Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Guttural Reaction

Yesterday I felt unwell.

Waking up late, my leisurely morning routine (although, December has thrown this quite out the window....) was discarded for mild chaos and a foregoing of my morning coffee, of which I am unfortunately addicted to, at least I think so. To add to the stress of waking up late, it was Wednesday so I had to be at work by 9AM and this Wednesday was our Christmas party which I had signed up to bring something sweet, my favorite food item to whip up in the kitchen. And, unsurprisingly, I decided to try a new recipe--Chocolate Coffee Cake. Sounds irresistible, right? That's why I picked it! Thankfully, it is also good for you because it involved soaking the whole wheat flour to release all of the nutrients and I substituted half the table sugar for honey and used butter instead of oil (yes, I think butter is good for you...gasp! Ask me later, if you're interested.) Anyway, I am getting off track from my story.

All that to say, there were many obstacles that morning and my routine got thrown off. Miraculously, though, I made it to work and got my cake done in time for our 11AM party. Success!

Oh, the party.

We had planned a potluck brunch and a scrumptiously decadent brunch it was. I indulged unashamedly and uninhibitedly. I tried a little (or lot) of everything. I am really not shy when it comes to food--particularly brunch food. However, in the middle of my meal I was starting to feel ill. A headache was assaulting me across my temples (even though I was drinking coffee to make up for my missed meeting with it earlier). Nausea was beginning to swirl around in my stomach as were other intestinal activities and I was beginning to regret eating so much of my meal. I was still under the impression that the bodily reaction I was having was related to my caffeine dependency and eating a little more than I should have was only contributing to that uneasy feeling in my powerhouse (the term my pilates instructor uses to refer to one's midsection).

When I got home, I scurried the kids off to naptime and then began to check email and some of the blogs I follow. In the process, I happened upon this article updating me on more harmful effects of the plastics that hold so many of our food products. More than just the estrogen mimicking hormones, the toxins in plastic are helping to erode the lining of our intestines. Great.

After reading this article, I was intrigued by the author's comment about "our guts" and followed the link to read about the connections between our gut and our mental and physical well being. In brief, our overall health is related to our gut health which may already be weakened by chemicals leached into foods we are eating. Fascinating and sickening!

All was not lost though because the author gave some easy steps to counter all these attacks to our health and here's a few I plan to implement, slowly but surely.

1) Replacing refined sugars like table sugar with natural ones like Stevia, rapadura, sucanat, or local raw, unfiltered honey
2) Soaking grains to increase nutrient absorption and decrease difficulty digesting them
3) Eliminating unhealthy oils (the yellow ones!)--I plan to begin using unrefined and virgin coconut oil for baking and high heat cooking and EVOO for all other uses, along with butter (I wish I could afford to buy butter pastured!)

After reading all that within hours of my brunch infusion, I had quite the aha! moment and the "duh" moment. I mean, I guess the fact that eating decadent baked goods makes you sick is no secret. However, I learned the why behind it and plan to be a little more judicious in the future.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Just a lil' tip...

There is a haunting phrase that has been following me since I went from just one child to two. Now that I am a mother of three children age 4 and under, this grating phrase is the most common comment I hear when out and about with my beautiful cherubs. In all number of public places I have heard it. It has been uttered in varying tones from disgust to that all too familiar high pitched Texan tone that people use when they say "bless his heart" and really mean, "what a poor stupid soul". Some of you mommies reading this are already seething, knowing fully the provocative and boringly common phrase. For those of you still in the dark, scratching your head and wondering, here it is:

"'ve got your hands full!"

So, what do I say to that? Literally speaking, with just ONE child both of your hands are full. So, are we not to have more than one child and go out in public? How am I to respond to a question like that without correcting them by saying that my hands are FULL of blessing and thus creating an awkward interaction? That's like telling a disgruntled teenage that he/she has a pimple on their nose. Don't do it--it's an obvious statement and is unhelpful to the receiver's state of mind!

Now, I know that my little family has crossed the normal threshold in more ways than one--particularly in how many kids we have and how close they are in age--but it is not like I am Mrs. Duggar--with my 19 kids trailing behind me at the grocery store (and even if I was, so what!!) Although, if you were in my shoes today, you would have thought that was the case. Almost every person who spoke to my children and I made a comment about my full hands and if they didn't say it, they thought it as they shook their head at me or glared in confusion as to my reality of a cartful of children who were less than happy to be confined to a shopping cart. I will admit that my little angels were acting more like little devils so I understand how I was ruining their grocery shopping experience. However, saying "Wow, you've got your hands full" is just a polite, unhelpful, passive aggressive way of telling someone that they have one too many kids. If that's not what the sender means to communicate then I suggest they come up with a better phrase. If engagement with a young mom and her many kids at the grocery store is what is intended, then how about this alternative phrase, "Wow...your children are (insert any positive superlative)!"

Whew! Glad to get that off my chest. To end on a more uplifting note, read over the beautiful, life-giving lyrics to the song copied below:

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o'er life's finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.

All I owe you paid for me
From all I owe I’ve been set free
And all I owe proves your great mercy to me

When I stand before your throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see you as you are
Love you with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.

All I owe you paid for me
From all I owe I’ve been set free
And all I owe proves your great mercy to me

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Savior's side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.

All I owe you paid for me
From all I owe I’ve been set free
And all I owe proves your great mercy to me

All I Owe, by Matthew Smith

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A little conviction for the day...

“The nearest place to the gate of heaven is the throne of the heavenly grace. Much alone, and you will have much assurance; little alone with Jesus, your religion will be shallow, polluted with many doubts and fears, and not sparkling with the joy of the Lord. Since the soul-enriching path of prayer is open to the very weakest saint; since no high attainments are required; since you are not bidden to come because you are an advanced saint, but freely invited if you be a saint at all; see to it, dear reader, that you are often in the way of private devotion. Be much on your knees, for so Elijah drew the rain upon famished Israel’s fields.”

- Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's Time...

Peace out, Summer!

Hello, Fall!!!!

Dear Fall,

There's just something about you that makes me want to fully indulge in your season.

At the first burst of coolness, I am immediately invigorated mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

I have burning desires to bake spiced pumpkin treats, simmer hot cider all day and sip it all evening, and decorate with all the warm, brilliant Autumn colors (ones we hardly see in Texas) found in the wreath above.

There's no season like it.

Welcome and please make yourself at home in Bryan-College Station.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ridiculousness never looked this ridiculous

I received the following in an email today. I read it. Then I promptly went into the backyard where I laughed and cried like a hysterical madman*. After that I came inside to write this blog post. For those of you who might still have some part of your mind committed to the belief that politics can be a serious engagement of the mind and heart regarding the future of a community exercised by thoughtful people committed to free enquiry and dialogue, do not read anything further. Just tell yourself that Santa Claus actually does exist (your parents were lying the SECOND time when they said that he didn't actually exist and tried to take credit for giving you all those presents over the years), keep on believing that the political conversation is serious and worthwhile, and send all of your money to to the political party of your choice or me. If you want to take a step further into the abyss of madness, read the following.

*I didn't actually do this. I wrote it here to communicate a point. I'm writing my memoirs and calling it something like "A Thousand Big Pieces." Anyways, I digress. Finish reading the rest of the post now.

Trey --

In many ways, the fight for health insurance reform comes down to a battle over information. The more people know about how broken the system is and the President's plan to fix it, the more they want change. But there are an awful lot of lies to cut through, and a whole lot of truth to get out.

So today, we're proud to announce a powerful new way for you to help: Organizing for America's Health Reform Video Challenge.

This is your chance -- you ingenious, insightful, funny people out there -- to make a 30-second ad telling the story about why the status quo has got to go, or explaining how the Obama plan will ensure we get the secure, quality care we need without breaking the budget.

The top submissions will be voted on by the public and a panel of experts, with the winning ad aired on national television. This is your opportunity to add your voice and creativity to the debate, get some great exposure for your work, and make a huge difference.

Click here to get started.

No experience is needed -- if you have an idea, we want you to give it a shot. And if you know someone who is especially handy with a camera, please forward this note along right away. Just make sure you submit your ad by October 18th.

Your video could be as simple as you talking straight into the camera, as complex as a full-blown production with a script and special effects, or anything in between.

We're looking for serious videos: You can tell your personal story about how the broken health insurance system has affected you. You can illustrate the big picture about what's wrong now and how the President's plan will help with animations, charts, and facts.

We're looking for funny videos: You can parody those trying to scare us into inaction (between the lying pundits and the insurance company spin doctors, they've given us some good stuff to work with).

And we're looking for new ideas we never would have thought of but we know will blow us all away.

We know that compelling videos can touch people in a way that words alone simply cannot. The messages that regular people put together will make a bigger difference than any false smears or slick ads the other side can dream up. And who knows -- your creative, powerful, or touching video could help tip the balance in favor of health reform.

So go get started today!

I can't wait to see what you come up with,


Natalie Foster
New Media Director

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A nap plus an imagination are like water and oil

Some really wise older parents have referred to the parental role in the first five or six years as being "in the trenches." Warfare terminology. That is EXACTLY how I have been feeling about naptime lately. Every single day I battle with my Ethan. We are two opposing forces and every day one of us wins. Most days, Mommy overcomes and he sacks out for two hours (finally!). Today, I was not the victor. After reading the exchange below, you'll see why.

Me: "Ethan, why are you not taking a nap like I told you to?"
E: "Uh...because I was looking for fishes."
Me: "Why were you looking for fish in your bed?"
E: "Well, I was hungry...and....(takes a deep, excitable breath and hands begin to gesture) I was a tiger and....."
Me: "Sigh."

Usually when I ask him that question he just tells me "I don't know." Today I told him that answer wasn't acceptable. Then he told me about the fishes. Poor guy. He can't turn his brain off. And, he can't write yet to empty out all those fantastic stories he's brewing in that little mind. What a predicament he's in.

Anyone else have a hyper-imaginative child and know how to direct it (at age 4)???

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Their Irresistible Side ...

Be warned, excessive bragging to follow! I only include the bragging, because, well, who wants to hear about potty training failures, toddler tantrums, and preschool chaos?? It's like any meal, we really only care about dessert....wink!

Our E-man is such a little bookworm and as a result, has a fantastic time acting out all the stories he is downloading to his little mind. In case you couldn't figure it out, he is Prince Philip in the picture above, off to rescue his Sleeping Beauty, not a pirate with a superman complex, as the outfit seems to show. We will start doing some learning readiness activities soon and I think he can hardly wait...he is always asking me "Mommy, I am ready for homeschool!"

At 8 weeks of life, our Natty V is getting very plump, as you can see, and looking prettier in pink every day! She also has started smiling and cooing at us. To add a cherry on top of all this sweetness, she has been sleeping through the night (10PM-6AM) for one whole week! This sweet little face is busy stealing hearts in the Arbuckle home. Watch out, you might be next!

Our girls are really warming up to each other, as evidenced by their happy faces. That's about all that can be said about that pair. Wink.

A match made in Heaven. I think it's because they look so much a like. Ethan enjoys talking to Natalie, holding her, kissing her, and taking care of her. Just today he giggled, "Mommy, I just kissed her on her nose." That's a sure sign of his complete infatuation.

Meir is keeping up with her older brother--going on big adventures and imagining strange, new worlds! She is also quite content to be girly--picking which dress to wear each day and making sure that her nails--fingers and toes--are painted. Once dressed, which she wants to do right after waking up in the morning, she runs to find her Daddy to show him "how pretty I am." She has somehow already learned how to flirt and is constantly making eyes at her Daddy. I've said it before...are we in trouble or what?!?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Christopher Hitchens, Stupid Christians, and the Sublime, pt. 3

Inflected Form(s):
sub·lim·er; sub·lim·est
Latin sublimis, literally, high, elevated
circa 1567
1 a: lofty, grand, or exalted in thought, expression, or manner b: of outstanding spiritual, intellectual, or moral worth c: tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality (as of beauty, nobility, or grandeur) or transcendent excellence

After putting myself into a secular, naturalist perspective as much as possible, I tried to conceive of a basis for the sublime (remember: Hitchens did not give one in his work). It seems necessary because it seems that human experience universally includes feelings that touch beyond biochemical explanations. Wanting something to be true does not make it so. Believing something to be true, again, does not make it so. Sensing something to be true, finally, does not make it so. But, can we really be committed to a worldview that excludes on philosophical principle 'transcendent excellence?' Or, in other words, is the worldview put forward by Hitchens and others capable of demonstrating the actual non-existence of qualities such as nobility, true beauty, and glory? No. And further, they do not seem to care to go in that direction. In fact, Hitchens briefly mentions the awe one can experience looking through the Hubble Telescope. Think about it though: can there be a naturalistic explanation that sufficiently provides the breadth and depth necessary for a world that includes that kind of beauty?

Moving beyond the merely natural to the human, I spoke in the previous post of the greatness of the evil of which man is capable. Whether you espouse religion or secularism, that point must be acknowledged. And yet, it seems to me that the secular perspective, by necessity, lessens the depth of the evil. How could it not? We are simply mammals that have evolved to a point of higher intelligence than our predecessors and are accountable to nothing other than the institutions that we ourselves create. What then is evil? What are we really to expect from ourselves and others beyond some use of the rational faculties within ourselves to the ends that seem self-justified? On what basis can we hold each other to any higher standard? And so, wickedness loses some of its edge. And that should be frightening.

This, points to the underlying motive behind every book written, every argument put forward, and every lifestyle approved within this type of thinking: I am not accountable to anyone, and in particular, I am not accountable to some divine lawgiver and judge. I have become convinced that there is no other motive for espousing views of this kind than to free oneself from the sense (to whatever extent this is even possible) of divine accountability.

And just as human evil is watered down, wherever it is not outright approved and applauded, that which is truly 'honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worth of praise' is diminished. Goodness loses its force, its glory, its beauty and becomes trivial. Even when the beautiful is still praised and the honorable is still venerated, it cannot be done so in the way that it deserves. For, again, what is good? What is self-sacrifice? What is love? How can these things exist (which we all universally acclaim) if we are merely the children of primates who were merely one of the eventual products to emerge from the reproduction of single celled organisms?

The secularist perspective must be, in the end, self-contradictory for it wants to affirm that for which it has no philosophical basis.

This does not clear religion of its charges, nor does it excuse the Church, in particular, for what was brought up in the last post. That will be dealt with in what I expect to be the final post of the series.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Christopher Hitchens, Stupid Christians, and the Sublime, pt. 2

Despite the intensity with which some from the atheist proselytizers reject having their worldview described as mainly a negation ('atheism'-means 'no god'), I must say that their arguments rest, from what I have seen, upon attacking what they see as evil as opposed to painting a portrait of what should be instead.

Therefore, the strength of Hitchens' argument consists in his sharp critiques that are too often true, if too limited and unfair at points. So, this post is dedicated to just that: in what ways religion can be said to poison everything. I will follow this up with a later post discussing the sufficiency of this line of thought.

A note of clarification must be issued at the onset: Hitchens, understandably, groups every religious group together in his critique and this will cause members of each separate group to say, "yeah, but our group is different . . ." I think that this grouping actually makes sense in several ways, but will be focusing my attention upon Christianity and how his critique is aimed there specifically.


So, Christianity: is it divine truth that is transforming the world through faith, hope, and love to the glory of God the Father through the Son by the Spirit? Or is it merely one group among many bent upon brutal self-aggrandizement?

It is not difficult to find evidence that supports the latter. And this is particularly poignant when one looks past the usual suspects of televangelists to the individual Christians you personally know. How many of us have known that Christian who is clearly trying to use 'spiritual talk' in order to find a place for himself (or herself) in their social circles? They may be self-righteous or they may simply be annoyingly zealous, but regardless, they come across a bit strong and it seems that it may be more of a show than anything else. And what about the critics of such 'spiritual ones:' "they just take Christianity way too seriously . . . Jesus didn't really mean for us to live like that . . . yeah, but God expects us to take care of ourselves first, etc." If it isn't true such that we really cannot justify giving up all in order to follow Jesus, then how can it really be said to be anything more than one made up system of fear and morality? How many sermons have you heard preached that resemble calls to try harder to be spiritual and moral which could have been preached in a mosque, synagogue, or temple with few changes?

And how many of us have not been hurt by Christians in ways that seem so wildly inconsistent with anything approaching a gospel-transformed life? Does it not seem, at times, that religious types are actually meaner? And how about yourself? Does there seem to be the touch of divine grace upon your life such that you are truly kinder or have you simply adopted a code of ethics that have allowed you to find a comfortable bourgeoisie existence?

These are the questions and points that Hitchens (among many others over the years, of course) hits upon that have to really be engaged even if they are not particularly new.

Personally I have thought deeply about the evidence of grace in my relationships with other Christians, the evidence of grace in my own life, and the evidence of grace in the life of the Church as a whole. And it is the latter that can be the most terrifying to consider if you know history as well as what much of the contemporary Church looks like here in America.

Based upon what I know of the promises of God in the New Testament concerning the Church, I believe that it is safe to say that God's name is so inextricably tied to the Church that if evidence of the divine is completely lacking there then all other arguments (cosmological, teleological, etc) matter not at all. He purchased a people for Himself and because of doctrines concerning issues such as the depravity of man and the efficacy of grace, He must protect it or it will perish, He must beatify it or it will be ugly, He must grow it or it will be stillborn. Ultimately therefore, it is absolutely incumbent upon God to make the Church what He wants it to be. What are we to make of the Church that currently is and of the Church that has been?

We Christians are, in so many countless ways, stupid.

Is there an answer to these questions and a defense for these attacks beyond the obvious one mentioned before that those who are attacking have not really proposed anything credible philosophically themselves?

I believe that there is and part of it has to do with the sublime. Next time . . .

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Christopher Hitchens, Stupid Christians, and the Sublime, pt. 1--an introduction

So, I initiated a sort of thought experiment over the past several weeks where I sought to genuinely understand the worldview, without prejudice, of a man like Christopher Hitchens. In case you don't know of him, check him out here: (also, a youtube preview of a great film/documentary with him and Douglas Wilson). He authored a book that I decided to read this summer provocatively titled, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Here is what I wanted to try and understand from reading his work and trying to enter his world: upon what basis (if any) do men such as Hitchens build a life that includes virtue, beauty, discerning truth from falsity (and error) such that life is worth living?

In other words, I believe that Hitchens, along with his informally associated colleagues such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett, reject the path of nihilism and really believe that a society free of superstition and religion will be qualitatively superior. They seem to believe that they really have something inherently better to offer, thus the books . . . so, what is it? What would the world look like from the vantage point of someone who believes that there is no cosmic design to the universe, no ultimate meaning prescribed for life, and no judgment unto death or life at the conclusion of our time upon this soil?

I didn't want to just read and try to refute line by line. There is a place for that, to be sure, but I wanted to attempt a more philosophically (and spiritually) honest pursuit and see what would be left after everything is shaken (see Hebrews 12:26-28). Though I completed the book a couple of weeks back now, the thoughts have continued to develop (ferment?) and I am just now reaching a place where I believe that I can make something of a genuine response.

I've also been working through a few other works, philosophical, theological, and historical that have contributed providentially to the course my mind has taken. I'll list them tonight as a kind of prior works cited and let it be assumed that I am dependent upon each of them in some ways for whatever is written henceforth.

-Maurice Friedman's Problematic Rebel: Melville, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Camus

-David Bentley Hart's Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth

-Michael Burleigh's Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics from the French Revolution to the Great War

-David Ingram's edited collection, Critical Theory: The Essential Readings

So, if interested, stay tuned . . .

Saturday, July 11, 2009

This Is Our God

“Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen. Your smell has preceded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: ‘I want to see the king.'

Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, ‘Jesus, I come in the name of Jesus.’ At the name of Jesus, as if by magic, the palace comes alive. The guards snap to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on, and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway into the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. ‘Asking in Jesus’ name’ isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. Is it one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.”

—Paul Miller, A Praying Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress 2009), 135

What a great reminder of our human predicament and Christ's overwhelming greatness and glorious work in enduring the Cross and conquering sin and death. Because of Jesus, my prayers, which would otherwise be a revolting stench of rubbish, are a sweet aroma that is deeply enjoyed by the Father in Heaven. What wonderful love is found in Christ alone! Just wanted to share this beautiful description of the beautiful gift we have when Christ dwells in us!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Just stop it, will ya?

"Sports salaries show what we really value"

Could you consider spending your time and money doing something a little more beneficial? Or at least consider, as you proceed to criticize how much money actors, athletes, and the 'fat cats' of Wall Street are paid, that your values are reflected in our economics.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Littlest Arbuckle's Terrific, Overwhelming, Very Good and First Adventure into the World

It was a cool summer morning on Natalie Viann's due date--June 24th--when contractions began that were consistent and significant in length. After an hour or so of unchanged circumstances, I decided to delay going into work, hoping, praying, wishing that these were signals that little Miss Natalie (who in our opinion was already two days late---both Ethan and Meira came two days before their due dates) was excited and ready to meet us face to face.

Alas, after another hour or so there was little change in the intensity of the contractions and I was feeling that even if it was going to be today, it wasn't going to be anytime soon. Little Miss Natalie had already given me a few false starts in the last two or three weeks so I was expecting baby #3 to be unlike any previous labor. So, I went into work. Trey went with me and read outside my office in case we had to make a mad dash home. The hours faded by and the contractions went with them.

Thursday came and went. Few contractions if any graced my bulging belly all day. Then, at 7:30PM they started to return, coming and going at about the same pace as Wednesday until about 1oPM, when they pretty much ceased to exist.

Defeated, I went to bed.

Somewhat elated I awoke at 1AM with more contractions that were on again/off again like a bad high school relationship. I fell asleep and woke up at 6:30AM not able to sleep through the disruptive but seemingly unproductive contractions. These fickle little pains that wrapped themselves around my mid-section continued most of the morning. Having spoken with my midwife, Erin, I knew that she wanted me to call her when my contractions had been consistent for an hour--5 minutes apart and 45 seconds long each. Finally, around 1PM they had met that criteria.

Erin arrived, we checked my status and prepared ourselves for labor to progress. We waited. I folded laundry. We waited. Trey and I threw the frisbee in the backyard "froggie style." (Explanatory note by the editor: this involved squatting and leaping in an attempt to intensify the effect of gravity. Strange, I know, but we were determined that another day would not pass be spent in waiting.) We waited. I made some brownies (good labor fuel). The contractions remained constant but did not increase in intensity, speed, or frequency.

Around 4:30PM we talked through potentially breaking my water since contractions were not slowing and I was already dilated at 6; it seemed that might push me over the edge. Trey and I talked about it, prayed about it and then we just started trying to naturally induce. Feet rubbing. Jumping jacks. Squats. You get the idea. A few rounds of those and I started to feel like the contractions were taking more of my breath away. I asked Erin to "check"my status. I had dilated further! I was ecstatic and extremely chatty! They continued to be more intense like this until about 5:50 when I started to feel the desire to push. So, I hopped on the bed and prepared for the toughest part--delivery. With Trey at my side, blotting my head with a cool rag and encouraging me through every contraction and push, we worked. A painful and fatiguing forty minutes later, Natalie arrived screaming with her eyes wide open and pouting--that little lower lip garnering all the sympathy it could for the entrance she had just made. It was absolutely amazing. This was probably the most challenging and exhausting labor I have had. But, ironically, I have never been so relaxed during labor at the same time. I cannot imagine having spent all that time laboring at the hospital. I would have missed out on the brownies! In seriousness, the LORD knew just the right place for her to be born and perfected our circumstances. He is GOOD!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 1: Some of the Many Faces of Natalie Viann

Daddy and his newest girl.

About an hour old!

Chatting with mom...

Surrendered to sweet sleep!

No pictures, please.

Here she is, folks! We tried to capture some of her personality in just these few pictures in her first hours of life. She is always making little faces--contorting her mouth in all kinds of new dimensions. She especially likes to lick the air. I think that is reminiscent of her feasting on amniotic fluid in utero. Now, it just looks kinda funny.

Enjoy. More to come, of course!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

To Cloth Diaper or Not....

I typically "check in" with the lady who blogs at She is interesting, gifted in domesticity and has free, worthwhile giveaways on her blog. If you not visited her site yet, you definitely, definitely, definitely should. Two days ago, I read or rather viewed this post about cloth diapering. If ever you have been intimidated by the process of cloth diapering, this video will change your perspective and make it seem a lot more friendly and a lot less yucky.

Today, I read this post and my interest in cloth diapering has been further renewed. I can't say for sure that we will be going ahead with this but I do think that I will start making my own wipes solution and I already have a ton of baby washcloths that I NEVER use which could easily be converted into bum wipes.... so how's that for saving money? In fact, with all this attempted potty training we've been doing with Meira, I am thinking maybe we'll just infant potty train little Miss Natalie Viann. The technical term is "Elimination Communication." Then, all three kids will be potty training (technically, Ethan is just "in training" at night so we are third of the way there to the land of the diaper-free!) and we'll be out of diapers in no time! Take that Huggies, Pampers, LUVS, et al! 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Exiled to English

"I was in the People’s Liberation Army in the 1970s, and we soldiers had always been instructed that our principal task was to serve and protect the people. So when the Chinese military turned on the students in Tiananmen Square, it shocked me so much that for weeks I was in a daze.

At the time, I was in the United States, finishing a dissertation in American literature. My plan was to go back to China once it was done. I had a teaching job waiting for me at Shandong University.

After the crackdown, some friends assured me that the Communist Party would admit its mistake within a year. I couldn’t see why they were so optimistic. I also thought it would be foolish to wait passively for historical change. I had to find my own existence, separate from the state power in China.

That was when I started to think about staying in America and writing exclusively in English, even if China was my only subject, even if Chinese was my native tongue. It took me almost a year to decide to follow the road of Conrad and Nabokov and write in a language that was not my own. I knew I might fail. I was also aware that I was forgoing an opportunity: the Chinese language had been so polluted by revolutionary movements and political jargon that there was great room for improvement.

Yet if I wrote in Chinese, my audience would be in China and I would therefore have to publish there and be at the mercy of its censorship. To preserve the integrity of my work, I had no choice but to write in English.

To some Chinese, my choice of English is a kind of betrayal. But loyalty is a two-way street. I feel I have been betrayed by China, which has suppressed its people and made artistic freedom unavailable. I have tried to write honestly about China and preserve its real history. As a result, most of my work cannot be published in China.

I cannot leave behind June 4, 1989, the day that set me on this solitary path. The memory of the bloodshed still rankles, and working in this language has been a struggle. But I remind myself that both Conrad and Nabokov suffered intensely for choosing English — and that literature can transcend language. If my work is good and significant, it should be valuable to the Chinese."

Ha Jin is the author of “A Free Life” and “Waiting.”

Sunday, May 31, 2009

V. Hugo, Social Commentary, and Light

I'm now on my third try getting through Les Miserables and this time is the charm. I'm just not that much of a fiction guy and Hugo loves tangents, which makes his storytelling a bit dense at times. Don't get me wrong: his historical and philosophical asides are usually fascinating (though some of his sentence structures come off a bit trite) but I don't usually like being tied up with a long novel. Anyways, I have made the commitment and am really enjoying it. For those who have read it, I'm in the Saint Denis section right now.

One of the fascinating currents running through this work is his emphasis upon 'light.' It is a meditation for him. If 'the miserables' are his theme, then the ignorance of men's minds and the capacity for wickedness in their hearts is his diagnosis, and the call for light is the counter-theme and prescription. This enables him to bring together genuine sympathy for those who inhabit the underworld of Paris in the nineteenth century while recognizing that criminals are not mere victims. Here is a passage that I just read which I believe speaks profoundly:

     Let us have compassion on the chastened. Who, alas! are we ourselves? who am I who speak to you? who are you who listen to me? whence do we come? . . . The earth is not without resemblance to a jail? Who knows that man is not a prisoner of Divine Justice?

     Look closely into life. It is so constituted that we feel punishment everywhere.

     Are you what is called a fortunate man? Well, you are sad every day. Each day has its great grief or its little care. Yesterday you were trembling for the health of one who is dear to you, to-day you fear for your own; tomorrow it will be an anxiety about money . . . one cloud is dissipated, another gathers. Hardly one day in a hundred of unbroken joy and of unbroken sunshine. And you are of that small number who are fortunate! At to other men, stagnant night is upon them.

     Reflecting minds make little use of this expression: the happy and the unhappy. In this world, the vestibule of another evidently, there is none happy.

     The true division of humanity is this: the luminous and the dark.

     To diminish the number of the dark, to increase the number of the luminous, behold the aim. This is why we cry: education, knowledge! to learn to read is to kindle a fire; every syllable spelled sparkles.

     But he who says light does not necessarily say joy. There is suffering in the light; in excess it burns. Flame is hostile to the wing. To burn and yet to fly, this is the miracle of genius.

     When you know and when you love you shall suffer still. The day dawns in tears. The luminous weep, were it only over the dark.

-V. Hugo, p.854
Though I believe the correlation between light and education is lacking somewhat, I love the distinction he makes among men: those who are in the light, and those who are not. How do we cure the maladies of man? "Cannot the light penetrate these masses? Let us return to that cry: Light! and let us persist in it! Light! light (517)!"

Friday, May 29, 2009

Brief update and video

So I was in London for a week and since getting back have been busy finishing up school stuff before summer vacation begins, thus the absence here. I plan on posting some thoughts on London here soon, but just ran across a video on the blog of a girl who just spent 5 months in Kenya that is worth sharing. Check it out.

Friday, May 8, 2009

As if this was a fair contest . . .

ONE just concluded a contest in which they received essays on the power and value of education. The winner would have their submission included in a book that they are putting together to publicize the needs for education in poverty-stricken areas.

I found out about the contest last Friday around 11 pm. The entries had to be in by midnight. I seized the moment and began planning out my Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

With ferocity and passion I wrote about the need for teachers who would work patiently to inspire their students while giving them the tools necessary to engage their world constructively. I suspected that mine wouldn't be exotic enough. I mean, who cares about the perspective of a second year teacher in Bryan, TX. Sigh.

So, it was not with much shock that I discovered the winner earlier today: Christina Holder, a human rights lawyer working in Zambia. Better credentials much? Yeah . . .

I'm not bitter.

Read her story. What she speaks of in her experience of Zambia is too typical and too foreign to those of us here in the good ole US of A.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Federalism Amendment?

The Wall Street Journal published an article by Randy E. Barnett, law professor at Georgetown, arguing for a Federalism Amendment.

What do you think?

Friday, April 17, 2009

SOS Conference in Austin?

As I was writing the last post, I came across information about the Song of Solomon conferences going on this year. I actually attended one when I was single in college and thought it was very helpful in preparing for marriage. Now that I'm married, I would love to attend with my wife and learn together how to do this marriage thing better. Apparently, Mark Driscoll and his wife will be the main speakers this October in Austin.

Care to join us?

Mark Driscoll stuff (mainly on men and lust)

"My desire as a Christian pastor is to see churches raised up as communities of grace ruled by Jesus and led by his gloriously masculine men who work their jobs, eat their meat, drink their beer, romance their wives, study their Bible, and raise their kids in glory and joy (Jer. 29:4–7;Eccl. 9:7–10)"
-Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle

He wrote a little booklet that a friend of mine had posted on his blog with a hearty recommendation. I just now skimmed through it and believe that it is worth passing on. The booklet is grounded in a biblical understanding of man as the glory of God and as such having a glorious calling to lead, fight, and serve. Remaining enslaved to various forms of sexual lust as a Christian man is simply not an option. There is too much that He has given us to enjoy richly, too much work that He has called us to that desperately needs to be done, and too serious of consequences to play around with sin (of any kind).

I've been reading a lot of Driscoll's stuff lately; it seems that the Lord has really laid a lot upon his heart lately because he has come out with several books that are solidly theological and intensely pastoral. I'm reading through his Vintage Jesus right now and just finished recently Death by Love; he has another one out titled Vintage Church that promises to be a good read as well. If you haven't heard of him, check him out: Mars Hill.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Random Sampling of Arbuckle Kid Cuteness, Silliness, and Weirdness

Belly Kisses
During our daily storytime before naptime, Ethan looked down towards my protruding belly with a soft smile and patted the belly (as so many adults do to pregnant bellies--apparently it is a universal human response without regard for age). Then he leaned over, kissed my belly and told it "I love you" in his sweet, sing song voice. Meira, who lately repeats every word and action of her older brother, also leaned over but with a much quicker, efficient smooch. Perhaps that reveals a little of her hesitation at the impending arrival of another female in the household to steal away Daddy's heart...

My Hungry Princess
At all the times of the day, the little blonde cherub who has stolen her daddy's heart will say to me as an invitation to give her food ,"Mommy, I hungy ALWAYS!" "Always" is capitalized because her tone and enthusiasm quadruple when she gets to that word. She loves to eat but you would never know it based on her dainty little frame.

Tortillas in the Sky
The other night, we decided to go for leisurely stroll around our neighborhood after an early dinner. On the way back to the house, the light of day was growing dim and the sun was showing it's final magnificence in the sky. Trey and I commented on how beautiful it looked. We asked the kids what they thought and Ethan replied, "Yeah, it looks like tortillas in the sky." Ha. Don't ask me for an interpretation. I would have called it something different but his little imaginative eyes saw tortillas--with peanut butter, I would guess. 


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Poll explanation

Help me out here. A student of mine and I were having a friendly little debate and I decided that I needed to poll my "several" (?) readers for their opinions. So, do me a favor and vote.

phillip.: Somaly Mam

Let me recommend a post for you to read today. Read the post, check out the book, take a look at the organization. Don't turn a blind eye.

phillip.: Somaly Mam

Monday, April 6, 2009

When blogging is cruel and unusual . . .

. . . but also, painfully funny--thanks Matt for this link.

I don't know if I can even laugh at this . . . but my wife sure did!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Inestimable Boris Johnson

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, puts a plug in for memorizing poetry. I read much of this article today to my juniors in an attempt to convince them that the time required to memorizing T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" is worthwhile.

My only addition would be to include a commitment to memorizing passages from the Bible as their versatility, beauty, and power cannot be matched.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back from our hiatus

The wife and I took a trip last week to Boston and DC. It was my spring break and so we dropped the kids off with the grandparents (many thanks to the Chanlattes and the Arbuckles) and headed east. Thus the absence in posting, publishing  comments, and responding to Matt Lee's slanderous attacks on a Mr. Alexander Hamilton . . .

Anyways, here's a few shots:


A shot of the Boston Public gardens. I always love parks in the middle of cities.

Nice shot of us at the harbor.

Kyr's hair attacking me at the harbor.

Working the sass.

Uh, Boston Harbor part 3?


Kyr's showing all of DC that she is indeed pregnant, or at least everyone who was in the lobby area of the National Gallery of Art last Wednesday.

Poor Vincent and poor Trey--his photographer was having a hard time seeing his vision much as Europe failed to appreciate the genius that was Van Gogh.

Beautiful piece by Monet on display at the National Gallery.

Supreme Court--enough said.

Washington Monument at sunset--
would have turned out better had our camera not decided to start being stupid.

Great trip. Some fantastic food (and some mediocre food--we don't recommend Bertucci's, but we do recommend Legal Seafood). Good times.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trey's Intuition

Finally, four weeks overdue, we have found out what Trey always knew: our third child will be our second DAUGHTER! That's right, there's another pink stink in my tummy! 

Trey has been right EVERY time. He even bet me a trip to Hawaii right before the ultrasound with Meira. If we keep having kids, I am going to skip the ultrasound next time. It's basically useless when it comes to finding out the gender. I never know and Trey always does. 

Here's hoping this girl is brunette! 

Now...what to name her? Eeek!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What do you do

When nine year olds get impregnated by their abusive step-father?

Is there an absolute ruling here or are considerations taken in due to her age, size, and the likelihood of the twins even surviving?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The call has been raised


Easterly on Individualism and Prosperity

The question: Do cultural values have any effect upon the prosperity that can be attained and enjoyed by a geo-political group?

Some of the latest economic research suggests that it does. Here's William Easterly's blog for details, albeit 'oversimplified' (his word, not mine).

Very interesting.

Priorities in Darfur

Justice (called for by Desmond Tutu) or Peace (called for by Franklin Graham)?

Interesting pair of voices. I have to wonder how Graham got selected . . .

Though I can understand the perspective offered by Graham and fully recognize the pragmatism that has to largely define political processes, I believe that accountability in government is essential and that to permit a war criminal to retain his power because he is sometimes willing to listen to and cooperate with some outsiders will set a horrible precedent.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"I don't know anything about happiness"

"Nadia, 17, who has been living in Akrami's long-term shelter since 2007, recounted that to avenge a dispute he had with her father, her husband cut off her nose and an ear while she was sleeping. She has undergone six operations and needs more, Akrami said."

-IHT article on women's rights and traditional culture in Afghanistan

Monday, March 2, 2009

N.T. Wright on Resurrection => Holiness

"It isn't the case that Christian ethics consists of a few odd regulations and restrictions that Christians are supposed to follow while still living in exactly the same world as everyone else, just as it isn't the case that the resurrection of Jesus was simply a very strange miracle within the world of old creation. The resurrection was the full bursting in to this world of the life of God's new creation; Christian ethics is the lifestyle that celebrates and embodies that new creation. Living out a life of Christian holiness makes sense, perfect sense within God's new world, the world into which we are brought at baptism, the world where we are nourished by the Eucharist. Of course, if you try to live a Christian lifestyle outside this framework, you will find it as difficult, indeed nonsensical, as it would be for an orchestral perfomer to play his or her part separated from the rest of the players amid the crashes and metallic screeching of an automobile factory."

Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 284-5

Can we think of living a holy life in these terms? It is a celebration of that fact that new creation has begun; it is not a question of mustering up our moral fiber or straining towards a strange blend of nirvana and sainthood. Living a holy life is a celebration and an embodiment of the new creation wrought by the resurrection of Jesus. In other words, it is a privilege to live so. But further, it is actually a way to anticipate the coming day when all will be made right and peace, righteousness, love, beauty, and justice will reign. To live in sin is not only a burden and bondage for the Christian. To live in sin is to fail to believe that everything really has changed. Living lives of isolation due to secret lusts, hatred, envy, self-love is nothing short of tragically ridiculous. We have been given the downpayment that God will fix everything. Why live according to the broken system of this world any longer? Why follow the urgings of the flesh for gratification? Why yield to the temptations offered all around us? These things no longer have any power because Jesus is currently reigning and we can participate in that reign by living lifes of holiness.

Somehow, mysteriously (and at times, infinitely frustratingly) these lives of holiness get worked out through the relationships of our heavenly family where immaturity and misunderstanding are too often the norm. But it is there that we celebrate the sacraments. It is there that we remind ourselves of our future hope. It is there that we worship the reigning God together. And it is there that we learn how to love the unlovely.