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During the course of the past seven years, my wife, Erika, and I (along with our kids) have made certain sacrifices in order that I might pursue full time ministry in a local church setting. As we have counted the cost of this life change, we have been, for the most part, happy – and, we are incredibly grateful. I work from home and take care of the kids and dogs, while Erika excels at her work as a Process Improvement Consultant at Group Health. I stay at home and my wife has a career outside of the house (where she makes way more money than the current zero dollars an hour I get paid for planting a church). There, I said it. That took some guts – cuz, I’m actually more than a little afraid that Mark Driscoll and his wife are going to storm my front door and Mark will scream “Infidel!!!” at me as his wife kicks my ass. But, I digress.

This familial arrangement of ours has one incredible drawback: I am in charge of dinner. The problem? I hate to cook. This problem is compounded by the facts that my wife loves to cook and my kids hate all food. Plus, I have the nutritional intelligence of a public school lunch lady (insert comment about pizza being a vegetable here). But, alas, Erika loves her work and she is incredibly gifted for this specific type of work and there is no way in hell she is going to quit. So, for the foreseeable future, I am in charge of dinner. And, I hate to cook.

that burger is bigger than his mouth!

Last night, I outdid my self. Feeling incredibly ambitious and energetic, I attempted to make a “complete” meal. By “complete,” I mean it consists of at least three items and one or more of them is a vegetable-like substance. Not only did I pursue the ever allusive “complete” meal, but I also tried to make it healthy. I passed on the frozen burger patties from Costco and made my own turkey burgers – complete with oats, raw egg, and seasoning. And, ya know, what? That meat tasted DAMN good. However…

My kids have gotten into that Food Network show Chopped! with Ted Allen. Andddd, cue Ione!

Ione: “Chef Jim. What have you made for us tonight?”

Me: “Turkey burgers, french fries, and corn.”

Erika: “Judges, what do you think of Chef Jim’s dish?”

Thelonious: “Chef Jim, I can feel the oats in my burger. And, it’s way too big. I can’t get my mouth around it.”

Ione: “Chef Jim, the french fries are nice in the middle, but the ends are a bit too… crispy. My burger is over done on the bottom. The “carmelization” is gross.”

Erika: “Judges, what do you like about Chef Jim’s dish?”

Ione: “Chef Jim, the burger is seasoned very well! It’s delicious!”

Thelonious: “Chef Jim, the burger is very moist and seasoned very well. But, I can feel the oats in my mouth.”

At this point, Ione took a commercial break. Then, Thelonious covered his plate with a napkin and asked rhetorically, “Who’s dish is on the chopping block?!?!… Chef Jim, you have been chopped!”

Always the optimist, Erika asked me what I learned from tonight’s meal.

  1. It is not possible to have all items in a complete meal be the same temperature at the same time. (Personally, I don’t mind cold corn, lukewarm fries, and scalding hot burgers)
  2. Johnny’s Seasoning Salt contains no MSG and kids love it.
  3. 1/2 pound burgers are way too big for most humans, especially children (unless you are Ione who ate the whole thing).
  4. I hate to cook.

After many months away from “space monkey manifesto”, I am making my triumphant return. In my mind, this is accompanied by the Queen classic… “FLASH! AwwwAW! Saviour of the uniVERSE!” Why have I chosen this day to rekindle your love of my written word? One word for ya: It’s summer vacation.

It’s 3:48 pm on the first day of summer vacation and Ione is already thrashing on the floor, crying out in a pathetic little whine, “but, there’s nothing to doooooooo…” Thelonious has already been victim to several time outs as he learns the meaning of the words “respect” and “antagonize.” However, I am determined, I will stay resolute. My children will learn how to entertain themselves this summer – even if it kills all three of us.

To help the Fox progeny learn this valuable lesson, we took a trip to Target to get Wham-O brand TracBall and a big bouncy ball. While we were out, we stopped by Petsmart (there was an argument: is it “pet smart” or “pet’s mart”?!?!?) to price Budgies. In a moment of weakness, brought on by the ridiculously low P.E.T.Club member prices, I let Thelonious buy a parakeet.

As I sat down to write this post, I felt a warm breeze against my ankles. Actually, not warm… hot! “Why is the thermostat set to 82?!?!?” “Dad, the book says it needs to be between 75 and 85 degrees for my parakeet!”

Ione just threw a note at me from the Creation Station. It is written on pink, heart shaped stationary, placed in a matching pink envelope and sealed. The note reads, “I need mu suitcase and my sleeping bag Because there’s nothing else to do.”

I think I better go.

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In honor of the oppressed who gained some level of voice and empowerment in last night’s election, I decided to wear my Clash “Know Your Rights” t-shirt today. Ione and I were brushing our teeth (actually, I was brushing my teeth and she was just hanging out on the toilet) when she saw my shirt and asked, “Daddy, does your shirt say ‘now your rights’?”

“No, sweetie, it says Know. Know your rights.”

“But, daddy, you’re a left.”

Speaking of rights, this morning I came to the realization that I don’t have to be friends with anyone – on facebook that is. See, I’ve been getting riled up about what some people have entered as their “status.” I rile easy, and I de-rile with much work over a long period of time. So, avoiding the initial riling is important for my spiritual health and well being (not to mention the class project due tomorrow). After my blood boiled over one particularly shameful jingoistic “status” I read this morning, I was prepared to explode – figuratively and literally. And then, it occurred to me. I do not have to be facebook friends with individuals who express their vitriolic fear through jackassery. So, I deleted them and feel much better.

Speaking of jackassery, for many years I thought that word had been invented by my friend, Bill Power. Just a few years ago, I discovered it is a real word! I read it in a scholarly theological work on sin by Cornelius Plantinga. Who knew?

Speaking of Plantinga, he understands sin as the lack or absence of shalom (or, “the way things God intended them to be”). I think in last night’s election, a little bit of shalom was restored and the kingdom of God was made visible.

“No, Ione. Eggos do not have crusts. Ione, please keep your Eggo crusts on your plate.”

“My name is donut!

Apparently, I have a deadly infection of dog butt and slobber coursing through my veins at this very moment. I just wanna warn you, this is going to be a long post. It’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote and a lot has happened. I’ve got enough material for a week’s worth of blogs, but why tease? I’ll just give you everything I’ve got and let you sort it out.

On Saturday, I inadvertently stepped on Momo’s giant plastic chew bone. The plastic (sharpened by his constant gnawing) punctured my skin. Today, my foot is red and swollen and I can barely stand on it. Why? Dog licks butt. Dog slobbers on toy. Toy breaks skin. Dog butt slobber enters blood stream. Thanks, Momo. I love you, too.

For the second time during his brief life, my son has decided to “grow his hair out.” Through long hours of observation and experimentation, I have been able to determine that adolescent attitude in males of the species is directly related to the length of the hair. After snottily declaring that reading is “soooo lame!” and hurling a book across the room, I told him that if he didn’t change his attitude I would shave his head in his sleep. Last year he cut his hair once he discovered that after a certain length, frequent hair washing is required. Having long “stoner” bangs isn’t worth three showers a week, I guess.

It took me 13 minutes this morning to convince Ione that she really wasn’t allowed to wear a plastic dog nose at school. We compromised and she simply wore it from the car into her classroom so she could show her friend Skye. On the way in, a little boy sidled up next to Ione. “Hey, Donut.” “Hey, Dustin.” In her classroom, papers and art projects by the kids line the walls. Each one has a sloppily printed name in kindergartner style. Emma. Kate. Isaac. Donut. Her teacher actually said to me the other day, “I’m a little worried. She signs everything Donut. The kids are starting to call her Donut. I am calling her Donut. I’m afraid it’s going to stick!” I looked her in the eye and said, “Lady… nothing would make her happier.” I think her great grandfather, the carnival high dive artist, would be proud: “Come see Donut, the dog faced girl.”

I planned my first retreat – the 2008 VCC Men’s Retreat featuring David Ruis. It was a ton of fun and a huge success. We had meatballs, cheese ball, and beer. Joel Bratt did all the work and I got all the credit. I think I might be a natural at this pastor gig.

I don’t know what Erika has been doing lately; but, she is severely bruised. I worry about her.

I started my Saturday morning by doing some dishes. I came a cross a pink plastic bowl filled with ice. “This is strange,” I thought. I began melting the ice, and there, tucked neatly in the middle of an icy grave was some sort of fruit. It looked like a huge green olive, but lo and behold! It was a kumquat – the one Ione had tucked in her pocket during an evening walk just days ago. I went to the freezer, and what did I find? Dozens of little plastic bowls. It was like an episode of the X-Files. All the bowls were filled precisely 2/3 of the way with water, then frozen. Floating motionlessly in each cryogenic chamber was an item that Ione had liberated from its original resting place.

This one contains a few berries, nothing to worry about. A couple of pebbles in the dish labeled X11. Leaves and three rolly-polly bugs in the yellow bowl – a little morbid, but no need to book an appointment with the therapist.

Apparently, Ione is enjoying her childhood so much that she is preserving some of it for later in life. Perhaps that frozen chunk of donut will come in handy during her early 30’s.

“I don’t like this park. It’s scary!”
“What’s scary, sweetie? The jungle gym, or the other kids?”
“There’s too many kids!”

So, Ione and I spent the afternoon sitting on a park bench, talking with the other stay-at-home moms, and watching her future classmates play on the coolest jungle gym I have ever seen. For the last week, she has been so excited about going to this park playdate to meet some of the other new kindergartners she’ll be in class with this Fall. Or, I should say, she was excited – all the way up until we pulled into the parking lot and she spied the clamoring hordes.

She wilted.

But, hell! I don’t blame her. I was scared outta my mind, too! But, knowing that she can smell anxiety and unease, I positive-se;f-talked myself into an extroverted frenzy. After a little pep talk from “joely” , I really thought she and I were going to be ok at this playdate. I even had the hope that she might leave with a new little friend. But, alas, it appears as if 5 year olds can be just as intimidating as their smiling, friendly, Christian moms. Ohhhh, Ione. What genetics have I doomed you with?

So, we spent 60 minutes or so on the bench. And, one by one, the moms would come over and introduce themselves and strike up a conversation. they were all so incredibly nice – and so supportive and respectful of Ione’s fear of new people. Each mother, in turn, would bring their child over for introductions. Then, a short conversation followed by, “oh, ‘child x’ needs to go potty. We’ll be back in a minute.” Then, the next set would come over. It was very sweet. Everything except for the fact that I am very uncomfortable with the word “potty.” I have never used it and never will. I always swore I would ask my kids, “do you need to take a piss?” before I would invite them “to go potty.” I know. It’s weird. Welcome to my world.

Ione hung in their and eventually played on the jungle gym – definitely not withthe other kids, but at least she was near them. As we got in the van, I stopped. I turned around and looked that lil monkey right in the eye. And, I said, “I am SO proud of you. You were scared and you hung in there. You were so polite to the other moms and children. I know you were anxious and scared, but you hung in there. You are an amazing little girl.”

The thing I didn’t tell her is that when I was her age, I would have gone mute and curled up into a fetal position, paralyzed with fear, until my mom took me away from all those scary people invading my private little world. Thank God for Erika’s DNA.

When I wake up in the morning my primary objective is getting a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, I usually have to delay that gratification in order to make room for said cup of coffee by emptying my bladder. This morning was no different.

Why didn’t I just lock the door?

I had barely gotten in position and started my engines when the sound of little feet came thundering down the hall. Before I could react, she was there. Ione. Wearing only her underwear. The two handed “maybe-I-can-physically-hold-this-stuff-in” crotch grab. Jumping up and down. Squealing. “I gotta go pee! I’ve been holding it alllll night!”

“Ummmm. Why don’t you go downstairs?”

Dance, dance, dance. Grab, grab, grab. “I’ll just wait.” And, watch.

I don’t know about you, but my bladder can actually hold a fair amount of liquid. And, it can take a good 20 seconds for that liquid to make it’s way out the exit. This morning, that 20 seconds felt like an eternity.

Dance, dance, dance. Grab, grab, grab. “Hurry UP!”

“I can’t just…. stop!”

Now, I’m not only being watched while I urinate – but, I am being judged on my speed and technique. I remember the good old days — before kids — when I was actually uncomfortable with urinating in public.

Why didn’t I just lock the door?

I didn’t even bother asking…

Ione\'s Mustache

Ione's Mustache

Daddy… knock, knock.

Who’s there, Ione?

Erika and JiiiIIiiim kissing in a tree.
K-I-S-S-I-N-G
Erika fell out
and, Jim kissed the treeEEE!