Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas 2005

I always enjoy this time of year when I’m able to get out on my bike and cheat winter a couple hours at a time. I was able to do that Thursday and I was hoping too again today but with snow lightly falling, it doesn’t look likely.

Rachel and Katrina (from across the street) were out snow sculpting on Friday. I can’t remember the name they gave her but she’s very well made…right down to her chocolate chip smile.

The three of us exchanged gifts Friday night as Rachel’s dad was picking her up Christmas Eve day. So Rachel’s dream of having her own cellphone has finally come true. I’m sure it won’t be long before her little fingers are flying across the number pad as she text messages her friends.

Tammy got me a very nice chair for our den. It has several levers for adjusting it all sorts of ways. I also got some DVDs…Supertramp, Zoolander and Third Day, Live in Concert. Toby and Allie weren’t left out. They got a few stuffed animals and Toby was sure to let Allie know that they were his toys but she could play with them. It’s funny how he’s so possessive of his toys. Allie really doesn’t care much about them but he sure does.

I did just a bit of running around Christmas Eve day taking care of one last item I needed to get. I stopped by Mom’s to take advantage of the warm weather and shovel the ice off her driveway. Mom was busy baking and setting up for later in the day. She put a lot of hard work into making sure none of us would go home hungry. Tim was there and we visited for a bit then went out together and did her driveway for her. For the most part, I had all my shopping done and gifts wrapped well ahead of time. I put the finishing touches on a stained glass cross we made for Mom just before heading out the door for church and then Mom’s.

Tammy and I got to Mom’s around 6:30. We had dinner and opened gifts. Lindsay was going to be there but had to work in Mankato until 9:00pm so she didn’t make it. We all sat around after dinner and talked for a couple hours as nobody was in a hurry to leave. It was good to see Ron doing so well. It was a bit dark for my video camera but I did manage to splice together a couple minutes from last night. Here's a link for you broadband users.

Tammy and I got home and watched the movie, Rabbit-Proof Fence It’s a true story set in the 1930s in Australia about their governments attempt to integrate aborigines into white society "for their own good". I’d never heard of the movie until it was recommended to me by my Netflix account. The recommendation was a good one. 4 of 5 stars.

It’s back to work for me today. Our Christmas tree and other decorations are still up and for some reason I don’t seem bothered by them as I usually am by this time of year. I’ve actually found myself sitting in our living room with only the tree lights on relaxing while I watch the lights slowly fade in and out.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Babe in the Straw,

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

March of the Penguins

I watched March of the Penguins today. Wow! That's probably one of the most fascinating things I've ever seen. Rent this DVD if you haven't already seen it and you will think the same as I. Also, on the DVD there's an hour long documentary about the men who spent a year living among the penguins while they filmed them. That too is very interesting.

While I was watching the movie I was struck by how the entire life of the Emperor Penguin was devoted to seeing that their species survived. Before watching the movie I suppose I assumed that these were your typical penguins which clowned around and took turns jumping off icy shores into the ocean. The hardships endured by both the male and female were enormous. The penguins walk (march) 60 to 70 miles to a specific place in Antarctica to pair up and mate. After laying the egg, the female carefully transfers the egg to the male who will balance the egg on top of his feet while keeping it warm next to his body for the next two months. After the transfer, the females travel back to where they came from to replenish their bodies so they can return in time to care for the chicks after they hatch.

The incubation of the egg occurs in the harshest environment on earth with the temperature reaching lows of -80f and winds sometimes upward of 100mph. The males stand the entire time to balance the egg so it doesn't come in contact with the frozen ground beneath them. When the chicks finally hatch, the males will have been without food for 4 months. The return of the females in time is critical as the males will become too weak to travel the distance home for food.

After watching the movie I couldn't help but think that we as a people could learn something from these creatures and the sacrifices they make to bring new life into our world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Our Road Trip to Babbitt and Adding Another Phone to Our Plan

My Christmas shopping is nearly done as are some gifts we’ve been putting together for family and friends. It’s been somewhat of a low-key holiday season for us to this point with not much break in our routine with the exception of a quick trip to see Tammy's folks this past weekend...more on that later.

We helped host a neighborhood house-hop, or what some would refer to as a progressive dinner, a couple Saturdays ago. There were twelve couples involved visiting four homes. The first three of four homes on the list served different main course dishes along with various appetizers and side dishes. The last home (ours) was the desert house. Thankfully we had the help of the other two couples in our group to help host. Tammy made a chocolate fondue with all sorts of different fruits and stuff to smother in chocolate…I think marshmallows were my favorite. Tammy had to work during the day so I was in charge of getting the house looking nice and making sure there would be enough alcohol. Thanks to Mark across the street for bringing more beer than I’d imagined they would drink. We were a host house two years ago when our basement was still the color of cement so it was nice to open it up to everyone and to see them enjoying themselves down there. I’d have loved to have played some darts with the guys but it wasn’t meant to be…maybe next year. Everyone headed for home around 1:00am and it was time to hurry Tammy off to bed as she had to be up in 3 hours for work the next day. I stayed up another hour and cleaned as I didn’t like the idea of waking up to a mess.

We finally got our Christmas cards out in the mail last weekend. We were going to send them earlier but Tammy thought it would be nice to include a photo of us. 27 attempts later and this is our final result. Toby’s look pretty much sums it up.

We took a trip to Babbitt and Tammy’s folks this past weekend to celebrate Christmas with them. I could only stay one day but it was nice to get away and see them. We took both vehicles because Tammy and Rachel were staying up there a few extra days. Rachel, Allie and I rode together while Tammy and Toby followed in the Saturn. It was a snowy trip up there (streaming or YouTube video) once we got near Duluth with the lake effect snows. Rachel brought her violin along so she could play Christmas music in church on Sunday as the people were taking their seats and during the offering.

Being up in Babbitt is always a relaxing time. There aren’t many distractions, especially this time of year when it’s typically extremely cold and not much to do outside. We usually manage to do one or two puzzles and play some board games. Speaking of games; Tammy brought a new game along with us to play…this game is a hoot. It’s called, Snorta. Have any of you played this? We were laughing…I mean serious belly laughing playing this. It’s like playing ‘war’ with cards except that when you have a match with another player you have to be the first person to make the sound of their chosen animal. You can add a wrinkle to it by making up an unusual sound which the others have to mimic. Take my word for it, it’s a lot of fun.

Allie and Toby found some good pathways through the house to chase each other. Those little guys have a lot of energy they need to bleed off every few hours.

I got back home Saturday afternoon and got a timely call from Brent just as I was approaching the Burnsville mall on the way into town. He told me to stop by and he’d help me with the purchase of our new cellphone plan. Ours expires this month and we’ve decided to add a phone for Rachel as her main Christmas gift this year with the most important feature of the plan being unlimited text messaging for her. There was a plan which offered 500 text messages monthly for about $6 but for an additional few dollars she could have unlimited messaging. You would think that 500 would be enough but once I did the math (a little less than 17 messages per day) I knew she could easily run out of days before the month was over. It’s a big deal with kids her age so we didn’t want to disappoint her and stifle her messaging ability. So, her phone has a full charge and is waiting to be opened Christmas Eve. Needless to say she’s very excited to be getting her own phone and would love to have it yesterday. I did break down just a bit and give her her new phone number so she can share it with her friends.

We’re planning on getting together at Mom’s on Christmas Eve for dinner although Rachel won’t be with us as she’ll be at her dad’s. Tammy and I will probably attend one of the later services at Hosanna after we leave Mom’s. Here’s hoping you all have a very blessed Christmas and are able to spend time with your family.

I’ll leave you with some Christmas music...It's Christmas Time, by City on a Hill.

Monday, December 5, 2005

The Pickle Ornament and Toby is a Hound Dog

Rachel and I took off for a couple hours Friday afternoon to do some shopping for a birthday gift for Mom/Tammy. We walked around the Burnsville mall and tried to picture Tammy in different clothing items but then we opted for something safe...pajamas. I'm not sure it was something 'safe' though. We couldn't find what we were looking for as most of the pajamas were either too thin or too heavy...not much in between. Rachel suggested we check out Victoria's Secret. "You're not serious are you?" I said... "Sure, we can just act like we're walking by and not really go in but if we see something we like we can go in and check it out." I can't believe that girl sometimes...so that's what we did. We casually walked by the store and I made eye contact with the woman in front. She seemed very approachable (that's her job...I know) and I explained that we were looking for something not at all skimpy but just a regular pair of pajamas for 'my wife.' She showed us to some and we found just what we were looking for. Rachel looks at me as we're standing in the checkout line surrounded by scantily clothed mannequins and says, "So, do you see anything you like?" What a goofball...we both laughed.

We stopped by Nick and Willie's to pick up a pizza order Tammy had phoned in. They have the best 'we make it, you bake it' pizzas! It's even better that they're only 2 miles from home.

After dinner we got busy putting up our Christmas decorations. Rachel and I worked on the tree while Tammy did all the other stuff. It's a several hour job but it looks real nice. Of course, Tammy and I had to give Rachel a hard time about the moose bell ornament she broke several years ago...it's become a part of our tradition. Rachel and I laughed when she unpacked the starfish with one broken arm as we remembered how Toby got a hold of it last Christmas and thought it was one of his chew toys.

Toby had the sweetest breath as he'd found a branch of eucalyptus on the floor and was chewing on it.

I had to run to Fleet Farm to get some more lights and Rachel came with me. She spotted a pickle ornament in a clear plastic box and wondered who the heck would buy that. We would! She thought it was so funny that we were going to buy the pickle ornament and put it on our tree and not tell her mom. We'd wait to see how long it took her to find it. The laugh was definitely worth the $4 for the pickle. The guy at the checkout counter told us that there is a story behind the pickle ornament and he's right. A little story book came with it and goes like this...On Christmas Eve the parents would hide the pickle on the tree and the child who finds it first in the morning is given a special gift. The checkout guy told us that when his parents began this tradition was when he began to lose hope.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling like crap. I think the air is too dry in the house and my head was feeling the affects. I let the pups out in the freshly fallen snow and Allie noticed the neighbor's dog was out so she let her know that this was her territory. Toby joined in with a ouwwouwwouww-ooooohhhhhhhhooooooohhhhhhh I'd never heard from him before. Usually all you get from him is a little wuff, wuff but this time he sounded like a regular hound dog. It was so funny. I think he was more frisky than usual with all the snow.

Rachel's dad picked her up around noon on Saturday. We all went out to a Vietnamese restaurant, Little Saigon, in Burnsville and had lunch together then said goodbye. I got to try pao, pronounced 'faahh' with an upswing in your voice at the end. It's a meat and noodle soup which Tammy has been telling me about for years. It was good and reminded me a lot of some of the Thai soups I used to have years ago. Rachel's dad, Thien, was wondering if we had any extra firewood for his fireplace. I told him I'd put together a load in the truck and run it up to his house. Tammy and I did that a little later in the day. It's nice to be on good terms with him.

Tammy and I left his house and headed to the Mall of America for a couple hours. I love that place...especially in the winter. It doesn't matter how many people are in there, it never seems crowded. The mall is so large that it's able to absorb the mobs nicely. We found a couple things for Rachel for Christmas and I got a couple pair of shoes. My $35 shoes from over a year ago had finally seen enough. I love the Christmas decorations and the festive atmosphere. Before I met Tammy and Rachel I'd often go there on a weekend night and kill a couple hours.

We headed to Timber Lodge around 9:00pm Saturday for dinner and my head was still not right. It's Tammy's birthday on Monday but our schedules don't work at all so we celebrated early. I think of all the restaurants we go to, Timber Lodge is our favorite. We go there a few times a year and almost always get steak with some spicy wings for an appetizer.

We got home and gave Rachel a call as I wanted her to be on the phone when I gave Tammy her birthday gift from us...an iPod Nano. I gave it to her early so she could spend part of the weekend learning how to use it and uploading her music to it. She's very happy to have it. She's been working out at a health club in Farmington a few nights a week while she waits for Rachel at dance class and she thought her workouts would be nicer with some music. Plus, sometimes the guys at the gym have some heavy metal stuff playing and this way she can drown it out.

We're co-hosting a house-hop this Saturday night. We were hoping to not be the last home on the list so Tammy can opt out early if it gets late as she has to work the next morning...we're going to be last. Tammy said not to worry as she doesn't think it will go much beyond 11:00...I hope not.


Thursday, December 1, 2005

Confirmation class and Bush bashing among other things

You've heard the analogy of the frog in a boiling pot of water? I think that's where Christians are in our society today except that the temperature is getting to the point where we're beginning to notice and speak out. I understand that the government can't endorse a religion but in a lot of the cases where Christmas symbology is being squashed, government endorsement of Christianity isn't happening. From the removal of the Ten Commandments in court rooms to the current court case trying to have the words 'In God We Trust' removed from our currency, the Judeo-Christian principles our country was founded on are under attack.

I tend to agree that the workplace is probably not the place for overt religious expression but I worry that we'll some day become a society which has pushed God so far off into a corner that He may one day treat us in kind. I think we've been so blessed in our country and I don't think it's because of dumb luck on our part. God has been there with us all along and I also believe we're hardening our hearts toward Him in a way which saddens Him.

Should we not have a Pledge of Allegiance because of the words 'under God'? Is it a good thing or a bad thing to try and instill in people the belief that there is a higher power?

What do you say to your child when they come home from Confirmation class and tell you that their teacher says they're biased against the bible because their spouse is in a science related field and they just can't bring themselves to accept the writings/stories in the bible? What do you tell her when she tells you that they don't even pray in Confirmation class? What do you tell your child when you pick her up after Confirmation class and she's in tears because they've been studying the 6th Commandment (Thou shall not kill) and she stood up to say that abortion was killing but nobody agreed with her and no adults agreed with her? Do you sense as I do that the water temperature is rising? At what point do you begin to say enough and stand up for what you believe?

Tammy sent off a letter to the teacher last night and told her that Rachel would no longer be attending classes there. I asked Tammy if maybe Rachel should continue there as she could be a beacon of light for some of the kids who may need some inspiration. Tammy disagreed as there would be no support for her from anyone and with Rachel being the 'baby' Christian which she is, she didn't want to see her in that position as it would be bringing her down. This morning when I got home I read the email she sent and I went one step further and sent it to the church's lead pastor. I anticipate they will write or call later today. Here's what she wrote...

My family does not go to Shepherd of the Valley but I enrolled my daughter in your confirmation class as she really wanted to compete in Dance classes and they conflicted with confirmation times at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Lakeville. Her dance instructor offered up your confirmation classes when we told her that we would have to drop out of dance this year due to the conflict. I thought the compromise would be ok as we would enroll back in her confirmation classes at Hosanna next year. I also thought that a traditional Lutheran Church would be a good source of reference for her Lutheran heritage as you would be focusing on Luther’s Catechism.

My daughter has a vital relationship with the Lord. She knows Him as her personal Savior. She has however conveyed to us an uneasiness with the lack of enthusiasm about the Lord in Confirmation class at your church. I understand that you are reaching out to a lot of kids and a lot of kids may not know the Lord but when her teacher states that she is biased about the Bible as she is married to someone in the science field…I find that troubling. I take that to mean that she doesn’t take the Bible as the whole truth. She also stated that she knew that the kids were only there because their parents made them go. My daughter stated to me …” Mom, I want to be in church”. We prayed about it and I told her that maybe she was there to help some other kids know Jesus. But….

Tonight was extremely troubling to me when she got into my car in tears. (She cried off and on all night. She is not a crybaby and can handle teasing and is physically tough…she does have a tender heart though) I asked her what was the matter. She said that you were talking about the commandment “ Thou shall not kill”. She said that kids stood up and said they thought abortion was ok and that it wasn’t killing. She stood up and said she thought it was totally wrong to kill a baby. Then kids talked about rape. Rachel said it still didn’t make it ok to kill the baby. She wept as she relayed this to me. What bothered her was that no one stood up with her against abortion. She felt alone…….was she?

What exactly is your stance on Abortion? No adult stood up and supported my daughter for her stance which is Bible based. No one explained that abortion was a violent end to a life. No one explained that God had a plan for every human life and that all humans are precious in his sight, even the unborn. Adults did however stand up and say that “Sarcasm “ was like killing. Please explain this to me. How can you throw out debate about war and abortion and not offer guidance to these precious seeking minds. You are supposed to be the Light. If you don’t stand on the Word of God as total Truth, what are you there for?

I am just extremely dismayed and disappointed in your leadership. I am taking my daughter out of your confirmation classes. I would really like a response. I fear what you might be teaching my daughter next week on sex. (Please Jesus, let it be on abstinence and not choice and birth control.)

Please contact me,

In Jesus, His Love, His Truth,

Tammy


An update...The pastor in charge of youth studies phoned Tammy this afternoon and said that he was in attendance last night and thought the whole thing was a simple misunderstanding. He went on to say that the kids were given subjects to talk about and to voice their opinions with respect to the 6th commandment. Because nobody agreed with Rachel did not mean that she was wrong. Tammy asked him what the church's position (elca) on abortion was and he stated that they oppose abortion. She asked if any of the leaders or did he himself stand up and explain that to the kids, especially after Rachel stood up and was the only person voicing that belief. He said he did not. Tammy told him that he really needed to clarify the church's position for the children and to give them scripture they can refer to. She stressed that the leadership to conduct this sort of discussion was nonexistent last night.

At one point the class got onto the subject of war and the pastor stated that the war could also be considered a violation of the 6th commandment. (I'd have to disagree here also as I think the commandment is about murder rather than war and there is a difference between the two.)

She also mentioned that after the large group had broken into a smaller group there was a lot of Bush bashing among the kids in Rachel's group. Not once did the teacher stop and ask the kids to consider praying for the president.

The pastor closed by saying he was glad that she contacted him and that he would consider what she told him.

I asked her if the phone call changed her feelings about Rachel going back and she said it did not.