Covid Thoughts: Grocery Store

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, what Sundays and at home worship looked like, about spending time with my daughter (there is also a follow up if you want to hear her playlist), and the inexplicably controversial idea of wearing a mask. Today’s entry is pretty short and to the point, the experience of grocery shopping.

20200529_084703This is me about to head to the grocery store today. Obviously, still wearing a mask, but have dropped wearing gloves as they have been shown to be unhelpful and the risk of surface contamination is must less than originally feared (this is how science work, hypothesis based on existing conditions and prior knowledge, then tested against updated data). You can also see that I have, unfortunately, not been able to get a hair cut yet.

The first drip during the pandemic was odd. We usually go to the store at the end of the week, so this was a full week of people being at home. I didn’t wear a mask, but had gloves, and when I cam back home, I took my shoes off in the garage and went straight upstairs to put my jeans and shirt in the laundry. I took a travel pack of Clorox and we also whipped everything down before putting it away.

As most of you know by know, there were massive shortages of many things, and then went a few returned, limits were placed on most. Some of the shortages or other issues we ran into:

Toilet Paper – This is the most famous of the shortage, and one that was pretty much stabilized. We were told to stay inside for two weeks, so people started buying 10 and 20 packs of paper. It took a few weeks for people to realize that they had bought nearly years worth of paper. Luckily, third party sellers (Amazon) stopped allowing people to sell them (as well as banning hand sanitizer) and most grocery stores stopped returns. As of today, which is the end of Week 10 as I’ve counted it, Aldi has had single ply packs for about three weeks, and I haven’t seen any in Publix. With one exception, and I don’t know the exact time. It was maybe Week 5 or 6, and I was there fairly early for some reason, and they were unloading all the toilet paper, I asked the guy for the biggest pack they had. He told me the limit was two, and asked if I wanted another. I told him, I didn’t want to be one of ‘those people’, but he said they fact that I cared meant I wasn’t, but that I should take another anyway, because so they would soon all be gone again. We haven’t even finished the first pack, so I feel good about that.

Baby Wipes – This might not have affected too many people, but the same jackassess who took all the toilet paper, also took a all the baby wipes. Normally, I suppose I wouldn’t care, but I happen to be quarantined with two infants, so this really started to piss me off. Luckily, as a gift, my mom bought me a giant pack (over 1,000) of wipes, and around the same time I found the toilet paper, I also found a three pack of wipes (as in three containers of 100 bound together) and grabbed two of those.

Paper Towels – This was another thing that was hoarded, and I’m not entirely sure why, unless they were back up toilet paper. All the stores were instantly out, and it wasn’t until around the time I found toilet paper did they have them again. I don’t know what normal people do, but Mrs. MMT uses paper towels like a villain from Captain Planet, so this was a huge issue for us (except it really wasn’t, we just used cloth napkins to eat and old washcloths to clean).

Hand Sanitizer/Soap/Clorox Wipes (and bleach for injecting) – This wasn’t really a big deal for us. Of course, all the stores were cleaned out instantly. People were hoarding hand sanitizer and then trying to sell it on mark up (this jackass is my favorite story). I wasn’t too worried about this, for two reasons, I read a story early on about the ridiculousness of sanitizer being empty while soap sat on the shelf (it was soon gone, but I grabbed a pack first) and we happened to have a few of the foam ones from the hospital. Also, we somewhat randomly (long story) had a few triple packs of full containers of wipes and maybe 10 travel packs.

Meat – This has been the wildest one. The first week, there was pretty much everything. It was right before St. Patrick’s, so I grabbed two corned beefs (they last a long time, I have one in there now that is use by the end of June). The next week I went, there was nothing. No meat at all, Aldi had a curtain over the section. The next week had some ground beef and dark meat chicken, so we smoked a bunch of wings. Publix was the same; this was the pattern for about a month. Close to Easter, there were a few hams, so we grabbed some of them, and pork was back, so I smoked shoulder. Still no white meat until maybe Week 8. Everything seems back to normal now, but warning of shortages(ish) are coming. The first problem was people hoarding, not it is not being able to process all the meat due to the amount of people out sick. I’ve read a few things that said we have plenty of meat, it just may not be the cuts (or not cut at all, like whole chickens) that Americans are used it. Of course, prices could always go up; which then makes all the right-wing ‘free-marketers’ want government investigations into ‘gouging’.

Bread – Most of the bread we eat comes from the Publix bakery, which seems to have no issues, at least in our area. Early on, all the sugar bread in the middle isles was gone, as were hamburger/hotdog buns. Maybe Week 3, Aldi had no bread at all, but I think that was a logistical/shipping issue. Bread hasn’t been an issue.

Frozen Fruit/Veggies – When this thing started the Nuggets were eating baby food, which for us means veggies blended up. So, I did hoard a little when it came to frozen veggies (especially whatever the ‘California mix’ was, which was cheap and they liked it) and grabbed a couple of bags of frozen fruit. Aldi always had some, but Publix until week 4 or so, was almost completely out of veggies. Have you ever been to a liberal city in a red state? People there are always quick to smugly point out that they are ‘blueberry in a tomato soup’ or something along those lines. That is kind of how it is where I live, but with it being South/Not South. The northside of this metro is basically Ohio or New Jersey. So, all frozen veggies were out except: butter beans, black eyed peas, okra, cut okra, collards. At least we were set.

Formula – When this started, we were going through about three containers of formula a week, so I’d usually grab four to have a little lead time. Sometimes Aldi only had three, so other weeks I’d get five or six. However, a few weeks in, they put a limit of two. I put four in the buggy anyway. I figured I could explain that I had two babies (show pictures if needed) and they’d understand. They did understand, and were sympathetic, but the limit is actually in the system; they literally could run the extra. It wasn’t too big a deal, I’d just hop back in line and buy the other two. Luckily, we are off formula now.

IMG_20200529_123607_01

Eggs/Milk – Of formula and straight into three to four gallons a milk a week. Luckily, by this transition, there was no more limit (though Aldi, due to how good the price it, usually has a four or six limit, I don’t remember which). There was never a shortage of milk. There was a fun on eggs maybe a week or so after the run on meat. We go through two or thee dozen a week, but never had issues, except the price has almost doubled. Still cheap and easy, though.

Beans/Pasta – This one was another that had a big run, then limits, though some of the limits have now been relaxed or removed. We are usually pretty well stocked with these, especially dry beans. Legumes are a staple for us and we eat them more days than we eat meat, and always use them to supplement meat. Similarly, we make a lot of soups with beans. They are also perfect for the Nuggets. All of our kids started on butter beans and it is one of their favorites (and mine) now. Luckily, they never went out of stock, and my parents grow them, so no issues there. Dry pasta seems to be back, but fresh or specialty is still short. It is more perishable, so I wonder if this is a logistical or change in production focus situation.

That is about it for the weird waves of things being in and out of stock. The Nuggets transitioned to eating solid foods and out of formula since this has started. Sprout went from eating two meal a day at school to all at home and likewise Mrs. MMT went from having business lunches almost every day, to eating them all at home. People often look at me like I am hoard, due to what feeding a family of five three meals a day, seven days a week looks like.

I’ll have only one pack of chicken, but four gallons of milk, three to four dozen eggs, three to four bunches of bananas (breakfast for the Nuggets, good for PB&J for Sprout), three to four bags of grapes (just because Mrs. MMT is crazy), and usually a 10 pound bag of potatoes, among other various things.

I admit I was nervous at first, and did try to load up our freezer. Then for the first maybe four or five weeks, I’d buy thinking in terms of having food for two weeks, but go every week, that way we had some lag time, just in case. I also doubled our supply of dry and canned beans. Things seem generally normal now, and I’m not too worried. I think the food supply has stabilized, and the hoarding/rush buying has stopped. I’m sure there will be blips and other issues over the next few weeks/months. I stopped taking a list around Week 3, because meals would just be whatever they had, but things are normalized enough now, that I’ll probably take one next week.

Somewhat related, the liquor store was always full; despite all the jokes wondering why there was a run on toilet paper but now booze when we were now all stuck with our wife and kids all day long. The clerks would make jokes about needing to see ID, despite the fact that I was wearing a mask. In my ID, I’m clean shaven with also buzzed hair. My hair now is easily over 6 inches long and I have a beard, which I didn’t trim for the first 6 weeks, so I pulled down my mask once and they guy agreed he wouldn’t recognize me either way. One of the Publix people appreciated me being willingly to pull down the mask, he obviously had been fighting too many people about it. Twice at Aldi, I was told they ‘knew’ I was old enough (mid-30’s, so that’s fair), but I asked why. One told me because I laid the wine bottle down on the conveyor belt (instead of up, which falls) and the other because I made a dad joke. I thought that was pretty funny.

20200409_090054

This was before I received any proper masks (I use this for fishing), still used gloves and a grocery list, and, of course, before my hair was too crazy. It was really been an odd time.

Book Review: Future Church

Welcoming the Future Church

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – Easy, short book

Summary
I’m struggling to summarize this book, partly because I didn’t like to very much and I think he missed the mark. His goal to to explain to church leaders how to reach young adults. There is an intro which is about Millennials, then three sections of the book – teach, engage, deploy – each with subchapters, followed by a conclusion.

The teach section is actually fairly interesting and is about how he puts his messages (sermons) together. Engage is more or less a revamped seeker-sensitive plan from the 90’s. Deploy is how he runs his ministry, which is helpful for people involved in church, but again, pretty well follows the ‘attractional’ model of a few decades ago, and sadly never mentions discipleship.

My Thoughts
Pokluda tries to use the subtitle ‘reach, teach, engage’ (this doesn’t match the three section of the book, but like was likely a publishers decision) young adults, but I’m not sure it worked. I suppose, overall, the book is about reaching young adults, as he is a young adult minister or leads this ministry at his church. However, I think it is problematic to use both a generational moniker (Millenials) and to say ‘young adults’. I understand why he did this, but in 10-20 years, the young adults will be a different generation. Also, I don’t see anything unique to Millenials, with the possible exception that we are getting married/having kids later. This is a somewhat interesting issue, driven partly by the unfortunate need that in the modern U.S. economy, a college degree is basically entry level, and partly because the Church spent a whole generation arguing about who should married (whether Christian or not) instead of explaining the meaning and importance of marriage, and finally the skyrocketing divorce rate we observed from our parents (boomers) generation.

Overall, the book missed the mark. I suppose for church leaders of older churches, there could be some useful information, but as I mentioned above, it is mostly ‘attractional’ model church building with the focus on numbers. I find some of interesting, but didn’t realize the book would be so programmatic. I thought the purpose of the book would be different (and this is on me for literally judging the book by it’s cover), focusing on the ‘future’ church in more a ethnic/nationality change. While most of the people on the cover are hipsters, they are fairly diverse. I know the future church (in America, this is already the case worldwide) will be non-white, and first generation Americans, as white America continues to liberalize and leave the church. As I said, that was my mistake, but I was expecting demographic data, not church programming.

I liked ‘Adulting‘, the author’s first book, and Pokluda is a good writer, clear and engaging, and he was some solid thoughts in this book, but I just don’t think it was ready for publication. Or the publishers took his ideas in a different direction. Either way, I don’t see this book as really worth your time.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Addendum – I generally hate any discussions of generational strife. New generations are never as innovate or special as they think, and they are never as bad or naive as the prior generations believe. Their is a painful irony, that the generation that was originally derided as the ‘me’ generation now complains that the generation they raised is selfish (especially despite most research that shows the millenials are more concerned about doing good than other generations).

The generation that invented the word ‘parenting’ mocks us for inventing the word ‘adulting’. The generation that gave us ‘participation trophies’ (which were never for us, we were five, they were for them, a trophy to show off for their good ‘parenting’). They laugh that our generation for paying our own money to take classes on cooking, sewing, budgeting, etc. Why? Because they never taught us, and cut the education budget so that many schools no longer taught Home Ec. Similarly, this book shares the concern that Millennials are knowledgeable about theology and Biblically Illiterate. It is beyond my understanding that this is considered a flaw of the younger generation and not the failure of the ‘parenting’ generation. My five year old knows the Lord’s Prayer and Apostle’s Creed (don’t @ me, I know this doesn’t save her or actually mean she understands anything), things I didn’t know until I was in my 20’s. She calls Sunday ‘Church Day’.  It is my job to make sure she can read and understand the Bible. I can’t fathom blaming her for her lack of knowledge. She may reject the Bible some day, but she is going to know it. If she doesn’t know it, how can that be on her?

Finally, can we stop with ‘authenticy’? Millenials are not special in believing they are authentic. You can read Sex, Death, and Fly-Fishing, by a middle-age guy (at the time) written over 30 years ago, and he talks about the importance of his generation being authentic. I’m drawing a blank, and this is already too long, but there are writers who were young adults in the 1920’s talking about the problem of ‘inauthentic’. I’m sure if you went even further back you’d find more. Anyway, rant against generational theory finished.

Covid Thoughts: Masks

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, what Sundays and at home worship looked like, and about spending time with my daughter (there is also a follow up if you want to hear her playlist). Today, I have a few quick thoughts about wearing masks. This wasn’t originally going to be its own post, but just a bullet point in the miscellaneous posts I’ve had ongoing to be published at the (hopefully near) end. I’m writing this May 22, which is the end of Week 9 of quarantine (as I count it). A few weeks ago, the idea of wearing a mask was fairly common place, but now, almost certainly fomented by Russian bots, it is a divisive issue. As unfortunately often happens, Fox News conspiracies spill over into ‘opinion’ within the church, so that, now, masks have become an point of contention in churches returning to in person service. I’ll come back to that, but first my original masks thoughts, why there is(was) legitimate confusion, why I decided to write more (a terrible article I read), and how I think churches should respond.

Masks are terrible. They are incredible annoying to wear, I have way more respect for the healthcare works and others who have to wear them all day. Around Week 2 of everything the CDC was still saying we didn’t need to wear masks. Their reasoning was based on flu research, and the fact that most people wear them incorrectly, and the concern that wearing a masks would cause you to touch your face more. I was actually discussing this with a neighbor the day before they changed their recommendation (she was thinking of wearing one to the grocery store). The few trips I had made to the store, I just wore gloves, as did most people (though a few wore masks), and we cleaned and wiped down everything we brought into the house.

20200409_090054

However, the next week I followed the revised guidelines to go to the store. Interestingly, they have since stated not to wear gloves (not because they are ineffective, but due to the false sense of security and people are now not washing/cleaning their hands; and touching their face/adjusting their masks with the gloved hands). I was slightly early in adopting wearing one (not yet half the people at the store had them). I didn’t actually have a true masks. I had originally planned to wear the particle masks you might wear when painting or when cutting the grass (I don’t have allergies, but when we are in a drought it gets quite dusty), however we didn’t have any more in the garage and I was certain the hardware store would be out, so I wore the next best thing I had, a fishing buff. It is light and fairly comfortable, making it easy to wear. Here is a picture of me heading to get groceries new the end of Week 3 (I’m hold sanitation wipes and a grocery list).

A week or so later, masks became seemingly ubiquitous, almost everyone at the store had on (which made most people stop wearing gloves). Articles about how to wear them popped up on most news site; informing me that the buff wasn’t a good idea. Homemade masks proliferated, and my work even provided most of us with our own masks. Unfortunately, they were all mediums, which fit perfectly, in some sense, and looked kind of cool (gave me a Sub Zero/Mortal Kombat look), except it was so fitted, that I couldn’t talk. That is more or less fine for running to the store, but was problematic for work. Luckily, Mrs. MMT’s mom randomly decided to send us a few masks she made her self.

meeting

This is a picture of me wearing a masks at a public meeting (held virtually, but there were other people in our conference room). It was a formal meeting, so I’m wearing a jacket, but also the masks. It was incredibly annoying. The meeting last almost four hours, with no break, in which I had to interact, talk, and read out loud, all while wearing this thing. On top of that, I need glasses for distance (such as looking at a screen across the room) and talking fogged them, making them almost useless to wear. This was taken Week 7, in which it was normal to wear these. People had homemade one with fun colors, or that matched their clothes, or (of course) your football team.

That all changed some time last week. It started with an article I saw someone post. This was from a respected Christian site, from a good writer, but it really bothered me and I was frustrated by where this was posted. It started off well enough, as brothers/sisters in Christ, we are going to have some differences in going back to in person church. Is it too soon or too late, or about right? How man people to let in at a time? These are serious issues, not just for church but for life in general. It is a true problem of economics versus public health. For instance, my state was the first and most reckless to open. I thought it was a bad idea, and may well still be, but it has been three weeks now and our hospitalizations/deaths (which have at three to four week lag) have been flat.

But then the article goes on to make an idiotic use of false equivalency, whether or not to wear a mask at church. Unlike the balance of health/economy, there is no balance here. The CDC recommends you should (though the WHO doesn’t recommend universal wearing) and has advice on how to wear and even make them, experts think it is important to do what we can, some even think that if 60% of people did we could end this thing. There is obviously a lot of confusion, especially as recommendations change and new data/studies come out. Even what I linked is about a month old, even more recent studies have shown the importance of wearing a mask, though it might no do a whole lot for you, it is about protecting others. Yet, even that leads to the idea that I protect you, you protect me. In the end, it does do more for you, just not directly. So, sure in some sense, the efficacy could be debated, or how it protects is misunderstood.

That isn’t what wasn’t the reason stated though, there was a quick thought of ‘living in fear.’ As in some people would think those wearing masks are afraid (despite the fact that you would be loving that person by protecting them from you, while they disrespected you and your family by being careless). Then, Mrs. MMT was talking to an old friend, and while this friend is often a walking Fox News talking point, her husband works at a hospital and a close relative has gone in and out of remission with cancer for over a decade. Her friend dropped the ‘living in fear’ line on her. Despite her husband wear masks and protective clothing all day, coming home, undressing in the garage, putting the clothes straight to the wash, and showering. Or the fact that her relative, and occasionally those around her, wear masks after chemo treatments due to her being immune-compromised.

I hopped on the cesspool that is twitter (which I typically just use for book reviews and sports) and found this talking point everywhere, including protesters comparing masks to slavery, rape, and of course Nazi’s. Apparently it is tyranny to not potentially cause people to die. This is really a fascinating and disturbing trend. I don’t crush a six pack then drive 100 miles an hour without a seatbelt because I ‘live in fear’. I didn’t vaccinate my children (even the anti-vaxx people don’t use ‘fear’ nonsense, they just don’t understand/reject science) because I ‘live in fear’. People don’t go through chemo or take medicine or wash their hands because they ‘live in fear’. These are all just practical, common sense ways of living life and protecting yourself and others. Also known as loving your neighbor. Jesus says, go the extra mile if someone ask you to go on and to give someone your coat also if they ask for a shirt. Are we seriously now saying, as Christians, that we won’t wear a piece of cloth on our face for an hour to protect our brothers and sisters and their families?

I wish that were more rhetorical, but the answer is clearly ‘no’. An issue in America is that both liberal and conservative ideologies continually end up with the ‘self’ (the individual) as the most important thing. As Christians we don’t believe this. We should be serving others, thinking of ourselves last. But right now, on my end in the conservative Christian world, we are saying ‘no’, ‘no, my individual rights and freedom and comfort are far more important than your well-being or the care of others’. As always, I’m too long winded and this is longer than I thought, so I’ll wrap up now. I was happy to hear from a few Catholics that I work with that their churches will be requiring masks when they open (could be a diocese thing) and that even my parents’s conservative SBC is asking for masks. I’m still not sure what my church will do, but I know if these are not part of the guidelines, I will not attend.

 

 

 

 

Music Friday: Sprout Edition

Recently, I had a post about Covid Life with my daughter, Sprout, and I told the story wherein she listed her top five play list. So, here it is. I’ll skip Number 1, as it is what she called ‘Frozen songs’. These are obviously the songs from the Frozen movies, which I will not post here because anyone with kids has heard them too much, and I am afraid Disney will sue me. So, Number 2:

Mommy Songs – Mrs. MMT happens to be an award winning singer/songwriter. We listen to her songs sometimes, as well as other independent female artist. Not surprisingly, Sprout is a big fan, and this is my favorite song by Mrs. MMT, so I selected it as representative of Sprout’s ‘radio’.

Number 3:

Fire Songs – These are alternatively called ‘daddy songs’, her favorite, and mine (they’ve been posted multiple times here) is Wolves at the Gate. She calls them ‘fire songs’, due to the use of fire (at least three of their videos alone), which also feature prominently in this video. She has asked me when she can get a ‘ring nose’, as well.

Number 4:

Piano Songs – As mentioned above, Mrs. MMT is a bit of musician, and play the piano. We listen to a good bit of ‘Piano Guys’, so that may be what she is talking about, though we listen to true classical as well. Even more so, she is a big fan of Cello, especially during Christmas music season, so I’m going to go with these guys. Bonus points, some Frozen in there.

Number 5:

Pizza Songs – So, every Friday night for probably about a decade Mrs. MMT and I have had pizza for dinner. First, it was out, then frozen pizzas, then making from scratch. Probably since Sprout has been little, we’ve also listened to our Pandora station of Irish Pub songs, which includes a lot of folk, parody/comedy, and drinking songs. For whatever reason, likely the ease of singing, she has really enjoyed these songs. So much so, that when she was three and in pre-school, the week she was the ‘star-student’ she was able to pick the song of the week, and she chose the one above, from a 90’s Canadian fold band about loggers. These guys seem to be her favorite, and this is the song she knows best, along with ‘No, Neigh, Never’, ‘Good Luck to the Barely Mow’, and ‘Byker Hill’. As she had her whole pre-school class listen to this song, I thought it was best representative.

So, if Sprout could listen to five stations on her radio, this is what they would be. Hope you enjoyed. Should be fun for her to see this when she is older. You always wonder what will remain. Hopefully, at least ‘Frozen’ will be gone.

Covid Thoughts: Time with Sprout

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, what Sundays and at home worship looked like, today I want to note a few things about spending time with my daughter.

Sometimes I catch her dreamin’ and wonder where that little mind meanders. – Little Miss Magic

I remember hearing on a podcast, though I’m not entirely sure which one, but I think it was one of the Financial Independence ones, that roughly half of the hours you will ever spend with your child will happen by age eight (give or take a few years, I don’t remember the exact age). Which sounds wild at first, but it kind of makes sense. Teenagers don’t want to spend time with their parents, then they leave the house, and you have good, quality time after that, but really only a few hours every few months, or less. Of course, infants are just always there, but it isn’t really the best time. Anyway, I tried to find the article or whatever it was they were referencing, but to no avail. Then I found a few articles about naming children and really went down a rabbit hole when I should have been writing this post.

I ramble to bring up this point: I’ve been thinking about that ‘fact/stat’ often, recently. It dawned on me a few weeks ago (maybe Week 3 of Covid Quarantine), that this is probably the most time I will ever spend with Sprout, certainly it is the most time I’ve spent with her so far in her short, little life. As I mentioned in my ‘finding rhythm‘ post, she and I spend about an hour and a half every morning together, just the two of us. We usually walk, somewhere between three and five miles, all over our neighborhood and the trails in the wetlands and parks that it connects to. The trails take us by a creek to a little river, and many of the sidewalks on the larger streets boarder HOA property that has trees we climb.

She has learned how to identify deer (I had her draw some, and it was surprisingly accurate), raccoon, rabbit, and dog tracks; we followed some frog eggs through a few stages of development until the puddle dried up and they all died (that was a little disappointing, I think seeing frogs come out would have blown her mind); she can name about four or five birds (we’ve even been tracking a mama bird, named Gwenivere, build a nest and hopefully we’ll see eggs soon; she is either a mourning dove or a northern mocking bird, I’m leaning towards to latter due to the thrasher tail) and maybe 10 types of shrubs and trees. We’ve also ‘learned’ to use binoculars and maps. The seasons have changed from winter to spring to summer during this as well, so we’ve gone through bare trees on the trails, to everything blooming, to all the leaves being full and green. I think that has been a fun thing for her to track and see.

We’ve seen a surprising number of deer, I think our highest in one day was 11, and for some reason she seems to want to keep a running tally to tell my dad. We’ve seen a few snakes and fish. The other day, she decided to search for snails. She told me she was betting at finding them because she was paying attention. I told her it was because she was closer to the ground. Which, while hilarious, she didn’t understand. I’ve also tried teaching her the different types of animals, such as birds versus mammal (eggs vs. milk, because half my life revolves around trying to find groceries). You forget what things kids don’t know, like when I told her humans were mammals, she asked me what humans were. We’ve also baked a few different kinds of bread and started a garden.

I feel compelled to teach her things, but as a book I recently reviewed points out, play is far more important at this age. I also feel the pressure to make this a fun time, because she is not in school and doesn’t really have anyone else to play with and, as I mentioned above, this will be the most time I ever spend with her. Other times I wonder if she will even remember this time. There are days that I am excited because I don’t know what to do, and other times when I just really don’t want to have the same walk, to see the same things, to play the same games for the fourth day in a row.

Sprout is pretty wild. She is loud and friendly and full of personality. She has been called the ‘mascot’ of our church and I think she knows more people there than I (certainly more know her). Even in school, the other classrooms knew who she was. Most of this is her personality, she (as is apparently common in little girls) talks incessantly. Well, there are some times she isn’t talking, but if she isn’t, it is because she is singing (we were recently down at my parents and during lunch she was eating her sandwich while humming the whole time, my parent were laughing, but I didn’t even think to notice anymore). It is also physical, she is fairly tall for her age, but she also has giant, wavy, blonde hair. It has been mid back since she was about 2.5/3ish, so when you see her from behind, she is 25-33% hair. The combination of this leads to a funny visual as we walk down the sidewalk and so many of the other neighbors out walk, especially, women just look and laugh (even more so if they hear the stories she tells).

So, I don’t really have anything profound or interesting to say about either children or parenthood (both great, though), but in true journal format, I will just list a number of incidents or things she has said that I want recorded for my own enjoyment, and maybe you will like them as well.

First, her little ticks and ways of talking (maybe these are common, but I don’t care):

  • When it rains a good deal, the creek and river run pretty high, which she has concerns will ‘oversplode’.
  • When we wander off into the woods, the says we are going to go ‘splore’ and puts her hand to her head, as if shielding her eyes from the sun, and pans her face, as if spanning the horizon.
  • She merges the words hopefully and actually, and uses them as emphasis or transition words (the way people incorrectly use ‘literally’) and says, ‘hopecually’.
  • Excurses – I will fix these pronunciations, but I do enjoy them now. When she was maybe 3/4 she couldn’t say yellow, it was something like ‘le-to’, but it was cute and we let it go, maybe longer than we should, but corrected it when other kids were confused. 
  • We have been working on her excitability and that things all kids do where their little brains get rolling and their mouths can’t keep up. She’ll get wound up, put her hands up and say, ‘Hold on, let me collect my thoughts’ take a deep breath and then, ‘what I would like to say to you is…’
  • Similarly, a few times when she has started to get an idea, she’ll say, ‘I think I have a thought’
  • Like most children (I assume), she doesn’t quite understand how contractions work. So, she doesn’t know that ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ are similar. It ends up something like this, I will say I don’t want to do something, and she will say, ‘why do you don’t want to do it?’
  • The ‘happy and you know it’ song. For one, she says, ‘if you very want to show it’, but what’s more, she seems to have made up her own verse. At least I’ve never heard it before. I whistle too much, and we do this song as we walk often, so she came up with, ‘if you’re happy and you know it, give a whistle’, then waits for me to make noise, because can’t whistle.

Next, funny stories or other things she has told me:

Most people with small children know they take a very long, long time to tell any story. I like to joke that she can tell me the plot of a 12 minute PJ Masks show in an hour. One of my favorite ones she has told me was about a ‘dream’ she had (she conflates dreams with thoughts/wishes/fantasies/something like daydreaming). It involved a motorcycle that she designed in which she road around with her eponymous doll.

Her motorcycle was pink in the front, blue in the back and had her and her ‘doll’s name’ on either side. Also, the motorcycle had a seat for the doll. It also had doors, and four wheels, and a seat behind them. I explained that she just invented a car, she told me it didn’t have roof; I told her about convertibles. The motorcycle also had a radio that played her favorite songs, which were – Frozen Songs (she also told me there should be an Elsa doll that sings all the songs from both movies; if this doesn’t exist, it is a pretty good idea), ‘Mommy songs’, ‘Fire’ songs, Piano songs, and finally ‘pizza songs’ (these are Irish pub songs, long story). Maybe I’ll make a play list with all these. She started her description of this ‘motorcycle’ right as we left, and had not finished it’s description or features by the time we arrived back home over an hour and half later.

One of our neighbors cut down a nice tree in his front yard, a day later not only did another crew come out to cut another neighbor’s tree, but, as we walked, we saw the same crew cut maybe five other houses’s front yard tree down. She told me they were the bad guys from the The Lorax (book), she couldn’t remember the ‘onceler’. Except they were worse, because the didn’t even make Thneeds.

It has been raining a lot and we walk through the flood plain, so she has been learning about stormwater management and that some of the water becomes what we drink. So, she told us that when she grows up she wants to be a wastewater treatment engineer, make jelly, and be a mom.

I caught her dramatically counting with her hand (think the way refs do during boxing) as we were walking. I figured out later she was practicing holding her breath and was counting.

On one walk she was point a fake baby toy remote at trees, then waving her hand up and pointing somewhere else with the remote. She was pretending to relocate the trees to places she thought would be better.

She also had another similar ‘dream’ about her and her best friend from school, that took a good 30 minutes to tell me. The both had little powerwheels type ‘trucks’ that are the John Deere front load tractors that Lowes sells.  I’m certain she did not actually dream this, but I have no idea how she remembered those things, she saw them probably six or nine months ago.

Which kind of leads to some of the sadder parts. She often talks about her friends. Yesterday she listed off all the people from school she missed and how she wanted to go to their house to play or have them here for a sleepover. She tells me that the sickness makes her sad and that she wants to go back to school. At least a few times a week she asks me when the sickness is going to be gone. I really have no answers for her, I just tell her, ‘hopefully soon, but it’ll probably be a while.’ Schools have been canceled for the rest of the academic year. She is supposed to start Kindergarten in August. I am hopeful she will, but skeptical of what it may look like. Unlikely to be the fun milestone it usually is. So, that is about it. It certainly is an unprecedented time. When I’m stressed, I do try to look on the bright side and think about all the time I have to spend with her right now, all our exploring and experiences, all the conversations, all these moments I have with her, that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ll end with some of her chalk artwork.

 

                 

Lying In Public

I’ve tended to avoid politics recently on this site, especially after Trump’s take over of the Republican Party and a huge portion of American Protestantism. The posts tend to be some of the least read, but take the most time from me. What feedback I do receive is typically negative, people sending me stupid emails like ‘let me rebuke you in love’ then go on to not mention a single thing about what I wrote, or the challenge I received to list one part of the Democratic party’s platform that fits a Christian worldview (despite this person refusing to do the same for the Republican platform). I’m sure I will hear some of those this time (though all feedback is welcome), but I feel compelled to say something about the recent words of a very prominent theologian.

Al Mohler’s recent statement about his decision to vote for Trump in the coming election caught a lot of people by surprise. I was certainly shocked. You can read/watch Mohler’s own thoughts on Trump from 2016, in a piece called Evangelical Support of Trump Destroys Moral Credibility.  In it, he states that Trump is far worse a person than Bill Clinton and that character matters, going as far as saying he would have to pen an apology to Clinton for supporting his impeachment in the 90’s. Well, apparently now something has changed. Many have pointed his son in law now being part of the Trump administration, that would be disheartening, but ‘reasonable’ in some senses, at least. Jonathan Merritt says this is just what Mohler does, follow trends to stay in power. I remain a little skeptical of this, because it doesn’t sound like much that I’ve heard about him. Again, that would at least make a little sense. Mohler goes through a typical list of political items that he says come from his Biblical Worldview, I want to go through each of these, but again the question, has his worldview changed in four years? He says no, it is the Democratic Party platform that changed.  John Fea has some quick thoughts and David French probably has the best articles out there (read it over the rest of this, if you only have time for one).

I’ll give him credit for admitting that Trump is still a terrible person, he hasn’t changed. I do appreciate that honesty. I do find it somewhat ironic that he says he had no problem, no thought given to voting for Reagan in 1980. So, the guy that signed California’s no-fault divorce and legalized abortion. That guy, the first divorced president in U.S. history (Trump is only the second) was the ‘no-thought’ choice over a Sunday School teacher and member of Mohler’s own Southern Baptist Convention, so maybe this shouldn’t be surprising, but I digress. It is only surprising in so far as he was so staunchly against Trump four years ago and his stunning about face, with no real explanation. Except, again, vague notions against the DNC platform and then the infuriating statement that he doesn’t see how anyone with a Christian worldview wouldn’t vote for Trump. So, what are some of the issues.

Abortion 
I’ve written about this multiple times, so I won’t go much into it now, but for 40 years we’ve supposedly tried to overturn Roe, with no success, meanwhile abortions have fallen every year since the 80’s. While I do find it troubling when presidential candidates say that there is no place for pro-life in their party, or when a governor make a bizarre and painfully ironic declaration that elective abortions are ‘life-sustaining‘, I still do not believe Roe is going anywhere, nor do I believe overturning Roe is the most effective way to reduce abortions.

Transgender Revolution
This perhaps includes a few other LGBT issues, perhaps even a reference to gay marriage. I think the gay marriage issue is even more gone than abortion. Much like overturning Roe won’t end abortions, ending gay marriage won’t end, what, homosexual activity, I guess. As it is, less and less people are getting married and the divorce rate remains higher than other countries. I’d rather see us explain the importance and value of marriage than argue about who can or can’t. Lowering the cohabitation and divorce rates seem far more important. I haven’t written much about the Transgender issues, mostly because I struggle to understand them. Mohler talks about them somewhat frequently on his Podcast. I do think there are problems there, but I do not think this is as common or as supported as people seem to believe. I also think some of the ‘movement’ will collapse under the weight of their own logical inconsistency and/or fracture into other identity issues. Maybe, I’m too naive.

Religious Liberty
Granted, this one I do have some concern about, but I don’t actually believe it is split as nicely as ‘R’ for and ‘D’ against. Warren showed her ignorance of church membership make up and Beto took a last ditch effort as his campaign by supporting the end of tax benefits for Biblical based churches. Warren was quickly reminded that minorities, a huge constituency for Democrats, have higher church attendance or more Biblically based (conservative) views than whites. Even Buttigieg said Beto’s idea was dumb, and his campaign was over. It is essentially required that Democrats go to pander at black churches (just as Republicans are required to pander to white celebrity pastors). This alone makes me feel safe against any attacks on religious liberty (of actual religious institutions, I don’t care about bakeries).

Here’s the thing, even if I was scarred, is tying myself to Trump the answer? I don’t remember Paul or Peter ever giving money or using the pulpit to support the Roman emperor in hopes of ending persecution. To be clear, when you go all Karen on the kid at Target because he is required to say ‘Happy Holidays’ and no one supports you, it is because you are a dick, not because you are persecuted. Maybe I’ll write more on this later, but the Bible is filled verses about standing strong in the face of persecution, or rejoicing, or growing, but as far as I know, there is nothing about seeking political power through moral corruption to end your suffering. So, even if we end up with actual issues in my lifetime (which I do not believe will happen), our first call is to persevere, not worship the emperor.

Similarly to our focus on the importance of marriage, maybe if we were known for things like care for the sick, widowed, orphan, and those in prison, or maybe if we did a better job of loving our neighbor, our standing would be higher in society and we’d have the moral esteem to speak on issues. I’m not saying we should abandon the whole gospel for the truncated social gospel as the ‘mainline’ churches did 100 years ago, but it is important to remember that Roman emperors used to be annoyed because they wanted to get rid of us, but the people supported us due to our care for ‘even those not among them’.

Constitutional Interpretation 
He uses the seminary word, hermeneutics, but if you listen to his Podcast, you know he means ‘strict constructionist’ and is/was a big fan of Scalia. I would say this is an idiotic statement, but I believe Molher is quite intelligent, so he must just be disingenuous here. Strict interpretation is fine, tearing it up and starting again is fine, a more reasonable approach (say…amendments) is also fine. What none of them has is a singular Biblical basis. If anything, I’d say his view is the worst as it is dangerous for the president of the flagship seminary of America’s largest denomination to equate the Constitution with something that is perfect and immutable. It is almost blasphemous to me.

 

I think that is generally a summary of his main problems. I don’t really agree with him, as the past thousand words should show. I do think the DNC has a lot of problems, perhaps foremost is their staunch abortion support. It is unfortunate that this has become a litmus tests for their candidates and the main reason I’ll never be a Democrat. However, let’s not pretend the Republican platform is perfect.

I believe in fiscal discipline, something that has far more Biblical support than any of Mohler’s concerns for ‘liberty’ or constitutional issues. St. Ronnie gave us the first peacetime deficit, all so he could give the rich tax breaks (this also required new taxes on social security). Bush tried to tighten things and lost support because of it. Clinton gave us the only surplus in my lifetime. Bush pissed it away. Obama shrunk the deficit for seven years. Trump added a Trillion to it in just two years. (This was all before the very necessary spending to fight Covid that has added to the deficit). I’m alright with minor deficits, maybe 1% of GDP max, but that is outside the scope of this post. I think the reason for them matters as well. The reason for Trump’s Trillions was a tax cut for the rich, during a time of economic expansion, partly paid for through increases on families with children (don’t tell me you gave me a tax break by increasing the standard deduction, which I don’t use, by $12,000 and then removing $25,000 in personal exemptions). Unfortunately, most people struggle with math or are unaware of how taxes work. I tried not to be happy when lower middle and middle income Trump supporters ended up with a huge tax bill after the ‘cut’.

Likewise, the Republican platform just does not care about people or families. They oppose things like sick leave or maternity leave (we are one of about five countries depending on how you count it that does not have this), they have no interest in fixing the fact that we have the most expensive childcare, medical care, and education in the world. That is not a platform I support either. Senate leader McConnell recently fought for no oversight for 7/8 figure bonuses for CEOs of companies getting taxpayer money, but he is opposed to supporting states/cities getting money because some of that money may go to help retired firefighter, teachers, and nurses who worked their whole lives for it.

Finally, as a government employee, I am sick of the years and years I’ve seen Republicans attack, defund, undermine, and destroy public infrastructure, then turn around and say it doesn’t work. They are the proverbial kid on a bike that puts a stick through the spokes of the front wheel while riding, then complains the bike doesn’t work. That is also not a platform I support. I’m not even going to get started on Trump, the man who disbanded the Pandemic Response team, decided not to open enrollment in the ACA so that people who have lost their jobs can get healthcare, and who suggested maybe we could inject bleach (with our doctors) to fight Covid-19. Neither parties have platforms I can support, so I focus on people and if you were trying to make up someone, I’m not sure you could some up with someone as bad as Trump (who has also stated that he has never done anything wrong, so he’s never needed to ask God for forgiveness, and received 81% of the white Evangelical vote).

I could go on with his issues, but I won’t. I just want a competent president, one that understands basic math, science, history, or politics. I’d like one that was at least somewhat moral, a ‘decent’ person by society standards (as a Christian, I don’t believe anybody is ‘good’). We just could not be further than this with Trump. Mohler disagrees, I still don’t buy what he is saying. None of the issues have changed much recently. He is a smart man, so I do not believe he has been tricked, nor do I believe his views have changed. I fear he is more concerned with political power and to state that his view is the only Biblical worldview is him just lying in public.

Edit – I spent the majority of my Christian life in SBC churches, taking classes at SBC seminaries, and even had hopes of one day attending Mohler’s own Southern Seminary for PhD work. I do not currently attend an SBC church, but when the topic of our church joining a denomination comes up, I push for SBC. I am subscribed to Mohler’s podcast and have read many of his articles. However, this is just too much, and if he somehow becomes president of the SBC next year, I think it will permanently damage them. I certainly could not support them the same way.

 

Covid Thoughts: Sundays and At Home Worship

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, which was excluded what Sundays and at home worship looked like, so I’ll do that today.

Before the quarantine, we typically left for church around 9:15 and returned home around noon, ate lunch, then had community group at 1:00, which usually lasted to 3-3:30 depending on how things went. We do a rotation of group, then just the girls, then group, then guys, with the fifth Sunday either being off or a party.

We were one Sunday into Meaning of Marriage, so when our church made the decision to go online for service on March 15, it worked out well, because it was going to be the girls meeting. So, we switched to a video call for the girls, figuring we’d do guys the next week, and then maybe we’d be meeting again in person. That obviously hasn’t happened, as I write this on April 25, tomorrow will be the seventh straight week of not meeting in person. Our new rhythm is rotating girl/guys video call, as I didn’t think we’d be able to really have a discussion as a group over video. This also means the ‘meetings’ have been shorter, usually only about an hour.

So now our days look something like this: sleep as late as the Nuggets will allow us (usually 6:30-7:00), have breakfast and hang out as a family: 9ish Nuggets go down for a nap (though tomorrow we’ll try to push them a little so they will sleep through service), Mrs. MMT and Sprout clean the house while I read or do some other chore; Service is at 10:00 more on that below; 11:00 Nuggets are usually up and service is over, go for a Bottle Walk (in which we’ve run into our pastor a few times, because he wishes he could live in this neighborhood) and then eat lunch before the call at 1:00; Glorious Quiet Time from 2:00 to 3:30, then another Bottle Walk, then just hang out before dinner, family devotional and bedtime.

We have much more time with our immediate family, but no time with our community group or church family (except those that live in this neighborhood).

At home worship has been…interesting. The first Sunday (March 15) did not go as planned. Our church decided to do a Zoom Webinar where the lead pastor would make announcements from his home, our adjunct preacher would give a short message from his home, the Chair of the Elder Board would give the (previously scheduled) update from his home, and then Mrs. MMT was tapped to sing a few songs and play the piano. As we had announcements and the service was only going to be an hour, she was going to sing two songs between announcements and the sermon, and then one at the end while people took communion at home.

We spent almost two hours the day before doing a run through, testing lighting and testing a microphone to see what would pick up the best, and how people could hear both her and the piano well. Then Sunday came. She starts the first song, and about a minute into it, Zoom drops us. We wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t had my phone also running as a participant. Our pastor comes back on to say we’ve been dropped and gets ready to move us to the sermon, but then we are back on. Obviously, just some glitch, so she starts the song again. Then, about a minute into it, Zoom drops us again. Both of our phones are blowing up with texts. Hers was from her friends with words of encouragement such as ‘so sorry, I know how hard you prepped’ or ‘sounded beautiful while it lasted.’ I just had texts from jackasses with things like ‘get it together’ or people who apparently thought we didn’t have internet. Guys versus girls, right?

Anyway, we were on the phone with our lead pastor while the sermon was going on and decided that we’d try again, but with no video, in case it was bandwidth. So, she was still able to sing during communion, and it worked out pretty well. A few people took video and sent it to us. The next week, they decided to stream from our church building, but it was all at once, and the bandwidth couldn’t hold and many people either had a lag or the video dropped. Finally, the follow week (March 29), they split it into to streams at different times and there were no issues.

We’ve not had Sprout in service yet, so our at home worship was the first time she has been with us to sing songs or listen to the sermon. She sings as much as she can, and actually knows some of the hymns. Even if she doesn’t know the song, she tries to sing along because she enjoys it and considers herself a good singer. I find it difficult to sing, one because her cuteness make me laugh, but also Mrs. MMT is a trained singer and can sing out like normal, but be able to lower her volume. I cannot do that, so it is either me singing loudly, over the two of them, or me trying to turn the volume down, but that devolves to something like quite talking (somewhat) in tune. She also likes to sing the harmony, but unfortunately, I often don’t know the melody.

Sprout can’t quite make it through the sermon, despite it being shorted to the 15-20 minute range. So, we’ve given in and allow to her play on a tablet during the sermon, before the last few songs. I actually wish the sermons would be longer, if not back to the full length, but I understand trying to keep the whole service to an hour, plus I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to try to preach to an empty room (or one with four or five people). We don’t even make it through a whole service before we have to get the Nuggets, so I’d miss it either way. We take communion before a final song and the benediction. I know the in home communion is controversial (or even not allowed in some denominations), but our church does it every Sunday, so I appreciate attempting to keep that rhythm. (It feels a little weird opening a bottle of wine before 10:00 A.M., but if the pastor says so…) That is not to say that it is the same. It isn’t, and I miss going to place to worship with other people. I’ve already about worship during separation, while lacking, it is our only option.

Our church has also posted some kids worship videos. It is really geared for just over Sprout’s age, so it doesn’t work very well for us, but I have heard great things from people who have kids that age, that know the songs and movements with most of them. We’ll try them anyway, especially on rainy days when we can’t walk after service. This usually ends up with us watching other songs, typically Wolves at the gate.

              

That is Sprout dancing to one of the songs, in the other picture, we can just barely make out her Ukelele, while she plays along with the song, and, yes, those are maracas she brought so that the Nuggets can also join in the fun.

Sadly, Easter was spent at home. We did have a successful Zoom call with Mrs. MMT’s sister and family, her parents, and grandma. We had a fairly diasterious video call with our community group, which includes 14 adults and seven kids (all under five, with four less than a year old). Then a nice video chat with my parents before watching that opera guy sing from a church in Italy and having a huge Easter lunch.

So, that is about it. Sundays feel empty, compared to how we used to spend them. Worship is falling into place, but also lacking and a reminder of our call to be together, but we continue on and remember the anticipation our coming reunion with our brothers and sisters, and our future hope of worship with all Christians together with Christ, forever.

 

Covid Thoughts: Trying to Find Rhythm

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

So, here we go. I figured I kick off with our attempt to settle into a routine, and what that looks like now(ish).

Most decisions about what work would be like were made around (somewhat ominously) Friday, March 13. Most schools in the area, including out district, were closed for two to three weeks, which would then lead into Spring Break (the first full week in April). The city in which I work has generally poor leadership, especially compared to our peer cities; most of which had announced their decisions to close until either April 4th or 12th. We knew that Mrs. MMT would be working from home, but I went to work each day the following week not knowing every day whether we would be closed that morning, later that day, the next, or not at all. So, we knew Week 1 (March 16) would be a daiseter for Mrs. MMT, who is the Director of Communications for her organization. She would need to lead crisis communication while trying to manager a five year old and two 10 month olds. Including, potentially, as it was still unclear, having me work late (9-10 PM) on Tuesday for a public meeting. We were the last city to postpone such meetings.

As expected, it did not go well for her, so that I ended up taking time off and not working any full days in the office the rest of the week. We did finally close City Hall (for one week) on March 20th. This meant Week 2 (March 23), we’d all be at home. Work for me was fairly light. I had a few emails and phone calls, but I think most clients and others expected we’d all just sit tight for a week or two, so I had the feeling that most people were just holding off. Mrs. MMT’s work continued at a pretty frenzied pace. Most other people I know were generally working from home as best they could, but many people saw it as just some time off, expecting this to be a very short situation.

We would sleep in, generally waking up around 6:30, which is more or less when all the kids started to wake. I would check email and follow-up with anyone as needed around 7 (my usual time to start work anyway). The Nuggets nap from 9-10:30 and 1:30(at least the first two week, now it is 2:00) to 3:30. We also have Sprout do some quiet time in her room during this second nap. During the first nap, I would take Sprout at for a walk in the trails and parks around our neighborhood (there is a floodplain with a creek that leads to a small river that provides us with roughly four miles of trails). I dawned on me about two weeks in, that the hour and a half I spent one on one with her every morning was the most time I’ll ever spend with her, more on that later.

Week 2 somewhat fell into place, with a loose structure, but Week 3 (March 3) was terrible for me. I have often have trouble sleeping, with occasional bouts of insomnia, and it hit me this week, probably due to the lack of structure in the day and the growing fear of the pandemic and how it might affect us. It became nearly impossible not to lay awake a night thinking about these things. It would manifest in one of two ways, either be unable to sleep until 1-2 A.M., or go to sleep but wake up around 3-4, and be unable to go back to sleep. I write more about that later as well.

Week 4 (April 6), we went back to setting an alarm and getting up every morning at 6. I actually got up every morning and went for a run (it was probably in the mid 60s). Unfortunately, our motivation waned the following week  (Week 5, April 13), and we went back to sleep after the alarm. It also decided to drop down to the 40s, so I had not motivation (which was always lacking anway) to run. However, during these two weeks, we kept the general times of me working at 7, 12, quiet time(ish) and 5. As work remained somewhat slow, and I was struggling mentally, I got the idea that I would use quite time to challenge myself with something (maybe more on that later, but includes a few days of studying Biblical Greek). My work load picked up this week, as my office provided me with a laptop that has the applications and software systems I need to do more of my job.

I write this on Friday the 24th of April, the end of Week 6 (April 20). I should hear in the next few hours whether my office will be open on Monday. I anticipate ‘no’, however our Governor has taken the most aggressive ‘re-open’ (whatever that means) stance, including the idiotic and dangerous plan of dine-in restaurants and movie theaters. All this despite the fact that he closed schools for the rest of the year. However, in a surprise move, the Mayor for the city for which I work, was interviewed on CNN and stated disagreement with this opening plan. I do expect to be back in the office in the next few weeks.

Our Saturdays have generally been the same as before, with the exceptions of hanging out with people or going anywhere (expect one park trail, before they closed). Sundays are completely blown up as we are isolated from church and our community group, (more on that later). Other complications and events during this time include doing Good Friday and Easter remotely, and without family; and one of the Nuggets (Hawk) getting an ear infection (his fifth in three months), and despite being prescribed an antibiotic that cost nearly $90, he had another one within five days. So, he has to go to the pediatrician, twice, during a pandemic. We would also see a specialist (ENT) with both Nuggets (where we found Cheeks had some hearing loss) and they both ended up having tubes places, more on that later. We also experienced our first Tornado Warning, and had to get everyone up and downstairs at 1:30 A.M. the morning after Easter. These things do not help with sleep.

This (as always) turned out much longer and more narrative than I expected, so here is our routine for posterity.

6-8:00 A.M. – I wake up, bike/run (or occasionally attempt bodyweight exercises), get dressed, grab coffee and start work. Mrs. MMT has coffee and occasionally a few minutes of quite to herself before checking email on her phone before kids. Sprout and Nuggets usually up around 6:30/45.

8-9:00 – Make sure everyone is fed and dressed. I attempt a few emails (and as of Week 6 some plan reviews) in the kitchen.

9-10:30 – Nuggets take their morning nap, Mrs. MMT works hard (until 10:00, which she has a Zoom staff meeting), Sprout and I head out into the woods.

10:30-11:00 – Sprout and I return and wake up the Nuggets, Mrs. MMT finishes her Zoom, occasionally has a follow up phone call or other work to do, then we head out for a walk.

11-12:00 – Generally the time frame of our walk, typically 45 minutes or more, if we can. The Nuggets have their bottles and Sprout walks/rides a scooter/bike. This is the easier, more enjoyable (also cooler) walk and we shoot for two to three miles. Return, disembark the Nuggets.

12-2:00 – Nuggets and Sprout play and we get everyone fed. I email and cover plan reviews as needed. Mrs. MMT occasionally has to get some work done. We switch off between who is in the kitchen with the kids and who is in the office doing work.

2-3:30 – The Blessed Quiet Time. The Nuggets nap and Sprout goes to her room, where recently she has actually been napping the whole time (she hasn’t napped at home in three years), we are not sure if this is physical tiredness or boredom, though they do take naps in Pre-K. This is the most productive time of work for us.

3:30-4:00 – Similar to the 10:30 timeframe, wrap up work (we usually get off at 4:00 anyway, back in real life), and prep for Bottle Walk Number 2.

4-5:00 – Shorter walk, maybe a mile or mile and a half. Hotter, more crying.

5-6:00 – Kids play, we hopefully finish up the last of the emails, I make dinner.

6-8:00 – Dinner, Nuggets go up 6:30/45 for bath and stories before bed, games (checkers, Shoots/Ladder, Sleeping Queens) with Sprout until she goes up at 7:30ish for stories before bed.

8 – Finally finish up and emails, calls, plan reviews needed that day. Try to get some reading in, and then either watch an hour show or maybe two half hour show (Mrs. MMT’s mom shared their Netflix with us at the start of quarantine). Eventually sleep before starting all over again the next day.

Saturday is essentially the same, except much less (sometimes no) work related activities. Sunday will be a post on a whole post itself.

So, that is it. Routine’s are important, even more so right now, not only for your productivity, but especially for your mental health. Maybe ours will help, or least be somewhat amusing. I’ll have more of my Covid thoughts over the next few weeks. Thanks for playing along.

 

Book Review: Einstein Never Used Flash Cards

Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Moderate (written by academics, but for a popular audience), medium length (250+)

Summary
The basic thesis of the book is essentially the subtitle. Early education has become far too academic, with a focus on memorizing specific subsets of things (which doesn’t show actual knowledge or comprehension) and are not playing enough. The book is generally written about children under five, so the play is more of exploration and learning how things work. They use the example of teaching a kid to memorize 1+2=3, or having them understand, through play, that if they put one block on top of two blocks already stacked, there will now be three blocks stacked.

Chapter One, The Plight of the Modern Parent, lays out these play to memorization changes with fairly stark statistics, including the fact that in 1970 school age children (I believe that refers to 5-10 year olds) spent 40% of their time in play, but 1997 it was less than 25%; even worse 40% of districts no longer have recess. They also compare to how most other countries don’t bother learning to read until second grade or so, yet all (in the comparison) have better literacy rates and higher general levels of understanding.

The remaining chapters, 10 in total, explain how babies and children learn and then go through specific topics. Chapters two through 10 are – Brainchild: How Babies Are Wired to Learn; Playing the Numbers: How Children Learn about Quantity; Language: The Power of Babble; Literacy: Reading Between the Lines; Welcome to Lake Wobegon: The Quest to Define Intelligence; Who Am I? Developing a Sense of Self; Getting to Know You: How Children Develop Social Intelligence; Play: The Crucible of Learning; and The New Formula for Exceptional Parenting (the title is kind of play on the books that are out there, spoiler – they tell you to relax and let your children play and learn on their own, and to stop overscheduling them).

My Thoughts
I bought this book when my daughter was maybe around two years old, but didn’t read it until she had already turned four. I thought because the title referred to flashcards that perhaps the materials would be focused more on five years and older stages of life, but it is actually the opposite, the learning focuses on babies to about five (though some of the fiveish advice would carry you a few more years). So, don’t make my mistake, go ahead and buy this book as early as you can in your child’s life (or pregnancy).

I’ll als say that, at least in some circles, this book may be a bit dated. It was published in 2003 and I think the flashcard and Baby Einstein books (which they debunk, along with having your kids listen to classical music) have all fallen out of fashion. I think older Millennials, like myself, missed the flashcard memorization part. Though I didn’t get to play 40% of the time, I don’t remember using flash cards until I was in high school. This book was written just after I started college, and I wouldn’t have my first child for another decade. It seems the peak affected children were the second wave Millennials and early Gen Z. My daughter starts Kindergarten this year (assuming schools open again) and we certainly have never felt the need to force her to memorize anything and we never bought any kind of flashcards or other ‘learning’ devices. I’ve read maybe six or seven early childhood education books (I understand the irony of claiming not to be worried) and I think we have a basic understanding from the literature that memorization shouldn’t be the focus, so that could be at play. Also, school was always easy for us, so we assume (maybe incorrectly) that it will be for our children as well and we don’t need to worry too much. That aside, most of my friends have small children and I don’t know many that are concerned with most of the issues brought up in this book.

I’d say maybe the exception to that is the overscheduling, which is definitely true with sports. All that to say, while some of the issues in the book (they state the wrote the book to help correct these issues, and it appears to have helped) maybe be less of a concern, but the concepts and studies cited in this book still remain timeless and useful. That was probably the most interesting aspect of the book to me – all the little experiments or tests you can run on your children. As I mentioned, my daughter was already to old for most, but I read this right before my sons were born, so they have been little test subjects. I really wish the book had an appendix that listed the studies and test you can do with your children. You can see in my summary above, the book is laid out by topic, which has a rough chronology, but doesn’t move straight line with growing children.

Overall, this book is great and incredible interesting, especially if you have the opportunity to try out the subject matters they discuss in the book. For anyone interested in early developmental stages of children, or want to understand the basics of learning of your own small children, this book is a must read.

Book Review: Coronavirus and Christ

Book Image

You can get the book here, for free. 

I’m not doing to normal format today, just a quick review of a short book. You can get it free (digitally, at least) from Desiring God. There are multiple formats. I read it on my Kindle, but look at the PDF, ignoring all the notes and copyright/table of contents, you are looking at about 90 pages. Piper breaks the books in to two parts after an intro about what is happening and where we are (or were, the book was written mid March) – The God Who Reigns Over Coronavirus and What is God Doing Through the Coronavirus.

The first part is five short chapters, all on some aspect of God’s sovereignty. This shouldn’t be too surprising coming from Piper. As always, that sovereignty is both comforting and a little scary. We know that God is in control, but often we wish it was us instead. Likewise, there is a strong line of Christ’s Supremacy, and how He should be out focus. This part is saturated with Scripture, especially Paul.

The second part is what he calls ‘paths’, but I find that a little confusing, because they are not exclusive. Either way, the part heading is a little clearer in that these are things that God is/may be doing with Coronavirus. I don’t agree with all them, necessarily, and Piper even points out that people might; however he lays out what he things God is doing, and then explains why. The six ideas are – Picturing Moral Horror, Sending Specific Divine Judgement, Awakening Us for the Second Coming, Realigning Us with the Infinite Worth of Christ, Creating Good Works in Danger, and Loosening the Roots to Reach the Nations.

I found the first and third chapters to be interesting, but not sure it was the strongest case. I had the most disagreement with the second chapter. The second half were the strongest three, especially the calls to action he gives in the final two chapters.  Those are good reminders of our call in life as Christians and how we should be/act different(ly) than society as a whole. Our call to serve and reach people for Christ should be our highest priorities, even in the midst of tragedy.

He ends the book with a short prayer regarding Covid-19. In some ways the book could be a long sermon, especially the way he lays out the foundations of God’s reign over the world, followed by six ways God is acting. It is strongly Biblical and theologically sound. It is free and short, so if it is worth it for most people to read, even if you are one of those people (like me) who are trapped inside with a bunch of kids, while still trying to work remotely. As I mentioned, I don’t necessarily agree completely with all his points (in part two), but all are worth reading and pondering; the reminder of Who reigns (part one) over all is always a good thing to read and remember, especially in a time of great uncertainty, fear, and crisis.