Buh-Bye, Now!


 

For the first time in my life I have something in common with Barbie. I'm exhausted. I think I need a break. A little break?

Fortunately, it's time for the Dunham family annual 4th weekend of September camping trip. We're going to the same spot that we always do. We're going to eat what we always do. We're going to do what we always do: read, nap, and play Uno until we can't stand it anymore.

Buh-Bye, now! Catch you on the other side of the Sabbath.

Time Warp

On Thursdays Maddie and Chloe’s school has a late start, so they don’t have to be there until 9:20am. This doesn’t really affect most of us too much, though, in that we have a friend who we carpool with and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays she picks up in the morning and I deliver in the afternoon.

Today was different, though. Chloe’s class is going on an overnight field trip and she needed to be there by 8:30 so we all went this morning.

For Katie and Millie, Thursdays usually mean home time until ballet at 11, so they have gotten used to having lunch when we get home.

That’s a long intro for this scenario: Because we had to take the girls to school this morning, when we got home it was 9. Katie was making her schedule for the rest of the day and she said, “Okay, we’ll take Peaches for a walk and then take a bath while you fix lunch.”

I told her I liked her plan except that I wasn’t planning to make lunch this early.

She replied, “What? It’s only 9? What are we doing out so early? We still have the whole day!”

Indeed. And now we’re off to make the most of it.

Engaged, Not Just Entertained

New post up at WORLD Mag today.

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Last night I took two of my daughters to a free screening of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole. The movie surprised me by being better than I expected. For some reason, the trailers of animated owls trying to convince other animated owls of the existence of legendary warrior owls didn’t spark anything in me (see video clip below). But, as my kids were interested in seeing it, when the free screening opportunity arrived, I took it and we went.

In a nutshell, a legend has been passed down through the generations about a band of owls who saved all owl-kind from destruction by another band of evil owls. In one particular owl family you have the one son, Soren, who believes these stories with all his being, and then you have his brother Kludd, who despises Soren for his easy faith. As the story progresses we begin to understand Kludd has acceptance issues in his own family and is jealous of his brother. When both Soren and Kludd are kidnapped by the bad owls, the tension line is drawn between them as Soren sees the devastation of life all around him and makes plans to get help (from the Guardians), while Kludd only sees his own potential for greatness and makes plan to betray anyone who will get in his way.

In an effort to engage with the movie and not just be entertained by it, I pulled out the three classic questions from one of my seminary education classes: What do you observe? What can we affirm? What must we challenge? Only the questions in the van last night looked more like: Let’s talk about the movie. What were some things that you liked that seemed good and right and true? What happened in the movie that made you uncomfortable or didn’t seem OK?

I was pleasantly surprised at just how much my 8- and 6-year-old were able to interact over these questions. We had a great conversation on the way home about family and honor and worth and for what price you would be willing to pay to give those things up. We talked about motive and community and corruption that comes from the quest for power. We discussed the grossness of owl pellets.

One of my favorite quotes from the movie came when the Guardians were saying their oath: “To defend the weak and vanquish the evil.” What a beautiful picture of gospel-living, right in the middle of popular culture-once again, God’s common grace cannot be hidden.

Thirty minutes after the movie ended, when I pulled into our driveway, I was convinced of these things: My girls know how to engage with culture, but I need to start these conversations with them way more than I do. I want my kids to learn to pull these themes of redemption out of the stories they watch and hear. Discernment can be taught, but we have to be intentional in doing so. I got the message loud and clear last night.

From One Sinner to Another

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Dear _________,

    This life is not an easy one and we will always have to wrestle with the brokenness of our sin. When my sin collides with your sin it is usually pretty ugly. In fact, it breaks my heart. It is true that you have a lot to learn about how to live with others with grace. I have much to learn about that too.

     I’m sorry I didn’t give you the $0.50 this morning. I was just angry and no other reason. I want you to have chocolate milk today. And when you drink it, know that I love you and I’m sorry about this morning,

Love, Mom

Editor’s note: I realize the photo is blurry, but it seemed appropriate. This post is, after all, less about the actual money and more about what I’m hoping it communicates. We’re off to drop a letter off at the school now. Peace out.

The Cure for Country

Let's say someone in your family has a problem with Country music. I don't mean "has a problem with" in the "takes issue with" sense, but in the "likes it too much" sense. Let's say not everyone in your family appreciates this problem.

I have the perfect solution.

Find a local research place offering to pay your problematic Country music-loving family member $65 if he/she will come to a specified location at a specified time and listen to over 700 clips of Country songs in a 2.5 hour time span while simultaneously rating each and every song on a hand held device.

Your family problem with Country music could very well disappear altogether.

This may or may not have happened in my family tonight.

It may or may not have happened to me. Ahem.

But hey, there's that matter of the $65 and all…but if I hear another Country song anytime soon I'm going to drive someone's sexy tractor right over to the nearest bar, tear up the seats with a set of keys and then check it for ticks.

I'm just sayin'.

TV Woes

To watch or not to watch…that is the question.

Actually, the question is what to watch?

I'm going to date myself here, but anyone recall with fond memories the time when Prime Time TV generated shows that entire families could watch together? Family Ties anyone? I remember looking so forward to Friday nights for the family-safe sitcoms that would come on television. Now? Nothing.

If you don't have access to subscription television, there really isn't anything that comes on that entire families can watch together. I know, I shouldn't complain. But sometimes a gal just wants something funny for 30 minutes that she can watch with her kids and not have to apologize for.

I know, I know. Netflix to the rescue. But is it too much to ask the major networks to bring back something decent that I can enjoy with my kids? Come on, ABC! NBC! CBS! FOX! PBS?

Family-friendly aside, what are you watching these days? What am I missing out on?

What shows from your childhood would you bring back to the present if you could? I'm thinking Cosby.

 

The Stuff of Life

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Here's an important truth about who I am: When I'm on top of the school game, I'm at the bottom of the home game. When I'm on top of the blog game I'm at the bottom of the sewing game. When I remember to make lunches for everyone who needs one I forget those same people also need to eat dinner.

I'm kind of a one-trick-at-a-time pony.

I'm attending a Gospel Transformation Bible Study this semester. The schedule works out well for me. On Friday mornings I take the older girls to school and the younger two and I hang around for the weekly chapel service. Once that's done we walk across the street to the church that's affiliated with the school and go to the Bible Study. The schedule couldn't be better.

The content…also couldn't be better, though I'm sort of wishing they would back off already. I don't really want to hear about my sin, but thanks anyway.

From last week:

We easily forget that the gospel has ongoing application in our lives. As Christians, when we forget that we are sinners, we forget the gospel.

…and…

Though we may not struggle with drugs or cheating the I.R.S., we all justify ourselves as easily and automatically as we breathe the air. We are much like the rich young ruler; we think we have obeyed in all sorts of areas, until Jesus confronts us with one area that clearly exposes our sin and great need.

I think it's pretty safe to say that my areas of sin and great need are being exposed right now. It's just a really fun time for that to happen too.

But…I know it's necessary.

And that's about all I have to say about that.

 

Great Expectations, Take Two

New post up at WORLD Mag today.

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The first post I wrote for WORLDMag.com went live the day I took my oldest daughter (newly 10 at the time) to Chicago for some intentional mommy/daughter time. This past weekend, I had the privilege of taking my second daughter (herself now newly 10) to the same city for a similar experience.

All along I tried to plan some different things for us to do so the trip wouldn’t feel like an exact replica of the one I took with her older sister. Some things were the same because I’m the same and default to what I know and am comfortable with, which, in Chicago, is pretty limited.

But while I was more or less the same person on the first trip, the thing I had to keep reminding myself was my second daughter was not. The things she thinks about, the things that make her tick, the things she will remember from this weekend are altogether different from what my oldest daughter remembers.

It helped that the time of year was different. My oldest and I spent as much time indoors as possible as it was December, but this trip was marked by all the things outside: boat ride on Lake Michigan, Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

For this girl, who can almost always be found in some remote corner of our house halfway through whatever book she can find, the trip was very necessary, as she is usually content to watch life pass from a distance. For me to say to her that I wanted three days alone with just her was pretty big, and this primarily introverted 10-year-old hardly stopped talking from the time we got on our bus at 5:40 a.m. on Friday until the time we got off the train at 8:39 p.m. on Sunday.

It takes a lot of effort to pull off an event like this, particularly when the rest of the family is left to fend for themselves for that span of time. But on this side of it, I know how important it was and I don’t for a second regret it. I’m looking forward to when my third daughter and I get to go, and then my fourth.

I’m thankful to be the mother of these four girls. And more than just a once-in-a-childhood weekend trip to Chicago, I want to find moments of individual intentionality with them on a daily basis. These relationships are so worth it.

A Word Picture

I need a new freezer. I would show you a picture of why, but I'm too nice for that. Instead, I will describe the crime scene in all its bloody detail.

Picture if you will a trip down to the basement. You go down there and see an upright freezer standing there seemingly minding its own business. You look again. That innocent freezer now looks suspicious. Are those bungee cords wrapped around it? Is one attached to the nearby filing cabinet? Is one secured to a pipe of unknown origin and destination?

Let's unhook the bungees for a moment, shall we? Oh no! Watch out! The door pops open all by itself, frozen food cascading down onto the floor. On your bare feet. You didn't come down here to this basement barefooted did you? You should have known better than that.

You clear away the fallen frozen food and make a mental note that you are thankful that food is still frozen. Then a tingle of fear runs through your body. You slowly glance up and notice that the unthinkable has once again happened: the top shelf has decided to defrost your food for you, and you have no idea how long it's been since you last paid your dues to this friend who has now forsaken you.

Your face takes on the appearance of a grown-up pout as you realize that some of the food that has defrosted is from your expensive grass-fed cow. And hog. And one of the freezer meals you got at the last freezer meal exchange. You think for a long five minutes about cooking it all up regardless, but then you rethink that and figure an ER visit is much more expensive than one lost shelf of meat.

You look again in confusion at the weird icicles that appear to be formed from a mixture of frost and blood hanging down from that shelf. You wonder vaguely how you are going to clean up that mess, because the other four shelves are crammed full of random packages of frozen meat and you have no other place to put them.

You remain thankful it was just one shelf. You note in consternation that this same shelf that can't seem to keep food frozen is the one in which Mt. Everest is attempting to clone itself.

You sigh and shut the door. Except that it won't shut, so you find yourself digging around for something that will hold it shut. You spy three bungee cords. You attempt to wrap them around the freezer, except they won't go. You attach one to the filing cabinet to the right and the other to a random pipe behind. And you hope to heaven nobody else attempts to open it without you down there micromanaging the whole process.

You run upstairs and begin to beg on Twitter for any random appliance PR rep to show mercy on you and offer to bring you a new one, right now – a new freezer for which neither bungee cords nor crampons are necessary. You put your next major grass-fed cow purchase on hold and plan to eat exclusively from the lower shelves of the freezer for the next three weeks.

And you wait to see what kind of miracle happens this time.

Chicago-or-Bust

Once upon a time, I came up with this super great plan to take each girl on an overnight trip someplace really cool when they turn 10 years old. Being that we’re only five hours away from someplace really cool, Chicago has been the destination of choice for the first two girls. One trip has happened already; the second is about to.

If you’ve been dropping by for any length of time, you know that we have had a less than stellar experience with Amtrak. Or two. But something happens with Amtrak and you tend to forget about all the bad, particularly when the price of their tickets is less than the Megabus, and you go ahead and do it again.

And you get hosed again: I got a phone call the other day explaining that, due to rail problems between St. Louis and Springfield, they took the liberty of booking us a bus to Springfield, where we will then catch our train to Chicago. A bus. Because apparently I really wanted to ride a bus to Chicago, which is why I booked our trip on AMTRAK. And our bus departure is a full hour earlier than our original train one was supposed to be: 5:40 on Friday morning. Can’t. Wait.

In all honesty, I didn’t really expect Amtrak to get us there on time anyway. This is the primary reason I didn’t schedule anything with tickets for Friday. I’m no dummy. Oh wait. I am giving Amtrak a third try…

But we do have some super fun things planned, and much of it is Groupon-funded. By this I mean that out of my Groupon account, I was able to get us certificates for four different places to eat and one super-fun activity. A friend of mine has another one she meant to use when she last went to Chicago and wasn’t able, so she’s giving it to us, which means we really have two super-fun activities to do this weekend due to the awesomeness that is Groupon.

So, the official agenda is as follows:

Friday:

Saturday:

Sunday:

  • Jamba Juice for breakfast (Groupon)
  • Sheffield’s for lunch (Groupon)
  • Cubs v. Mets game in the afternoon (my second-born is a big baseball fan)
  • Amtrak back to Springfield, where Craig will pick us up and spare us the bus ride back to St. Louis; instead, we will go back to the farm for the night.

So that should just about take care of our time in Chicago. There are plenty of other things I wish we had time and/or money to do, but this should suffice. Chicago will be much more fun in September than in January.

Now if we can just get Amtrak to take us there. On Friday.