Thursday, September 29, 2011

imagination and the door to the world

I spent my childhood inside my head. There were probably people around, but I was busy being Nancy Drew, or a tragic heroine looking out the car window during a sad song.
(Heroine, that's the word, but I am plunged into a plethora of really weak paperback novels stored in my head, in which one of the characters struggles with a terrible drug addiction until finally deciding to follow Jesus, inside a chapel with stained glass windows and a wise black man. In the rain. More than one book.) 

All that to say, I was imaginative, and often wondered if the rest of the world was real, or if it was only me. If I let myself think about that now, I still get kinda weirded out. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Life, pain, and making lemonade

You know, sometimes life throws you a curve ball. I don't speak sports, but I'm pretty sure that means "something unexpected". And then I have to ask myself, how unexpected can it be? There's a guy right in front of you, throwing a ball. How many variables are there? Excluding meteors or other outside interventions, of course. He throws the ball and it should come somewhere around the bat, and if you are more gifted than I am, you hit said ball with the bat. No mystery.

But life, sometimes life is genuinely surprising. Like death, for example. Death is always surprising. You could be expecting someone to die for years, have the burial plots and sit through the illness and then they're suddenly dead and it's shocking, every time.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Caution: Student Driver


I've been in the market for an auto-apology device for about 10 years now. Not an automatic-apology device, like that says, "I'm SORRY if I OFFENDED you," because a) that's not an apology and b) that's not what I'm talking about. I am talking about a device that connects to your motor vehicle and can broadcast apologies to surrounding vehicles, and more importantly, their drivers, who are flipping me off.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Song of Songs

At night, my love came to me, in the dark of night, when I was asleep. "Let's talk of worrisome things," he said to me, while I slept. "Let's talk of aliens, death and doomsday." But I did not incline my ear to him, for I was sleeping. "Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth," he inquired, but I did not incline my lips, for I was sleeping.

When I awoke, my love was gone. Only a pile of laundry and pool of water was left of him, on the bathroom floor. I longed for the one I loved, for he had the keys. I looked for the one my soul loved. "Have you seen him?" I asked the maidens, typing updates on their Facebooks and making spreadsheets. "Have you seen him?" I asked the young men, carrying guitars and speakers to and fro. I ran to the gates of the city and sent a text, "Where are you? I have to get this check in the bank before 2." My love answered me, his voice came to me and it was sweet. "I am in a meeting. Can't talk." I went back to the king's chambers and composed poetry for my king, angry poetry about answering his phone and putting money in the bank. 

My love called to me from the hills, from the mountains where he and his men had driven the chariot and trailer. The daughter of Jerusalem, and the sons, yelled up the stairs, for my phone was ringing, with the ringtone of the one whom I loved. I ran down the stairs, for my heart was eager to tell him of a garage sale, and of the maidens who sold peaches on the roadside, but I missed his call. My love left a message, and he asked of me that I would pay the light bill. 

Here is my love, riding in a white van! How shiny is his head, how even his smile, like a row of teeth, residing in a mouth. I run to the one I love, and I take him into the house, where the sons and daughter of Jerusalem punch him in the stomach, for how can they help but love him? 

He is my love, my friend. He sustains me with Oreos and promises of hours alone, away from him and the children whom I love, for I am weak. How sweet are the promises of the king, how good are his intentions! He is altogether lovely, except the annoying stuff. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

From the Clarkives: About a band, part 2

So, about this band. Read part 1 first, that's the way to do things. This one should cover approximately 2001-2006.


After a while, we decided to be rockstars. It was an easy decision, because we played rock and roll music for high-school students, and also because Delirious was running around in silver tuxedos and paisley leather pants and such, and they were worship leaders. In retrospect, we weren't very good at rockstar. I mean, the music, sure. But nobody should have made Hannah wear red leather pants and platform shoes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

jack of no trades, master... apprentice... hmm.

Finally. I think all my kids are asleep. No, wait... almost. The last holdout is deciding if he can sleep through me typing, which is pretty silly, considering the sheer volume he sleeps through during the day when the sibling wars are afoot.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

exploring the big stupid outdoors

Our homeschool curriculum calls for an Exploration Day once a week, when we go outdoors and you know, explore, and then we're supposed to also do other explore-y things. This is kind of an unschooling day, which is my favorite, but I think I'm too undisciplined to unschool all the way. So one day a week of school by life experience is gonna be great. The hangup for me was the outdoors part.

Listen, I love Jesus, but I hate nature.

I know, though, that kids like being outside and I need to try not to pass on my neuroses. So we geared up. They dressed in pants and running shoes and carried Nature Backpacks, which are just their little drawstring backpacks, but, you know, gunning for Mother Nature. I poked holes in a baby food jar lid and so we had a small bug catcher, although I had and have no intention of ever intentionally touching a bug. (Digression: BUG COLLECTIONS? In school? Remember doing those? What a stupid, disgusting, waste of my life. I remember many days avoiding a half-finished board of primarily deceased crickets, staring into nothing.)

 Off we went. I had Tristan in the stroller, and the adventurers strode bravely to the sidewalk. Because our Nature Exploration Walks involve a sidewalk, duh. We didn't get very far before Toby started talking to people. See, Toby firmly believes in educating the public. They need to know a) who he is b) who the rest of us are, and how that relates to him, c) what we are doing at this moment and d) who they are and how that relates to who we are and what we are doing. Everyone. It's kind of like having a brilliant, incredibly verbose puppy.

 We collected a roly-poly, but his life was cut short unexpectedly after being smashed with a rock. Our next roly-poly has been living in the baby food jar, with some grass to snack on, because Google told me they primarily eat their own dung, but grass was another option, so that's the one I told Toby about. They brought in the grass equivalent of a Mormon silo, and I pared that down to just a couple pieces, since we don't know this bug's religious preferences. 

Next we went home and explored the air conditioning, and then we were off to the library to explore the patience of the librarians.

So I did it. Exploration Day 1, in the can. We're supposed to do it once a week. May God have mercy on my soul.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Are you going to raise the baby?


(Cross-posted at Moral Outcry)

I don’t remember the exact timeframe, I’d have to check my blog. But somewhere between 2 and 3 years ago, maybe even 4, I was at an event known as TheCall. I stood in the front row while families told their stories, stories of children they had almost aborted, or children who had been adopted instead of aborted, and I cried. I mean really cried, like ugly cried. My heart was wrecked, and I knew we would adopt.
Eventually, after what felt like a lifetime of waiting, God spoke to my husband, too, and we started the process that led us to Tristan. His birth parents considered abortion, but not for long. They made an adoption plan, and once they met us, they knew we were the family they wanted to trust with their son.
I know lots of adoptive families who have taken the plunge over and over again, some in genuine rescue missions of children the status quo wouldn’t think twice about letting die. And their lives, and our lives, are richer and deeper for it.
In our kind, civilized nation, 90 percent of Down Syndrome children are aborted. That is barbaric. I have hope, though. Because many people are stepping up to the plate, asking God to give them His precious ones, the “pure in heart”. And it is no less holy to open your home to a healthy child.
My hope, my heart, is that the pro-abortion taunts of “Are you going to take the baby?” will be answered with a resounding “Yes!” by the people of God. Yes, we will take the children. We will take the estimated 100,000 children available in foster care and waiting for adoption in the United States. We will take the sick and the strong, or we will hold your hand and help you learn how to be a parent. We will be the walk to our talk. Yes.
That day, in Alabama, I saw a 2 year old boy with his mama. His skin was dark brown and hers was white. They didn’t have genetics in common, but they were a family. And I knew in my heart that loving “the least of these” was going to cost more, and mean more, than I had ever realized. I was so right.
I urge you to take some time to pray and fast, and ask the Lord what He wants for you, in regards to adoption. It might be adopting. It might be short term foster care, or helping a single mother. It might be paying part or all of another family’s adoption fees. It might be some other role, but I’ll bet there’s something. Let’s walk this out together.

Friday, September 9, 2011

mommy knows best

I've been thinking lately about the pressure we're under as moms, to achieve a quality finished product of a human being. We have to get it right, or our kids will be dumb, or weird, or unpopular. And our kids are kicking against the goads, because they want to be dirty and loud and weird. But the weight, the burden of their futures rests on us. So we force them into things. And some things, yeah, we have to. There are laws. They have to ride in car seats, be schooled in some way, stuff like that. But a lot of the variables are variable. 

I remember when I had just R2, and he had all these autistic behaviors, and I had a bevy of experts breathing down my neck about changing him, forcing him into more "normal" looking behaviors. There was this ache in me, this resistance to fight for something that didn't seem like it mattered. He was happy. He loved to rock and flap his arms and he was a joyful little guy. I listened to them for a long time, holding his arms down, trying to redirect him. Then one day I realized, I was shutting down his favorite way to communicate, just because somebody told me I should. So I quit. And we celebrated with him, and we celebrated him.

Over the years, I've learned to listen to that internal "mommy voice" that says, does this REALLY matter? Do they have to eat their vegetables? Do they have to go to preschool, or wear matching clothes, or sit still in church services? Really? Do they have to share all their toys? And I asked myself questions, why do I feel like co-sleeping is a secret? Why am I torturing myself by trying to keep breastfeeding (one of them) when it's become so stressful? Why can't she just eat the butter and not the cornbread, or sleep in a swimsuit? And on and on. I feel like I've learned, I'm learning to respect the child instead of the "mommy rules". Every kid is different, and if you give them a little room, you will be blown away by what can grow in the wild.

There were days, and are, when I wonder if I'm missing something critically important, and I'm going to deeply regret letting my 5 year old eat macaroni with his hands. So far, very few regrets. They are brave, funny little independent people. I am thrilled to be able to watch who they are becoming.

If you're a mommy and you're fighting your instincts, quit. Obey the laws and trust yourself on the other stuff. You know what's right for you and your kids. Listen to me. Don't let anyone guilt you into fighting what you know is best for your kid.  You know your kids.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

you're standing on my nerves.

Maybe it's hormones, or not enough sleep. A vitamin imbalance, malnutrition, lack of guacamole. Maybe I'm a little bit sick. Maybe it's all of it. The end result is, I woke up grumpy today. And not like the bumper sticker... I mean, I woke up in a grouchy mood. Quit being annoying with your bumper stickers.

I tried to recover, making the cereal and talking in a pleasant voice to all the small people stepping on my feet. But we were out of milk. And you know what? When it's morning and you are already out of milk, life starts to look pretty bleak. You start noticing spots on the ceiling, little scratchy places in your throat. And the kids, the kids always know how to seize the day, grabbing you by the ears and screaming into your tired, wrinkled face. Maybe out of excitement, maybe because their sister won't be a leopard, whatever. It's loud.

And I'm an old hand at this, so I choke it down and talk in my Michelle Duggar voice, planning on punching a pillow or two in my own room when the blessed naptime hour finally comes. I sat on the couch for a moment, considering if I was too irritable to do school. My grownup self won out, and we started with story time, right after I griped for a few minutes about people peeing on the bathroom floor, right next to the toilet, instead of inside the toilet, directly before reacquiring my calm voice.

We moved through school at a brisk pace, although by the end I may or may not have been shrieking wildly inside my head. The MOG came home and casually made a few passing comments about the State of the House and was almost cut in two. He backtracked a little. "Uh, what can I do for you?" he asked, overly cautiously. "Do you want me to go to Dollar General and get some milk so you can eat?" I assured him that nothing on this earth could help me now. He went back to his office, which in retrospect was probably a wise move.

I'm better now, although I can still feel that little internal switch, just one flick from "Nuts". I'd lay low, if I were you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

School days

Yesterday we started school. Technically, we did school last year, but I was mostly just making it up and then we ended up skipping a lot of the year because of one particularly chubby baby. But I wasn't really worried about it because Toby's already a rocket scientist and besides, he was 4 and she was 3, so who cares what babies know academically? Not me. They're babies. I'd accept "peeing in the potty" as a successful outcome for a 4 year old on an achievement test.

But this year, the eyes of the law are upon me. And even once I get my van registered, the eyes of the law might still be creepin over here, looking in my uncurtained windows to determine why my school-aged child is jumping off the fireplace wearing only Thomas the Train undies. So that's one factor in why I am trying to be more intentional in my schooling. The other factor is, I'm such a slacker that I need some kind of accountability or plan or we'll just chill, a lot. 

So Day 1. I spent a bit of time organizing and planning and then realized I organized like a crazy, and none of it worked. So I spent half our schoolday flipping around the teacher's guide while Brynn cut holes in everything and Toby offered helpful suggestions while reading over my shoulder. By the 2 hour mark, Tristan was clinging to my leg, screaming like his heart was breaking, and Toby was collecting various snacks and juices from the fridge and putting them on the table, instead of writing letters. We got most of it done, though, and I had a better framework for what I needed. And I was thrilled to find out Brynn's memory and comprehension is pretty killer. Awesome.

Day 2, I was more prepared, since I had spent an hour at Target buying binders and sheet protectors and such and then hole-punched the bejeebers out of everything and filed it, and then stayed up late making an itemized list of day 2's goals. We did it, except making a jar out of clay. That was such an epic fail and I was so frustrated I didn't even take a picture of it to post here and mock myself.

I am really liking My Father's World because of the Bible emphasis, and how complete it seems, making sure I'm covering what they need to know, but equal hands-on/craft activities to worksheets and such. It still took 2 hours, and conditions deteriorated again, but I think I'll be able to whittle it back to an hour and a half if I plan better, and they should be able to handle that. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

blessed are the scoffers

Sometimes I worry that I'm a bit of a scoffer. I mean, when you're raised in Christian school, you develop a healthy fear of God, or at least a fear of punishment, and you learn how to phrase things in a way that will not offend the Lord. He's sensitive, you know? See?? all scoff-y.

Then you, (or at least I) get jaded, or saved, and come to a realization that God is not mad at us, and that He can handle our attitudes and our pain, and so we get (or I did) more comfortable talking to him. (disclaimer: I am not a theologian, and I know there are more facets to God than we will ever know, and He's a judge as well as a Teddy Bear, and yeah yeah yeah. I'm just talking about this facet, lay off.)

Somewhere in there with the comfort there's something bordering on disrespect, both for God and for the people of God, and the forerunners of faith. And there's an arrogance in me toward anything I see as corny or cheesy, and it's messed me up a little. I mean, genuine people who love God design homeschool curriculum, and bulletin boards and videos with terrible animation, and those cheesy vehicles are carrying truth. But I'm all superior in my hipness, gagging because there's a clown on the package. Or a guy in Bible robes or whatever. You know? Do you know?

While I was researching what I was going to teach for homeschool, I was so torn. Because I hate these websites and these graphics and (maybe righteously) the marketing and the overcharging.

But I realized I want my kids to know the Bible. Like, really know it. Because even with all my skepticism, I know Jesus, who He is. And if you cut me, I'd bleed Scripture, because of all the faithful ladies in denim jumpers who taught me. And taught me and taught me. I have a SOLID core, a foundation of truth that impacts my life every.single.day.

I'm just thinking about all this, and about my arrogance and how it has affected my love for the Bible and the church. And how I'm going to get over it, to teach lessons that seem corny to me, because the message is what matters. I'm also thinking about how I will, never, ever dress up in a clown suit, because all this humility and maturity has to have some boundaries.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

God doesn't think you're fat.

I've been spending excessive amounts of time on Pinterest, because Lord knows I don't have anything else to do. And I'm ├╝ber inspired, primarily about food. But you know, other stuff, like making globes out of Playdoh or house decorating ideas, etc. It's pretty much the best site ever. EXCEPT: these crazy posts with half-dead women, labeled: thinspiration. Seriously? Quotes like,  "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels?" Bull. Lots of things taste better than skinny. I'm not anti-fitness. (well, I am, today, because I have to make these chocolate Pringles, but in general, no) I am, however, anti-fat-bashing and I am also anti-eating disorder.

I was a skinny kid. You never would have known it, because I spent my childhood in a plaid uniform. Those uniforms pretty much made us all look like postpartum 12 year olds. It was, in retrospect, probably an excellent form of birth control for a Christian school.

But I digress. The point is, I was always a twiggy little pointy-chinned kid. It wasn't until I had 1,453 children that I was granted hips and squishy places. And even now, I look thin(ish). I'd like to lose 5 pounds, but not bad enough to lay off the sweets. So I don't know the battle against obesity. I don't know what it's like to be heavy and to hate it and not be able to lose it. But I do know this. Plenty of "heavy" people are gorgeous. They don't even look right when they get skinny, because God made them curvy, and the starving and the mental anguish they go through to look like an American standard of beauty is just crap.

You are beautiful. Every one of us is beautiful. You want to change something, for yourself, fine. You want to change something for your health, great.  You want to change something because a spreadsheet in a marketing office somewhere says you're not okay, bull. It's a sales thing. Overweight is a dumb government standard. Be who you are, love who you are. It'll all change the next sales season, anyway. I'm waiting for the vintage look to come back around, with hips and thighs. You know, WOMEN.

If you're super-skinny, I'm not dogging on you, either. You are beautiful, too. That's my whole point. We come in assorted sizes. On purpose.

You're hot stuff. The Bible says so.

Psalm 139 13-18. What do you think God's thoughts are, about your body?


13 For you created my inmost being; 

   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from you 
   when I was made in the secret place, 
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
   before one of them came to be. 
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God! 
   How vast is the sum of them! 
18 Were I to count them, 
   they would outnumber the grains of sand— 
   when I awake, I am still with you.

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