickly to fill that gap.

We’ll have heat sometime soon. I wonder how long it will take me to forget about all those who don’t?

Heaven, Have Mercy!

Remember my prediction about the next big thing falling apart around here? Well, nothing has fallen apart, per se, but something is dreadfully wrong in this house. We have no heat. An almost 90-year-old house, while quaint (if not a bit hot since there is also no a/c) in July, becomes a veritable icebox in October. OCTOBER. What happened to fall? Seems we’ve skipped straight from summer to winter. Sad.

We have radiators we do not know how to start. Craig tried this weekend, but when your options are 1) blow up yourself and your family, or 2) wait until the radiator man can come get them going for you, you tend toward the latter.

Honestly, we were thankful the phone number on the company sticker on the boiler downstairs was still current (it looks like it’s been on there longer than St. Louis has been around). Craig dialed, expecting to hear the three tone sound of the foiled, but they did answer. They said in a house as old as ours with a boiler as old as ours, we really need the boiler man to come get it going. And, oh, he can come just after your noses fall off, but not before your fingers do. Sound okay?

O-k-k-k-k-kay.

Really, it could be worse. It could be 52 degrees in our house instead of the current 54. And at least we have a working dishwasher right now. Glory.

So here’s to Mr. Radiator coming over tomorrow. And hot chocolate for dinner. And triple-layered clothing for the next 24-48  hours. Here, here!

Chapter 7: The Freedom To Be Different

Can you tell it’s crunch time? I need to finish this book pronto so Craig can have his turn reading it. Three quotes for tonight:

Page 140, “Grace must be quantifiable. To talk about grace, sing about grace, and have our children memorize verses about grace—but not give them specific gifts of grace—is to undermine God’s work of grace in their hearts.”

Page 141, “We take things that are huge to children and trivialize them, or we take small issues and magnify them out of proportion.”

Page 142, “When we elevate an arbitrary Christian behavior above the best interests of a child’s heart, we’ve clearly lost our way. There’s no other explanation for it.”

Wow, ouch, wow, ouch, wow. Good words.

Chapter 6: A Delivery System For Grace

Short chapter this time. I have one quote and one great visual. First the quote:

“There’s nothing graceful about a life of license. If anything, a licensed life is the shortcut people take if they really want to speed up their personal destruction.”

Now the visual (and really, the quality of my picture isn’t what I’m talking about here, rather the diagram itself):

IMG_0670.JPG

In case you can’t see it clearly, he’s woven together the concepts of instilling in our kids a secure love, a significant purpose, and a strong hope with the tenants of parenting our kids with four freedoms: to be different, to be vulnerable, to be candid, and to make mistakes.

Chapter 5: A Strong Hope

Tim Kimmel titled chapter five, A Strong Hope, and he does a great job here of explaining why it’s important, how we can build it, and how we so easily destroy it in our children. On page 95 he says, “Anything—minus hope—equals nothing. Hope is the human equivalent of oxygen when it comes to a person’s ability to live effectively.”

He tells us, “Grace is the key because grace is a by-product of hope, and hope is a by-product of grace. Let’s remind ourselves of what grace is. In simple terms, grace is receiving something we don’t deserve but desperately need,” and “Unfortunately, parental negligence-whether intentional or unwitting-can set a child up to struggle with hopelessness and feelings of inadequacy for a lifetime.”

Kimmel devotes a lot of time cautioning the over-protective parent. He says that parents who run their children’s lives and make most of their decisions discourage them from individual thinking which can damage their ability to learn to lean on God. He perfectly describes many of the parents Craig has encountered during his two years at a Christian school as well as many of the homeschooling parents I’ve “run into” on blogs and such. On page 113 he says, “raising safe Christian kids is a spiritual disaster in the making. Your effort will produce shallow faith and wimpy believers. Kids raised in an environment that stresses safety are on track to be evangelical pushovers. They will tend to end up either overly critical of the world system to the point where they won’t want anything to do with the people in the world system-an idea that comes directly from Satan’s playbook. Or, they will become naïve about the world system, which ultimately makes them putty in Satan’s hands. He chews up these kinds of people like they are spiritual McNuggets and swallows them whole. When they’re finally confronted with the full thrust of the world system as young adults, few know how to turn it into an opportunity for spiritual impact.”

And I thought his swimming analogy on page 120 was very good: “To many Christian parents, the idea of developing their children’s faith is like teaching them to swim on the living room rug. They don’t want them to learn how to swim in water because they could drown. So these children don’t really learn how to live out a strong, adventurous faith; they just know how to go through the motions.”

My defensiveness begins to kick in a bit while reading this chapter in that it almost sounds as though Kimmel is saying anyone who sends their kids to Christian schools or who homeschools is guilty of this over-parenting phenomenon. Again, I don’t really think that’s what he’s saying, but it is rather easy to read that into his text. As with anything (everything!), this is a parent’s decision based on what they believe is the right decision for their family given their circumstances and their leading from the Lord. I’ve known good and bad examples to spring forth from all possible schooling decisions: home, Christian, public, non-Christian private. It is so much less about the educational environment and so much more about the families themselves, the parents themselves. And I think really Kimmel says that too.

I loved what he said on page 112 about grooming our children according to their natural bents. It is impossible to print out a list of how to raise a child and have it work for every child. It isn’t hard to see how individuals are so different from one another. Aren’t children individuals too? Even with the things about children that are “different” he says, “We can’t make these liabilities disappear, but we are to raise them in such a way that we account for them and give them tools to help process them properly.”

Mariano Rivera

I’d like to introduce you to my new best friend, Mariano Rivera, who entered our game today as the greatest reliever of all time.

New Friend

We recruited him today to close the dishwashing deal for us, and he’s doing an amazing job so far. Look closely at those dishes. Can you see them? They are clean. CLEAN. And, if you were able to peer even more closely into the bottom of the dishwasher, you would notice that there is not one drop of pooling water working its way up to recreate Niagara Falls in our kitchen. Wall-E, the Shop Vac, has been retired of his valiant attempt to act like a kitchen sink drain.

For the moment, our kitchen looks and is acting like a proper kitchen should (with the exception of the 50 pound box of soy wax I still haven’t figured out how to melt properly into lovely fall-scented candles). But I can’t blame that on the kitchen.

A toast to the new dishwasher (clink!). May we serve one another well over these next years. I promise not to put anything into you that you have no taste for, and in exchange, I’d like it if you would do what your manual says you were made to do.

optimism

You know I totally set myself up last night, right? Because I did.

Mr. Installer said we have yet more pipes that need to be replaced and shut off valves installed before he can put in the new dishwasher. You know what this means, right? Really, Joe the Plumber, why don’t I just have your name added onto our checking account? This will make transfers to you just that much easier from here on out.

Sigh.