Saturday, January 31, 2009

Of Toilets and Doors

“I just created another problem for you,” CrazyMom said when she found me in my shop struggling with a carpet cleaner in the utility sink. The timing was not great since the problem I was working on had not yet been fully cleared up.

“Um, what is it?” I asked, not wanting to know the answer.

Up to an hour or so ago, it had been a good Saturday. CrazyMom and I had a pre-breakfast meeting where we planned out the day’s itinerary. After a quick meeting with the kids to lay out the plans for the day, we were off and running. There was fun (a French toast breakfast, a trip to the YMCA, basketball games, and a pizza dinner) mixed with work (piano and violin practice, science lessons, and cleaning) which made for a nicely balanced day. CrazyMom and I had envisioned a few family games in the evening, but that is not how it played out.

“Dad! Dad!” Buddy yelled as he burst into my office. “There is water all over the bathroom floor!”

Heading down to the basement I found CrazyMom already on the scene with water coming out of the bathroom soaking the carpet as well as permeating into the shop on one side and the storage room on the other. The sheer quantity of water indicated that a child without a savvy mechanical understanding had been operating the handle on the clogged toilet.

This threw CrazyMom, me, and a handful of kids into full damage control. After working the situation over for a good long while, the threat level was lowered from emergent to urgent. At this point, I was left trying to bring closure to the crisis while CrazyMom went to the kitchen to prepare food for a church event tomorrow and the kids were dispatched to get ready for bed – on their own.

The level of excitement among the kids upstairs was a little out of control, but neither CrazyMom or I responded since we were both doing our urgent things.

Then the doors began to slam. If there is one thing that we do not tolerate in our home, it is slamming doors. As the closest parent, CrazyMom was dispatched.

It was a few minutes later that she came and found me in the shop having “just created another problem for [me].”

“Well, see, it was like this,” she said as she started in on a story to provide context for the problem which she was about to reveal. When CrazyMom was explaining to the kids the difference between slamming a door and closing a door, it was not clear that she was getting through to some of the children. In order to assist them in their understanding, a demo was in order and so CrazyMom slammed a door. It turned out to be quite an effective demo. Not only did the children learn how to accurately identify a slamming door, they also learned that the door stop molding may not be able to stop a solid poplar 30” door which is being slammed.

“I guess them slamming a door is not quite like me slamming a door,” CrazyMom said in conclusion.

It was a much easier fix than the water mess. A few finishing nails here and there and it was actually better than before since I was able to adjust the door stop molding for a better fit.

All in all I should not complain. It could have been worse. How? Well, while I was fixing the molding, CrazyMom was in single-parent mode getting the kids bathed and ready for bed. She had to step out of the bathroom in which Anna was bathing to address an issue. While she was in the hall, Anna jumped in the tub, slipped, and hit her head. Luckily, we did not get hit with a third problem – an ER run.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Building a Diffusing Screen - Snow Day Part 2

On Tuesday while we were still at school it was looking pretty likely that there would be a snow day the next day. "What will you do if we have a snow day?" a colleague asked me. "I would go to Home Depot and buy some stuff to build a diffusing screen so I can take better portraits of my kids," I replied. Well, we got our snow day and I hesitated about driving out in the snow, but since I had indicated that I would, I did it. I went out when the roads were probably the worst, but I did get to help push the mail truck up a hill.

Here is the diffusing screen I built using a cloth shower curtain and a few PVC pipes. (The screen goes between the flash and the subject to soften the light.)

I just had time to snap a couple of photos today, but not time to really work with it. As you can see in the photo below, now I need to make a reflector to add a little fill on the shadow side.

Snow Day (Part 1)

Today we had a snow day and the kids and I were off from school. As we were hiking around in some woods by our house, the kids led me to a fort that someone had built. Here is a photo of Buddy getting ready to go into the fort and then of all of us inside.

All of the kids also got a chance to hang from a small tree bent over from the ice.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Painting on Saturday

This morning as CrazyMom and I were getting ready, we were talking over the day we had before us. With just a couple of basketball games on the schedule, it was a relatively light day for us, so I immediately starting thinking of what we could do with the kids. For some reason, painting popped into my head.

When I went down to set up a painting studio in my shop, the mold in the tempora paint reminded me of how long it had been since we had painted. After a half hour of washing out containers, re-liquefying pigmented paste, and establishing four easels so we could work with just two shifts of painters, the painting began.

I had the kids pick out their favorite piece from the day and here they are with it. By the way, they wanted me to tell you that Anna's painting is of a rainbow over Moses and the burning bush.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Growing vs. Crazy Growing

CrazyMom and I know that F.G. has really sprouted since she has been in America. It seems that her body in particular was craving a higher level of nutrition. While we have a pretty good understanding of this, even we are taken aback when we look at the following two photos. The first photo was taken almost two years ago at the airport when F.G. got off the plane from Ethiopia. The second photo was taken a few minutes ago. It is important to point out that Ed has also grown over the last two years, so she is not a fixed ruler by which to judge the growth of F.G.. While this physical growth is rather stunning, it in some ways pales in comparison to all of the other ways in which F.G. has grown in just two short years. F.G. has grown by learning a lot of English and adapting to both American culture as well as our family culture. F.G. has also matured in many ways and is developing into a fine young lady. We can't wait to see what the next two years will bring!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Calm after the Storm

I took the following photos a few evening back when CrazyMom was out for the night with her friends. These photos of the kids reading in their beds convey a peaceful family moment. It is hard to believe that 15 minutes earlier things were so bad that some kids were banished from the family. So it goes in our family -- category 5 winds pass through our house strewing the floor with toys and putting some people -- like me -- on edge. But after the winds die down and the carnage is cleaned up, there is a sense of peace as the kids snuggle in for the night. And that peaceful family moment is sweet enough to temper the hurricane-like memories from moments ago, enabling one to actually look forward to the next day.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Leaf Stomper

The above freezing bright sunny day that greeted us today led to a full family leaf clean up session in the yard. We have some Bradford Pears that always drop their leaves late. As all of the kids were throwing leaves into the leaf bags, I would come along and lift my foot over the bag and stomp down the leaves.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a great big flat rock to do that, Dad?” Buddy asked.

“Who needs a big rock when I’ve got my big foot,” I replied and moved on to collect some more leaves.

When we were done cleaning up, Buddy got a tree saw from the garage and headed into the yard with a stick. I didn’t think much of it as I headed inside. About ten minutes later, Buddy showed up in my office with his invention – The Leaf Stomper. I was pretty thrilled with the sturdy practical device constructed from a stick and piece of scrap wood.

I had Buddy throw it in the back of my truck so I could use it later that day when I went to a rental to do some more leaf cleaning. The leaf stomper worked great.

I am sure looking forward to next time we do leaves as a family because I won’t have to go around and stomp the leaves down. This job can now be done by a kid with the Leaf Stomper.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Faith in the New Year

As a part of our family’s New Year’s Eve festivities last night we watched WALL-E. The futuristic movie was slow enough that my mind had time to wander and I found myself contemplating the relevancy of the Christian faith in our modern times and into the future. At moments it can seem like the era on the horizon will render the Bible a collection of stories not worth remembering.

So it was during the time of Prince Caspian (I refer to the book, which was better than the movie, of course). Tales of talking beasts – dwarfs, centaurs, and beavers – as well as Aslan himself had become irrelevant stories to be forgotten under the illegitimate reign of Miraz, Prince Caspian’s uncle. Prince Caspian would have never known about such things except that Miraz unwittingly hired a tutor for Caspian who was secretly half dwarf. As the story unfolded, the truth of Aslan was revealed.

Now while my faith is strengthened by Lewis’s Narnian tales, they are by no means the basis for it and I found myself back in God’s Word this morning. I flipped open my Bible to take in some random passage. Given the recent thoughts swimming through my head, it was with renewed freshness that I took in Hebrews 11 and the surrounding verses. The world’s onslaught against the Christian faith can cause me to tire and “shrink back” (Heb 10:39). But then I consider how faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1) and how it has been on vivid display through the ages in Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Sampson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets in the Old Testament (Heb 11) as well as countless others from the New Testament times to today.

This “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1a) testify to God’s faithfulness and relevance in all the ages. When I think of these witnesses, I am inspired to do just what Hebrews calls us to do – to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus” (Heb 12:1b-2a).

How brief a moment it takes for me to recall my entangling sin, “for I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps 51:3). But one of the beautiful things about a new year is that we take this brief moment to reflect, lay aside encumbrances, gird our loins with truth (Eph 6:14), refocus our eyes on Jesus, and then move on into the new year.

By God’s grace may I be able to lay aside the bad, take up the good, and live for Him this year.