Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The life of a professor ain't so bad

Monday was the last day of classes for the semester at Wingate, and today starts their Final Exams. (Don't those words still cause you to shudder?) So yesterday was their "Study Day" -- also known as the day in which students cram an entire semester's-worth of information into their heads, just in time to spit it back out on the exams and then promptly forget it all.
But for the students' "partners in education" -- the professors -- Study Day isn't so bad.

Here was Pete's schedule for yesterday:
10:00 am - 12:30 pm: Hang out in office*
12:30 - 2:00 pm: Attend a catered lunch during which a small group of the faculty gleefully determine the future academic direction of the university
2:30-5:00 pm: Golf with some colleagues/professors
Then hurry home, change, and pick up Strider so can rush back out to...
6:00 -- 8:00: Play in a softball game
I was out with friends last night, so I can't say for sure what Pete's schedule entailed after 8 pm, but I'm assuming it had something to do with watching sports.

Not a bad schedule for a Tuesday in April!

* I have been told that "Office Time" is a very significant and important time for him. From what I can gather, it involves hanging out in a personal, quiet space that has everything he wants and needs, and no little voices interrupting him. Apparently, an occasional poor student will wander by asking if there's any way they can move their grade from a "D" to "A" in the last 2 days of the semester, and Pete has to provide Kleenex while they cry. But other than that -- and, oh yeah, writing exams -- I think he mostly gets to read a bunch of books he likes and check out a bunch of Economics blogs (boring to 99.999994% of the population, but invigorating for Pete). I can see why "Office Time" is so important!

(I can picture Pete reading this post with an indignant face, ready to retort. Obviously, this was one of my main purposes in writing this.... Trying to draw him into this fun Blog World (outside of EconBlogs). So bring it on, Sweetie! What kinds of comments would you like to add?)

Monday, April 28, 2008


Recently I wrote about how Rayna has been pretty amateurish in her efforts to deceive us (see here).
Well, I don't exactly know how we should feel about this, but she's definitely stepping it up a notch. The other night I told her she couldn't have any dessert until all her broccoli was gone. A few minutes later I checked back in and found that her plate was indeed clear and she was quite ready for dessert. But as I brought it to the table, I happened to notice this...
(broccoli in her cup)

And her face sums it right up.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

2nd Annual Balloon Day

Just like last year, our neighborhood homeschool group again met for Balloon Day. This year the kids knew what to expect and were excited to do it again. Last year, 60 balloons were released, and over the next 4 months 12 of the postcards attached to them were returned. The "winner" was someone's card who came back from 196 miles away! Fortunately, this particular card was so well weathered by the time it was found that the child's name on it was illegible; now every kid in the group can imagine it was his.
We'll see how far they get this year....

Mission: May Day. Join us!

This is what kept me up thinking in bed last night until 1:30 am.

I've decided that in my campaign to "reclaim holidays" for the good, we are going to celebrate May Day (May 1st) this year. I've been wanting to do something on this day for several years now, but it always sneaks up on me. Not this year --- I'm going to be prepared. And YOU (whoever is reading this) can do it, too!

There are many supposed origin legends and rituals that have been celebrated through the years with this holiday, but the one I'm focusing in on is the idea of the May Day Basket. I love the idea of reaching out to neighbors by delivering a nice treat or flower basket anonymously. So I'm not exactly sure what kind of basket we'll be making/leaving for people, but I think it will be fun! It will be a good way to encourage some older neighbors, as well as surprise some of the younger kids.

So here are some ideas to get YOU started, too.... There are some web sites with directions/suggestions for how to make little flower baskets (which you could alternatively fill with candy):

Or, if you don't feel like doing a basket for a neighbor, how about taking something to a nursing home? Or at least sending an e-card to someone? Let's spread some love! :)

Strider and I hastily composed a (pretty pathetic) poem that we think we might use with our baskets... Feel free to use it or (please!) improve upon it...

MAY you find a little more joy toDAY
As you go about work and play;
MAY you feel even more loved toDAY
And enjoy the adventures along your way.

This we wish you,
And more, to say,
You’ve been “pick’d”
To have a HAPPY MAY DAY!

SO, since May Day is exactly one week away now, consider this your wake-up call. Start making plans, get your supplies (if any needed) over the weekend.... and next Thursday let's reach out to our neighbors! Spread the word... and let's reclaim a good tradition.

(Cue music.... "What the World Needs Now" or "Pass It On" or something...)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The persistent plight of the 3rd born

This particular Body Art is courtesy of Strider.... who really does know better.

p.s. Just after I typed this, Colsen walked into the room with one of Rayna's hair clips in his hair! Poor guy. I didn't get a picture of that though.... partly because he won't stay still and partly because I don't want him to hurt me when he gets older.

Monday, April 21, 2008


No, the title is not a typo -- it's my new word I've been trying out! Here's my thinking behind it...

Like many people, I'd say most of my moods, attitudes and states of being are overwhelmingly determined by my circumstances. How I feel is based on things like (but not limited to): the day of the week, the time of day, the season, the weather, whether or not my kids are listening to me, what we're having for dinner, if anyone in the house is sick, if I remembered to get everything I was supposed to at the grocery store, what I'm reading, the number of tantrums thrown by the little people in the house, how clean the living room is, how many unmatched socks come out of the dryer, how bad traffic is, the ratio of junk-to-interesting items in the mail, the length of the line I'm standing in at the store, the price of gas, the price of organic milk, the length of time before my next haircut, the health and status of all our relatives, the state of my garden, and if there's a new "The Office" on this week. These are some of my "circumstances."

Now since I've been spending a lot of time going over SAT information with students these days, I know that the root word "circ/circum" means "around." So if my circumstances are the things going on around me, then my circumcircumstances are the things going on around those things. I read a line in a Beth Moore book the other day that said, "If we could only see beyond the veil of the natural world..." and I would follow that up with, "....we'd see our circumcircumstances!" And these are the True things -- the things that really matter. The things that go way beyond our earthly, temporary (and in my case, usually quite petty) circumstances.

In my mind I think of myself as a little rowboat out in the water. Waves come all the time -- some big and some small -- that move me around (my circumstances). But I have an Anchor that keeps me from getting swept way out of the harbor.... This is what I mean about my circumcircumstances.

Keeping my eyes on the true Truths, the circumcircumstances, also helps me not worry so much about the future. Who knows what my circumstances will be -- they could be great, or they could be quite scary (and most likely, both will occur). But the circumcircumstances are unchanging, permanent and trustworthy. They will be the same in 20 or 40 years that they are now. Or 400 years even.

Now the trick is trying keep my mood/attitudes/states of being aligned with my circumcircumstances instead of my circumstances!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Turns out we're pretty old

We spent a lot of this weekend hanging out with friends younger than us. On Friday night we had 2 of our favorite 20-something couples over for dinner and we enjoyed the evening quite a bit. The best part, though, was that they stayed until 11 pm and I came down the next morning to a bunch of empty beer bottles and wine bottles (well, maybe only 1 wine bottle). None of the pansy have-to-go-home-to-bed by 9:30 like some of our.... older friends tend to do. We felt pretty hip.... except for when our "Seinfeld" references went over like lead balloons since our guests weren't even born yet when that show was on. (Ok, maybe they were alive during that show's heyday.... but it was on past their bedtime)

Then today we had 10 people over after church for lunch and, with the exception of one couple, we were again the oldest in attendance -- by a lot, as it turned out. Everyone who came over is somehow connected to Wingate University, or wants to be in some way, so we were talking about how to build relationships with the students there. As the others were talking, it became quite clear that college has changed substantially since Pete and I were in that environment! Students have completely different mindsets, goals, beliefs, etc. Pete and I both still feel like we're about 23 years old.... It's always weird to realize there's a whole generation of people now between our perceived age and our actual age!

We're going to try and stay young though.... we'll keep hanging out with these 20-somethin's.... as long as they don't find us too boring.

(Our kids had a great time, of course, this weekend, getting all kinds of extra attention. Twice Strider was able to bribe adults to play baseball with him -- the last time I played a sport with him (football) I ended up incurring an elbow injury that has lasted for 2 months. So I know he was happy to have some YOUNG adults playing with him. He also enjoyed having some new people to talk to. Today he was telling everyone about how he thinks Tony Romo is probably still his favorite NFL player, but he's less cool now that he started dating Jessica Simpson. And Rayna loved all the company on the swingset- - and getting to try on all the cool girls' bracelets and purses. Colsen just had a blast seeing everyone... especially Aunt "Ka-ay". He still thinks everytime we have a group of people over, it's all for him, so he tries to put on a big show.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Colsen says...

What in this world could possibly be better than my "PACI"??

(He was quite pleased with himself for figuring this out... couldn't wait to show me)

Baking: With a little sugar -- and spice

Strider has decided that he wants to do a bake sale again. This Saturday our neighborhood is having their twice-a-year Yard Sale day, and Strider has loved selling baked goods in the past, so he's up for it again.

So we headed into the kitchen to make the necessary items. We first had to have quite a conference to determine what and how much to make. After selecting a Strawberry Muffin recipe, I suggested we make a triple batch. Strider quickly did the calculations to figure out his maximum revenues, and decided that after his "costs" (he's paying me a percentage for the ingredients), this was not going to be good enough to meet his financial goals. After a brief discussion about his first inclination to "raise the price" (good time for a quick Economics lesson about Pricing and Demand... Pete will be sad he missed it), he decided that he needed to make more muffins. So a quadruple batch it was.

We dove right in.... Rayna almost literally:

..and were doing quite well for awhile. Then there was some protests when I said I alone would be cracking the eggs. And wouldn't you know, just as I'm saying the words, "You can't do it because you might drop an eggshell into the batter..." I actually did just that! Good grief. So now I had to stop and try to fish it out from the bottom of the bowl where I could no longer see it...

Strider was undeterred though, in the face of my dismay. He just said, "That's ok. We'll just make it a contest -- Whoever gets the muffin with the eggshell in it wins $10!" I liked the entrepreneurial spirit.... but still continued to hunt down the wayward shell piece. And nobody worry -- I did end up finding it and fishing it out.

Then the little Cole-man woke up from his nap and wanted to participate. He spent a lot of time begging for the "stry" -- which everyone knows is "strawberries" in baby language...

I tried to appease him with a few, but he was insatiable.

And THEN...

I dropped the baking soda can.... and then when Strider went to pick it up, he dumped out even more by mistake.

Time to clean up... and of course everyone wants in on that too....

Finally we were back to the task at hand...

..... And 4 hours after we started, the muffins were finally done. (ok, slight exaggeration. Felt like that long though)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Rookie," Part II

Last night we got to live out a pseudo-scene from our recent movie viewing. In "The Rookie" the man has 3 children -- approximately the same ages as ours are now and the kids in the movie got a kick out of watching their dad play baseball. And even though Peter wasn't playing professional baseball last night, our kids sure had fun watching him play for our church league!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Our "Rookie" Experience

The past few weeks I've had to be gone during the evenings a lot -- either working, or at gatherings with friends. Last Thursday when Strider overheard me talking to Pete about my plans for that night, he said, "You're going to be gone AGAIN? You've been gone every night this week!"

I was immediately sympathetic and turned to him, asking, "Oh, Strider, I'm sorry. You don't like it when I'm gone this much? Do you miss me when I'm gone?"

I was earnestly hoping for a sweet moment of bonding with my son, in which he told me how much he loves me and appreciates me and how the house just isn't the same when the light of his mother is gone from it.

Instead, I got "No.... when you're gone we can't watch "The Rookie!"

Lately we've been watching that movie. When I saw it was going to be on TV, I thought I would tape it, envisioning a very pleasant evening with the whole family happily watching it, and then discussing the uplifting themes and important messages that it portrays.

As it turned out we had to watch it over a span of about 6 or 7 different evenings because each time we sat down we rarely got past about 15 minutes of it. Our viewings normally started out with 4 of us all snuggled together on the couch, and Colsen on top of us, bounding over each of us in turn as he kept trying to get the remote.

Then we would hit play, watch about 27 seconds, then hit pause so Strider could go to the bathroom. Then play for 16 more seconds, then pause because we had to remove Colsen from the top of a piece of furniture where he was dancing trying to get our attention. Play for 48 more seconds, then pause while Rayna asks a question. Play for 17 more seconds until the phone rings with a call that Pete has to take concerning something important. Play... pause no one can hear since Colsen is screaming his head off. Play while I go into the kitchen to get Colsen some milk.

Pause when I discover neither Strider nor Rayna finished their milk from dinner and it's still in cups on the counter. Play.... oh wait, now it's bedtime!

So we did this over several nights, but we finally finished it.

As I said, I had hoped this would spark all kinds of good family discussion about morals and values and other such things. However, the conversations ended up going slightly different than I expected...

At one point the coach (Jim Morris) is trying to make a significant point and he concludes by saying something to the effect of, "After all, there is more to life than baseball!" Amen, I thought! Let's talk about what's more important than sports! At the next "pause" opportunity (4 seconds later) I asked Strider what he thought about that statement.

"Of course there is!" he said. (I was relieved to hear him say that)

But....then he followed it up with... "Like Football!"

Then later in the movie, Jim Morris is struggling over his decision about whether or not to accept an offer to play on a real baseball team (minor league). He knows that if he goes, it will mean being away from his family for long stretches, and leaving a lot of responsibility on his wife. But, since playing in the big leagues has always been his true dream, he is in a quandary. We asked Strider what he thought about all that, wondering how he would weigh it out, what he would advise Jim Morris, etc. But all we got was, "He shoulda never got married!" (further cementing a long-standing resolution he's had that he will never get married)

Rayna, meanwhile, was pretty absent from our conversations about the meanings of the movie, since she got lost at the beginning when Jimmy was a boy, and then grew up to be a man.

Throughout the next several nights of the movie viewing she kept asking, "Where's Jimmy? That's Jimmy?" Too mind-blowing for her.

So my hopes and dreams of having meaningful conversations and bonding time over this movie did not come to fruition. I guess I should have had a more realistic view of the ages and stages of people within our family.

Oh well -- rookie mistake. :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

April 11th

Three years ago, April 11th was a very hard day for me.

A couple of days before that day, we had watched Rayna have seizures, get intubated in the emergency room, get rushed to a bigger hospital in an ambulance, and stay in ICU for 2 days. Then her doctor wanted to put her on brain-altering, and potentially personality-altering drugs for the long-term. Thankfully, another doctor disagreed and we were able to bring her home from the hospital without putting her on the medication. But the day after she came home, I, myself was back at the same hospital, finding out I was having a miscarriage. It was a rough, rough week.

I spent some time reflecting on all that last night, and thought about all that has happened since. I also went back to the book that has been so meaningful to me this year, Better Than My Dreams, by Paula Rinehart. Here are some of the things from that book that jumped out at me last night:

This is a broken world, riddled with heartache, in desperate search of a
Savior... I am not living in the land of neat packages.
I want to suggest that it's just these places in your experience- - where dreams and expectations don't work out -- that you are being issued the invitation of your
life. Disappointment is, strangely enough, a doorway to the real adventure. It's
the point where you start to leave behind most of your notions of how your story
should read-- and enter your relationship with God as a journey.
It takes faith to believe that if God says no to a good dream.... it means God is
up to something that will, eventually, have his glory written all over it.
When a woman grieves her losses with integrity, she usually finds
that her tears give way to a fresh sort of hope. She is not nearly as controlled
by her fears because she's already faced something difficult head-on. Her future
holds possibility that is not built on the ground of anything she was clinging
to -- except, perhaps, the promises of God.

When we lost that baby, my parents thoughtfully gave us an azalea bush to plant in his or her honor. Yesterday I looked at the window and was stunned by how beautiful it looks right now:

I still feel some sadness when I look at that bush, but I wouldn't call it "bittersweet." Right now it feels more "tender-sweet." I see how far God has brought us in the last 3 years, and while I still am sad that I couldn't hold on to that little baby, I know I have much to be grateful for. I look forward to the day when, as our good friend Brian Brown says, "everything sad comes untrue," and we will get to see that baby again.

And I also am thankful for things today as well. Towards the end of the book, Paula Rinehart says,

People who have let go of their expectations of how they think life is
supposed to look usually stumble upon gratitude-- which is a wonderful thing to find. You stop waiting for life to begin when it's fixed
and all the broken parts are healed. It's now, in this moment,
this conversation, this sunset.... The truth is that there will
always be something missing in the picture. Gratitude is getting
to enjoy the moment... even though....

So this April 11th I am thankful. God is shaping our family -- and my life- - in His way and His time, and I know it's way better than I could have ever dreamed up on my own.

Play time

Yesterday Ellie and Ava came over to play for awhile and all the cousins had a lot of fun playing. After lunch, I gave them an assignment: to go upstairs and put on whatever kind of "costume" they wanted to. They came downstairs looking like this: (Right after I took this picture, Colsen came running up to me, brought me the camera, and went to sit in this same spot, saying "Cheeeese!" So here's his picture too. He looks a little distressed, but honestly it was all his idea!)

Then I told the (older) kids to put together a story, rehearse it, and then act it out for me. Here is the result (the storyline is that a princess is sad because she's so hungry, and then Super-Spider comes to rescue her and take her to a cafeteria for some food):

Note the uninvited actor inserting himself into the story at the end!

Speaking of this little guy, Colsen's favorite play time activity these days still revolves around "TRASH!" I'm not very sure why he's so fascinated by all things trash-can-related -- and I'm slightly concerned -- but that's his passion, and he's sticking to it. So imagine his barely containable excitement when he came down from his nap today and saw his daddy in the backyard with a huge trash can! Outside, trash, and Daddy: his 3 favorite things in life. So he raced out there, and spent a long time just helping put the leaves in. No boy has seen greater joy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I've been thinking lately about the capacity and the reach of a person's voice. Over the last month I've read 3 different novels by Fannie Flagg that mostly center around life in a small town in Missouri. One of the main characters, named Dorothy, is a housewife raising her children in the 1940's and 50's, and I've found myself very intrigued by her life. She gets asked to do a daily radio broadcast from her home, and ends up doing it for decades (they put a big radio tower right in their backyard). And the show is so sweet -- it's a half-hour show in the mornings and it's full of local news (such as "Don Jones wants me to remind you that if it rains on Saturday, the Elks picnic will be moved indoor to the VFW building), local "marketing" ("Bud down at the hardware store says if anyone still needs a rake for this fall season, you'd better hurry down and get one because he only has 4 left!"), comments on the weather ("Isn't this morning just lovely? The birds are singing so sweetly here and the sun is shining - I hope it's shining on you, too, wherever you are") recipes, contests, etc.

The quote that really caught my attention was,

"Had you been there, between 9:30 and 10:00 am, unless somebody had knocked you out cold, most likely you would have been listening to the "Neighbor Dorothy"
radio show just like everybody else except for old man Henderson, who still
thought that radio was a silly invention for silly people. Both the high
school and the elementary school scheduled study periods between 9:30 and 10:00
am so the faculty could hear it in the teachers' lounge. Farm wives for
miles around stopped whatever it was they were doing and sat down with
a pad and pencil at the kitchen table to listen. By now Dorothy Smith
was one of the most listened-to radio homemakers in the mid-west, and if she
gave out a recipe for maple swirl pound cake that day, most men would be eating
it for dessert that night."
(italics mine)
There's something so comforting about this idea to me. I suppose it largely has to do with the feeling of community it stirs up, but beyond that, I think it's so interesting to think of the effect that one voice was able to have back then. Apparently, these "housewife radio shows" were pretty common in that era... many small towns had shows like that. Were these women the precursors (quite literally -- pre-computer cursors!) of the modern blogging housewives??

In this day and time, though, the concept of having one person have such a powerful voice is mind-boggling isn't it? There are so many voices all the time! With all the various media outlets and internet information out there, life is beginning to feel to me like meals at the Wray family dinner table have always felt: you might have something to say, but good luck finding anyone who can hear you above the din of everyone else talking! Sometimes I feel like if I ever came up with something really important to say (hasn't happened yet), I would be faced with the equivalent task of going into a basketball stadium when the championship game is being played, trying to get everyone to hear my message.

I guess I'm just mulling over the changes in our society, the dramatic increase in voices that we all now hear. There is obviously a lot of good in having so much input at our fingertips and in our ears.... but sometimes I long for the days of the Neighbor Dorothy show. Although I'm sure if I lived then, I would be complaining constantly about boredom, right?

We are where (and when) we are, so for now I'll just keep my little voice squeaking away, and above the rest of the din, perhaps someone else will occasionally hear me. :)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chicago trip, by the numbers

Pete and I arrived home late last night after a fantastic few days in Chicago! We were so thankful to have a chance to take a trip by ourselves.... and as it turned out, the Windy City was a great place to go -- and it wasn't too windy. Pete was presenting a paper with a very long title at a conference with an unpronounceable acronym name, attended by 3500 other academics in sport coats. But the beauty of it (believe it or not) was that it was held at a great hotel right downtown, so I tagged along to do some exploring. Here's how the trip broke down:

2 airplane rides, 3 bus rides and 3 train rides (including some stretches on the "El" which made me think of the movie "The Fugitive")

2 nights at The Palmer House, which boasts being the oldest, continuously operating hotel in North America. Don't think that didn't scare me more than once as we were going up the elevator to our room on the 18th floor... Exactly how were they doing all the maintenance and checks by engineers it must need when it was continuously operating all these years?

4 great restaurants... and I have a new favorite of all-time: Big Bowl. Thanks for the rec, Karin!

9 stories in the Macy's I shopped at! Yes, 9! It was overwhelming, to say the least.

6 seminars attended at the conference by Pete. He seems to have enjoyed them, but I'm glad I was out walking around instead.

1 walk on "Magnificent Mile"... which Pete kept calling Miracle Mile by mistake... or Magical Mile... or...

2 famous deep-dish pizza places we tried. Giordano's was our favorite.

5 wonderful hours with my friend Jen. We were able to talk about all kinds of good things.... and as I walked away after she boarded her train I realized how uplifted and encouraged I felt. And how much more I loved Pete! It's funny... after Pete spends time with her husband Bryan, he feels the same way. These must be signs that they are good friends.

And speaking of friends.... 1 very handsome, strong and smart man I got to spend many hours with! I was very proud to be his guest for the weekend -- and he spoiled me.

Some other miscellaneous highlights.... 1 chocolate cafe; 1 huge new Trump building -- way to go, Bill!; 1 fun used bookstore and 2 nice parks.

And finally.......Countless long, uninterruped conversations for 3 days: Priceless!