February 29, 2008

The courtesy laugh

I give and receive many courtesy laughs every day. You know what I'm talking about, right? They're the "I don't really think you're funny but I'm going be polite" laughs. I've always been able to spot a courtesy laugh when I see one. In fact, I took this quiz and scored a 19 out of 20!

Take it and let me know how you do!

Christianity's misbegotten stepcousin

So, I've mentioned that I'm working on my master's thesis, but I haven't said what I'm writing about. I will say that this post is lengthy and not really keeping with my blog's usual tone . . . but it's my blog and I can write about whatever I want to write about. So, let me get all academic on you here for a bit . . .

I'll start from the beginning. A few years ago we had a speaker at camp who encouraged teens to flee from evil. That's good. I'm glad he did that. That's what we pay him to say (just kidding . . . kind of). In doing so, he implied that our campers need to stay away from "popular culture." He didn't define the term or clarify what he was saying. He just kind of put it out there. I think the thing I remember most about that night is that every one of our counselors got a smirk on their faces and glanced over at me. Why? Because two nights before that I had thrown a get together at our house to watch VH1's World Series of Popular Culture.

I have myriad problems with that statement that all boil down to this: For many Christians living in America today, the only interaction with the culture in which they live is through boycotts and culture wars. American popular culture has invaded almost every continent and culture in the world. It is drawing increasing attention not only from secular scholars, but also from the Christian community.In today’s age, it is virtually impossible to avoid contact with it. Telling a teenager to "avoid popular culture" is like telling a fish to ignore the water in which it swims.

There are all kinds of terms that I'd need to define for you and cases I'd need to lay out to continue here. In my paper I lay theological foundations that consume 30+ pages. But the basic questions I'm trying to answer with my research are: How do we teach teenagers to think critically about popular culture and how do we use popular culture as a toolkit for spiritual formation in teenagers?

Around the same time that I heard this guy at camp speak, I was given a copy of a book called Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Smith and Denton. This book is so informative and so disturbing, all at once. If you work with youth . . . or work with college students . . . or work with people who work with youth . . . or work with college students who work with youth . . . or if you're a Christian . . . you should be reading this book.

The good news from this book is that youth are most definitely hungry for spiritual things. Although, they found that the use of the word “spiritual” by teens has too broad of a meaning to be strictly defined. Their findings show that the majority of American teenagers call themselves Christians, have beliefs that are similar to those of their parents, believe in God, and feel positively about religion. However, while most youth share their parents’ beliefs, they still weren’t able to clearly put what they believe into words. They say:

"Our impression as interviewers was that many teenagers could not articulate matters of faith because they have not been effectively educated in and provided opportunities to practice talking about their faith. Indeed, it was our distinct sense that for many of the teens we interviewed, our interview was the first time that any adult had ever asked them what they believed and how it mattered in their life" (133).

Smith and Denton call the minimal faith held by most teens “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” This deity is described by Smith and Denton as an impersonal divine being who was rather uninvolved but helps people to feel better about themselves. For teens, religion is more or less viewed as “helpful.”They expounded on their findings even more on page 171:

"We have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity's misbegotten stepcousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. This has happened in the minds and hearts of many individual believers and, it also appears, within the structures of at least some Christian organizations and institutions. The language, and therefore experience, of Trinity, holiness, sin, grace, justification, sanctification, church, Eucharist, and heaven and hell appear, among most Christian teenagers in the United States at the very least, to be supplanted by the language of happiness, niceness, and an earned heavenly reward. It is not so much that U.S. Christianity is being secularized. Rather more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith." (page 171, emphasis mine)

Ugh. This weighs heavy on my heart. I've had to pray through the helplessness I feel when I read this and try to lay out a curriculum for the summer. We have our campers for five days. What can we do in five days to help our campers move away from Moralistic Therapeutic Deism toward and authentic faith?

That's what I'm trying to figure out.

February 28, 2008

A great snack for LOST!

Lost starts in TWO MINUTES! Kyle made this for us to snack on while we watch. Except, he substituted brown sugar for white sugar. I can't get over how good it is!

Oh here we go . . . previously on LOST . . .

February 26, 2008

Keep in touch

I've had a lot of cell phones. When I started at camp in 2000, the staff all had cell phones the size of bricks (I am not speaking hyperbolically). Then I had the slightly smaller phone with the interchangeable blue and silver faceplates. This was cool for about two weeks. Following that I had a series of four flip phones. The speaker quit on the first. The second was stolen. The third had a screen that cracked. The fourth was an old one that Kyle's parents let me use . . . in it's final week, the screen went blank, but I could dial and answer.

For this reason, it was hard to ever reach me by cell phone. I rarely had it with me because it either filled my entire purse or didn't work (usually both). Oh, and did I mention that I lose my cell phone a lot? Well, I do.

Two weeks ago, Dave announced that the camp would be discontinuing cell phone service, but that we would all get a set amount per month to offset the cost of our own cell phone plan. I was THRILLED. So, we chose to go with AT&T. We bought our phones through Sam's Club (which allowed for a deal) and were able to get Blackberry's. Kyle got the Blackberry Pearl and I got the Blackberry Curve:

I have never had a nice phone. Shoot . . . I can't remember the last time I had a phone that is fully functional! What does this mean? Hopefully it means that I'll be easier to reach. I also intend to check my messages more regularly (yes, Alisha Cobb, I did get your message and I will call you back)! It also means that I can add a data plan (which I will do soon enough).

So, if you have my cell phone number feel free to give me a call. But not yet . . . I have to go find my phone first.

February 25, 2008


On Saturday morning, Jack started babbling with really high-pitched squeals. He hasn't done this in about 5 months. We have no idea what triggered it, but I suspect it has something to do with the hideous dinosaur pajamas that we made him wear to bed on Friday night.

I'll be honest, this video might be kind of boring if you're not one of his parents. But if you make it to the end, Jack has something nice and juicy to share with the Internet.

Squeals of joy! from Sara on Vimeo.

February 24, 2008

Triple the fun

I took some pictures of the Hammond triplets last week. Despite my poor composition, lack of experience and trouble with my autofocus, there were a few that turned out to be good. But with kids this cute anyone is sure to get a few good shots!

You can see them all here.

February 23, 2008

The new coat

Of course his winter coat couldn't last him all winter. That would have been too easy. Luckily, we found this coat from Baby Gap for only $15.00!

You may say it looks too big for him. I say it looks like he won't outgrow it in two weeks. Shoot, if this kid had more hair, he could give those Baby Gap models a run for their money!

My life is good . . .

A few highlights from my day:
  • Our lodge guests at camp calling at 5:30 AM to let us know they were out of coffee. If I had answered the phone, I think I would have said something like, "You don't need coffee at 5:30 AM. Go back to bed." But Kyle answered and responded more graciously than I would have. He got dressed, hopped in the car and drove to camp to get them coffee. These are the same ladies that called late last night to say that they locked their key in their room, only to find that someone else actually had it. Unfortunately, they did not think to call Kyle to tell him not to come. We only live about 5 miles from camp, but it's a long 5 miles when you make the drive for NO REASON!

  • I had the joy of digging a piece of dog food out of Jack's mouth this morning. That was super fun. I had a friend tell me this week about her one-year-old eating a piece of dog food and I said to her, "It's only a matter of time before Jack does that." And I was right.

  • I spent most of the early morning cleaning up wax. The good news is, it came out of the carpet and off of the walls completely. The bad news is that it did not come out of the couch and the clothing.

  • Murphy was drinking water out of her bowl this morning and accidentally inhaled a little. This happens daily and she usually snorts and sneezes until it's gone. But this time Jack was sitting right there (this was right before the aforementioned dog food in the mouth incident). He laughed so hard at Murphy when she was sneezing . . . I think he thought she was doing it purely for his entertainment.

  • Kyle was at a coaching clinic today so it was just Jack and I. I knew we wouldn't make it through the day if we stayed inside all day so we went shopping at one of the two "malls" in Jackson. I put the word "malls" in quotations marks because, well . . . you'd just have to experience them to understand. I went to the one adjacent to Walmart . . . it was dead. I'm not sure how that mall stays open because it's NEVER busy. We also hit Target and picked up a few things. Jack was incredibly happy and we had a great time!

  • It was SO nice outside! I got away with only wearing a vest! Jack was in his Toddler BundleMe in his stroller so I took his coat off it he first store and left it off. I just put his hat on when we went outside.

  • Baby Gap had great stuff on the boys' clearance racks . . . I got four shirts for $15 and his new coat (seen below) for $15. Plus, I had gift cards to cover the whole purchase!

  • I did a toy shift and moved all of his downstairs toys upstairs and took all of his upstairs toys downstairs . . . you know, to mix things up a little bit. This meant Jack got to climb the entire flight of stairs . . . TWICE. He loves climbing stairs, but he was pooped afterwards!

  • Kyle's home and Jack's in bed and we're going to watch our tivo-ed American Idol episodes from this week. We watched Lost yesterday . . . so good. I can't wait for the return of all of our favorite shows!
I'll leave you with this photo of Jack. My office at home has french doors on it and I heard a knocking on them and turned around to see this. It's a little bit gross and a lot cute!

February 22, 2008

Wax on, wax off

I watched The Karate Kid for the first time last weekend and I kid you not . . . it was awful. My husband thinks it's the greatest movie ever made, and I had to keep myself from audibly booing and hissing. Bad acting? Check. Horrible script? Check. Lame soundtrack? Double check. I think maybe it's because I waited until I was 29 to see it for the first time, but honestly, I don't see what the draw is.

Anyway, this post isn't about the Karate Kid. It's literally about wax.

So, I was so excited about tonight. Kyle didn't have to be anywhere, I didn't have anything to work on. So we ordered pizza and were going to watch the first disc of the first season of Damages. I should have known it was too good to be true.

I have this little wax warmer thing that I put these wax discs in to melt and make my house smell yummy. It sits on the ledge of the half-wall between my kitchen and living room. As I was reaching over the ledge to grab something . . . while holding Jack . . . he reached out and grabbed the dish full of hot wax and flung it everywhere.

It was a total disaster.

It was all over my clothes and face. Luckily, only a few specks seemed to hit Jack's face and the rest landed on his pajamas (which I'm pretty sure are ruined). I took this picture thinking that it was the worst of it, but when I turned around, I realized how bad it actually was. It made it all the way over to our couch . . . it is all over the cushions and armrest as well as on the clean laundry that was sitting on our sofa.

I can get the wax off of the walls and carpet by putting a towel on the wax and running a hot iron over it. Unfortunately, when I tried that on the microfiber sofa, the spots got darker and larger. Ugh. We shouldn't be allowed to have nice things.

So, if anyone has advice for getting orange wax out of cream microfiber, I'm open to suggestions. But right now I'm going to go and try to get these big clumps of wax out of my hair.

February 19, 2008

Soda free since 2007

Kyle and I invented our new favorite sandwich. Here's what we did:

  1. We marinated chicken breasts in teryaki sauce for about 4 hours.
  2. Then, we threw the chicken and pineapple rings on the grill in 20 degree weather (the frigid temperatures are not required).
  3. We melted swiss cheese on the chicken at the end of the grilling time.
  4. We threw the chicken and pineapple on buns with a little Miracle Whip and teryaki sauce and topped them with coleslaw mix (you know, the kind that comes in bags with the other bagged salad).
These sandwiches are amazing.

In general, we've had some good meals this week! I made a delicious pseudo-cobb salad. Kyle made some great chili. I've been well fed.

This is good because it's been a crazy-busy week. I like busy, but I'm really tired. Have I mentioned that I haven't had any soda since December 30, 2007? I probably haven't because I wasn't really sure if I'd stick with it. I've been craving a diet coke all week! I feel like an addict talking about her drug of choice.

Hopefully, I'll have some more time to write this weekend about things including, but not limited to . . . my new blackberry, moralistic therapeutic deism, and the bajillions of people I've interviewed this week!

February 18, 2008


I'm feverishly working on my thesis so I can meet my first March deadline. Pray that I'll be able to focus and not find a bajillion other important things that I'd rather be doing. Also, I'm experiencing a lot of frustration because of some things that have come up as a result of my research and I'm trying to deal with that without turning into a whiny four-year-old.

I know . . . that last part was cryptic, but that's really all I can say about it.

Anyway . . . I would really appreciate your prayers. For real.

February 13, 2008

Be mine. XOXO

When I was a kid, Valentine's Day was an actual holiday. I mean, we ate candy, had a party at school, people exchanged cards and I usually got a small gift from my mom and dad.

I've created oodles of photo Valentine's Day cards for kids to take to school this year and it's reminded me of the Valentine's card boxes that we used to make. Do you remember the boxes that I'm talking about? The ones that you made by cutting a slot in the lid of a shoe box and decorating it with construction paper hearts, glitter and the occasional magazine clipping? I loved making those boxes. And of course, I had to be very careful about how I filled the valentines out . . . I had to be sure to write "From, Sara" on the boys' valentine's and "Love, Sara" on all of the girls' valentines. There was no love for the boys.

I remember in the second grade when a boy named Billy brought a box of chocolates to class for me on Valentine's Day. No one else. Just me. Seriously, who lets their second grade boy buy a box of chocolates (or any present at all) for a girl in his class for Valentine's Day? I think my face turned bright red as I handed them back to him and simply said, "I'm allergic." Total rejection. Poor kid. But honestly, did I mention that we were in the SECOND GRADE?

I also remember a time when I had finished signing my valentines and my sister was still working on her homework so I offered to fill hers out too. Wasn't that nice of me? Not really, because at the very bottom of the card, below the "To" and "From" boxes, I put this: "*Written by Sara." Asterisk and all. I thought it was only fair that I be recognized for my work. My mom did not see it that way. She made me erase it from the bottom of every single one.

Anyway, happy Valentine's Day! May you experience all that love was really meant to be.

February 12, 2008

Pictures from Jack's 8th month . . . better late than never

Sure, Jack's almost 8 1/2 months old, but here are some of the photos I took during his 8th month of life. You can see all of them here.

It's getting a lot harder to get good pictures of him now that he WON'T SIT STILL. That, combined with the fact that my camera is . . . well, dying.

February 11, 2008

When you put it that way . . .

I came across this post on my pastor's blog yesterday.

I should say that I think that it's a lot easier to criticize an entity (the U.S. government) than it is to think critically about our individual decisions and the difference that we can make in our world by making changes on a personal level. And, I'm not convinced that everything is as cut and dried as we like to think it is.

But I'd be lying if I didn't say that this made me think long and hard.

February 9, 2008

Someone learned to open the drawers.

I figured it couldn't hurt to take a few pictures before I told him it was a "no no."

February 8, 2008

Some resemblance

Yes, Jack does look a lot like Kyle.

But he looks a little like me too. Here's a picture of him next to a picture of me at 17 months. I guess he gets his cheesy grin from me.

February 7, 2008

How do you mince garlic?

So, I walk in the door from what was a longer, more frustrating day than most at camp and Kyle says, "Hey, how do you mince garlic?"


It's not that Kyle doesn't cook well. It's just that he doesn't cook that often. Truth be told, neither do I. Most of our dinners don't take a whole lot to throw together.

When we went grocery shopping on Monday, I bought a bag of Meijer brand ravioli (on sale for only $2.50!) and he used it to make an AMAZING dinner using a recipe he found online! I would have paid good money at the Macaroni Grill for that ravioli. I took a picture, but when I looked at it I realized that it looked kinda gross . . . but take my word for it. It was delicious. It was exactly what I needed to come home to.

Jack gets a bath most nights after dinner. After we get him undressed, we always do our best to make him laugh . . . and he always does. I'd say it's probably one of the happiest times of the day! I hope it makes your day a little happier too.

February 6, 2008

Dear Jack, Month 8

Dear Jack,

Now that you no longer depend on your dad and I to get you from place to place around the house, our lives have changed dramatically. Last month at this time you were already crawling, but the difference between then and now is the speed at which you move from one thing to another. It is truly astounding! We laid two barstools down at both entrances to the living room to keep you contained, but yesterday you figured out how to get past them. When you got to the other side, I was there staring at you in disbelief. You just gave me half a grin and looked at me as if to say, "It wasn't going to last forever, Mom." You're right, Jack.

You're thoroughly enjoying your newfound freedom. You have no fear when it comes to exploring the house on your own, but every so often you check back and make sure that your dad and I are still where you left us. At the beginning of the month, I found you sitting in our walk-in closet crying because you thought you had lost me. When I walked in and picked you up, you game me that wide-mouthed, crinkle-nosed smile that melts my heart every time. It's good to know that you still need me . . . even if it's just for a little reassurance!

Back when you were little (you know, like 4 months old), people told us that things would get so easy once you started crawling. They told us that once you could get around by yourself, you'd entertain yourself more easily and could play on your own for longer stretches. They were lying, Jack. This month has been the most labor intensive of all of your months of life so far, and I suspect that this is only the beginning. I'm constantly chasing you around trying to keep you from harming yourself or the dog or destroying any of our belongings.

Don't get me wrong . . . it is a lot of work, but it's fun, too. There is no better feeling in the world than when you scurry across the carpet to me and pull yourself up on my pant leg begging to give me a hug and a kiss. Oh did I mention that yet? You give hugs and kisses now. When I say, "Give mama kisses, Jack," you open your mouth and plant one on me . . . they're slobbery, but I'll take them. You follow the wet kiss by squeezing me tightly and pressing your chin into my shoulder. I know that there will be a day when "hugs and kisses" for your mom will become "uncool" and maybe even a little bit "gross." Until then, I will savor every one.

This month, your father and I have both become introduced to the "disciplinarian" part of parenting. I say things like, "No, no, no" and "No, Jack" and "That's not for Jack to play with" millions of times a day. Seriously. Millions. Sometimes you look at me and laugh. At other times, you lower lip sticks out and you start crying as if I were telling you that I don't love you anymore. But I do love you, Jack. I just want you to stop gnawing on my laptop cord.

As your dad and I are learning more and more about being parents, there are some battles that we let you win and some that we don't. For instance, you decided this week that you will no longer allow us to feed you with a spoon. Either you do it yourself, or you don't eat. So, we feed you lots of finger foods and let you hold your own spoon. It seems to be going well, but you did inadvertently fling a piece of pasta at me yesterday which stuck to the middle of my forehead. You didn't really appreciate how funny it was.

Much to your dismay, however, wearing your bib is non-negotiable. If there's even an instant in which there is not food on the tray in front of you, you begin the work of tearing it off. Yesterday, you ripped your bib off with such gusto that you sent the cheerios and peas that had collected in the pocket flying everywhere. This is not a battle that you will win. The bib stays on. Because I said so.


February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday

One of the hardest parts of trying to be a responsible citizen is knowing how to vote in elections (at least for me anyway). I don't think there's a single candidate out there that feels the same way I do on EVERY issue. And, does agreement on ten smaller issues outweigh a disagreement on a major issue? There's a lot to take into consideration.

Enter this website. It matches you with candidates based upon how closely you align with their opinions on the issues, as well as how relevant those issues are to you. Please understand that I'm NOT suggesting you cast your vote based solely on the outcome of this tool, but its results are interesting, nonetheless.

On the results page, it lists the top candidates based on the people who had used the tool so far. Interesting that there are two people in the top five whose names I had never heard.

  • Republican - 53.43%
  • Democrat - 46.57%

Also, they compiled the most popular responses from all voters to create a composite candidate, a candidate whose views match most with the average responses of users.
Anyway, I don't pretend to be any sort of political analyst . . . I just thought I'd share the site I had found this afternoon.

February 4, 2008

Monday morning

I feel so much more productive when I get a Monday off than I am when I get a whole weekend off. Why is that?

Our Super Bowl Sunday was less than spectacular. We stayed at home. I cleaned and worked on a couple of projects while Kyle watched the game. I think this might be the first time in our 5 years of marriage that we weren't at some sort of Super Bowl party. Does the fact that I kind of liked just hanging out at home make me sound old? To be honest, I don't really care if it does. I enjoyed the down time.

We still haven't watched the season premiere of LOST. I did watch what I thought was going to be the season premiere, but ended up being a re-airing of last season's two-hour finale. I didn't realize the premiere aired Thursday night until I heard our staff talking over the weekend. Stupid ABC programming geniuses! I checked the tivo and there it was. There's not much else on the tivo besides stupid re-runs so we'll probably watch it tonight . . . . unless there's a new episode of Prison Break. Hasn't this writer's strike lasted long enough? Maybe this is the perfect time for me to put my sitcom idea out there . . . have I ever told you about that? I want to write a sitcom called "The Camp." You know . . . in the spirit of "The Office." Only with characters and situations from our camp. Believe me, I've got about 6 seasons worth of material. Kevin James could play Kyle, but who could I get to play me?

Kyle and I are running errands today and then just taking it easy for the rest of the day. I still need to take Jack's 8 month photos, but I'm lacking ideas.

I'll leave you with a photo I took yesterday afternoon. Jack spent his first 3 months outside A LOT and I think now that he's trapped indoors, he's missing it. He's drawn to the windows . . . Is it just me or does he look exceptionally tall?

February 3, 2008

Why I love him

The other night we were watching some home video from the last month and I said, "Listen to how fat I sound!"

Most guys would have answered with, "How can someone sound fat!?" And why wouldn't they? That is the logical response to a statement that ridiculous.

But without batting an eye Kyle said, "I don't think you sound fat at all." And I think he meant it.

February 2, 2008

A little pool party

We took Jack to a pool for the very first time today. He loves bathtime so we were pretty sure that he would love the pool and we were right! He was a little timid at first, but soon he was kicking splashing and wanting to put all of the nasty pool toys in his mouth.

I was using a camera that I'm not really familiar with, but I got a few ok shots. Here are a few, but I'll post more here.

February 1, 2008

Breastfeeding woes

If you're uncomfortable with the topic of breastfeeding, you may want to avert your eyes elsewhere . . . because in case you skipped right over the headline, that's what it's about. If you'd rather read something else, try this or maybe this.

I have been breastfeeding Jack exclusively for the last 7 months and 30 days. There have been ups and downs, but we're finally in the home stretch and my milk supply is beginning to wane. It's dwindling, and I can't figure out why. I know he should be getting 24 - 32 oz a day and I'm worried that he might not be. Or if he is, he's getting it all in the morning and very little right before his bedtime. I can sense his frustration when I run out and he's still hungry.

I added 2 oz of formula to 6 oz of breastmilk in a bottle before bedtime one night this week and he was up with an upset tummy for a lot of the night. Is it possible to re-establish your milk supply at 8 months? I've been pumping like crazy trying to help get things going again, but it doesn't seem to be working. In the mornings, I get quite a bit, but by evening I can pump for 45 minutes and only get 3 oz. I know that he needs more than that right before bedtime.

For now, I'm going to pump so I can spread the milk out evenly over feedings. But I miss nursing him. And I think that maybe he misses it too. I know that there's nothing wrong with switching to formula, but I'm just not read to give up.

P.S. I forgot to mention something else when I wrote this . . . at one point, I had probably a one month's supply worth of frozen milk. You know, from back when I could pump two bottle's worth in 5 minutes!

I had it stored in the Lasinoh breastmilk storage bags, according to the manufacturer's directions. Unfortunately, as I started thawing some of it (also according the manufacturer's directions, about 4 out of 5 bags leaked at the seams . . . meaning that the bags were broken and I couldn't use the milk. There was so much wasted it made me absolutely sick. It just would have been nice to have to help supplement feedings now!