Saturday, February 27, 2010

Birthday Boys

Another year flies by and our two oldest boys are a year older. Elijah turned 8 last week and Micah turned 6 two weeks ago. I can hardly believe it. We love them both so much! We had a shared party with a few friends. Mommy made a guitar cake, gifts were opened, games were played and I think they felt celebrated.

Elijah loves learning all about new places and people. Micah loves sharpening his math and reading skills. Elijah loves to run and jump and play and create. Micah loves to compete and spend time with friends and play video games and carefully observe. Both boys surprise us every day with the new things they're learning and doing. We love watching America's Funniest Home Videos before bedtime some nights, and both boys can be found curled up with a book or comic book at any given moment.

We love you so much boys! Happy Birthdays!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lent and Maple Syrup

"Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through the fire, and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing. And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through that water." Numbers 31:22-23

One of the first signs of spring in my hometown corner of the world was a trip to my grandfather's sugar shack, usually with my cousins. It was a crude little dirt-floored structure nestled at the edge of a stand of sugar maples. At one end of the shack, a huge metal vat the size of a bathtub filled half of the shack. Underneath the vat, and of a similar size, was a wood burning stove with a curvy little stovepipe that rose from behind the vat and escaped through a hole in the slanted aluminum roof. Bright winter sunlight broke through a thousand tiny cracks in the walls, and on every available stud inside, nails held ladles, spoons, nets and filters. Two folding chairs and a small homemade table were the only other furnishings. It wasn't especially colorful or comfortable inside the shack, but I remember it with a smile. Maybe it was the smell. For 2-3 weeks every spring, a sweet, woodsy aroma of smoke, syrup, moisture and the earthy outdoors combined with the barn-like smell of my grandfather's coveralls. I can almost taste the hope of spring as I type.

The syrup making ritual involved checking sap buckets daily, collecting it in 50 gallon size containers that would then be dumped into the vat in the sugar shack- 43 gallons of sap yields just 1 gallon of sticky, sweet syrup, so this was truly a labor of love. Mixing, testing, stirring, feeding the fire that raged below the vat, skimming the syrup with a net to remove impurities that were distilled to the surface, day and night, batch after batch, waiting for the exact moment of perfection- too long and it would burn, too short and the flavor was weak.

For my part, I was involved as a tourist, but for my grandfather and uncles, it was laborious. The end product? Clear glass quart jars of syrupy, caramel-colored goodness would file into my grandmother's mudroom weeks later.

Today, during this same season of the year, I am involved in an entirely different ritual of purification.

With my prayer, "Cleanse my heart Lord. Purify me from impurities."
I imagine, "Turn up the heat in the old wood stove. Load on the firewood Lord."

With the common practice of giving up something for Lent,
I imagine the excesses of my life being distilled at a rumbling boil, escaping through the curvy stovepipe of my spirit into the vastness above.

With the difficult work of self-reflection and prayer,
I imagine the physical labor of my family members, toting heavy buckets of sap, standing or sitting around a steaming vat day and night, chopping and feeding logs to a ferocious fire for days on end.

And the end result of both processes? A beautiful sweetness that can only be produced through a process- a process of bringing what I have to the sugar shack, stoking the fires of reflection hot, releasing that which is impure (allowing another to skim off the really nasty stuff), and looking forward to the hope of a sweeter, closer relationship with my Maker.

As I allow Him, God is happy to illuminate the clouds of my watery self being released toward Him. He accepts it, releases me from the burden of carrying it, and I anticipate the closeness of knowing Him in all of His flavorful goodness as the days of Lent progress.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

God Moment with Isaiah

After lunch today, I was still eating, the older two were gone from the table and Isaiah was playing with the LEGO pieces he "borrowed" from seminary childcare this morning. Here is our conversation:
Zay: Mommy, I took this LEGO from childcare.
Me: I know. You're borrowing it though right? We'll take it back next time we go because if we don't that would be stealing.
Zay: No. I'm steeeeeealing it. (mischievous smile)
Me: Really? Do you think that's OK?
Zay: ....(playing).... God sees everything doesn't he.
Me: Yes he does. I think God is disappointed when we do things we know are wrong.
Zay: .... (playing)... Mommy, I think I have a little greed in my heart.
Me: I think we all probably have a little greed in our hearts. What can we do?
Zay: ... (looks at me, looks back at toy)...
Me: We can pray and ask God to replace our greed with contentment. We can say we're sorry for stealing and he'll forgive us. Have you prayed about the little greed in your heart?
Zay: No.
Me: Would you like to pray now?
Zay: (immediately- like 'I thought you'd never ask) Yeah!
Me: Do you want to pray or do you want Mommy to pray?
Zay: You.
Me: (he grabs my hand) Dear God, we know we have greed in our hearts sometimes. Its hard to be content with what we have. Would you help us and replace our greed with contentment? Forgive Isaiah for stealing. He is sorry. Help him to know he's forgiven. Amen.
Zay: (smiling) Mommy, I think my little greed is gone. Just like that (snaps his fingers) God can just take it right away.
Me: So are we borrowing the toy?
Zay: YES. (He hops off happily playing)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Best Medicine

"Researchers estimate that laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike."
"The psychological benefits of humor are quite amazing, according to doctors and nurses who are members of the American Association for Therapeutic Humor. People often store negative emotions, such as anger, sadness and fear, rather than expressing them. Laughter provides a way for these emotions to be harmlessly released."
And it just feels good to laugh. Oh women of Wilmore, my friends, what can I say? I love laughing with you. Thank you for your freedom, your honesty and your openness.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weather Woes

I don't know the science of it, but I do know that at a certain temperature, the snow makes a squeaky, crunchy sort of sound when you tromp through it. Each step sounds like wet skin on an inflatable pool chair. Nostril hairs freeze into tiny icicles, and even short periods of time outside color exposed patches skin bright pink. With bright sun shining, the sky is a primitive, clear blue, and the snow reflects a brighter white than can be recreated under any other circumstance. This is the winter I knew for 18 years of my life.

While the southern half of North America has other redeeming qualities, winter here is NOT one of them. Where oh where has the sunshine gone and when will she return?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

34 Excuses

I have a student who begs, BEGS to leave class over and over and over.
He does it in every class, all day long (his other teachers and I have talked). We've tried all strategies. I thought it might be fun to record a list of the ones I can remember from the recent past. Keep in mind that every request is met with begging, arguing and complete disrupting of class until he gets his way or you give him a discipline consequence for being argumentative.
1) I have a nose bleed (holding his hand over his nose, head tipped back. He didn't really have a nose bleed.)
2) I bumped my knee on the desk. I need to go get some ice.
3) I have a splinter in my finger and it really hurts. I need to see the nurse.
4) I really have to pee. Please can I go. (After having just come back from the bathroom 10 minutes earlier.)Please please please please please
5) I have a scrape on my knuckle. I need a Band-Aid. See it?? Right Here... for real Mrs. Crisp. Look. (I look, there is nothing that I can see without a microscope).
6) I need to turn in a form to the guidance office. Me: And where is this form? Oh it's in my locker, but I have to go get it and turn it in right now. It has to be in today. I promise. Its in my locker. Just right outside the door. They said...
7) _______ took my shoes in gym class and I have his on and they're too tight. Can I go find him and trade back with him? If I take these off they're really going to stick cause ___ has smelly feet and they'll be smelling up this whole room.
8) Can I go get a drink of water? I'm so thirsty that I can't even pick up a pencil or listen so I'm not going to do anything anyway until I get a drink.
9) I twisted my ankle in gym and it really hurts. Can I go get some ice?
10) My mom said that I needed to call her at 2:00 to remind her to come and pick me up. I need to go to the office to call home. I'm for real. She'll forget me.
11) I need to go call home to have my dad bring me some Advil. I've got a headache. I'm not going to get anything done until my headache goes away so you might as well let me go.
12) I have the wrong binder. Can I go to my locker to get my LA binder?
13) ______ has my binder and I need to go get it from him. It has my homework in it.
14) I don't have a pencil. Can I go buy one from the machine?
15) I don't have any paper. Can I go buy some from the machine?
16) I can't see from my seat. Can I go get my glasses out of my locker? I didn't wear my contacts today. (Comes back with no glasses) I must have left them at home.
17) _________ took my glasses between classes. Can I go get them back?
18) I need to go to the office to call home. Its an emergency. Its personal.
19) Can I go wash my hands? I've got ink all over them and its going to get all over the desk.
20) Can I go wash my hands? I think ____ has the swine flu and she sneezed on me with her germs. Hand sanitizer just isn't going to cut that crud.
21) Can I go wash my hands? I've got white-out all over them and I can't do my work because my pencil keeps slipping right out of my fingers. (He had painted every finger completely white)
22) My chair keeps tipping. Its broken. I need a new chair. I can't learn like this. Can I go ask Mr. Wayne for a new chair? (custodian)
23) (15 minutes late for class) My locker was stuck. You can call Mr. Wayne. Call him. He'll tell you. It was stuck I swear.
24) Can I go to the bathroom? I have a note now. From my doctor saying I have a medical problem. I need to go when I need to go.
25) Can I go talk to the counselor? I have an issue. Its too personal to talk about here right now.
26-30) Can I go talk to ___(insert and one of his 5 other teachers names here)_____ because she wrote me up. I got called to the office last hour because she wrote me up for no reason. I need to go talk to her.
And on and on and on.....
Oh oh oh, I forgot all of the braces related requests
31) My bracket broke
32) I need a rubber band from my locker
33) There's something stuck in my bracket and it really hurts. (totally in my personal space opening his mouth) SEEE!!
34) I just got my braces tightened and they really hurt. I need some ice.

There are so many more if you can believe it- all from one child, Every. Single. Day. By the time I get home, I don't want to answer a question ever again. Can't something be done, you ask? Where is the justice? Where is the system? Where is the principal? Haven't you told someone, you ask?
My answer: all of the someones have been told and there's nothing left to do but blog about it. :)

Monday, February 01, 2010

open windows & unlocked doors: prophets (luke 10:28)

open windows & unlocked doors: prophets (luke 10:28)
Great poem here today. I loved the last stanza- so beautifully challenging (copied below if you don't want to read the whole poem, but it's worth the 2 minutes).
What do you think?
If I were a prophet, I might say to you:

“In this perfectly broken world,
you must
see that which strives to be hidden,
hear those voices others would deny,
taste the bitterness of the forgotten,

and yet love all of it without exception,
as if your life depended upon it –

because it does.”

Simile Metaphor Collection

Elijah after running: My heart is beating like a coconut rolling down a hill.
Elijah on urination: Pee is like horses galloping out of the gate. Once they get started you just can't stop them.
Elijah: If school were a human I'd give it a wedgie.
Elijah: I am like a hot rod and I just want to be a plain old Ford
Elijah on the fruits of the spirit: I've got them all covered except self-control. Its like a tiny green tomato and the rest are all big ripe ones. Especially love. Its like the biggest tomato we saw in the garden tonight.