Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lists of Five for 2013

These are, of course, things in MY life for 2013. So don't expect, say, movies or songs that were actually released in 2013, because I don't move at that pace.

Five good things:
1. Kids being bigger. Bigger kids are always good.
2. Getting to actually go to court. I think I like being a lawyer.
3. Still being alive and all together.
4. Staying on track and organized with school. I'm not sure who I'm channeling with teaching school, but it's certainly not me.
5. Role playing games. They're fun, we can do them together, and they don't involve major exertion.

Five bad things:.
1. & 2. Grandparents dying
3. DOB's health problems
4. House not magically becoming wheelchair accessible when we needed it to be.
5. Feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and sad because of items #1-#4.

Five books or authors that stood out:
1. Anthony Trollope!!!
2. Wild Coast, by John Gimlette. A vivid travel memoir/history about an area I knew next to nothing about.
3. The Island of the Day Before, by Umberto Eco, where I finally found a reference I had been looking for for a decade. Also, the title of the book makes me happy.
4. The Lost World of Genesis One, by John Walton
5. The Count of Monte Cristo, which I had put off reading for far too long.

Five movies or TV shows I will probably watch again someday:
1. Barchester Chronicles
2. The Dresden Files
3. Inception
4. John Adams miniseries
5. Gunless

Five songs that stuck in my head:
1. "Go No More A-Roving," Leonard Cohen (and Lord Byron)
2. "Caravanserai," Loreena McKennit
3. "Hounds of Winter," Sting
4. The Three Ravens, old folk song
5. "Every December Sky," Mae Robertson

Five thoughtful posts:
Dorothy Sayers on Why Life is Not Like a Detective Story

"Old-Fashioned" Courtship?
A Different Thought on Giving
Beauty and Brains
On Ends, Means, and Obedience

Five funny posts:
Waiting for the Apocalypse (the humor in this is much darker, in retrospect)
Toy Stories
The Grammar Commando Takes the Stage
Twin Time
In Which I Stay Out of Trouble (except nobody laughed at that one. I think I shocked everyone.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Let the children come

So we got invited to help out at the "Celebrate Jesus" walk-through down the street last weekend. DOB was in trial preparation mode (which at that point on Saturday night mostly meant not talking to anyone), so it seemed like a good time to get out of the house.

We were overprepared. Remembering the previous weekend, when we froze our toes and fingers off just walking through another church's event at twenty degrees, I put everyone in two layers of everything under their coats and hats and mittens and then our (very roomy) Bible-time costumes over that. (Something you can learn from Christmas walk-throughs throughout the north is that people in Bible times all ate extremely well.) However, last weekend it was 45 degrees. We were in a nice little shelter and running to Jesus every two minutes. Pretty soon there were hats and mittens cast aside vanishing into the hay. It's a small miracle that we made it home with all of them.

Duchess of course wanted to say all the lines from the start, and Deux soon warmed up to it. After a while the twins joined in, along with a little boy whose father was playing Jesus a few scenes over. Pretty soon the chaos made the disciple's line, "Woman, quiet your children!" entirely justified. Deux also, for some reason, decided the best way to run to Jesus was to trip and then dive headfirst through the hay. He did it every time.

The idea was to have two families alternating every thirty minutes or so. However, the other family never showed. So our first shift was over an hour long, and by the end everyone was beginning to wear thin. Duchess and Deux had absorbed enough of "the show must go on" from theater classes to keep the action going no matter how long we waited for relief, but they relieved their feelings by storing up hay while Jesus gave his brief lecture, and then pummeling each other the instant the scene ended.

They finally scared up a replacement family and we went inside for soup and cookies and to shed our surplus layers. It was, of course, just then that Their Majesties showed up and walked through looking for us in vain. They met us and we went through the whole thing again and did a special demonstration for them. Then we were back on duty. Dot and Dash spent a lot of the last shift curled up in the hay, but there was still plenty of tumult for the disciple to object to. By the end we were hitting that point of exhaustion that works like hypothermia--the tireder the kids are, the wilder they act and the more they insist they are not tired at all and will never ever need to quit.

They asked us if we wanted to come back for a repeat performance on Sunday, but I thought one day was quite enough. Besides, on Sunday night, DOB was at the point of trial preparation that involves getting everyone to bed early.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cabin Fever

I've been building a playlist of winter-themed songs to vary the diet of Christmas music. There are quite a few wintry songs on the theme of "I've got my love to keep me warm." There are, if anything, more on the theme of, "I'm cold now that my love has left me." But there don't seem to be any on the theme--which I would most identify with--of, "My love and I made a lot of babies and I think they're going to tear the furniture apart before spring."

It really hasn't even yet been a bad winter for being stuck inside. No one has been noticeably sick so far (we'll see how long THAT lasts)--we even managed to forestall a sinus infection for DOB by the hasty application of all the remedies we learned last winter. We had a week and a half of deep cold, in which we went down to the walk-through Life of Jesus at the neighborhood church and skated on the Sea of Galilee. Now it's back to 40s and drizzly which, although uninspiring, is really not that bad for getting outside. It was a matter of great disappointment that we didn't manage some snow at the intersection of those two weather patterns.

But darkness still comes way too soon and the children who used to be cute little toddlers bouncing on the couch are now posing a serious danger to the springs. I guess I should have put a stop to it sooner.

While we were wandering through the walk-through we got invited to come take a turn being Jesus Blessing the Little Children. Duchess naturally jumped at the opportunity, and everyone else naturally followed Duchess. I figured anything that would get us outside after dark was a worthy endeavor.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sermons and shootouts

This week DOB and I watched Gunless, a very funny western parody about a gunslinger, the Montana Kid, who stumbles into a remote Canadian hamlet and tries to get in a gunfight with an enormous but peaceful blacksmith in a town where the only pistol has been broken for years.

At one point he gets asked why . . . why can't he just let it go? Why, after a brief misunderstanding, does he need to make the blacksmith the twelfth man he's killed?

He answers: "Cuz if I let it go now, then I shoulda let it go when them 3 guys in Missouri called me a cheat. Now you tell me. Did they die for nothin'? And if I let them guys in Missouri go, then I shoulda let it go when that man was whoopin' that dog. Now does that sound right to you? Beatin' on a helpless dog? If I was able to let that man go for beatin' on that mutt, then sure as hell no reason I couldn'ta just walked away when I was called out in Wyoming, or Santa Fe, and twice in Arizona. If I was so damned smart to walk away when I was called out, then I should have the wherewithal not to use my gun in self-defense, twice. And if I shoulda been able to avoid that, then there's no arguable reason why I couldn'ta just gone to the sheriff, insteada killin' the man that whipped my pa."

 The Montana Kid has inadvertently stumbled into an Advent sermon. He's begun to realize that he needs to change, that he wants a different life. But he can't have change without repentance: without admitting that his former choices were wrong. Sometimes, that's a lot of wrong to face.

The need for repentance is not an arbitrary call. John the Baptist doesn't call for repentance because we need to grovel a lot before Jesus will deign to come; he calls for repentance because it's the logical precondition for change. Because until we can face up to what has been wrong, we won't be able to accept things being made right. The change has to come from outside us . . . but we have to be made ready for the change.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The trouble with parenting advice

Suppose you were growing tomatoes, something I try to do and fail spectacularly nearly every year. This alone would suggest to you that you should not ask me how to grow tomatoes. However, you could probably find someone in your neighborhood who had a bumper crop in tomatoes and ask them how to do it. And you would probably get pretty good advice, although your results would vary because your soil would have a little different composition and the sunlight would strike your yard a little differently.

But tomatoes are an annual crop and the desired result is pretty easy to define: plenty of tasty tomatoes. Kids are . . well, not a crop at all, and different people hope for different results and it takes a whole lot longer than a year to raise them. Results vary.

And people have very fuzzy memories. When it comes to our own lives, we're always rewriting our own histories, casting things in a different light as new events come. By the time a child has been alive long enough to show some kind of evidence of how their parenting was, the parent has already forgotten what they actually did. Much of what we do we don't even know we are doing. I might think my children's love of reading is attributable to my stellar educational program, when it might in fact be attributable to their desire to be out of sight when chore time comes.

I am amazed at how quickly forgetfulness happens. A couple of weeks ago I took my three year old niece for a walk along with the twins. I had already forgotten how short three year old legs are. Five year olds look small, but they can keep up with a leisurely adult stroll. Three year olds just can't. You have to slow down to wedding march slow. And I'd forgotten. I've forgotten what it's like to be awakened all night long, to watch for a chance to dash to the bathroom, to have dinner prep interrupted thirty times (we're down to ten), to have nothing in the house happen without my direct involvement, to know that my child could be in a life-threatening or house-destroying situation within twenty seconds of turning my attention elsewhere. I remember that these things happened, but I have no idea how I actually coped with them, or what I might have done to deal with naps and pickiness while all those were occurring.

So, even though I am currently the parent of four school-aged children, anything I might say about parenting infants or toddlers should be taken with great suspicion. On the other hand, anyone who's currently in the trenches doesn't really have any idea how their actions are going to pan out over the long haul. (Wow, how many cliches can I pack into one sentence?) Then there are the parents who have multiple stages, but any older child from one of those families can tell you just how fuzzy their recollection of what they did with the older children is.

Not to discourage asking for help when you need it. But most of it boils down to: Do the best you can and wait for them to outgrow it.