Monday, November 27, 2006

Rienstra Family Jumping the Shark?

AP - Grand Rapids -- The Rienstra Family show, after many successful seasons, may finally be jumping the shark. As the children get older, the daily family cute-o-meter has been seeing a steady decline, despite compensatory gains in chore accomplishment, musical advancement, and political humor. Mia is now fully entering her cranky adolescence, and Jacob and Philip are growing in testiness (or testosterorneriness).

It was long ago that a toddling Pip asked for a hug by saying "Pweease?"...

...and even longer when a cuddly Jacob hid by climbing into his clothes cubby...

...and back in the mists of pre-history that Miriam put a stick in her mouth and asked Dad to play fetch on the beach.

So, in what some see as a desperate bid to recapture the prized 'grandma' demographic, we have been seeing more and more of next-door neighbor and Cute Overload poster boy, Nathan Williams. With his big brown-eyed wonder at the world, his precocious vocabulary, and his only-child forthrightness, he's become a regular and delightful visitor in the Rienstra household at playtime.

Whether this old ploy will work remains to be seen. The cultural consensus is that the classic family show, the Brady Bunch, jumped the shark when they brought onto the show the way-too-cute-next-door-neighbor Oliver. The same fate could await the Rienstras. Or they could go even further in their desperate bid for cuteness: rumors suggest that negotiations are currently underway for a permanent addition to the family -- a puppy.

Is that a dorsal fin I see in the water?

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Big Game

We are pretty giddy with anticipation over here in U-M land, eager for the biggest of all big games tomorrow. We'll be heading to my folks' place to watch the game on his HighDef ginormous flat-screen TV. I'm tellin' ya, the detail you can see on that thing is unbelievable: you can make out individual blades of grass, the sweat hanging off a lineman's nose, the terror in Troy Smith's eyes. I can't wait to see the color of the lipstick on the Buckette the 10th row up as she yelps in dismay when Mario breaks the long one, and to count the number of ice cubes in the cooler as they pour its over Carr's victorious shoulders at the close of the game.

My brother will be joining us. He lives in Illinois, but is he a Meeeechigan fan? His AOL name is Wolverienstra. I was thinking of him yesterday as I read a really good article from
on the game. At this quote in particular, I was quite sure Johnny ghost-wrote the whole thing:
Buckeye fans are probably counting on Troy Smith, a shoo-in for the Heisman at this point, working the same magic he used on Michigan the last two times he faced us. Don't count on it. The Wolverines' last defensive coordinator, who peed down the side of his leg every time he faced a mobile quarterback and whose name I cursed every morning when I awoke and every night when I went to bed, is finally gone. Our new coordinator plays a far more aggressive style.

I am not the sort of fan who remembers offensive and defensive coordinators, but Johnny could pretty much name the entire U of M coaching staff for the past 20 years.

And speaking of coaches, this afternoon, after the sad news of the passing of UM football coach Bo Schembechler, I received the following email, which I found altogether too funny not to post so that the rest of world can learn why I think my friend Todd Kleinhuizen is one of the funniest guys in the world.
O.K., Ron, tell me how you and the rest of the Wolverine nation managed to orchestrate Bo Schembechler's death on the eve of THE BIGGEST OSU/UM match up ever?

If ever the stage was set for a story-book game, the stuff of which hoary college football legends are made, this is it.

Imagine this scenario: Michigan leads by two points with a couple ticks remaining. The Buckeyes are lined up for a very makeable 32 yard field goal to win. The kick is up ... suddenly, an inexplicable zephyr puffs across the field pushing the kick ... just ...the tiniest bit ... WIDE!!!

Pandemonium ensues. The Michigan victory will be credited to the intervention of Bo's spirit wafting that pigskin away from the uprights. From then on, whenever Michigan faces a critical field goal attempt from an opponent, the Michigan faithful will solemnly chant: "Oh, Bo ..., Oh, BO!" seeking his benevolent intercession from beyond as on that fateful November 18, 2006.

(c) 2006, Todd "Wolfgang" Kleinhuizen


Tuesday, November 14, 2006


A few weeks ago, after a long illness, Thedford Dirkse, the husband of my maternal grandmother ("Great Ted," the kids called him), joined the Church triumphant.

The days surrounding his death I spent with family -- especially with my Grandma. The funeral was really quite good (a solid sermon, a comforting prayer, and dixie-land trumpet playing "When the Saints Come Marching In"). And there was something fitting about the cold fall day we interred his body; after the morning ceremony, I worked the rest of the day in the yard, putting other things in the ground in hope of new life in the not-so-distant future.

We know God works all things for good -- and one good thing to come from Ted's death is that we are spending lots of time these days with Grandma. She comes for dinner at least once a week, and we get to see her some weekends, too. She is a lively conversationalist, a wise and godly woman, and she enjoys rather than shuns the sometimes...shall we say... vigorous sociability of the children.

I was thinking about what a great woman she is when I remembered a piece Debra wrote 15 years ago (the last time I was in grad school!) for a Princeton Seminary community publication called Testament. It's about grandmothers -- Debra's own, and the two she inherited when she married me. I looked it up in our files, and thought it deserved to see the light of day again, in honor of one great Grandma. (Click on the thumbnails for a readable size .jpg file.)

My one ambition for my old age is to be a church lady. Not the kind who has turned bitter, complaining, and judgmental, but the kind who has grown nearer to wisdom and peace. I will be the lady in the same pew (or whatever we sit on by then) every Sunday, and I'll know all the little kids' names. I'll show up at the potlucks and volunteer to tutor the neighborhood kids. I'll sing loudly even though the people standing around me will secretly wish I had retired my voice years ago. Mostly I will pray, pray for people even when they haven't asked for prayer.
-- Debra Rienstra, So Much More, p. 181

Friday, November 10, 2006

Amo Augustinum

OK, it's kind of a pain learning another language at my advanced age, but as I'm studying for my Latin exam (the last step before I take my comprehensive exams), I'm realizing some interesting things. Among them: Augustine was a pretty fair writer.

Here's a choice couple sentences from the Confessions III.i

Veni Carthaginem et circumstrepebat me undique sartago flagitiosorum amorum. Nondum amabam et amare amabam et secretiore indigentia oderam me minus indigentem.

Even if you even if you wouldn't know an imperfect indicative if it bit your nose; even if you don't catch the subtle pun between Carthago (Carthage) and sartago (frying pan); even if you don't really understand what he's saying, even after you've translated it,* it's still undeniably cool word-work.

And I'm just geeky enough to think it's pretty cool that I'm learning to appreciate some 1600-year old rhetorical artistry -- artistry and appreciation both offered in service of the one God who is, according to the Bible, Love.

*Literal: I came to Carthage, and (there) crackled on on all sides of me a cauldron of shameful loves. I did not yet love, but I loved to love, and
(from) a secret want, I hated myself wanting little.

Less literal:
I came to Carthage, and on on all sides of me frizzled a frying pan of shameful loves. I was not yet in love, but I was in love with love; and (from) a secret want, I hated myself in want of wanting.

OR ... from a hidden hunger, I hated myself for my small hungering.