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.


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.



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


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.


Sounding It Out

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



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.


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.


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.