Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stomp the Yard

For the last few weeks our chickens have been truly "free range." Or at least "free backyard." Jay wanted to see if they would be sufficiently motivated by food to return to the pen after he let them out. It worked, mostly. They seemed to be more motivated by dark than by food, but at least he didn't have to put any of them back in by hand. Had that been the case I would've gotten out the video camera.

It's getting easy to tell which ones are the males. They're the ones who square off and play "My neck feathers are bigger than your neck feathers." What they don't realize is that they're actually auditioning for a spot on "My Kitchen Table."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

There's No Crying in Advent

This morning as I was sitting in church I started crying. It's not unusual. I cry through every Advent. This morning it happened when I looked at the schedule of Christmas services and saw the inclusion of a Longest Night service "for those whose days are not merry right now."

And I know there will be more.

I'll cry during the third verse of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" when the descant soars over the words, "Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning; Jesus, to Thee be all glory given; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing."

I'll cry when we take communion on Christmas Eve.

I'll cry every time a new candle is lit on the Advent wreath.

I'll cry when I least expect it, at times that make no sense, and in inopportune places. I always do.

It's the hope that moves me to tears.

Christmas is hardly ever perfect. When I was younger I rarely spent Christmas with everyone I wanted to be with. My dad needed to be with his mother on Christmas, which meant that he was often with her while I went with my mother to be with her extended family. It was as perfect as it could be, but something was missing. When my parents divorced almost fifteen years ago, Christmas became even more interesting to negotiate. As Jay and I have lived far from family over the majority of our married life, we've always done the best we can to be with the people we care about at Christmas. And although it's never perfectly perfect, it moves me that we try so hard to make it as perfect as possible.

Somehow, I think, it's always enough.

What makes me teary is the fact that Christmas, for me, is the time when it becomes most clear that everything's a little bit broken. It's the time when I see that things just aren't exactly the way they should be, in a perfect world. And yet every Christmas, despite the imperfection, despite the brokenness, we still have hope.

All the imperfection is never enough to keep us from seeking the hope that comes from "God with us." All the brokenness won't make us cynical enough to stop believing that something as small and innocent as a child can change the world. Despite our hurt, our pain, and our rage, we still somehow find our way to the manger where we kneel to glimpse a sweet baby.

No matter how big the pain or how ugly the wound, we still stop long enough to hope that this baby will be enough.

My friend Jason set to music a text by Sophia Lyon Fahs. Part of the text is:
Each night a child is born is a holy night
Fathers and mothers-
Sitting beside their children's cribs
Feel glory in the sight of a new life beginning
They ask "Where and how will this new life end?
Or will it ever end?"

Each night a child is born is a holy night-
A time for singing
A time for wondering
A time for worshipping
No matter how big the world gets, no matter how confusing, we somehow find ourselves back peering through the crib bars, hoping. Not hoping that next year will be perfect; only hoping that it will be enough.

It's the hope that moves me to tears.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Shhhhh!

Don't tell the kids, but we went out on a D-A-T-E!

It wasn't a date so much as an appearance at the home of the university president for a Christmas Open House, but at least it was a few moments to ourselves. On the way there we realized that the last time we were alone in the car together was when we were driving to the hospital to have Clare.

After painting the worst possible scenario for the babysitter regarding what might happen if Clare woke up, neither of the babies made a peep. Maybe next time we'll actually go have

*drum roll please*

D-I-N-N-E-R!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

What Kind of Question is That?

Between the time that Joshua exited newborn-hood and Clare entered our world, I had forgotten that folks seem to want to ask mothers of newborns all sorts of loaded questions. Many folks believe that that the number of hours per night a baby sleeps is ultimate barometer of competent parenting. They always ask, with an air of smugness, "So, is she sleeping through the night yet?" I find that this is frequently asked by older men, and I always wonder if they're remembering the many sleepless nights they had when their children were brand new, hoping that everyone else is subjected to the same torture that they once were.

And of course people ask all sorts of developmental questions. Does she sit up, roll over, count to ten, solve quadratic equations? Because, of course, those are all reflections on parenting skill, too.

But the question that kills me, gets me every time, is "Is she a good baby?"

Let's think about this. If she's not a good baby, then she must be, say it with me, a bad baby. And what kind of mother would ever claim that she has a bad baby? I know the question they really want answered is, "Is she an easy baby?" But to couch it in terms of "good" and "bad" makes me want to respond in a not-very-nice way.

I have had to hold my tongue on several occasions, because the answer I want to give is, "Well, we thought she was a good baby until we found the cigarettes and playing cards under her crib mattress last week. But now we know...she's a bad baby."

Of course she's a good baby. She's a baby! Even if she's fussy, high-maintenance, cranky, or even, God forbid, colicky, she's still a good baby!

Believe me, I know the question-askers are well-intentioned, and I try to remember that. But we have many, many years to put labels on our children that will either make their spirits soar or crush them. Let's just enjoy the simple purity of baby-ness while it lasts.

Monday, December 03, 2007

WARNING: Don't Watch This Unless You Want to Smile!



And if you're a true child of the '80's you'll laugh out loud starting at about two minutes in.