12.20.2007

Smoke coming out of my ears... or maybe it's smog.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071219/ap_on_go_pr_wh/energy_future;_ylt=AnlEEUp1mRhSGytqFy5jXuyyFz4D

I care about the environment.

And I get rather annoyed when conservatives mock the idea that we should maybe make an effort to live more sustainability.

But this is not sustainability, this is smoke and mirrors.

Instead of buying fossil fuels from our enemies and pumping them straight into our SUVs, let's just buy fossil fuels from our enemies and smear them all over the ground so that they run off into our drinking water and poison our babies. Not to mention killing off fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

And once this fuel is in our gas tanks, it's hardly clean.

The jury's still out on ethanol. It may well turn out to be better than gasoline. We should definitely allow it to compete in the free markets.

But it's hard to see the justification for legislating artificial support for it like this.

Am I completely missing something here?

12.19.2007

The rain is trickling down the window pane,
and blurs my view of everything outside.
Unsure if light and truth still yet remain,
I must keep hope the sun will cease to hide.

Throughout the storm I hear the creaking groan
of branches burdened by the howling wind.
I feel no other truth save that alone,
and cling to storms as hope that storms may end.

Eventually the clouds will part away,
the sun will glitter through the tear-stained glass.
The afternoon will show once more as day--
I know that storms will never cease to pass.

Without this token, hope I cannot keep;
the truthful noise that fits my heart to weep.

12.15.2007

Ode to a Tortured Instrument

Dear piano, you are sorely out of tune.
You mangle all the tunes I try to play.
I hope that we can fix you someday soon,
For you are getting worse with each new day.

The Beethoven sonatas aren't so bad--
they crash and roar and tumble all about.
The intonation makes me rather sad,
But there's a sense in which a shout's a shout.

For softer music, it is not the same.
Poor Pachelbel's sweet cannon cannot fight.
Despite its grandiose misnoming name,
your E-unnat'ral crushes out its might.

And so, dear piano, please don't be offended,
but I'll be glad when tunelessness has ended.

12.14.2007

Haiku!

Shannon wants something to cheer up a dreary snow day--and she's offering quite a nice prize, too!

So much fun.

But hurry, the contest ends at 5.

12.09.2007

Warning: May result in loss of confidencee

When a beauty product warns you to "avoid eye contact," isn't that kind of a bad sign?

Okay, that's my absurdly trivial thought for the day.

12.05.2007

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother." And he said to him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth." And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God."
Mark 10:17-27

In reading this passage, I was struck by the contrast between Peter and the rich young ruler. There's a sense in which they're really in the same position. Both are basically good people, but incapable of self-sacrifice. Oh, to be sure, as Peter quickly brings up in the very next verse, he left everything and followed Jesus. But just how difficult is it for the poor Galilean fisherman to leave everything and follow the one who can multiply loaves and fishes? Peter had nothing to lose.

He was rich in physical vitality, though, and that was a wealth he could not sacrifice. When it came down to it, he could not watch one hour with the Master, let alone risk his life. By the time the cock crowed, he had denied him thrice.

Peter was no more capable of losing what he had than was the rich man. The fundamental difference between them was self-knowledge.

The rich young ruler knew his soul well. He knew exactly what he could and could not do, rightly assessed himself, and sadly walked away.

Peter, on the other hand, simply threw himself recklessly at Jesus, committing himself to things far beyond the limitations of his small soul. Jumping out of the boat to walk on water, only to start sinking, turning to Jesus to save him once again. His faith was less than he believed, but he never stopped throwing himself at Jesus, failing and trying and failing again, with no regard for his capabilities.

And in the end, Peter did have the commitment and devotion that he was always reaching for, but only after Christ had risen from the dead.

With man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.

And the it was the reckless fisherman who became the rock on which Christ built his Church.

Perhaps the path to holiness lies not in virtue or strength of character, but in the decision to forget completely the state of one's soul, and fling oneself recklessly upon Christ.

12.04.2007

Water Tank Engines?

While everyone was drying off after bathtime, Nathan was startled a sudden gurgling noise.

"What's that?"

Then, after a closer listen, he answered his own question.

"Oh! It's the drain! Thomas the Drain!"

11.30.2007

11.29.2007

Decking the Halls

All you feed-readers should click on over and let me know what you think! =)

11.28.2007

Preparing for Christmas

When I was small, Christmas was larger than life, looming luminously over half the year with a splendor so exquisite that it almost hurt.

But as I grew, Christmas seemed to stay the same. Just like my first bicycle, so large in my memory and so small standing at my feet, what had seemed so huge and magnificent never appeared to be quite as I remembered.

Christmas was still grand and wonderful, but I suppose I began to get used to it.

And now at last I have children of my own who are eagerly anticipating Christmas. It's not my first Christmas as a mother, or even my first Christmas with children old enough to understand, but it is the first Christmas where they're old enough to anticipate. This afternoon I was feeling very daunted, thinking that now I'm the one who has to make Christmas happen, and I'm just not quite sure if I'm capable of putting together a Christmas worthy of their anticipation.

But then, as I buckled down to the task of getting the house clean enough to be worthy of Christmas, I threw on some Christmas music. And it was Christmas.

And I realized that I don't have to make it Christmas after all. Christmas is real, and more resplendent and glorious than I ever could have imagined. All that is needful is with the help of baubles and lights and gingerbread, to make it small enough that a child's heart can contain the bliss.

11.27.2007

Mysteries of the Heart

I would have brushed it off as a bunch of bunk if I hadn't seen the link over at Scriptorium Daily. And maybe it still is a little fringe-y. Certainly not without its controversy. Still, it's really interesting.

You see, sometimes heart transplant patients undergo pretty significant personality changes. Which isn't really all that surprising, since a heart transplant is a rather huge event in a person's life. Near death experience followed by a newfound physical vigor--well, it'd be surprising if it didn't effect some sort of change in a person's soul.

Still, some of those changes are downright freakish... and consistent with the donor's characteristics. Thus the hypothesis that maybe--just maybe--the brain isn't the only place where we store thoughts, feelings and memories.

The implications are astonishingly profound, and so of course there's a lot of scepticism. Strangely enough, however, it was the SkepDic article that convinced me to take the idea seriously.

You see, according to the SkepDic, all the silliness is traceable back to Aristotle. We have all these absurd notions associating the heart with love and emotion because Aristotle wrongly postulated that the heart was the location of all our thoughts and feelings, while the brain was simply a fan to keep the heart nicely ventilated. Or something like that. I'm really not quite sure. Aristotle wrote plenty enough that's still important in it's own right, that I haven't exactly gotten around to reading those portions of his work that have been completely outdone by his followers. I'm just glad he started asking good questions, and glad others came along and found likelier answers.

So Aristotle thought that the heart was where it was all at, and the brain was just a pump to cool the heart. Modern medicine thinks that everything happens in the brain, and the heart is just a pump to feed the brain.

Come to think of it, it all sounds rather the same, and come to think of it, the poets have never believed either one. Poetry and experience have always told us that the head is the seat of rationality, the heart the seat of emotion, the intestines the seat of courage and fear. And I seem to recall the liver and the kidneys coming into play somewhere, but I never took it remotely seriously, because of course nowadays everyone knows that it all comes down to brain waves.

Not that I ever believed that we were reducible to brain waves. But I guess I always thought that our souls were connected to our brains, and our brains were connected to our bodies, and that the my experience of my body was something of an illusion, everything being mediated by my brain. But come to think of it, in the intermingling of soul-ish activities, I always experience ideas as trickling down into practice, and emotions welling up into my conscious thought.

What if my soul permeates the whole of my body?

This changes everything.

11.26.2007

At a dragonfly's pace

This weekend, I learned from an extremely reliable source--a string cheese wrapper--that the life of a typical dragonfly spans 24 hours.

And I wonder... does the dragonfly realize just how short his life is?

Or is a day nearly so short to him as it is to us? Is that day, in fact, a lifetime to him?

And is our life really significantly longer?

Maybe 80 years isn't much time at all, except at a dragonfly's pace.

11.25.2007

Angels

Today could have been a very bad day. We were flying on the busiest travel day of the year, which also turned out to be the foggiest day in several years. And so it was that our quick little Portland/Seattle commuter flight turned into quite a "clouds of the northwest" tour, as the pilot circled the airport in hopes that it would clear up, and then headed over across the mountains to some tiny airport that wasn't fogged out. I don't remember the name of the place, but I do believe it was about as close to the middle of nowhere as an airport can be. Amazingly enough, this refuge from the fog actually was the final destination of one of the passengers, so it turned out beautifully for her. For us, though, it meant that by the time we made it to Seattle, our connecting flight to Houston had left several hours ago, and suddenly we were a party of five on standby on the busiest travel day of the year.

Today could have been a very bad day--but it wasn't. Today, on this busiest, craziest, most stressful airport day of the year, every airport employee we encountered went above and beyond to make sure everything went smoothly. From the lady at check-in who stepped right in and took care of the carseats, to the lady who rearranged the seating on the flight we squeezed onto, so that we weren't split up to badly, to the wonderful shuttle driver.

Today was a long day, a full day, but thanks to these wonderful people, it was a good day.

And I'm thankful.

11.24.2007

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

But they don't want to get on the planes this time around.

11.23.2007

Cousins

It's an absolute madhouse.

But oh, the bliss of knowing that our progeny are only responsible for 3/5 of the toddler-related chaos.

Parenting loves company.

11.22.2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Praise be to the Father who has provided for us so abundantly, tables heavy laden with good food, warm shelter from the crisp winter air, and dear friends and family with whom to enjoy these blessings!

Hope your day was warm and wonderful and full of scrumptious turkey.

11.21.2007

Perspective

We would have gotten a direct flight, had one been available.

All things being equal, we probably would have avoided trying to navigate a plane change with three toddlers.

But oh, it made for a wonderful day for the wuggies. Instead of just riding on one plane--treat enough!--they got to go on TWO planes. A great big jumbo jet and a tiny little prop plane that we even got to board from outside.

Oh the bliss, the ecstatic joy on those dear little faces.

You know what? Destination all aside (and oh, everyone is having a grand old time!) I think that was actually a perfectly grand way to spend a day.

But now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for bed.

11.20.2007

Singing as we wind our way through the grocery store...

"Three bottles of car on the wall, three bottles of car--take one down, pass it around, three bottles of car!"

11.19.2007

Sufficient to the day is the laundry thereof

Which makes packing... complicated.

Time to load up that washing machine.

11.18.2007

Hobbies

We were in the parking lot this afternoon when September gave a delighted little giggle. "A birdie! It's a birdie!"

This prompted her affectionate father to remark that surely our little girl was destined to grow up into an avid bird watcher.

At which point Isaiah (being very eager for his lunch) burst out saying "Wugger's gonna be a hot-dog watcher.

11.17.2007

This afternoon, I we experienced a very odd tantrum.

Isaiah greatly objected to our plans for the afternoon, which would not have been so very strange, had our plans been less vague.

But I never expected to hear such a distraught little voice earnestly crying "No! I don't want to have fun! I don't want to have fun!"

11.16.2007

Faerie Stories

"Makin' maple candy, Mama?"

"No, I'm making a sourdough starter. Even though you can't see them, there are all sorts of little animals all around us, smaller than mosquitos or ants..."

"And a man?"

"Much, much smaller than a man. And we're going to try to catch some. And then they'll eat some of the flour, and they'll blow bubbles in the dough so it will be nice and puffy when we make bread."

Sometimes the strangest fairy tales of all are the ones really believe.

Bob the Builder Shoes

A few months ago, I went shoe-shopping with September, and her sweet little heart was set on Bob the Builder shoes.

And so I dutifully scoured the little girls shoe aisle for Bob the Builder shoes.

Not surprisingly, I didn't find any. There may very well have been lots of Bob the Builder shoes just a few feet over in the little boys shoe aisle, but I wasn't about to open up that can of worms. Much as Tembo wanted Bob the Builder shoes, I wanted her to have something at least a little bit girly.

I was just about to sadly announce that they didn't have any Bob the Builder shoes, and wouldn't she like to try on this nice pair of T-straps, when Tembo gave a little cry of delight and discovery. She'd found them.

Bob the Builder shoes.

That's what we call them, and she's very proud of them indeed. They're Bob the Builder shoes, and don't you dare suggest otherwise.

11.15.2007

Christmas Wish

Over breakfast, Meepo was telling me that he wants Scrooge to bring him a new back yard for Christmas.

One with ducks, and bears. And no lions, just monkeys.

11.14.2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Practice Makes Perfect

We're working hard on manners here in Wuggyville. For some time now, the wuggies have been saying the "magic word" ...when prompted. Oh, they would make the sweetest, most polite little requests, cute enough to melt your heart, but only after I would remind them that Mama doesn't listen to whining.

It had me stumped for a long time. Teaching them to say "please" and "thank you" was a piece of cake. Teaching them to do it the first time was another story altogether.

Anyway, I've got it figured out now, and it's oh-so-simple. They just need practice, that's all. Lots and lots of practice. If they ask me nicely the first time, then I answer them right away. If not, then it's time to practice, practice, practice. If they ask nicely the first time, then I'm quite satisfied with sweetly polite toddler-talk, but if I have to prompt them, then it has to be word perfect, and repeated several times. This can take a while. When you're only two years old, sometimes your "Mama, may I please" gets sort of tangled up with your "have a cup of milk," and it takes a while to get it all sorted out. SoI was originally thinking of this as a deterrent-- they would have an incentive to do it right the first time so as to avoid the drill, and get straight to the cup of milk or whatnot. But they actually love it. At this age they love nothing more than memorization, so it's a fun game for them. What's more, they really do want to know how to communicate their needs properly, and they're eager little learners.

Three days in, and I'm noticing a marked difference already.

Works for me!

And oh, there are very few things in life that are sweeter than the sound of your little son saying, "Mama, may I please have some snuggles."

11.13.2007

Transplanted

Houston is a strange sort of place, and we're still strangers. But the strange thing is, everyone else is something of a stranger, too. Not just to us, but to the place itself.

It was bittersweet leaving our dear community in Los Angeles, but we knew it was inevitable. Even if we hadn't left, people were leaving all around us, and many more would soon go too. It was only a matter of time. The very nature of our community was transient. A stage of life on the way to something else.

And that is precisely how Houston, as a city, feels. It's not really home to anyone. Nobody lives here because they want to live in Houston, they live here because Hewlitt-Packard is here, and NASA, and the oil companies. And because Hewlitt-Packard, and NASA, and the oil companies pay enough to send their children to nice private schools.

There are lots of reasons to live in Houston, but Houston itself doesn't seem to be one of them.

It's a weird contrast to Los Angeles. Lost Angeles (I'll let the typo remain) is the promised land and hell all rolled into one. Some love it, some hate it, but it's always one or the other, and usually both. Los Angeles may induce apathy, but never toward itself.

Houston, on the other hand... well, I suppose it makes sense. There's a certain sort of person who dreams of living in the big city, and there's a certain sort of person who dreams of living in Texas. Houston, being both, is satisfactory to neither.

So folks settle for Houston, and make the best of it. The city feels remarkably calm and clean compared to Los Angeles. I hear such horrible things about the inner city, but where's the graffiti? Houston just isn't nearly so rough around the edges, and it feels a little soulless by comparison. Soul-less... but very pleasant and attractive.

Strangely, the one place in the city that looks most loved, most truly home to its residents, is the artsy-hippie community nestled in the notorious fifth ward. But that place is well loved precisely because of it's transient gypsy happy-wanderer feel. They may stay for the rest of their lives, but even so they're really just passing through.

It's just like all the rest of Houston, just a little more explicit, that's all. The rest of the city approaches with a much different aesthetic, but in the end, everybody's just passing through, and making the best of the time they spend in Houston.

And I think that's okay.

Because whether we're thinking about it or not, we're all just wandering wayfarers on this earth.

And I think it might be a little bit easier to live lightly in a place that knows its place.

11.12.2007

Bragging Rights

My lowly little blog is google's top-ranking page on alphabetical excuses.

Come to think of it, I'm not quite sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

11.11.2007

Who has seen the wind?

Leaves have been swirling down all day, and as we walked to the park this afternoon, the treetops swayed gently.

"Look, there's fans in the trees!"

And I wonder... did the wind hold more mystery for those who grew up before central AC?

11.10.2007

Only at Big! Lots!

Big! Lots! is a wonderfully absurd place. It's where the almost-good-ideas-but-not-quite end up. Decorative knick-knacks that are almost decorative, but not quite decorative for anyone to buy full price. And orange and white socks, that are perfectly fine and wonderful except for the fact that I never would have picked them out specifically. And I guess nobody else would have either, because there they are at Big! Lots! There are all sorts of things at Big! Lots!, and the inventory is perpetually fluctuating, but the number one item seems to be bottles of olive oil with an assortment of herbs, fruit rinds, and dried vegetables. My guess is that it's probably just an art form that's particularly easy to imitate with no understanding whatsoever. Who knows. I have absolutely no knowledge of the art of olive oil flower arrangements, but I figure there must be a lot of near misses, since Big! Lots! is full of them. And near misses is what Big! Lots! does best.

I've found a lot of really great stuff at Big! Lots! Sometimes I know full well what's wrong with an item, and that the flaw is something I can live with. In those cases I'm thrilled to be pieces to be getting such a bargain. But there isn't necessarily anything wrong with any given item, and that's what gives me a little anxiety. You see, sometimes I really actually like something I find at Big! Lots! And it could very well be that this particular item was simply part of a liquidation, and is every bit as wonderful as it seems. Or it could be that I'm totally missing something.

Sometimes it becomes quite clear after I've purchased the item. The DVD player that was such a great bargain? No fast forward or rewind. And no returns on electronics. Oops.

The carpet steamer, on the other hand, has served me well for going on two years, and has been absolutely indispensable on more occasions than I care to recount. What was it doing at Big! Lots! for $20? I guess I'll never know, but it seems fairly clear that it was through no fault of its own.

Other items just remain an open question. Does it mean that I have horrendous taste if I really love those $2 wall sconces? But I never worry about it too much, because if I have horrendous taste in wall sconces, so be it, and if I'm going to inadvertantly purchase ugly sconces, I'd rather waste $2 than $30. But I'm actually pretty confident in my assessment of them, so I think I'll just leave it at that.

Anyway, as I was in the checkout line this afternoon with my very normal broom (at least I think it's normal) and my (hopefully) normal washcloths, I found myself examining the construction of the checkout lanes. I had a lot of time to examine it carefully, because Halloween is already over, and folks are starting to get a little frantic about their Christmas shopping. As the signs in the toy department say, "you can never buy too much at Big! Lots!"

The checkout lanes were constructed out of what I assume must be particle board, covered in formica. Quite typical and normal.

Now most of the time, formica is either in a solid color, or printed so as to look like some posher substance, such as actual wood, or perhaps granite or marble.

But at Big! Lots! complete and total honesty reigned. The formica was printed so as to appear to be...

Particle board.

Only at Big! Lots! Only at Big! Lots!

11.09.2007

Pray without ceasing

As I stepped onto the treadmill this afternoon, I realized to my dismay that I'd forgotten to bring a book. I'd started the strengthening phase of my chiropractic treatment, and while I found most of the exercises to be challenging and enjoyable, 8 minutes of a moderately brisk walking gait on the treadmill was horrendously dull.

So I thought I'd redeem the time saying the Jesus prayer.

But just like every time I try to think about something, I ended up thinking about the nature of thought, layered right on top of what I was trying to think. And every time I would try to pull the entirety of my thoughts back to the prayer, I would start thinking about the process of thought, and how weird it is to have layers of thought, and how do you pull your thoughts onto one thing anyway?

And then it all made sense. I'd never quite understood how we could possibly "pray without ceasing." Did that mean that we shouldn't do anything else? Or do we somehow have to train ourselves to always be multi-tasking, always praying while we're talking or thinking or doing at the same time.

But there on the treadmill, thinking these thoughts as I tried to drag my full attention back to my whispered prayer, I realized that I don't need to train myself in some sophisticated mental skill to be able to do that. There is often a subtext running underneath my intentional thoughts. Thoughts about who I am and what I'm doing and what my purpose is. It's never been an issue of training myself to do that, rather, I'm constantly struggling to get myself to shut up. The thoughts I don't think about are seldom edifying.

But maybe I don't need to silence the subtext after all. Maybe this is the very capacity with which I can pray without ceasing. Maybe prayer without ceasing doesn't involve training myself to somehow obtain a bizarre new mental skill, but rather involves filling up with truth all the mental space currently devoted to telling myself lies, or worse yet, truths devoid of proper focus.

The Way of the Pilgrim is making a whole lot more sense to me now.

I think I finally see, too, why this particular prayer is so often used for breath prayer. It quickly establishes the proper focus of everything--Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God--and then establishes who I am in relation to Him--have mercy on me, a sinner. And really, that's what I need to know to keep my bearings. And for all its clarity and simplicity, it's something that I really do need to hear about 7 times a minute.

11.08.2007

Shut-eye

This afternoon the wuggies and I did a fun little exercise designed to develop memory skills, or some such thing. Much along the lines of the standard baby shower game, I showed them a platter with four objects. Then I told them to close their eyes while I removed one of the objects. When they opened their eyes again, they had to tell me which object was missing.

In the end, Nathan did answer correctly once, but Isaiah was only interested in finding other objects that ought to go on the platter. September meanwhile, repeated everything I said, with lots of cheering sprinkled in. If they didn't quite understand it, however, they more than made up for it with enthusiasm, and when my game was over, they each created their own spinoffs.

Isaiah arranged a number of toys on the platter, and asked me to come talk about them.

And Nathan told me to close my eyes, while he went to his room to bring out a surprise.

I did. I shouldn't have, but I did. It was just for a few seconds, but I closed my eyes.

And so did he, apparently, because the next thing I knew, he had walked right into his brother. At least, I think that's what happened. My eyes were shut.

At any rate, Isaiah appeared to be uninjured, but Nathan had a bloody nose. I was scared silly, but after just a few minutes of gentle pressure to the bridge of his nose, the bleeding stopped.

At this point, Nathan leaned back in my arms, and looked mournfully up at me.

"I've got no more blood. It's all gone."

If his rambunctious behavior for the rest of the day is any indication, there is still plenty of blood flowing around him, right where it's supposed to be. All's well that ends well.

But it's going to be a very long time before I bring up any games involving the closing of the eyes.

Except for bedtime. And come to think of it, I'm quite looking forward to that one after today.

11.07.2007

Initiative and Independence

I'm not quite sure whether to be proud of my little son for blowing his nose all by himself, and meticulously wiping down the piano without even being asked...

or to chide him sternly for using the same tissue for both tasks.

11.06.2007

One of the many delights of motherhood is rediscovering everything. Centrifugal force! Gravity! Color! Words!

This evening over dinner, Nathan was waxing poetical about his milk. How good it makes him feel, how comforting it is ("it hold holds me"), and how white it is.

Orange juice was Isaiah's beverage of choice, and being equally pleased with the contents of his cup, he felt the need to chime in with his own description.

"My orange juice is r... My orange juice is ye...."

Realization spread over his face like the glow of sunrise. "My orange juice is orange! Orange orange juice."

And so it is that tonight I am wondering once again...

Which came first, the color or the fruit?

11.05.2007

In which September's continuing obsession with her piggie becomes ever more evident

I want to write a story about Grandma and Grandpa and piggie. Piggie in the water. Grandpa and Grandma saw... what did they see?

Wanna tost it.

Sunday School, from Nathan's perspective.

I play toys in Sunday School, and the Bible story. They teach me about the Bible story, and Jesus. Mom and Daddy went to Bible story. Mom and Daddy went to church.

I want to post it now so Gramma and Grampa can see it.

11.04.2007

Feel and Learn

I can't believe they expect me to pay extra for diapers that are less absorbent, less comfortable for my precious little ones.

It's a stroke of marketing genius worthy of Tom himself.

And the truly awful thing is, I'm actually buying it.

Please pass the whitewash.

11.03.2007

Impatience

"Choco milk, pease?"

"You can have some chocolate milk as soon as I'm done putting the dishes away."

"I want chocolate milk now!"

"Hold your horses, sweetie."

"But I don't want to hold my horses. I want to hold my chocolate milk."

11.02.2007

Story about the W, brought to you by Wuggidy

The W.

That's a W.

Letters and more letters. Two W's.

Another Tembo Tale

Penguins in the water. Piggies in the water. Yeah. Water!

Meepo's first book report

All the Book.

Charlotte's Web goes to the fair, and the spider.
The man puts water on the pig.
The man puts food to the pig.
That's it.

11.01.2007

Sensibleness

I will not obsess about houses.
I will not obsess about houses.
I will not obsess about houses.
I will not obsess about houses.
I will not obsess about houses.

Suburbia? Urban condo? Urban neighborhood? Country?

We're pretty committed to settling down in the Houston area, but that leaves us with a lot of choices. Choices that make a pretty big difference in what sort of family we will be, and choices that need to be made sometime in the next year, before our rental lease is up.

But maybe we don't have to choose. This week we found the house of our dreams, suburban and urban and country all rolled into one. It faces away from the street, has a severe mildew problem, and there is exactly 6 feet of vertical space between floor and ceiling on the lower level, etc, etc, etc... other than that, it's perfect.

Build a house? Buy a house? Fix a house?

I'm getting rather dizzy.

I hear my grandmother's voice through all this, and one of the songs she would always teach us at her Good News Clubs. "One step at a time, only one step at a time. That is the way the Lord will lead us, one step at a time...."

And if there's a straightforward one-step-at-a-time path through the tangled mass of real estate decisions, really, everything else must be remarkably simple.

I do believe I'm on my way to become quite sensible.

If I can just stop obsessing about houses, that is.

10.31.2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Sublimely Easy Pot Roast

Last night's pot roast took me about 5 minutes to assemble, and it was among the best I've ever tasted. Certainly by far the best I've ever made.

1 4-5 lb. chuck roast
1 large portobello mushroom
salt
pepper

Rub roast generously with salt and pepper. Place in crock pot. Cut mushroom into cubes, place around roast. Cook on low until supper time. I cooked mine for 10 hours, but we could have eaten it much earlier and it still would have been good. Crock pots are flexible that way.

Maybe next time I'll do more mushrooms. They were sooo good.

Serve with a yummy salad and it definitely works for me!

Pluralism

"Not a child! I'm a children!"

---September P. Baby-Girl Johnston

10.27.2007

Acclimation

Winter has come upon us... fast.

I think the weather changes might have seemed a little faster than they really were, if only because we'd finally gotten used to Texas. We're just tooling along as usual, trying to keep the house as cool as we can without going broke, and then poof, one day I wake up to the chattering of my own teeth. Still wrapped in blankets, I trundle over to the thermostat.

72 degrees.

Normal temperatures are going to take some getting used to.

10.26.2007

Storytime Continues

I'm having a blast serving as typist to my budding authors. It wasn't my intention to keep posting everything they dictate, but my firstborn is something of an exhibitionist. The moment we were finished, he told me I needed to post it. And... well... I enjoyed it, anyway! =)


Timmo in the Paper

Monsters are going to eat the town. Somebody's gonna stop the monsters. Somebody's gonna stop the dragons, too. The dragons are gonna eat the houses, and the people must stop the dragons. Dinosaurs are gonna eat the paper. Lions drink Ensure.

10.25.2007

A Little Story

By September Johnston

The piggy is not taking a nap.

Grandpa's House

By Isaiah Johnston

Grandpa's house is in Supai. We go to the helicopter in Supai. Grandpa lives in Grandpa's house, and Grandma's gonna live in it, too. I go to the water in Supai, too. There's a beach. I go to the beach too. There's water in Supai.

Just Me and My Dump Truck

By Nathan Johnston
To Grandma and Grandpa

Just me in the car with Mommy and Daddy. The critter is going to Crob. He looks out the window, and so he draws a window, and so he draws a car. And so he draws a van. Just me in my car. And Mama and Daddy drives the car first. Just me in my dump truck. The dump truck's for Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa has a dump truck, and Daddy has a bulldozer. A bulldozer for Daddy. And so he drives a backhoe. Just me and my real truck. Just me in my car.

10.24.2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Garlic

I love garlic. I loved garlic before I discovered its amazing infection-fighting properties, but now it's become an absolute staple. Eat enough raw garlic and you're breath will be so bad the bacteria just rolls over and dies. That's my theory, anyway. Not that I'm dispensing medical advice in any way shape or form. But oh my, garlic has sure been there for me when I've gotten sick while traveling or over the weekend.

But that's not what works for me. Although it does! It does! I'm just not even remotely qualified to recommend it. What works for me this Wednesday morning is getting the peels off.

This week I discovered the easiest way to peel garlic. I don't peel it all, I just start slicing. And the peel just falls right off, of it's own accord. Viola! So simple. Works for me!

10.23.2007

Budgeting

Nathan didn't want to wear his big boy underwear this morning. He wanted a diaper.

"But Mama, I don't want to pee in my underwear!"

"That's right. You don't pee in your underwear, you're going to pee in the potty."

"I don't want to pee in the potty. "

"Well, I don't want to buy you diapers anymore. Do you have any idea how many books we could buy for what we spend on diapers every month?"

"The library has books. Let's just go to the library."

Alphabetical Disorder

"A's not for bike, okay, Bubba? A is for W."

10.18.2007

Excuses, excuses

Lately we've been working with the wuggies on mealtime manners. Particularly the "may I please be excused" part that really ought to come before the hopping off to go play with trains part.

Anyway, this evening I was glad that Isaiah asked to be excused without any prompting... still, I really did want him to wait for an answer before running off.

"Honey, you need to wait for Mama or Dadders to say you can get up. Why don't you get back in your chair and we'll try it again."

"May I be 'scoosed please?

"You need to get back in your chair first."

"May I be 'scoosed please?"

With each repetition he scooted himself just a smidgen further toward his chair, each time hoping that maybe we'd consider that enough. But we didn't, and so after a few repetitions he was in his chair again. Once there, he just grinned up at us happily.

"Didn't you have something you wanted to say, Isaiah?"

Grinning from ear to ear, he proudly surveyed his audience, and made his grand pronouncement.

"Noah's Ark. Noah's ark and the animals."

10.17.2007

Purpose

Nathan thinks we should get a dog named Hatch. We'll feed him bones ("and vitamins!" his brother adds) and take him for walks.

Most importantly, though, we'll fill the house with sheep for him to herd.

10.16.2007

Good day. Bad day.

Yesterday was a great day. It was the day our new piano arrived. It's in bad need of a tune, but it's so pretty, and even when it's out of tune, I'm very happy with the tone and touch. I can't wait to get it tuned!

Yesterday was also the day that the I told the delivery men to put the piano over by the window, forgetting that the window was over by the back door, the piano would get bashed every time they opened the door. Once Andy got home, scooting it over 9 inches solved everything, but do you have any idea how impossible it is for one petite woman to scoot a piano anywhere at all?

Yesterday was not the day that Andrew's lenses broke, but it was the day he had to go to work with one lens, thus making it the day I insisted on piling the kids into the car and driving him to work, and also the day we picked him up after work and drove him to LensCrafters. LensCrafties might be the better name, as they quote one price over the phone, twice that in person, and won't let you buy lenses without the frames. Maybe the second price quote included the frames? Either way, it was confusing, and more than we wanted to pay.

But the mall also had an EyeMasters, and so we each got a complete set of glasses for less than LensCrafter's more conservative quote for the lenses alone. In the hypothetical world where they would let us do that, of course. So all in all, it was a good day for glasses.

This would have been a full, exhausting day anyway, even if the kids hadn't flushed something down the toilet.

But at least that something appears to have been nothing more than a full roll of toilet paper. It all seems to have passed through, so we don't have to worry about unclogging the pipes. Which is a very good thing, the flood is quite enough trouble, thankyouverymuch.

Yesterday, it rained, and that pretty much sums it up. The air was sparkling fresh, the roads were borderline flooded, the lightning storm was spectacularly beautiful, and we were soaking wet.

But hey, we got a free car wash.

10.12.2007

Aspirations

"I'm going to grow up to be the littlest man to drive a big white car."
---Nathan

Adjusted Expectations

There's no way I would have gone to him, except that Tony said he was amazing, and Tony's a pretty sane, level headed sort of guy. I can't imagine that he would recommend a New Age quack.

Still, the website talked an awful lot about reflexes... so I was a little nervous.

Lo and behold, he did a thorough exam of my reflexes, but nothing kooky at all. All very straightforward, just a check to make sure there was nothing wrong with any of my reflexes, everything clear, okay, let's move on. He didn't decide where to adjust my back based on a series of arm wrestling competitions, instead simply relying on the x-rays and his manual exam of my back. Which I'm told is terribly imprecise--mere alignment is no subsitute for arm wrestling and oija boards--but I feel very safe. All the more so because this chiropractor chooses to refrain from beating on the really thoroughly stuck spots. His approach is to simply straighten out everything that will move easily, and save the rest for next time. As opposed to fixing everything and expecting that it will all undo itself within a few hours.

It was all so very, very sensible and straightforward.

And I'm about 2 inches taller now.

10.11.2007

10.10.2007

First Day of School

It came! It came! They shipped the package on Monday (even though it was a holiday) and said it should be here in 3-5 business days. But two days later, here it is, and we're all very excited.

So this afternoon we started in on the pre-k/kindergarten curriculum from Sonlight. I did Sonlight for one year in high school, and fell head over heels in love. I'm rather jealous of my sister, since she was able to do it from 3rd grade on. Just one year was enough to sell me on great books education.

Not that they classify themselves as "Great Books." I guess they're really more of a "good books" program. It's not all classics, it's just all really great, really age-appropriate books. Everything you learn is woven in and out of lots of really fantastic books.

It's a lot like Torrey, even though the emphasis is very different. Torrey attempts to train students to transform our culture, so the focus is on the classics, and digging deep into the roots of Western civilization. Sonlight, on the other hand, is very concerned with foreign missions, and so the curriculum emphasizes world cultures. But underneath it all, both programs have the same approach to knowledge as something real and whole. And that matters a whole lot.

John Gatto says that the main thing kids learn at school is school itself, and I think he's right. This curriculum is all about teaching kids that education is interconnected, full of dialogue, and deeply meaningful.

I'm excited. This is going to be a blast.

9.26.2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Fresh Bread Crumbs

I don't know about you, but whenever a recipe calls for "bread crumbs," I always think of canned bread crumbs, and if I don't have any on hand, I improvise something roughly equivalent, smashing up croutons, or toasting and crumbling stale bread or some such thing.

Last time I made macaroni and cheese, though, I did it a little different. Instead of using dried bread crumbs for the topping, I minced up a few slices of sandwich bread, and tossed them with melted butter before sprinkling them on top of the casserole.

It was absolutely amazing. When it came out of the oven, the crumbs were crispy and light and oh-so-delicious. This is something we'll be having much more often around here, now that I've figured this out.

The whole family loved the results, but I must say that Isaiah was rather disturbed by the process. When he saw me chopping the bread, he scolded me soundly.

"That's not garlic! Bread's not for cutting, Elena-man."

That's Mama to you, buster!

For lots of great tips, be sure to stop by Rocks in My Dryer.

9.24.2007

the pause that refreshes

I flopped down, exhausted. Maybe, just maybe, I would have a few minutes before it all started again. Potty training three at a time wasn't part of the plan, it just happened that way. When the time came to start potty training, life was upside-down with the move. And by the time things had settled down enough to start training one kid, suddenly all three of them were ready. Ready... and unwilling to wear diapers.

All three of them caught on quickly. It was a breeze. They knew when they needed to go, just went straight into the bathroom, used the regular toilet, washed their own hands, flushed the toilet five times, unrolled the entire roll of toilet paper... basically everything you could ask. All that was left for me to do was hand out the "potty treats."

Problem was, even though they were doing everything else, handing out those potty treats was becoming a full time job. Suddenly my children, whose bladder and bowel habits had heretofore seemed fairly normal, all developed a strange disorder requiring them to use the bathroom at least every five minutes. It was a fiasco.

So I put away the potty treats... but if there was no candy involved, they couldn't be bothered.

I was okay with this. I put them back in pull-ups, and we were just half-way there for a while. Sometimes they would use the potty, sometimes they wouldn't. I thought I could live with this. They'll learn eventually, we can just take our time.

There is just one problem with "half-way potty trained," however. You see, there are two important parts to the process. 1. Taking down your pants, and 2., sitting on the toilet. For my kids "half-way there" means that they have 1 down perfectly, just not 2. And that's pretty much a nightmare.

No, as a matter of fact, half-way there is most definitely not something I can live with. I've got to make this thing happen. So I have the timer running, and when that timer goes off, they are sitting on the potty whether they like it or not.

By the time I've prodded the third toddler through the bathroom routine, it's almost time to start all over again.

Almost. But there were a few precious moments left before the buzzer went off again. And oh, I needed them bad.

"Mama, I want sit on you lap."

No. Not right now. Absolutely not. Mama needs a break.

But then she gave me that nose-squinchy smile of hers, and I melted.

Yes, baby-girl, climb right up on my lap. A few minutes cuddling you is exactly the break I need.

9.20.2007

The limitations of crochet

"Whatcha makin', Mommy?"

"Well, I don't know if it's going to turn out yet, but I'm trying to make a sash."

Nathan thought about it for a few seconds.

"Can't crochet a zoo, huh? And you can't crochet walls."

And indeed, I do believe he's right.

I think the sash will work out just fine, though. =)

9.18.2007

Pardon me if I type a little slower than usual...

Saturday we hosted a "Homerathon" for Andrew's 9th grade humanities students, in which we read (most of) the Iliad from noon until 8pm. Nothing like the 20 hour sessions Reynolds has every fall, but 8 hours was quite daunting enough for a bunch of high school freshmen. It was hard for a lot of them, but they did great. All in all, it was a smashing success.

A little too literally.

15 high schoolers in your living room can produce a rather enormous amount of trash. I should have just piled the bags up in the garage. I should have. Oh, how I should have.

But instead, I went out through the garage, to the trash cans in the side yard. And this meant opening the garage door.

I never open the garage door. I mean, I open the door from the kitchen to the garage all the time, but the big huge rolling crashing monstrous metal thing between the garage and the driveway scares the daylights out of me. As far as I'm concerned, the only way in or out of the garage is through the kitchen.

But I needed (or thought I needed) to get to the side yard, and both the front and back doors were off limits, unless I wanted to carry the trash over the kids' heads. So I cautiously lifted up the clanging aluminum mass, and slipped underneath.

Perhaps my caution was my undoing. The door didn't catch, and before I'd had a chance to pull the trash bag out behind me, the thing began clattering back down again, as I frantically fumbled about for the handle.

I was reaching up for the handle, when suddenly I found myself crouched down on the driveway, with the middle three fingers of my left hand firmly wedged inside the door. It's a bit hard to describe, but you know how garage doors are made up of a bunch of horizontal slats, all hinged together? This allows the garage door to bend when it goes up. When the garage door is up, there is space between the slats where it is bending around the corner, but when the garage door falls back down, there is no space at all. That non-space was precisely where my fingers were. And since my fingers normally do take up space, that was something of a problem. A very, very painful problem.

After an endless three seconds or so of fumbling, I eventually found the handle, and hoisted the beastly thing up with my right arm.

I got my fingers out, and they don't appear to be broken. At least, I can move them without too much difficulty, and there's no noticeable swelling. Just pain. Quite a bit of pain, in fact. But I'm okay.

And I'm never opening a garage door again in my life.

9.12.2007

WFMW: Brown Jasmine Rice

We're addicted around here.

Sure it costs a bit more than regular rice, or even regular brown rice. Okay, several times more.

But oh, the flavor! Oh, the texture! It's worth every penny.

And you know what? I think it actually saves us money. Because rice--even super-yummy specialty rice--is still one of the cheapest ways to eat. And we eat a lot more rice now.

When you can't think of anything you'd rather munch on than a bowl of leftover brown rice... well, you know you're onto something good!

Works for me!

9.04.2007

Making a Remember

This morning Nathan was reminiscing about September's birthday party on Sunday. Nathan loves to reminisce, in a way that none of our other children do, and actually, in a way that I've never seen anyone do. Memory is such a rich and vital part of his experience of life. I suppose it's that way for everyone, but Nathan is openly aware of memory in a startlingly multi-dimensional way. He remembers events and their significance as one, and he slowly learns from the key moments of his young life as he ponders them again and again. "Remember when I went to the hospital, remember?" Slowly the memories of terror and pain and the strange men in white coats who tied him up and tried to feed him to a bizarre machine with the gaping, perfectly round mouth that growled with a sharp whir... slowly all that has given way to memories about the nice doctors who took care of him when he got hurt, who know how to help people get better, and who tried to take pictures of the inside of his head with an amazingly cool machine. And above all, memories of sitting on Mama's lap and watching Shrek while Mama stroked his head and whispered to him about how much she loved him. Nathan holds memories before him in all the fullness of experience, and goes back to them time and again, exploring them and redeeming them. I guess you could say that he dreams out loud.

At any rate, this morning, Nathan was reminiscing about the birthday party, and how we had a cake, with "sparkles in the number two." Remember? Remember?

Together we opened up a can of orange juice concentrate, and Nathan poured the three cans of water into the pitcher. And Nathan wanted a special number two cup.

A special number two cup?

Did he mean the disposable cups we'd used at the party?

Well, sort of. When I pulled out a cup, that was all fine and good... but we had to put a number two on it.

So I pulled out a sharpie, and drew a big "2" on the front of the cup. Nathan nodded approvingly, and instructed me that I was to now put an O on it. So I did.

Nathan took a long, slow sip of his orange juice, and grinned up at me beatifically.

"Makin' a remember!"

8.27.2007

Just get me to the church on time...

On the way to church yesterday morning, we marveled over the fact that, amazingly enough, we were actually going to make it to church on time. We never used to make it anywhere on time, but even though Sunday School was to start at 9:00, and we only actually woke the kids at 7:45, and there was shoe-shining and laundry to do... somehow, there we were, headed to church right when we were supposed to be. We were going to be on time to church for the third week in a row. We're not quite sure how it all works, but ever since we've moved into the bigger house, getting out the door has simply not been a problem.

From the website, we'd gotten the impression that this was something of a mega-church, and the large campus certainly supported that conclusion. Strangely enough, there were only fifty or so cars in the parking lot. Even stranger, they seemed just to be parked there... nobody was getting out. What time was it anyway? In our rush to get out the door, we'd left behind anything capable of telling us the time... but we were pretty sure it was around 5 til 9.

There were people milling around the church, but everybody seemed to be busy doing his own thing. People gave us friendly smiles in passing, but nobody stopped to talk to us, and nobody seemed available to give us directions.

Finally, we found our way to the nursery. It was a very professional setup, with the nursery workers in scrubs, a pager system, and an allergy/special instructions form that was actually a sticker to label the child's back. But there were only one or two kids in there.

We deposited Tembo with the "early walkers to 24 months" class, and then went to go find the three year old class for Nathan and Isaiah.

The room was locked, and nobody responded to my knocking.

I went back and asked the nice grandmotherly woman holding September about the three year old's room. It was empty... was it different this week. She assured me that the teacher probably just hadn't arrived yet.

That's when it all started to make sense.

We looked at the bulletin board on the wall, with all it's information about various church activities.

Services at 9:30 and 11.

NOT 9 and 10:30.

Oops.

Feeling foolish, we waited around with the twins until the teacher arrived, and then went to go find the adult Sunday School class on Galatians.

There was only one other couple, and the teacher, but we were assured that the others would be arriving soon.

That class always starts 15 minutes late.

8.25.2007

Homesick

Nathan has finally determined that he doesn't miss the farmer's market anymore. I do. H.EB. (Howard E. Butt wisely decided to use his initials as the name of his grocery chain) is a wonderful store, with high quality private label brands that rival Trader Joes, terrific gourmet cooking demonstrations, and best of all, a vast variety of delightful toddler carts. But it pains me to give up my policy of never paying more than $1/lb. for produce, special splurges excluded. Produce prices are approximately the same out here as in California... but we were spoiled having a farmer's market just down the street.

Nathan was missing "the old house," though. The new one is a whole lot nicer--"Like Christmas and Santa and presents and Easter" was the way my little poet of a son put it a few days after we moved in--but now the bittersweet flavor of leaving is starting to sink in, as he tries to get his mind around where we are, and where we've come from.

"The old Texas is in California."

Most of all, he though, he misses "the old church." And we can all agree about that.

Dear Blessed Sacrament, we love you and miss you very much.

In the morning we will visit yet another church.

In the mean time, Nathan is working on another plan.

He's going to build a car out of books and learn how to drive, so he can drive us back to California.

En Route




1000 Words


8.24.2007

On Chiropractic

One of the interesting things about a move is that it gives you a chance to switch doctors... even the ones you liked just fine. At first I thought this was just a big downside of the whole thing, but it's turning out to be a great learning experience.

Back in California, I liked my chiropractor very much. With her spiffy little ultrasound machine, she completely removed all the knots in my back (there were lots!), popped all my vertebrae back where they belong, and applied electrotherapy to stimulate the muscles so they could get some practice getting used to the new alignment of my spine. She warned me that I might experience some soreness afterward, but she did such a great job of preparing my muscles that I didn't feel anything but relief. Blessed, blissful relief. I had no idea life could be this good. Did you know that standing up straight doesn't have to require gargantuan effort, and lots of pain? It was an amazing revelation. Dr. Shaygan wasn't a bit weird or fanatical, she just knew lots about the back, talked about why it's a generally good idea to have a healthy back, and gave me good advice on how to change the way I do things so as to make it easier on my back. It was great.

But then we moved across the country, and by the time we arrived, my back was in pretty bad shape again. So I made an appointment with a local chiropractor.

And this particular chiropractor here in Houston is all about applied kinesiology. Apparently, if a vertebra is pinching a nerve, your arms and legs supposedly to lose their ability to resist pressure when that vertebra is touched. Or something like that. And sure enough, when this chiropractor ran her hand down my spine while pushing down on my leg, my leg bounced down at every stop along the way. Very impressive, indeed.

The only problem was, I had no idea what was really going on. Was she pushing harder? Was I just relaxing a bit, and then exerting more force when I realized my leg went down? Hard to say. I don't doubt that things like that really do happen-- martial artists can make excellent use of such pressure points on the most uncooperative of subjects. But it's a little bit like a ouija board. I don't doubt that it's possible that people have contacted demons through ouija boards, but either the will or the unconscious expectations of either participant is entirely sufficient to explain any and all phenomena. It's just not very reliable.

And in fact, applied kinesiologist believe that chemicals have the same sort of results, and that they can be seen immediately and dramatically just by testing muscle resistance after placing a drop of various chemicals under the tongue. And oh, the results are dramatic... except when the test is double-blind. And then everything becomes very ambiguous and ho-hum. Thus it's pretty clear that the expectations of either the patient or the examiner produce pretty dramatic results in that sort of test, and whatever else may or may not be going on, that's a sufficient explanation for just about any result.

So while I do think there's probably something to the whole pressure point thing, I really don't feel safe basing my treatment on those tests.

But I was assured that I would not at all be safe going to any other chiropractor in the area, because the other ones just went by what the back felt like. But the chiropractors in this office test for pressure points, and if something feels crooked, but my foot doesn't bounce, they'll leave it be. And if something feels straight and my foot does bounce, by gum, they're going to make that thing move.

Believe you me, if she'd told me this before adjusting me, there's no way I would have allowed her to touch me.

The other distinctive of this practice is their emphasis on patient education. Now my old chiropractor emphasized patient education, too. I had to watch an informative video out in the waiting room when I came for my first visit, the Dr. Shaygan showed me lots of models of the spine, gave cogent explanations for everything she did, and took the time to answer all my questions.

Patient education at this practice in Houston is very, very different. In fact, my first visit took around 2 hours, and there wasn't even time for an actual adjustment. Just lectures upon lectures, an absurdly thorough health history (did I ever fall off my bike as a small child?), more lectures, an applied-kinesiological exam, more lectures, an evaluation with the acupuncturist, and then it was time to schedule me for an actual adjustment the next day.

The whole deal with the acupuncturist was rather surreal. She used a sophisticated computerized apparatus to measure my chi, and determine the balance of yin and yang, and handed me a printout charting all my meridians.

When I asked her what exactly the machine was measuring, she just looked at me incredulously. Hadn't I ever heard of "chi?" Well, yes, but I wasn't very clear on the concept, or how on earth a computer program was measuring it.

And apparently she wasn't, either, because I never did get any more explanation than that.

The next day, I hoped that I could just get an adjustment, and go home--my time is precious to me, and as fascinating as all this is, frankly, I'd rather be reading Luther. He's much more level-headed, even-keeled, and whatnot. No such luck. O ut in the waiting room, I was given a laminated informational sheet to study, and when I announced that I was done skimming it over, I was taken into a private room where my case manager administered an oral examination. It was very clear that I was not going to see the chiropractor until I had successfully defined such concepts as health, function, and subluxation to her satisfaction. But once I had successfully rattled off their definitions, then it was time for the interactive lecture. She pulled out a small white-board, and proceeded to draw a simplistic diagram. She drew three circles, each connected to the other. The middle circle she labeled "body," the lower circle represented "function," and I was to tell her what I thought the top circle stood for.

After all the stuff about computerized yin and yang, I had absolutely no idea what philosophical framework she was using, and I really, really, wanted to get through this quickly, so I figured I'd better cover all my bases in one breath.

"Well, you're either referring to the brain or to the soul, one or the other."

"Soul!?" She started, then composed herself and chuckled condescendingly. "Oh, so you're spiritual, are you? Well, I'm spiritual, too, so we'd better leave all that out of this. We probably disagree about most things. But I do believe in a higher power."

And so on and so forth. Finally, she was satisfied that I understood that it is important for the brain to communicate with the body, and that pinched nerves make that much harder, etc. etc. etc. And then it was time to talk about my actual treatment plan, and how it was important for me to come in every day for the first few weeks, and several times a week thereafter for the next five months.

How... nice.

I tried to keep my smile pasted on, but the case manager caught me anyway. It was clear that if I was going to have the audacity to think, I'd better explain myself so she could clear things up. We weren't going anywhere until I was sufficiently brainwashed. I tried every polite means of evasion, but we were at an impasse. This persistent prying into my very soul and thoughts was somehow terrifying. Here was a person who had absolutely no respect for my right to have thoughts which I might freely choose to share or to keep to myself. On the surface level, everything was quite civil, yet she was clearly not going to release me until she had succeeding in molding my very thoughts to her satisfaction. It was all so very, very harmless, and yet so very unscrupulous. This woman who couldn't refer to an individual soul that was not identical with some higher power, also denied in practice any distinction between her soul and mine. Her complete disregard of my desire to keep my thoughts to myself went beyond mere pushiness--it was dehumanizing. I thought about telling her to her face that I felt threatened and manipulated, that my intelligence was being insulted and my time wasted, and I would not stand for it. That if someone would like to show me to the actual chiropractor, I would be out in the waiting room, otherwise I would be leaving, but in any case our little interview was over. I had come to have my back adjusted, not my brain, and certainly not my soul.

But I didn't. Instead, I caved.

"Oh, I'm just trying to piece together what you're saying with what my other chiropractor said, that's all."

And what did my old chiropractor say?

"Well, she had me come in several times a week at first, but then as the adjustments started holding better, we quickly moved to once a week, and by the time I moved, I was doing quite well seeing her every two weeks."

Well, other offices might do things that way, pacify patients by letting them use chiropractic however they like, but this office prides itself on results. I shouldn't give up hope, though, because she's living proof of the healing at the end of the road. She then went on to explain how I would be required to set up a bunch of appointments in advance, and sign a contract stating that I would either keep all appointments or make them up within one week. And that I should pay one month in advance if at all possible. Not because they wanted to be sure of their payment, of course, but because they didn't want me to have finances on my mind.

Of course.

Smile and nod, smile and nod. Must, must, must conceal any semblance of skepticism so I can see the doctor and get out of that place.

I must have been in there 45 minutes before she was satisfied with my brainwashing, but finally it was over, and I went into the room with the actual chiropractor. It was a different woman from the one who had examined me the day before, but she was very nice and respectful.

She felt along my spine for subluxations, testing my muscle resistance, and applying pressure as needed. Snap, crackle, pop, okay, you're all done.

No therapy, no nothing. All she did was yank around my utterly unprepared, tense back.

Well no wonder they insist that it I'd better come back tomorrow, because it won't hold longer than a day. And no wonder they say that I will be very sore afterwards if it does me any good at all.

And sore I am.

But I do hurt a little less than I did before, and at least I can stand up straight again.

And I have a much better idea of what to look for in a chiropractor.

8.23.2007

Sounding It Out

"That's right, Nathan, it's a car. And can you tell me what the first sound in 'car' is?"

"Beep-beep."

8.20.2007

Seeing Blinds

I must confess that I don't really care for vertical blinds. Or any sort of blinds, really. Except for the wooden ones, and that's probably only because I've never actually had wooden blinds, so I'm blissfully ignorant of the troubles involved in their upkeep. But I'm well aware of the troubles with aluminum blinds that collect dust and are impossibly difficult to clean, and that are so very easily destroyed with a single encounter with a single toddler---never mind constant interaction with three very rambunctious wuggies. I'm also altogether too aware of the troubles with verticals, how they collapse to the floor with the slightest bump, and get quite tangled if you try to open or close them without remembering the proper order of operations.

As I said, I don't particularly care for vertical blinds, but I'm beginning to see them with new eyes.

The place we're living in right now is a really great house. The location is perfect. It's a great subdivision, and right by Andy's school. At first I was a little disappointed about how deeply we were buried in the neighborhood, but that was before I realized that the subdivision has outlets on two major roads and we're just about halfway between them. So if we want to go to Andy's school, we turn right, if we want to go to Wal-Mart we turn left, and in either case, it's not too far. As for the house itself, I love the floor plan, and it has a terrific back yard. Or at least, the back yard would be wonderful if the fence didn't extend around the utility easement and maybe didn't have quite so many rotting slats. And maybe if their wasn't an attempt to grow a lawn without any sunlight. Maybe the trees need some thinning, or maybe there's some wonderful alternative shade-loving ground cover, but the scraggly bits of grass are a bit silly. All things considered, we absolutely love it... bit there's a sense in which it's something of an eyesore.

And that's the way the whole house is. A wonderful, absolutely perfect... eyesore.

We knew what we were getting into when we the realtor/property manager told us that no, they had no intentions of fixing the peeling vinyl in the kitchen. It's a bit nerve-racking to rent from somebody who considers intact flooring optional, but as you get deeper into your second week of the toddler invasion of your relations' lovely home, you take what you can get.

Even so, when he pointed to the package of brand-new doorknobs on the counter, and said the handyman would be by to change the locks, I had no idea that he meant that we'd have a mismatched lock component installed within the same old grossly misshapen and deeply dented doorknobs.

Filling out the inventory and condition form was a feat of tiny writing, and despite my best efforts, we needed an extra page. Whoever thought that one line would be sufficient to describe the condition of the garage ceiling obviously didn't have this particular house in mind. To be perfectly honest, I was vaguely nervous about turning in the form, because it just felt so rude to be putting all this down in writing. It was embarrassing.

Apparently the management thought so, too. Incredulous, they sent someone over to see if it was true, or if we were stretching the truth.

Yup, it was all true, and absolutely unacceptable. He would let the owners know that some things were going to have to change.

I don't know if they're really going to fix the vinyl. He says they are, but I'm not holding my breath. And is the handyman really going to come back after the rains dry out and fix the fence? Probably, but who knows.

But in the mean time, all the kitchen drawers work now, the crooked window has been replaced with one that doesn't leave a whistling gap, and we have new vertical blinds in the living room. Beautifully crisp, clean, brand new blinds that open AND close, made of smooth, easily wipe-able vinyl, without a single trace of mildew. The room is filled with sparklingly fresh light, and every time I walk in, I take a deep breath and savor the feeling. I love, love, love them.

Life is oh-so-good. I have new blinds.

8.17.2007

Jane no like jungle so much. Must stay inside grass hut with air conditioning.

During our house hunt, we looked at an apartment complex in Tomball. It seems that the laws about no more than two to a bedroom don't apply if the youngest resident is under 24 months. As our youngest resident is currently only 23 1/2 months old... well, it's all open to interpretation.

Anyway, this particular apartment had everything. Okay, so it was 6 miles away from Andy's job, and they didn't have anything opening up for another three weeks, but oh man, this place had everything. Playground, private balconies, sizable patios... it even had its own private graveyard. No, I'm not joking.

Anyway, we didn't end up getting this apartment, because it was, after all, 6 miles away from Andy's job, and they didn't have an opening for three weeks, but among the amenities of this particular apartment complex was a 24-hour excercise room, complete with a dry sauna.

Dry sauna? What in the world is a dry sauna, and what in the world would anyone want with one? Doesn't that defeat the whole purpose?

Then I stepped back outside, and it all made sense. Whatever the merits of dry saunas may be, one thing is certain. A normal sauna would definitely not be much of a selling point around here. The whole Houston area is just one big, steamy sauna.

I like saunas. Really, I do. But everyone knows that the best part about a sauna is the part where you get out and go jump in the pool.

And so it is that my very favorite thing about Texas is air conditioning.

8.15.2007

Home Sweet Home

Well, I hope he and his wife enjoy the play set.

Meanwhile, we're one street over. Dream house, it is not. Same floor plan, but a rather different philosophy of property management. Let's just say that it won't to move when the time comes to buy a place of our own.

However, for the time being, I'm just soaking in the joy of having enough space for all of us.

Andy's parents are arriving for a short visit tonight... and we actually have room for them!

The kids have room to thoroughly wear themselves out.

And that long-running dispute about how to cram all our dishes into the smallest space possible? Utterly irrelevant. Finally, I know what it feels like to have sufficient cupboard space, and you know what? It feels really, really good.

7.30.2007

Cue the Jeopardy Music, Please

We have each submitted our applications to the real estate office. Neither application has priority over the other. Both will be processed, and given to the owner, who will then make the final decision.

The realtor is optimistic about the possibility of getting an answer this morning.

The rational side of me is quite sceptical. We won't know until tomorrow afternoon. That's just the way things work.

But all the rest of me is waiting by the phone, burning up with impatience.

It's 10:39 already... why hasn't he called?

Nevermind the fact that they have to get through to our former landlords, and due to the time difference, they won't even be open for another half hour.

I'm scouring the multiple listings site, trying to convince myself that there are other houses out there. And there really are other houses out there. It's just that they have carpet in the dining rooms, smell like smoke, and have tiny, unattractive backyards.

It's going to be okay. Really.

But it's so hard to take all this as lightly as I want to.

7.29.2007

Love, War, and Real Estate

The real estate office is closed over the weekend, which makes this whole thing a bit nerve racking. If we have our application tucked through their mail slot by the time they get in there Monday morning, we should be fine... as long as nobody else has an application waiting for them, too.

Andy just got back from his faculty retreat yesterday afternoon, and we went out together to drop off the application. First, though, I wanted to drive him by the house so he could take a look at the neighborhood. Just for the fun of it... it wasn't like there was any sort of decision left to make. Kid proof floors--check. Trees--check. Biking distance from school--check. Gorgeous miniature playground--where did that unfathomable blessing come from? We'll take it!

So we drove by, and saw the neighborhood... and the unique wraparound entryway... and the front yard... and the young couple standing in the front yard talking to a realtor. The man grinned and waved at us.

"It's Tony! Pull over and park!"

And so it was that I got to meet one of the other new teachers at Providence. Andy had been having lots of great dialogue with him all weekend.

We chatted a bit about what a great house it is, great neighborhood, great location, and wow, isn't it funny, this is exactly the house we're putting in an application for! Were we looking at any other houses? Well, not if we get this one!

We left them to their tour, and drove off to find Star Realty.

We looked and we looked, but we can't find them. Learned a whole lot about the Houston area freeway feeder-roads system, but we never did find 19627 I-45 North.

We're getting a little bit desperate here. If the application isn't in before they open on Monday, then we can't quite legitimately pester them all morning about it.

And everybody knows that all's fair in love, war, and real estate.

7.27.2007

Homecoming

It's a strange thing, slowly to come home to a place you've never been.

After far too long on the road, too many motels and truck stops, Nathan told me that he wanted to go home.

Heart breaking for him, I asked where exactly he meant by that.

"I want to go to the new house."

It's a strange, and peculiarly desperate sort of homesickness, not to long so much for a particular place that is home, but simply to long to be home, wherever it is that we are.

Today, out of the blue, my little bug-boy announced to me, "We're almost there."

Indeed we are. We're almost home--and oh, what a home!

We've picked out a place to rent and gathered all the application paperwork. All I need to do is pick up a money order in the morning for the application fee, drop everything off, and wait for approval.

It's gorgeous, and with carpeting in the bedrooms only, it won't be terribly hard to keep it that way. Beautiful, beautiful laminate floors! I could kiss them!

And the back yard! A good sized back yard with four or so mature pines, providing both house and yard a canopy of shade. And a beautiful play set, just the right size for our kidlings, and very attractive.

Things I never would have bothered to wish for, too, like walk-in closets in every bedroom.

Even the things I wouldn't have chosen, like the forcefully floral wallpaper in the kitchen, the walls separating the kitchen from dining room and living room, and the unique overall shape of the house... all these things have distinct advantages, and may very well end up being better than "just what I wanted." After all, the wallpaper actually is very pretty, and since we really do want to get into a place of our own in the near future, it's really better to have a kitchen that is cozy and homelike as is, than one with the potential for all sorts of decorating that probably wouldn't even happen until right before it was time to move. And, well, if you can't see the rest of the house from the kitchen, that does mean that you can't see the kitchen from the rest of the house!

I'm just a little bit excited, in case you couldn't tell.

And in the mean time, we're experiencing the warm southern hospitality of my dad's cousin Lorre, and her husband Paul. They've welcomed us into their home with open arms, and while we haven't met the rest of the family yet, I've been hearing enough to get the idea that there's a lot of family, and that family means a lot. It wasn't even on my radar when we made the decision to move here, but do we have family in the area? Indeed we do.

Family, moreover, that really likes kids, and let me tell you, that is a very big deal.

Speaking of which, I can't count how many times I've been asked if twins run in the family, and it turns out I've answered them wrong every time.

Years ago, Paul and Lorre had pretty much the same sort of family as we do now, twin boys and their little sister.

And I have no idea how I'd forgotten, but off in Ohio, I have a set of second cousins who are fraternal twins. And yes, it's their mother that's my dad's cousin, not their father.... apparently twins do indeed run in the family, and not just all over the house and yard!

It's surprising what a warm and belonging feeling a discovery like that can bring. I didn't think it really mattered, but it does. Always before I thought that I was just special, the odd one out, who just has twins out of the blue. It turns out that I'm actually participating in a peculiar quality of Palmer women. We are the sort of women who bear twins, and somehow that "we" means more to me than I would have guessed.

It means something like home.

7.25.2007

7.16.2007

Unquenchable

It's hot around here. Not nearly as hot as when the van broke down in the middle of the Palm Desert on our way over from California, but certainly hot enough to make a stove quite superfluous to egg-frying.

Hot enough that I was exceedingly glad that I'd let the Tercel's fuel levels get down to "E" before filling up, because the explosive burst when I opened the tank wouldn't have been much fun had there been more than a drop or two of gasoline inside.

Hot enough that the world looks a bit like a Renoir through the unulating haze.

And hot enough, that as I passed by the fire department, sweltering under the blazing sun, for a moment there I actually considered running in there and asking them to put out the fire.

7.04.2007

Mealtime conversations

Over the past week or so, we've started having real, live, honest-to-goodness family mealtime chatter. Not just Mom and Dad trying to talk to each other between incessant interruptions, but whole-family discussions.

And it's so much fun.


This morning, over breakfast, the twins announced that they want a birthday party. With party hats. Yellow party hats. And cake. Isaiah wants a chocolate cake. A black chocolate cake. Nathan does not want the cake to be chocolate, but he does want syrup on it. A white cake with lemon sauce? Yup.

And at this two-cake party, they want to paint a train. With a caboose. And an engine.

And actually, this is sounding like a much better idea for a four-year-old birthday party than I could have come up with. I'm glad there's a little time left before January, though.

They're such fun little people, my boys.

=)

7.01.2007

Security Measures

You know how sometimes people will install fake security cameras, just so folks will think twice before doing anything they wouldn't want recorded?

Well, the United States Postal Service is far too honest for such things.

Far too honest.

So honest, in fact, that there are a number of signs all over the Cottonwood Post Office, making certain that everyone understands that the security cameras are NOT monitored, only recorded.

6.29.2007

On Emergent Molars: A Conversation with Meepo

"It's cutting me, mommy. It feels like snakes."

"I'm sorry that it hurts, but I'm glad that you can describe it like that. You're very articulate."

"NO! Don't tickle it!"

6.26.2007

When it floods, it... floods.

The dishwasher is leaking.

6.23.2007

Story Problem

If the bathroom sink flows at a rate of 1/2 cup per second, and is left running for 1 hr. 20 min., how much water will be on the floor?

6.21.2007

Neither Here nor There

We're officially gone from California, but we have yet to set foot on Texas soil. In the mean time we're hanging out in my parent's home in Arizona. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) The limbo is a little strange in some ways (no library cards for residents of nowhere), but for the most part we're having a blast. Mom and Dad aren't here right now, but my sister is, and we're having fun together.

And, oh my goodness, the HOUSE! I'd sort of forgotten what it's like to live in a HOUSE. With a YARD. Suddenly, my life is not consummed with preventing my children from doing developmentally appropriate and important things that just so happen to be very much destructive in the small space. Now if they're being destructive or just plain in the way, it's a simple matter to direct them toward another equally attractive activity--preferably outside in that lovely back yard.

Speaking of the back yard, it's been a matter of contention in the Palmer family for a very long time. You see, my mom, sister and I really really wanted a nice lawn and pretty garden. My dad wanted to cover the whole thing over with gravel. We prevailed, and preserved our precious lawn. Or, at least, the closest thing possible when you live in Arizona, and are gone for well over half the year. Year after year, the ratios of grass to weeds fluctuated, but at least we had something green, and we always prevented Daddy from covering it in gravel.

Until this past year. I'm not quite sure what happened, but somehow an agreement was struck, and Daddy had his way. The back yard is now covered in gravel.

And it's gorgeous. I should have known that Daddy's plan wasn't for a hideous, unbroken expanse of gravel. Daddy may not have lots of time for lawn maintainance, but he does have a superb eye for proportion and good composition, a strong aesthetic sense, and good taste. They now have an attractively ordered desert landscape, with pampas grass and yucca and mesquite and honeysuckle and mint. Most of these are local plants that volunteered--and since they are in their proper environment, they thrive quite nicely with minimal care. It's a lovely, restful place, alive with birdsong, joyous and vibrant and peaceful.

I can't believe we fought him for so long.

And I think that surely there must be a lesson somewhere in there.

6.18.2007

We are alive.

I've always thought of myself as a girl of the desert.

Now I realize that it is not the desert I love, it is the oasis. The clear blue stream overflowing with life, the droplets splashing on the hot, windcarved sand.

From the shade of a cottonwood tree, I love to gaze upon the cactus and the redrocks.

But the true desert... the endless expanse is cruel and wicked. Its desire is to bleach my bones and the bones of my children, like the bones of so many coyotes before, creatures made of much sterner stuff than we.

But we are alive.

The desert has not bleached our bones, and we are safe in this familiar and lovely oasis... I'd forgotten just how beautiful the Verde Valley is. It is good to be home.

6.11.2007

To whom it may concern:

I have a strong distaste for moving.

But I do like nice people who take my children to the park.

That is all.

6.09.2007

Great opportunity for nursing moms

The International Breast Milk Donation Project is an incredibly good thing on so many different levels.

First off, I'm sure that you know that between AIDS and famine, there are a lot of orphaned babies in Africa. But did you know that those babies are six times more likely to survive if they receive donor breast milk, as opposed to formula? Six times.

So a few years ago, some women started expressing their extra milk, and shipping it to Africa on dry ice. I've actually known about this part of the story for some time, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn't all that interested. I mean, that's really wonderful, but how is it even remotely sustainable?

Well, now it's actually sustainable through a unique partnership with a for-profit corporation called Prolacta Bioscience. Prolacta uses donated breast milk to develop medical products that save the lives of preemies here in the US. Their biggest thing is human milk fortifier--that's what they added to my expressed milk before they put it in Nathan and Isaiah's feeding tubes, to add calories and protein so that they could catch up on all that growing that should have happened in utero. The stuff my twins received was based on cow's milk, but now Prolacta has developed a human milk fortifier that is actually made from human milk. Which is much better for these fragile babies. It's also pretty big business. Even the cow based stuff runs $100 per day per infant.

Of course, the one difficulty with all this is that they are completely dependent upon breast milk, and the law does not allow them to pay their donors. And not many women get too excited about pumping so that somebody else can make a fortune off their milk. On its own, this project is about as sustainable as the idea of shipping breast milk to Africa.

Together, though, these two crazy idealistic projects actually work.

Prolacta provides all the equipment, from hospital-grade electric pumps to dry ice, and pays for overnight shipping to their laboratories. 25% of each woman's milk goes to Africa. Prolacta tests and pasteurizes the milk for free, and pays for all shipping costs.

Then Prolacta uses the rest of the donated milk in the highly profitable business of saving babies in the US. Prolacta then pays the Breast Milk Project $1 for every ounce of breast milk that stays in the States. This money goes toward the establishment of local milk banks, mobilizing local women to meet this huge need for breast milk.

So go talk to your doctor about it, and see if this would be the right thing for you!

I sure am, just as soon as I get to Texas!

6.05.2007

Ensnared

The other thing I've been doing lately is playing with the espresso machine I got for my birthday.

I'm highly caffeinated.

Oh, the wonderful things you can do with coffee beans and milk!

Anyway, I had this wonderful post all worked up about how if you just pour the coffee over the frothy steamed milk instead of pouring the milk over the coffee, you get a consistently wonderful gorgeously layered result with minimal effort. But how it's psychologically easier to try to control everything, even when you know you'll get a better result by letting go a little and just allowing the nature of things work to your advantage. And how all this affects childbirth and parenthood, and, well, just about everything.

Oh, it was a great post.

But then I wanted to make sure that I was using all the proper coffee-snob terminology, and I just kept running across stuff like this.

I'm helpless against the temptation.

I'm on a quest for the perfect microfoam, perfectly poured.

I'm drinking way to many lattes for my own good, and all that nutritious vitamin D enriched whole milk my children drink? Steamed, every bit of it. Well, mostly, anyway. At first they were extremely excited about the "special milk." Now they're requesting "special milk" once again, but this time, they mean straight from the fridge.

I think I may be going a little overboard.

And the thing is, it never actually ends up looking or tasting nearly so good as when I just pour the espresso over the milk, and leave it at that.

I just can't stop.

6.02.2007

I still blog. Really.

It's just that I'm also moving.

And trying to find a place to move to.

And reading the foundational epics of just about every major world religion and sundry works on the philosophy of education, and basking in the fact that suddenly being a good wife doesn't just involve learning how to do all the stuff I'm not particularly good at, but also involves stuff I am particularly good at. Like reading and synthesizing and and discussing, and well, all the stuff we loved doing together, the whole reason we got married in the first place.

And hanging out in downtown LA, because you just can't live in the area for 7 years and then move away without ever having spent at least one day becoming acquainted with the city itself.

Which, by the way, felt surprisingly reassuring and homelike. These years in California, I've keenly felt the lack of sky and rocks, but I never really articulated my need to look up at towering canyon walls. Had I known how downtown could feed this inarticulate need of mine, I would have spent a whole lot more time hanging out down there. Because, amazingly enough, standing in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world is approximately the same experience as standing inside a sparsely populated chasm in the middle of the desert.

Beyond the comforting sense of enclosure, that strangely freeing sense of vertigo that comes from gazing at a very high cliff, either up or down... beyond all that, each spot had specific character and location, a particular place with a particular relationship to all the other particular places. Like the canyon, the city cries out to be known in all its particulars, known in it's colors and textures and sounds, not merely known by the numbers and signs on which we must depend to find our way home in suburbia. I found myself wondering what it must be like to know the city as I know the canyon. There is a strangely deep kinship that comes from knowing a place in common. What must it be like to share that knowledge, not with a few hundred, or even a few thousand, but with hundreds of thousands? And what must it be like to be that pinata vendor, a quite ordinary person so vividly shaping the experience of everyone passing through that corner of the city?

As striking as the sense of massive intimacy was the sense of autonomy, the sense that the city did not exist for us. It simply was what it was, which strangely enough, gave us the freedom to simply be who we are. I wanted to stock up on wholesale fabric, so we wandered through the fashion district quite a bit. We never did find any fabric vendors who appeared to be open for business, but we had a lot of fun wandering through shop after shop full of imported clothing, as the owners hovered over us explaining in broken English how much of each item they had in stock, eager to haggle out a deal. It looked very much like a mildly dingy outdoor mall--except that the whole purpose of each store's inventory was entirely different. Each store did not contain a careful selection of items designed to appeal to a particular demographic, but rather a set of items from a particular place. Their goal was not to sell things that a particular group of people would most likely want to buy, but rather to sell the particular things that they had. The difference was subtle, but striking.

It was a lot of fun, wandering through the wholesale shops, and we thought what fun it would be to be a buyer for a shop, to put together an inventory. It's rather amazing, really. It had never occurred to me just how much of my shopping is actually done for me by complete strangers.

We drove through the flower district with our windows down. The gaudy and the exquisite blended strangely, but the fragrance was glorious.

In need of a snack, we found a parking spot in the food district, and browsed through the mexican markets. I looked around for potatoes--perhaps I could spare myself the grocery stop on the way home. But none of them had potatoes, which surprised us. Potatoes are just such ordinary, basic things... doesn't everybody carry potatoes? But of course these places were not there to provide us with the things we wanted to buy, they existed to distribute the things that the vendors had to sell. And as ubiquitously salable as potatoes may be, they aren't generally imported from Mexico, so that's not what they were selling. So we bought ourselves a case of gorgeous strawberries and moved on.

The taco stand didn't look particularly interesting, or necessarily safe, so we reluctantly went across the street to McDonalds. It was a strange experience to walk through those doors and be suddenly transported back into suburbia, into that carefully crafted experience, where suddenly everything is all about you, and telling you what to want and bringing it to you. Where I ordered a large drink, not because I really wanted anything but french fries and water, but because it was there and they were selling it to me, and where they sold me a large drink, not because they had drinks to sell, but where they sold drinks because they knew I could be easily persuaded to buy one.

We drove by 6th and Hope. The Church of the Open Door is gone, and the Jesus Saves sign, but it is still in the middle of everything, right there between the enormous homeless population huddled beside crumbling buildings, filling run-down parks, and the sophisticated, powerful businessmen striding quickly and confidently down the sparklingly clean sidewalks in the shadow of glisteningly glorious monuments of glass and steel . It's a touch ironic, really. Our own church, Blessed Sacrament, got its start right in the heart of Placentia, right there on the main intersection, in the middle of it all. But as the city grew, that main intersection became an obscure little cul-de-sac, and even the city itself was swallowed up into obscurity within the urban sprawl. The church stands there still, and flourishes, right where it was planted in the first place, but that place where it was planted is very different now, a sheltered place and tucked away.

Meanwhile, the place where Biola began is still at the heart of everything, but Biola has moved to the suburbs. Sometimes I think this is sad, but sometimes I think it makes sense. It really does free up a lot of energy, to be in a place less all-consuming, a place that matters less, perhaps. It's terribly sad, but I start to understand, as I watch our family make the same decisions. We aren't moving to Houston, we're moving to Spring. To the suburbs, where everything is artificially structured around making life easy for us, because right now, we care more about fully participating in a vibrant community of thought, than in a vibrant community of location and commerce. And I think that's the right thing.

But it's still a little sad.