Thank you so much for your response to the book cover! It really is surreal. After the second time that I had to scrap years of hard work and start over from a blank page, I started to suspect that God had flung me into a Sisyphean cycle whose only purpose was to teach me lessons about humility and the ultimate futility of human efforts. The fact that I actually have a finished product — one that has a gorgeous cover, no less — is truly a momentous occasion, made all the more momentous by having you wonderful people to share it with!
If this writing thing doesn’t work out, I should start a business called Jen’s Discount Football Texting Service. I got the idea when Joe and our friend Paul Escandon took the kids camping last weekend and could only get spotty cell reception. They were deeply concerned about the outcome of the USC/Stanford game, so they asked me to text them play-by-play updates.
I can only imagine the agony those two poor men must have endured by having their only connection to this dramatic game be texts from me. I enjoyed it though!
So if anyone else is headed to an area where they’ll only have text reception during an important football game, I would like to offer the services of Jen’s Discount Football Texting Service! You can upgrade to a platinum package that includes wry commentary on commercials, and I will refund the full price if I decide to switch to watching Downton Abbey reruns when it’s tied in the fourth quarter. Also, you should know that I find the pressure that is put on kickers to be unbearable, so if the game comes down to a field goal or extra point, I may need to step away and collect myself for a while before I can text you the outcome.
Someone put this business on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. It’s a winner.
I am fascinated by information that is passed down through oral tradition. I once told the story of how there was a legend in my family that a great meteor shower occurred when our ancestors were on the way to Texas in their covered wagons, and I later found that it was the most likely the Leonid meteor shower of 1833. Love that stuff.
Meanwhile, it occurred to me that all of the songs that I sing to the kids at night were passed down to me from my mother, who learned them from her mother, who learned them from her mother, and so on. I’m pretty sure that none of them came from hearing them in the media — all were passed down from one person to another, through oral tradition alone. So I decided to do a little research and see which song I know is the oldest:
- Camptown Lady – 1850
- The Farmer in the Dell – 1820
- Frère Jacques (which I never knew is about a monk!) – 1811
- Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star – 1806
- Rock-a-Bye Baby – 1765
- London Bridge Is Falling Down – 1744
- Baa, Baa Black Sheep – 1731
The winner is Baa, Baa Black Sheep, which was first written down in the mid-1700s. It’s amazing to imagine a woman singing that song as she rocked a child two and a half centuries ago, and having those words float along, from one woman to another, all the way down to a suburban Texas bedroom in 2013.
I read The Princess and the Pea to my daughters the other night, and it reminded me that that story has always stressed me out. When I was a little girl I was enchanted by this tale of a girl finding love with a prince who had been holding out for just the right person, but every time I heard it I would think, What if she hadn’t complained about the pea?!
Because I totally would not have. I’m the type of person who could find a live hyena in her bed and wouldn’t say anything. So even if I were to take shelter at someone’s house and feel a little bump in their mattress, I would never breathe a word of complaint. It used to make me wonder if I was missing all sorts of life-changing opportunities from being the most non-confrontational person on the face of the planet. When I would receive the wrong change from buying candy at the corner store, I’d sometimes wonder if maybe the cashier was secretly a queen who had set up a Princess-and-the-Pea-style test, and that if I’d complained about being a penny short a prince would have burst through the Employee’s Only door and said that he’d finally found his true love.
(Which establishes that, yes, I have always been crazy.)
I just made it sound like it is a regular part of our evenings for me to read with the kids. I wish it were. I always assumed it would be. I want it to be. But man. In my almost-ten years of being a parent, I have yet to find a way to make reading with young children be a non-miserable activity.
Every time I say it’s story time, it’s equivalent to the World Wrestling Federation announcer dinging the bell and shouting, “LET’S GET READY TO RRRRRRRRUMBLE!” First we argue about what books to read, then we argue about who sits where, then we argue about who gets to turn the page and touch the pictures, and this usually ends up with one kid trying to yank the book from another kid’s death grip and me barely dodging a direct hit to the nose. (P.S. Thinking of buying an elaborate, hands-on pop-up book to be shared among four little girls? Do not do it unless you hate yourself.) And now my oldest daughter is at the age where she catches me when I start skimming! Misery.
I know I’m going to make Charlotte Mason roll over in her grave by saying this, but I’ve pretty much given up on trying to read to toddlers. My plan is to let them watch Dora while they’re still at the age where it makes sense to scream because your sister is looking at your part of the page, and try this reading thing again when they’re older.
Last year I was determined to have a prayerful, joyful Christmas season. The way that actually turned out is perfectly symbolized by the background I got for my Google Nexus:
I got this fancy, interactive wallpaper that offers all sorts of cool customization options. I uploaded an awkward selfie as a test shot for the picture on the mantle, then misspelled our last name when I was trying to change the names on the Christmas stockings. I kept saying that I was going to fix it to have a beautiful tablet background that would perfectly mirror our real life. That never happened — which did, actually, turn out to be a perfect mirror of our real life.
Just before the new year, Joe pointed out that my background still showed this weird picture of me on the fireplace, and there were two stockings with random names on them next to one that said “Fulwilet.” That tells you everything you need to know about how Christmas 2012 went for us. But I’m telling you, 2013 is going to be great!
I’ve been wanting to share this great video by Chris Stefanick about the North American martyrs, but I couldn’t seem to find the right time. But now, as the holiday season begins, it seems like the perfect thing to watch. I know that for many people this is a time of stress; I’ve heard from a lot of folks who are headed off to family gatherings where they might encounter loved-ones who are hostile to their beliefs. This will probably seem strange, but I think this video might be the perfect source of inspiration.