Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chapter books, great books, award-winning books, and letters

We've passed another milestone on the path to literacy. Last week, I began reading David a chapter book--Stuart Little. Previous most bedtime reading was stories that we could get through in a single sitting. The occasional exception might be when I simply did not have it in me to Bartholomew Cubbins start-to-finish for the 1,000th time and I would split it over two nights. But I came across our copy of Stuart Little while cleaning a couple of weeks ago and decided to give it a go.

It is a great choice for first chapter book. Each chapter is only five-or-six pages most of them have a plot arc within them. The language is for the most part direct and simple with just the right amount of advanced vocabulary. It is fairly entertaining for the child and the adult. David is eating it up. I am impressed with the amount of information he retains as well as his over-all interest in the book. Simon could not be more painfully bored. But he has his own milestone that I'll get to in a minute.

So onward and upward with the chapter books. If you have recommendations for a four-year-old, I would love to hear them. I assume when we get to the end of this one, David will want me to start it over again, so there is no rush. But we have reached the next step in his library building.

Speaking of reading, I have been thinking about Great Books for kids. I plan to focus the boy's education around a "Great Books" curriculum to the degree that I am able and want to get started. You know how you can get a quadrillion books of Bible stories for children? Well we would certainly love a high-quality volume of those. But I also want some stories of Great Literature for children. These are more difficult to come by, but they are out there--teh stories of writers like Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Melville, Dickens etc. as well as the standard classic stories for children. Also, I have found some selections of poetry, as well as children's versions of stories from the Arabian Nights. That last one demonstrates the difficult waters we get into here. I brought a children's telling of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves home from the library forgetting that it is a story of gore, dismemberment (and rememberment), and boiling oil. I had to practically make up a new story and skip over certain pictures as I was reading it. Please do not feel obligated to find Titus for kids. But I want to get David started on as much of this as possible. I would like him to be familiar with the Great Books of Western Civilization starting with the stories contained therein. Frankly, it the only way I'll become familiar with them myself.

My second general recommendation is this article about Caldecott winners. By those for Christmas. Get some for David and Simon, too. The only Caldecott that I know we own is Where the Wild Things Are.

As for Simon's milestone--letters in the environment. When we are out and about, he has begun pointing out letters and numbers. Not by name, usually, but just as general fact; "letters daddy!" Signs on buildings, mostly. This is interesting to me because I don't recall David ever doing this. Simon seems generally more interested in letters than David ever has been. He is also more interested in coloring than David generally ever has been.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ssss Ehhh Ksss

I am very proud to announce that David has passed an important milestone on the path to literacy. We work with him quite a bit on letter sounds and he pretty much knows the what sound each letter makes (well, at least one sound per letter anyway). He is still struggling a bit with short vowel distinctions. But he has not been able to mush the sounds together into a word. He has not been able to get C-A-T from "Kuh. Aaa. Tuh" to "cat."

Until yesterday. For the first time he looked at a series of letters, not as several unrelated sounds, but as a pronounced unit.

We were in Brooke's truck where he was messing with a promotional beach ball containing this logo:

Which he proudly parsed as "SEX."

So, we had to remind him that "C" can be hard, as in "cat" but I did not let the significance of his effort pass.

We are on the way to literacy. Perhaps Freudian literary criticism, even.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Throwing in the towel, over and over

What is up with the spilling?!?! Can we not get through one single meal without someone spilling there drink? We have reverted back to the sippy cup with Simon because, even though he perfectly capable of delicately sipping a fine Chablis from a crystal glass, when he gets bored with his meal, he has to conduct hydro-entertainment experiments with his cup. David is simply distracted and clumsy. Then tonight, I had carefully set both boys' cups out away from them and there wildly gesticulating robot-velociraptor-tentacle-laser arms. In doing so, they were within reach of my gracelessness and I knocked one over.

We are averaging two towels per meal this week.

Don't let Simon drive the tanker.

House Party One would have been ok

As I have mentioned, if David gets up early in the morning, he gets to watch TV so that, left to his own devices, he doesn't burn the house down or wake up his mom (in no particular order of importance). This morning, he awoke just as I was getting my socks on to leave. I grabbed the remote, activated the toob, and pressed in channel eight--PBS--so he could watch some Clifford, the Commercial Free Dog (with the help of viewers like you). No, he wanted "five, eight" Disney. Who showed him that? Well, I didn't have time to stick around and see what would be on Disney at seven am and I am not comfortable with him watching commercial TV by himself (well I am not comfortable with him watching any TV, but you don't care). Channel eight or nothing. He went. To. Pieces. Flopping around on the couch and crying real tears. Then he explained that when I left he was just going to change it to five, eight himself even if I put the remote up on top of the TV because he can get it there by climbing up on the furniture.

Now, when I type it out like that, I am inclined to think that I probably should have unplugged the TV at that point put the remote in the garbage disposal. But he was so cute. He was trying to be defiant but was just pitiful and clearly had no idea of the gravity of what he was saying. Plus, I didn't have time to peel him off the ceiling. So I reiterated that it was eight or nothing and he acquiesced. He even hugged me before I left.

So, what did I deprive him over over on the Disney channel? According the TV Guide, Little Einsteins followed by the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. And I just realized, he had the channel wrong. Disney is 45. "Five, eight" is Comedy Central, where he would have been watching House Party II.

David gets the remote

More on the genius of WALL-E

Basically, any configuration of Legos can be declared some character from the film.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Social carnotaur

I sat on the couch reading Saturday afternoon while Simon napped and David played outside. Occasionally I would peek out the window to check on him. He was running around with a boy who is six or seven and girl who is eight or nine. I am not sure what they were doing as they roamed over the parking lot and the "island" in the middle of the lot, but it was clear that the two older kids were setting the agenda, playing with each other, and that David was floating around the periphery, participating as much as possible. I give the older kids credit for including him to the degree that they did, but he seemed to be working hard for their attention. My first reaction was pity, but I checked myself.

I have to give David props for his ability to socialize. He will walk up to anyone of about any age, befriend them, and play well with them. He generally does not overwhelm and rarely allows himself to be pushed around. We had been to the Mall playground that morning where there were many kids of all ages. Among them were four boys between the ages of 3 and 5 running around and around (and around and around). David ran up to one of them, struck his Velociraptor pose with hooked fingers, and hissed menacingly. The boy he was challenging struck a similar pose and hissed back. And they were fast friends for the next hour, running circuits, chasing, switching from game to game. Sometimes David led, sometime he followed, all the time he enjoyed himself immensely.

I don't need to pity him during those times when he tackles a larger social situation. He is happy to be on the periphery of some older kids' play for awhile, but I know he will not remain there long.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Simon has a second degree burn along the half-inch length of the back of his right thumb's proximal phalanx. I normally do not let Simon in the kitchen because he is stubbornly resolved to tear it apart or in some way injure himself. Today, when I excused the boys after breakfast and began cleaning, Simon wanted to stay in his seat. He does this sometimes--usually before meals--sits in his chair and watches me prepare or clean up. I was doing the dishes and didn't notice that his slipped off his chair, walked across the kitchen to the stove behind me, reached up and touched the skillet just as I turned around.

The skillet was cold. He didn't burn himself today. He did that Thursday morning at mom's. Before she could react he darted into the kitchen, up to the stove, and reached for the skillet in which she was cooking. The burn was pretty bad and made him miserable. Today is the first day that he didn't complain about it hurting and didn't put up a fuss when I changed the bandage. He does avoid using that hand as much as possible, which is a pain since it is his dominant hand. But in spite of the misery of that experience he still walked up to another skillet today and touched it. I shouted in alarm, picked him up and set him down outside the gate that normally prevents him from entering the kitchen. His eyes welled up with big, wet, offended tears.

Consummate scientist: That skillet burned me, but that mean this one would too?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Grandpa's 80th B-day

I don't know if I'll keep this here, but it is the quickest way to show it to those of you who care and make sure it is ok.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Filed under: Things I didn't know that I didn't know about the economy

A short list of items that, one month ago, I knew and/or cared little about, but which I could now discuss for several minutes at a cocktail party
Collateralized debt obligations
Stock injection
Credit default swaps
The role of the Federal Reserve vs. the Treasury
Mortgage securities
TED Spread
Treasury 3-month yield
Commercial Paper
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
Moral Hazard
I will be available for speaking engagements forthwith.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Your mother drove to Ohio

Thursday morning, pre-dawn, David, Simon, Skylar, Brooke, Isabelle, and I set off on a 13-hour road trip in Grandpa's minivan. When we returned Sunday night, we had completed the longest stretch of road travel without vomit in David and Simon's life.--26 hours plus the time we spent driving around our destination. It was memorable for other reasons as well. For instance, I think we set a record for "your mother" jokes. As in "Your mother set a record for 'your mother' jokes."

The goal of the trip was of course cousin Andrea's wedding. Frankly, I was dreading this trip and in the days leading up to it I regretted having committed. It was a lot of money, a lot of time off and a lot of sitting in car seats not barfing for the boys. The boys don't have a lot of experience with sitting still in pews during church. One of the great advantages of a pew-free church is that there is a little more room for youngins and their energy. And if they are just too much to bear in our church, they can go down stairs and chill. I was concerned that I was traveling to Ohio to stand outside in the hallway of the building where my cousin was gettin' hitched babysitting two boys exhausted from too much travel.

Well, my fears were unfounded. The boys handled themselves well--mostly. There was one point in the service where a deacon was talking without a microphone and everyone was kind of straining to hear him. At this point Simon announced that he had to poop in case anyone in the room was interested--no one seemed to be. Oh and when the groomsmen were all lined up at the front, Simon had to count them for everyone. Otherwise, they were great.

The ceremony was lovely, I should say that the many ceremonies of the day were lovely and moving. A wedding day is filled with official and unofficial formalities, from who sits where, to the vows, to speeches, to that point when the children get to finally run around the reception hall and occasionally dance with the adults. I found myself choked up many times. Andrea married a hansom Lieutenant in the Air Force and all the men standing up for him were Air Force, Navy, and Army, all in dress uniform--quiet, precise, and noble. The ceremony was a generally traditional Western Christian affair conducted with belief and affirmation. The saber arch, the car vandalized with shoe polish, the embarrassing uncle, the single young women eying the single young soldiers--as I watched it all I was reminded of this previously posted snippet
Because it is not the rituals we honor
but our trust in what they signify, these rites
that honor us as witnesses — whether to watch
lovers swear loyalty in a careless world
or a newborn washed with water and oil

But don't take my word for it. Here is what the boys have to say:

Friday, September 26, 2008

To Switzerland, and beyond

Seriously, this should not even be possible. I am amazed, and envious. I'll survive, but please, no one tell David.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Q: What is the difference between a Pit Bull and a Hockey Mom?

A: One is a natural thing perverted by our obsession with violent competition.

The other is just a dog.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Very briefly on economics

Back in May, the best show on the radio, This American Life, dedicated an entire episode to the most comprehensive and comprehensible explanation of the Housing Crisis I have heard. The popularity of this episode has spawned a new podcast and blog on NPR--Planet Money. One particular entry, "Who Can I Blame?" is particularly timely as the McCain/Obama show attempts to entertain us with stories about how the other is to blame and how they themselves are not.

Good reading although I don't know if I can go along with the bit about how other countries share the blame for limiting investment. Part of me reads that as "shame on you for being wary of the possibly corrosive affects of the Global Economy and exercising some of the same regulations that may have kept us out of this mess." But I could be wrong.

Monday, September 15, 2008

This is our Topeka

Check out this video. It is nothing exciting, but it gets really great at the 2:18 point but don't blink; it goes back to the mundane around 2:19.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Simon's square

Over a meal last week, David was clarifying some point about the timeline of his life and asked how old Simon was when he himself was born. I told him Simon didn't exist then. He didn't understand what I meant by that. I pointed to the white board on the wall behind me and asked if there was a green square on the board. No. I explained that a green square did not exist on the board yet and then I used the (green) marker, drew a square, and filled it in. "Do you see a green square now?"
"But you remember back before I drew the square, right?"
"Before I drew it, it did not exist. When you were a baby, that was before Simon existed."
I don't know if he "understood," but he seemed content with the explanation. Then, a couple of days ago he noted that the square was gone. Jaime had erased to make room for a grocery list. Whining just a big, he asked me to redraw the square because Simon still exists.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Palin and an American Dream

A coworker IMed me today:
Scott: In a blunt interview with the Associated Press, the star of the Jason Bourne film series also said there was a good chance John McCain would die in his first term in office and the thought of a President Palin is "terrifying."

“It’s like a really bad Disney movie — the hockey mom…from Alaska, and she’s the president, and it’s like she’s facing down Vladimir Putin and using the folksy stuff she learned at the hockey rink. And it’s absurd, it’s totally absurd, and I don't understand why people aren’t talking about how absurd it is," Damon said.

Jason: and his pundant credentials are?

Scott: Yeah, but that is a pretty funny image of her and Putin.

Jason: yeah, it is. But, like a Disney movie, it bears no relationship to how international politics really works. Bush and Putin don't have policy-changing verbal showdowns facing each other over a boardroom table--or tumbleweeds or something. They have people. The people brief them and most of the work is committee work. Sometimes, at the very beginning and the very end, the president has to digest all of the committee work and make a decision. That decision is going to be influenced to a degree by experience, but to a greater degree by wisdom. Palin has either developed wisdom or she has not. She can face the information and make a choice based on what is right, or not. And frankly, a lot of the time, she'll be wrong--just like Churchill, Roosevelt, and Reagan.

I have no idea if Palin is fit for office, but when she was nominated, I felt something that I have never felt in my life--I believed that anyone can grow up to be president. It used to be a common phrase--"eat your vegetables so you can grow up to be president." Part of our national self-identity was that anyone could be president. We were mocked world-wide for the notion. Nowadays, I doubt any parent would utter that incentive to their kids because they know it is a lie. Palin may stink as VP, I doubt we'll ever find out. But if she makes it, then, to quote another line from this race, I'll feel proud of America for the first time in my life.

To cardboard, hot glue, and beyond

Probably the earliest "father and son" memory I have is an afternoon home when I was four or five--about David's age, perhaps. Dad cut a piece of cardboard (or was is a grocery bag?) in the shape of a horse's head, drew in the details, and affixed to the top of a yard stick. I rode it around like a cowboy. It is a brief memory--almost a still photo--but one I think about often and fondly. I was hoping I would have opportunities to create such a memory with my own son. That opportunity presented itself this last weekend.

David has been begging me to make a cardboard Buzz Lightyear for him for a few weeks. Having no idea how I might go about this, I stalled until this last weekend. It turns out that what he wanted was a much simpler affair than I realized. He simply wanted a piece of cardboard cut out in the shape of Buzz Lightyear--with the wings out. So I googled Buzz, worked out what pose David had in mind (flying, with both arms extended), did some test sketches and then rendered Buzz on cardboard. Thank God for my art degree. I did the wings separately and glued them on. My only goal was that it would last as long as it took to make it (about three hours). So far, so good. He (rather, "Zorg") ripped Buzz's hands off but I reattached them. Jaime suggested I make them black. David seems satisfied. I was actually pleased when he disobeyed my order to go up stairs and ran to the front door to show the Buzz to his friend who was playing in our front yard.

"But Jason," you may be saying, "you are soooooo against having cartoon-character toys in the house." Well, as I mentioned earlier in relation to the legos, I don't mind my kids cutting the teeth of their imagination on cartoon characters in an imaginative way. Creating Buzz out of cardboard, or legos (or sticks or pieces of lint) allows him to stretch his imagination a bit without having an additional toy lying around that will eventually go out of style and have to be replaced with whatever the next fad is. I look forward to the day when David and Simon are creating their own worlds, but I am content to make them work a bit to recreate someone else's.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quote of the day

From Crunchy Con (the comments): "I have a friend who won't eat tongue either--he says it's just too strange to taste something that might be tasting you back."

Monday, August 11, 2008

As I mentioned, David's creative play lately has really advanced--especially with the Legos ("Duplo" actually). Shortly after seeing WALL-E, he enrolled Jaime's to build a WALL-E with legos, which he cherished. The next day I added a couple of pieces to represent eye-stalks and snapped the eyes to the top. He imediately tilted the eyes downward as far as the legos would allow, telling me that WALL-E has to have "sad eyes."

Last week, he built a Buzz Lightyear on his own. To me it looks like WALL-E's strung-out cousin, but I am very content--elated would be the word--that he is now happy for his legos to stand in for purchasing additional, costly toys. Now you will notice that his "creativity" is still largely confined to the world of Pixar. But it could be worse and I recall that most of my imaginitive play also revolved around someone else's prefab imaginary universe. That is how we begin. Uniqueness comes after Uniqua, as they say.

However, we have road bumps ahead. A couple of days ago David was playing with his lego Buzz and a McDonalds toy was standing in as the Emperor Zurg. He was reinacting the climactic "you killed my father" scene. It occurred to me that David will eventually see "The Empire Strikes Back" and when he sees the very dramatic scene where Vader reveals Luke's parentage, he will scoff that they totally took that from "Toy Story II." Additionally, legos have their limits. He asked me this weekend to help him build "Eve" out of legos. "Um, Eve is pretty much the anti-lego" I explained, unless he were to melt them down to an egg shape and paint them white.

His creativity also extends to drawing which he does rarely, but which now focusses more on the figure--sorta. A bizarre arrangement of shapes and lines with a small circle somewhere in the center is any number of people. He drew one of these "people" in gravel with a stick a few days ago. Very cute.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


What does it say about us that Jaime's wish list combined with mine still contains fewer items than our Netflix cue?

Yes please

David: Yes
Simon: Yes
D: Please
S: Pwease
D: Yes, please
S: Pwes, yease
D: Good job!
Simon's language is actually coming along very nicely. He understands most questions asked of him and is able to answer in some way. His "please" and "thank you" are very good. He regularly uses two-and-three-word sentences like
"Done daddy car?" ("are we done in daddy's care" (ie, "have we arrived?")
"Watch daddy!"
"I don't want to!"
"Why, daddy?"
This last one is particularly interesting. As I recall, Simon is not yet at the typical "why" age, but he has picked the habit up from David. He is picking lots of age inappropriate things up from David. His imaginative play is far more advanced than David's was at 23 month because he spends so much time imitating his big brother. So as David gets more elaborate with lego play, super hero play and the like Simon is right there with him soaking it up. I predict that this, along with the generally lower level of directive attention we give, could contribute to him being a more imaginative of the two.

Later imaginary friends

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Burton Depp

Seven Children's Tales That Tim Burton & Johnny Depp Should Remake.

Of course I generally disagree with the author's assessment of the Burton/Depp corpus (no pun intended). While it is a mixed bag, I quite like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Nightmare before Christmas. To this list, I would seriously restate my desire to see them remake The Wizard of Oz.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008



The other day, Simon woke up his mother by bringing her the camera and insisting she take pictures. You can view the set here.

Then David took a few photos, which I have added to his set.

By the way, our bedroom walls are not green, as shown here; they are "Clamshell" (or as I call it, "Honky Skin." I think Simon's deep brown eyes are throwing off the camera's white balance.


Me: David, hush, I'm trying to get Simon to sleep. Go occupy yourself, please.
Five minutes pass when I hear what sounds like the CIA working someone over in our living room.
Me: David! what are you doing?!
D: I'm downstairs.
M: What are you doing?
D: Occupying myself.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Maybe when Firefox 3 is released . . .

Jason seems to be expecting a bit much from his browser.


God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. It's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.--Brian Cox, "Adaptation"

While over-analyzing WALL-E with some friends last night, I suddenly hit on a heretofore unmentioned point of bold genius in its creation--it has no voice-over narration.

Since viewing "Adaptation," voice-over narratives have bugged me. I ask myself, "could I understand what is going on in this film without the voice-over?" The answer is almost always "yes." And when the answer is "no," it is because the voice-over does not make sense with what is on the screen. I think to myself, if that is what we are supposed to think is going on, then the film-maker and screenwriter need to step back and rethink some creative decisions.

"A.I." is a perfect example of unnecessary voice-over. Steven Speilberg is a master visual story teller. If you aren't following, then a narrator will not help. David is at the bottom of the ocean staring at the Blue lady, time is passing, and all the visuals are of silent, lonely, blue, reverence. On top of this a narrator is droning on and on and on and oh-my-god-will-you-shut-up-already. Of course, "Blade Runner" is the most famous example of unnecessary voice-over. On the other hand, "Perfume" is a fairly mysterious story with a mystifying ending. The narrator is telling the audience what we are viewing, but I am not convinced. I recall thinking that, if I am supposed to buy what the narrator says is happening, then we need to back up 60 minutes and add in a few more elements to lead the film's thesis to this conclusion.

Back to WALL-E.

People are speculating whether or not it could earn a "Best Picture" Oscar. Probably not, but I would give them one based simply on the decision not to use voice-over. As I said, this film has very little dialog around the central plot of WALL-E's relationship with Eve. We have to understand what is going on from the action, which is pretty easy for an adult, or even an older child. But I would bet the temptation to use voice-over narration was strong. I can hear it now, a soft baritone voice prattling on and on in soothing tones about how WALL-E wishes more than anything that he had someone to just hold his hand. Kudos to the creators for not doing it. Kudos for doing the more difficult work of giving us plot, back-story, and WALL-E's and Eve's inner life with clever and well-crafted visual elements. There are a few times when a well-place newspaper or holoscreen is obviously there just to catch me up, but these are not nearly as interfering as a narrator. I would love to know if voice-over was suggested or debated.

All of that being said, the DVD could maybe use a voiced-over option for the very young viewer. There are themes that I would like David (my son, not the "boy" from A.I.) to be a bit more aware of and the voice-over could help him along. Fortunately, he will not suffer in his life from a shortage of media extolling the pleasures of hand-holding.

later, silent film fans.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I first saw the Pixar's animated short film, "Luxo Jr." at Liberty Hall in Lawrence as part of one of the "Animation Celebrations"--a collection of award-winning short animated films. I remember clearly how it amazed and charmed me. I was impressed by the studio's ability to evoke so much emotion from a pair of computer-animated swing-arm lamps and a ball. I was envious of the mastery of story telling this 90-second film revealed. In the 22 years, since, I have been generally impressed with the quality of Pixar's visual story telling. But the first trailer for Wall-E gave me the same thrill I initially felt after "Luxo." Wall-E is a metal box on treads, with what looks like a pair of R2-model periscopes on its head. In 30 seconds, they transformed this box into a character--a person with a story. The more trailers I saw and the more I heard about it, the more I was convinced that Wall-E was going to live up to the promise and spirit of the studio's breakthrough short film.

I was not disappointed. There is no shortage of praise on the Interblags about Wall-E and I affirm all of it. My favorite review/discussion is Crunchy-Con's Aristotalian interpretation and the comment war that follows (serious spoilers alert!). Interestingly, Frederica Matthews-Greene is a softly dissenting voice, and I think that she may have missed a couple key plot points. However, we do share one concern--I'm not sure kids are going to get this film. It is visually rich--full of detail and texture, but the plot is minimal, with some plot points turning on subtle visual clues, and there is relatively little dialog. David seemed to enjoy it enough but he has not talked much about it since seeing it--especially considering the amount he talked about it before seeing it. He got word on the day of its release and asked daily when we would be seeing it for the entire weekend until I finally took and afternoon off so we could go to the matinée.

Of course, it is not perfect. There is a great deal of back story that is left out. There are many implausible technology issues and I agree with one of Crunchy Cons detractors that humans would never let themselves be lulled into the state we find them 700 years hence. I wondered uncomfortably how the bariatric group would feel about this vision. But I was able to set those concerns aside by the end as we see what ultimately will happen to humanity. The film's creator is interviewed in "Christianity Today" and has some very nice points to make about what the film is trying to do.

I look forward to seeing it again and being able to pause occasionally just to enjoy the lush graphics. I bet you a dollar that Luxo's ball is in Wall-E's cave somewhere.

This has gotten me to thinking about how I would rank Pixar's output over the years. It would be something like this:

"Luxo Jr."
"Toy Story,"
"The Incredibles,"
"Finding Nemo,"
"Toy Story II"
"Knick Knack"
"Jack-Jack Attack"
"Geri's Game,"
"For the Birds"
"Monster's Inc."
"Tin Toy"
"Bugs Life,"
"Mike's New Car"
"One Man Band"
(hot pokers to the eyeballs)
"Mater and the Ghostlight"

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Pregancy Pact

I have been waiting for someone to articulate clearly my own response when I first heard about the Gloucester Pregnancy Pact (which was apparently a fiction).

FIRST THINGS: On the Square: "So there’s something reassuring about the idea (and perhaps reality) of the crazy Gloucester “pregnancy pact.” I find it so much brighter, so much more hopeful, than the alternative, which is the “sterility pact” of those so committed to controlling their futures that they can’t risk the uncertainties of children—or worse, the death pact of a society that seems either too self-centered or too pessimistic to venture the hope for the future that a new generation always evokes."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

day day and jeefu

Me: day . . . .
Simon: day
M: vid
S: vid
M: day . .
S: day
M: vid
S: vid
M: day.
S: day
M: vid
S: vid
M: day . . . vid
S: day . . . vid
M: David!
S: Dayday!

* * *
Me: joe . . .
Simon: joe . . .
M: seph
S: seph
M: joe . .
S: joe
Me: seph
S: seph
Me: joe . . . seph
S: joe . . . seph
Mr: Father Joseph!
S: Fa'er Jeefu!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Yesterday, part 2, wall-to-wall prayer

It began with a baptism. The child belonged to a couple from the "Old country"--actually two old countries, Palestine and Romania. In many times and places baptisms are strictly a family affair rather than a church community affair. I showed up in case Father Joseph needed any logistical assistance. I assumed wrongly that someone from the choir would do likewise. So it turned out to be my first solo choir gig. And it was recorded on video for posterity.

It is simple and beautiful service and I left feeling elated with the hymn "As Many As Are Baptized" on my lips. I sang this on the way over to Skylar's to tend the garden when we were stopped at a green light by a funeral procession. In a singing mood, I switch from the baptism hymn to "May His Memory Be Eternal" and reflected on the appropriateness of the encountering two services in a single morning. At one, a person died and was raised from the dead having put on the garment of immortality. At another, a person is being put to rest until the ultimate fulfillment of Baptismal Promise.

Saturday evening, the prayers continued as we commenced with the celebration of our patronal feast with Great Vespers, joined by or shepherd in Christ, Bishop BASIL. Towards the end of this service, I was summonsed to the center of the church with a new cassock over my arm. Bowing three times, I then went and knelt before His Grace and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually he laid his hand on my head and read a prayer over me making me a Reader in the Church. He then tonsured me, clipping four small snips of hair from my head. I stood and he ordered me to put on my cassock. As I began, I could here Simon say "daddy shirt?" on the other side of the church. As I struggled with the buttons, His Grace reached around and grabbed the cincture attached to the back, pulled around to the front, and tied it.

He then took the brass-bound book containing the books of Acts and the Epistles of the New Testament, kissed it and said a prayer. He held it in front of him, spine facing up, found a random spot with his fingers, opened the book, and told me to take it to the center of the room and and read. He opened it to a passage from Paul's Epistle to the Romans, chapter 15. In it, Paul speaks about his ministering the Gospel of God--which I pray will someday be my vocation and profession. I am easily moved to tears and had done ok remaining calm to this point, but I think my voice trembled as I resisted being so moved that I would not be able to see the page. I returned the book to His Grace and he admonished me to read the Gospels daily and conduct myself in a worthy manner. He directed me to stand next to him.

A few moments later he whispered "begin Glory to God," meaning he wanted me to lead the Trisagion Prayers. We say this series of prayers at the beginning of every prayer service in the church or in our homes, so I have it memorized, but I don't trust myself enough to have ever said them in church without reading them off the page. Knowing that the fear would be a sure way to forget them, I had to concentrate on relaxing, opening my mouth, and simply letting the prayers come.

By the end of this service, I was on a cloud.

The cloud remained beneath my feet the next day. Now a Reader, I stood with the choir in my new cassock reading the occasional non-singing parts. Towards the end of Orthros (Matins (Morning Prayers)), the Bishop, in full regalia, and the priests exited the Altar and stood in the middle of the church. Because Father Joseph was going to be elevated to the rank of Archpriest, two other priests were also serving with us: Archimandrite Daniel, who is the Dean of our diocese, and Fr. Elias from our daughter parish in Overland park. In due time, I was summonsed again to bow before the altar, then kneel before His Grace, and wait. This was different than the evening before. His Grace stood in front of me and three priests stood to my left and right facing me--a well of red and gold brocade, satin, and embroidery. While the choir sang the praises, His Grace was reading a different set of prayers aloud and the priests were responding. These prayers were indistinct, but their tone and rhythm moving back and forth over my head was like the call and response of the angels. Over the top of this was the heavenly sound of our choir and even the background noise of the congregation with all its children. Mentally, if not spiritually, I felt lifted up and embraced.

When the praises were over, His Grace read the prayer for the ordaining (small "o") of a Subdeacon. I stood and was given a sticharion, which I slipped on over the cassock. His Grace then gave a white orarion to Archimandrite Daniel on my left. Fr. Daniel laid it on my shoulder, which was not what His Grace wanted and he said so, telling him to put it around my waist. With Subdeadon John's assistance, the wrapped the 15-foot sash around my waist, up over my shoulders, and down the front in an "X." Subdeacon John then gave me a small pitcher of water, a bowl and a linen napkin. Praying, His Grace held his hands over the bowl while I poured water over them three times. He used the napkin to dry them and then laid it over my neck. The ritual complete, I was told to go into the Altar and begin serving as a Subdeacon.

The only time Subdeacons do anything particularly special is a during Heirarchical Divine Liturgy. Our primary role during this is to accompany the bishop with a couple of special candlesticks called the Dikirion and Trikirion (or "trixie" and "dixie" as I have heard them called out of earshot of the bishop), hold his staff and miter, and do whatever else he may bid. At one point, this duty means walking through the Holy Doors, a priviledge normally reserved for clergy.

I also got to hold the Dikirion and stand on His Grace's left while he elevated Fr. Joseph to Archpriest. This time it was Father's turn to bow before the altar, kneel before His Grace, and wait. Then, putting his hand on Father Joseph's head, His Grace read the prayers of elevation in which we are reminded that as part of the proper ordering of creation, God gave us the priesthood. He then placed a heavy, ornate cross around Father Joseph's neck. This has been an honor a long time coming. We first discussed this elevation about 18 months ago when I suggested it be done while the Parish Life Conference was in Topeka. His Grace suggested that was not an appropriate time and wanted to wait until he would be here this year. It is a great honor for our Father Joseph, and one he is worthy of. It is also an honor for our parish. At some point during this service, dixie dripped hot beeswax on my fingers, which was also an honor.

I floated through the rest of liturgy. At one point I ritually washed His Grace's hands a second time, processed with the Dichirion, and received Holy Mysteries first. All the while I was constantly tugging and adjusting my orarion, which refused to remain crossed in front of me.

Yesterday, part 1--Summer, sickness, distant relatives

David's sense of time and grammar has evolved to understand the past tense in terms of "yesterday" and "last week." "Yesterday" is anything that happened in the memorable past, such as seeing "Horton Hears a Who" when it came out. "Last week is anything that happened before a time he can remember; his infancy and my childhood both took place last week. While is makes for some difficult conversation, it does make belated blogging better. Rather than feeling guilty about not having blogged about anything that happened this month, I can simply assert that anything blogworthy happened "yesterday."

"Yesterday" summer finally really began. June has been a gorgeous, beautiful month with a lovely mix if mild days, mildly hot days, and thunderstorms (worse for parts west of us). Typically, the starting event for our summer is the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina. This year's was particularly nice. Everyone was able to attend, the weather was lovely and Jaime and I figured out a way to rig our finances so that we could do our Christmas shopping. Since the festival is Father's day weekend, that means we knocked out two holidays in one weekend.

David followed up by getting sick. It began on a Tuesday night with a sore throat at bedtime and progressed to a fever and continuous vomiting throughout the night. Wednesday afternoon he saw a doctor and Wednesday night, after 36 hours without food or drink, he went to the hospital for fluids. He'll describe this to you in detail. "Yesterday, I went to the hospital and the poked a hole in my arm and purple blood came out. I didn't like it." He has been obsessed lately with the color of his blood, observing that it is blue in his veins but red when it gets out, so it was an opportune time to have blood drawn and an IV inserted. We never did determine conclusively what he was sick with. He was neg. for strep so it was probably a virus. He still had a fever at bedtime that Friday night. I haven't seen him that miserably sick since his first birthday. Because of it, we skipped my company picnic on the 21st, which I had been looking forward to for about 6 months. Instead we had a lazy Saturday together.

June also saw visits from several relatives. Firstly, my aunt Marla, her son, Shawn, and his wife, Janelle, came to visit. I have never met Janelle and the last time Shawn was back, Jaime was still pregnant with Simon. Simon was typically shy around them at first but eventually warmed. Since they left, every time we go to grandpa's (which is where Simon saw them), Simon says "Shawn? Shawn?" This was actually Marla's second recent visit. She was here in May with her youngest, Patricia with whom Simon also took his time falling in love. I don't have any photos of either of these visits, but the visitors do. Maybe I can get some from them eventually.

More recently, uncle Grant visited from Seattle with similar results. Initial shyness followed by obsessive longing. They got go to the Kansas City Zoo where Ducks were apparently the highlight. Grant very self-consciously cultivated the role of cool uncle for himself, which both he and David enjoyed immensely.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

lightnin lightnin

As we all know, David is a great fan of the movie Cars and all things Cars related. In spite of my continual forbidding of any more Cars stuff in our house, it continues to poor in like so much sewage. At some point during the transition out of diapers, he acquired a half-dozen pair of Cars underwear (as opposed to an underwear car), which he wears backwards so that he can see the larger picture that is supposed to be on the rear. This is so much a habit for him that he even puts underwear on backwards that does not have a picture on the fanny.

I have to pause for a moment and wonder if I am violating my son’s privacy by telling you that he wears his underwear backwards. What will his friends say in a decade when they find this blog? Is he going to be victim of wedgies from jerks claiming to check if his underwear is on backwards (and I assume it still will be)?

Stuff to think about.

IMG_4607Anyway, David’s love of Cars has taken hold with Simon, who currently imitates everything about David except his eating habits. So Simon has began insisting on wearing Cars underwear as well—over his diaper. But not backwards, yet. The other day, Simon was walking around in his diaper and underwear when he found another pair of Cars underwear in the laundry basket, pulled it out, sat down, and commenced with trying to put it on over the underwear he already had on over his diaper while saying plaintively, “Lightnin’? Lightnin’?”

Monday, June 23, 2008


Another ego post (as if there is any other kind). Once again, GetReligion covered a story I sent. This time, as part of a larger discussion of the media coverage of Obama's closed-doors, off-the-record meet with prominant religious leaders. Somewhere in the middle of the post, Mr. Mattingly refers you to NPR's coverage and quotes a at length from a "private email" from a GetReligion reader. He affirms the quote with one word: "Precisely."

Terry Mattingly is a syndicated religion columnist, an Eastern Orthodox Christian and a very good writer--precise, insightful, intelligent, and clear. "Journalist" is in my top five list of things I might want to be when I grow up and Mr. Mattingly is my hero in the profession. To be quoted by him and told that I nailed the issue is the best internet affirmation I have received since the Patriarch of Moscow sent me a Hallmark "E-card" for my name day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Word Spy - cowpooling

For several years now, we have discussed this, but we never seem to plan adequately to have the cash on hand at the same time the cow is available.


The Return of Thrift

Personally, I don't think thrift is going to make any huge comeback on a large scale. We, as a culture, cut back our overspending for short periods of time but our economy is robust enough nowadays to withstand ebbs and flows so I seriously doubt that we'll have the kind of economic disaster that turned my great-grand parents to thrift. Thrift as a virtue is going to go the way of sexual morality--something old-fashioned that was necessary in the bad old days before sexual equality and the pill.

On a personal, moral level, the stakes are different. We are trying to learn thrift--or relearn it, I was pretty frugal before college--even if it kills us.

Monday, June 09, 2008

counterpoint: high gasses prices

Postmodern Conservative.: Blue collared (II): "the realization that somewhere else in America there are people spending as much as twenty percent of their income on gasoline hits me like a blow to the gut, and the post-petroleum future suddenly looks a lot less bright."

Thinking about sports.

With luck, the line of cowardice stops here.

Touching read.

Last weekend, David was whacking balls off his tee when he decided that he wanted to dispense with the crutch and swing at pitches. He recently watched a tee-ball game of Issy's where an adult pitches a dozen or so times and if the hitter just can't do it then they bring out a tee that practically has the word "SHAME" spray painted in big red letters down the side. So I removed the tee. David assumed the position and then reached out with end if his bat and tapped the plate a couple of times. I pitched. Pretty much any pitch that I could manage to get within a yard of him he whacked, including couple line-drives that gave me flash-backs to helping my own dad warm up by tossing him softballs from the mound and taking the hit with my thigh. I think David is ready to graduate from the hollow plastic bat to something with slightly more substance. However, buying sports equipment is not in my job description. Hint hint.

I was just talking recently about how I don't have much desire to get David involved in team sports. I question how much good they really do in character-building, the schedule seems enslaving, and it seems that a lot of games happen on Sunday mornings, when we are busy. Coincidentally the the Topeka Capital Journal ran a story on that topic that is unenlightening. Basically, there are others with my Sunday concerns. How do they resolve this crisis of Faith and Sports? They skip the Sunday games. And does this heroic stand for their faith make them outcasts in society or get their kids benched by heathen secularist coaches? No, they have full support from the coach. There is apparently no social or competitive issues involved. If true, that is good. I'm happy to have the information. But they dedicated the feature area of the religion page to a plotless "story" that could have been a one-inch public-service announcement: "Want your kids to play team sports but have conflicts with church schedules? That's ok! Sign up and leagues will accommodate your needs."

Nevertheless, martial arts is more appealing to me as an activity for the kids. I haven't fully investigated it but it seems more flexible, less tied to teams and seasons, etc and there is more focus on character and discipline built-in. Brooke and Jason (the boys' godfather) both teach/have taught karate to kids, which might help.

The boys themselves may have something to say about this, eventually.

UPDATE: Of course, if the paper runs a religion story about which I have a thought, I submit it to They ran with it, and I made further comments. Go and read.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Doctor Beef's slideshow on Flickr

This is not the humorous break you are looking for.

This is not the humorous break we are looking for. Move along.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Saturday, May 31, 2008

earthworms are easy

Earthworms provide a great many benefits to the gardener. The aerate the soil, fertilize it, help break down vegetable matter, and entertain the gardener's four-year-old indefinately. I planted some last few things in our vegetable garden this evening. I have been waiting for it to stop raining for more than a day so that I could do so. David helped. He really did. Unfortunately, there is a lot to gardening that is either uninteresting or that a four-year-old simply isn't ready for. Mostly, he just wants to wield the spade. So he crowds and hems and haws and nearly tramples everything. Then, just when I was about to send him out for cigarettes, I noted a worm. He latched on to it instantly, and played with it for a full thirty minutes until it was time to leave.

Helpful hint, though. Don't mention the word "poop" to a four-year-old. While explaining that we want to keep the worm in the dirt, I noted that a worm poops in the soil, which is good for the plants. So a great deal of that thirty minutes was narrating many imaginative details about the worms poop.

later earthworm friends.

Friday, May 30, 2008

where do babies come from?

me: Where do babies come from?
David: Collin
me: Babies come from Collin??
D: Yes
me: how does that work?
D: It's a really long story

Eight reasons you'll rejoice when we hit $8-a-gallon gasoline - MarketWatch

Amen amen amen (and I need to get a job close to home)

Eight reasons you'll rejoice when we hit $8-a-gallon gasoline - MarketWatch

Thursday, May 29, 2008

four-day weeks forever

rob3rto: j g, in da house
Jason G: ahoy, matee
rob3rto: ahoy
Jason G: One of the nice things about a three-day weekend is that it is followed by a four-day week.
rob3rto: aye, print that!
Jason G: well, I just did . . . sorta
rob3rto: that needs to be online in the brilliant quotes site.
Jason G: url of brilliant quote site?
Jason G: OK, well there is no "submit" button so how about I just post this on the blog?
rob3rto: good enough, it will last forever.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

KHI - KHI News Service - Feature Story Archive

KHI - KHI News Service - Feature Story Archive:
“Picture every town in Kansas having 25 local growers and that money circulating in the local economy. I would love it if we could repopulate the Kansas River valley with small farms, or even large farms, growing produce so everyone could eat local foods.”
Sign me up! Well, someday.

Peak-Season Map at

I intended to sign us up for the Rolling Prairie Farmer's Alliance but didn't get around to it. It would have provided us with fresh, seasonal produce into the fall. I've done it before and it produces interesting results. Unexpectedly, you have endive. What to do with endive? Makes you think on your feet. It is a backwards way of thinking about food for the modern Midwesterner. Normally, I think about what I want to eat, buy the ingredients, and make it. Spring mixed greens salad in the winter? Sure, why not? Having food presented to you and figuring out what to do with it is different--as in, 99.9% of all people who have ever lived are different from us.

Well, I didn't sign up for the local produce, but I vow to pay close attention to the Peak-Season Map at

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Skeptical Inquirer

The Skeptical Inquirer:
“If this religion boasted that it had a clear sight of God and plain and manifest evidence of his existence, it would be an effective objection to say that there is nothing to be seen in the world which proves him. . . . But . . . on the contrary it says that men are in darkness. . .”
"What reason do I have to subordinate the possibility of God’s existence to the powers of my senses?"
"Ask any sensible person if it is possible that God exists, does not present himself to us by way of material evidence, and yet seeks our acknowledgment on some other basis, one in which we are more deeply invested. Could there be a God who does not want to be known the way the facts of nature are known or sums are known? The rational person will say, 'Yes, it is possible.'"
"There are only two kinds of people one can call reasonable: those who serve God with all their heart because they know him and those who seek him with all their heart because they do not know him."
"His rational power of imagining has atrophied from selective use in the service of his pleasure."
These are excerpts from a great article. It is not clear writing but it is worth untangling.

Of the two kinds of people that one can call reasonable, I would (humbly or not) put myself in the second category--seeking, but not knowing. It may seem strange to those who would know me to be (humbly or not) a devout believer. Fact is, I have searched my mind and my heart for that organ which "feels" belief like my fingers feel the keyboard or even like my mind feels a memory. It isn't there. And no one I know with a firm belief in a God they "know" can describe that sensation to me either. No one can point to the organ I need to tickle in order to stimulate belief. I even tried for a time to simply be an unbeliever but it didn't work. My body doesn't cooperate. My mind may thrash and doubt, but my body dresses me and takes me to church where my lips kiss, my hand genuflects, my waist and neck bend my forehead to the floor, and my mouth confesses. So I stopped struggling against this other part of me that believes. I threw my lot in with the believing side against the side that does not believe. Bishop BASIL tells me that the fight will get easier with time. Father Joseph tells me that I'll simply get used to the struggle.

Articles like this one help me. They are no foundation--the only foundation is prayer--but well-put-together intellectual arguments deal a heavy blow to the strongest doubter inside of me--my intellect (humble or not). Actually, it is not even my own intellect, when I think about it. It is someone else's intellect--some imaginary person who is smarter than I am and who is demanding and smart defense of faith from me. Once, in the line for recess in the third grade, someone asserted that I am not smart. I insisted that I am and he quizzed me "what is 9 x9?" I couldn't pull up the answer on the spot and he took that as demonstrable proof of my stupidity. I have been doing imaginary battles with some form of that kid my whole life (even though I have not adequately memorized my multiplication tables). It is the problem with priding yourself on your intellect--constant fear that perhaps you aren't so smart after all. A fear fueled by the fact that, in the real world, your IQ and a $0.81 won't even get you a cup of coffee. So, these articles at least give me this: I'm not smart enough to articulate an intellectual foundation for belief, but someone else is and you'll just have to read that until I get smarter.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

newish addition

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Jaime didn't want a cat, but I was embarrassed to be the only blogger online without a pet to blog about.

Her name is Dusty. She came to us via a friend in need and has fit nicely into our household. She is affectionate without getting under foot (once fed). She is not shy. She does not object to getting chased and picked up by the four-year-old. She often comes when called. She snuggles. She is some sort of Maine Coon mix with a tail like a big ol' dusting wand (hence the name). She is less than a year old, so we are hoping she'll grow a bit more.

Also, Jaime took some shots of the boys. Go and see.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008


After getting several requests from people I would otherwise expect to be above this sort of thing, I have created a Facebook profile. I highly recommend it. Setting up your own profile combines the white-knuckle thrill of creating an Ebay account with over-the-top excitement of filling out an online resume for employment with Kinkos. I would imagine it is a lot like creating a WoW character and then never actually getting to play WoW.

Then, THEN, after you have told the world all about yourself, you regularly update a little box telling the world what you are doing RIGHT NOW. It is like being spied on. Or wishing you were spied on. Like "well, I'm against the government tapping my phones without a warrent, but if they are doing that, it must mean they think I am dangerous, which ROCKS."

Finally, you engage in a perpetual game of "Red Rover" with the whole Intarblag.

Really the whole thing seems a little childi----wait---I'm up to 25 friends now! Go join! Then poke me! Hurry!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

guest post: loony economies

Dad sent me a couple of emails recommending online reading. Both relate to economic fantasies:

Things you can buy from ACME to vanquish you foe (episode after episode)


Life in an equally implausible economic system

enjoy, loony fans

Monday, May 12, 2008

society rules

We have had to explain some really basic stuff to David this weekend: Don't knock on people's doors at 7:30 in the morning. Don't go outside without pants on (admittedly not a universal rule in our neighborhood). Don't go in other people's houses when they are not home. His innocent ignorance of these common concepts is both charming and disturbing.

He is entering a whole new world of socialization and freedom. He has finally hit it off with Cody, the four-year-old whose family moved in next door last year. Cody comes over and hangs out in our basement, David goes over to Cody's, and they generally want to spend every spare moment together--which is actually not a lot of time since they are four and by no means masters of their own schedules. David has also become good friends with another neighbor, Christopher, who is not quite three, but whose language and social skills finally allow for socializing. Christopher also has Transformers and the biggest Lightening McQueen in the neighborhood, which makes up for any linguistic or social shortcomings.

So now he has good friends near by and he was the freedom to play with them as much as possible. Be we all know that freedom isn't free. Well we know that. David is learning. And the lessons, they are hard.

The lessons began around 7:30 Saturday morning. In bed, half asleep, I was vaguely aware of David being up and around but didn't think much of it. He often gets up and fixes himself breakfast before we get up. Was that the front door? Nah, couldn't be. A bit later David pads into our room in his t-shirt and pull-up. He asks if one of us would go knock on Cody's door because he tried and no one answered. Though freaking-out inwardly, his mother and I try to remain calm as we explain that he cannot leave the house with neither permission nor pants.

The day then becomes a series of lessons and restrictions. The privilege of playing in a friend's house is revoked because he pitched a fit when it was time to come home. The privilege of being able to go to the park revoked because he went to the "creek" behind the park against explicit orders. The privilege to play outside altogether revoked because he then went in another friend's house without permission (which he would not have gotten). He spent the last hour before dinner sitting on the couch looking at books (more or less). For awhile I thought I would have to lock him in a box to keep him from going where he shouldn't go.

This culminated on Sunday with actual breaking-and-entering and burglary. I needed to put Simon down for a nap, leaving David alone in the front yard after reviewing the rules. I fell asleep myself, woke up an hour later, and went out to search for David. He came walking down the sidewalk I and I verified that he was staying outside. He said he had just gone in Christopher's for a minute to get some toys. Fine, just as long as he is playing outside. Then he asked if I wanted to play with him at Christopher's. I said no thank you, that he should play with Christopher himself.

Then he explained that Christopher was not home. Some confused Q&A followed and I gathered that, since no one was home at Christopher's, he simply opened the front door, gathered whatever toys he wanted to play with, and brought them outside. During our conversation, he mentioned that Cody also was not home. I noted that someone must be home because Cody's front door was standing open. Perhaps they were upstairs and didn't hear David knock. I explained that he can't get people's toys out of there house when they aren't home. Then, he and I kicked his new soccer ball around for awhile. Eventually, Cody's family's van drove into the parking lot and the entire family emerged. As Cody's father approached the front door, he was obviously perplexed that it was open. More Q&A with David from which I gather that HE opened it searching for Cody. More gentle explaining.

If no one was home at both Cody's and Christopher's home, how is they were both unlocked so David could get in? Well the doors around here are heavy and tight, so it takes extra care to make sure they are closed all the way and latched. It is possible that the front door of both homes was not latched, allowing a persistent four-year-old to push it open. He is used to struggling with our door (from both sides, apparently).

I am confident that David will learn all the new rules and responsibilities that come along with his new social abilities. I just hope he does acquire a rap sheet in the process.

Later, pants fans.

A scandle hits Kansas

If you are interested in writing and religion, than you can't do much better than to keep up with Today they posted a story about my home state.

Readers can submit news articles about religion that they would like analyzed on the site. The reader who submitted this story and who poses the "great question" at the top of the forth paragraph is none other than Yours Truly. I think Mollie did a pretty good job answering a question that I did a lousy job asking.

My question stemmed from my squeamishness with the issue of communion and excommunication being discussed by the press. While I reject the idea of religious faith being purely private, receipt of the Sacraments is a nuanced issue that depends on one's position on the Ladder of Divine Assent, one's relationship with the priest, understanding of morality vs. public service and on and on. Should one's spiritual correction be a publicly-discussed matter? Can a reporter do justice to the mix if personal, private, moral, and theological issues that go into the agonizing decision to refuse the sacraments to someone? Mollie says yes in this case and gives a good explanation from a Roman Catholic point-of-view. I wonder if the Orthodox POV would be the same and will try to find out.

blogging vs. actually working

A very good article from the New Atlantis: Shop Class as Soulcraft
The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on.
via, of course, CrunchyCon

I think to myself a lot lately that I would gladly give up what I am doing and become an entry-level trade worker--carpenter, framer, electrician, brick layer, whatever--if I could afford it, which I cannot. I have too much debt for an entry-level job and am a bit too old to get started in manual labor. I am, however, dreaming up the plans to arrange my post-debt life in a way that allows for manual-labor hobbies to play large--carpentry and gardening (farming, even). When I am dead, I want my sons to remember me as someone whom they saw working.

(My wife will probably point out that house cleaning is noble labor and work that would fit itself well into my current lifestyle.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

shutter bug, larval stage

We've allowed David to shoot some of his own pictures with the digital camera lately. I have created a new set of photos he has shot that I'll add to as we go along.


Our mustached mini Bresson, his camera strap like scarf of creativity shielding him from the bitter cold wind of mundanity.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

one word: "poisons"

CrunchyCon summarizes

this article about

this research (among other things)

I could on and on.

I pass this along because there is a general push right now to raise awareness and I want you to be aware.

I also have two comments about this--almost. Firstly, I have been complaining about the omnipresence of plastic for years. I'm glad y'all decided to catch up. Secondly, we Americans are known for all of our great new science about the potential end of the world. I think that the Orthodox Christian world view offers a unique position from which to approach these concerns, but I am not yet sure what that is. How is that for a non-comment? I put it here as a way of thinking out loud, getting my juices flowing for a potential future post.

stay tuned, poisoned fans

Monday, May 05, 2008


Sonoma Country Day School:
Praise to the rituals that celebrate change,
old robes worn for new beginnings,
solemn protocol where the mutable soul,
surrounded by ancient experience, grows
young in the imagination's white dress.

Because it is not the rituals we honor
but our trust in what they signify, these rites
that honor us as witnesses — whether to watch
lovers swear loyalty in a careless world
or a newborn washed with water and oil.
via Crunch Con

Sunday, May 04, 2008

a perfect start to summer

What a blissful evening. Not one I would have expected. After a Saturday of lousy weather and fighting with my eldest, and a Sunday afternoon of discussing finances with my fellow parishioners, I would not have expected perfect evening of family gardening delight.

I went to the local garden store on Saturday to get plants. It was not successful. Winter is not going down without a fight around here and it was cold and windy Saturday morning. David and Simon were both ready for lunch and a rest and when I asked an employee for assistance with getting a garden started, I got the same deer-in-the-headlights look that you get from employees at car rental offices when you ask to rent a car: "Do we do that?"

I tried to convey to her in words and tone of voice as well as by the look on my face that I was a Project. A newbie for her to take under her wing, guide, and nurture. But it was not happening. On a better day, I would have closed my eyes and grabbed plants at random, but not on that day. I needed to spend some time around the plants with a guide and without my kids. And my mom is still on the mend.

This evening, quite unexpectedly, it happened. Dad was in town for the celebration of his father's 80th birthday (more on that later). Afterwards, Skylar took the boys and dad and I headed off to the nursery Dillons for plants. He knows all this great stuff about gardening that he apparently learned from his grandpa. So, there we were, dad and I kickin' around in the the plant tent in the Dillons parking lot. Not exactly picturesque, but I'll take what I can get.

Then we headed over to Skylar's for a wiener roast and diggin'. A real garden party. Mom and Alex came and dad, Brooke, Skylar, Isabel, David, Simon, and I all got dirty. It was great fun and I learned tons. I am confident that we are going to have a lovely garden with boatloads of tomatoes. I'll email you some.

Look! Pictures!


Later, tomato fans.

Friday, May 02, 2008

me grow real good someday

Humans have been tilling the ground and tending to plants for at least 10,000 years. 99% of all people who have ever lived have grown some, if not most, of their own food. But here I stand, in front of a plot of freshly-tilled earth, with a fresh green seedling in my hand (well, on the counter), and have no clue what to do next. Shouldn't I have some sort of genetic memory here? I have never been interested in gardening but I have always assumed that I would develop the interest some day. I assumed something would prompt me to make it a priority. That something is Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food, an Eaters Manifesto. It provided me the kick-in-the-pants to learn to plant plants. Coinsidentally, Skylar and Brooke have wanted to do some digging in the dirt, so we are going at it. I borrowed a friend's tiller and turned up about 180 square feet of yard. We hope to get some plants in soon, just as soon as I learn how to do that. Additionally, I am going to work on developing a shade garden in back of our place.

The first plan was to grow vegetables up at grandpa's farm. While Skylar's place is much more convenient, there is one aspect I regret--no boy's on a farm. When mom and I first went to the farm to plot a plot, David and Simon roamed around the property--even venturing into the unmowed field out in front. Kids need space and they were in their element. I had developed romantic notions of going up the farm regularly to tend to the garden while the boys galavanted through the fields, gathering ticks. Maybe next year.

Mom is recovering from surgery, so Skylar is watching the boys in the afternoon. This has given Simon the oportunity to finally learn Skylar's name, which he recited for half the ride home the other night:


and repeat 100 times.

Finally, he got bored with that and started with his alleluias. Apparently his Spiritual Father has given him a rule to recite 1,000 alleluia's a day.

later farm fans.

Nun offers mercy, but robber gets jail --

One hand on my mouse, the other holds a kleenex.
She reached out to hand him the card. She then extended her arm again. And although the sheriff's deputies assigned to the county's courtrooms usually prevent anyone other than defense attorneys from touching a defendant, no one interfered as the snowy-haired nun in the navy suit and white blouse shook the hand of the tattooed man in a dirty white T-shirt who had robbed her three years earlier.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Comment on Krista Tippett

A comment I wrote yesterday to Krista Tippett, host of Speaking of Faith.
I first discovered your program when I found your episode "Restoring the Senses, Life Gardening, and Orthodox Easter." I was impressed, and being a father of two, decided to listen to your episode on the Spirituality of Parenting.

I am disappointed. I think that you omitted one of the primary spiritual issues that the vast majority of faithful believers actually have.

Rabbi Sasso offers many good insights. Her understanding of both the need to maintain an open stance with your children's spirituality and her suggestion that we teach our children out of the spiritual tradition in which we were raised, are balanced on the surface. But there is an undertone that seems to lean towards the idea that "spirituality" is exclusively personal, is pretty distant from religion, that all paths are equal, and we should allow our children to find their own way. This view is explicit in the recorded questions from parents that were interspersed through the program. Most, if not all of the questions or comments were "I have found a path for me, how do I make sure my children find their own path for themselves."

I don't think this resonates with the vast majority of religious adherents worldwide. Most faithful believers think that their spiritual and religious tradition is a rich and glorious gift they can give to their children. They also believe that there are spiritual dangers and they have to teach their children about them just as we have to teach them about other dangers. It deeply hurts my son's feelings when I insist he not step of the curb into the street and I try to be loving about the discipline, but I know there is a danger and wrong paths. But I also want to teach him to see danger for himself, understand risk, and govern himself. Likewise, there are spiritual directions that my Faith tradition assures me can lead down dangerous paths.

I think a more common question that most faithful have is "I want my children to see the beauty of our Faith that I see and I want them to maintain our faith and make it their own personally. I know that forcing it down their throat is not the correct way, but I also don't want to give them the impression that their spiritual path is an exclusively personal choice and that all choices are equal. How to maintain that balance?"

I have seen families negotiate this question well, who produced children who love God and have maintained the Faith they were raised with and I have seen families that botch this terribly and whose deeply resentful children bolt as soon as possible. This is most religious parent's single biggest fear.

I think that you failed to really discuss that.

I wouldn't bother to say anything if I didn't feel like both you and Rabbi Sasso are capable of intelligently addressing this question. I respect the quality of your work and the content of this program so far as it went, but this seems like a big hole in the discussion.

Thank you for listening.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

our future?

Story: Co-worker of Jaime's has a five-year-old and four-year-old (ten months apart!) in separate beds in one room. One night the five-year-old pooped his pants. Not wanting to get in trouble, he throws the poop into his younger brother's bed. So dad is awakened by indignant howls of "stop throwing turds in my bed!"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"it's like those bloggers who post conversations rather than actually creating content"


Jason: ouch. and it is so unnecessary. They could have adequately steadied the camera without breaking the (attempted) illusion. Drives me nuts when film makers think they are better conveying reality by putting as little between the camera and the subject as possible. I would think that Film 101 is "the camera, by its very nature, distorts reality." Makeup is a good analogy. Typically actor's wear make up to look natural on film because the camera makes an unmade-up person look zombie-like. Cinema Vérité is cowardice on the part of a film maker who is unwilling to make decisions about what he or she considers "true" and do the hard work of evoking it on film.

Jason: clearly, something I feel strongly about. I should add $0.50 to that opinion and get myself some coffee.

Scott: You should blog that.

Jason Gilbert: Hey! good idea. It would tick my family off though: "he doesn't blog for a month about the topic we are interested in, then a rant about cinematic style?"

Scott: Well, maybe it would lead to more...

Jason: We shall see. I'll post this entire conversation.