29 September 2010

Elmo’s World

It’s named after the red one, but the fish is really the warden. Her insatiable lust for knowing more, more, more, entraps us all. We are her puppets, performing for her silent, empty eyes.

We’re not sure how we got here, in this closed world of garish colors and ever-louder music, where the Noodle desperately cavorts for the amusement of the Voices in his empty cage. Where the giggles of the red one punctuate every sentence. He giggles when he’s nervous, of course, which is all the time. For if he displeases the Dorothy, unimaginable pain results.

No one knows when the revolution happened, when her mind grew impossibly large, when just a look cowed us all. But we’ve been here a long time. We can see the door, but her power is such that we cannot walk through it.

We bring her offerings, the Red One and the Noodle and the weirdly alive Computer and Drawer. Video clips of whatever subject her endless curiosity settles on. Puppets and people and cartoons, all the same to her. Those allowed to come and go look back fearfully as the door closes behind them. They would like to help, but her thrall extends to them, too. She calls them into existence, and when she is done, they disappear into the blue void outside the door.

For some reason, she has settled on the Red One as her translator and key henchman. He keeps the rest in line, brutally if necessary, but he is the most frightened of all.

And so we continue in this strange half-life, collecting knowledge for this creature who cannot leave her bowl. We are her collection, marionettes dancing and leaping for her pleasure, ignoring the encroaching fire, staving off destruction twenty minutes at a time.

10 September 2010

Rambling Around the Big Big House

So, I bet you haven’t heard about this guy in Florida who says he’s going to burn the Q’uran? Oh, you have? And you’re sick of hearing about it? Yeah, so am I.

But there’s this mosque gonna be built at Ground Zero, well, actually several blocks from Ground Zero, and how dare they build a mosque right there…in *our* country, a country founded on freedom of religion…hmm. oh, sick of that, too?

Yeah, me too. But I’m still thinking about it. Mostly because the people involved in both these issues are parts of groups I identify with. The guy in Florida is actually a pastor of a (ahem, self-identified) Christian church. And the rabble-rousers about the mosque are mostly political conservatives and also (a good many, at least) self-identified Christians.

It makes me mad. And sad, as well. That these people sincerely think that what they are doing is right, even holy. How did their religion become so small, so pinched with fear?

Because their religion is not mine. The Jesus I read about talked to everyone. The Jesus I know had harsher words for Pharisees--those self-proclaimed experts on God--than he did for prostitutes, for cheating tax collectors, for Samaritans, whom his countryman thought of as barely human.

At least a decade ago, I read Joshua by Joseph Girzone. It’s a parable about what might happen if Jesus moved in next door, into small-town America. I’ve always remembered “Joshua” musing that modern-day Jews were more open and acceptant than the Christians down the street. Basically, the Pharisees had moved into the Christian church. At the time, I thought it a bold statement. But now I think Girzone wasn’t wrong. I don’t know much about Judaism today, but unfortunately I know all too much about the Pharisee-flavored Christianity that draws (or invites?) media attention.

If all I knew about Christians came from the news, I’d stay the heck away from anything billing itself as Christian.

(Of course, if all I knew about Islam came from the news…)

More than one person I’ve known over the years has said something along the lines of “The roof would fall in if I went to church.” Yeah, it’s kinda funny. But also sad. Why do people feel that way? Is it because of what they think of God? Or is it because of what they’ve experienced from Christians?

I’m a Lutheran. Our buzzword is grace. And grace is what’s needed. Now, in the situations in the news, in our everyday lives. Not just “tolerance.” Grace. Belief that that person over there, who looks and talks and believes so differently from us, is beloved of God.

So, here. This song, an old one from Audio Adrenaline, a now-defunct Christian rock band, has always made me smile. Because THIS is what Christianity should be about. Expansive. Hospitable. Joyful. Come, hang out with us at Dad’s house. Food, drink, football, love, and care. It’s an invitation, not a summons. No exclusions. Everyone welcome. No book burnings allowed.

(P.S. I couldn’t find the official video to embed, but you can find it here.)

12 July 2010

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

An “issue” we are perpetually working on with Katrina is her frequent complaining. I have noticed, however, that sometimes she looks completely surprised when hubby or I get annoyed with her comments. She denies that whatever she said was complaining.

I’m beginning to think that some of her complaining is just her noticing details and offering her commentary. Case in point: look at the picture below. It’s from the Blendy Pens kit she received from a friend for her birthday. She felt it was good enough to post on our kitchen bulletin board.

Yesterday evening, though, Katrina told me that there was something wrong with the picture. See if you can guess what it is. (answer below)


Did you see it? The error? No?

There are not enough stripes in the rainbow. Katrina noted that there should be one more stripe. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue…and purple. “I couldn’t color the purple stripe, Mama, because they didn’t put enough stripes on the rainbow. See?”

The kid is right. Although, to be totally technical about it, there should be two more stripes (ROY G BIV, right? I have no idea where she gets her need to correct small details, though ;) ).

Should I call the Blendy Pen people and point out their grave error?

08 July 2010

The Long Walk Home

Now that the weather has finally gotten nice, we’re walking to school more often. I put Annika in the stroller, and Katrina either walks or rides her scooter.

It takes about 15 minutes.

About halfway to school, Annika turns around in her stroller and glares at me. “WALK! WALK!” she demands. “Not now,” I reply. “You can walk after we drop Katrina off at school.”

Kisses and hugs, and Katrina runs onto the school playground. “WALK!”

“OK, let’s walk.” I lift Annika out of the stroller, and we walk home.

It takes about an hour.

Come, “walk” with us.





The first “WOCK!” stop. Gravel is like treasure, and our route home provides enough for the greediest of pirates.


See that wall there? The dirt is Annika eye level, perfect for digging through and finding little bugs. And cigarette butts.




We pass this trash can every single day. And every single day she says “TWASH!” and leans over and looks into it. I know! So exciting! Who knows what will be in it today!


Every so often she takes off running, and I am hard-pressed to keep up with the sudden speed. I aim to keep me or the empty stroller between her and the very busy street to our left. Most of the time I succeed.

034  “UP!” If we time it right, we pass by the train crossing just as the morning train comes in. She is fascinated by the gates going up and down. She points and says “UP” whenever we pass this intersection, whether the train’s there or not.


Right in front of her is a beautiful planter with blooming flowers. The gravel is more interesting.


This day she brought two of her purses (BAG! PURR!)with her. So the gravel goes in her purse. And out again. And in. You get the idea.038

She hears the “ding-ding-ding” of the train crossing gate behind us.


“Here, Annika, let’s go look at the train…oh. A manhole cover. Well. Train can’t compete with sticking your fingers in the hole of the manhole cover.”




Ooo! Dirt!




“SIT!” OK, I lie. Her “S” often sounds like “SH”. She says “SHIT!” a LOT.


OK, Annika, let’s go.” “NO! SHIT!”

You think you’re going to make it home in an hour? Yeah, right, Mom.


Checking her inventory. Or putting a leaf in, I can’t tell which.


I wonder if blue walls feel different than other colors of walls. Hmmmm…




“CAAAAH! AUTO! CAH! AUTO!” (“Auto” is German for car and is pronounced more like “OWTOE”)




“One, two, free, THUMP!” (jump)




More gravel. Coolest Walk EVAH.


Who needs pretty scenery when you’ve got gravel to play with?060

061  And even an interesting place to put it?




And then there’s the weighing station, with a whole new surface to walk on!




Ooh, a new place to put rocks!


And…take them out again.


Hmmm, maybe this thing will open today. It didn’t yesterday, or the day before, but maybe today.075

The old curb-road up-and-down walking trick. Fun for all ages.



Well, what do you know? More WOCKS!


Can I squeeze through here? I’d really like go over this wall head first, but Mama keeps holding me back.088

S’cuse me, must make a call.


Oh, yeah? Really? Hey, I have to go. I see more rocks I must examine. Yeah. Yeah. Ok, bye.




Finally at our street. She decides she needs one purse on each arm.



More up and down.


“HI, YA-YA! Hi, YA-YA! Hi, YA-YA!” (Ya-ya is her rendition of the neighbor boy’s name. Note that Ya-ya was nowhere in sight. She just feels the need to hail the house every time we pass by.)


Also, Ya-ya has WHITE rocks. Must be examined Every Time.


We dropped Katrina off at about 8:40 am. We walk into the house at about 9:45.




Sure, baby. Here, watch Elmo. Mama needs a rest.