Sunday, November 30, 2008

Don't Forget....

Don't forget about the book give-away.....until 8PM today is the last day to have your name added to the drawing! I'll announce the winner on Monday.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!



Psalm 118:1
"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Told You I Cannot Write Short Posts

I typically avoid vampire stories. There are spiritual themes you can’t avoid in them, and, vampires being what they are, it’s a safe bet that I’ll probably have a problem with the directions those themes take. It isn’t so much that I don’t like vampire stories, exactly, because the fallen part of me actually finds them quite intriguing, but I usually find them so disturbing that I have to say that ultimately I don’t really like them. I am also not a fan of young adult romance fiction. Ugh.

So, how did I end up reading a whole four book series about vampires and teenage/young adult romance, you are probably asking. I’ve gotten to know some of my neighbors this year as we wait at the bus stop in the morning, and that has been a good thing, seeing as how I tend to be something of a hermit and am kind of quiet and find it hard to climb out of my shell and meet people. One day at the bus stop one of the ladies told another lady she had stayed up until 2am to finish a book she had borrowed and really wanted the second one, and I was intrigued. She said this book was really good, did I want to borrow it, too? I asked what it was and she told me it was Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I remembered that I had heard something about that author and that she was becoming very popular, but I couldn’t remember what I had heard, positive or negative, so I said, “Okay.” When she handed me the book and I started walking home and looked at the back cover, my thought was, “Oh, yeah, it’s a vampire book. Ugh.”

Before I continue, I need to warn you that there will be spoilers in this opinion piece. This is not a formal book review, per se, it’s just me sharing my thoughts. Actually, it’s just me trying to work out my thoughts so I can think through it better as I interact with my friends who are enjoying discussing this book and, hopefully, to come at it from a biblical worldview and provide a different viewpoint and hopefully have an opportunity to be a good witness in the process. I don’t have the books in front of me, and I’m working off my impressions and memory of the story as it unfolded throughout four books, so I won’t have direct quotes to illustrate my points – I borrowed the books, and to be honest, I don’t want to buy them and have them sitting on my shelf. All that to say that there will be much plot spoilage in this post. If you think you want to read these books, be warned that I’m just sharing my impressions of the overall story, so if you don’t want any of the plot revealed, don’t keep reading. And if you haven’t read them and aren’t planning to this probably won’t make much sense, and I can already tell this is going to be another one of my impossibly too long posts. Basically I’m just writing this post for me as a way to hash out my thoughts. You’re welcome to look over my shoulder as I do if you wish, but if you’re one of the obsessed Twilight fans, be forewarned that I am not one also. I’m also going to link to another review that pretty much nails my concerns much better than I could have stated them. So, is that a fair enough warning? If you don’t want spoilers, stop now.

Anyway, when I got home with the book I read the front flap and was interested enough to start reading it and as I did I realized I was enjoying the story. It’s a different twist on the vampire story, and I did become intrigued by Bella’s (the main character) experience as a new student at her high school and the angst that goes with that. In a nutshell, the books are a story about a 17-year-old girl who moves from Phoenix to the town of Forks, Washington to live with her father after her mother remarries and moves to Florida with her new husband. Most of the books are written from Bella’s point of view, as we follow her first days at her new school and as she meets new friends and tries to find her way in her new surroundings and reconnecting with her dad. Bella’s world is drastically and forever changed when she meets Edward and the Cullen family. As it is gradually revealed that the incredibly gorgeous guy (Edward) that Bella begins to have a crush on is actually a vampire, the tension mounts. This revelation comes about slowly and, that is one reason the books are so hard to put down. Of course, from the time she meets Edward, we are drawn into the ever unfolding story of their growing romance, and the obstacles that surround it. The strength of the books (at least the first three – I REALLY didn’t like huge parts of the fourth but I probably won’t get into all of that in this post) is that as I read I found it very difficult to put them down once I started, because I did want to know where the author would go with these characters, even though I didn’t really like Bella all that much after she got more and more obsessive about Edward. .

If you’ve suffered through this post to this point, I suppose you’re still reading because you want to know, did I like the books? Here’s my honest answer. On one level, I found them very entertaining. It has been a long time since I’ve read a book that was so hard to put down. I found myself reading while I cooked and running over to my friend’s house for the next books once I’d finished the first, second and third, and once I was done with the series, Drew was pretty glad because I finally was able to quit reading. The story is interesting and there are a lot of interesting plot twists and, I’ll admit, the ending ties things together very nicely (well, most things….I found the father’s acceptance of what happens to Bella – or his acceptance of the suggestion that he just not ask too many questions - in the end just plain odd. I don’t know any sane father who would just say, “Okay” to the idea that he just take a “need to know” approach to the fact that all kinds of very strange and unexplainable things have happened to his daughter which make no sense at all to him). The book ends just the way the reader has been conditioned to want it to, and I suppose most people consider it a blissfully happy ending.

However….you knew I’d have a ‘however’ didn’t you? Here’s where I tend to get flak from people who often tell me that I tend to over think things and read too much into everything. But, as a Christian, and in the case of this book, as a mom, I can’t hang up my worldview and just read it as entertainment and leave the spiritual elements out of my evaluation. And that is because the author herself brought some of those things up in the story and because I filter everything through my worldview, even entertainment. This leads to people often thinking I am too serious or that I can’t just enjoy myself. This is not true. As I told my neighbor when we were discussing the series once I’d finished it, I don’t have to like the ending or everything in the book to find it enjoyable, and I actually have found lots of things to think about from reading them, and it has been a platform for me to share a little bit about my faith with my friends, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to share more as we continue the conversation. So, don’t hear me saying that I think a Christian should read only ‘Christian’ books. What I am saying is, be careful and pay attention to everything you read and know that an author’s worldview will influence how and what they write and it will influence you as you read, even if it is just entertainment. On a certain level, I did like the books, but I also have to honestly say that there was A LOT about them that bothers me, and what bothers me most is that I am not at all sure they are appropriate for the target audience of young girls who are gobbling them up and loving them so much. There is a lot in there that I would have a very hard time feeling good about handing over to my daughter (or son) to read without any caution. I think, as a mom, I would want to be sure my daughter was spiritually mature enough to be able to discuss the things that bothered me about these books, and I would be sure to discuss them with her. And I don’t think they are books I would recommend that teenage girls read. That will get me in trouble with a lot of fans and moms, but it’s my honest opinion.

Here’s some of why I think I would be very hesitant to recommend these books. First of all, when I first heard about these books, I thought that since the author was a Mormon, how smutty could they be? So, I thought they would be okay. Well, on the surface, they are pretty clean, compared to many of the young adult type of books. The high school students are all pretty clean-living – no drinking, drugs, or sex before marriage is portrayed among any of the kids Bella hangs around. Kissing is pretty much as far as anything goes, and even as the romance between Bella and Edward grows, he refuses to consummate their relationship until she marries him, in spite of much temptation from Bella. So, again, on the surface, the first three books are pretty clean. However, there is a lot of flirting with the line – Edward very frequently stays all night in Bella’s room without her father’s knowledge, and his reasons for protecting her purity seem to be more that he is afraid he will hurt her because vampires are so superhumanly strong and he is so attracted to the scent of her blood than for more noble reasons, though that is hinted at, too.

And the way Bella becomes literally obsessed with Edward is disturbing in the extreme. She gets to a point where she just about cannot function or breathe if he is not in her sight, and that is just creepy. Both of them decide that if the other is not living, then life is just not worth living. Bella basically makes an idol of Edward, at one point saying that she doesn’t need Heaven if Edward is not there. And she also is very self-absorbed and pretty much just uses her human friends and isn’t all that concerned about them. In fact, something I found to be a glaring weakness in the books was the flatness of the ‘extras’ in Bella’s life. The human friends were boring and not fleshed out at all, while all the supernatural characters, the vampires and her shape-shifting wolf man friend Jacob, as well as Bella herself, were much more fleshed out. Basically, the human friends function to move the story along and Bella calls on them when she needs them, but she discards them when she doesn’t, and, in my opinion, it makes her much less likable as a character. Her world quickly revolves around Edward, and Edward only, and she has no concern for her other friends. This is not a message I think we ought to be giving our teenage girls. Her attraction to Edward is portrayed as true love, but looking at it as a mom, I would be so concerned and grieved if my own daughter were acting like this.

This gets us to some more serious issues I had with this book. Edward is not sure if he has lost his soul when he became a vampire and he does not want Bella to change because he doesn’t want to be responsible for her losing her soul, too. Another character says that he just can’t believe that God would not do anything for someone like Edward because he is so ‘good.’ And here we get to the problem of worldview. Edward and his family are seen as good because they do not feed on human blood. But they still drink blood. This is what vampires are. And I have a problem with that, but for the purposes of this very long post I won’t go there at the moment. There are enough other concerns with these books without my going into the obvious ones associated with all vampire legends. Anyway, good as opposed to evil is presented as relative goodness. Edward is good because he is not as bad as the bad vampires. He is good because he loves Bella and protects her and tries to live inconspicuously and not let the humans know he is a vampire. But the problem is, relative goodness is still not good, in the ultimate sense. They may be better than most, but the characters are still sinners, as are we all. They need salvation, atonement. And, of course, this is not part of the story. Instead, Bella increasingly comes to see everything human as boring and not to be desired and to desire to be like Edward and his family. The vampires are painted as impossibly beautiful, strong, and desirable. Even when they tell Bella that they would not have chosen this life and that she should stay human, she wants to be as they are, even if it means it will cost her soul.

Bella increasingly makes unwise decisions, going against the counsel of her father, mother and others who she should recognize are wise enough to know that she is acting dangerously. In fact, Edward himself tells her he is dangerous and she should stay away. Throughout the book, Bella’s mother is presented as scatter-brained and that Bella is the responsible one. There is a very, very subtle disrespect of parents portrayed throughout this series that I found disturbing. Even though the author seems to want us to think Bella really loves her father, Bella’s attitude is more one of patronizingly tolerating him and mothering him than it is of respecting her father.

Also, the ‘good’ things that the main characters do are only good to a point. Almost every one of them, once you examine the motives, are done for selfish reasons. Edward is constantly saving Bella because he cannot live without her. That’s his real motivation. I kept thinking throughout the novel that the way he could have shown true love would have been to leave her alone. That would have been the only thing he could do for her that would truly be in her best interest. But, of course, then we wouldn’t have much of a story, would we? I also kept hoping that Edward would find some way to become mortal. To me that would have been a better ending than what actually happens with Bella finally becoming a vampire in the final book. As I told my friend who asked how I liked the ending, eternal life left in a sinful state without Jesus is just not a happy ending to me. And for all the talk of Heaven and hell during the discussions about whether or not they had souls, I got to thinking. Heaven is NOT just the opposite of hell. Heaven without Jesus is not Heaven. It is all about Him. So, for Bella to say that just being with Edward is heaven enough gave me the creeps. Big time.

And another thing….the love that is portrayed between Bella and Edward is not real love. It is obsession and lust, pure and simple. I had a hard time figuring out what it really was that they loved about each other besides the draw of the mysterious – for Edward the fact that she was the one person whose thoughts he could not read and for Bella the whole immortal thing – and the ad nauseum obsessing about Edward’s physical beauty. And once they were married, a huge big deal was made about the physical nature of their relationship – especially once Bella was immortal, too. Sorry, but there is just more to love than only that.

One thing that came out of reading these books for me was that I got to wondering just how much of an impact the fact that Stephenie Meyer is a lifelong Mormon might have made on what she has written. I did some research and realized that it actually made quite a lot. Though the books are by no means evangelizing for the Mormon religion, Mormon thinking is all over them, as you would expect from a Mormon author, whether she intended it or not or even whether she is even aware just how much is there even. And that helped me to better understand the subtle things that bothered me all throughout the series and which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The research I did also made me even more appalled that certain evangelicals are willing to embrace the Mormon faith as Christian. The more I learned, the more I realized just how tragically far from orthodox, biblical Christianity their teaching actually is.

So, bottom line is, I would not feel comfortable recommending this series without strong cautions. On the surface, sure it’s entertaining. But there are deeper issues and they are serious, and I’ve only scratched the surface in this too long post. I could have said a lot more. What came to mind when reading them and digesting them and thinking about them, was that throughout the series, as it is written you find yourself wanting Bella to be with Edward and that the immortality he has is to be desired. The vampires are beautiful on the outside, strong, gifted, talented, intriguing and desirable, and honestly, the dramatic climax in the final book was fun reading, on a strictly entertainment level. But that's why it bothers me. Really, they are dead on the inside. Their hearts stopped beating when they were transformed. And isn’t that an apt description of false, works-based religion? It may look shiny and good on the outside, but apart from faith in Jesus Christ, there is only death on the inside.

I think what I am saying is that what makes these books so disturbing to me is that they are so very likable, and that in being so, they are more subtle in how disturbing the disturbing things actually are. I guess I would say, “Moms, know what your girls are reading. If you have a teenager reading these books, be prepared to help her see the deeper issues and help her think through them.” As my neighbor and I were discussing, we think one reason these books have become so popular is that Stephenie Meyer has hit on the kind of thing that teen girls can really relate to in her Bella. A lot of us felt a whole lot like she did in high school – kind of awkward, not really fitting in with the ‘in’ crowd, having a secret desire to protect those we love and to be the heroine in a great story. That’s why it’s so easy to get so very involved with the story. You find yourself really liking and relating to the characters. These are just some of the things that struck me, as a Christian, as I read these books. If you liked them, okay. I’m not going to argue with you. If you have something to discuss regarding the issues of concern that I raised, good, I might interact with you. If you just want to rave about how great these books are, there are lots of fan sites devoted to that. This isn’t one of them. If you want to lambaste me for not liking the books, I’ll probably delete the comment. And that’s my very long-winded opinion.

Oh, yes, and here is a link to a review that sums up my concerns way better and much more succinctly than I just did here. Thanks for the link, Barbie!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book Give-Away

My friend Heather has written a book and I want to share it with you all! Heather and I were roommates in college at the University of Florida, and we have kept in touch over the years and I have followed her journey on her blog. I would love to share her book with you.


From the book's website:

"Just Enough Grace is Heather’s journey through parenting, homeschooling, cancer, her husband’s job loss, the subsequent cross-country move (in the midst of cancer treatments), and the on-going changes and challenges of everyday life with four kids. Yet through it all, she sees God’s hand and hears His still small voice. One of the biggest lessons she’s learned is that God gives us just enough grace—just enough for the moment, for the specific situation that we’re in right now."

I have a copy of Just Enough Grace that I would love to give to one of my readers. If you're interested in being entered in a drawing for this wonderful book by my sweet friend, please leave me a comment on this post by Sunday, November 30, 2008. I'll put the names in a hat and choose one commenter and announce the winner on Monday, December 1, 2008.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Will I Ever Blog Again?

My friend Lisa often will blog status reports, and I am blatantly plagiarizing the idea from her today as I realize here it is Friday and I haven't posted anything, substantive or not, since last Friday. Is it still plagiarism if I give her credit for the format idea? I’ll let Lisa decide the answer to that.

Sitting...at my computer desk wishing a substantive post would materialize on the screen. Also sitting on my hands when I'm not typing to try to warm them up. It's cold this week. And my hands freeze all winter. And it's only going to get colder in a few weeks when we move.

Sipping...nothing at the moment, but thinking strongly about going out to get a Coke zero from the fridge in the garage. Speaking of the fridge in the garage, did you know that if you set your refrigerator too cold and a case of diet A&W cans happens to freeze you will have a whopping explosion of a mess in said refrigerator? I didn’t either. But, wow, you should see the mess. The cans actually exploded. That’s one more job I’ve got to do now.

Eating....an apple, and wishing it were a giant chocolate bar. Still trying to shed some more pounds. Slow going these days.

Missing...my dog. I still find myself looking at the couch when I get up in the morning and am always disappointed when he isn't there. I guess that will fade once we move.

Also missing... my blog and my blog friends. Wishing I had more to say to keep it up. Wondering what is wrong with me these days. Must be the move. I’m not great with big changes, even when they are so incredibly obviously the right changes.

Incredibly grateful...for the manifold providential ways God is showing us and comforting our hearts that this move is right. There are more than I can count. God is so kind and so good and His mercy is everlasting, and His peace does pass all understanding. May I rest in it. And I am thankful for His word and how the time spent studying it is never wasted time, but brings refreshing to my soul.

Mulling...over a series of books I just completed and which I can’t seem to quit thinking about and about which a blog post is screaming in my head to be written, but I am thinking I just might be too chicken to jump into that water and name the series just now since they are obscenely popular with a certain young adult female audience and the first novel has a movie based upon it opening today and it deals with a new twist on the vampire story, (Have you figured it out yet?) and what I’m thinking about it is not all positive, glowing, obsessively wonderful thoughts and I’m not sure I want to face the backlash for sharing my thoughts if I do mention the name of the books and the Google hits bring obsessed fans here, so, should I write the post or not? What say you?

Wimpy... You’re right. See above. But that as-yet-unwritten post is about the only substantive thinking I’ve got going at the moment, too. Sigh.

Enjoying...my two-year-old daughter. She is just so much fun.

Also enjoying...my two boys. They are fun, too. But I am also constantly reminded of my total inadequacy at this parenting job at times. Parenting is hard work. Really hard. God is gracious. Really gracious. He grants wisdom when I pour out my heart to Him and for that I can never be grateful enough.

Stressful...the time is quickly barreling down upon us for our move to St. Louis. Today is Drew’s last day working at the hospital. That is really surreal. Drew’s boss and his wife, who are also dear friends, are taking us out to dinner tonight. I’m dreading the tears. I surprised myself on Saturday at M’s last football game when a friend’s mom came up to him and told him how much they are going to miss him when we leave. I got all misty-eyed. And I want to leave the low country. But it is still hard. Drew leaves the Saturday after Thanksgiving to start his new job and the movers will be here in early December to give us a better estimate of our actual moving date when we can go on and join him there. It is real now.

Procrastinating...filling out the forms for the boys’ new school. I hate filling out forms. But it needs to be done before next week. Drew will be taking them with him to get them registered for next semester. Have I mentioned that I’m not great with change?

Irritated...with incompetence. One example among many that we've experienced recently: I guess literacy is too high an expectation for our mail carrier. We keep getting mail for neighbors who don’t even live on our street, and other neighbors keep having to walk our mail over to us. When we went to Disney, I had the post office hold our mail for that week. It was supposed to all be delivered to us on the Saturday we got back. We didn’t get it until the next Monday. When I went through it, there was a large stack of our next door neighbor’s mail in with ours which had been held all week instead of delivered to their box. I hope their mail doesn’t get forwarded to St. Louis with us when we move. Also, there was a two inch thick stack of mail for different people all over the area here – not even close to our neighborhood, some not even the same zip code. That all got held for a week with our mail, too. We put those in one of those big blue mail boxes. Hope it got where it was supposed to. That’s just one more aspect of Island living I’m fairly sure I won’t miss too awfully much. Looking at the bright side, with all of us neighbors walking misdirected mail to each other, at least we are finally meeting each other.

Not progressing...with the writing project. I started outlining a little of the story, but I haven’t had time or heart to get into it much yet. I also need to get moving on the story I promised M I would write for him a very long time ago.

Thankful...for Jesus, who is the Light of the world. That has so much meaning for me right now. Maybe I’ll explain more when I get up the courage to write that book post.

Done...blogging for the moment. Diapers and daily duties are calling.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Santa Thing

Warning, minor rant ahead. I don't seem to be able to write short posts, and this one, long as it is, probably doesn't say everything I want to or say it as well as I should. Take it for what it's worth, I guess.

At the bus stop about a month ago, some of the moms stayed a while talking after the bus took the kids to school. One of the moms filled me in on an ongoing discussion that was apparently being continued from the day before. She told me that her (third grade) son came home the day before telling her some things he had heard on the bus about s*e*x and that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I keyed in on the first concern because that’s a big deal but kind of blew off the second because that’s a non-issue to me. However, as the conversation continued, it became obvious that several of the moms were as concerned, if not more concerned, about the Santa Claus revelation than they were about the other topic. That kind of surprised me. In fact, I told them that my boys don’t believe in Santa because we never really made a big deal about him at our house. It’s not that we’re legalistic or anything, the boys know the Santa stories and have seen some of the movies about him, but we never played up believing in the fairy tale. That’s just not Christmas to me. So I told the moms that I knew my guys weren’t participating in the s*e*x talking because they are still pretty innocent there, but that they very well could shatter illusions about Santa.

Let me back up and say what this post is NOT saying. I’m not making any judgment on a family’s decision to ‘do’ Santa or not. I don’t really care one way or the other. I think it’s one of those things you can do if you want or not do if you don’t want and not something to get all hyper about. I’ll share our opinion and convictions regarding our own decision that we made early on in our family, but it doesn’t bother me if other families play the Santa game or not. I don’t think it makes us more or less spiritual than anyone else because of our decision not to do much with him, it just is what it is, and I don’t really care if anyone else agrees or not. So don’t get all offended if you just love the Santa thing. Cool beans. Go for it, I won’t intentionally Grinch it for ya.

But, here’s our philosophy at our house. When I was growing up, we had stockings and Santa presents, but the game was never played to the extent where my brother and I really believed that some fat, jolly old elf man truly came into our house on Christmas Eve and delivered presents. I don’t remember ever taking it seriously, and my parents didn’t make a big deal out of Santa. It was just a story. The real point of Christmas was to celebrate Jesus. Drew says it was pretty much that way for them, too. So, we kind of decided that when we had kids we weren’t going to do the Santa thing, either. We put up stockings and all, and my kids knew the stories, and we even put out reindeer food for fun when M brought some home from school, but they never believed it was anything real. We thought it through and realized that at Christmas we wanted the focus to be on Jesus and the fact that He came to earth, stepped into time and took on human flesh, to reconcile us to Himself. Christmas, to us, is really about the Cross. So we didn’t see the point in muddying up the celebration with an over-the-top fantasy world Santa myth. In fact, my kids didn’t even really know who Santa was until they went to school. M called him “Ho, Ho Man,” when he was little and we thought that was funny.

Anyway, when the kids went to school, I told them that some kids did believe in Santa, so just don’t make a big deal about it and try not to spoil their fun. That has not been a problem, as far as I know, until this year.

A few weeks after the bus stop conversation, one of the moms very apologetically asked me if she could talk. She said, “You guys don’t do Santa, right?” And we talked a little about that. Then she hesitantly said that her son told her that J had told him that there was no Santa and could I talk to him? Ugh. I told her that we had already told him not to bring it up, but if someone point blank asked him, he shouldn’t lie, either. But I told her I’d talk to J. One of the other moms said, “Yeah, I know it’s Jesus’ birthday and all, too, but we just want to preserve the magic of Santa for our kindergartner. She just has so much fun with it.”

So I talked to J. Turns out this kid had asked him. So, J didn’t lie. The other mom and I talked again today and she asked if I’d talked to J. I told her it looked like her son was asking. She said this was probably his last year anyway, because he’s asking all those logical questions, but she wanted to give me a heads up because the other mom will be upset if her kindergartner finds out. I said that we weren't trying to be jerks or anything and I'm sorry if my son's answer was causing problems but I also didn't want him lying. And then we kind of joked about, well, if you’re that upset about it, show them The Polar Express. Whatever. She laughed and admitted that they were probably going to have to talk to their son this year since he's pretty much figured it out and since he's going around asking all his friends. By the way I HATE that movie. It totally shows what Christmas without Jesus is. Depressing empty vanity – ultimately it’s all about the presents and 'believing.' But 'believing' in what? DEPRESSING. And the North Pole scene where everyone is worshipping Santa really, really bothered me, and no, I do NOT think that I’m being hyper sensitive. No wonder people get so depressed during the holidays. Just sharing my honest opinion. Feel free to differ, but that’s how it struck me.

Anyway, I’ve kind of gotten tired of being looked at funny every year for not making much of Santa. Every year someone at church or somewhere will ask the boys if Santa brought them anything, and my concrete thinker J will look confused and say, “No…” and the kind hearted soul will give me this weird look, to which I apologetically explain that yes, they did get presents and mumble about not really doing much with Santa, which doesn’t usually erase the weird look they’re giving me. There’s some version of that conversation every year.

I’m trying to be understanding, but, really, why is it that our family is the bad guy here? I don’t care if other people want to play the Santa game, but to get all bent out of shape when your kid hears on the school bus or from a neighbor kid the TRUTH that Santa is just a fairy tale is just, well, life. Sorry. I’ve told my guys not to be jerks or obnoxious about it because we don’t want to hurt our witness by being unkind or coming across in a legalistic way, which is NOT how we look at this, but, at the same time, it isn’t my responsibility to keep the lie alive for everyone else. I’m responsible for how I raise my own kids. We decided in own family to try to downplay the materialistic, secular side of Christmas as much as we could, though I still think there’s too much emphasis on the presents, truth be told, and put more emphasis on the Savior. We did nothing wrong in the way we handled Santa with our boys. I’m tired of the judgmental attitude we’re getting for not lying to our kids. So there. Play the game if you wish, preserve the magic, whatever. But you’ll have to figure out for yourself what to tell them when they bump into people who opted out. What really bothers me is that we’re being treated like we have destroyed someone’s faith in something real. You’ve got to know that if you play the Santa game, the day of disillusionment will eventually come. That’s what happens when you take the fantasy that far. Sorry to be so blunt, but, that right there is a major reason why we opted out in the first place. I wanted them to believe what really matters, not be confused with the fake stuff. I want them to be able to discern the difference and not intentionally tell them confusing things along the way.

And, just for the record, the fact that God stepped into time and became a man and reconciled those who believe in Christ to Himself is wondrous enough for me. I don’t need the headache of jumping through a bunch of hoops to make my kids believe in a made up elf in order to keep the wonder alive for them. I’d rather they be impressed with a sense of wonder at the awe their mom and dad feel toward a God who would condescend to the humility of the Cross on our behalf. That’s where I want our energy to be focused.

But I also understand that many of my neighbors are not believers, so they do not have that sense of wonder about the Savior. I hope I can look at this as an opportunity to be a gracious witness, and teach my children to be the same.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Miscellaneous Things of Varying Importance

* I voted today. Boo and I stood in line for an hour this morning at 8:00. Not too bad, considering the record turnout everywhere for this election. Boo was remarkably patient during the entire wait, too. Anyway, while waiting in line the person behind me happened to be a close stander. Let me back up and explain that I am one of those people that kind of likes a decent personal space radius. I’m not even much of a hugger except with people I know, though I’ve gotten much better about that. But when standing in a line or standing in a crowd I usually leave a little bit of space between myself and the next person if I can. Not so with the guy behind me in line today. I kept feeling the toes of his boots on the heel of my shoe and he kept bumping into my back. I know the line was long and all, but there wasn’t a need to be quite so close. There was lots of space for the line to stretch back while we were outside the polling place. And every time we moved forward, he kept that same non-distance. I kept wondering if I turned around suddenly if we’d be nose to nose and why exactly that was necessary? Kind of like the ‘close talker’ from Seinfeld. Remember that episode?

* How was that last paragraph for a frivolous commentary on this very important election? Please don't take that to mean I'm being flippant about the election. I have been following the issues closely and am praying for our country. I'll still be praying tomorrow, regardless of the outcome tonight. (Excellent thought here, by the way.) I have to tell you that I've been hearing very disturbing things about how people vote and why (for just one example look here - HT: Deo Volente). Please be informed and know the issues involved. Our form of government relies on an educated, informed electorate, and sometimes I fear that many of us are willfully uneducated and uninformed. That's all I'm saying there.

* I’m thinking of taking a semi-blog break. In fact I’m only writing this post right now because I feel like I’ve neglected the blog for so long I don’t want to leave the impression I’m quitting. I’m not quitting, but I am slowing down. Want to know why? Several reasons. One, major idea block at the moment – too much to do and not enough time to think about blog posts. Two, we’re moving next month – part of the reason for number one. Three, I had a major burst of imagination regarding the book I want to eventually write and I think I want to take some time to brainstorm it – I started this thing back in high school and it has sat on the back burner for lo, these many years, and I finally am wanting to get back to it. Whether or not anything will ever come of it, I don’t know, but I want to try to at least get it written. I need time to think through the plot line and characters and develop the hook it still needs, but to do that, I need to take a slow down with the blog. I’m hoping that by writing this little aspiration out publicly I will really knuckle down and get to work on my story instead of just talk about getting around to it eventually like I have done for so long. My husband says it’s about time – he’s been encouraging me to get writing for a long time. It's nice to know he has so much confidence in my meager writing ability.

* My brother forwarded a message to me the other day from someone I went to high school with. She had found him on Facebook, a place I have not ventured to understand yet, and wondered if he was my brother. Turns out our 20th high school reunion is being planned for next summer. No way am I old enough to be having a 20 year reunion yet. That just cannot be. Clearly I am in denial. Anyway, I need to send her a message and let her know I got the info. I checked out the website they have set up and there’s a place where classmates are writing little blurbs and putting up pictures. It is just plain WEIRD seeing people that I last saw when we were 18 as adults, married, with children – or not, but adults, anyway. I don’t know why it is so weird, but I guess when you don’t see someone for years they seem to stay the same age in your mind even though you are aging and married with children. It’s kind of depressing reading some of the stories, too – lots of divorces and sad tales along with those who claim (some just a little too enthusiastically methinks) that they are ‘living the dream!!!!’ And lots of people who are still living from party to party, just like they were way back in school. Those are the saddest to me, I think. I don’t think I’ll be going to “Party Like It’s 1989.” Depressing. Most depressing are the entries from people who seem to wish we were still there in 1989. Not me. I told Drew that I think that the best part of my life has happened since high school, and I don’t really want to relive those memories, many of which weren’t all that great the first time around with people I wasn’t really friends with then. Most of my friends were in different classes, not in ‘The Class With No Class,’ which was our unofficial class motto, no kidding. I did go to our 10 year reunion, and I think I’ll just pass this time, though there are a few people I would like to catch up with. None of them came to the 10 year, however, but a couple have posted on the website. Maybe I’ll just post a little blurb and then get on with living in the now. The ‘then’ isn’t really where I want to be anymore. It’s really, really strange to think that I’ve been out of school now longer than I was in. I don’t usually feel old……I also don’t feel old enough to be this old. Anyhoo….

* Well, that last paragraph came out sounding kind of like a real downer. Maybe I need to be taking a blog break. I seem to be complaining a lot. I really don’t feel critical all the time, regardless of the tone of recent posts. Anyway, I’ll just plan on posting when an idea hits and not pressure myself to keep up daily, which I’d kind of realized a while back, too. I’m trying to keep up with blog reading, but, due to our recent vacation there are almost 200 unread posts in my Google reader. So, sorry for not commenting much recently. I’ll get back to blogoville soon, I hope. I am really excited about getting back to my writing. I hope to let you know how it’s going soon, if anyone is interested or even still reading. Sorry there hasn’t been much of substance on here in so long.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Been There, Bought the T-Shirt(s)....And Sweaters, And.....

We had a wonderful family vacation this past week, starting with a weekend visit with my parents, even getting to go to church with them and sit in on the Sunday School class my dad teaches. J got to hear his Grandma teach his Sunday School class, and the kids enjoyed bonding with their Florida grandparents again. Then on Sunday afternoon it was on to Walt Disney World for the Sweet Tea clan, where we enjoyed a week with park hopper passes for all four of the optimistically themed parks, “Where dreams come true.” We got to meet my friend Heather for lunch on Monday at Downtown Disney, and it was so good to see her again and catch up a little, though it was loud in the dinosaur-themed restaurant we chose to keep the kids amused while we chatted, loudly, amid meteor showers and animatronic dinosaurs. I'm sad that I forgot to get a picture with her, though.

The kids totally loved their first Disney experience, Boo was beside herself when she met “Winnie-a-Pooh” and ran up and gave him a huge hug. The boys were busy acting cool a lot of the time, but they had a blast. We can tell. They were both tall enough for all the rides, so Drew took them on lots of them and Boo and I spent a lot of time at the tamer shows and musicals and rides and wandering around waiting for the men of the family to meet back up with us. I did get to ride Big Thunder Mountain with the boys, since that was the one roller coaster I really, really wanted to ride. The rest, I’m just not as into fast and motion-sickness inducing rides anymore. Just one more legacy of motherhood, I’m afraid, is that I am much more prone to migraines and motion-sickness than I was before pregnancy changed my body forever.

One thing about Disney that isn’t so magical is the waiting. Lots of waiting. But not so bad this trip. October was the time to go, the crowds were smaller and the wait times not so much. The ‘Fast-Pass’ option is a great innovation that has come along since my youthful Disney trips. There are some rides that we agreed were worth a Fast Pass, but definitely not worth a 40 minute wait in line. (The Peter Pan ride? So not worth wasting a long wait time, which our experienced selves were still amazed that people would waste their time doing, but fun enough with a fast pass.) The boys like to say that “It’s a Small World” should have been a Boo and Mommy ride only, but I caught them smiling once or twice during that one. They just have a cool image to keep up. Don’t tell anyone.

Our finicky digital camera died on the first day (could have guessed that one, yes?). That dream of easy pictures didn’t come true. The camera has not been the same since Boo decided it needed a dunking in Oliver’s water bowl some time back, and I think it is now time to be looking for a replacement. But we did take lots and lots of pictures with disposable cameras, and Drew is taking them now to be developed, so I’ll probably have some to share later. Another cool innovation that has come along is the Photo Pass card. You carry around this little card and whenever one of the Disney photographers takes a picture of you, they scan the info onto your card. This was especially helpful when we met and greeted the characters. (By the way, we finally found Minnie and Mickey and Goofy on our last day and somehow managed to get to them before the line to meet them was a hundred miles long. Boo was thrilled, you can imagine, though Goofy was a little scary for her). Then you have thirty days to go online and look at the pictures and choose some to purchase (for a hefty price, I am sure – nothing Disney is cheap). But that was cool, too, and we are getting some great pictures that way as well.

Speaking of meeting the characters, another thing that has changed since the last time I went to Disney is that now the characters have stations throughout the parks where you can have pictures taken. It used to be that you would just look around for them to be wandering through the parks during your visit and hope to see them, but now you could spend the whole day waiting in line for pictures if you so choose. We chose not to wait in a lot of those lines because, well, there are rides and shows to be experienced and most of the time the lines were just too long, except for the Minnie and Mickey thing I already mentioned. We did make reservations on Tuesday to have lunch with Pooh and friends, and that was cool. Pooh, Tigger and Piglet all stopped by our table for pictures, and Boo thought that was great.

Boo had a great week, much better than we actually expected from our 2 ½ year old. She typically had about one major meltdown per day – and that first thing upon arriving in one of the parks. In fact, Heather got to experience the princess in all her tired glory after lunch on Monday. Thankfully, being a mommy of four, she understood perfectly, and staying in a Disney resort meant we could go ‘home’ and rest a bit when Boo got too overwhelmed, and the boys could hit the pool or the arcade with Daddy. On our Magic Kingdom day (Tuesday) there was a cold snap, and we spent our first part of the day in shops looking for Disney sweaters for the kids so the rest of the day would be warm enough. Boo hated that part. Once we got her onto the rides, though, she decided it was good to be there and enjoyed the day, and it was so much fun seeing Disney through the kids’ eyes all week.

Best way to do this kind of trip: we planned ahead, saved up and purchased the whole package ahead of time and it was paid off before we even got to the resort. We were able to relax and enjoy the vacation and pay cash, not credit, for any souvenirs. Best pre-trip purchase: a little monkey back pack with a long tail that is used as a leash to keep my little wanderer close in the crowds, but free to walk along without holding hands when she wanted her freedom. I used to laugh at people who used kid leashes, but that was before we had Boo. Now I understand. I make a deep apology now to anyone I ever laughed about before. I get it now. Worst decision made during the trip: on Tuesday we decided not to take Boo’s stroller for our Magic Kingdom day since she had spent almost all of Monday walking and very little of it strolling in the stroller. She decided on Tuesday that she didn’t want to walk and only Mommy would do as the carrier. My back and arms are still tired after toting her little 30+ pound body all over the Magic Kingdom. But, I got some great exercise! Always looking at the bright side…..After that, the stroller went with us everywhere, and, though she hated it, she learned to ride along when walking was too much for her.

There’s lots more I could share, but, the thing about vacations is that once your dreams have come true (hee, hee), you have to come home and unpack. And, no matter how much fun we had, and it was tons and worth every penny, it’s still nice to be home.