Friday, February 22, 2013

Random Adventures

Except for the pictures with the Duchess in them, these were taken by the Duchess. (The others were taken by our January visitor.) I only found out about the tabletop statues game when I was taking pictures off the camera.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Toy Stories

Dear Sunday School Teacher, VBS Worker, Person Behind the Counter, Random Person Who Likes Playing Santa Claus,

I appreciate that you are delighted by the presence of little children and like to make them happy. I am very grateful for your vote of confidence in my decision to spread my genes around. I understand that gifts are delightful to children and that you love to see them squeal and open them. I also realize that gifts are a safe bet and that there are many, many inexpensive options out there.

That said, I would appreciate it if you would take into consideration the effect your gifts will have once they have come over to my house (times four) and been subjected to the churning process that is family life for a couple of days. Or, if imagination fails you, consult this handy guide. Remember, kids will be happy opening anything, including toilet paper,* so you might as well pick out things that will not tempt me to hate you.


The Mom.

*I am referring to small children, of course. Teens and pre-teens only want cash and food, so don't waste your time. Medium-sized children are unpredictable.

Candy *
Thank you for another opportunity to rot their teeth and wreak havoc with their immune system. And I don't even have the kids with allergies, who must hear yet again why they can't have that. When you are going to pay for dental visits and sit up all night with a cough, then you should consider offering candy to children.

Stickers ****
Not bad, really. Yes, they get stuck to everything, but then, if you have kids, you have things stuck all over your walls (and their clothes) anyway, and stickers are far from the worst. Goo Gone works wonders. They don't have sugar and can be thrown away without a qualm in a few days.

Small Plastic Toys *
Oh yay, more things to step on in the night. And lose parts. And cause the children to cry when they break and get thrown away. And they WILL break, probably in the car on the way home, causing an emotional storm that will distract the driver and cause us to wreck. Do you want that on your conscience?

Legos ****
Although they are small and plastic and painful to step on, they at least do not break on the way home, and it doesn't matter so much when the parts get lost, I already have a large bin devoted to them, and I'm already stepping on Legos  all the time, anyway, so it really doesn't matter to have a few more.

Pencils, Erasers, Etc. ***
I have mixed feelings here. On the one hand, they don't involve sugar or injured feet. There is usually a logical place to put them. On the other hand, the pencils and erasers in colorful designs that you always choose are terrible quality and will neither write nor erase, and when I want to write something they are ALL I can find. I hate that.

Notepads *****
The kids can always use more paper to draw on. They are like little machines for converting stacks of paper into messier stacks of paper. I appreciate your contribution to their obsession.

Bubbles *****
Fun, disposable, active, and the worst that can happen is something gets soaked with soapy water. I'm a fan now. I wasn't when I had children under three, because then something getting soaked with soapy water was the ONLY thing that would happen.

Balloons **
Yes, balloons are fun and filled with joy and hope. Until they burst. And then all that built up happiness reverberates into despair. Have you ever spent the evening with a toddler who has just discovered the transience of human existence? (On the other hand, bigger kids are just after the biggest explosion possible. Which makes this a particularly bad choice for a house with multiple sizes of children.)

Is there a way to do a negative number of stars? Really? I think I will make a recording and blast it into your house at two in the morning. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jesus is Not the Answer

So how does the modern penchant for approaching everything as a puzzle to be solved affect religion? It's almost swallowed it up. That's what BIBLE stands for, right? "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." How to have a better life, God's way. God's answers to man's problems.The instruction manual from the Maker.

Which is pretty sad. Think of the scintillating metaphors the Bible uses for itself . . . honey, a sword, fire, bedrock, precious jewels . . . and our favorite metaphor is the most tedious and forgettable lump of words literacy has produced?

There are so many practical examples of this that I won't even bother to list any. You've seen the books, heard the sermons, read the blog posts. Full of how to improve your marriage/financial life/parenting/relationships/happiness by doing things God's way.

Yet anyone who reads the Bible with half an eye for the actual story will find out that a lot of people followed God and had pretty terrible lives; and some other people did a whole lot of awful things and still got rewarded. If you teach the Better Life Jesus long enough and hard enough, people start to notice that life doesn't really work that way and start walking away from the whole facade.

The Bible wasn't written to be a self-help manual and if (God have mercy) that's really what you want out of life, you can get a thousand other more specific self-help manuals for much less trouble. People don't need yet another self-help manual that is a couple of thousand years out of date.

This is practical atheism. The eternal, the transcendent, the permanent--that's an afterthought. What matters is living right and getting rewarded for it right here, right now. It doesn't matter how correct your doctrinal statement is if that message is the one that gets repeated and lived.

Sometimes people don't miss the whole point; sometimes it's framed in terms of man's problem being sin and God's solution being Christ--but this, well, it's still missing the point. It makes the whole thing about us and slants it as if it were all over but the shouting.

The history of the universe, the meaning of life, is not a "problem" with a "solution." It's a story--a tale of love, betrayal, exile, restoration. It's a story we get to participate in, but it is not primarily about us. It is a true story. A real one. It is not tidy or predictable. And it is not over yet.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Links and Things

I have a couple of long and boring posts kicking around in my head, but they aren't quite ready to come out yet, so I'll gather up some links and things. I don't usually do link posts, but I can't figure out what else to do with a couple of tabs that have taken up permanent residence on Firefox.

Germ report: DOB is just about all better. The kids are mostly better. Now I am sick. And I am really tired of sickness treatments. But I'm taking oregano oil AND turmeric milk AND ginger tea this morning, because I am even more tired of being sick. We had a fun visit from a very brave friend last week, too, and even went to the zoo and coughed at the monkeys. We have continued with school by using Librivox, which is why the internet is awesome.

Project-Based Homeschooling is doing a series on finding meaningful work as an adult and I especially liked this post on learning to use the time you have. I probably should not be reading about following your interests, though, as my main problem always seems to be having so many interests that I work myself to the point of exhaustion.

Yesterday I was lying on the couch being sick when I heard a banging outside the house. I ignored it. Then there was more banging. I got up to investigate and saw a police officer in the front door and several law enforcement vehicles parked in the driveway across the street. I went out.

"Is Gary there?" he asked.

"I don't know a Gary," I said. (On further reflection, I realized this was obviously not true. I have a cousin named Gary. However, I haven't seen him since last Fourth of July.)

"Who is in the house?" he asked.

"Just my four kids," I said. This, also, was not true, because they had all come out to stand on the porch.

"What is the house number here?" he asked. I told him, and this one I got right.

"Where is ####?" he asked. I said I didn't know. He seemed satisfied and the other police officer who was out watching the back of the house came and they went in search of the other house number, I presume.

Later that day I went for a walk and found the house in question, so that next time I will know.

If I were to sum up why we homeschool, this would come pretty close. I am not a doctrinaire homeschooler; if I thought my children could go to school and spend their time reading real books and talking about them, I would probably send them. But I see very little evidence that this might happen.