Friday, September 25, 2009

Columbus Circle School

Yesterday was Elijah's first trip to Manhattan. Following the tradition of neglecting the poor second child, I have not one picture of him in Manhattan to show you. In my defense, we took pics but they didn't turn out. We wanted to show Elijah off to Paul's co-workers before it got too cold to take a baby on a day trip to Midtown. So he was actually the whole reason for this trip.

While we were there, Hannah, Elijah, and I ran a few Manhattan errands and we stopped to do school at Columbus Circle. There are these little bistro tables and chairs in various spots in the City. We occupied one after I rubbed it down with an antibacterial wet wipe and Hannah got right to work.

Here you can see the way down Broadway into Times Square. I hope Hannah remembers these "home" school adventures.

The remarkable thing in this picture isn't the gorgeous late September weather, or that you can clearly see "Broadway" on the street sign, or how cute Hannah is. What's truly amazing in this picture, what native New Yorkers wouldn't believe if you told them about it, is that white van in the background. What's so special about a white cargo van you ask? The fact that it hasn't been tagged with graffiti! There are a couple of explanations for this. It could be from out of town or it could be brand new. Either way, it won't look like that for long if that van parks for any length of time in NYC.

Atop the pillar growing out of suit man's head is a statue of Christopher Columbus. I guess that's why it's Columbus Circle.

Silly Thank You Pics

Elijah wishes to thank Miss Becca Hardy for the body armor. It will come in handy.

And thanks to Miss Lisa for the bath tub. He likes it. You can tell.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Back in Texas

I haven't heard the the F bomb in days. Everyone says y'all. You can get in and out of a restaurant in under an hour, and I went to Walmart! At Walmart Paul noticed this guy and said "That's what everyone thinks a Texan is." I wish I had my camera with me. He was this tall guy with a beer belly and a ball cap. He was gazing into the rifle display case, which spins, and there were camo backpacks on a rack behind him. Texas! Enjoy it while you can Elijah.

My Birkenstocks are enjoying the break from walking miles a day. Paul's having Haagen-Daas withdrawal and Hannah is getting in some quality cousin time. I can't wait to get to Trinity on Sunday!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Elijah's Here!

Brenda called on 9/10 and said that the birthmom was in the ER. She was fine, being moved to maternity. In maternity, it was determined that she was in early labor. They slowed the contractions and put her on bed rest. Brenda said not to come yet because they thought they could delay things for up to 3 weeks.

On Sunday we headed out to church. I forgot my phone but it was no big deal because we were going to church and wouldn't have it on anyway. We got on the train that takes us to church. For some reason that train was running on a different line. We figured it out too late to get to church. We ran some other errands and at some point, I decided to check in with Brenda. I called her house and her daughter said she was at church. I almost didn't call her cell. When I did she answered "Where have you been? I've been trying to call you for 2 hours. I'm holding your baby!"

We tried to get plane tickets out of NYC for that evening. I just got lectures from the car service "Lady, you can't get there from this time of day. It'll take 2 hours in this traffic and an hour to get through security!" My dearest Vicki started looking for a private jet! She actually found one that would've worked, but I had already booked tickets for the following morning.

We got to the hospital at 3:30 Monday afternoon. The birthmom wanted to meet us. She wanted to make sure that we thoroughly understand that she loves him and that she wants him to have a good life. She wanted to make sure that we'd love him. Hannah was with us. She kept asking to see her baby brother.

We went to the nursery and we got to hold him. He's tiny. He was 5 pounds 3 ounces at birth. They gave us a room to have him all to ourselves. We've been with him ever since. He is working on gaining a little weight so that we can take him home from the hospital. The greatest friends in the world have stayed by Elijah's side until we could get here, baked me special cookies, run crazy errands, taken sweet pictures, arranged for a last minute sip-n-see, called, gathered loads of pre-loved baby things, brought food, cared for Hannah. I could go on and on. We are so blessed!

Pictures are on facebook. I don't know how to get them here. My father-in-law finally joined the 21st century to see these awesome pictures. He'll be playing Fish Wrangler in no time. . . I'll keep you posted on when we leave and all the great party tricks I plan to teach this kid.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Types Of Preachers

My pastor asked me to categorize preachers for his amusement. I've been a Christian my whole life and I've seen LOTS of preachers over the years. Here are a few that I have sorted and classified into groups. This list is not meant to question the validity or sincerity of their faith. It's just a list of characteristics some preachers share.

Takes Too Much Credit Guy - wants to tell about droves of people who were saved or otherwise ministered to because of his eloquent preaching. God was lucky to get a guy like him on His side.

Takes No Credit Guy - won't let you thank him for preaching a good message, praying for you, etc. "It's all God" is what he's quick to say at every opportunity.

Suffered a Great Tragedy Guy - You should listen to him because he's suffered the loss of a loved one. It would only compound his grief if you get caught making your grocery list while he's preaching.

Promoter Guy - Is there to sell his books or videos. He preaches a little, but the answers to your problems can be found in his book that's available at the back of the church. A portion of the proceeds go to Tragedy Guy's foundation.

Devil Hunter Preacher - a little different from Mrs. Devil Hunter, the church attendee, Preacher Devil Hunter will pray for people at the altar and yell at those hearing impaired demons to get out or else.

Name Dropper Preacher - Takes this opportunity to tell you about all the famous preachers he's not only met, he's ministered with them at conferences, or sat on their boards, or counseled them in some way. Just preach the Word already. Did I say that out loud?

Liar - This guy has led all of Asia to Christ, single-handedly. Billy Graham called him to ask for prayer. Elvis too.

3.5 Essay Guy - This guy tells us what he's going to tell us, tells us, and then tells us what he told us. It's a perfect 3 point, 5 paragraph speech. Fernando, your speech teacher ought to be so proud.

Rabbit Trail Guy - The antithesis of 3.5 essay guy. Rabbit Trail Guy has no idea what he's talked about at the end of the sermon, but he's been given the "land the plane" sign VIGOROUSLY 5 times now and the Cowboys are about to kick off, so he calls it.

Youth Pastor Guy - Has never left "youth pastor mode." Tries to be cool and entertaining. Uses lots of slang words to let you know he's cool.

Greek Teacher - is always telling you what the original Greek says.

A/V Guy - enhances his sermon with clips from movies and with cartoon slide shows.

Parable Guy - Jesus wishes He had such eloquent stories to enhance the sermon on the mount.

Altar Call Guy - Pleads for 20 minutes for someone to get saved. "This could be your last chance. You're not guaranteed tomorrow. You could have a safe (or in NYC an air conditioner) fall on your head on the way home."

End Of The World Guy - Similar to Mr. Conspiracy Head, the church-goer, but this guy gets 45 minutes and a broader audience. Summary of his message: Jesus is coming back tomorrow. Don't go to work. Go to the airport and pass out tracts to save as many as we can, while we can.

Dominion Guy - Opposite of End of the World Guy. This guy's not waiting to be evacuated by the Rapture. He doesn't throw up his hands in despair and say "Lord, come quickly" when he reads a terrible headline. He sees the bad headlines as evidence that the church isn't doing its job. "We need to take dominion. Advance the Kingdom. Don't go to work tomorrow, not at an office anyway. Advance the Kingdom. Become a campus minister and build disciples out of the world's future leaders. . ."

Why Other Denominations Are Wrong Guy - Is there to tell us why the so-and-sos have it wrong and the denomination he's with has it right. Just preach the Word already. There I go again.

Wanted To Be a Comedian Guy - keeps us laughing. I like Comedian Preacher. Even if I have no idea what he said at the end of the day.

Screamer - thinks yelling = important.

Positive Confessions Guy - isn't "sick." He's "fighting a cold." He will preach about "calling things that are not as though they were." He wants you to hold up your Bible and say things out loud a lot.

Racist - He is justified in his stereotyping. Plus he has a minority in his family and he can say whatever he wants.

Culturally Over Sensitive - is truly in a quandary over whether he should say "Black" or "African American." Almost apologizes for saying "Mexican." It's OK to use the word Mexican! People from America are Americans, Canada - Canadians, Mexico - Mexicans. "Mexican" isn't a dirty word.

Over Generaliser - has a very shallow argument and uses cliches to support it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Every church has one. . .

As we have visited several churches, I have noticed that many churches have similar characters in their congregations. I will describe a few of them for you. I have been many of these characters and I am often poking fun at ME. If you see yourself or your friend described here, I assure you it is an accident. Unless you are Charlie Leavitt. In which case, I will say that yes, Charlie, you are the inspiration for Testimony Guy.

Mary/Martha - Mary in the Bible story loves to sit at the feet of Jesus. The Mary you'll meet at church loves to pray or visit after church, loses track of time, and the nursery workers (Marthas) bring her children to her so they can clean and serve some more.

Greenie - This guy rode his bike to church. He collects church bulletins that have been left on the pews to ensure they get recycled.

Granola Head - eats organic food, wears flip flops and bamboo fiber clothes, brings his own food to Bible studies, and interrogates his kids about what they ate in nursery/children's church to see if it was up to his standards.

Devil Hunter - You'll know her right away. She's probably exorcising the coffee pot for some offense as you walk in the door. Every problem you have has a spiritual root and she will sniff it out, bind it, and cast it out.

Inertia Mouth - Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Inertia Mouth doesn't mean to, but she talks constantly. Once she starts, she just can't stop talking. Wave at her from a distance. Be email friends with her, but don't say "hello" in person unless you have an exit strategy. Some inertia mouths know who they are and don't mind if you just say "got to go" and run off. I've seen men that have inertia mouth too. I saw one that got called on to close the service in prayer. We'd still be there if someone hadn't pulled the fire alarm. I am pretty sure that I'm an inertia mouth. A big clue is that the muscles in my face seem to get sore from talking too much at church.

Conspiracy Head - All things work together for bad against them. The government, the Pope, the Supreme Court, whole nations in fact are consulting together on ways to torment Mr. Conspiracy Head. Religious conspiracy heads often see events described in Revelation coming to pass in current events. They pin you in a corner and talk about the end of the world. Other church members know better than to cross his path and are unlikely to come over to rescue you for fear of being his next victim. Tell him you hear your baby crying and he might let you go.

Transplant - Christian from some other part of the country. Mrs. Transplant has a heavy accent and needs to be subtitled because you can't understand a word she says. You smile and nod and promise to pray for her.

Denominational Transplant - These guys are often doctrine police. Either they want their new church to change to be more like their old church or they want to ensure that their new church will not stray into whatever doctrinal fallacy that prompted them to leave their old denomination.

Modesty Police - I struggle with this one. I do have one request: if you are a lady taking up the offering, please find a way to cover your business so that you don't flash the entire row if you have to lean over to get the offering plate. There, I said it. I'm sorry.

Spiritual Superstar - This guy has it all figured out. He has a scripture for every circumstance and he can pray to beat the band.

Special Dieter - This is the lady who sees a food allergy behind every tree. Where the Devil Hunter would be binding and casting out, Special Dieter would be prescribing whatever her latest diet discovery is. "You need to eliminate gluten, diary, meat, ____. And all your problems would be solved."

Testimony Guy - This guy LOVES Jesus. Jesus took him from the mud and the mire and washed him white as snow and Testimony Guy wants to tell you every detail. If there are 2 Testimony Guys in one church they compare testimonies to see who was rescued from the biggest drug habit, gambling debt, etc. OK, I've never heard Charlie do that. Other Testimony Guys might get in testimony contests but Charlie just wants to tell you about how great Jesus is. Go Jesus!

Adoption Head - Has adopted or is planning to adopt and thinks all Christians everywhere should adopt. I am an Adoption Head.

Radio/TV Ministry Head - Is always quoting some radio preacher or televangelist and thinks you should too.

Name Dropper - Knows some famous preacher and wants you to know how important he is because he met Billy Graham once at Dennys. There are variations of this. In the Assemblies of God, I noticed that when traveling evangelists are introduced, the fellow is introduced as having been to "The Holy Land with Brother [Presbyter or Denominational official, or, if they're very important, Binny Hinn]."

Spiritual Tourist - Wants to hear some tongue talk for himself. Or wants to see a liturgical service, Calvinist service, Black Gospel service, rich old white guy service, etc. for himself. Goes home happy to be whatever denomination he is. He is now his congregation's local expert on what ever type of church he visited. He tells about it in Sunday School and every one congratulates themselves on choosing the best denomination instead of that flawed one Brother Spiritual Tourist mentioned the other day.

Spiritual Widow - Worried about her husband watching The Simpsons or whatever "sinful" habit she's observed lately. Often cries at prayer time over his absence from church and how backslidden he is.

Music Police - There are a couple of variations of Mr. Music Policeman. Either he is looking around to make sure that you don't have a certain kind of instrument that may have originated in Africa where all the demons are from, or he is pouring over the lyrics to all the songs to make sure they are doctrinally sound. Sometimes he finds a flaw and suggests alternate lyrics to make the song a better fit for his theology.

Bible Police - Wants to take a peek at your Bible to make sure it's up to his standards. It should be a particular version. Bible Police are often at a loss with multilingual parallel Bibles because they aren't sure if the non-English portion was translated from an approved version.

We met a Conspiracy Head at a Mega church here. He had "a word from the Lord" for us. Right about the time I was getting ready to run off and get an usher to rescue Paul, Conspiracy Head got distracted and we escaped. Marys and Marthas are ubiquitous. Churches need Marthas or nothing would get done. They need Marys to remind us to enjoy God's love. As we have visited around I have been comforted to see a familiar cast of characters even if we are in a different part of the country.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Day of Class

Yes, I said class, not school. We've been doing school since Hannah came home from China in 2005! We'd sit together and play on If I were cooking or doing something else, she would come find me, sign "apple" and drag me to the computer. She loves to learn! We found this great little homeschool co-op and she goes one day a week and takes Tae kwon do, science, history, drama, and catechism (doesn't that sound dignified). I call it class because you sign up for the class you want. It feels more university style to me to call it "class." So I do.

We tried several different bags out that morning, but we ended up going with this gigantic bag. Don't worry, she didn't actually have to schlep the thing all the way there. She rides in a stroller, remember? So the backpack was rolling along in the stroller too.

On the train we met a young woman who has lived in NY all her life, but it seems she's rarely ridden the subway by herself. She was all panicked about being on the right train. She asked where the train was going and I told her and she wanted to get off. I asked where she wanted to go and she was on the right train, going the right direction and everything. But she seemed to think it was a teleportation device that would take her directly to her stop, bypassing all the others. She kept thinking that because the next stop wasn't HER stop, she was on the wrong train. She'd already gotten on and off a couple of trains before I found her mumbling to herself. I convinced her to stay on a bit and I showed her how it would work and what to expect and she settled down a bit.

Get side tracked much? Yes I do. Back to Hannah and her classes.

Here are some more pics.

Curious George Moments

If you've ever watched the Curious George TV show on PBS, you might relate to this a little. I like C. George pretty well because the background music is relaxing and not all hyper. Although George could use a little more supervision than what The Man With the Yellow Hat gives him (and you'd think the Man would have learned by now to watch that monkey), he's not disrespectful or belligerent, just unsupervised.

Anyway, it looks to me like George might live in NYC. There was an episode where he went looking for the source of some jazz music. Tuesday, we found that jazz music.

We rode into Manhattan with Paul. We went all the way to 168th street. That area is called Washington Heights. I had never been that far north before. We picked up this stroller for Heather Dy. It's a Phil and Ted's, probably the most common stroller you'll see here for a family with more than one kid. P & T's are everywhere here. I see several dozen a day. But in Dallas, you might see a couple of Phil & Teds per month, maybe more if you hang out at North Park.

So I found this brand of stroller at a good price on craigslist and we ventured WAY up to Washington Heights. Most everything I knew about NYC before we moved here I learned from TV. Washington Heights was mentioned on an episode of CSI NY once. I was expecting it to be a hip, funky, gritty sort of place. Maybe it is. All I care about is Starbucks (corporate, not licensed) and there was one across the street from the train stop so I was elated. We got the stroller and headed back south to Whole Foods at Columbus Circle.

Whole Foods was packed. There were about 100 people in line. But they have a good checkout system. Everyone seemed to act like this was normal, to be 75th in line at Whole Foods, so I went along with it and we were out of there in no time. Hannah asked what we would do next. Hmm, I thought about it. We could go home to do school and then go to the "squares park" (there are square tile things on the ground, so Hannah calls it the "squares park." But Central Park was right there.

I keep educational materials in our stroller backpack so we can do something productive while riding on the train. Paul says our stroller is a bit bag-ladyish, but it takes the place of an entire mini-van and it's contents. I asked Hannah if she wanted to do her schoolwork at the most famous park in the world that day. Of course she did.

Here's where the Curious George moment comes in to play. There was this 2 man jazz band playing at Columbus Circle. Their music carried over much of the park where we were. It was this great little soundtrack for our day. What fun.

Hannah got a GIANT pretzel and was gnawing on it while listening to jazz and chilling in Heather Dy's new stroller.

Homework, or in this case, parkwork is done. It's time for the tire swing! If you look in the background, you might notice a clump of people way back there. They were taking hula hoop lessons from this purple velvet pants wearing guy with hula hoops, African drums, and a boom box. There was a tiny kid, I mean little, who could hula hoop for days. Velvet pants man is what I call a hustler. Some might call him "self-employed." He is not quite a street performer. He doesn't show off for tips, he teaches folks who want to learn, how to hula hoop and they tip him if they feel like it worked. Just one of the many crazy things I've seen here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Prospect Park

I love to go to Prospect Park. I can't say enough good things about it. There are several playgrounds, a meadow, educational facilities, a zoo. It's like Central Park, but better.

So we went to the Audubon Center today and I can't wait to go back. Come up here. We'll go together!

After the Audubon Center, we headed over to the Lefferts Historic House.
Also great. These are such awesome memories we are making. I hope Hannah will enjoy remembering this as much as I will!

This is the kangaroo habitat (I think these are actually wallabies, but close enough) inside the zoo. That cable is the only thing between us and the wild animals! So cool!

Remember These?

Remember the little mechanical horses outside the grocery store and how you would climb on and pretend that your mom had put a quarter in (and hope that she would)? These things are all over town here and I will actually pay for Hannah to ride the silly things every once in a while. But it's not a quarter any more. Now it's FIFTY CENTS. She had better appreciate this! She just loves it and it's only fifty cents so we are living it up here to the tune of the William Tell Overture. She's getting more adventurous and doing the "Look Ma. No hands."

Not really NYC related, but it entertains me. So I thought I'd share.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Birthday

So today was my birthday. We started the day by heading to Target. I wanted to find a particular kind of coffee mug and give that to me for my birthday. I found it at Marshalls but I haven't been permitted to use it yet. Hannah insisted that I get a gift card too. What's a birthday without a gift card? So I let her pick me a good one. She loves gift cards. She also thought I should get some new Polly Pockets and maybe a little girl's bicycle, but I was onto her.

When we got home Hannah whisked my new mug away. She told me I could have it after the party. She wanted the mug to be presented in a gift bag and she got right to work on that. She glued and taped and decorated up a lovely bag. And she worked up an appetite. She asked for a snack. I suggested that we go out and hunt for a fruit vendor. When Brianna was here she found a fruit vendor who sold her some out of this world sliced mango. Hannah was giddy at the thought of a fruit vendor's sliced mango, so off we went. But we were met at the front door by a delivery man with an edible bouquet. Woohoo! Hannah loved the sight of that. Earlier in the day I had told her that Mimi was sending a special gift. Hannah worried over that delivery all day. She wanted to do nothing but look out the window and she tried to convince me to try to call to find the delivery man. We're still working on developing that girl's patience. She's got a little bit of Grammy in her.

Hannah was very happy to see that Paul surprised me with a bunch of fresh flowers when he came home. Dinner time was also party time and I finally got my mug all to myself. Hannah had lots of other things planned for my birthday. We were to get a cake and go out to eat at her favorite restaurant, and buy pretty much whatever toy popped into her mind. She tied the balloon that came with my edible flower arrangement to the stroller and announced my age to anyone who'd listen. Maria at the pastry shop (Going to the pastry shop was a compromise. Hannah wanted me to have a cake. I wanted a macaroon.) gave me a free treat for my birthday. I was very pleased with the events of the day. I hope Hannah was too since my birthday was more exciting to her than anyone!

NYC Elevators: A Primer

Hannah had this joke in her dot-to-dot book yesterday:
Q: What's red and goes up and down?
A: A tomato on an elevator.
She thought that was hilarious.

When you come to visit me, you will have to use elevators a few times. I am sure that you have successfully used elevators before. And you will figure these out soon enough. But I thought I'd walk you through it just so you can avoid a little frustration. First, I want to tell you a little about Washington DC elevators, just because I am thinking about it.

Many of the DC elevators had 2 buttons that we could push where you stand to call the elevator. One was a small round button that I am used to seeing and pushing on every elevator everywhere. DON'T PUSH THAT ONE! It's the "call for help" button. And there's a large red square button. Push that one. In DC, if there are only 2 floors, like for the subway there's the street and the platform, the elevator knows that you want the floor you're not already on and it will just take you there. Kind of cool. And can I just say that every stop I ever saw in DC had an elevator. That's just dreamy.

NYC subway elevators don't seem to know that you want the other floor. So you do have to push a button. Too bad. I'd rather not touch anything in a New York City subway elevator/urinal. Also, when you push the up or down arrow, it might light up, might not. Don't just stand there pushing it over and over. You will alert everyone around you that you are a tourist who expects up arrows to light up like they do everywhere else in the world. Just stay cool and wait. The elevator will come.

Now the elevator's here. Stand back or you'll get trampled by the people trying to get out of the elevator to get to fresh air or a train. Often folks have crammed themselves into the elevator and the combination of elevator smell and body odor gets old fast. People act like you're trying to kill them if you impede their exit. Just step back already. You might miss this elevator, but hopefully, by now you've figured out from this post that the stairs are better anyway.

If you do make it on the elevator you will probably get way closer to a stranger than you ever wanted to. If you happen to have the place to yourself, you will probably need to hit the "Door Close" button. Ick. At least when there are other people on the elevator, you can wait until someone else bites the bullet and touches the buttons. So Paul and I were talking about this "Door Close" button. In NYC, it actually closes the doors! I've never seen that anywhere before. Paul says he always thought it may as well have been the "I'm bored" button. But here, it closes the door. Now select a floor. No it probably won't light up. If you want to get mugged keep pushing the button and acting surprised that it hasn't acknowledged you. If not, wait patiently and try not to breathe too much.

Block Party

Throughout the summer, I have seen block parties on different streets. They are always on one way streets and our street is a 2 way street. I had given up on getting to go to a block party. But the church we've visited a couple of times now is on a street that was having a block party on Sunday. What fun! The church had some bounce houses, face painting, a dunk tank, and a water balloon toss. Hannah had a blast. See for yourself!

Queen of the mountain.

The teenagers put on a concert. These kids are talented. Most of them are kids of my friend Jennifer. They would put down one instrument and pick up another and play it beautifully as well. I wonder if they are related to the ODells.