The Marriage Plot

I hadn’t considered myself a big Eugenides fan, but I now realize that I have read every one (all three) of his novels and enjoyed them all.  In fact, I think this is my favorite so far, even though Middlesex was more complex and critically acclaimed (with the Pulitzer and Oprah and all.) I don’t remember much about The Virgin Suicides since I read it almost twenty years ago, but I do remember it was interesting and that I wasn’t as shocked by it as I thought I would be.

The Marriage Plot involves an English major (do stick with it through those first 50 pages of lots of literary criticism language) who falls in love with a manic depressive and the theology major who falls in love with her.  I was intrigued with the theology guy’s character. He was a big fan of Thomas Merton, and my husband reads Merton. And current events (the Kony guy’s unfortunate breakdown) reminded me of Leonard’s struggles with mania and depression.

I recommend it.

Sowing seeds of gladness


My three-year-old working with the baptism story during Godly Play.
I wrote recently about a Faces of Easter story in Godly Play that got a little hectic. It’s been a little hectic in our classroom lately, and I’ve been praying about it and trying to figure out what is wrong. I’ve talked to our priest about dividing the kids by age (a preschool group and a elementary age group) when we move into our new space, but choosing which group I’d do Godly Play with makes me a little sad. I chose this curriculum for my girls, and they’d be in two different classes, then, and chances are, the other class, the one I don’t teach, will use a different curriculum, due to the expense of the materials, the training involved, finding a volunteer willing to be trained, etc. And I believe that a few parents in our church aren’t Godly Play fans (though, in my opinion, they don’t know enough about the program first-hand.)

Last Sunday, I had four kiddos — my two and two other boys, sons of our theologian-in-residence. One of the boys, who has recently started on a behavior chart at home and in children’s chapel, asked me if I’d make him a chart for Godly Play and write down if he “is good.” I didn’t think much before my response, but I said, “I’ll think about making you a chart, but you know what? You are GOOD! God make you, so you are good!” (I could have parralleled that with the creation story, but I didn’t think of that on the spot.) So, I agreed to write his mom a letter about what he did during our time together and told all the kids that this would be a good time to sit together and decide what “good behavior” looks like. As we had our feast, we talked about that, taking some examples from our real-time moment together (like use good manners — prompted by the above pictured three year old putting her pretzels into her water glass, which she had seen another bigger kid do a few weeks ago.) We came up with a nice list, and I rewrote it during response time and had each kid sign it. We were missing quite a few kids, but that will give us the opportunity to revisit our list over the next few weeks and have them sign it. It’ll hang in our room on the wall.

One of the items on our list is “Follow our routine.” And I think that is going to be most helpful to kids who attend sporadically or are new. I included our routine as well.
1. Prepare for feast
2. Pray
3. Feast
4. Story
5. Response
6. Put materials back in place
7. Be blessed

I hope I am not bringing too much of my teacher training in to our room. I want us to work together well, but I don’t want to recreate school. School is different for pretty much every family in our church — we have public schoolers, homeschoolers, charter schoolers, private schoolers (and preschoolers!) I want our time together to be fun, something the kids look forward to and learn from.

I love the conversations God has with me when I seek and listen. As I worried over all of this Sunday evening and Monday morning, Monday afternoon, I watched a friend’s kids. I had five kids in my backyard, ranging in ages from almost two to eight — similar to the age range and numbers on a typical week in Godly Play. We were talking and laughing and learning and growing together. It was truly fun and special, and in that moment, I realized that is what I want in our Godly Play classroom, that is what the kids want. How did it happen? I had a prepared environment set up, we had enough space (we were outside), we talked authentically (not scripted), and I had no preconceived expectations about how the kids responded. I realized that I have been unconsciously turning response time in to an evaluation. Did I get the story across? Do the kids understand it? Are they reflecting thoughtfully? That zaps the fun, for sure!

So, what can I take away? I need to make sure I throughfully and prayerfully prepare our environment. We need to have enough space (working on that one!). I need to let go of my teacher-brain and let the Holy Spirit work through me and the kids and the materials — let those seeds fall on the fertile ground and do what I can to keep the birds away.

I’m joining Wonderful in an Easter kind of way and Explore and Express with the Lenten Link – Up Party

Thinking in statuses…do you LIKE me?

I’ve been on my Facebreak for more than three weeks now, and honestly, I don’t miss it all that much. I do, though, still find myself thinking of my life in status updates.

One week to Hunger Games!! (I bet that one is really popular right now, and I’d be “liking” those as I saw them pop up if I didn’t actually write it myself or post about buying my tickets on presale.)

or

Started Spring Break dreaming of life as a homeschooler. Ended Spring Break on Friday with an oil change and 3:00 HEB trip. I told the lady giving out wine samples at the end of our journey through HEB that she should be giving out full glasses at the entrance. And I decided that I may not have the homeschooling gene in me after all. (this one would get likes from my public school friends and generate a few comments from my homeschooling friends warning me not to shop or get oil changes in the same day with both kids in tow. Stuff you’d think anymama would know!)

I would have also shared this video of Grandma Bindel playing balloon volleyball. She’s the one in purple who looks like she’s giving the elbow flip-off gesture to the other team.

And there would have been lots of pictures of the girls over spring break…at the farm we visited, at the Alamo and Mission San Jose, at Six Flags, in the bluebonnets…see how busy we are?!

I’m sure Facebook really misses this stereotypical thirty-something over-educated stay-at-home-mom. I’m an archetype.

Blueprint for Building Better Girls

I should learn not to check out books on a whim, but I did last week. Interestingly, the book mentioned The Bell Jar, the last book I read in a funny line about college girls just needing to shed a few tears and flash a copy of The Bell Jar at the student health center in order to get some Valium. I didn’t need to even try that — I had dear Grandma Joyce for that. (Really, she only gave me Valium once. Honest.)

Blueprint for Building Better Girls seemed like a book I’d love — a character-based compilation of eight female archetypes whose lives and stories intersect. I usually totally dig these kinds of books. This one, though, just didn’t click. I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I wasn’t even interested enough in some of them to notice their connection to others in the book.

I rated it “meh.”

City of Round Rock, color me impressed!

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When John and I were house hunting and considering the house we live in now, we were pleased that we’d still be within Austin — address and city limits. But the longer we live here, the more I realize that I’d be just as proud to call Cedar Park or Round Rock home. Both cities have impressive libraries and programs, and the city parks they have developed recently and the Brushy Creek Regional Trail are amazing.

Today, the girls and I visited Round Rock’s newest park — Play for All — a park designed with accommodations for children with special needs that is super fun for kids of all abilities.

We spent about an hour and a half there (and the girls certainly would have played longer had time allowed). It’s only been open since this weekend, so it was pretty full and I heard comments of amazement from every adult I made eye contact with.

We started at a play pod with a seated merry-go-round, a water-play area, and some kind of rolling conveyer belt-like thing. You climbed onto it and could hold on to bars overhead while you sat bars that rolled. The girls quickly spotted the swings and headed there. They tried out the sensory swings that cocoon you in well and can swing or spin. Then they tried the regular swings, too. There is also a small gated area with a wheelchair accessible swing. After swinging, they made a quick pass through one of the two playscapes (which had quite a variety of activities) before spotting Brushy Creek Village — a child-sized town that includes a school, a library, a fire station, HEB, a Maxwell car dealership, Seton Hospital, a Wag-a-Bag, and a house. It’s a nice little city block complete with stop lights and walk signals. We returned to the city after we explored the rest of the park. There’s a nice sand play area, a musical play area, a more woody-type play area, and several cool features. The park will eventually connect with Brushy Creek Regional Trail which runs near our house.

Faces of Easter I

As much as I would love to write this entry about how much I love these Faces of Easter stories and how they allow the kids to enter into such higher level thinking, making text to text connections (and I do feel that way), I am instead going to try to piece together why today’s education hour went so poorly.

Maybe it started during feast (which we do at the beginning of our time together because our service is at 4:00 in the evening with education hour following at 5:15. The kids are hungry then and I don’t want to leave the feast until the end when the kids are leaving to go right home for dinner.) As I was preparing the kids to pray, reminding them that we’re just talking to God and they can say whatever they want — asking for help with something or for someone, thanking God, saying we’re sorry, or just saying that we love God, or just talking, like we do with our friends, one asked me if they could tell God a joke. I said I thought God would love that! We went around our circle praying, and when it came that child’s turn, she told God a knock-knock joke. It was sweet, and I actually think it was a nice conversation, but maybe it set the tone for rowdiness the rest of the hour.

Or maybe we have too many kids now and need to form a second class (where will we find a teacher!?) If every kid who comes regularly were there and stayed for education, we’d have fourteen kids ranging from three to ten. That has never happened. Most of the kids come in packages of two (siblings) and we’re always missing a couple of families any given Sunday, so I usually have seven or eight kids. Today I had eight. That really is a manageable number, though.

Perhaps it was a bit of chaos that grew from large item connections to the first Face of Easter — the entire Books of the Bible lesson, the desert, the World Communion lesson — all big and very interesting stories to explore all out at once when we were still in our circle. I actually think that is when my headache started. Perhaps next week, I’ll just have them bring one small item from the story rather than an entire story. But I still loved seeing their connections to the Mother Mary and the Father Joseph and the Word born flesh as a wordless child. They are profound, the kids! Maybe next week I’ll bring some ibuprofen and just appreciate the controlled chaos.

From Mammogram to Biopsy results

Ash Wednesday: On the day to remember that “from dust we come and to dust we shall return”, I was quite frankly faced with my own mortality. I had a mammogram followed by an ultrasound that showed “asymmetric breast tissue” and microcalcifications. The radiologist, Dr. Young, referred me for a biopsy and MRI. The biopsy is scheduled for next Wednesday morning. We’ll schedule the MRI after the biopsy, either immediately (if results are bad) or in another month or so (if results are good) to give the breast tissue time to “settle down” from the biopsy trauma. For the biopsy, a stereotactic biopsy, I’ll be numbed with a local, a small incision that will not require stitches will be made, and a small sample will be removed. They’ll remove five or six samples.

Thursday: I read “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” with Elizabeth today. I was struck by the waiting place. That’s where I am right now. It is a “most useless place.” I hope this waiting place will help me appreciate my life and value every minute I have with my husband and my girls. That’s what I’m going to try to make of this waiting time. Getting bogged down in the what-ifs is not productive.

Weekend: I’ve been distracted by the busy-ness of life, so I haven’t had much time to dwell or worry. Of course, every single daily devotional I’ve read these past few days has spoken to me about my path, planning (or rather, not planning), trusting God.

Leap Day (AKA Biopsy Day): John and I have both had our dark moments this past week, but today we drove together on a very gray day to the hospital that has housed our happiest times (births of both girls) and most difficult time (loss of second pregnancy). I was greeted by a patient navigator (a breast cancer survivor herself who is placed at the hospital by the Breast Cancer Resource Center). She got John some coffee, escorted me to change into a robe, chatted with me, told me what to expect, answered questions, rubbed my back during the procedure, brought me water, sat with me while I waited for more images, and escorted me to redress. For the procedure, I was lucky enough to have my patient navigator, the doctor, two nurses, and a sales guy in the room! (They have a new machine/new needle/something that this guy was showing them the ins and outs of. According to the nurses, it is a great machine and they love it. Much neater and quicker, which was fine with me since I was on my stomach with one arm over my head and one along my side, with my head turned to the side and an appendage (…is that an appropriate word for it?) sticking through a hole in the table. They numbed me with Lidocain, made a 1/4 inch incision, inserted a probe, and then used the machine and needle to take six samples of tissue including the microcalcifications. Those will be sent to pathology, and we’ll get results Friday. I’m not to lift anything for 48 hours (yeah, right!) and am taking Tylenol to keep the soreness at bay. No stitches, just steristrips on the incision. As I stared at the magnified images of my breast on the lighted wall during the procedure (remember, my head was turned to the side the whole time) I pondered that if I weren’t on a Facebook break I might post the images of my boob the way people (including myself) post baby ultrasound pictures. Would others find that funny? Not “Boy or Girl?” but rather “Benign or Malignant?” Good times.

HOORAY FOR FRIDAY AND THE JOYOUS NEWS: BENIGN FIBROADENOMA! I hadn’t realized how heavy I felt until I heard the news and felt instant relief. I forgot to write in my summary of the procedure that they also inserted a titanium marker where the calcifications were so they can monitor the area. And since I’m in eighth grade (mentally and emotionally still), I think it’s pretty funny. TITanium. Say it with a short i. You can’t help but laugh.

An all-time favorite re-read

Years ago (back in my pre-motherhood days), if you asked me my favorite book, I would have said THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath. She’s dark and disturbed, and the work of fiction is largely autobiographical. While I did not identify with her depression, I did identify with her radical (in her day) view of the chains of motherhood. It was not what I wanted for myself. In fact, if I had lived in a day when birth control was scandalous, I probably would have become depressed as a young woman in my twenties faced with only one option (well, two, if you include becoming a celibate nun.) I did still enjoy the book, and it was interesting for me to read it knowing at one point in my life it had spoken to me so strongly.

To be honest, in my memory, I think I combined The Bell Jar with other works (maybe The Awakening or To the Lighthouse…or something else…not sure) because in my memory, I added an ending where Esther did end up miserable, married with children. I was wondering how I’d interpret that now that I am a mother, but it seems it is an ending I wrote in my own mind. I do need to figure out what I’m confusing it with so I can re-read it, too.