Month: December 2012

  • Happy (Birthday) Boy

    Although it seems like this . . .

    . . . was just yesterday (or perhaps a century ago), it was, in fact, one year ago.

    He’s a little bigger now.

    Happy, happy birthday, happy boy.

    Srsly.  There has never been a happier baby.  Ever.  Even Isaac–who, God love him, slept through the night at a month old–never smiled and laughed this much.

    Despite a spotty sleep habit (especially at night), it’s been a year of smiles.

    Love that boy.

  • Christmas Pageantry

    Now presenting the stars of the [our daycare] Christmas Pageant, Theo and Amos!

    (Have you ever wondered how to do a Pageant with infants?  Well, now you know!)

    Happy Holiday Party/Program/Pageant Season to you all!

  • Ah, Theo

    Under no circumstances whatever can we get Theo to pose for pictures like this . . .

    . . . unless we promise to take one like this:

    Funny how the latter are always the better pictures.

    Sometimes, we do meet each other halfway:

  • Silliness

    Put them in front of an iCam, and even brothers will squeeze together to get silly.

    Normally, they’re all “Stop touching me!” “MOMMY!! Make him STOP!” “Yo, get away, homie!”

  • Words, words, words.

    Though I have no words that are sufficient to the horror and evil of yesterday’s events, I will be called upon to find some tomorrow.

    Some of us are in professions that demand of us some sort of speech in the face of personal, regional, or national tragedy.  Ministers, journalists, and mental health professionals do not have the luxury of silence in the face of any devastation sensational enough to get itself considered newsworthy.  Parents–who are in a sense pastor, newscaster, and therapist (among other things) to their children–also do not have that luxury, unless their children are small enough to call for concealment of such news.

    It strikes me that this vocational burden, this professional responsibility to compose speech in times of crisis, is usually borne by people who have no training in grief counseling, no ability to evaluate the long-term and wide-ranging effects of their speech, no concept of virtue ethics, no idea how to discipline their tongue to any larger good than expressing their own feelings or eliciting positive feelings in others.

    I am especially struck, today, by how ill-prepared journalists are to deal with their singular vocational burden.  It takes an immense amount of wisdom, insight, and moral stamina to be a journalist in such a time as this.  Alas, there are too many news outlets competing for attention, too much space or time to fill with content, too many personnel required for standards to be as high as the gravity of the profession demands.

    It must be possible for journalists to cover this and other “newsworthy” tragedies in a respectful and responsible way, but even news outlets that would pride themselves on their professionalism and high moral standards seem ill-prepared to deal with the enormity of the task before them.

    What would it take, for example, to speak in a way that expresses and respects the vastness of the evil that was done yesterday without simultaneously sensationalizing it?  Is there a way to express our horror and grief without feeding the admiration of those who are disturbed enough to enjoy such events? 

    I have heard many words last night and this morning that have missed the mark.  There is simply no call to throw around words like “carnage,” “bloodbath,” and “massacre,” even in the service of expressing the depths of our instinctual rejection of the evil wrought, even in the service of accurately depicting the nature of those events.  These are words that inject something of the bacchanal into our liturgy of national mourning; they invite us to revel in our horror and thus worship, to some extent, those who would bring such horrors about.

    Is there a way for us to call journalists–and other professional interpreters of such events–to greater responsibility, discretion, or wisdom in these matters?

    I have taken to changing the channel (metaphorically speaking–I don’t actually own a TV) whenever such language is being used.  I delete condolences emails and silly memes, I turn off the radio station or skip the podcast, I tune out sermons or lectures, whenever the speaker/writer/sender begins to indulge his taste for the sensational.  These actions are not born of a desire to avoid reality, to shut my eyes to the suffering of others, to dismiss or trivialize the enormity of the events, or to decline responsibility for the political climate in which such events are given birth.  They are a small (and perhaps useless) refusal to participate in the spectacle–the deliberate indulgence of a voyeur’s pleasure in the gruesome.

    There is a sense in which the use of these words is not vicious but merely selfish.  Those of us who are called to speak in such times are often, ourselves, still in the middle of processing our own outrage, horror, fear for our own children, crises of faith, or memories of past horrors.

    Working at a church immediately after the 9/11 attack, I had the chance to see how those who were called upon to mentor others through their grief often did so while drowning in their own.  I remember one volunteer in particular who was so overwhelmed by her own shock and horror, and so extraverted that she could not handle her emotions without speaking them aloud, that she exacerbated, rather than alleviated, the psychological wounds of the very youth she was to be helping.  Her inability to be silent, to exercise judgment in the emotions she shared, to discipline her words to the needs of others–this was understandable, given the extremity of the events.

    But it seems worth calling attention to precisely as a failure–and one that those who are not volunteers, those who already have standards of professionalism and vocational responsibility, should learn from.

    Those of us who are called to make meaning of the senseless, to speak when events would render any sensible person speechless, would do well to attend to our own horror in such times–and I intend both senses of “attend to.”

    We should seek counselors and therapists and wise friends to talk to in such times, friends who can help us process our own emotions.  Those who help others with their grief must, must find resources to help themselves with their own.

    But we should also turn a critical gaze on our own horror–we should be aware of it so that we may judge its effects, welcome and destructive, on others.  We should avoid processing (not expressing, but processing) our own grief in the presence of those who need us to speak the words that bring life.  We should avoid indulging our need to feel helpful at the expense of actually being helpful.  We should have an eye on the long-term and wide-ranging effects of our words and temper them accordingly.

    Today, I’m grinding my teeth in frustration at some of those who are speaking in the aftermath of this tragedy.  But my frustration is tinged with worry about what I will be called upon to say, myself.  Tomorrow, I will be thinking of all my friends who are pastors and praying that the words we offer will be holy and acceptable.

  • No Words.

    There are no words for what has happened today.

    It would be the height of rudeness to attempt to turn today’s horror into a political statement, an ethical stand, or even a useful lesson.  So I won’t.

    Just . . . hug your babies tonight.  Speak gently to them.  Remind them that they are loved, and let them love you in return, whatever their ability to do so.

  • Recent Theoisms

    “No, Gray, you don’t spell your name G-R-A-Y. It’s spelled G-A-R-A.”
    “Theo, I think he probably knows how to spell his name.”
    “But he DOESN’T, Mommy! He never learned it RIGHT!”
    “Theo, why don’t you learn to spell Theophilus, and then you and Gray can discuss the matter.”
    [long silence]

    [much, much later]
    “Theo, do you know how to spell Theo?”
    “T-H-E-O.  Duh.”
    “Do you know how to spell Theophilus?”
    “Could you try?”
    “What about John?  Can you spell John?”
    “Mom, do we have to do this?”

    [much later, after I've given him the spelling of his name to copy out]
    “Mommy, can you read what I’ve written here?”
    John Theeophilus is osum and a osum ritr.
    “Well, dear, that’s just . . . uh . . . “
    “YES!  Awesome! John Theophilus is awesome and an awesome writer.”

  • Real Funny Joke

    Anyone who’s been on a college campus should find this the opposite of shocking:

    Colorado students allegedly feed unsuspecting class pot-laced brownies.

    Even acknowledging the predictability of this behavior irks me, however.  It’s a twist on the old “spike the punch bowl” prank, of course.  The “spike the punch bowl” prank was never very funny, and its consequences are far too serious to merit the designation “prank.”

    Thank goodness, there is a legal system in place to deal with such unfunny “jokes,” and I am hearing little call for leniency in this matter.  Thank goodness, people got sick enough to demonstrate the seriousness of this misbehavior, but not sick enough (please God) to suffer lasting consequences.

    Just imagining one of my students doing this to me last year, while I was pregnant, is enough to put me in an exceedingly humorless frame of mind.

    It makes me want to share something I’ve found creeping into my Mom-Of-Teen-Boy lectures of late: the warning that the teen and early adult years are especially perilous these days, because the opportunity to cause rather grown-up devastation rests in the hands of people who are still very childish.  The power to harm, whether through inattention or a moment’s rebelliousness, increases drastically, and well before the power to control oneself is expected to be developed.

    A preschooler can hurt himself and others with his carelessness or disobedience, but it takes a rather extraordinary chain of events for a preschooler’s misdeeds to result in anything more serious than an afternoon spent in the Emergency Room.  (Or, perhaps, a rather extraordinary preschooler.  But I try not to think about that too much when Theo’s around.)

    A high schooler’s carelessness or disobedience can cause a whole lot more damage.  He simply has more power to wield (a car, an internet connection, functional reproductive organs, strong muscles, rhetorical skill), a greater reach (adult-sized limbs, a wider circle of acquaintances, an internet connection), and a more public record of his misdeeds (transcripts, and darn that internet connection).

    Add to the capacities and emotional stability of a teenager unfettered access to the trappings of adulthood and you have a college campus.  Add a little money and an inflated sense of entitlement, and . . . well, I shouldn’t say more until I’ve got my degree in hand, should I?

    So, a plea to parents of teens: do not read this story and content yourself with clucking about the legalization of pot or about what “other people’s teens” do.

    Show this story to your kids and remind them that they are beginning to wield an immense amount of power, power their underdeveloped characters are not yet ready to wield with prudence.  Remind them that it only takes a few minutes for them to turn their own lives into a living hell, or to visit that hell on those around them.

    Show this story to them right along side stories of texting-and-driving tragedies, of plagiarism scandals, of extramarital affairs gone drastically, newsworthily wrong.  Show them what the combination of immense power and an ungovernable will does to people.  Show them what it looks like when a child’s temper is combined with adult-sized bodies and powers and desires and responsibilities.

    Show them the ways adults screw up their own lives and the lives of others, and let them know that your stupid, silly rules, your invasive questions, your insistence on continuing to parent them during these years has everything to do with helping them to be the kind of adults that do not hurt themselves and those around them.

  • Christmas Read-Aloud

    If you’re looking for a family read-aloud for Christmas and are a little tired of the obvious choices–A Christmas Carol, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Polar Express, good choices all–I commend to you Chesterton’s short story “The Flying Stars.”

    Like Dickens’s story, it’s a story of redemption and second chances.  And it is suffused with the glow of the holidays, as well as the glow of Christian forgiveness, even if Jesus makes no appearance.

  • Tasty Breakfast

    Okay, here’s the deal.

    People who eat greens every day, or nearly every day, are healthier than people who don’t.

    So eat your greens.  Raw or cooked, sprinkled with vinegar or drowning in cream, eat your greens.

    My new favorite way to eat mine:

    Butter a piece of bread and fry it in a small frying pan.  (Pretend you’re making a grilled cheese sandwich, only forget the cheese and the sandwich part.)

    Melt a tablespoon or so of butter and saute some baby kale in it for a few minutes, until wilted but still a good cheerful green.

    Put it on the toast.

    Add a little more butter to the pan.  (No, a little more than that.)

    Pour one egg, whisked with a wee bit of cream, into the buttery pan and make a quick omelet.  Don’t let the egg brown at all–it should stay soft, but cooked.

    Nudge the omelet out of the pan and on to the greens.

    Wee bit of salt, and then you have a perfect breakfast.  Even the menfolk in your life will eat their greens this way.

    I meant to get a picture, but I was eating too fast.