Tuesday, February 28, 2006

4 Anna Claire, On Her Birthday

A special day calls for a special treat, so Anna Claire and I stopped at Starbucks this morning for a kids hot chocolate and some coffee cake en route to Stepping Stones, her preschool. Thankfully, the turning of the calendar hasn't untwisted her tongue...

Can we thtop at Thtawbuckth on the way to Thtepping Thtoneth?

Looking at it in type, it might appear my daughter is Tweety Bird. It's actually much cuter. Especially when I'll say it like she says it,

Do you want to go to 'Thtawbuckth?'

And she'll say, Not 'Thtawbuckth,' THTAW-buckth. Like, Come on, Dad, you know that's not how you say it...

I hope we never quit having conversations like the one this morning:

AC: I'm four now.

Me: Yes you are.

AC: So you can't tell me I can't turn four anymore.

(That's our little game. I'll say, I may not let you turn four, you know, and she'll say, You have to; that's the way God made me! Except she doesn't use semicolons when she speaks...)

AC: Is this February 28th?

Me: Yes it is. This is the day you were born.

AC (in a funny voice but partially to double check): But I'm not borned today. Today, I'm four.


AC: Does 'A' make any other sounds?

Me: Well, 'A' makes the 'ay' sound, like 'Amy.' It also can make the 'a' sound like 'Anna Claire,' and it can make the 'ah' sound like 'father.' I am your father.

AC: That's what Darth Vader says when he's on the dark side - I am your father - to that man on the good side. Remember when he takes his helmet off and he can't breathe?

Me: Yes.

AC: He's good then, but then he dies.

Me: Right.

AC (pointing in excitement): Thtawbuckth!!!

Start getting your dowries together now, boys. Here's a girl with a sky high foo-foo quotient and a predilection for the pink and poofy who's also - thanks to her two older and beloved brothers - fluent in Star Wars, Power Rangers, army guys, and baseball (during Rangers games last year, Ith that Alfontho Thowiano?).

My favorite regular exchange between the two of us:

Me: Daddy looooooves that girl.

AC: That goll luuvth haw Daddy.

My favorite move of hers right now: how she's constantly hiking up the back of her drawers because they won't stay up on her little hiney.

My favorite daily routine: her giggly excitement before bedtime when she announces that she's going to sleep on her sleeping bag in the brothers' room. As if she hadn't done the same thing every night for the past year and a half. When we talk about the best and worst things about their day each night, she always says, Sweeping wif the bwutheth (sleeping with the brothers).

When Amy was pregnant with Nicholas, I had trouble imagining how I was going to find room in my heart to love another child besides Andrew. And then I did. When we were expecting Anna Claire, everyone said to prepare for a little girl to wrap me around her finger. And it's happened.

I think the main reason daddies love their girls - not more, but differently than their boys - is so simple that it's actually quite profound:

Guys like girls. And guys really dig it when girls like them back. That's why Anna Claire and I have worked for these four years.

Daddy loves that girl. And for now at least, that girl loves her Daddy.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Son (And Daughter) Of Sucker Punched

We told the kids about Kerri's passing Wednesday night as they were going to bed. Thursday morning at breakfast, we discussed it again. They asked some questions, reminded me that Kerri was in heaven, and ate quietly for maybe 90 seconds. Then commenced with the business of being 9, 7, and about to be 4.

I was not impressed with their grieving. I wanted them to be more somber, maudlin. I would've settled for pensive. Goofy was not what I had in mind.

They have no idea of what lies ahead for Carlee and Jolee, Kerri's daughters who are roughly the same ages as the oldest two of them. Of what it will be like to grow up without the mother who's raised them, been everything for them all their lives. They just know Kerri's where she's always wanted to be. That's enough for them.

Ignorance. Bliss.

Then I thought about how I respond to the news of genocide, the worldwide AIDS epidemic, entire cities being wiped out by natural disasters, widespread poverty, corruption, evil. About the only difference between my reaction to those things and the kids' response to Kerri's passing is how long I eat quietly before commencing the business of being 36. I rarely wait 90 seconds. It's not that I don't care. It's more like a feeling that God will ultimately sort everything out.

Ignorance. Bliss.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sucker Punched

I've been had. All those preachers. All those sermons. All that nonsense about asking, knocking, believing, supplicating, persisting, petitioning, praying, pleading, anointing with oil, jumping through hoops in hopes that God would do what you begged Him to do.

It's a bill of goods. They were selling. I was buying.

I bought the crock about getting what you asked for. So I prayed and begged and pleaded and pounded on my neighbor's door at midnight for my friend, Kerri Lane, to be healed of her cancer. She died tonight. At 44. She leaves two daughters, 9 and 6. And a giant crater in the heart of the Highland Church in Abilene, Texas.

I'm fine with God being omnipotent, omniscient, all the omnis. I'm fine with Him knowing what's best and having ways that aren't my ways. I'm fine with the fact that there's a time to die and that all things work together for good for those who love Him. I'm fine with all of that. I believe He still knows what He's doing. And that He's still good. And that Kerri's with Him right now.

But don't trot out those texts about mustard seeds and moving mountains any more. They're not true. Jesus must've meant something else. Something more mysterious. Something. But definitely not that you'll get what you ask for.

It's my fault for believing it. It's absurd to think that God would alter the course of human events because I want something. Half the time I don't even know what I want. In this case, I did know. I wanted Kerri healed and to live to an old age and to raise her daughters and serve us Communion and keep feeding the hungry and reminding us by her example that our job is to live out the mission of Christ.

That's how she lived. And died. To my knowledge, she never asked God to heal her if it meant superseding His will. She wanted what He wanted.

Right now, I can't fathom how a mother being taken from her daughters - ostensibly what He wanted or at least allowed - accomplishes anything remotely equivalent to her being miraculously healed and permitted to continue being Christ incarnate to everyone she touched. But I even understand the idea that I can't understand it.

What I can't understand is how all those preachers could tell me with a straight face that all I had to do was ask. If it's true that there's a sucker born every minute, then I've truly been born again. No more.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Steal City: Officiating The Pitts, Gives Steelers Super Edge

Okay, I was wrong. Make it 21-10 Steelers. I was never good with math. But these numbers tell the sad story of the game: Seattle had 86 yards of offense and a touchdown nullified by referees' whistles in its Super Bowl XL loss to Pittsburgh. An Xtra Large number when you consider that in addition to the 86 positive yards taken away, the penalties moved the Seahawks backward another 70. More than 150 yards difference in the biggest game of the year.

The men in Black and Gold weren't nearly as formidable as the ones in black and white.

It wasn't just that Seattle was whistled 7 times to Pittsburgh's 3 (or 70 yards to 20). It was when the flags flew. A couple of 18-yard completions deep into Steeler territory (one at the 1 and the other at the 23) were wiped out, as was a 34-yard punt return across midfield. Throw in the highly questionable ruling on Ben Roethlisberger's (pronounced "'s") end zone dive - which from no camera angle showed the ball ever crossing the goal line - and the ridiculous 15-yard penalty on Matt Hasselbeck for the unconscionable act of tackling Ike Taylor following Taylor's 4th quarter interception, and you have all the makings of a Let's-Don't-Ruin-This-Jerome-Bettis-Homecoming/Retirement-Love-Fest-By-Letting-The-Other-Team-Up-And-Win-This-Thing conspiracy theory that'll have Seahawk fans sleepless in Seattle all summer.

I can't remember a meaningful game decided by 11 points that seemed like it could have gone the other way by at least that many.

I'm happy for Bill Cowher. He's won me over through the years with his passion, his system, and his love for his wife and three daughters. He deserved a championship. Ditto for Bettis. The Steelers certainly made some big plays, none more so than Antwaan Randle El's reverse heave to Hines Ward with 9 minutes left to provide the final margin of victory.

Seattle kicker Josh Brown didn't help by Vanderjagting two long, but makeable field goals. And Seahawks' coach Mike Holmgren - while getting big ups for his taste in spouses (his wife, Kathy, and their oldest daughter missed the game because they were on a medical mission trip to the Congo) - is anything but a sympathetic figure in the aftermath thanks to a shockingly uninspired coaching performance. Seattle ran its hurry-up offense at the end of each half with all the efficiency of an Edsel, blowing precious opportunities to score in each case. And if you're a Seahawks fan, can you really spend the offseason satisfied with Holmgren's decision to punt from his own 48 on 4th and 13 with 6:28 to play and Seattle down 11? At that point, your hopes are hanging by the last thin thread on the Go Daddy girl's spaghetti strap. If you make it, you've got plenty of time to score, kick off, force a punt, and get the ball back with a chance to tie or win the game. Even if you don't get a first, you either force a field goal or a punt, and you're still within two scores. Punting in that situation seemed so...decaf. And 'Hawks fans will have a latte time to wonder "What if?" If that's Seattle's Best, I'll pass.

Still, the Seahawks weren't their own worst enemy in their maiden Super Bowl voyage. The refs played that role. Even if a couple of the calls were technically correct, the infractions were nothing worse than you see on nearly every play of every NFL game. Worse yet, this crew breached the fraternal order of referees' one and only rule:

Call Such A Good Game That No One Notices You're There. Instead, head ref Bill Leavy is now to Seahawks fans persona non grata. And make that a Venti with extra foam at the mouth.

Actually, Pittsburgh probably had some good fortune coming after nearly having its checkered flag at Indianapolis taken by one of the worst rulings in NFL history. Kind of like trebled damages. You get the win plus two more. And it was in Detroit that another official used a single coin to take the Bus for a ride. On Thanksgiving Day 1998, Bettis called tails at the overtime coin flip, only to have referee Phil Luckett rule that he said heads. It was tails, the Lions got the ball to begin OT and promptly went downfield for the game-winning score.

An official can sleep off a Turkey Day blunder. (That particular fowl, after all, is known for its natural sedative.) But blowing the biggest game of the year by constantly interrupting the flow of the game and sucking the life out of one of the contestants by overofficiating is an entirely different animal: a goat. One that will no doubt be roasted over the open spit of Seahawks fans forever.
Pittsburgh 24
Seattle 10