Monday, December 29, 2008

I Believe in Angels

My mom tells me that when my brother and I were infants, our parents would put us into a wicker picnic basket and set us on the back seat of the car to go places. No seat belt. No molded plastic protective bucket. No federally regulated standards with which to comply. Frankly, I'm not sure how we survived. I'm pretty sure now, since the wisdom of science and government regulatory bodies have shown that it's dangerous for babies to ride unprotected in the car, that everyone in the past three generations had hosts of angels defending them from all the sources of horrible death that can happen in a car. I am living proof that angels exist.

Today, if we got stopped by a state trooper with our kid in a wicker basket loose on the back seat, the conversation wouldn't center on the power of angels. We'd probably be thrown in jail for reckless endangerment and have the child taken away from us.

So we're doing what all soon-to-be new parents do: putting car seats in our vehicles.

Our birthing class teacher told us that we ought to be prepared to take at least twenty minutes to put in a car seat correctly. It's complicated after all.

There are straps, hooks, buckles, and various kinds of seat belt systems (retro-locking webbing is good; free-sliding webbing is bad!). There's the give of the seat under the base of the infant seat, which affects both the rigidity of the seat and the level. There's the question of which seat has the most stylish trim. (I think the most stylish car seat is the one given to you by a friend.)

Lisa (our birthing class teacher) told us--all right, it was really directed toward the dads--to be prepared for some salt-of-the-sea cursing as we tried to obey all the instructions and regulations. I think I had to undo and redo the belts in the Hyundai three times to get it just right. Sara helped by taking pictures.
Of course, to make sure that one's infant seat can handle a seven-pound-somethingish child, a 155-plus-pound man has to put his full weight on the plastic base in order to get the belts tight enough. Did I tell you that I'm over six feet tall, and I'm trying to install this thing in the back seat of a Hyundai Elantra hatchback? At least I know that I don't have to worry about teenage hanky-panky happening back there. There's no room.

I've got to hand it to those federal regulators. They've examined the car seat safety issue down to the last iota. The base even has to be level, with about five degrees of tolerance. In the picture below, since there's no orange showing between the two curved arrows, I've found the sweet spot:

Well, it was sweet until I realized I needed to put the car's seat belt across the base, in addition to the belt that's included with the base. So now I need to climb up and strangle it to the seat again. (The base is much less comfortable than the infant seat, I'm sure, especially to a guy with bony knees.)

After forty-five minutes (that's for two bases in two cars, by the way: eat that, Lisa!) and a sore back, I now know our baby will be safe in the car. We can now look down our noses at past generations, who didn't realize just how much danger they were putting us in.

With federally inspected car seats, what do we need angels for?

To boot, Sara and I will be safe from jail terms for poor parenting. At least until our kid learns to drive. Then all bets are off.

Maybe we'll need those angels after all.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all!  We are settled in having a happily lazy day, the ham is in the crock-pot and the bread dough is rising.  The dog's settled in and asleep, and Emrys figured out how to assemble the Pack-n-Play.  Emrys' mom is snoozing in the side chair and The Kid's kicking around.  I'm taking this moment of peace to send a quick blog :).

To all - we send our love this Christmas and pray blessings and health to you and yours in the coming year.  Stay tuned for updates, as the arrival of The Kid is rapidly approaching (4 weeks if it decides to be on time!)

Sara, Emrys & The Kid

and for encouragement that the generosity of strangers can make miracles happen, check out this news story!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Christians believe they are redeemed from sin by Jesus Christ. At Christmas, they celebrate the fact that God showed up in order to transform everything about humanity that is wrong into something better. To do so, God put on humanity, becoming "enfleshed," or incarnate. This is the miracle of Christmas.

In order to believe that we are redeemed and transformed, we must believe that we are redeemed from something, transformed from something. We are redeemed from wrongdoing, error, sin. The understanding and perception of sin are central to the Christian faith, even though as one writer put it, it is the doctrine least accepted, with the greatest evidence to prove it. And I find myself in the camp of people who would rather not believe in sin, would rather say, All people are inherently good. Then I open my eyes to experience.

There are two essential categories of sin. At root, sin is failing to give God primacy--putting something else in the place of or above God. By what we place above or before God we determine what variety of sin we have. To put something else in the place of God is called idolatry. When I give absolute primacy in my life to money, entertainment, pleasing another person like my girlfriend or spouse, or acquisition of stuff, I commit idolatry. These things, while they have roles in the cosmos, do not command my ultimate allegiance. Only Yahweh gets that. To put another thing or person in that place is to commit sin, and a sin that will have certain consequences.

The other variety of sin occurs when I place myself in the position of God. I put myself in charge of my fate, my destiny; I make myself the ultimate judge of morality or rightness; I declare that only I am fit to decide what is good, for myself and perhaps for others. This version of sin is called tyranny. And, contrary to the popular use of the term, it can take one's life in quiet, seductive fashion.

I noticed recently that in my line of work I am often called upon to help solve people's problems. They come to me asking for advice, for comment, for suggestions; sometimes this request comes with a concern about moral rightness. What is right in this situation? Would doing this be right? Would doing that be wrong? And part of my job is to help people discern answers to these questions.

And while I do so, in good conscience, I find a great temptation lurking. I find a riptide of tyranny seeking always to grasp my ankles and suck me into the tide of humanity's corruption. For in my privileged position as advisor, I find it all too easy to assume that I do know what's right in every situation. I hear stories of relationships gone awry, love spoiled, hearts broken, and anger severing bonds of friendship. I begin to think that with my objective point of view I can tell them all how to get it right, how to heal, how to be at peace again. In perceiving places of potential healing, I begin to think--and it always starts with a still small voice in the bottom of my heart--that I am the healer. If they would only listen to me, then I could solve their problems. If they would only do what I say, then everything would be all right! Don't they realize that I have an objective point of view? Why can't they see me as a wise counselor? Why don't they listen to me as a voice of truth? Why won't they respect me as--

Perhaps you can see where this is going. Tyranny. Who's in charge here? It is the question of the ages. Adam and Eve got it wrong in the garden. Cain got it wrong at the altar. Jezebel got it wrong in the throne room. We've all been getting it wrong in every generation.

The awe-full thing about tyranny, for me, is that it masquerades as concern, as love. I truly believe I can make things right--that I've got it all figured out. I really convince myself that I have an objective view of things.

But I don't. Only one person (all right, three-in-one) has that view. To assume that I have it puts me in her position. So I need to step off the throne of tyranny and give it to the Lord. But how can I give up control? How can I know that in my humble humanness there is still hope that God is working?

Because we have Christmas, when God became human. To step from the throne of deity into the seat of humanity is not to give up hope. It is to give hope to the one who left the throne of deity and joined the walk of humanity so that we might be healed.

I celebrate my deliverance from tyranny this Christmas.


Seventh Anniversary

According to lore, every wedding anniversary has a representative material. The only ones that the jewelry industry really pays attention to are the 50th year (gold) and the 60th (diamond). But in fact every year that passes in a marriage has its own stuff to commend it. Last year's was iron; this year: wool.

I have challenged myself to make a gift for Sara every year, composed of the material for that year. Since I don't knit or crochet (yet), the demand to make something of wool yielded only really to weaving or felting. I chose the first course, with some help from friends who have done a lot of work in the textile arts, Jim and Sandy. Kudos to them, who showed me the way. None of the errors which follow are theirs. I claim them all!

To weave a scarf (my ultimate goal) on the Structo Artcraft Loom that Jim and Sandy so graciously gave to me, the first task was to lay out the strands which pass through the loom, called the "warp." Since the production of a five-foot piece of fabric requires lots of extra length for the loom, I had to lay out eleven feet of warp strands. Here they are on the guest bed, green yarn from Sara's vast horde:
The next step was to run each strand through the loom and attach it to the spool on the far end. It was at this point (after cutting sixty-some eleven-foot strands of yarn and laying them out parallel so as not to get tangled--aarg!) that I discovered a major flaw in my plan. Yarn is too thick a fibre for this type of loom. The "heddle," a rack which the weaver pulls against each cross-wise strand (the "weft") to tighten up the weaving, had slats that were too narrow for the yarn. I needed to cram each thread between the slats with a toothpick. Trouble was brewing as I stubbornly stuffed every strand through anyway:

Here's where things begin to show up poorly. Pulling the heddle to the right (in the following picture), I discovered that the yarn would not pass freely as it should. Instead, the friction against the heddle gathered the yarn on the right side, and increased the tension on the left:

But did this stop me? No! I had cut three miles of yarn, and I was going to use it! So I carried on. The following photo shows every strand of yarn now tied to the loom. Note how densely the fibres are packed on one side of the loom. Given that I wanted a loose weave, anyway, I ought to have skipped a slot in the heddle between strands. Sigh. Next time, maybe. (Ha!)

Here's the scene before I began to wind the strands into the loom:

I finally got all the strands wound up. None of them tangled (praise the Lord!), so I could set about tying the other ends to the other end of the loom. I moved down to the kitchen counter for this phase:

I took the orange yarn we bought in New Zealand and began to weave. Now, if you have any experience with a loom, you will see from the following picture that I'm using the loom backwards. (Art teachers would have rolled in their graves if the ground weren't frozen.) I had to do this, in fact, even though it meant using my fingers to tighten the weave after every pass of the shuttle (which carries the orange weft thread). I could not move the heddle without doing damage to the weave, so I did the weaving on the wrong end of the loom. It was much more laborious that way--but it's all about the journey, right?

About an hour after I got my backwards weaving system (patent pending) going strong, I had used up the warp and had to cut the far end. I tied the loose ends of the warp into tassles, so that it won't come unravelled--at least not until Sara decides she wants to reclaim the orange yarn for a higher quality project. Note in the following photo how one side of the weave is really (too) loose. I docked myself an hour's pay for that:

Et voila! Happy Anniversary, with another anniversary gift adventure:

And here's a close-up of the finished product. You can see how loose some of the fibres are compared with others:
I don't think I'm going to be hired yet into the international weavers' union. But it's another adventure, inspired by that folksy list of materials for wedding anniversaries. And what fun to discover how many ways I can screw up weaving! Sara's been very kind so far, not immediately dismantling the scarf for a different knitting project.

By the way, if anyone wants to borrow a Structo Artcraft Loom with instructions on how not to use it, let me know!

Next year is our eighth anniversary. The material: bronze.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Sewing Projects

Today was sewing project day.  I have a list of sewing projects running and today I was working on checking them off.  One of the projects, Emrys has been geared up about since I started talking about it so he was home this afternoon and we worked projects.  

My first project was warm little beanies (hats) for The Kid.  We have lots of the little light weight keep the head warm at home hats, and a couple of heavier weight ones that, while super cute and I can't wait for them to fit the baby, for my own sake I hope don't fit on Kid's head until WAY after delivery! I was also gifted a nursing pillow (aka Boppy) and wanted to make a cover for it.  So I had some fleece and fish fabric so I used those for the cover I finished today, I have plans to make a second cover too with the same orange and speckled fabrics from the nursery that Granddad helped to pick out.  

Those were the warm up projects.  Then Emrys got home and we moved on to the MaiTai (and no, not the drink).  It's a baby-carrier.  We'd found some online but decided that we wanted to make our own so we could pick some fun colors and we're crazy and enjoy projects like this. I'm thinking that when I'm done carrying Kid for the first 9 months, then Emrys get's the next 9- or something like that.  While I'll let him give you the nity-gritty on the process, here's a picture of Emrys trying it out with his "baby". 

and the 34 week belly shot.  It's getting kind of  hard to pick stuff up off the floor :D

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December Already!

Where does the time go.  It's December 10th already.  I'm 33 & 1/2 weeks pregnant which means The Kid is (hopefully) less than 8 weeks away!  Days have come and gone and we've been putting together baby gear, 

 decorating for Christmas, 

and trying to figure out The Dog, who's trying to figure out what's going on. (Or she's just trying to get us ready for being up in the middle of the night and giving us practice at the "why's the baby crying" game) 

I've been trying to get a jump on my year end accounting, processing candle orders, baking, and today, catching up on blogging and photos.  Make sure you click on the November tab to the right to catch up with us!