Saturday, April 30, 2011

Another Saturday morning...

It's sunny! Hurray! People in Portland, I think, have a greater-than-normal appreciation for sun. I definitely took it for granted when I lived in less rainy climes.
So far the morning has been pretty good. I got the living room floor vacuumed, the kitchen floor swept, and a few things in the bathroom cleaner) There is laundry in the washer and Ruby is starting to stir from her morning nap. This morning we ate breakfast together: cut up banana and toast for her, the rest of the banana and a bagel with cream cheese for me. I also tried giving her formula from a sippy cup. She thought it was really amusing, but I don't think it resulted in much of the formula actually being imbibed.
Now I'm going through a pile of baby clothes to try to sell at a resale/consignment shop up in Portland. This store happens to market itself as "high end", and they turn up their noses as "discount" brands like Carters, etc. Well! I've never really looked at the prices on those "discount" brands and thought of them as cheap; but I have acquired so many hand me downs that some of them are from what this store considers acceptably high end stores. I don't know how much they will take, but it is worth a shot. I want to get Ruby some Robeez (really cute slipper/shoe things). They cost $24 new, but perhaps if I can get some store credit, I can get them for cheaper.
We were using a consignment store near our house, but they are SO picky there! They can see stains that I would never have even noticed. It's remarkable.
I'm thinking I've found a nice park at which to have Ruby's birthday party. Of course, a one year old's birthday party is strictly for the parents' sake, not the child's. She wouldn't know her birthday from any other day, but we certainly do, and it's time to celebrate. It's also her Uncle Toby's birthday, so if he had friends here we'd invite them too. Poor Toby. If he lived with some housemate about his age up in Portland proper, they would probably have wry and ironic parties with plenty of PBR, hip music, and tasty food and he would have lots of cool friends. Alas for him, he lives with his older sister, her husband, and their baby, none of whom are known for parties, hip music, or PBR. Sometimes we get tasty food from Gleaners (like the 12" diameter wheel of herbed brie). But in general, we are not a good house for making friends in. We are a good house for having an adorable niece, though. I guess that will have to do.
To finish, here are some recent pictures of Ruby making mischief. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that Ruby's having a wardrobe malfunction. The pants she was in were a bit too long, so she kept stepping on them whenever she'd pull herself up.



Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mr. Crafty-Pants (and an unrelated rant)


My husband comes from a long line of thrifty tinkerers. His grandpa, for example, never throws a thing away, because he might need it again...and crazily enough, he often seems to find a use for the thing (his garage is something that would leave any normal person in shock and awe.) Allen just loves to think up ways to make things from what others might consider junk. Okay, even from things that he would consider junk. He is good at "repurposing", as they say. So, here's one of his latest creations.

Allen took apart two pieces of equipment at work that were already broken: the "seat" is from a pressure washer and the "carriage" is from an edger. Using some of his fancy tools in his tool box (a Dremer drill being one of them), he fashioned this little stroller. Of course, the downside (or one of them) is that Ruby won't fit in it much longer because of the narrow width of the seat. But it's a cool project anyway. Here's a link to see the video.  (And, for a nifty link within a link, here's the video we were referring to when we say "Put a bird on it!" in the video.)

And now, in other news, I'm in a pissy mood because I'm listening to people on Fresh Air talk about public education and how charters are sucking the life out of public schools because they are mostly entrepreneurial privatizing things. Well, I'm sure that is true of SOME charter schools out there (like the ones that are kind of franchises), but there is no way that anyone could look at MRA and say it is sucking the life out of the district. If anything, it's the reverse. Under current Oregon law, districts are recommended to give 80% of the ADM (the public funding per child) to charter schools for their students, but they don't HAVE to. I'm pretty sure ours is giving about 50%. How we're supposed to do anything with even less funding than the regular schools is beyond me. We're working very hard, and we are making some progress, but will it be enough before the clock strikes midnight at the end of the 2012 school year, when our charter must be renewed or denied? I don't know. Only time will tell. The other thing the guest said on the show was that charter schools steal away the best, brightest, and most motivated students and families, leaving the struggling ones at the public schools. That is certainly not the whole story at our little charter. Yes, we do get some very gifted and talented students and families who want to be involved. But we also get a lot of students with special needs or who have failed everywhere else, and their parents are "trying something new." For some of them, we have been a good environment, but it has a very polarizing effect on the classroom. It means that within one group of 25 kids, you can have some who are performing two grades above level and those performing two grades below; kids with massive (and possibly unmedicated) ADHD, autism, emotional disturbance, etc.; those who come from homes where their parents sit with them and do homework every night, and those whose parents dropped out of high school and can't help them with 4th grade level math or else are working 2 jobs to make ends meet and just aren't there. You have high IQ kids who are lazy as all get out, and low IQ kids who are working their tails off and sometimes outperforming the high IQ ones. In short, you have quite the puppy pile of humanity, and it is really hard to know how to serve all of those different needs. Our school is not one that is full of only the best and brightest. We get the best and brightest, and the "hopeless cases." Are charter schools "the answer" to what's wrong with public education? I doubt it. I don't know if there is an answer. There are things I'd like to see abolished (judging schools by standardized test scores) and things that I'd like to see implemented (more vocational schools to reach out to students who aren't book learners and know they want to pursue something specialized). But AN answer? Can't think of one.
Enough for now. I could go into the whole OAKS (Oregon's version of the No Child Left Behind mandated standardized testing) thing but I don't have the strength.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter!


The first few pictures here are of Ruby in a traditionally fancy Easter dress. The only problem was that it sized "9 mos." and Ruby's been wearing 12 mos and 18 mos for a while now. So, I squeezed her into it long enough to snap some pictures, then changed her into something that fits better! But these are pretty precious pictures, if I do say so myself.













Here's one of my favorites: doesn't she look like a little princess?



We went to the 12 pm service at church. Imago Dei's tradition is to conduct baptisms twice a year: once in the summer outdoors in the Columbia River, and once on Easter Sunday. The church building we're in now has a huge baptismal font. They also have a tradition of making a short movie that weaves together short interviews of the people getting baptized. I love hearing their stories and testimonies. It's always real, and often very emotional. Many people hit some kind of rock bottom which led them to Christ and to their decision to follow him and get baptized. I also like Imago's tradition of letting a person who is spiritually important to the baptizee (if I may coin the term) go into the water with them to ask, "_____, do you confess that Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and Savior, and do you promise to love and follow Him for the rest of your life?" The baptizee says, "I do." Then the baptizer says, "Based on your profession of faith, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," and dunks them underwater. I like that it isn't always a pastor doing the baptizing, though sometimes it is. Just as often, though, it is a spouse, sibling, parent, or good friend doing the baptizing. I pray for the privilege of seeing our child(ren) come to faith and be baptized.
After church, we drove around for a while, thinking to go have coffee somewhere. The place we wanted to go was closed, though. In the evening, we picked up Toby and brought him and his delicious food to Allen's grandparents' house, where his mom and siblings had also gathered. I brought some Easter eggs I had filled with candy for Ruby to "find."

Of course, I didn't really hide the eggs very hard. I mostly just set them out and Ruby crawled towards them, picked them up, and rattled them around. The candy inside was all for her daddy, naturally! She's too young for candy!
video




Ruby also preferred to dump eggs out of the basket rather than gather them into it. Oh well!

We took pictures outside, too. Ruby was officially 11 mos. old on Easter, too. Time flies...Here's one of her "let me grab the camera" pictures

In this picture below, behold the wonders of blemish removal. I clicked away a little zit under my lip, and then out of curiosity, clicked on my nose piercing, and was shocked that it vanished also. I'm not planning to get rid of it in real life, though (sorry Mom).

Then came the "family pictures." You know the kind: it's nearly impossible to get everyone looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. I'll try to pick out the good ones...



Of course, there is the obligatory "taking a picture of Karla taking a picture" shot:

And the equally obligatory "Andy and Sarah being silly" shot:

Well, as you can see, it was a very memorable and photo-filled Easter. Ruby's first Easter was a special occasion for us all. He is Risen!

Monday, April 25, 2011

blearghhhh

Not enough time. I have tons of pictures to post about Easter and things to say, but neither time nor energy to do so now. I know the weeks of school are drawing to a close, but I don't feel like I have the strength to make it. I know I will; after all, I bore a child. If I made it through labor, I can probably eke it out to the end of the year. But the end of the school year doesn't hold the same sort of promise that a born child does. It promises summer, which is wonderful, but doesn't seem related to the efforts put into the year. How much of the knowledge I've worked hard to impart will just be forgotten a few weeks in? Too much to contemplate without gloom.
On the plus side: I have a job with students that I care about and coworkers I learn a lot from, a nice place to live, good food to eat, clothes to wear, my daughter is cute, my husband is truly loving and always finds new ways to treat me well, and Jesus is alive. Not too shabby.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week

In honor of it being Holy Week, I thought I'd include some great pieces from J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion. There are many things I loved gaining from my St. John's education, and a familiarity with this piece is certainly in the top tier.
Holy Week, in case you don't know, is what Christians call the week leading up to Easter. The Sunday before Easter is called Palm Sunday because it was the day that Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem. Jesus entered on a donkey and the people of Jerusalem were really excited to see him. They waved palms before him and treated him as a victor coming into town. Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday (and I'll have to get back to you on why the adjective "maundy"). It was the night of the Last Supper (the last meal--a Passover seder--Jesus ate with his disciples before He was crucified). Friday is called Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion. It is called good because Jesus died for our good and He died to save us and make us good before the Father. I don't know if Saturday has a name. And then there is Easter Sunday, where Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his followers.
Holy Week (culminating in Good Friday) is a time to ponder the unthinkably huge sacrifice that Jesus made in dying for us. This selection from the St. Matthew Passion (which musically illuminates Holy Week as describe in the gospel of St. Matthew) 12. Aria - Soprano is a good one to think on. Tragic. It is very beautifully sung on the YouTube video. I encourage you to listen to it.
Here are the words (in German and then in translation)

Blute nur, du liebes Herz!
Ach! Ein Kind, das du erzogen,
Das an deiner Brust gesogen,
Droht den Pfleger zu ermorder,
Denn es ist zur Schlange worden.

Bleed on, dear heart.
Ah, a child that thou raised,
That sucked at thy breast,
Threatens to murder its guardian,
For it has become a serpent.

Briefly I shall reflect on this. This aria comes right after a recitative where Judas agrees to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. This aria is speaking of him when it says, "a child that thou raised...threatens to murder its guardian." But I think that saying can go for all of us. We were all made in God's image, and all of us have turned away. As Handel lyricized in his Christmas oratorio Messiah "All we like sheep have gone astray." We have all bitten the hand that fed us. This is a very potent image for me, having nursed a child. It is impossible to imagine how heartbreaking it would be for Ruby, whom I am raising and whom I nursed, to plot my betrayal and murder as she grows up. But that is what Judas did, and that's what we all do. God gives us life; we don't create it for ourselves. We can hasten its end, and we can conceive, but we can't will anything into existence and make it so. God has given us suck, as it were, and we turn our backs and hate Him the first chance we get. We reject Him, we say nasty things about Him, we mock Him, we question His authority. We are rebellious kids, and not just rebellious in a "what a snotty little brat," kind of way. We're rebellious in a "I'm going to kill you," kind of way. The serpent imagery is also interesting, given the serpent's treachery in the Garden of Eden. A child becoming a snake, ready to strike at its parent? Horrible image, but if I examine my heart, I have to admit that I act in would-be-murderous ways (especially given Jesus's warning that to hate someone is to commit murder in your heart.) I have had times of resenting God, hating things that He has commanded. Who am I to do that? A child He has raised thinking dark thoughts against the most forbearing of parents? Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy.
The song itself has a very melancholy and haunting beauty to it. It is very well sung by the soprano in the video.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How to surprise and delight your wife BEFORE she comes home from a long day at work


1. Don't wait for her to get home--simply go to her work to meet her there!
2. Wear a very attractive outfit that shows off what a good looking mister man you happen to be.
3. Come sporting a baby (preferably your own; if you can't procure one of your own, you can borrow one from a friend on the understanding that he/she will be given back in very good condition)
4. Patiently wait for her to be ready but pique her attention by saying, "Have you eaten lately? Do you have any plans for the night?"
5. Whisk her away to the location of dinner (you can either tell her or let her guess where). Make sure to have everything the baby needs to be happy and cute. Also tell her that there's more...
6. Take her to Bridgeport Village and eat at Agave Grill, where it is happy hour and everything is cheaper!
7. During dinner, while she admires how cute and well-behaved the baby is being, tell her, "I told you there was more...I have combed through our finances and it is going to work for you to have twenty dollars to spend as you please tonight. So just wander through any shops you want here, and spend that twenty however you'd like."
8. After dinner is over, wander shops with her and baby, and enjoy much browsing of books.
9. Settle on two delightful children's books to add to the collection, and then head back home (if you borrowed a baby, now would be a good time to return him/her to his/her rightful parents).
10. While your wife is blogging about this, go ahead and clean the kitchen for her. In the words of the Old Spice Guy, "Woo like a man, man."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On Nurse Hotlines

I love 'em. I'm a new mom, and I like that there is a free hotline to call when I'm not sure about some medical issue. Allen and Toby think otherwise. They are annoyed at all the questions the nurses ask to diagnose the possible problem. Today I called because Ruby fell out of the bed head-first. Toby was with her. Of course he comforted her and did pay attention to how she was acting, but still, I just wanted to know for myself what I should look out for, just in case it worsened. Too much of a worrier? Maybe. But if it's a free hotline, why not ask? That's what I think.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"King Corn" and food for thought

I'm most of the way through watching "King Corn", a documentary made by (among others) an Arbor grad named Curt Ellis (I taught his niece and nephew, by the way!). It's a pretty eye-opening look at how much corn dominates our daily lives. It also made me sad to see the way that cattle are raised for the slaughter nowadays on giant feed lots. All they do is eat. They don't really move much, just eat corn. Made me not really want to eat hamburgers and such. Most foods are processed with some kind of high fructose corn syrup. Almost everything, in fact.
So where does that leave me? I don't really want to be part of that, but the thing is that healthy food--food that is not very processed or is not GMO or pumped full of antibiotics, etc.--is really expensive. Whole Foods isn't nicknamed "Whole Paycheck" for nothing. New Seasons (a similar type of store around here) is just really expensive. Winco, on the other hand, is cheap...and the Winco cast-offs I get at the Gleaners store are even cheaper. The cheaper the food, the less healthy it is. I used to wonder why so many low-income people were overweight. I had grown up imagining that poor people couldn't pay for food and would thus starve. That's true in much of the world, but here, it seems that many of the poor are overweight, and dangerously so. When I asked my mom (I was probably 10 or so) she explained that a lot of the cheapest food is the least good for you. Back in the summer of 2008, the height of the recession, I was between jobs. I had no money coming in and had to find a way to eke it out until I got my first paycheck from Catlin. I shopped at the local Shop and Save. It had very cheap food, alright. I could get a box of macaroni and cheese for a quarter. Healthy? Definitely not. But it was cheap, and cheap was what I needed. The produce there was pitiful. It didn't even look appealing. It was mostly a food-in-a-box kind of place. They had a gimmick where they would buy those red plastic gasoline cans and cut them open and fill them with meal ingredients. "Feed your family for less than a gallon of gas!" they proclaimed. That was a good sales pitch! Gas prices were high and incomes were low, so why wouldn't you do that? It just makes economic sense.
Well, here we are now. It's 2011, the recession is (supposedly) starting to ease up, and my little family is comparatively in the money. Both Allen and I are working, so we're bringing in more. But are we making enough more that I could shop at New Seasons without making a serious dent? No way. Even if I just bought the organic foods from Fred Meyer, it would still be too spendy. Gleaners is the way to go for our budget, even on a double working income. I think of some of our church friends who have pretty high powered jobs. Those are the ones who can stock their pantries with New Seasons stuff. Of course, the other alternative is to eat a way more simple diet: vegetarian, mostly. For the past 5 weeks, we've been observing Lent. I have been abstaining from flour, Allen from meat. That cuts back a lot on the processed foods, but it's also been particularly hard for Allen. He's active and has a high metabolism. He craves protein, and beans just aren't satisfying to him. He likes lunch meat and chicken (we actually don't eat that much red meat). I have a feeling that after Easter he'll want to return to that. I don't eat that much meat, anyway. I could probably be vegetarian and be okay with it 90% of the time. But bread is definitely habit-forming. I've been eating rice cakes instead, which are okay but definitely not filling.
Ruby's getting to an age where she'll start eating more "table foods." We have to decide what those will be. Ideally, I'd only have really high quality stuff on the table. But until we start earning high quality money, I don't see that happening so much. An interesting conundrum...
I'll finish the movie later, but for now, it's time for bed. I'm sick and I need some rest to recuperate!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gratitudes


Things I'm grateful for today (not ranked in any particular order):
1. The good powers of technology...that I can be connected in real time and real sound so that Ruby can show off for her grandma, grandpa, and aunt who live 2,000 miles away.
2. Singer-songwriter Sara Groves, who has incredible lyrics like this:
who can know the pain the joy the regret the satisfaction
who can know the love of one life, one heart, one soul
at two you're at abstraction

3. Medicine
4. A God who is infinitely more patient than I am with resistant people (because I am a very resistant person to Him)
5. A sweet and sacrificial hubby who works for me, waits on me, woes me, wins me (and brings me little treats when I'm sick!)
6. A really great teaching partner who has helped me stay sane professionally this year and is good for teacher talk therapy (i.e. our carpooling to and from school)
7. A job. At all. And one--which, for all of my grumbling--is pretty important and an opportunity to minister.
8. An amazing daughter, who really lights up my days with her smiles, babbles, and accomplishments (and who teaches me more and more about the kind of parent that God is to us)
9. Living in a stable democratic republic. As much as the squabbling of our "powers that be" annoys and sometimes depresses me, it sure beats violent rioting in a dictator state and living in a constant state of fear.
10. A great roommate who is good with cooking and baby care (and he's my brother, too)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ruby's recent achievements


How can she do it? How can she fall asleep and stay asleep for 45 minutes with her head hanging off her mattress? Amazing.
Ruby was diagnosed with an ear infection in both ears; this morning, I elected to keep her back from daycare. She didn't have a fever, but Wednesdays are the days when all 7 other babies are there, and she never sleeps well because it's so loud there that day. I figured a quiet day at home would be better (and better for the other babies.) Ruby did some pretty cool things.
1. Clapped for the first time!
2. Waved while saying something that sounded like "hi!" (imitating me)
3. Waved while saying something that sounded like "bye bye!" (again, imitating me)

She's also learned to climb things besides stairs. She did this the other day and Allen got some pictures of it.












She also got into her dad's business cards the other day...





And she's become very flexible about eating...


And of course, her top two teeth are coming in! I couldn't figure out how, so I asked Toby, "Help me get a good picture of her top teeth." This was his solution:



Good job, Uncle Toby.
So, as Ruby gets close to 11 months old, lots of exciting changes are happening! We'll keep you posted here in our little Cookie Jar!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How do you help people who don't want your help?

When do you shake the dust off your feet on their doorstep?
Does it matter how old they are?
Is 11 too young?
Is it fair to give the full attention of two adults to a child who refuses to do anything when there are many others who want your help but can't have it because you're busy with the one that doesn't care?
I remember reading "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville in 11th grade and thinking, "Wow, this guy is a pain in the butt. Good thing this is just a fictional work."
Ha.
I have a few Bartlebys (Bartlebies?) in my class. One in particular just sits. My aide and I have pleaded, reasoned, asked, and tried to figure out what's going on for him/her. All we get is a shrug. Nothing. Just stonewalling.
Finally, after watching him/her do nothing for 75 minutes, I went to the principal and asked what to do. He said, "You know, we are not babysitters. We are educators. If s/he's going to do nothing, s/he might as well do it at home."
The student didn't end up going home, and got a token amount of work done, but only when s/he was put in isolation away from the class. S/he's a nice enough kid, but s/he just doesn't want to do anything. There must be something larger at work, something askew in this child's psyche. I know that if I were being pursued by all the adults in my life to work, I would do it--if for no other reason--just to get them off my case. Apparently, that isn't enough for this one. Maybe s/he just wants attention and will take it any way it can be gotten. But it is really frustrating for us. As I said, s/he is just one of 22 kids at any given time, and there are others who need help...even some that WANT help because they WANT to succeed. Why should I neglect them? I think we have led this horse to the water, and we are trying to force it to lap up even a sip of water, and it is refusing. Shouldn't I go to the ones that are thirsty?
I know this child needs help, but if feels like help on a deeper level than we can provide. God-type help. Time to pray, I guess.
p.s. I tried to make this post gender neutral because I don't want the child's identity to be guessed at, since I don't know who reads this blog.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What's next?

Wonder what will happen next year. Will I get to do what I want to do? Will there be the money in the budget for it? Will the school make it another year? Probably...but the year after that?
This reminds me of a poem. So, in the spirit of Melissa Madenski, I will share it. It is part of Pablo Neruda's Book of Questions.

XIII

Is it true that a black condor
flies at night over my country?

XV

How did the abandoned bicycle
win its freedom?

XX

What do they call a flower
that flies from bird to bird?
. . .

And why did cheese decide
to perform heroic deeds in France?

XXI

Where is the center of the sea?
Why do waves never go there?

XXVII

Do you have room for some thorns?
they asked the rosebush.

XXVIII

Where can you find a bell
that will ring in your dreams?

XXXI

Why do I go rolling without wheels,
flying without wings or feathers,

and why did I decide to migrate
if my bones live in Chile?

XXXIII

Are they birds or fish
in these nets of moonlight?

XXXV

Will our life not be a tunnel
between two vague clarities?
. . .

Or will life not be a fish
prepared to be a bird?

XXXIX

Do you not weep surrounded by laughter
with bottles of oblivion?

XL

What do they call the sadness
of a solitary sheep?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Great Weekend: Part 2


Today (Sunday) held a very special treat for us. Rebecca, my best friend from Burroughs (a friendship beginning in 1996, yo!), came to visit, and brought with her the wonderful Claude (her fiancé). They have been together for quite a while now, but I had never met him in person. It was so great to see them, and it made me wish that we lived in the same town, or even just an hour or two away, so we could have get togethers and hang out. During our freshman year of college we visited each other several times, but after that we weren't in touch as much. I saw her briefly at my wedding, but it was hardly a time to catch up. Today we had only a few brief hours, but it was so nice to chat. It was great to meet Claude. Of course, having spent years staying up late, late into the night with Rebecca talking about boys, I had very high expectations for her future spouse! Claude, however, certainly exceeded them all. I eagerly await their wedding next summer and hope that I can be there.

Great Weekend: Part 1


Allen called me from work on Saturday and said what a busy day it had been so far. "Is there anything I can do to make sure home is a nice place to return to?" I asked.
"Yes. Be ready to party."
"What??"
He explained. "I'm going to come home tired, but if you're tired, then we're just going to be super tired and go to bed at 7:30 and that thought just depresses me. I want to do things with you. So, if you can just be ready and active, that would be great."
"Okay," I replied. After we finished talking, it got me thinking, Hmmm, what can I do that will be fun tonight when Allen gets home? The thought of a treasure hunt came to me. Okay, fun, but where to? I then remembered that Allen had been mentioned a Mexican restaurant near our house that he'd heard good things about. Bingo! I made up some clues and texted Allen, "I'd be excited to come home if I were you!" His interest was piqued!
When he got home, I ordered him to take a shower right away (the first clue was in there.) He came down with a big smile on his face after his shower and started following the clues through our apartment. Toby (who was in on the deal) kindly watched Ruby and Allen and I started on the walk. I was amazed that he was stumped by some of the clues.






Apparently, I did a good job! The best clue was at a 7-Eleven across from the restaurant. I had gone there earlier in the day to buy an energy drink for him and to ask the clerk if she would be willing to play along. She looked confused but agreed. He had to go in and ask her for his next clue (I had taped it to the energy drink, which she set aside for me). He thought that was pretty awesome.



At last, we reached our destination...

It looks like a little hole-in-the-wall place, but the service was incredibly fast, and the food was good (and from the reviews I read online, pretty authentic). It was a nice evening and the walk to and from was enjoyable. At home, we spent some time laughing at pictures from Awkward Family Photos. That website is like Lay's potato chips...bet you can't look at just one. You should try it.
Finally, after we had wrenched ourselves away from the horrible yet fascinating photos on that site, we watched a cool documentary about Pixar (entitled, appropriately enough, "The Pixar Story.") It's on Netflix instant play, and if you like Pixar or the movie biz in general, I'd recommend it.
All in all, it was a fun evening. Allen very much enjoyed his treasure hunt, and I had fun making it and then going on it with him. Yay for date nights!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tender-heartedness: Blessing or Curse?

Haven't said much on here for the past few days, mostly because I haven't had much to say. But Ruby is napping right now and Toby's in the bathroom so I can't clean it at the moment (and I'm just flat out ignoring the kitchen right now), so I will take a bit of time to blog it up.
I know that it is a medical fact that a woman's body is flooded with hormones from the beginning of the pregnancy to post-partum; hence "baby blues" and the oxytocin bonding at birth, etc. God was very gracious with me, given that I tend towards the depressive side of things, to spare me full-blown post-partum depression. Don't get me wrong: the first few days after Ruby was born were insanely emotional, and the following weeks were not easy, either. But I don't think I succumbed to the depths of depression that many new mothers fall into. Here's the thing, though: I thought that all of those havoc-wreaking hormones were supposed to go away! Ruby's officially been outside of me longer than she was inside of me now, which I'd call very post-partum. Yet I still get very emotional very easily. I cried watching Toy Story 3. It was suspenseful! The toys were about to meet a tragic end and had been betrayed (I'm trying not to spoil it in case anyone out there has not yet seen it). A baby doll feels abandoned. Tears are coming to my eyes just thinking about it. I started crying in the shower the other day just recalling that movie.
It's a movie.
A kid's movie.
WHAT???
Now, I have always been more sensitive than the average person. But I didn't used to be THIS sensitive. I'm pretty sure it is a result of having a child. I see things from a mother's perspective now. When I see a dead possum in the road, the thought comes into my mind, "That possum was some other possum's baby. And what if it's a mama possum with a passel of little possums who will now miss their mama and possibly die because there is no one to take care of them?" (Tearing up again, by the way) I didn't used to think like that. Sometimes it feels unbearable to be this tender-hearted. Allen and other have reminded me that although it feels like a liability, it's also a gift: I certainly would not be as good of a teacher if I didn't care so much about my students. I wouldn't be as good of a mother, not as good of a wife, not as good of a friend. But it just feels frustrating that I can get so upset so easily. You know how some people can't go out in the sun for five minutes without burning (oops, that happens to me, too)? Or after you get your pupils dilated at the eye doctor and regular amounts of light hurt your eyes? That's how it feels to me sometimes.
Of all the things that "set me off", I am extremely sensitive to babies and children being hurt, mistreated, or abandoned. I think that if we could, I would want to adopt a slew of kids. There are many reasons why that would not be possible or prudent at this point in our lives, but I hate the thought of children without loving parents. I utterly despise the institution of killing babies in utero, especially since I've had ultrasounds, heard heartbeats, felt kicking, etc. Yes, I know, it's complicated when the baby was conceived in a woman who isn't able to mother well, but that is a little person in there. Yes, the mother has a choice; it's just a heinous choice. There are other things, too: natural or man-made disasters or war, or animals being hurt, or people getting sick. Yeah, I pretty much get upset at a lot of things.
I was reading the book of Jeremiah this morning, and was somewhat relieved to see that he also seemed depressed a lot of the time. He lived in the weird tension of believing in God's goodness and sovereignty and then seeing all kinds of terrible things befalling all of the people around him and also in the larger world. Consider chapter 20, verses 13-15, 18:
"Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, 'A child is born to you--a son!'...Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?"
He also gets pretty emotional, and his emotions are not without reason. Similarly, the things I get sad about are truly sad things. I'm not getting perversely sad, nor am I hard-heartedly thinking that sad things are not sad. But it is still hard to lament.
You may hear some Christianese phrases (mostly uttered by church ladies) like, "The Lord just laid such a burden on my heart for ____________; I felt so convicted to be praying for them." I kind of got what they were saying, but it seemed a little cheesy. But I don't think it is cheesy now. Jeremiah didn't either: "...His word in my heart is like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." (Jeremiah 20:9b) The Holy Spirit does convict us with things that we need to offer up prayers about. I think that's where my problem is lying. It's not a curse to be tender-hearted, but to try to shut it inside of me and hold it in leads to a cursed existence of being miserable all the time. When I feel overwhelmed by sorrowful things, that's the time when I need to turn it over to God and let Him bear that burden. I will close with quoting a great hymn written by Joseph M. Scriven, "What a friend we have in Jesus"

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.
(You can hear it for yourself here.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Allen on the radio!

The other day, Allen told me that he had been interviewed by OPB (the local NPR affiliate) while he was depositing bottles at the new bottle return center near our house. Today, as I was carpooling home, I heard the story, and Allen was mentioned and even had some airtime!! The link is here. It also mentions and quotes Ben Cannon, one of the state reps who is also a teacher at Arbor. So, it's pretty much a win-win. Yay!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Amazing Husband



Full warning: this blog just may become a place of gushing about the excellent husband God's blessed me with. If you don't like all that mushy stuff, feel free to move on.

Okay?

Here are a few great things about this husband of mine:
1. He's really considerate. Right now, he's washing dishes in the kitchen so I can have some down time to blog.
2. He's generous. This month in our budgeting we each gave ourselves a $15 "allowance" for purchases that we don't consider super necessary (energy drinks, some cute thing for Ruby, etc.) He spent most of his allowance on buying me something to eat for dinner tonight since he had to leave early to go to soccer class.
3. He's diligent. Allen has been collecting soda cans and bottles for a few months now and turns them in for money. He's up to around $25 now (which, at $.05 a can/bottle, is a lot of cans and bottles!!!). He's doing it so I can get a haircut from a nice place. Today, while he and Ruby were at the can redemption center, someone from OPB radio was there and interviewed him. He talked about what he's planning to do with the money he makes. Maybe he'll be on the radio tomorrow morning!
4. He's a good listener, and he actually cares about what I'm talking about. He isn't just hearing me, he's attending to me.
5. He's a hard worker. Tomorrow morning starts his work week...4 10 hour days with a half-hour commute tacked on either end. It's a long day, and he comes back to responsibilities like making dinner and helping to care for Ruby. But he does it willingly, because he wants to provide for our family.
6. He's protective. He wants to take care of me and of Ruby, and to make sure that I'm not working myself too hard, which I tend to do.
I could go on, but I think instead I'll go help him in the kitchen. But I'll end with a 7th reason:

He's hot! Look at that fine male specimen...so athletic! AND he does dishes. He's a winner!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Remember the Sabbath...


We've been working through the gospel of Matthew at church for a while now and today the text was Matthew 12:1-21: 1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. 15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:1-21, New International Version, ©2011)
Pastor Rick (who just wrote a new book that I look forward to reading through with Allen) mostly talked about the Sabbath. He made a point (which I'd heard before but rarely think about) that if all Christians took the other commandmants as loosely as we often take the 4th commandment about the Sabbath, then there'd be a lot more murders, thefts, and affairs conducted out in the open in churches, since most of us are fairly open with our lack of Sabbath-keeping.
What, then, is Sabbath keeping? One can easily get legalistic about it: Sunday is church day, so make sure not to do anything that would make you miss church. No sleepovers, soccer games, etc. But it's just as easy (easier, actually) to ignore the "make it holy" part of the fourth commandment. We remember the Sabbath by planning into our mental calendar that there is church on Sunday morning and home community on Sunday evening for potluck dinner. That's remembering it, but is it really making it holy, special, set apart? Not really. If I spend my Sundays in a frenzy between church and home community doing all the same stuff I'd do any other day, there isn't anything really special about it. Rick talked a lot about how the Sabbath was given as an anchor that always brings us back to God in our week. We tend to think that we can't rest until we get all of our work done; not a bad idea on the small scale, but let's think about it in terms of life at large. As they say, "A (fill in the blank)'s work is never done." There are just too many tasks and too many cycles of activity to wait until they are all done. Rick exhorted us not to work with the mindset of "Ughh, I've got to finish everything so I can not have to do anything on Sunday!" because that will likely lead to a very stressful Monday through Saturday and an exhausted Sunday where you're thinking about how, in a sadly short number of hours, you'll go back to it all over again. He said rather that we should see the Sabbath as a respite from our work. My analogy is that taking a Sabbath should come more as a mid-sentence digression--such as you see here, between these fine double dashes--rather than a period at the end of the sentence.
Well, THAT'S a lot easier said than done. There are so many things to do, and our good old American instinct is to say, "Go! Do! Achieve! Progress! NOW!" The Western church must share some of the blame: they don't have the expression "the Protestant work ethic" for nothing. I remember reading "Little House on the Prairie" about what the Ingalls girls did (or rather, didn't) do on Sundays. They couldn't play with their dolls or do anything besides look at the Bible, and they had to sit through a long church service, and it sounded awful. Work, work, work, and then that's the "Sabbath rest" they get? No thanks. I'd actually been mulling over what I hope Sabbath will look like for the Cook family. Here are my thoughts so far:
1. A time to enjoy each other's company, whether at home or elsewhere
2. A time not to worry about the usual cares of the week (homework, chores, errands, etc.)
3. Flexibility (go to evening church if Allen has a soccer game during the morning...or even missing church occasionally to go on a field trip to worship God elsewhere)
4. Spontaneity in what we do together, yet enough consistency that our kids will look forward to it and not see it as "ugh, it's family togetherness day, barffff"
5. Naptime/down time Our friends who host our home community have four kids, and I think they all have to take naps or at least be quietly playing in their rooms for some part of the afternoon. The kids are all under 10, so I don't know how it will go when they are teens...then again, my students love naps and sleeping, so it will probably be fine then, too! Allen and I took a short nap this afternoon and it was really nice. Naps rock. My mom often took naps on Sundays. It was not uncommon to find her fast asleep in the big king sized bed surrounded by sections of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the New York Times. Thinking back from my teen years, I'd say that Sabbaths for the Lowe household included Einstein Brothers bagels and newspaper reading after church, having homemade pizza for dinner, and doing homework.
Ah yes, homework. Friday night? Forget it, I need a night off. Saturday? Sorry, still not ready. Sunday? Well, it has to be done sometime. So maybe I could borrow some insight from Judaism: Sabbath could be from sundown to sundown. From Saturday night until Sunday night, just rest. One Christian school I considered teaching at made it a rule for teachers not to assign homework due Monday. Sounds good. But most of my students do not seem to suffer from too little rest where their work is concerned.
Well, writing in this blog has been a nice way to relax on the tail end of this Sabbath. And to make it all extra wonderful, there's no school tomorrow! Well, it's a teacher planning day, but it's just an extra day to get ready for the week, and then it's only a four day week. Four day work weeks make so much sense for teaching; the extra time to plan is invaluable. (I can just hear the pundits blaring on about how little teachers already work and the inherent selfishness of us wanting more time off...bleahhh.)
Oh, and if you get the chance, give Pastor Rick a little listen on this topic. Here's the link to today's sermon.
p.s. the picture at the top was mostly just supposed to be a tranquil picture. It was taken from the top of Mt. Tabor, looking out at Portland. I haven't figured out how to make captions on this thing, though.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Return of the Toby

He's back from England with new and improved sunglasses and is very tired...but also watching something on his TV which I can hear through the baby monitor. Go to sleep! It's what all the sane people are doing these days!

The etymology of LOL

Two questions:
1. If you're someone who writes LOL, do you actually laugh out loud when you use it, or is it more of a smile type of thing? If it is a smile, there's a perfectly good emoticon for that, you know. :) Or even :P if you're feeling feisty. But I seriously doubt that most people who write LOL in their texts and emails do laugh out loud.
2. If you, like me, enjoy saying "LOL" out loud to amuse/slightly mock the preteens and teens in your life, do you says "loll" or "ell-oh-ell"? I like saying "loll" but perhaps that is incorrect. But even if it is, I probably will keep saying it.
A third bonus question:
3. Who came up with LOL, anyway? Was it someone who honestly laughed out loud and felt the need to communicate that rather than text/email "hahha, I just laughed out loud!" or instead of "haha"? These are the questions on my mind at the moment, so you know it must be a Saturday!

Saturday=Chores and Errands

If/when I get to work part-time next year, I look forward to being able to spread out chores and errands a bit more throughout the week rather than have to do it all on Saturday. During the work week, the last thing I feel like doing/have time to do is vacuum, do laundry, clean the kitchen floor, etc. That's especially true now that Allen is working, too. On the days that he is home with Ruby, he does do chores and errands, but lately Ruby's been going through a very clingy phase: she just wants to be held all the time and cries when she's put down. They've noticed it at daycare, too. She's getting her top two teeth in right now, so maybe that has something to do with it. She's fun to snuggle, but it also makes it hard to do much of anything. If I try to type with her in my lap, she's got her hands all over everything in a surprisingly wide radius, and FAST! And although we "babyproofed" our apartment considerably, she still can find things to put in her mouth that she shouldn't.
Example: carpet fibers that the cats pull up while they are racing up and down the stairs and scratching the carpet. She is FASCINATED by them. I was reading in a baby development book that at around this age their eyesight becomes very good, and they can see little things from a distance. That is most certainly true: she can see little carpet fibers (which are only about the size of a bean) and goes straight for them. So vacuuming the stair area is important...and annoying! We have a little Dirt Devil type of vacuum meant for that, but stairs are just annoying to vacuum no matter what. Today we made a little game of it. She climbed up each stair and picked up carpet fibers, and I took them out of her hand and fed them into the vacuum. She seem vaguely amused and vaguely bothered that I was taking her precious "snacks." She's gotten them into her mouth before, and they make her gag. Not exactly digestible stuff. She's also incredibly fast. She makes a beeline for stairs; it's as if she knows exactly what she should not be doing and goes to do it. I was trying to vacuum Toby's room for his arrival home tomorrow (as if he'll even really notice it), and she was getting into everything; redirection proved difficult because wherever I put her, there was some other forbidden fruit! TV remote, xbox, carpet fibers, laundry detergent bottle, outlet, disgusting baseboard heater...but when I put her in her room, that was a screamfest. I definitely see the will in her coming out. I think we've seen a bona fide temper tantrum from her. I don't remember what caused it...probably me trying to change her diaper (the nerve!) Everyone (mostly strangers in grocery stores or parents of students) was telling me, "Oh, enjoy the days before she can crawl. Those are the last few days of your sanity. After that, she'll be getting into everything, and that's the end of that." It's true that I now have the reaction, "Wait, it is WAY too quiet in there...what is she doing?" and run into the living room. Sometimes she's doing something very innocuous, like playing with an actual toy. Other times, she's already on the third step of the stairs plucking out carpet fibers because I hadn't put the gate up yet.
But right now, she's napping. After cleaning (which turned into a longer session than I had planned), we went to the Gleaner store. The Gleaner store, for those who don't know (which is probably almost everyone reading this), is part of the Gleaner warehouse. Gleaners is an organization we joined about a year ago. It's a food assistance program. The way it works is that local grocery stores (Fred Meyer and Safeway, chiefly) gives Gleaners their overstock, "distressed" items, expired things, or its produce that is on its way to being bad...or already is bad. This gets brought to the warehouse, where it is sorted and distributed to dozens of "teams" which are arranged geographically. Team captains and team volunteers bring their share to their house and usually twice a week there is a food pick up, where everyone on the team takes their subdivided share of the team's share. It's a lot of food. The bad thing about it is that you can't choose what you get. If your subdivided share includes a case of moldy tomatoes, you have to take it. If you share includes a massive amount of some food you hate, you have to take that, too. Each member has to have an "adoptee", someone who is elderly or disabled who gets at least a tenth of your share for free. In addition to sharing with our adoptee, we also share with some people in our apartment complex and also with Allen's mom (and her many chickens, who apparently will eat produce in almost any condition.) It's a good deal, because the Gleaner dues are only $20 a month, and you can EASILY make that up in just one food pick up. They get a lot of bread from Dave's Killer Bread, which is an awesome local breadmaker, and that stuff is $3-4.50 a loaf in a store, and we'll usually get up to three loaves a food pick up. If only we had a bigger freezer (and the space in our apartment for it).
I have digressed. Back to the Gleaner store. On the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month, from 9-1, this little store area of the warehouse is open, and it's nice because you can pick and choose what you want, and it's all incredibly cheap. They usually let you take as many free loaves of Dave's Killer Bread as you want, but today they had free cases of bananas. No thanks. Allen doesn't like bananas, and Ruby and I don't like them THAT much. But I took $20 cash with me and got lots of staples: beans, rice, soups, canned goods, cereal, some treats for Allen to take to work so he doesn't feel tempted to drop money at gas stations on them, dishwasher detergent, etc. Pretty sweet.
Ruby was exhausted when we got back and fell asleep...and still asleep! Enough time to put laundry in...and I should probably eat, too. But no, dear reader, giving you the play-by-play account of my chores and errands is more important than feeding myself.