Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Some Sweet Treats

Last Sunday we had a couple of friends over for a "dessert" evening, which was nice, relaxing, and overwhelmingly filling. Here is what we had:

Erin's Grandma's Delicious Meme's Famous Chocolate Mousse with Homemade Berry Sauce (drizzled over the mousse) and ...

St. Louis Apple Cobbler:
Mix Together
4 cups sliced apples
1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Other Ingredients
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg, well beaten
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup chopped nuts

Place apples in 10-inch round pan. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples. Combine dry ingredients. Mix egg, milk and butter, add to dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour over apples and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

All Change Is Not Progress—the Diaper-Free Movement

My PhD adviser would frequently state that “the only constant in life is change.” These words struck a chord with me. In life it’s true that everything is constantly in flux. The metaphysical definition of time fundamentally involves change. As a corollary, the fact that time passes from one day to the next, or from one nanosecond to the next, assures us that some change is taking place.

In such a context it’s interesting that our political sphere juxtaposes conservatives and progressives. It’s as if one group of people is frozen in time (namely the past) and the other is moving towards the future (progress). Unfortunately, all too frequently liberals equate change with progress. Not all change is progress. Change in a positive direction is progress. Change in a negative direction is regression. Change on a lateral scale is simply alteration.

Current affairs are chock full of examples of regression championed as progress. It’s a pity. A recent AP article entitled Growing Diaper-Free Movement Relies on Babies’ Instincts, Body Language piqued my interest. The article exhibits a group of parents who believe that “elimination communication” can enable babies to relieve themselves without the use of diapers. Environmental concerns and skin irritation phobia inspire this diaper-free movement. The article states a third reason: Others were inspired by observing the practice while traveling abroad. Hmm. Mary and I had the experience of observing the practice when we were living in Beijing. Let me tell you something: it’s not something that we liked to observe. I am all about teaching children self-control. I am pro-communication between parents and children. I like Mother Nature. And, for Pete’s sake, going to the bathroom is a part of life. BUT. But, but, butt. I don’t think that the diaper-free movement is a step forward.

On one occasion we were walking into an international mega-shopping store, Carrefour—the French version of Wal-Mart. A few yards away from us, a matron stooped to assist her year-and-a-half old grandson take a tinkle next to the front entrance to the store. On another occasion, I encountered a 12-year old boy at an ice-rink with a large hole in the crotch of his jeans. It appeared that the diaper-free movement in China extended beyond the U.S. diaper years. We were accustomed to seeing repercussions of the diaper-free throughout the city. Discretion and subtlety were absent; cleanliness and hygiene, afterthoughts. Babies (adolescents!) with self-control…umm, maybe. Yet, this life is full of trade-offs. I will take diapers and the many woes that may come. From experience and common sense I cheer for diapers and real progress. Gosh: it’s a good thing that not all change is progress.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Becoming Like a Child

I remember when I first heard a mom who ran a girls club explain the difference between childish vs. childlike, and I never forgot the difference. Had I forgotten what childlike means, Maddy has clarified that for me. Today the lessons continue in how to be childlike in my relationship with Jesus. Maddy is my teacher and I am her student everyday. She never ceases to amaze me in her innocence, trust, dependence, willingness to explore, beautiful curiosity, use of every second of every day, love for me and Caleb as her parents, and her obedience, and sponge-like ways of gathering more and more knowledge. Over the past few weeks she has just blossomed in physical and emotional milestones. She now has a trot/run down vs. just "the walk." She now responds very obediently to the word "gentle" (which we taught her when she picks up books or sets her sippy cup down on our dining table---just a couple of examples). She hears, "Go get your book," and brings two back from her book basket in front of our fireplace. She now stacks blocks and she loops donut rings on her Fisher Price ring holder. Better yet, she looks to the crucifix hanging next to the front door when she hears us ask, "Where's Jesus?" and either reaches for Christ to be brought off the wall and kissed by her sweet O-shaped mouth that hums simultaneously in excited anticipation of the kiss or will reached out with her hand wide open. Today we were at Mass and as I genuflected upon exiting the church, Maddy blew Jesus a kiss. She stared up to the altar and just stood there looking up towards Jesus' little gold home, as if to say,"I'll talk to you later. I love you, and enjoy your day. I know I will." There are so many parallels between a child and her parent and a human being with God. I love the simplicity and beauty of this parallel that God has given to us. When I see Maddy stretch out her hand to Caleb or me when she has fallen, I ask myself how often I have looked to God for help and guidance in my day and in my life. Have I utilized His grace, which is so freely given? Or, I am quickly reminded of how curious I should be about my faith, about God Himself when I look at Maddy, whom we have named "Curious Madge" in our house. She never wants to stop; I should be the same way. What a beautiful gift a child is. Everything about children is pure, innocent, and real. I thank God for the midget teacher in our house, because without her I do not think I would be really learning what it means to be childlike, not childish.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Pitter Patter of Little Feet

Things have recently changed around here. The little feet that I used to feel inside me are now making noise down the hall. The little "baby" is getting bigger. Maddy now climbs out of bed and walks down the hall all by herself when she is all done with her nap. The time is flying by, and our little girl is growing up. I used to worry that she would fall off the bed. Now she lets herself down by flipping over and sliding off the bed, before opening the bedroom door and walking down the hall to greet me in the living room when she is all done sleeping. There are so many changes that take place, and yet I enjoy every one of them and am so happy that I have been here to see all of them. The changes remind me to enjoy the present moment, remember the sweet days of old, and look forward to a wonderful future with our little "baby."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why Bitterness?

Over the years I have often thought about why some individuals can be so bitter and instead of handling the difficulty that they seem to allow themselves to get caught up in, it comes out on someone who is not doing anything wrong, who is being himself, who is enjoying life, loving his family, and every moment that God gives him. To be jealous(y) (which stems from pride--or lack of having a healthy pride/gratefulness in something to call one's own), of something that another has, is so empty. Why? Because the bitter and jealous person is so possessive of control, just in the wrong area: everywhere but in himself and in the things that actually count. Rudeness, mean-spirited comments, constant "fixing" of others imperfections, are so ugly, and yet for the bitter one, he thinks that he is on top of his game. He beat the other. He won, so he thinks. But has he? The aggressor leaves the situation of his monologue feeling vindicated, because he got the last grumpy word. But, it's not about the last word, or the fact that he "fixed" a mistake left by another, it is about bearing with one another in difficulty, rejoicing in the differences, and taking up the many opportunities for introspection, here and now, while we are alive and conscious of our good and bad behaviors.

Whenever I am hurt though, by others' comments, manners, etc., those are moments when I have to look more at myself and take out the weeds, any bitter actions, so that I do not cause someone hurt. Jesus must have felt so burdened by hurts; for His Father created each one of us for so much, and yet I wonder how much I, all of us, our neighbors, friends, family members, and relatives measure up to Jesus' expectations. That really makes me think, and I catch myself having fallen so many times. Yet, the key is catching ourselves, getting back up, and jumping back into Our Shepherd's loving and forgiving arms.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Making Decisions Based on Principle

Mary jokingly states that my favorite conversational comparison consists of "in theory" and "in practice." I start off talking about a principle (the "in theory" part) and how it should apply to a situation. Then I get into casuistics and how the case presents an exception to the rule (the "in practice" part). I feel like living by principle has become a reprehensible scourge in our post-modern world. Those virtues which trump all others--namely tolerance, compassion, and understanding--don't fit into the principled world-view.

It can be excruciatingly difficult to live by principles. A life devoid of principles is a life driven by a subjective, ad hoc, set of values that fundamentally alters anytime it's convenient.

Philosophy typically divides the world into three categories: being, thought, and action. Each category is fundamentally different. The United States judicial system is prosecuting those individuals whose actions go against an established law. Our laws establish what we can do and what we can't do: they don't establish what we can think and can't think. It's not the place of any government or institution to dictate our thoughts. Individual rational thought is an essential part of the human person. "Nuf said."

While thought-crimes exist in various parts of the world, I don't know of any precedents where thought-crimes have been prosecuted. Recently, however, law enforcement agencies are moving in the direction of punishing thought-crimes in the U.S. In a pluralistic country such as the United States, every opinion or world-view should possess equal value and validity. Yet, it's becoming increasingly dangerous to adopt controversial/marginal opinions. While I disagree with pedophilia in principle and practice, should law enforcement agencies restrict American citizen activities simply based on ones thoughts? As attested in this article, many think so. I disagree. A society that is truly pluralistic must in theory and in practice rank all opinions as equal. Like I was saying before, it can be tough to apply good principles to all circumstances.

(For what it's worth, I personally don't think that countries should be as pluralistic as the U.S. I think that pluralism is a good thing but within certain parameters. National constitutions should provide those healthy parameters that, by nature, will be discriminatory. For instance, insofar as the U.S. constitution mentions God, it discriminates against atheists.)

At a personal level it can also be difficult to apply principles of discipline to our kids. We have to pray for the strength to cling to our principles in all times...even when the going gets tough.


On Friday, 8.03.07, Caleb took Maddy and me to the baseball game at the Washington Nationals' stadium. Had the Nationals been playing against any other team, I would have been pumped to go to the game for the whole baseball experience, because I love it. But, they were playing the St. Louis Cardinals. Once a Cardinals fan, always a Cardinals fan. It was fun to be cheering on my hometown team. I was a bit envious, though, of the fact that the whole team had just come from home. I miss it, and it will always be home. This was Maddy's first baseball game; her first evening for a Metro ride. She had a ball!

Take Me Out To The Ball Game, 8.03.07

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

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Thursday, August 2, 2007


Last night it was late by the time I climbed into bed (for the second time). The first time I laid in bed, I realized that I had not made Caleb's bag lunch for the next day, and I could not sleep, because my daily work was not finished. I usually make his lunch for the next day, just before I go to bed the night before. But, last night I was slacking. I could have multi-tasked while I chatted with my Mom for thirty minutes on the phone or when I spoke to my sister Kate in Australia for an hour. Hmm, did I have enough time in our hour-long conversation? Of course, but I was just lazy. It was late when I laid in bed and asked Caleb, "Can you wake me when you get up (5am)?" With a curiosity in his voice he responded, "Why?" I couldn't just say "Because," because why would I be getting up at that time? So, I told him that I needed to make his lunch. He told me not to worry about it; he'd get it. No, I was not satisfied. So as soon as he nodded off with his miniature sidekick sprawled out beside him, I quietly crept out of bed and tiptoed down the hall before hitting the squeaky floor in the living room. Thankfully, neither Sleepy One nor Two awoke, and I was able to make lunch. "Why?" I asked myself at 11pm, as I romped through the kitchen in my pjs. Because: I love him. He never tells me that he cannot go to work because he is too tired. He says that he goes to work because he loves us. So, even if it is late, I will arise and finish my work. Then, I can go to bed knowing that I finished my tasks and have set up the day well for the one, who never counts the cost, I love so much. (Plus, it is nice to be completely tired when climbing into bed, and as any spouse and mom knows, when you get up to do "one" thing, you think of ten more, just because.)