Lee Hull Moses

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A completely random collection of inconsequential thoughts on a Friday afternoon

This post is brought to you in conjunction with Harper, who is sitting next to me, reading a book about birds and other animals. She would like us to know that the Amazon rain forest is almost twice the size of India.

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Are we in trouble when this kid is a teenager, or what?

This morning, I spoke at a breakfast meeting of the Children’s Ministry Network at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly. The highlight of the event was a young mom who came up to me to tell me she has a 9-week-old baby, and that our book came along at just the right time.

(Did you know that jaguars are nocturnal? True story.)

Jonathan turned 21 months yesterday, and, as is probably to be expected, is alternately hilarious and infuriating. This morning, he made up a little game where he pretended to be stuck in a chair, and then he’d triumphantly climb out of the chair and say, “Got it!” He repeated this a dozen times. That was delightful. Not so delightful was how mad he got at me last night when his feet didn’t fit into the shoes he wore a year ago.

(“Is that more than two sentences, Mom? Are you using periods?”)

He has also developed a little habit of pointing to any bald man and saying, “Daddy!” I assume (because anything else would be weird), that he means, Hey, that man has hair like my dad!”

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Helping harvest lettuce.

Speaking of bald men, the other morning I was out for a run, and about three blocks from home, I saw a man running toward me that I was absolutely sure was Rob. Same running outfit, same build, no hair… We’ve been alternating mornings, and I was positive that we’d agreed I was going running this morning, but maybe we’d gotten our signals crossed – last I’d seen Rob, he was heading upstairs to the shower, or so I thought. But then, there he was, out running too, leaving our children vulnerable and home alone. I picked up my pace, waiting for him to notice me and have a similar moment of panic, but he didn’t react at all. Turns out, it was somebody else. Rob was home, the kids were safe, all was well. Whew.

(“Do you have one more thing to do? Or is that your last thing?”)

Tomorrow morning, we are both going running together, thanks to some generous friends who agreed to hang out with the kids while we run in a 10K race. When I signed up for this back in early May, I forgot how hot it can be in Greensboro in late June. Six miles in 80+ degrees? Ugh. But I think we’ll make it.

And finally, there are more than 200 kinds of owls in the world. Living with a five-year-old is very educational.



Books, and a Picture

So I wrote a book. Or rather, I wrote half a book. My good friend Bromleigh McCleneghan wrote the other half, and I should stop right here and say that I wouldn’t have written anything at all if Bromleigh hadn’t called me nearly four years ago and suggested I apply for a week-long writing workshop with her. And I wouldn’t have written this particular book if she hadn’t suggested it. And it wouldn’t have been published if she hadn’t gotten us connected us with the publisher.

But she did, thank goodness, and so I wrote half a book. It’s about… well, it’s about our kids. And parenting. And God. There’s a few references to Paul Tillich and John Wesley and the prophet Isaiah. There’s some Quaker theology, and Shel Silverstein, and Tina Fey, and Desmond Tutu, and an episode from the Family Guy. We had great fun writing it. We hope that you will have great fun reading it.

It’s called Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious Peopleand it’s out in the world now, ready to download in whatever electronic format you prefer, and available to order from the Alban Institute or Amazon (the Kindle link is ready now; the print link will be up soon). You can read more about it here, including some very nice reviews. If you’re so inclined, you can also “like” the book on facebook, where we’ll be posting occasional updates.

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Speaking of books, here are two others that are really quite wonderful, especially if you are interested in questions of family, faith, and living life in the world:

I’ve mentioned Katherine Willis Pershey‘s book Any Day a Beautiful Change before, but really, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s the story of her family during the difficult and beautiful first year of parenthood. It’s lovely and sweet and real. Please do read it.

MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s book Sabbath in the Suburbs was just released last month. In it, she writes about practicing Sabbath with her husband and three kids in the middle of two careers, school projects, swim practices and the day-in-day-out rush of ordinary life. It’s inspiring, important, and smart. Check it out.

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And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming: Before dinner the other night, Harper made a person out of spaghetti noodles.

 

 



Show Business

I’m not always entirely clear on how God answers prayers, especially the very specific “please-let-me-find-a-parking-space” variety. But I’m pretty sure there was some kind of divine intervention this afternoon when I said to myself, “If I have to play one more game of Tickle Monster with this five-year-old or dig this baby out of the trash can again, I don’t think any of us are going to make it to dinner.”

God said, “Then have a puppet show.”

Turns out, I’m pretty good at puppet shows. I’m think I was channeling a little bit of Jim Henson and a lot of my dad, who is also pretty good at puppet shows. In fact, one summer at camp, when we were counseling together, we put on a puppet show for the third-graders. The theme was the vine and branches passage from John’s gospel, and when we got to the phrase “you will bear fruit,” one of the puppets said, “Bear Fruit? What’s a Bear Fruit?” We thought it was hilarious. I’m sure the third-graders did too.

Anyway, one of my puppets bore a striking resemblance — in voice inflection, if not in appearance — to Grover, and the other was more of an Eeyore with a British accent. (I’m telling you. Oscar worthy performances.)

Harper played right along, talking back to the puppets and singing along with the songs. She came up on cue to give the puppets kisses and giggled at the jokes. She laughed hysterically when the puppets got attacked by a giant baby.

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After dinner, we had an encore presentation for Rob, who was very supportive of my newfound talents. Maybe if this ministry gig doesn’t work out, I’ll go on the road.

(So, if that was you, God, thanks for the idea.)



Boston, This Time

Back in the summer of 2010, shortly after my sister and her husband moved to Boston, Harper and I went to visit. She had just turned three, and turned out to be a most delightful travel companion. We had such fun that we decided it should be an annual tradition. However, Lynn and I were both very pregnant last August and couldn’t quite make it happen, so we’ve been looking forward to a repeat of this trip for, I don’t know, a long time.

Last time around, Harper was in a stroller and took naps while we walked around downtown Boston. This time around, we had two strollers, with two new babies, and Harper didn’t nap at all.

And oh, what a time we had. We walked to the playground, played in the backyard, went to the neighborhood pool. We watched the babies play, and eat, and sleep, and declared that yes, it is still funny to have two. (We also expressed our usual amazement at how people with twins do it).  After dinner, two nights in a row, Harper got to go on special outings with Uncle Matt, out for ice cream one night, and the library the next.

We took the train downtown and visited the Boston Children’s Museum (at half-price, thanks to my sister’s mad library skills), where Harper was a sheep in a play, the babies crawled around in a specially designed play room, we all blew bubbles, Harper climbed two stories up in a net climbing structure that Lynn and I decided really should be big enough for adults, and had all kinds of other hands-on adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It will surprise no one in my family that I started crying when it was time to leave on Wednesday morning. It did not help that I’m not sure when we will get to see each other again (I am holding out hope for a magical visit sometime this fall because I can hardly stand the thought that it might be Christmas). It also did not help that as we pulled out of the driveway, there was sweet Eliza on the front porch, being held by her Grandpa Richie (who had come over to babysit while Lynn took us to the airport; why, oh why, don’t three car seats fit in the back of a regular car?). I realized that I’ll never see her quite that way again. Next time we get together, she’ll be walking, and probably talking a little, and she won’t be that baby anymore.

At the airport, I teared up again, and Harper looked at me with concern. “I just get sad when I have to say goodbye to people I love,” I told her. “It’s okay to be sad,” she said. “But we get to go home and see Dad!” Good kid, that one.

On the flight home — which was nearly three hours late; thank goodness for the indoor playground in the Boston airport and the kind Delta representative who pointed it out to us after watching Harper climbing on top of a pay phone booth — they were worn out, and both of them fell fast asleep just as we took off. My two little monkeys, both of them managing to use me as a pillow. I felt very much like a mom right then — so different from my flight to Chicago a few weeks ago, by myself, on my way to a meeting, when I spent the flight editing page proofs of the book — in my traveling clothes with Cheerio crumbs stuck to my pants and drool on the shoulder of my shirt, two beautiful children depending on me to get them home safely. Harper, whose long legs practically touch the floor when she sits up straight, who is so nervous about the first day of kindergarten (and I know just exactly how she feels), who is such a very good big sister. Jonathan, who loves me better than anybody else in the world right now, whose sleeping face gives me just a peek into the boy he will be before I know it.

It’s good to be home, but we’re counting the days until next August.

 

 



Six on the Sixth

1. I registered our big kid for kindergarten today. So there’s that.

2. Jonathan has entered the eating-Cheerios stage. He’s quite adorable, and so proud of himself, when he manages to pinch his little fingers together in just the right way to bring a Cheerio to his mouth. It also means that we have entered the Cheerios-on-the-floor-and-in-every-crevice-of-the-house-and-car stage.

3. And then there’s this:

A Whole New World

4. I accompanied Harper’s class on a field trip Monday morning. (One of the lovely perks of my job is that it’s really no big deal to take a weekday morning off. Now, weekends, that’s another story.) We went to a butterfly farm, where Monarch butterflies landed on our hands, shoulders, heads, clothes… It was delightful.

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5. Rob and Harper have been reading the Narnia books together for the last couple of months. They are now in the middle of The Silver Chair.

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6. This was a really dull post, unless, of course, you are the grandparent of one of the children featured here.



The Post I Should Have Written on May 9

I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to say in the wake of North Carolina’s primary election on May 8. You know, the one in which voters agreed to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage and civil unions (and any other legal domestic partnerships for any couples). It’s a terrible amendment. It shouldn’t have passed. But at 61% to 39%, it wasn’t even close.

I’d gotten more invested in the fight against this amendment than any political issue in my life. I wrote about it here, and here, and had countless conversations with people at church and elsewhere. I went to several meetings of faith leaders and watched as they worked tirelessly, for months, trying to spread the word and get out the vote. Rob and I went to a rally the Sunday before the election. The short volunteer stint I did at the phone bank earned me a t-shirt, which I’ve been wearing around the house, sadly, this week.

Many have noted the “historical inevitability” of gay marriage, and I think that was part of what got me so fired up about it. Jonathan and Harper will look back on this time the way I do on the civil rights movement, or apartheid, and I want them to know where I stood. I’ll tell Jonathan that he went to that rally with us, that he chewed on a “vote against” postcard while Dr. Barber challenged us to ask the right questions. I’ll remind Harper about watching the “Vote Against Amendment One” music video on youtube, over and over again until she almost had it memorized.

But it was mostly the inspiration of folks here who organized rallies, built bridges, signed petitions, talked until their throats were hoarse. On election night, I gathered with some of those faith leaders, a little self-consciously, since they’d all done so much more than I had. We met at a synagogue here in town, and watched the results come in. It was pretty clear from early on that things were not going to go our way. But there was still a lot of hope in that room. There was hope for future partnerships and continuing work, and there was the deep and abiding hope that all will be well. 

My friend Julie, a pastor who led the charge here in Greensboro, said this:

“We have won in so many ways.. in the partnerships that we have formed and the conversations started. So many incredible stories, done for the love of neighbors and the sake of others. The state will be better for our work. We have a temporary loss, but we will win the battle. Our work is just beginning.”

I had to stay away from Facebook for a few days after the election. It was hard not to take some of the angry, snarky “North Carolina sucks” comments personally. I love this state, with its beautiful geography and beautiful and generous people. These are good people here, some of whom can’t quite get their heads around the idea of two people of the same gender loving one another, maybe because it’s awfully hard to get over what you were taught “the Bible says.” Or who didn’t realize, with the confusing language of the amendment, that there would be collateral damage to women and children and opposite-sex couples. Yes, there are the extremists and the mean-spirited, and those who haven’t even tried to understand. But I suspect most people were somewhere in the middle. There are good people here.

I wish it had not passed. We’re not there yet. We’ll get there. There’s work to do, but we’ll get there. History is long and complicated, and we’re right in the middle of it.



Room 37

I moved into room 37 four days after the attacks of September 11. I studied Hebrew flash cards in that room. I read Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness and Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, and at least one of the Niehburs, and plenty of other texts that have, along with the grammatical rules for Hebrew verbs, faded to the recesses of by brain.

I used my first cell phone in that room. I still had a desktop computer. I mourned the loss of my grandmother. It was one of the last places I ever lived by myself.

I was back there this weekend. Nobody is living in it right now, so the room stands empty, the bookshelves awaiting somebody else’s texts. When I walked in, the smell of the room hit me — musty, but in a good way, as familiar as the words of a well-loved poem. I wonder how many books have been read there in the ten years since I left, or in the eighty years before I arrived.

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Some things about Jonathan

He fell asleep on our walk this morning and then slept another hour in the stroller in the living room. When I heard him stirring, I went in to find him staring sleepily into space. His eyes focused on me, and gradually, he gave me this little grin, as if to say, “Oh yeah, I’d forgotten all about you, but now that you’re here, I’m awfully glad to see you.”

He’s in the stage where he is generally happiest when he’s riding around the house on my hip, just looking at whatever is going on. This is terrible for my back, but delightful nonetheless.

Meet Cafonkey. Cow? Giraffe? Donkey? We can’t decide, but we love him. Harper was just about this age when she first met Elephant, and I’m starting to wonder who Jonathan’s very best friend will be.

Oh, yes, and this: he’s six months old. One half of a year. That’s significant, is it not? We celebrated on Tuesday with pureed carrots. It was quite the party.



Twelve on Twelve, sort of.

Let’s call it several on the twelfth and a few from the weekend before, and one from last month.

 

1. Daffodils, outside our side door, the first sign of spring. They’ve been beautiful, but their days are numbered.

2. The whiteboard on our fridge that keeps us organized. That’s a relative term, of course.

3. There’s apparently some kind of basketball tournament going on right now?

4. The church’s latest attempt at getting the attention of people driving by on Market Street.

5. This is what you get when you try to take a picture of a baby without setting him down first.

6. Jonathan has now entered the world of solid food.

7. Harper likes to feed him.

8. He likes to eat.

9. Jonathan was dedicated last Sunday. It was lovely. He was very cooperative, and squawked at all the appropriate times, enough to get everyone to laugh, but not enough to disrupt the service.

10. The church has a tradition of giving a bible and a baby blanket to families for every dedication. I’m tickled by my expression in this picture – as if I had no idea this storybook bible was coming, as if I wasn’t the one to have picked it out, as if they aren’t stored on a bookshelf in my office. (It’s a good one, though, should you be in a position of picking out storybook bibles for baby dedications: Children of God, by Desmond Tutu.)

11. Aunt Lynn and Eliza’s visit in February for BabyFest 2012. It’s still funny.

12. Two cute kids.



Eleven Turns to Twelve

Just before dinner tonight, our garbage disposal clogged up. It may be that someone was over-zealously stuffing vegetable scraps into it without thinking. (It wasn’t Rob, we don’t let Harper use the disposal, and Jonathan doesn’t even know how to use his hands, so…) Rob donned his superhero cape and fixed it, which turned out to be no small feat involving two plungers and quite a bit of elbow grease.

As I watched him, I thought: Now, this is something we’ve never done on New Year’s Eve before.

In the past 15 years, I’ve rung in the new year in six different states (MI, MO, IL, VA, MN, NC, if you’re curious) and the District of Columbia. I’ve toasted midnight in bars, apartments, houses, and once at a Barenaked Ladies concert. I’ve spent the evening with old friends, new friends, church friends, parents, in-laws, and occasionally, strangers.

There was the year my college friends, out of school for less than a year, reunited to watch the millenium change and wondered if all the ATM’s would work the next day. That was also the year we broke out the champagne before midnight – which we didn’t realize until we got the pictures from the evening and found a picture of ourselves toasting while the clock on the wall behind us said 11:50.

There was the year we got stuck in an elevator in a Chicago high rise. That story has grown over the years, and I’m pretty sure we were only stuck for 30 minutes or so, but I think we did have to be rescued by firefighters who pried the door open.

There was the year we were glad to see go – it had been a fall of bad news, both personally and publicly. I was missing my grandmother, Rob was out of work, and the first few months of divinity school had been hard. We rang in the new year hoping it would all get better. It did.

There was the year I was newly pregnant with Harper and I was so giddy with my secret that I was sure that someone would notice I wasn’t drinking my champagne. There was the next year, when we left the baby with my parents and went out with friends but found ourselves home before midnight to check on her.

We’re home tonight, too, without much planned, which is just fine. It’s been a full week, with lots of people, food, and activities, so we were ready for some down time. And it felt right to be home tonight, just the four of us, as we are saying goodbye to this year in which we spent a lot of time making this house our home, this year in which we became the family of four we are likely to remain.

And now, lest this become known as the year I spent New Year’s Eve blogging instead of spending time with my husband after he heroically unclogged the disposal – this is our 14th New Year’s together, by the way – I’m signing off.

Happy 2012.




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