Friday, December 30, 2005
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Who needs mistletoe and loads of snow when you have cactus, palm trees, and blue sky? Just glitz up the fake ficus tree with some colored lights and then head outdoors (where it's 80°) for a festive holiday squirtgun fight. Ahhh... the spirit of the season.
To all our dear loved ones: we are thinking of you as you skid down icy roads and shake the snow off your parkas and boots. Be careful! Meanwhile, we'll stay safe by slathering on the sunscreen.
Blessed Christmas to all. We miss you!
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
"Hey, Mia," I say, "would you like to go visit Santa??"
Her reply: "Why would I want to do that? You're the one with the credit card."
It's nice to know we've taught our daughter the real meaning of Christmas.
Monday, December 19, 2005
4 wins, 0 losses.
13 goals for, 1 goal against.
8 players scoring, 7 players assisting on goals.
Total of 10 players involved in goal-scoring. One player involved in goal-saving.
(P.S. Jacob fell ill and was unable to participate in his team's play this weekend.)
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Monday, December 12, 2005
The brightest moment was when the opposing team's star player rushed in on a break-away. Jacob, in the keeper's position, was not cowed. He came out in defense, growled a little, and threw himself on the ball while it was still on the striker's feet -- totally owned him. It was like a great rejection in basketball.
Of course, this means they're going on to regional tournaments now. Looks like we'll be busy on weekends in January.
Monday, December 05, 2005
As expected, our first night was one of convivial bread-breaking at a fabulous downtown restaurant. Not knowing what to do with myself in such high class surroundings, I ordered Mac & Cheese for the appetizer. It came with truffles, Berkshire bacon, and dried apple. Yummy! And the tenderloin steak that was the main course came with the fanciest dang tater-tot I ever did see. Yee haw! Hope I get me some grits tomorrow for breakfast!
Sunday, December 04, 2005
We saw lots of the standard stuff one sees in a local parade: Shriners driving about in tiny cars, kids on pimped out tricycles, local politicians in vintage autos, a dozen office workers from a local realty office taking a hay ride while sipping from schnapps-enhanced cocoa, etc. One especially interesting thing we saw was a group of scantily clad young women: the cheer squad from the School of the Incarnation in Glendale. Debra and I decided that both the Incarnation and Cheer have much to do with the same thing: Flesh and Spirit.
Gimme a "J!" "Gimme an "E"! Gimme an "S"! ....
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
The tournament season has officially begun, and yes, those are first-place trophies the girls are holding. Mia's tournament team, Burbank Fire (GU-14), launched its season in fine style this past weekend at the highly competitive Myles Standish Thanksgiving Tournament in Pasadena. Their "beautiful game" of quick passes, ball control, and smart strategy left all their opponents in the dust.
Ron and I have taken upon ourselves the job of stats-keeping this season. This is mostly to prevent family arguments later ("No, the score in the Saugus game was 4-0." "No, it was 3-1." "Was not!" "Was too!"). But it's fun to see how the stats turn out. Total goals scored in this tournament: 16. Goals scored against: 1. And the best statistic of all: eight different players scored.
Go Fire! You know!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
Hence, we are all gearing up for this month's big movie release with...
It was a pretty geeky picture at our house the last couple days: all three kids and dad gathered around the laptop, cheering each other on while taking turns being Ron or Hermione or Harry, shouting instructions or comebacks at the characters in our own faux British accents. We even had fish and chips and peas last night. Brilliant.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
I'm leading worship this Sunday at Bethel CRC. They asked me to preach, guide the musicians, and preside at the Lord's Supper. I'm thrilled to do all of these things -- but a little apprehensive about doing all three in the same service. But it's not about me; and the meal underscores that fundamental fact.
It may be the first time this congregation has had the feast in months and months. Which is sad, because more than any other congregation I have known, it is this one -- with its uncertain future and its conflict issues -- it is this one, made up of two loving communities trying to mesh, one aged and Anglo, the other Latino and lively -- it is this one that is most desperately hungry for what the table offers: death and resurrection, and com-union with each other, the re-membering of the body of Christ.
I'm preaching on Isaiah 55 and just pointing to the table where it's all offered. For free. All you need to do is identify yourself with the target demographic of the first verse's call: Yo! Hungry folks! Come and eat!
Friday, November 11, 2005
The whole class looked (well, more like glared) at me, the resident and usually unapologetic Calvinist. Whereupon I thought it worth mentioning that I was not personally responsible for this state of affairs. In fact, I pointed out, this week I am the full-time home-making (home-messing?) parent while my wife is on tour, attending a conference in Houston and giving a distinguished lecture series at Gordon College. The topic of one of her lectures: Work and Family and Gender roles: Charism Trumps Essentialism.
A particularly tasty irony.
Monday, November 07, 2005
1) A powder-blue Porsche convertible passing us along the Pacific Coast highway with a babe-a-tronski inside and a surfboard poking out a side window.
2) Speaking of surfing, we saw plenty of people in the ocean, trying to "hang ten" or "catch a wave" or whatever they say. But the waves were... well, the picture below shows, they weren't. Most the folks weren't really surfing, they were just bobbing tranquilly in the aptly-named Pacific.
3) Along our drive home, we stopped for a while to watch a pod of dolphins frolicking in the water just a short ways off shore. They seemed to be having more fun than the "surfers." But not more fun than we had.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
What I mean is this: from well-meaning and good-hearted people I regularly receive mass emails that smell of urban legand. You know what I mean: the email that has attached a list of names to which I need to add my own and send to 10 more people, and if I do, something really cool will happen. Or the story about the bronze statue of an American soldier in Iraq which was made by an Iraqi who had previously made hundreds of busts of Saddam Hussein. Or these photos which came to me from three different sources, purporting to be of Hurricane Katrina.
Now, you look at the pictures and wonder: are there large corn fields in Louisiana? How can these pictures show the width of a storm that is supposed to be 85 miles wide?
Anyway, I used to just hit the 'delete' button when I got these emails. Now I'm doing something better: I run over to Snopes, the urban-legend debunking website, search for the appropriate page, and send that URL via 'reply all' to the spammer and my fellow spamees. It's great; without having to get all up in someone's grill, I can politely say "you really don't believe that, do you? Puh-lease!"
Since my snoping has begun, I receive less and less of the offending spam from my good-hearted and well-meaning sources.
Excellent. Everything is going according to plan. Bwaaaah-haaaaa haaaaa!
Sunday, October 30, 2005
The game was not ho-hum; oh no, it was an exciting game. However, after the third quarter, the score was 6-1, and Jacob's team had been given a "cease and desist" order in the scoring department. So they spent the fourth quarter playing keep-away -- and got more great scoring chances in that quarter from playing as a team than they did the rest of the game on their superior one-on-one skill breakaways. It was a proud day for papa.
(For the record, though, Mia's team lost their game in a close 2-1 match. I'm still licking my wounds as a coach.)
Does this way of interpreting the question seem counter-intuitive for anyone else? Or even flat-out wrong? We're relatively frustrated by the way this interpretation gets rid of the symmetry of the problem, inhibiting the discovery of math formulae to solve it. I insist that Mia's teacher has taken a perfectly interesting math problem and turned it into a stupid busy-work assignment. Math geeks, I need to hear from you.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
The whole family has been sucked into a math POW (problem of the week) that has been vexing Miriam. We have tried solving the problem in 27 different ways, using color-coded charts, excel spreadsheets, algebraic formulae, playing with fibonacci numbers -- you name it, we've tried it. We always arrive at the same answer. You'd think that would suggest convincingly that we've done it right. But no. Miriam's teacher insists that answer is wrong. Grrr.
Here's the problem:
Two rats, one male and one female, scampered on board a ship that was anchored at a local dock. The ship set sail across the ocean. When it anchored at a deserted island in late December, the two rats abandoned the ship to make their home on the island. Under these ideal conditions, it might be interesting to estimate the number of offspring produced from this pair in one year. You should make these four assumptions:
- The number of young produced in every litter is six, and three of those six are females.
- The original female gives birth to six young on January 1 and produces another litter of six 40 days later and every 40 days thereafter as long as she lives.
- Each female born on the island will produce her first litter 120 days after her birth and then produce a new litter every 40 days thereafter.
- The rats are on an island with no natural enemies and plenty of food so no rats will die in this first year.
We'd love any assistance on this one. Remember to show your work.
Yes, that's me on the sidelines at a soccer game, looking at important papers, making very important decisions. I'm a power player now in the world of AYSO soccer. Specifically, I'm Mia's coach. How this came to be is a tale of power-grabbing, false alliances, shady back-room deals, and full-grown adults acting like snippy middle-schoolers.
The Reader's Digest Abridged version of that story is this: Some parents on the team were not happy with the coach for many reasons, giving the whole team a negative vibe, an undercurrent of dissatisfaction. (It didn't help that the team hasn't been winning lately). Then at a recent practice there was a coaching tantrum, which led to a parent-coach tête-à-tête, which led to many of the parents going to the powers-that-be (a mini-drama in itself) demanding a change of leadership. At that parents' meeting, it became plain that a coup d'etat was a fait accompli, and the discussion turned to the question "qui est la grande fromage now?" Only one parent on the team was properly certified, but she lamented that she didn't "know anything about soccer." Of course, this begs some intriguing questions about the certification process, but we'll let that be for now.
Absent during the inciting event, I had little to say at the parents meeting. I was sitting quietly reading Alexander Schmemann's Liturgical Theology, when a parent said: "Hey, you know how to play, don't you? I've seen you work after practice with Mia. You know what you're doing. Why don't you coach?"
"Yes," I replied. "I did play when I was young and spry. And I do know what I'm doing. But I'm not certified. And there are other problems...." And then I suddenly became, much to my own surprise, the truth-telling equal-opportunity prophetic scold, chastising one faction for undermining the coach's authority with snide comments on the sideline, and chastising the other for culpable loyalty, ignoring manifest coaching faults. I don't remember exactly what I said -- I think I might have been channelling Dr. Phil.
Anyway, you might expect that I'd be blacklisted after that. Apparently not. Instead, the parents decided to make the certified mom head coach, and me the "unofficial assistant coach." Unofficial, because I'm not certified. But you can guess who actually assigns positions, yells encouragement and instruction to the girls at the game, and runs drills at practice. Yes, I'm the Karl Rove of AYSO.
By the way, we won our first game Saturday 3-0.
Friday, October 21, 2005
The kids were complaining again today about having to wear their school uniforms. They suggest that the authorities at VCS, with their love of conformity, are attempting to turn them into soulless student drones. So here's my little brood of Blond borg in chino shorts and polo shirts.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Last winter during the rainy season we endured record flooding here in Sun Valley, which quickly revealed itself as the flood capital of greater LA. Today, after two days of rain, we're back to flood conditions again, with the water rushing down the streets and turning the outer lanes into turbulent rivers. Storm drains? Say, what a novel idea! We should get some!
Waiting to turn the corner from our street onto the main street, up to our chassis in churning water, makes us wish longingly that Pip really did have super powers and could part the waters like Charleton Heston. The kids were saying yesterday that instead of living near Sunland Ave. in Sun Valley, we live near Floodland Ave. in Rain Valley.
It should clear up tonight, we hope in enough time to dry out the soccer fields for tomorrow's practices.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
We had discovered through our questions that Philip was thinking of a person, and the rest of us were trying to figure out how old this person was.
"Is the person older than 40?" we asked. "Uh... " Philip hesitated, "I have no idea. I only know, like, five people that old."
So apparently in his six-year-old mind, 40 is the threshold of oblivion. Once you're 40, fine distinctions cease to matter. You're just oooooollllllllld, baby -- and fading fast.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
No doubt the spirits of Native Americans past were getting a good laugh at us this weekend as we set up camp with our thin little tent and summer-weight sleeping bags. "Paleface idiots," they chortled, "don't they realize that at 7000 feet in October, the weather drops below freezing at night?"
After passing a shivery, sleep-deprived first night, we vowed to survive the next night in better shape. If this were a Dr. Quinn episode, we reasoned, the hunky mountain man, Sully, would be muttering something about what the Cheyenne would do in our situation. So we decided to try the ancient Native American fire-heated-rock-in-the-sleeping-bag trick.
Here are some things we discovered:
- If you put eight or nine rocks in the firepit, they won't all heat equally.
- It's a good idea to wrap the rock in a towel before putting it in the sleeping bag.
- If the rock is too hot, however, it will singe the towel and may even start it a-smouldering.
- If this happens, you will wind up with the charred, shredded remains of your teenage mutant ninja turtle towel, and a sense of relief that someone noticed the smell before the children burst into flames.
- If you get the rock temperature right, this solution actually works great and can help keep you warm all night.
Monday, October 10, 2005
This weekend we made a pilgrimage to Sequoia National Park, about five hours north of LA. Here we are, paying homage to the world's largest living thing. We discovered many interesting things about these lovely, long-lived, cinnamon-colored giants. For instance, sequoias produce dainty little cones about the size of chicken eggs, while their neighbors in the woods, the skinny, comparatively unremarkable jeffrey pines and sugar pines, produce cones so enormous you could use them to defend yourself against bears. Not that we had to do this, thankfully.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
(This post inspired by the family's trip yesterday to the LA Museum of Natural History. Additional picture [and, incidentally, another Deb-posting] on the Theologiggle blog.)
Friday, September 30, 2005
All right, now we've seen everything. In Michigan, sporting events are regularly cancelled because of weather: lightning, tornados, heavy snow, ice storms. But what could possibly get in the way of outdoor sports in California? Perfect weather, year round, right?
Well, last year we found out that games can get cancelled because of... record flooding. We're talking century-level records here, as the water gushed out of the sky for weeks, gushed down the mountains, turned the streets into rivers, and soaked the soccer fields into mudpits.
Today, as we anticipated another great Saturday of AYSO soccer, we got a call informing us that all games and practices are cancelled for the weekend because of... air quality. Yes, that means smog. Particulate matter. According to the National Weather Service, children should not breathe outdoors in the San Fernando Valley this weekend. They certainly should not huff and puff through soccer matches. Read that again: it's not safe, where we live, to breathe the air outside.
Don't believe it? Check this out. See the red "unhealthy" level? That's our alert level this weekend.The current pollution levels may have something to do with the acres of scrub fires burning right now uncontrollably in the hills around us. The pink-orange glow in the evening resembles, sort of, a Michigan sunset. But "fire season," as they call it here, isn't the only issue. There are also the 16 million smog-producing SUVs zipping around on LA's highways. And the Santa Ana winds that make the Valley feel something like the inside of an oven with a fan.
Sigh. Now what do we do? Play CandyLand indoors and bake cookies to comfort ourselves till the smog lifts?
Thank God for netflix.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
So imagine our delight when we arrived at the church compound yesterday for the annual Fall Festival, and found that instead of pony rides, our 'animal trainer to the stars' friend Glen had brought this wonderful creature for us to enjoy.
(Notice, by the way, the sky. Yes, it was positively dreary in Sun Valley yesterday.)
Friday, September 23, 2005
Anyway, at church on Sunday the prelude was a jazzy version of "Jesus Loves Me"-- a piano, soft drum kit, bass, and a soprano sax. The soprano sax in particular was beautiful, and I asked the kids about it in the car later. We agreed that the addition of the sax made the song sound like a Litmus Lozenge.
Then later in the week I was asked to adjudicate a contest for new worship songs. As I played through the entries on the piano, I kept noticing how the addition of one note in a chord could change its flavor entirely - and thus that of the entire piece. In one song, after a fairly interesting verse, the chorus begins with an "Alleluia"-- on that chord I wished the composer had added an E-natural to his F2 chord, thus making it an Fmaj9.
I wonder if all our alleluias in worship -- at least until Christ's return -- should be sung with a hint of melancholy, like the Litmus Lozenge.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
After a fine day of chasing squirrels in the park, Odie sat on the couch in her own home, surrounded by soft music, warm candlelight, and people who loved her. The vet was compassionate and considerate, and when the time came, Odie drifted off as peacefully as can be. Interesting how in so many ways this pet's death was much 'better' than the deaths of many people in our society. Of course, some might suggest that the death, brought about by some drugs, was premature; that's a blog entry for another occasion.
What I found most interesting was how we make use of the gifts God gives us. Odie's life was a gift to Rachel. Rachel made good use of it, she held on to it with love, but loosely when the time game to let it go. And Odie's death, too, it seems to me was a gift. It was a difficult thing --but anytime death intrudes in a dramatic way in our lives, we have the opportunity to find out something important about the preciousness of life; and perhaps we are motivated to make changes, to live differently. It reminds me what the Misfit says in one of Flannery O'Conner's great short stories: "She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Friday, September 09, 2005
Monday, September 05, 2005
At times it's like there is a small planet
inside me. And on this planet,
there are many small wars, yet none
big enough to make a real difference.
The major countries - mind and heart - have
called a truce for now. If this planet had a ruler,
no one remembers him well. All
decisions are made by committee.
Yet there are a few pictures of the old dictator --
how youthful he looked on his big horse,
how bright his eyes.
He was ready to conquer the world.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Friday, August 26, 2005
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Today was another fun, though not quite so ambitious, day of hiking. The kids enjoyed a modified version of "Pooh-sticks" in the brook burbling beautifully in the ravine behind our little cottage. In the evening it was a fabulous dinner (pizza from the grocery store), Coldstone ice cream, and baths for everyone.
Oh yes, and then packing. We're off for California tomorrow!
Monday, August 22, 2005
We went hiking today up to an old mining camp near
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Today was a long day crossing all of
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Packing yesterday was an ordeal. It took nearly all day, and every square inch of the mini-van is now filled with Rienstraphanalia: Pip's super-hero gadgets, Mia's soccer stuff, Jacob's many books, clothing crammed into garbage bags, hiking gear for our layover at Breckenridge this weekend, and much much more. Barely room for ourselves, actually.
Highway 80 will be a breeze, but we'll need prayers for traveling mercies making our way around the windy city. More tonight...