Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not a Baby Anymore

she may be seven, but Greenie (her blanket) still goes everywhere with her
Paige E. (also known as Paigey) turned seven yesterday.  SEVEN!!!!  I'm really not sure how this happened.  In my mind she's vapor locked as an angelic little three-year-old who just gave up her binkie and naps every day.

We bought her a bike for her birthday because her other one is too small for her.  I scoped out the options ahead of time and Curt picked it up.  He called me from the store confused.  "Honey, this bike you picked out is WAAAAYYYY too big.  Paige will never fit on it.  There's another one in the back that's smaller.  It has training wheels, but we could take those off."  I convinced him to bring it home and he very sheepishly admitted, "You were right.  This is the size Paige needs.  But how is it possible that she's big enough to fit this big bike?"  I'm glad it's not just me that can't wrap my brain around the fact that our baby is not a baby anymore.
Paigey over the years

Her birthday menu was chocolate chip, strawberry pancakes with whipped cream and bacon for breakfast, McDonald's delivered to the school cafeteria for lunch, and Red Robin for dinner.  Gag!  But she loved it all.

I ate lunch with Paigey and her little first grade friends.  As lunch was ending she asked in her quiet way, "Mommy, are you going to come out to recess too?"  I've never gone to recess before, but she informed me that "most parents go out to recess too," so off we went.  She and her little gaggle of girl friends made a "house" in the bark chips and pretended to be birds.  Paigey was the owner and the baby birds kept escaping the house so she'd have to chase them down and bring them back.  SO much adorableness going on there.
part of the "little birdy" group
I came back to school just before the day ended so I could participate in Paige's birthday party at school.  Her class was newly back from PE and they had rosy cheeks and smelled of sweat and goodness.  She beamed as her class sang "Happy Birthday" to her.  She chose a birthday pencil from the Birthday Can of Pencils.  Then passed out juice boxes and cookies to all her classmates.  They had to wait for Paigey to take the ceremonious First Bite before they could dig in.  When they were finished, they played Heads Up Seven Up.
Seriously this one melts me.  The outfit.  The rosy cheeks.  The proud smile. 
I got such a kick out of watching her soak it all in.  Paige doesn't normally like to be the center of attention, but she loved it yesterday.  She was confident and full of smiles, embracing the love her classmates and teacher gave her.  She was 100% an elementary school girl.  No baby left in her.  Sniff sniff...
a confidence we don't always see - she's comfortable at school
Before bed she gave me a stack of completed school papers.  Hiding in them was this gem.

It says:  "If I had $100, I would buy a car and pay for college.  Then I would buy a gum pack and save the rest.  And buy an iPod.  And buy a book for me.  Then I would buy a shirt."

Paigey may not be a baby anymore, but she's still innocent enough to think $100 will pay for college, a car, clothes, books, toys, and gum.  Is there anything sweeter?

Happy birthday Paige Elizabeth.  We love you!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Today was a strangely emotional day.  I chaperoned a field trip with my daughter Katie's class to see The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe performed as a play in downtown Portland.  It wrecked me.  In the best way possible.

When I was a little girl, my family would read novels out loud in the evenings before bedtime.  It was a great way to pass the long, cold winter nights of the Midwest.  Through books we escaped the snowy cornfields and traveled to magical places.  One Christmas our parents bought my brother and I The Chronicles of Narnia book series.  We started by reading the first book - The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  

My parents explained to us ahead of time how the story was a fantasy novel but also a clear picture of the story of Jesus.  We were excited.  But I scare easy.  The imaginary characters, the evil queen, and the danger the children in the story encounter scared me spitless.  The beauty of the story was lost on me.   I couldn't read any more of the books.  I shelved the series.  Then boxed it up when I moved out to go to college.  Years later, I unboxed it when Katie got old enough to read chapter books.  The series now sits on the bookshelf in her room.

Sarah (our fifth child) loves The Chronicles of Narnia and has them on audio book.  Last summer she and I took the kids hiking.  Four miles into a seven mile hike the kids started to fall apart.  There was whining.  Tears.  Sitting on the trail and wailing on more than one occasion, "I'm going to die of starvation and dehydration before we get back to the car."  Sarah could see I was not handling the whining very well so she rescued me. She started telling the kids the story of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, complete with British accents.  Before we knew it we were all clumped around her, hanging on her every word and trying not to trip on rocks and tree roots as we hiked.  Her retelling of a book that terrified me as a kid opened my eyes as an adult to see the beauty of the story.    

When Katie brought home a permission slip to see The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as a play I was excited to join her.  We arrived at the theatre just before the play started and were ushered into seats on the main floor of the auditorium.  I was instantly spellbound.  The sets, lighting and sound effects were impressive.  The costumes were marginal, but the acting was terrific.  I was engaged from the first sentence and hung on every word.

As the story progressed, I found myself becoming more and more emotional.  The play condenses the entire book into one hour so I'm sure some of the details I saw were portrayed differently than the book.  But this is a synopsis of how the actors so beautifully and powerfully told the story today.

Edmund (a Son of Adam) follows his sister Lucy (a Daughter of Eve) into a magical land called Narnia where it is always winter but never Christmas.  Edmund is warned by Lucy about the evil Witch who masquerades as a Queen and rules over Narnia.  In spite of this warning, he falls for her lies and abandons Lucy to chase after the promise of some day being King of Narnia.  While he waits for his throne, he will have access to unlimited Turkish Delight.  

Unfortunately, Edmund's rebellion foils the fulfillment of a prophesy that would release Narnia from the witch's grasp and return Aslan, the gentle but fiercely good Lion, to his rightful place as King.  Edmund realizes his mistake too late.  He is enslaved, captive to the Witch and her evil purpose for his life.  

Lucy, Susan and Peter (Edmund's siblings), aided by Aslan, attempt to rescue Edmund.  But the Witch smugly declares that the Deep Magic states that all traitor's lives are forfeited to the Witch.  Anyone who rescues Edmund without following the Laws of the Deep Magic dooms Narnia to forever be under the Witch's authority.  Edmund sealed his fate when he chose to follow the Witch.  There appears to be no way to save Edmund from the Witch's murderous plot.  

Then Aslan steps in.  The fearsome Lion and the Witch step aside to talk privately.  When they emerge, the Witch sets Edmund free but reminds Aslan that he must keep his Promise.  The confused children don't know what Promise Aslan made and he doesn't tell them as he sends them away for the night.  

Lucy and Susan know something is wrong.  They sneak back to Aslan in the night.  "Are you sick?" they ask.  He softly replies, "No.  I'm sad."  They sit by him, stroking his mane, holding him, and singing gently.  He visibly gains comfort and strength from their love.  

The Witch and her evil minions, under the cloak of darkness in the thick of night, return to the Stone Table where Aslan waits to fulfill his Promise.  Lucy and Susan watch in horror, hidden in the shadows, as the Witch muzzles Aslan then binds him on the Stone Table.  Then she murders him.  

The Witch, thinking she has won control of Narnia, leaves the bloody scene in search of the children.  After she leaves a violent storm shakes Narnia and the Stone Table breaks in half.  When the sisters turn to look Aslan is gone.

The battle scene between the Witch and Good is vivid and loud.  Casualties are inflicted on both sides.  Just as all seems lost, Aslan roars onto the scene, shocking everyone.  How can this be?  The Witch, more than anyone, is baffled.  Is he a ghost?  Is she seeing a vision?

Aslan assures everyone that he is very much alive.  He tells the children that if the Witch had looked further back in time at the Deep Magic, she would have learned that when a willing, innocent victim is killed by a traitor, the Stone Table will crack and death will be reversed.  

Aslan gave his life so Edmund could live, and so that Narnia and all its inhabitants would be set free from the Witch's power.  

Aslan slays the Witch and banishes her evil followers.  He then breathes life on Narnia.  The snow melts and spring returns.  The inhabitants of Narnia celebrate their restored kingdom with a coronation service.  Aslan ceremoniously crowns Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy as rulers of Narnia.  "All hail King Peter, Son of Adam.  All hail Queen Susan, Daughter of Eve."  The children swell with pride and stand taller as each of them transforms to their new identity and role in the kingdom of Narnia.  

Aslan's sacrifice changed the children's identity.  No longer are they vulnerable children.  Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund are now esteemed sons and daughters of the King.  

I tried to hold it together, but inwardly I wept. Silent tears spilled down my cheeks and I tried to wipe them away in the dark before Katie noticed.  

Who loves like that?  

My Jesus.  

I, like Edmund, am a traitor.  Far too often I fall for the lies of my Enemy.  Wrapped in illusions of beauty and disguised as a treasure, I choose the illusion of Turkish Delight.  The Delight is a smoke screen and I find myself enslaved to my desire - held captive against my will.  

But my Jesus...  He rescues.  He saves.  He willingly laid Himself down on the Stone Table so that death would be reversed.  He gave his life so I could live.  He breathed life on me so I could embrace my new identity as a Daughter of the King and live in freedom to do the work He purposed for me in His Kingdom.

The play today wrecked me.  

In a beautiful, messy way.  

Just like Jesus' love.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why Huhuhu is so Snowy - guest post by Grant Stilp

Grant - 11 1/2 years - 6th grade
My son Grant is very imaginative. He always come up with the most creative stories and ways to play. Every once in a while he lets me read the stuff he's writing for school assignments. This story blew me away.

The assignment was to invent a culture and write a myth that the culture believed. In Grant's story, the myth is the story of why the people think their land is so snowy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Why Huhuhu is so Snowy
by Grant Stilp (11 years, 6th grade)

One day in a land far away called Huhuhu there was a tribe called Mimi and a tribe called Fifi. Huhuhu was very warm and tropical, and had many resources.  The tribes got along well together, sharing the riches and the wild game fairly. That was until the people of Fifi discovered Mount Lulu.

The mountain was filled with radiant glowing treasure. There were shiny emeralds, glowing ameythest, beautiful sapphire, transparent jade, topaz, and a deep green opal. Fifi became a very rich tribe where everybody had more than enough money and a giant mansion. Meanwhile...

The people of Mimi were upset, so they set off on an adventure of their own to find something the people of Fifi didn’t have. After searching, they found a portal to a secret majestic world that they named Fufufu. Fufufu was thriving with wild game of all sorts of wacky colors. There were deer with crimson coats and bears with amber coats. The moose even had a translucent coats that you could see through. Mimi was salivating.

When the people of  Mimi showed the people of Fifi their crimson colored hides the people of Fifi brought out their emeralds and diamonds. The friendly trade lasted only a short while before it grew to a heated dispute. The people would break into a fight over a tuft of  translucent fur or a tiny piece of jade. Each village would try to be better than the other. When someone from Mimi brought home a violet hide someone from Fifi would bring home Argillaceous clay.  The people of Fifi spent more time making sterling swords and gilded axes for war than enjoying their mansions. Every morning instead of hunting, the People of Mimi would take their ratchets and crank their catapults just in case Fifi attacked.

One day deep in the heart of winter, the tension between them grew too high. Both tribes hated each other too much. Each tribe thought they were better than the other. Mimi attacked, firing their catapults at Fifi. Fifi counterattacked, throwing their axes at Mimi. A great war broke out destroying the peace in the land. Fifi and Mimi’s numbers were going down fast. God was far from enraptured about this. He decided to end it once and for all. So he sent the whole entire land into a flurry of snow and ice destroying the tropical climate. All the people died because they were not properly dressed for this kind of weather.  

Now their ancestors the tribe of Arbutus lives in Huhuhu. They live a tough punishing life in the freezing climate. Their ultimate dream is to find Mount Lulu and the portal to Fufufu and live a prosperous life filled with riches.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Is This Really the World My Kids Will Inherit?

Curt is a big football fan.  Watching the Super Bowl is a yearly event.  If our favorite team is not in the game, we choose a team to root for and pretend we've been life-long fans.  Leading up to the big game Curt gives our family basic pointers about key players and any interesting tidbits about the teams.  It makes it more exciting to watch the game if we feel somewhat invested in it.

Throwing a Super Bowl party is also a yearly event.  This year was no exception.  Our home filled with friends and junk food and we had a blast watching the game and chatting it up through the first half.  Then came the Half Time show.  Everyone, including the gaggle of kids, gathered around the TV to watch the singing, dancing, and cool lights display.  But I was nervous.  Beyonce' isn't exactly known for being modest or for promoting good morals.  Her shadow emerged in the dark and it appeared like she might be wearing enough clothes to keep the TV on.  When the spot light illuminated her scantily clad body, I was not happy.  Within seconds she was ripping off clothes revealing pleather fetish wear that most women wouldn't be brave enough to wear in the privacy of their own bedroom.  Yet Beyonce' was wearing next to nothing in front of thousands at the game.  Millions on national TV.  And the twenty or so people gathered in my living room, including my husband and my children.

Her dancing was so provocative and sexual that I averted my eyes.  They fell on my three young daughters and middle-school aged son - all who were watching Beyonce's every move with wide eyes.  Out of the corner of my eye I spied a handful of young twenty-something kids who were equally uncomfortable.  These young men and women are trying to swim against the tide of immorality and free sex that our culture promotes as "normal" and leave a different legacy.  But how can they avoid it?  Sex is everywhere.  Especially at the Half Time show of the Super Bowl.

We turned the TV off within the first sixty seconds.  I only wish we'd turned it off sooner.  The Stilp Kids spontaneously put on their own Half Time Show for our guests.  It included singing and dancing that was wholesome and appropriate. Something that we should be able to expect for a national and global event.

My emotions have run the full gamut of disgust.  Outrage. Anger.  Disappointment.  Sadness.  Is this really the world that my kids will inherit?  Is it any wonder that children in the U.S. now typically get their first exposure to pornography at age eleven?

How do I raise my son to respect women and remain pure when women don't even respect themselves?  I want my son to view women as friends with intellect and charm and not as sexual objects.

How do I expect my husband to not lust after other women when even the commercials use sex to sell their products?

And what about my daughters?  How on earth do they navigate growing up in a world that sells sex as the key to success for everything?  I want my daughters to respect themselves enough to keep their clothes on and realize they don't have to flaunt their bodies to gain attention or success.

Seriously?  These are the role models the world is offering to our children?

We need to wake up and start vigilantly fighting for a different legacy - a different culture - for our children.  Our children are exposed to lies and immorality at every check stand, on TV, through the internet and everywhere they turn.   Lies and garbage about who they are and what they need to do to be accepted and popular.  Lies about what constitutes beauty and self-worth.  It's clear that we will have to work overtime to teach them the truth about who they are, where to look for value, and that beauty doesn't mean being a certain size or wearing the skimpiest outfit.

Jesus says, "The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."  (John 10:10).  I don't know how to turn the tide of our culture.  I don't even know if it's possible.  But I CAN teach my kids how to not let the Enemy rob or destroy them with his lies.  And I can point them to Jesus who promises his followers a rich and satisfying life.

May God help us.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Do It Yourself - Transfer A Photograph to a Block of Wood

On Christmas morning our first-grader Paige proudly gave us a hand-wrapped gift.  She explained that she made the gift at school, wrapped it herself, then double-wrapped it just for fun.  We were thrilled when we opened the coolest gift a first grader has ever made for us.  It was a wood block with a beautiful portrait of Paige transferred onto it.  I instantly envisioned a cluster of these on my wall as a piece of art and emailed Paige's teacher for instructions.

Paige's creation
It should be noted that I am not known for being good at careful execution of projects, particularly ones involving glue, scissors, or anything else craft-related.  I start off strong, get bored, then sloppy to finish quicker.  More often than not I end up with a finished product that looks like it was created by a child.  In this case I figured if a six-year-old can do this craft then so can I.

Paige's teacher emailed me this tutorial.  Cute, quick, and fun, I was convinced I could tackle this project.  I made a list of my supplies:  wood blocks, Modge Podge, gel medium, and paint brush.  I rummaged through my craft cupboard and found a paint brush that didn't have dried paint on it and an old bottle of Modge Podge.  I then went to Michael's and purchased gel medium (found in the art supplies by the acrylic paints) and really cheap pre-cut craft wood squares.  I didn't want to make a big investment since I figured there would be a learning curve and I might need some room for a few do-overs.  

When the kids got home from school I took them in the back yard and shot a bunch of portraits of them.  It was Western Day at school so the girls are wearing braids and bandanas, but I liked that these were real-life pictures complete with stray hair and pattern-on-pattern.  I chose my favorite photo of each kid and printed them from iPhoto onto regular paper.  I had to customize the settings to match the size of my wood block and then cut the picture out once it printed.  FYI:  changing the picture from a rectangle to a square will crop out quite a bit from both sides of the photos so shoot your pictures accordingly. 

After the kids went to bed I started my project.  I took each square of wood and painted it thoroughly with the gel medium.  Then I put the picture face-down onto the block of wood and smoothed out the bubbles.  Once all six wood blocks were covered with the photos, I went to bed and let it dry overnight.

This morning I re-watched the tutorial video and set to work removing the paper.  Here's where I ran into problems.  The girl in the video makes the paper removal look like a twenty second project when in reality it takes a while.  I tried a combination of wet rag and using my fingers to rub the paper off.  But every time I thought I was done, I'd realize there was still paper residue on the block.  Back to rubbing I would go.  The closer I got to getting all the paper off, the more I scraped the image off the block.  HOUSTON - WE HAVE A PROBLEM!  When the girl on the video says, "gently rub the paper" she means gently.  I thought I was being gentle, but each of my blocks has shreds of the image scraped off.  Can you say irritating?

I experimented with different processes throughout the next HOUR of removing the paper from all six blocks.  Here's what I learned.  The block needs to be really damp initially.  The closer you get to removing all the paper residue, the drier the block should be to avoid scraping off the image.  I started letting the blocks dry a bit and then coming back to gently scrub off another layer.  This seemed to work well, but at that point the damage was already done.

Once the blocks were free from the paper residue and dried out, I painted a layer of Modge Podge over the top.  Then let them dry.  This is my finished product.

I'm okay with the blocks looking a little weathered and antiqued, but I'm not okay people's eyes being scraped off.  (Katie and Grant's are particularly annoying to me.) I also didn't like that the family picture was too light to really transfer well onto a block.

So...  I'm going to flip them all over and try again on the back.  I figure it can't get much worse.  I made myself feel better by comparing my work to Paige's.  She also scraped part of her image off and she left paper residue on her block.  Whew!  At least my work is comparable to my six-year-olds.

Happy crafting.