Monday, March 31, 2008

Google

I googled myself this morning. There were no bad surprises, thank goodness, but only a reminder that what goes on the internet stays on the internet. It was a good reminder since when I feel the most out of sorts, that is when I'd like to get on line and rant about it. This morning was like that. But I googled me first. Now I can watch what I say.

This blog did not come up with the google search, probably because I don't think I ever have given my full name here. Still, even private journals that are handwritten and hidden under the mattress have ways of being found and read. If I will be ashamed of what I write, this blog is not the place to write it.

That said, too much caution can take the heart out of writing. I'd like to get my heart into my writing. The problem is, sometimes my heart isn't so nice. It's OK if people know that, but it's not so OK to hurt someone in the process.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Good-bye


I took Eli to the vet today for the last time. It was harder than I thought it would be. Yet, I think somehow I had an idea it would be hard because every morning I would hope a little bit that he had died in his sleep. Yesterday I believed he had because I didn't see him all day. I asked Chuck in the evening, but Chuck had seen him.

Eli would be 15 on May 14, according to vet records. In his prime he was probably about 85 lb. We got him about 10 or more years ago, when Chuck's brother's family had to move to town. Eli just wasn't a town dog.

When we got him his hip already was dislocated and he limped. I worried about him being out in the cold in the winter so I tried to move him inside. Eli hated it. He picked up a nervous habit and nothing I did could make him stop. He lost that habit immediately when we let him live outdoors again.

He was big and dumb and friendly. I never did have any success in teaching him obedience commands. He wasn't obstinate. He just didn't get it. He would wag his tail and act willing, but never quite understand what I wanted from him.

He was a 'leaner'. He liked to be around people. He would stand next to me and then rest his bulk against me. If I wasn't expecting it I could lose my balance for an instant.

He enjoyed roaming, even with his painful hip. Even this morning he was out roaming in the field down the road. Last fall, when I would walk the other dogs, he would want to come along. He was too weak to go as far as we went. He would get about to the half mile mark and then he would lie down in the ditch and wait for us to come back. Then, when we reached him, he would take his time, limping along behind us.

The last two winters were tough on him. We've always built him a warm house of straw bales that was sheltered from the winds. Several of the cats would rest with him. But even with that, some mornings it seemed that he could hardly get himself up and walking.

This winter it was worse. Eli quit using the house. He got some kind of skin problem that created open sores and made his fur fall out. We fed him larger and larger portions of dog food, but the shape of his bones was clearly visible. His eyes were oozing.

I don't quite know why we waited so long to put him down. Yes I do.

I'm the hard hearted one in the family. Everyone is more tender than I am. But as soon as Eli was lying down on the towels in the back of the van, I was in tears. I cried on the way there. I cried when I talked to the vet's assistant. I cried on the way home.

I'm OK now, pretty much.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Newsworthy

Today marks five years since we began the war in Iraq. Many are protesting today. Many more are praying. Susan Mark Landis works in Washington through the Mennonite Church USA Peace and Justice Support Network. This is an article she wrote recently about how our voices count in Washington. She also includes important issues surrounding the war. There is always more to think about and more to do than any one person can grasp or have time for. That is why it is important (if you have time to read this article) to read all the way to the end. Susan has wisdom about the guilt that we face when there are too many issues that need our attention.

Today I read the Barak Obama speech in response to the criticism about his former pastor. I've never heard anything like it in any political race in my life. It is so inspirational and does an excellent job of lifting the discussion back up to the level it needs to be in order to make a difference. It's long, but it's worth the read.

Whether Obama wins this election or not, he has done a lot to make it a more positive election about real issues. Hopefully that will help us all choose a president wisely, based on ideals rather than mudslinging.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Break

We've made it through the first full school day of spring break. The weekend doesn't count because of course, the weekend was a weekend, so those days would have been as they were.

You would think that after 28 1/2 years of parenting I would have it down, but each day is different. I know a lot, but not everything. Each situation still requires listening, guessing, and often being wrong and having to make adjustments.

I've listened today. Sometimes I listened well, and sometimes I just wanted to be right.

I made some pretty good guesses and some lousy ones. I had to retrace steps and take new directions a couple of times.

I think it was a good day. We are ending OK with each other. I managed to get a few areas of the house organized and arranged the way I want them. Time to go to bed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Five Generations


This is my grandmother, my mother, myself, my two daughters, and my grandson. It was a great visit. Grandma was awake and knew what was happening and enjoyed holding the baby for a long time. Luke was content and slept on Grandma's lap. A good day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Juxtaposition

I'm living in the world of family and newborn miracles.

How many babies have been born in the world in the last week? We stopped by the hospital a couple of days ago to check Luke's bilirubin count and during the brief time we were there I saw two couples take their newborns out the front door. Luke's brief moment in the hospital spotlight is long over and he's been replaced with more babies who also have already been replaced.

Babies are so commonplace.

Holding Luke is not commonplace. It is joining with the rest of humanity in the wonder of how life springs up from beyond our understanding. It is amazement at the innocence of this person who has not yet ever done or said anything wrong. It is watching a face that is similar to others but uniquely his own as it stretches and grimaces and relaxes.

People always speak in superlatives in the presence of a newborn. I think there must be something new I can say, but there isn't.

So why juxtaposition? I read and listened to the news today.

One of those newborns grew up to be the governor of New York and hired a call girl, paying her more than $4000 for one evening. When caught, he did not face the cameras alone. His wife beside him, he spoke of needing to take some time out of the public spotlight to rebuild trust in his family. Badly spoken. He is still in denial. When reality comes, if it comes, he will realize that he further injured his wife by asking or allowing her to stand before the cameras with him. He will realize that at this moment he must face the fact that trust is completely gone. Speaking so soon of rebuilding trust minimizes in the extreme the ways he has torn down trust with his own hands. I have no idea whether he has been a good governor. I do know that if he wants to be respected ever again as a man, he should be standing alone to take the heat and not putting his wife in front of the cameras.

More juxtaposition-

The new Sojourners has a book review of "Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite" by D. Michael Lindsay. The review is by Tony P Hall. The book is about how evangelicals have organized to become powerful so that they could impact the world from inside the power circles rather than from outside. These are Hall's words:

"I wish Lindsay's book could have portrayed the rise to prominence of a group of believers who had abandoned their wealth for the cause of Christ, rather than invested it to garner greater access; a group who had gained power by empowering the poor, rather than expanding their network of influence; a group who had changed the culture because they had brought in to the mainstream those left out of it, rather than propelled themselves into the cultural elite in order to justify their cause...In pursuit of the reign of God, evangelicals have acquired everything they need: media networks, publishing companies, adviser-directed philanthropic funds, political action committees---pretty much everything Jesus never had. Lindsay concludes, however that there are no real direct policy changes that have resulted from their efforts so far...How good is the salt if it loses its saltiness?"

and more---

Also in Sojourners is an article about our reliance on nuclear armaments. Did you know we currently spend $110 million a day on nuclear forces? Did you know that with the money we spend on nuclear arms we could pretty much alleviate hunger and illiteracy and poverty around the world?

more still---

A new book is out, "A Crime so Monstrous: Face-to-Face With Modern-day Slavery" by Benjamin Skinner. An article from NPR is here. Although slavery is illegal everywhere, there are more slaves now than ever before in history. According to Skinner, you can buy a 9 year old girl in Haiti for $50.

How do we put all this together? Evangelicals are powerful, yet the money that could significantly relieve the struggles of the world is spent on nuclear weapons, and little girls are sold on the street for $50. And how am I different? What am I doing about stopping nuclear weapons or saving little girls?

And a final juxtaposition---

Someone who makes a difference in a positive way.
My husband read the book, "God's Smuggler" about Brother Andrew back when we were first married. Brother Andrew started his ministry by taking Bibles into communist countries before the cold war ended. Brother Andrew is still living out his faith. He will be 80 this year and now focuses his efforts on the Middle East and the Islamic world. According to Sojourners, he is openly Christian and promotes the Christian faith. Yet, he receives warmth and respect in the Muslim community. According to those who are familiar with his ministry, this is because his words are put into action. His life is congruent with the faith he claims. He has befriended the founder of Hamas as well as former PLO leader Yasser Arafat. He has preached the gospel to Hamas leaders in Gaza, members of the Taliban in Pakistan, and in Islamic religious schools.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Together

For the first time in 2 3/4 years our family was all in the same place, and now there are thirteen of us. I didn't take nearly enough pictures, and I'll only put in a couple that have the baby in them. We could have taken a group picture, but it is so hard to get one where everyone looks OK. Even if you do take a group shot, it looks stiff and posed.


Luke spent a lot of time eating and resting with his mom. He spent an equal amount of time being held by uncles, aunts, and grandparents. By the end of the day his poor dad was lonely for him. These pics are an uncle and an aunt holding him.


It is pretty difficult to get a perfect shot with a newborn. Their faces move so much and my camera seems to be more likely to get a grimace than it is to get his peaceful look.

Today he is a week old.

It was a fast week.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

More Old Fashioned Play

There is another story on NPR about the importance of creative imaginative playtime.

This story answers a question I had after reading the other story I mentioned in the post, Old Fashioned Play. Years ago children were allowed to roam around the neighborhood in groups and regulate themselves and their play. Now play is structured nearly all of the time. Part of this is because we are seduced by the allure of giving our children so many opportunities to learn sports, music, dance, art, etc. Another reason for limiting unsupervised playtime is safety. Can we let our children roam in unsupervised groups anymore?

This article goes a step farther than the last one. I'm not sure I'm completely comfortable with the high degree of structure described in the "Tools of the Mind" program, but the results are significant.

At the end of the article is a question and answer section that I found interesting. The structure that is provided by the adult consists of:
  • and extended period for imaginative play
  • an expectation that the children will spend a small amount of time choosing a scenario and roles that they will stick with for that time period
  • simple toys that can be used as improvised props
Then the children play. They stay in their own character and interact with the other characters, figuring out how their own role will interact with the twists and turns of the story line as it plays itself out. They don't have to stick to acting out a story as it was written. If they are acting out a fairy tale, for instance, they can play out what would have happened if a new character was added, or a different decision was made.

It is best not to offer elaborate costumes or props because simpler ones force the children to remember what item stands for which necessary prop. If a child chooses to play a fireman, this child and the other children involved all need to remember what is representing the hose. This builds their cognitive functions.

All of the children have to control their impulses in order to stay in character and to allow the story to continue. This builds the ability to control their impulses in other settings. The adult provides the expectation that the children are to stay involved in their story. They are expected not to quit or change characters at a whim, so that the story can continue to work for the whole group.

That's a lot more structure than I gave my kids when they played pretend, but they seemed pretty able to do it for hours without any expectations. I guess with so many of them and with cousins close at hand, we still enjoyed the relative safety of former times. Family reunions were frequent, and generally included children playing out of sight of the adults. We would check on the kids if things got too loud or if one of them got upset. Otherwise they were on their own.

* * * * * * * * *

Baby Luke is a bit yellow and has at least 24 hours with a bili-light blanket. I get to be there again most of the day tomorrow.

And tomorrow night? Our Vermont kids arrive!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

More Grandma stuff

OK, I have to do at least a little more Grandma blogging because I have enough friends and family who won't see this baby for a little while.

This is Laura at her baby shower the day before Luke was born. I'm so sorry I don't have a picture from this week of Greg. He has some really wonderful ones on his facebook page, so if you are his friend, go look at them there.

The rest of these were taken this afternoon. I got too close with the camera and it was giving me the red light 'can't focus properly' message, but I didn't listen. Even blurry, he's pretty amazing.


The muscle man pose is because this is the first time he has ever worn thick clothing and he doesn't know how to pull his arms in close to his body when he's wearing a sweater.


When our babies were born, I was told that having one eye more closed than the other was a trait of my husband's family and usually happened when the baby was tired. He was tired, so maybe that is why one eye is smaller.


Such a peaceful look.


He's only two days old, or he will be at 11:41 tonight. Already he has changed. His baby cry that sounded like most other babies, now sounds like only him. He has a high pitched squeak that comes into his cry. I've never heard anything quite like it. And, of course, because it is his unique cry that no one else has, it isn't a bit annoying.

God delights in each of us as much as I delight in Luke. More than that, actually. The magnitude of that is beyond my comprehension. How can God love Luke more than his parents do? They are overwhelmed with the intensity of their love for him. But God does. And not only Luke. God loves the people who aren't sweet and tiny and innocent, like me. It is truth that invites response.

I'm a Grandma!


My grandson was born Monday night at 11:41 p.m.

His parents called us about an hour after that and we went to the hospital to meet him. He is perfect, of course. He has so much hair that every time his tiny hat slips off I am surprised again at how much hair he has.

I gave him his first bath.

I’d forgotten how newborn skin feels. There is nothing that compares to that.

My daughter has great stories about how her labor started, but I’ll let her tell them. She did very well, even though things were difficult at the end. My son-in-law is glowing. He says his baby should win the ‘cute baby’ contest. I agree.

I got about 3 ½ hours of sleep that night, before getting up to pack lunches for my boys.

Then I went over to meet my mom at the hospital where she met her first great-grandchild. After an hour with parents and baby, we went to the house to get it ready for this little soul.

It was a good day. We got a lot done. Somehow, it felt so right to be working alongside my mother to prepare the house for my daughter’s baby. Mom had even more of a generational perspective. She came to meet little Luke after going to the retirement home to feed her mother breakfast. She returned there to help Grandma with lunch and supper. For the moment, there are five generations of us.

It is a good circle of life. Mom came and helped me when Laura was born and we are sharing that work now that Laura has delivered little Luke.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A few words...

"You’re not a mom unless there’s a kid; you’re not a writer unless there are words on the page."

This is a quote from the blog, Writing on the Water

I'm going to have to organize my life differently to be a writer, because most days there are not words on any pages, virtual or otherwise. Last night I skipped one of my favorite movies to write. I'm messing around with a story. Messing around is an accurate description. It will probably never be a real story but the more I write the more I learn to write. That is what I tell myself every time I read over it and realize I have way too many characters, or when Chuck reads it and says, "Is there anyone in this story that you don't know personally?" AAaaaahhh!!!

So I write, not for publication, but for sublimation.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Happy Birthday, Becca!

This is Becca during her first year, hanging out with Chuck on the bed after she woke up.




Here she's three with her crater sized dimples.



Here she is with her terrific husband, Joseph.




She'll be here in less than a week! Yay!