Friday, October 28, 2011

Interesting Shares

"How do you get your kids interested in important stuff?" a friend wanted to know.  "I take my kids to museums, to shows and on all kinds of field trips, and they just act bored."

It's something we'd all like to know.  But when we try to force the issue, I think it often backfires on us.

Like anything else, it's mostly a matter of mutual respect.  Kids will respond more favorably to overtures if they know that their parents are open to their passions, as well.

For instance, my son is much more willing to listen to me talk about history when I've had a deep conversation with him about Pokemon. I make it a point to watch some of his favorite TV shows with him, and as a result, we have so much more common ground on which to walk together.

I have heard so many parents complain that their children's interest are boring. And I'll admit that some of the shows my son watches are less than cerebral, and I don't necessarily enjoy every book my daughters read.  But when I make the effort, I see the results.

I don't know that my kids will ever have the same passion for history that I do, or if they will love the same music that makes me happy.  But when we all respect--and at least sometimes share--each others' favorite things, we're expressing our love. . .and that's what is important.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Family Lingo

When I was a little girl and the pastor preached a tad too long on a Sunday morning, my dad would say he burned the roast beef.  This comment was derived from a sermon preached at our family church when I was quite young; the visiting minister shared that his mother would always put a roast in the oven on a Sunday morning, and if the service went too long, the beef would be burned. 

I don't remember that pastor or even how old I was, but that comment has stuck with our family!

Over twenty years ago, my husband and I took our six month old daughter and my two cousins to Sea Life Park near our home on Oahu, Hawaii.  We sat in the splash zone at one of the shows, and two year old Bret didn't like getting wet.  He was a young man of few words, but he did tell us quite firmly, "Don't wanna do that no more."  That phrase too has joined our family vernacular, used when we are quite finished with any activity!

Isn't it funny how each family has its own lingo?  I'll bet you can think of a few phrases which wouldn't have any meaning to someone outside your family, but which when used, evoke a very exact image in your mind. 

It might not seem like such a big deal, but having your own family language is another way of bonding.  It's like an inside joke, a memory only you have.  Certain phrases and words remind us of joyous or bittersweet times.  They link us to people who are no longer with us.

Now that we have a new family member, it's been fun to introduce him to some of our language.  It makes him part of us.

Because family lingo not only sets us apart; it also brings us together.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Could Be Angry, Too

Recently, I read a blog written by Greta Christina; it was linked on Facebook, and something in the description caught my eye.  I don't know much about her, but from what I can tell, she is an atheist.  And apparently today (or whenever she wrote this), she is an angry atheist. (Her description, not mine.)

As I read the long column, I was alternately indignant, ticked off, appalled and very, very sad.  Some of the points that the author made were genuinely upsetting.  Some of them made me want to roll my eyes, because they were complaints I've heard from atheists for years.  I don't know that all of those are valid, but neither can I say all of them are invalid.

I was ready to respond to her blog; I really wanted to leave a comment regarding some of her lines of reasoning and the clear double standards to which she apparently adheres. But upon further reflection, I realized that by doing that I'd be getting embroiled in a debate that can have no winner.

But there's nothing to stop me from talking about it here, on my own platform!

It seems that the author of that blog is upset--well, by quite a few things, but from what I can see, it boils down to a few issues (even though her list of anger-provoking points is fairly long).  As I see it, she feels that as an atheist, she is discriminated against by many people, organizations and situations.  I guess I can understand that; I might not agree, but I'm sure we all feel like victims of prejudice now and again. 

Where she lost me was her attacks on the beliefs of those people who choose NOT to be atheists.  The irony is simply delicious:  she's claiming that people who question her own lack of belief system (which incidentally is a contradiction in terms; we ALL have belief systems, even if that belief is in a lack of any deity) or the way she chooses to express herself make her angry, but she doesn't hesitate to turn around and condemn and deride believers for the same things. I was mildly amused that the author appeared to be equally offended by people who seem to really embrace their faith and by those whose religion is only surface-deep.

I'll freely admit that I was on the verge of being angry, too.  I was annoyed by the stereotypes this woman bought into and promoted; hey, if you're going to be an angry atheist, at least try to find an original reason for your angst.  I can tell you that here in 2011 America, being a Christian isn't a walk in the park, either.  I could argue that in our post-modern pluralistic society, living a genuine faith is no easy task.  But I wouldn't waste my time making that argument, since the writer clearly is not going to step away from her safe and self-righteous points of view.

I was hurt, too, by the people who chose to post the link to this blog and endorsed the opinions contained therein.  At least some of these people know me pretty well.  To my knowledge, I've never tried to force my faith on any of them, nor have I treated them as non-believers with any less warmth or love than I have those of my circle who do follow Christ.

But here's the rub.  You see, as an atheist, Greta Christina can say anything she chooses.  She doesn't answer to a higher authority than herself.  By claiming no belief system, she can embrace the idea that right and wrong do not exist.  No one can call her a hypocrite for railing against others, for saying cruel and hurtful things or for attacking those of us who follow Jesus Christ.

I am a follower of the Way.  Technically I am a Christian, although I am reluctant to claim that title sometimes.  I don't agree with everything that happens in every Christian church.  I know plenty of pious, religious people who have only the most passing knowledge of Jesus. I also know people whose selflessness and love take my breath away.  I'm sorry that people have done things in the name of Christ that are hurtful, horrifying and horrendous. The existence of those people doesn't negate my right to know for certain that Jesus lived, died and rose again and to act upon that knowledge.

As a believer in Christ, I am held to a higher standard.  I'm called not to debate atheists, to hate them or to mock them; I'm called to love them, defend them and protect them.  (Note here that loving, defending and protecting a person does not mean that I must love, defend or protect his or her views.)

So I'm not going to rant and rave.  I'm not going to argue.  All the atheists in the world can keep being angry, and I'll do my best to have as much compassion as I can. I'm sorry that you atheists are angry, and I hope things get better for you.

In fact, I'll pray that they do.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Without Wheels

I am car lover.  I'm not crazy about it, mind you; I can't tell you the horsepower or engine size of every muscle car, nor can I tell you the year and model of an automobile just by looking at it (unless it's a Mustang circa the mid-1960's).  But I do love cars.  My parents loved to tell the story about me at age four.  We had just driven across the country from New Jersey to California, our new home, and we had used our lovely red Pontiac with white interior to pull a U-Haul trailer.  Apparently doing so killed the transmission, so not long after arriving in Modesto, we had to trade in the Pontiac.  I still remember riding to the dealership, facedown on that beautiful white vinyl, sobbing. . .I didn't want to give up my Pontiac, the only car I could recall in my young life. And I hated the ugly blue Buick that replaced it--hated it for the next ten years.  Actually, I still hate it, come to think of it, wherever it may be!

Since then, my love affair with cars has only intensified. I have strong opinions about the vehicles I want to own or drive.  I know which ones I don't like.  I don't really like stick shift, since I had early bad experiences with driving standard.  I like cars that go fast, and I like cars that make my life easier.

Since 1992, I've had my own car.  Up until then, we lived in Hawaii on an Air Force base and my husband and I shared a pink Plymouth Vista.  But when we moved to the mainland and he took a job in medical sales, he was given a company car, and for the first time, I had a car always at my disposal.  It made sense; we had two young daughters, and we used the car to go to the grocery store, to the doctors or to the library.  I began to take that freedom for granted. 

We had that Plymouth until 1999, when we sold it and bought a Toyota Corolla.  Loved that car!  It had zip, and I could drive my three little girls and myself all around town.  And then our son came along, and we realized we needed something that could fit a car seat. . .again. . .

That's when our mini-van phase began.  We had a few before we finally could buy what I wanted: a Honda Odyssey.  It had a navigation system and side doors that opened automatically.  It got amazing gas mileage. It was my (mom-phase) dream car.  It took us on many a family vacation, drove us back and forth to Florida when Clint was living down here and we were still in NJ.  In the late spring of 2008, it drove us across the country to California, and we hit 100,000 miles on the drive between Modesto and Fremont, CA.

About two weeks ago, I sent Haley to the grocery store late on a Saturday afternoon.  She and David were picking up a few things I needed for dinner.  Unfortunately, another driver coming in the opposite direction decided to use her lane as a turn lane, and Haley narrowly avoided hitting him head-on.  In the effort of avoiding this accident, she hit another car.  Thank God, she and David were both fine, but not the van.  At 188,000 miles, with both air bags deployed, it was pretty clear that it was totaled.

I'll admit that it was with a very heavy heart that I emptied the van of all our personal items.  It reminded me of a death, and in a way, we were losing a certain part of our family, a link to times and people past.  It was very sad to know the pretty blue Odyssey wasn't going to tote our family anymore.

We've made the decision not to buy another car at this point.  We'd like to see if we can make it with four drivers and two cars; so far, we're doing okay.  It's taking a lot of planning and compromise to get two college students to school and work daily.  But it is really odd for me to at home without wheels again. 

We had a rental car until Monday, and as I emptied it of the few things I'd transferred earlier, I realized how strange it would be.  Most moms know what I mean.  We kind of live in our cars.  I have my phone charger, my a/c adapter, my iPod connector, my Sun Pass, assorted CDs, magazines, first aid kit. . .everything that made life possible.  And now I don't need them anymore; they're sitting in a sad little pile at the end of my bed.

I don't mind being more of a homebody.  Truthfully, I like the excuse.  At least, right now I like it; I fully expect the novelty to wear off eventually.  The hardest part is the lack of spontaneity.  We can't wake up on a Tuesday and decide to run down to the Magic Kingdom, nor can we dash off to the beach on a Friday. 

It's just another season of life, and one I'm willing to embrace. . for now.  Check in with me in about a month and we'll see how I'm doing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wheels for Noah!!

I am pre-empting my regular blogging on all sites this week to bring you this important message.

Some of you already know about Noah Estes.  For those who aren't familiar with him, he is a four year old boy, the seventh of eight children born to Kate and Jeff Estes.  Noah has a very serious illness, mitochondrial encephalomyopathy.  It's a rare disease that affects several of his organ systems.

Noah is getting a brand new wonderful wheelchair that is going to make his life so much easier.  But the new wheelchair won't fit into the family's van, so they have found a sort of bus that will fit them all and allow Noah to travel with them. 

As you can imagine, this is good news.  As you can also guess, buses like this don't come cheap.  So the Estes are holding a fundraiser to help them raise the money. 

Please visit to help, donate and spread the word.  Add the link to your own blogs, put it on Facebook or Twitter, share the site via email.  Whatever you can do will help! If you can contribute an item for the silent auction or participate in another way, it will be a tremendous blessing to this family.

To read more about Noah's full story, please visit


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Up to Scratch

The other day, I was making a quick batch of macaroni and cheese for dinner after church.  It occurred to me as I stirred the cheese sauce that I can't remember my mother ever making mac and cheese from scratch.  Her version came from the bright blue box with the yellow lettering.

My mom was part of a generation that was sold a whole new way of life.  Married in the mid-sixties, she came of age during the biggest convenience push of the twentieth century.  Every magazine, television commercial and grocery store sung the praises of boxed meals, two-step cakes and pre-packaged foods.

Consequently my mother would have been more likely to walk naked down Broadway than to make a meal from scratch.  She used condensed soups, packets and mixes, bottled sauces and pre-made dressings.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not criticizing my mom.  She made amazing meals for her family with love and with the best information she had, and she was a product of her time.  I also think she reacted to her own mother's practices of canning, baking bread and cooking for an army by taking advantage of the convenience food.

When I got married and began to run my own kitchen, I was amazed to learn how easy it was to cook from real and natural ingredients.  It's been a gradual process, and I am constantly educating myself on even better ways to feed my family. 

My way of cooking is probably closer to that of my grandmothers than that of my mom's, and I think that's been passed onto my daughters as well.  As my oldest daughter said recently, the pendulum has swung again. And we really have the best of both worlds: we can choose natural whole foods and cook them using more efficient tools than our grandmothers had. (After all, I don't relish the idea of cooking over an open fire or on a coal stove!)

A brave new world, indeed!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's a team effort!

I have a confession to make:  I intended to write a completely different post for this blog earlier in the week.  Sunday was a busy day for me (see my MOB blog!), and when I arrived home in the late afternoon, I was dismayed to find the sink and countered covered in dishes.  The kitchen was a mess.  The living room wasn't much better.

And when I opened the dishwasher, I didn't find clean dishes to unload; instead it was almost empty, with a few dirty dishes inside.  That's when I began writing (in my head) my original post, a tongue in cheek piece explaining that in fact it turns out that I have superhero powers, because clearly I am the only person in my house who is capable of opening the dishwasher to determine its state of cleanliness.  As I straightened different rooms,  the article wrote itself, each chore adding itself to the list of things that apparently only Mommy can accomplish.

But God is good and grace abounds.  I didn't actually sit down Sunday night to write that post, and I am very glad that I didn't--that in fact I didn't even say anything about how I felt.

On Monday morning, I was trying to sleep when I heard some unfamiliar sounds coming from the kitchen.  In my drowsy state it took more than a few moments for me to realize that I was hearing the dishwasher being unloaded by my wonderful husband who had gotten up, taken out the dog and the trash, made bacon and now was doing this chore.  Ahhhhh. . .

And then later in the day, the younger kids and I decided to make a quick trip down to a Disney water park today.  Without me even mentioning it, Catie offered to make sandwiches for us to eat there--and then she also made brownies from scratch for us to enjoy!  YUM!!  And this was after Haley and Catie both cleaned up from dinner so that their big sister could study for a test.

This afternoon, after the water park trip, I asked David to unload the dishwasher.  And truthfully, at first he was less than enthused.  But before long, I realized that he had not only emptied it, he had also reloaded it. . .and then he washed the counters, cleaned out the fridge and off the stove and set the table for dinner!  And he did it all with a smile on his face and a cheerful heart.

And not to be outdone, Devyn did the dinner dishes tonight, thanking her sisters for their help on Monday night.  She also helped her brother with some personal hygiene items, but we don't need to go into those details.

So I've been convicted.  Turns out that not only am I not a superhero, sometimes I don't even do a very good of realizing how blessed I am.  I'd forgotten how well my family works together as a team.  There are going to be times when no one can do the dishes or run a vacuum.  Everyone gets busy.  But when it's needed, we're also going to pull together and make it all happen.

Because I might not have superpowers, but I do in fact live in a family of amazing people.