Monday, December 22, 2008

The Weather and the Wii

The two hot topics in our household today:

1) The weather. It is currently -- at 10am on Monday morning -- 20 degrees below zero in Sioux City. Incredible. Not much wind, thankfully (and surprisingly). But twenty below is wicked all on its own. We were supposed to have blizzard conditions this past weekend, with new snow and strong winds blowing it all over. The wind came, and the snow, too, but the former did not blow the latter as much as predicted. Still it was pretty miserable to be out in.

The guy we bought our used snow blower from is supposed to come by this morning to look at it. It doesn't start when the weather's too cold. That's useful, huh?

We're supposed to get more snow tomorrow and Wednesday, but the temperature is supposed to go up, at least -- a nice, balmy 24 or so. For a while last week, we were wondering if we needed to be concerned about getting home for the holidays, but I don't think that's going to be an issue now.

2) The Wii. We got one. The girls opened it last night. (See my last post for their reaction.) Living in Jersey, we started a tradition of opening our Christmas gifts to each other early, before we left town. It seemed like a pointless exercise to ship those gifts back to Kansas just to open them and ship them home again. Anyway, as I said, it's a tradition now, and the girls wanted to open our immediate family presents here again. So, last night was the night. And the Wii was the star of the show.

We played on it all evening. And the girls have played on it all morning so far. We're definitely going to have to set up some rules about this thing. At least when they play that, they're up and moving around instead of sitting on the sofa playing on the laptop or watching TV.

And this may be a good thing for making friends. Something to help them break the ice. To help Leslie, anyway -- Eastin doesn't often have ice to break with anyone.

With the holidays coming up, I don't know how much writing I'll get done here. (Who knows -- maybe I'll write more . . . ) But I figured I'd take this opportunity to wish all of my "faithful readers" (that's kind of cool to say) a very Merry Christmas. May it be warm and comfortable and joyful and full of love!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Funny Girls

An annoying obligatory post about funny things my children have said recently.

Leslie: "You know what my name is during Christmas? Essie. (Why?) Because it's no-el."

Eastin: (Singing self-written song lyrics as her rock star alter-ego) "Do you know what today is? . . . no, not Wednesday . . I mean, a holiday . . . no, not Hannukah . . . what are you, French?" (OK, maybe you had to be there, but it was hysterical.)

Both: (While opening their Christmas present together tonight) WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (They got a Wii.)

And now a few from the past:

Eastin at 6: (after having talked for 45 minutes straight to her father and I in our bed early in the morning) "You know, just because I talk a lot doesn't mean I have anything to say." (Ha! You don't often see that kind of self-knowledge in a 6-year-old.)

Mom: I am SO annoyed!
Leslie at 10: Join the club!
Mom: Oooh! Is there a club? Do we have a secret handshake?
Leslie: (Looking at Mom like she's a freak) Yeah! (Pounds her on the forehead with her fist)

Guess you had to be there for that one, too.

I love my girls. They make me laugh. I should remember that more often.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Confessions of a Mean Mom

So, my Facebook friends read my status yesterday about being a "mean mom" and know that we've been having discipline issues here. I won't say what or with whom, because I don't want to embarrass her, and because it's over now basically. But the whole incident caused me to do some reflecting.

Frankly, when it comes down to it, I'm a pretty lousy parent. Now, before all my sweet, kind friends get up in arms to protest and tell me to get to a shrink and find some self-esteem . . . I know of whence I speak. Mothering does NOT come naturally to me. And I'm not talking about how we're all sinners and selfish and such. I have friends whom I watch with their kids, and I become well aware that they have some nurturing gene that is weak in my DNA. Not missing, but weak.

Not that I abuse my girls -- you all know better than that. And I do love both of my girls desperately. But I have to work much too hard not only to do the right thing by them, but even to just enjoy them sometimes. I'm very self-centered, self-focused . . very controlling . . rather impatient . . not good with long-term projects and situations (which parenting would qualify as).

But what occurred to me yesterday is that perhaps this is by God's design. Because while I'm not naturally good at parenting, I am naturally good at a lot of other things. I know many people think that is a blessing (and I'm not ungrateful for the gifts God has given me), but the problem is that when a person is able to accomplish a lot in her own strength, she gets a big, fat head and forgets who gave her that ability in the first place.

I'm starting to wonder . . . perhaps God is intentionally not answering all my prayers to make me a wonderful parent . . . perhaps He needs to keep reminding me, "See, this is the real you. In all your ugliness. Don't ever forget that -- all that is good in you is actually me, and all the good that's in your kids is not your doing either" . . . perhaps he lets me fail in this area specifically to keep me dependent on Him. If I were a wonderful parent on my own--if it came naturally to me as it does to so many of my friends--then I would take credit for that feat, too. As it is, I am all too painfully aware that if my girls grow up sane and healthy (which I expect they will), it will be entirely by the grace of God.

So maybe this is my thorn in the flesh. My thing to keep me humble, dependent -- to keep my head appropriately sized. If so, I suppose I should welcome it and just let it do its work. That would be the wisest response, yes?

Oops -- don't let me start thinking I'm wise. Big, fat head issues again . . .

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Oh, my gosh. It is so cold here. Right now it is one below, with a wind chill of twenty-seven below because the wind is wicked crazy. It is SO COLD.

The girls and I went with the neighbors to the Swedish Lutheran church that Pam grew up in tonight. They were having a St. Lucia celebration. We were freezing on the way there -- by the time we left the snow had picked up again and we could hardly see the signs on the road driving home.

And did I mention . . . it is COLD?!?!?!??

I asked tonight if this is typical weather for around here. Pam assured me, no. It doesn't usually get this cold until January. (!!!!!) But another man at the table shook his head and insisted this is pretty typical.


I already bought myself some new gloves and a headwrap. I've started lecturing the girls about zipping up their coats before they're outside and about keeping their gloves in their coat pockets so they always have them. I'm on the verge of purchasing some long underwear.

I always have said that I'd rather move further north than further south. That I'd rather be too cold than too hot. You can always put more clothes on . . . you can't always take enough off. What was I thinking?

My friend Cindy told me she never drank coffee until she moved to Minnesota. There, she told me, the minute you walk into someone's door in the wintertime, someone shoves a cup of hot coffee in your hands . . and you just drink it because it's hot. Maybe I'll be a coffee drinker here soon.

That would be something, cuz I find coffee pretty disgusting right now. Nah. It won't happen. I'll freeze first. Coffee is just gross.

And actually, now that I think of it, I really do prefer this to oppressive heat and humidity. I've been there, too. I'll add on another layer of clothes and keep the laptop on my lap to warm it up. We choose our battles . .

OK, this is off-topic, but I'm remembering one of the funnier things Leslie has ever said . . . once in the car, she and Eastin were arguing and I admonished Leslie to stop picking fights with her sister.

"But you always tell me to pick fights with her!"

"What?!? I tell you NO such thing!!"

"Mom -- you are always telling me: 'Leslie, you have to pick your battles!'"

And the little snit let me get halfway through an explanation of what I meant by that before she started cracking up and revealed that she was making a joke, Mom, come on! Even Eastin had to laugh. At least they stopped arguing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Flavor of Lazy Am I?

My friends out there who read World magazine will recognize the name Andree Seu. She's one of my favorite writers. She has a blog ( that I read regularly. Yesterday's post particularly convicted me -- I saved it on my hard drive and had to get it out to read again this morning. It's called "Flavors of Lazy". You gotta read it. It's about how we deceive ourselves into thinking we're anything but lazy simply because we're busy. But Biblical admonitions against laziness aren't about your to-do list.

This paragraph is what is still haunting me this morning:

When I have been assailed by emptiness or loneliness, I have almost always simply gone along for the ride, and let these have their way with me—leading me to where they were leading me. I have said I am tired. I have given myself permission to be controlled by feelings, by circumstances, by fears, by the past, by the future, rather than mounting a vigorous counterattack with truth. Why do we think that “fighting the good fight” of faith is anything but these private wars?

Ouch. Oh, so true. My emotional and spiritual flabbiness puts my pudgy physical body to shame.

Do I hear an "amen", brothers and sisters?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

One for the "You'll Never See This in Jersey" File

Leslie plunked down a chunk of her allowance for some raffle tickets a couple months ago. It was to raise money for Svensk Hyllningsfest, a huge Swedish heritage festival that Keith's hometown puts on every other year. A good cause -- we go every time -- so I told her to go ahead and buy the tickets if that's where she wanted to spend the money. Turns out, she won.

Her prize? Half a pig. I should clarify: half of a dead pig, cut up in its asundry parts and ready to cook and eat. Actually, Leslie only got half of a half because the ticket had her and her grandma's names both on it, so they split their winnings. We brought Leslie's share home at Thanksgiving. Bacon, sausage, pork chops, pork steaks, pork liver -- half of a half of a pig is a surprisingly lot of pig. We're having some of the sausage tonight for dinner. We're not huge pork eaters, so we may still have chops left to grill next summer.

Keith also saw an ad in the Sioux City paper a while back for another raffle of some kind in town. The prize? A rifle. No lie. Yeah, you'd NEVER see that happening in Jersey.

Something you don't see in Siouxland? Traffic jams. Unless they're caused by a freight train sitting on the tracks.

Rush Hour in New Jersey: That time of day when all God's children are trying to get to or from work and the traffic on major streets and highways is practically at a standstill.

Rush Hour in Iowa: That time of day when all God's children get a bite to eat for lunch and listen to Mr. Limbaugh.

:) We sure miss New Jersey . . . but I think we're going to like Iowa.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Weekend Round-Up

Another big weekend. Where to start . .

- "Spamalot". Keith and I went to see it Friday night at the aforementioned beautiful Orpheum Theater. The national tour, so a few people were from the Broadway production, including the guy who played Arthur right after Tim Curry. Keith and I saw the show on Broadway (with Curry and David Hyde Pierce -- oh, my goodness, was he fantastic!). This wasn't up to that quality, but it was still great. SUCH a funny show! The big surprise for us, though, was the crowd -- the crowd that wasn't there. The place was maybe three-quarters empty! Keith's friend who went to Wednesday night's show said the place was packed. What gives? Such a shame . .

- The girls' sleepover. We couldn't find a babysitter for Spamalot, so the girls slept over with Lexi next door. First sleepover since we moved here. Pizza, chocolate chip cookies, nail polish, Hannah Montana on the big screen -- a good time was had by all.

- Art Center workshops. Leslie's pottery class is done (I just remembered that we forgot to pick up her final projects yesterday). But they had free holiday craft workshops for the kids. The girls painted glass plates and bowls and built "gingerbread" houses out of graham crackers. Hmph. Kept them occupied while I got Christmas shopping done anyway.

- Christmas lights. Keith spent the day out in the cold and wind trying to put lights up on the house -- his Christmas gift to me this year. But the cold and the wind and the messed up ladder and a variety of other factors figured in to foil his good plans and intentions. Turns out, he couldn't do what he wanted to do, and some of the lights he got up yesterday were laying on the ground this morning. Another shame. But I appreciate the effort. I told him to forget about it -- there's always next year.

- Volleyball. The NAIA Women's Volleyball Tournament was in Sioux City this week. Since Blue Bunny was a sponsor, we got four passes. We went last night, for the championship game between Fresno Pacific and Concordia. Fresno won in the first championship match in the tournament's history ever to go to five sets. Yeah . . we didn't care that much either. But it was a night out, and it was fun to watch. It's always enjoyable to watch people who excel at and enjoy their sport playing at the top of their game, whatever the game.

- Church. Sunnybrook Community, again. I realized something this morning -- this pastor is a pretty good speaker. I've been relatively unimpressed with all the pastors we've heard since we've been here. But I think now that I've been unfair. They weren't all that bad (well, no, some of them were). They just weren't Jeff Bills. But who else is? This guy (another Pastor Jeff, believe it or not) is good -- he speaks truth, he connects with the seeker, he communicates clearly, he keeps your attention, he cracks a good self-deprecating joke on a regular basis . . he's a good preacher. And Keith met him at men's basketball there last Wednesday. He plays basketball; he's real. I'm satisfied.

- Golden Corral. Newly opened nearby, and we had lunch there today. There seems to be a lot of all-you-can-eat buffets around here (or maybe we're just hitting them all). I'm getting to a point, though, where I can't eat at these places without feeling guilty. Not only do I eat way too much, but all the food that gets wasted there is downright sinful. Another guilt by-product of reading Robin's blog everyday . . .

- The Hope Christmas program. Tonight. In New Jersey. The event I'm missing this weekend. Sigh. It makes me very sad that I'm not in this this year. I really miss Hope Players right now. By next year, I suppose I'll be involved in some kind of program around here (we're going to Sunnybrook's this Friday night to check out what they do), but this year, I'm a spectator. And that's kind of sad.

I suppose I should enjoy it while it lasts. Next year, I'll probably be whining about being so busy with the church Christmas program . . the glass is always half-empty, you know. Further sanctification still required . . :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Creepy Christmas Stuff

Tell me if I'm just weird or what. Does anyone else out there find the movie "The Polar Express" a bit creepy?? I haven't read the book, so I can't judge that. But I genuinely don't enjoy the movie. It has nightmarish quality about it to me. I don't like the animation. All of Tom Hanks' characters freak me out. The scenes at the North Pole remind me of old Hitler/Nazi footage. Santa is more intimidating than warm and inviting. And it drags . . . heavens, that movie seemed to go on and on the first time I saw it. The music even annoys me for some reason.

And I get so tired of the trite message .. . "Just believe . . just believe . . " I have the same problem with "Any Dream Will Do" in Joseph/Dreamcoat. Any dream will NOT do. That's not the point of the story at all. The object of your belief is as important as the believing.

Frankly, I think I'd rather watch "The Nightmare Before Christmas". I haven't watched it for years, because it scares the girls, but I remember being impressed with it when I saw it. It's creepy in a good way, because it knows it's creepy, I guess. Tim Burton's a bizarre dude, but he knows how to tell a good story.

Nothing profound here. Just some holiday opining.

And while I'm gabbing and you're listening . . . let me share something cool we've discovered about our house. We have big windows facing out the back to the south. This means that, during the winter, when the sun is lower in the horizon to the south, it shines into our house all day. Which makes our house downright HOT. On a sunny day, our furnace hardly ever turns on on the main floor or upstairs, and the house is in the toasty mid-70s. Very nice! One of the things we liked about the house before we bought it was the LOW utility costs. Now we see why they're so low!

Let's hope we're not frying in here next July, though . .

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Church Search Continues . . .

Last Sunday we went back to a Reformed church that we visited earlier. Sunnybrook Community Church. Sounds chipper, yes? The name actually comes from being located on Sunnybrook Avenue. This church is remarkably like Hope UMC that we attended in Jersey. It is seeker-friendly. It has a contemporary worship style. It has a "coffee house" and bookstore just outside the main auditorium. It has a MOPS program and a preschool. They support . . not an orphanage in Uganda . . but a school in Haiti. They have a ministry to the Hispanic community in South Sioux City (probably as close to Camden's Urban Promise as you get in Siouxland). As I said, remarkably like Hope, in many ways.

But it's big. 1200 people "call Sunnybrook their church home". They have two services happening at the same time at 9:00 and two more at 10:45. One service is in the main auditorium; the other is in the "Loft", a fellowship-hall-type room. The sermon is piped into the Loft by live feed. Otherwise, it's two different services, two different worship teams . . and tons and tons of people. Last Sunday there were not only orange-vested volunteers directing traffic in the parking lot, but a sheriff's officer directing traffic in and out of the parking lot.

They do have an emphasis on small groups, which is good. Otherwise, I don't know how you can avoid getting lost in the crowd. And they have lots of activities for our family: drama, music, basketball, youth group, Wednesday night kids activities, etc. etc.

Right now, I think I'm leaning this direction. I think we all are. But it will definitely be the largest church I've ever been a member of. And I'm not sure why that troubles me.

Actually, I think I do know why it troubles me. It's my ego. I don't think I've ever been in a church where I didn't eventually end up being involved in just about everything . . one of those people that everyone knows . . a "big-wig", to put it bluntly. This is too big of a place to become a "big-wig" very easily. I'm not used to being a small fish in a big ocean at my church. And I'm not sure I'll like it. How sad is that? How self-centered am I?!?

Well, maybe this will be good for me. Humbling. I probably could use some humbling.