Political Pumpkins

Yesterday, when Anders and I arrived home after grocery shopping, I heard from the back seat, "I'm Charlie Brown, and I approve this message." Needless to say, I laughed right then and there.

The only TV the boys watch is PBS Kids. Except for the other night when It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was on. There must have been a few political ads during the program that he picked up on message approval. And after the Great Pumpkin was a special in which Charlie Brown hopes to run for student body president. I guess that was enough.


Near the End of the Political Season

One of our fine state's politicians has been taking some heat after an interview on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews (which I happened to actually catch some of while we were up North a few weeks ago). I am very independent voter--I'm not tied to any party in any way--so I don't say this with political bias. Her problem was that she went on a rant about all liberals being anti-American.

I mention this because the candidate has run a commercial which has been on several times tonight and it bothers me every time. She's been trying to correct her image with the commercial which shows her being nice and homey and conversational with the viewer. At the end she says something along the lines of, "I may not always get my words right, but I know that my heart is right because my heart is for you."

Now to me it's one thing to say the wrong thing--to use a wrong word or something like that. But clearly making an argument for your point isn't the same as getting words wrong in my book. Jesus said, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34 NIV). What we say is closely tied to what we think and believe.

Many politicians try to divorce themselves from their beliefs or their character. It can't be done, though. If you're going to make a bunch of promises to me to entice me to vote for you, then I need to know that I can trust you to follow through on those. Maybe that's just me, but that's how I vote.

On a lighter political note, Anders decided whom he hopes becomes president today: the younger of the two candidates. Age, apparently, is his main political platform.


The Mark(er) of Sin

Somehow, Nils always manages to get into something he's not supposed to mess with. And it's almost always something that we've talked about before as being off limits.

The picture above shows Nils after some marker usage. It doesn't show up very well, but it's all over his hands, down his arm, and even in (yes, in) his nose. I don't know how many times he's been told that markers, crayons, pencils and pens only go on paper. Not on the table. Not on the wall. Not on the floor. Not on his clothes.

Nils is our child who will get into everything that's off limits (and I know, some of it needs to be more out of reach, but the reality is that we're in a 4-room apartment right now, too). He has a propensity to forget the past thirty-seven times he's been told not to do something. I suppose we maybe all do. I know I do at least. Stupid original sin. That's what it was after all. Adam and Eve were told not to do one thing: eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. But they go ahead and do it anyway.

Paul, in confusing eloquence, puts it this way:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:15-20 NIV)

Only Jesus can rescue us from ourselves. Only by living in the Spirit, and not following what we want to do. That takes work; it is a daily (hourly, minute-by-minute) choice. Jesus said that the mark of a Christian is love. I guess the mark of a sinner is orange, brown, red, yellow and purple scribbles up and down your arm.


Didn't Autumn Just Start a Month Ago?

We're experiencing our first snowfall of the season today. It's not going to do anything (hopefully--it's been way too warm lately for it to stick), but it's been flurrying for almost 3 hours at least.

Another update for those out there in other parts of the globe: we've seen gas for $2.29 in the metro area (I've heard even below $2.20 in places). That'll be a nice change for the pocketbook.


My Little Angels

This is Anders' picture from Sunday School last week. He's a great colorer, but I most love the fact that his people aren't just white in his pictures. It helps that only a handful of kids in his class are white. The Kingdom of Heaven will be like that. I'm glad he sees it already.

Nils has started saying his own prayers lately. He's actually started in pretty much the same way that Anders did: by looking around and thanking God for what he sees (plus he usually remembers MorMor, FarFar, FarMor, Aunt Amy, Bella, Uncle Wilder, Aunt April and Baby Riley). It's a good reminder for me to be grateful of all that is around me.

Right now, I wish they were the angels that they sound like at times. I hate having to discipline them during bedtime. Nils has been asserting his independence lately. Everything he does, he has to do it by himself. If I've already opened the door, he has to have it shut so he can open it by himself. He spends eighteen minutes in the bathroom washing his hands (playing in the water, mostly--today I found him sitting in the sink). It's good for him to learn to do things, but it gets frustrating when we're trying to get somewhere and he has to open the car door himself (which he can't do), climb in by himself and get in his seat by himself--which doesn't help the time crunch. They're helping me really develop my patience more. And I love them completely.


Simple Pleasures

"Happiness is the sum total of the small things."
Norman Clegg, Last of the Summer Wine

Up North

Last Thursday, we headed up north. We hadn't gotten out to go camping all summer and we realized we needed some time in the outdoors (outside of city parks & preserves) for some refreshment. We didn't go camping, instead staying with our friends the Mueckes in Mahtowa, Minnesota, just south of Duluth. Bryan is the director at Covenant Park Bible Camp, so we stopped there for a little canoeing.

The next day we headed up the North Shore to Gooseberry Falls State Park. It was MEA weekend in Minnesota (apparently all the schools are out on Thursday & Friday, while the teachers supposedly have conferences--though the couple teachers I know were going on trips; I just looked it up, though, and apparently it's a bigger travel weekend than Thanksgiving in the state), and the park was fuller than we've ever experienced. We still enjoyed a little hiking (though not as much as we used to before children) and the beauty of the place.

We also stopped at Two Harbors on our way back. We walked out on the breakwall and watched a ship being loaded.

I'm not sure if I'm as refreshed as I normally would have been on a trip like that, but I got to share the wonder of God's creation with my boys as well as big boats, lighthouses and tunnels. Rocks and water are always a good time, too.


It's Polictics as Usual

I'm watching the last debate between the presidential candidates from the two major parties. I dislike these elections. I'm thankful that we get to be a part of choosing who our leaders are, but I dislike that it feels that it comes down to what seems to be a lesser of two evils. I started out fairly hopeful with this election as both candidates met at Saddleback Church and were interviewed by Pastor Rick Warren. Along the way, however, both candidates seem to be stooping below the moral values they were claiming to live by. I wish we could see a candidate who kept their character and integrity at a high level throughout the campaigns without pointing fingers and with just take responsibility for themselves.

In the latest issue of The Covenant Companion there is an article by Steve Elde called "The Politics of Hope and Mercy." Elde advises, "When you are deciding whom it is you will vote for, ask yourself whether the candidate is appealing to your best or your worst instincts . . . When you appeal to people's worst instincts, you will find villains to blame and you will try to destroy your opposition (or, at the least, ridicule and discredit them) . . . If being a Christian in an election year means anything, it means not selling your soul to the politics of fear, loathing and self-interest. When you vote, vote for someone who appeals to your best instincts: your hopes, your core beliefs, your compassion, your sense of justice." Sometimes we must put our own ideologies aside for the sake of loving others.

As a Christian, it is my duty to vote for a candidate who will uphold life, who will seek justice, who take care of the homeless, who will remember the poor, who is a good steward of economics and the environment, and who will uphold the laws. No candidate meets all those criteria. And ultimately, I must remember that I can't shirk that off on the nation's leader; I must undertake those duties myself, as well.


Autumn in the (St. Louis) Park

I've been trying to soak in these nice Autumn days as much as possible (though I could do a lot more soaking if I pushed things at home and forced the boys out a little more).

Yes, it's good exercise to get out and walk and play. And it's good for the boys. And we have fun together.

But the main reason I'm trying to take advantage of the weather right now is because I feel it's probably the last chance to get to know some of the people in the neighborhood (wasn't that a Sesame Street song?) until next Spring. Not that we've developed strong friendships yet, but it's nice to walk down the street and be able to wave to people and know a few by name. And it's especially fun when the boys have other kids that they're excited to play with at the park.

The New Neice/Cousin

Yesterday Nils was doing well enough after his surgery, that we went over to my sister & brother-in-law's house so that the boys could meet their new cousin for the first time. Anders was a bit shy at first, but really enjoyed Riley. Nils would much rather play with Uncle Wilder. Sorry--I guess I didn't get any pictures of Aunt April (but she's doing well).



Less than an hour after getting home from the hospital for his tooth extraction, and he's smiling pretty well. He's done really well today as a whole. He didn't struggle as much as I thought he would with the anesthesia. He cried a bit when he woke up, but he was in a strange room with out any of us in there, so that's to be expected (heck, he usually cries when he wakes up from naps at home). Anders may be the ice skater, but Nils has the hockey player look now.



I heard some talk about responsibility today. At this time of the night, I can't remember where I heard it. It was probably on the news in regards to corporate executives of failing companies who were taking millions of dollars in compensation for themselves.

I'm listening to the presidential debate on television right now. On some level, responsibility is a theme there as well: people making sacrifices for the economy, responsibility over voting records, health care, etc. Neither candidate tonight has respected time restraints. At one point, one of them said he was going over time because he was trying to keep up with the other one.

We live in a world (or at least a country) where personal responsibility has gone out the window. We're very quick to place blame on someone else (after all--it's McDonald's fault that their hot coffee is hot). I admit, it's been a pattern in my life as well. Blaming others gets us out of facing consequences (or so we think). But it's not helpful. Eventually we will get to a place where we're forced to take responsibility.

So I'm trying to do that more. My failures are my responsibility. So are my successes. My problems are my responsibility. So are my rights and privileges. That doesn't mean I should be isolated. What I am responsible for effects other people. And I don't have to face my failures and problems alone. But ultimately, they are mine.

Now, to get the rest of the country on the same page.


Welcome to the World, Riley

My sister had her baby yesterday. A girl: Riley Jean. We got to see her today (I forgot the camera at home. Stupid me). Beth and I took turns running down to her room to see the new baby & parents while the other of us stayed in the waiting room with the boys. The hospital didn't have a nursery window so that they could have seen her.
Here begins a short rant; you may skip ahead to the next un-italicized part. I don't get why hospitals charge for parking. It's a new thing for me. They charged in Surrey/White Rock and they charge in the Twin Cities. First, if I'm there as a patient, it's just more salt on the open wound. I've already been through several hundred dollars worth of treatment and then I have to go and pay for parking there. Second, if I'm visiting someone in the hospital, let me visit them. Heck, most of the time the visit tends to do the patient better than the medical treatment, so they should be paying me. With all the money poured into the health care system, you'd think those greedy capitalists could turn their heads away from the parking lots for a while (I know--it's not as simple as all that). It's not like most people go to the hospital because they want to, so why can't we make it a little easier on them. End rant.
It's been just under two years since Nils was born. And already I've forgotten how small they start out (we had forgotten after Anders, too, by the time Nils was born). It may sound cliche, but life is a miracle.

So here's my note to Riley:

Welcome to the world, Riley. You've got a tough path ahead of you. Growth is hard. It's not always easy, nor is it always fun. And it doesn't end. At least if you want your life to mean anything. I'm still growing. Jesus (you'll learn about Him in Sunday School. Just remember that He loves you very much) says that He's the vine and we're the branches. And sometimes the branches need to be pruned. Pruning hurts. But it makes you stronger. Just like being born wasn't all that fun, but your life's getting better and you're getting stronger each new day. So don't run from the pruning, but let it help you grow into the wonderful woman that you'll become. Remember that already you've got a lot of people who love you. Just because you're you. Not because of anything you'll do or because of how you look. You're special kid (and you've got some special cousins who love you, too). So, enjoy the journey ahead of you, knowing that God made you the way you are on purpose and that He loves you a great deal. We do too.
Uncle David
(Oh, you've got 2 Uncle Davids. We'll sort that out sometime & come up with a good nickname for me.)



I took apart Nils' crib this morning. He's been doing night time and nap time in his "big boy bed" for about a week now. And he stays in bed! We weren't sure that he would. There was a nap several days ago where he had gotten out of his bed so I put him in his crib, only to discover later that he had climbed out. (Truthfully, we were both surprised that it took this long for him to attempt that.)

So, we've got a big boy on our hands. Next week we have to take him to the hospital to get a tooth extracted. We're a bit worried about how that's going to go--they have to put him under. It's not easy to see your child go through anything painful. But usually pain is necessary. Either it helps them learn the consequences of their actions or it helps them get healthy. Sometimes the pain just helps draw us closer to God. But the pain also sucks. It's terrible to go through most of the time. Yet, I know it wouldn't do any good for me to be able to take away the pain from Nils. It wouldn't really help him in away.

Sometimes it's not easy to see them grow up. I think its partly because as I see them get older, I know I'm getting older. And my time here is short and I haven't used it that wisely all the time. But you can't keep them little for ever. And they're growing really well. I'm proud of both of my big boys.