this particular CD does an achingly beautiful job with the different voices ...)
Friday, July 31, 2009
this particular CD does an achingly beautiful job with the different voices ...)
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Footgear worn by Jim:
Friday, July 24, 2009
We decided to
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
ly, however, Mrs. Juraschek cared deeply about the type of person each child was becoming.
She understood the great responsibility we had in shaping their character...That a child would pay her lip
service and offer her a disingenuous apology was the furthest thing from her heart. So she asked many questions. She had an amazing ability to pierce through the situation, locate the strand of truth, and then speak something of God’s nourishing word into little vessels.
One year, she had many opportunities to speak to several fifth grade girls who often hurt each others’ feelings and held onto grudges. Desiring that these girls would understand forgiveness, Mrs. Juraschek had each one write down her grievances on a piece of paper. She took the girls down to the field, asked them to tie their lists to helium balloons and then, they watched as the balloons floated away. Forgiving, Mrs. Juraschek explained, means letting go. I think this demonstration made a deep impression on the girls.
I asked her once what her strategy was, how’d she do it? Of course, she couldn’t give a simple answer; she didn’t have a formula. She did tell me this: her desire was to help students open, so that something of the Lord, something healing, restoring, encouraging and strengthening, could be imparted.
In her role as an educator ... Mrs. Juraschek mentored her students, the parents of her students, and she mentored me. Dispositionally, I have always been task oriented. But Mrs. Juraschek told me one day that people must come before all else. They come before the most urgent item on one’s to-do list; they even come before one’s own personal turmoil. She really had the heart of a shepherd and I believe she deeply knew the Lord Jesus as the Shepherd of her own soul.
People come first ... she lived this. As a new teacher, I would often seek her counsel. More often than not, I could find her in her office, typing away at her computer, hidden amidst stacks of books and papers and regardless of how busy she was, she would drop it, and give me her full attention. Mrs. Juraschek was the best listener!! She was the type of person who could hear what you were saying, what you weren’t saying and what you wanted to say.
... One day, after a lesson that I had carefully prepared completely flopped, I went to her to vent my frustration. In hindsight, the lesson was way too intellectual for a junior high class, more suited to a graduate level course on literature. Rather than roughly pointing out my error, she told me a story. When her kids were little, she was so busy and sometimes felt guilty about not preparing nice meals. So, one day she decided to prepare cod and vegetables. The recipe was complicated and required much time and preparation. She had to slice the vegetables and steam the fish in parchment paper. She said when the family sat down to dinner, her four kids looked horrified! But she encouraged them, inviting them at least to taste the gourmet meal. Stephen took a bite, and then looked up with tears in his eyes and said, “Mom, can I please have Spaghettios!” Her story was a perfect metaphor—that I had been using my adult taste to prepare a “gourmet meal” when what the kids needed was something appropriate to their age.
That’s how she was—she passed through life’s experiences reflectively, in fellowship with the Lord, so that she would have something to share with others—something life-giving and never judgmental. Even when she was fighting cancer, she allowed God to be expressed from her earthen vessel and ministered to us through her blog entries. She loved so many people so dearly and we love her! We will miss her.
(photo from www.dailymail.co.uk)
Monday, July 20, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
On my flight up to Boston yesterday, I got to watch some cable TV, which doesn't occur at home.
And what did I watch? TOP CHEF Master's! Words fail me in the attempt to describe watching highly accomplished chefs, including renowned cookbook author, restaurateur, and TV host Rick Bayless, go knife to knife in such challenges as preparing popularly appealing "street food" from offal, cow heart, or tongue, in three hours or less.
Rick was just Mr. Easygoing, Isn't-This-Fun, in contrast to one of his competitors, a Frenchman whose "merde"s kept making it through the censor. Think of all your stereotypes about French chefs, and this guy was it. Hilarious!
They had to please some ultra-tough critics, of course. In addition to thinking and creating on their feet, producing gourmet delights while you or I might have just stood there with our mouths hanging open, gasping, "I'm supposed to do ... WHAT?"
But I have a stiffer challenge to propose to the producers of Top Chef Masters. OK, you've made these guys prepare pig-ear quesadillas, you've had them serve a "LOST Supper" to the producers of you-know-what-favorite-show-of-mine ...
you've commissioned a dinner for Neil Patrick Harris that must showcase elements of mystery and magic.
But these chefs have not yet cleared the ultimate hurdle. Here's what I propose. These masters have one hour to create a dinner for three hungry children. Last-minute trips to the grocery store are out of the question, so they must use whatever is already in the house. The meal must include all five food groups, with bonuses for Omega-3's and extra fiber. It must be served two minutes before low-blood-sugar meltdowns commence from the most sensitive child. And it must be consumed by every child with gusto, regardless of whether dessert is forthcoming.
Gentlechefs, start your blenders.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
They know EXACTLY how to push each other's buttons. The older one provokes, exhibiting mastery of the passive aggressor. The younger one, certain as the sun rising tomorrow, reacts, with considerable volume. It's like a beautifully choreographed ballet, except that the audience (me) wants to storm out of the theater in a riotous one-woman mob.
Moments like this? Irregular and golden.
You know what, though? I've been down this road before. When Ian and Eliza were at these ages and stages (see below), they danced the very same pas de deux. He'd provoke; she'd react. I could never understand why he found it so satisfying to elicit screeches and tears from his sister, and more than once, I wanted to bellow in my exasperation, "YOU are SO MEAN! You are a MEAN CHILD!"
Which I want to do sometimes now, since the former "victim" has become the new "tormentor."
Here's what I learned: Right when those angry words are buzzing on the tip of my tongue is the perfect moment to speak the unseen truth. To walk by faith and not by sight. To look past the behavior and see the heart.
"You are NOT a mean person," I would say to my son. "You have the capacity to be very kind. Teasing your sister like that is not worthy of who you are."
Speaking those words helped me believe their truth, and hopefully taught him that my love for him meant my seeing the best in him, even when he kept it hidden.
And now? Fights between the older two are pretty rare, I realized the other day. Not extinct, just not a part of our daily reality as they once were. They tend to hang together as a team. Which gives me hope for my darling daughters, next time I'm tempted to post them on Craig's List.
(Do I even need to tell you I'm kidding?)
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Today, July 12, 2009, at 12:40 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, our dear family friend Joanne Juraschek, whom I have known my entire life, who sang at my parents' wedding, and who is one of my mom's closest friends, departed this earth and went to be with her Savior.
She fought a long (2 years), excruciating, and courageous battle with cancer, enduring chronic pain, multiple hospital stays, multiple rounds of chemotherapy, and restrictions on her tremendous energy and talents. She blogged her way through it, sharing some of her difficulties with us but also so faithfully sharing the spiritual treasures she mined from her Bible and hymnbook. She made every day count, and although her course was shortened, causing much grief to those of us who love her, her life had eternal value.
It sounds like a cliché, but I can't help rejoicing that her months of suffering have ended and she has been released from the body that caused her such pain. At the same time, my heart feels heavy, especially on behalf of her husband Paul and four children, all of whom are young adults old enough to be on their own, but no doubt with many years ahead in which they will have occasion to miss her dearly. Even today, I tried several times to reach my own mom once I heard the news from Joanne's daughter, but kept getting her voicemail. In my frustration, I realized that my mom was the first person I wanted to talk to, and although I am an adult with children of my own, I -- perhaps unreasonably -- expected her to be available to me. What about Anna, Stephen, Elizabeth and Andrew? How often will they have matters burdensome or trivial to share and think of calling their mother?
After realizing I wouldn't be able to visit in time, I wrote Joanne a letter and mailed it Thursday, sharing my appreciation of her with inadequate words. That letter will probably arrive tomorrow, a day too late. I hope somehow its contents will find their way to her heart.
"O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?"
(1 Cor. 15:55)
Saturday, July 11, 2009
1. My brother Paul and his wife Betty, who are moving across the country to Boston for him to start law school and stopped in Austin for the weekend with us. Hooray! Except that he doesn't have any brand new book recommendations for me. Boo. But they did indulge me in a game of Quiddler
last night. Yea!
2. Our friend Sam, who has loaned us his Wii
to get us through these months of summer cabin fever. I've been on the fence about the Wii for a long time. But we're sticking to the active games (Wii Sports, Active Life Outdoor Challenge
), all working up a sweat, doing it together, and having a lot of fun. It's hard to think of something else we could do indoors that draws everyone together with such enthusiasm -- last night, for example, we had teams of two cooperating on games that everyone else yelling "JUMP!" and "LEAN!"
3. My husband, who is taking apart our entire dryer in order to fix that highly irritating squeaky sound that makes me want to run out into oncoming traffic when I hear it for more than thirty seconds. 'Tis the story of me and repetitive noises. High strung much, wifey?
4. Ten minutes peace yesterday afternoon in which I got to lie on the couch and read Wright 3, sequel to the delightful Chasing Vermeer, listening to the happy sounds of cherubic three year olds build a marble run. (Vaughn: "Caroline, can I have that long ramp piece, please?" Caroline: "Yes, of course!")
5. Ian's ADHD therapist, who told me yesterday that I was a great parent. Which meant I had to try really really hard not to cry. (Parenting, as you know, is not EXACTLY the kind of job that entails a ton of external validation, performance-based bonuses, or regular pats on the back. There's very little by way of short-term built-in assessment, and even when your kids excel at something or act particularly pleasant, you can't necessarily take credit.) When someone tells you that, and they know what they're talking about, and they're being sincere, they could, in the next breath, suggest a trek to the North Pole and you'd start calling REI for sponsorships. No kidding.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Isn't that the greatest word ever?
It perfectly described our situation the other night. Our dinner plans sorta fell through and I hadn't done enough of the grocery shopping to put together a decent meal (yes, go ahead, nod that head in empathy).
Right near the Costco we patronize, an organic burger joint called Terra Burgers has been in progress for several weeks. On a lark, I called them and sure enough, they were having their "practice run" in anticipation of the folllowing day's grand opening. In a heartbeat, we were there.
I need not tell you that we don't eat out often. Oh, and this time we even had an extra: Ian's friend Christian. Poor hungry child.
So we wait in the long, slow line -- no, wait, I wait in the long, slow line while my husband and children merrily romp on the wooden playscape, scamper through the sprinkler area, and relax under the shade of a huge tree. No doubt the length and speed of the line will improve as Terra gets into their groove.
I order enough organic burgers, organic fries, and fresh lemonade for six people and hold my breath. "Do you accept credit cards?" I ask nervously, seeing no VISA sticker on the window and picturing myself washing greasy hamburger grill pans til the wee hours.
"Oh, we're not charging tonight," the slightly harried college student at the window tells me.
Well, in that case, how about a chocolate milkshake for two longsuffering parents???
Y'all. So delicious. The burgers and lemonade were everything a burger and lemonade should be. We staggered back to the car, surreptitiously slurping our camouflaged parental milkshake (organic and yum-o), loving our divine Provider and our crunchy, oh-so-hip little city.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Time: July 3, 11 p.m.
In the great, green room, there was a mother
and three small bikes
and three helmets
and red, white and blue pipe cleaners
and rolls of streamers
and blue painter's tape
and yards of red and white tulle
and a Target bag cut into strips
and the knowledge that gratitude from
a child is better when neither expected nor
and the confidence that each child will
feel (s)he decorated his own bike
and the wondering how many of these
small gifts her own mother gave, unnoticed.
Epilogue: The mother reads Judson's Story and feels, watching those sparkling eyes and then that tiny coffin through her tears, that each small opportunity to make a memory, to stay up past bedtime to produce morning delight, to give time and effort that for the time being will be taken for granted ... is a gift with no regrets.
Incidentally, the two girls won first place in the bike and trike divisions of the parade the following morning, much to my astonishment. I guess occasionally we reap a few temporal rewards as well.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
Five Great Books I've Read Recently:
1. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations . . . One School at a Time. To say I enjoyed this book would be selling it short. It's a book that both touches your heart and engages your mind, blowing your stereotypes and your notions of what can and cannot be done. You start to realize that the media's portrayal of our relationship with Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan is quite superficial, and you can't help but admire a man who's fearless enough to move among our "enemies" out of a passion for their children's education and to eat things and sleep in places that most us simply would not tolerate. Amazing. A must-read. Recommended to me and sent as a birthday gift by my brother Paul, even though I told him not to buy me anything. That rebel.
2. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World
This book is to healthcare for the world's poor what Three Cups of Tea is to education. Again, a charismatic hero -- Dr. Paul Farmer, who works primarily among the ultra poor of Haiti -- who refuses to give up, in the face of overwhelming odds, who keeps doing hard things even when naysayers abound. One difference is that this book's author, Tracy Kidder, inserts himself more into the story, describing his complex reaction to Dr. Farmer's personality and methods. I tell you what, after you read this one, you'll laugh at yourself when you think you have problems, especially of the financial genre. We can't afford a new flat-screen TV or a schmancy pair of shoes. They can't afford a second daily meal for their kids or basic meds for tuberculosis.
3. Austenland: A Novel
Very different from the first two, of course. Sort of a glorious fantasy for Jane Austen lovers. If you've ever seen the A&E version of P&P, with Colin Firth, you have to read this one. Lighter, more fun perhaps ... but not trashy. I promise. And I love it when a book takes your trite predictions and turns them upside down.
4.The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir
Father and daughter alternate chapters, telling the story of how their family's reality and future changed instantly when the father was shot, on purpose, in the line of duty as a police officer on Cape Cod. The perpetrator was never charged, due to corruption on the force, but the family suddenly had to live with constant surveillance and fear, ultimately choosing to move far from family and friends to start over on a farm in Tennessee. The daughter, now grown, is a writer by trade, and was able to eventually make something new of herself while never completely shaking free of that past. I'm not sure that the father ever completely let go of his anger, although his acknowledgements at the end hint at some sort of resolution and peace.
Okay, not to be completely lazy, but the kids are chomping at the bit for me to come help them decorate their bikes for the neighborhood parade tomorrow, so I'll just say that I made it through this book, but it wasn't one I couldn't put down. The language was lovely and lyrical, but I found that some of the imagery rang a little false, and found it overall haunting and poetic, but also a bit depressing and not terribly accessible. But maybe I'm a heretic because the author won a Pulitzer Prize for another book. The end.
I know what I'm reading next, but then I need some more ideas. What's keeping you with your nose in a book lately? Send 'em my way, people!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
So normally in our family, we're pretty terrible when it comes to keeping up with any chart or system or anything that requires consistency and accountability. Between my scatterbrainedness and our general vegetative state by the time we're tucking in the children, nothing tends to stick.
But we've been trying something new, and it's been such a success so far that I simply have to share. The idea comes from a great book entitled Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach. The first section of the book talks (somewhat redundantly, I must say) about the importance of NOTICING when your children, especially those whose behavior tends to produce a negative dynamic between you, are either actively doing something right or NOT doing something wrong. And you have to be very specific -- not a vague "great job!" but detailed observations: "I see Susie remembering to clear her dishes from the table with NO REMINDERS!" or "You are working very hard on that picture, and sharing the crayons with your sister very nicely. Keep up the good work."
The second section of the book describes a credit system that we've adopted and have been keeping up so far for about three weeks. The way it works is this: All household rules are assigned a certain number of credits for being kept. Chores are also assigned credits. Finally, bonuses for desirable behaviors ("doing something helpful" or "handling strong feelings well," for example) are enumerated on the list. It helps to keep most of these at roughly the same value -- 10 credits, for example -- to keep your life sane.
Credits can be awarded as they occur, or, in the case of keeping rules, at the end of the day. Awarding partial credit, for, say, breaking a rule but apologizing and not doing it again, is encouraged -- the goal is to help the child succeed, NOT to tie weights on their shoes in the name of "making sure they really EARN it."
The other side of the system is the spending of the credits. This is excellent life practice! Our list contains a wide range of privileges, from video or computer time to eating a sweet treat to visiting a fast food place to trading in for cash to paying for parental "maid service" when they don't want to clean up their own messes. Privileges are priced accordingly (they helped us come up with both lists).
The beauty of this system for me is that it cuts down of the sense of entitlement I was feeling from at least one child, AND takes a lot of the onerous decision-making off of me. I felt like I was constantly being called on to answer requests for various treats and privileges, and that I had no consistent basis for making those judgment calls. Now, I simply ask, "Do you have the credits?" or, "Well, if that's how you want to spend your credits!"
Sometimes they're quite happy to cough up the credits (we use Monopoly money). Other times, especially from the oldest, I hear "Oh. Well, no, not really. I'm saving up for something big and I don't want to waste my credits on something dumb."
An attitude which, in my view, is perfect preparation for The Real World.