Thursday, July 20, 2017

Beach

view for 2 weeks

Earlier this week, we arrived at a beach house to share the week with two other families: six adults and seven kids. Our friends Kari and Adam flew in from Colorado. Our friends Danielle and Mattison drove down from Cary. Our kids have enjoyed the ocean, playing board games and hide-and-seek, and lots of snacks. We adults have enjoyed shared meals and drinks and long, late-night talks.

Next week, we'll spend another week at a beach house just nine miles away with five other families (12 adults, 14 kids) hailing from Colorado, Boston, Maine, and even Toronto. I imagine it will have a different feel from this week, with twice as many people, but I think there will be lots of similar feels: enjoying being together and watching our kids play.

I am struck by the abundance of amazing people who have crossed our paths and remained in our lives, even though we almost all live very far away from each other. This week, we're spending time with friends we met when I was in law school. Next week, our group of friends centers around connections to Riverside.

I am thankful for these people, their friendship, and the opportunities to make memories together this week and next.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reading

I talk myself out of reading sometimes. I enjoy it, but I'll decide that there are more productive things I could do with my time, or I want to exercise instead, or (more often than I should) I convince myself I don't have time to really read, so I'll putz around on the internet for long enough that I might as well have read something substantial anyway.

This summer I decided to read more. I've been inspired in part by Tobin, who chewed through all the Harry Potter books and at least another dozen novels in the first 6 months of the year. I read Ender's Game for the first time after hearing about it (and its author) for decades. I read White Trash. I read the most recent Rick Riordan book to try to keep up with T. I read a couple of other "easy" books.

The book that surprised me most, though, and that has really made me want to prioritize reading more as part of my weekly routine, was Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. In the summer, I usually like to read nonfiction or pop fiction, since I spend a lot of time at work with capital-L literature. Despite trying somewhat deliberately to avoid deep fiction, I fell for this book hard, and felt something I haven't felt from a book in a long time: a thirst to finish it accompanied by a paradoxical sadness that it was going to end.

The book hit me on a number of personal levels: as a father, a son, a baseball fan, and as a member of a family dedicated to church work. Rather than give a synopsis, I'd prefer to quote a couple of passages, because what I'm feeling most grateful for is art's ability to stir emotions and challenge the way I think.

This passage captures the magic of the way I (we?) experience little epiphanies of our existence, and the simple way in which they intermingle with the other details of our lives, in this case baseball and the meditative wiggle room the pace and phrasing of the game allows.
It was one day as I listened to baseball that it occurred to me how the moon actually moves, in a spiral, because while it orbits the earth it also follows the orbit of the earth around the sun. This is obvious, but the realization pleased me. There was a full moon outside my window, icy white in a blue sky, and the Cubs were playing Cincinnati. (45)
This next passage gets the gist of a lot of the frustration I have with arguments among people who would claim to provide "scientific" proof of faith and theology. I've never been able to articulate why those kinds of apologetics always ring of "methinks thou doth protest too much."
In the matter of belief, I have always found that defenses have the same irrelevance about them as the criticisms they are meant to answer. I think the attempt to defend belief can unsettle it, because there is always an inadequacy in argument about ultimate things. We participate in Being without remainder. No breath, no thought, no wart or whisker, is not as sunk in Being as it could be. And yet no one can say what Being is. If you describe what a thought and a whisker have in common, and a typhoon and a rise in the stock market, excluding “existence,” which merely restates the fact that they have a place on our list of known and nameable things (and which would yield as insight: being equals existence!), you would have accomplished a wonderful thing, still too partial in an infinite degree to have any meaning, however.

I’ve lost my point. It was to the effect that you can assert the existence of something — Being — having not the slightest notion of what it is. Then God is at a greater remove altogether — if God is the Author of Existence, what can it mean to say God exists? There’s a problem in vocabulary. He would have to have had a character before existence which the poverty of our understanding can only call existence. That is clearly a source of confusion. Another term would be needed to describe a state or quality of which we can have no experience whatever, to which existence as we know it can bear only the slightest likeness or affinity. So creating proofs from experience of any sort is like building a ladder to the moon. It seems that it should be possible, until you stop to consider the nature of the problem.

So my advice is this — don’t look for proofs. Don’t bother with them at all. They are never sufficient to the question, and they’re always a little impertinent, I think, because they claim for God a place within our conceptual grasp. And they will likely sound wrong to you even if you convince someone else with them. That is very unsettling over the long term. “Let your works so shine before men,” etc. It was Coleridge who said Christianity is a life, not a doctrine, words to that effect. I’m not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I’m saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own, not, so to speak, the mustache and walking stick that happen to be the fashion of any particular moment. (178)
Throughout the book, Robinson's narrator rang true, and helped me reflect on myriad relationships, discussions, and conversations I've had over the course of my life. What I am most thankful for is the way that this book embraces the paradox of the beauty and sadness of life as we know it, while advocating humbly that this life and what comes next are worthy of honor and effort and love. That's a paradox that I've tried my best to navigate over the last decade, but the one I still struggle most with. The solutions others offer are often too extreme in their approaches: nihilism on one side, faith-inspired platitudes on the other. Robinson (through her narrator) deals clearly with the absurdity, joy, and sadness of life while somehow maintaining a sense of humor. And if I ever were to solve that paradox, I "would have accomplished a wonderful thing, still too partial in an infinite degree to have any meaning, however."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Evan is EIGHT.

Evan Reid, finishing 2nd grade.

Dear Evan,

Today, you turn eight years old. You remain the purest, sweetest person I know. You came to us in 2009, which was one of our hardest years, when we lost Dad's dad, your Granddad, after he fought cancer for two heartbreaking years. You are somehow all sweetness and light--what we needed then and what we all need now.

Boys' side of the booth.

We are on the road for your birthday, as usual. Today actually kicks off our week-long reunion with our Lantrip family. You'll spend your day with a few hours in the car, then playing near and in a lake in northwest Louisiana with your many second cousins. I'm so happy that each year, you make new, fun memories right around your birthday. I also appreciate your flexibility in letting us celebrate your birthday earlier in the month, including giving you most of your presents already. This year was fun, because you got your very own, brand-new (i.e., not hand-me-down) bike in time to ride in on the now-annual Father's Day bike ride with Dad.

Easter Ev.

First grade was a transitional year for you, but this year second grade has felt more like you hitting your stride. You continue to love math especially, but your reading has really taken off, too. You watch Tobin tear through books--several a week--during the school year. You aren't up to his pace, nor are you quite up for some of the more suspenseful novels he reads. I remember sometime in the past year, reading the first chapter of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan with you. The narrator and main character Percy Jackson spends the first page warning the reader not to keep reading because the reader could discover that he himself is a half-blood. The intent of this, of course, is to stoke your curiosity and build suspense. But as we read these words, your eyes widened and you asked a lot of questions about half-bloods and what might happen in the book--some of which you already knew by hearing Tobin talk about it--and you decided that you weren't ready to ready this particular story. I was proud of you for showing self-awareness and seeking out books that were more lighthearted. You especially liked reporting how many pages you had read during the school day and on the bus ride home. Some of my favorite memories from this school year were meeting you and your siblings at the bus stop, and you emerging from the bus with a book in hand and then continuing to try to read on the short walk home down our street.

Walking home from bus stop, nose in book. 📚😍

You just wrapped another fun baseball season. You moved up a level to machine pitch, but you had the same coach and many of the same teammates you'd had for your two seasons playing T-ball. Third base seems to be your specialty. You field with confidence and often come up firing. It's hard to make a put-out from third at this age, but you made a few. You've also come to understand when it's time to hold the ball and just look the runner back. You hit consistently but you also fought your way through a little slump at the end of the season. It was hard to watch you strike out in those games, but you kept your chin up and continued to play solid defense. And you always cheered for your teammates. Your awesome coach paid you a high compliment at the end of the season, noting how you brought a certain calm to the dugout and field. I think your dad and I appreciated that because we feel it too--in our family life.

Ev at 1B

Your sweet, patient, positive attitude is so important to each of us. You display a steadiness beyond your years. Maybe you're playing a bit of a sibling role: the happy medium between an analytical, understated big brother and an especially exuberant little sister. You move with ease between the two of them, playing well with both--often admiring Tobin and encouraging Lauren. Whatever your role now and in the future, you are a very good brother to each of them, and I especially appreciate that. There's a calm cohesion you provide at our family's center.

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Another sweet memory I have of this year for you has been your growing interest in the piano. You've always loved music and often sing to yourself. You've taken that up a notch and like to try to bang out chords on the piano to go with your lyrics. As Lauren notes, a lot of your lyrics are "not really words" but you have some recognizable, repeated phrases, and Lala has also noted that you are "a really great singer!" I'm pretty sure no one really hears you singing outside of our house, as you remain kind of shy about it, but that makes it all the more special. It's a joy to hear you play and sing, lost in the music.

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We'll spend today celebrating and appreciating you for the being uniquely you. I hope your dad and I can always provide you with the space you need to sing your heart out and share what's on that heart. You're an awesome, admirable young man. It's an honor to watch you grow into yourself with each passing year, and you make my own heart swell every single day.

Love,
Mom

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Now It's Time

One of the narratives we've enjoyed about Lauren's personality is that she determines when she's ready, and others' encouragement or discouragement is largely immaterial. This has been the case literally since the day we met her. I'm proud of the way she advocates for herself, even when I find myself on the runner-up side of the negotiations.

I have been encouraging Lauren to take the training wheels off her bike for the last two summers. She would usually say "Not yet," and move on to something else, but at times she was adamant, responding with something along the lines of "I will never ride a bike without training wheels." When we reach this point, I'm usually the one who moves on to something else. It's just not time.

A couple of things were happening last week that led to a pretty surprising development on Lala's birthday. I've made a tradition of riding 10-15 miles with the boys on Father's Day the last few years. To get ready for this year's ride, I had been working on all of our bikes the few days before Lauren's birthday. With an eye toward getting Lala to ride without training wheels, I ordered new handlebar grips and cleaned up the hand-me-down bike that our friends had given her. I expected a protracted negotiation and summer-long project of leaving her training wheels behind.

She saw me working on her new bike last Friday and said "I guess I have to try to ride it today?" in a tone of voice that sounded less than thrilled at the prospect.

"No, you can try later--I'm just getting it ready for you to ride when you're ready," I tried to assure her.

"Well, I guess I could try it just one time. You will help me?"

Entirely unsure of how it would go, I agreed to help. We started in our driveway. My hand was under her seat and I readied my stream of encouraging words while I mentally prepared to administer first aid when she was sure to spill.

Instead, she started to outpace me by the time we reached the street. She made a smooth right turn and headed to the neighbor's. No longer holding on, I yelled for her to remember to brake when she wanted to stop. When she finally stopped, she jumped off as her bike tilted to the side. She smiled at me and yelled "I did it!"

We made a few more laps up and down the block. I helped her get started, but other than that my only job was jogging along behind (have I mentioned that it was almost 90 degrees last Friday?). I was finally the one who had to take a break, and we hatched a plan to surprise Allison when she got home from work.

When Allison got home, I was still in my sweat-soaked shirt. She asked what I had been doing and I told her that I'd tried to get Lauren to ride her 2-wheeler. When she asked how it went, I just said "Very Lala," which is true. Riding over a mile in her first 15 minutes on two wheels is very Lala. She was stable enough that I started shooting video the next day. The clips in the video are chronological, all shot on the first couple of days she had ridden the bike.

The only thing that dampened her spirits was when I told her she wasn't ready for our Father's Day ride. She insisted she was ready--and honestly, she is so good already that she might have been . Instead, when I got home from my ride with the boys, Lauren and I headed out on our own Father's Day trip to a nearby park. I think she'll be ready for next Father's Day, but I'm thankful she'll be the first to let me know.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Lauren is SIX.

Lauren Lantrip, finishing kindergarten.

Dear Lauren,

Today you turn six years old. Your light shines as brightly as ever. You read and write and narrate your life for anyone who will listen. You wear your heart on your sleeve. You are very affectionate--hugging almost anyone you know, whether a teacher, a coach, or a friend's mom. And sometimes I feel like you heap the lion's share of that affection on me. You insist you always want to be with me and never let us part ways without giving me a huge kiss. Every time.

Mother's Day breakfast w/my silly, sweet girl at school.

Last week you graduated kindergarten. Another mom, who, like me, was watching the youngest of her three kids graduate kindergarten, asked me how I was holding up. I said something like how it felt a little unreal and maybe it would hit me later. The truth was, I wasn't sad at all, but I didn't want to explain why--because it felt a little complicated. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I got to see this milestone. Each one is a gift. I will never lose that sense of how lucky I am to be here.

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This spring, you began a new adventure: playing baseball. Your dad showed you once how to put your bat on the ground, so you could line up the right distance from the plate when you got in your batting stance. Every single time you batted, you went through this little ritual. Often you would get a hit and run with a flourish down to first base. (We had to remind you a few times that sliding into first base is not as good as running through the bag.) Fielding did not hold your attention like batting, but when you chose to, you could field a ball cleanly and throw it at the right teammate. You were proud to wear a baseball uniform--especially a hat!--like your brothers.

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I think a lot about the bigness of your personality. You are an inspiration. You feel what you feel. You are who you are. You are smart, kind, brave, loud, and hilarious. There is nothing small or quiet about you. I hope your dad and I can always hold space for you and allow you to fill it with the fullness of yourself, while also encouraging your natural empathy and kindness. You have other teachers, too. Your brothers watch out for you and challenge you. You try to keep up with them, and they encourage you to try harder. Yesterday morning, you and Tobin had quite the spat about who deserved a certain spot on the couch. As I cleaned the kitchen, you each pleaded your case to me. I resisted intervening and quietly said I knew y'all could figure out a solution. Evan played his part by noting he was happy to sit wherever but thought Tobin technically had the right to the couch cushion in question because, as usual, T was up before anyone else. There were tears and some yelling, and I don't know how it happened exactly, as I was in and out of the room, but the next thing I knew you and Tobin were sitting together, longways on the same spot on the couch, so you could share the space. Tobin had his sketchbook, and you were asking questions about and admiring his drawing. It made my heart swell, because in that little moment I think y'all figured out how to speak up for yourselves and compromise. Proximity can be challenging, but y'all usually find your way back to this: we belong to each other.

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None of us have it all figured out, but you seem to be onto something. You seek and create joy. Whether walking into school, running up to classmates you see every day and hugging them like you haven't seen them in years. Or marveling at worms we dig up in the garden. Or collecting "pet" ants in a Gatorade bottle cap with a friend, while y'all play in the dirt near the baseball bleachers. Or getting distracted from a dusk game of hide-and-seek with the neighbors to chase lightning bugs. While life is hard and not always happy, I think you're figuring out that there's something to appreciate and enjoy in each day and in the people you meet.

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Thank you for being you. Today we will celebrate you, and I hope you will feel the power of our love. You have so much love to share and being alongside you as you do that is an awesome privilege.

Love,
Mom

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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Commencement

T,

Your mom has made practice of addressing you more directly in these posts because you're going to read them eventually. I haven't made that move until today. I decided I needed to change my writing perspective about you because I've more fully realized how independent and distinct you've become. Having children, as you may choose to learn someday, is an intimidating, exhilarating, daunting, rewarding, terrifying proposition.

I think it's natural for parents to think of their children as extensions of themselves for a while--your mom and I have been your primary influences, after all. Lately, I've been more aware of the delineation that all of us have to make between ourselves and our parents. I remember having those realizations myself about how I was different from my parents, and I realize a lot of it was beginning to happen around the time I was your age.

You've done a great job lately of deciding who you want to be. Choosing to grow your hair out was a good example. Last night was an even greater reminder of how fully you are your own person. You were brilliant in your class's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. You were bold and confident. Your voice boomed. You instigated a fight (!). You owned lines that spoke wisely of the folly of the human spirit and the hilarious and unexpected ways of love. Not only was I proud of you, I admired your confidence and passion.


More people than I can remember complimented me on your performance after the show. I loved hearing it, but I realized I want to remember that it's you and your work they were praising. Your performance showed me a side of you that I don't think I've ever seen--and I've gotten to spend almost every day of your life with you.

Personally, I've been trying to remind myself to listen more to the people around me. I feel like I need to listen and hear more than speak and tell. Last night, I had a chance to listen to you and your wonderful friends, and I am better for it.

Then today, you graduated from 5th grade. We're off to middle school. I admit, feel nervous about you going to middle school, because it's new and kind of intimidating. The play last night reminded me that you're your own person, and middle school is largely yours to take on.


I just want you to know that I want to help. I promise to try to listen, and I want you to feel free to tell me anything and ask me anything. The nature of a parental relationship means that we're going to disagree sometimes. I want you to know that it's ok for us to disagree. There's an idea I like that I share with my classes sometimes: "If all the people in a room share the exact same opinions, then all but one of those people is unnecessary." I hope to remember that idea even applies to young adults whose diapers I used to change (Too much? Bad joke? That's a dad thing, I guess).

More seriously, it also makes me think of some of my favorite ideas about love and forgiveness. I promise I will always love you, no matter what. And I promise that will be true even when we disagree or have days when we don't see eye to eye on everything. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians said it a long time ago better than I can now:
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of wrongs. . . Love never gives up. . . and endures through every circumstance. . . Three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love."
As you leave behind elementary school, you're leading our family into uncharted territory (again). You may not realize it, but you've taught me a lot over the last 11 years. I promise I'll try to listen, love, and learn from you as you move on to the next stage. This blog is a place where mom and I have dedicated much of our time to expressing our gratitude, and I hope you know in your heart of hearts that we are thankful for you, your brother, and your sister more than we could hope to say. I love you, T, and am thankful for the brilliant young person, friend, sibling, and teammate you are.


Thursday, June 01, 2017

Baseball

We were out of town for opening day, so first real opportunity for a three-uniform photo op. 😍⚾️😍⚾️😍

Our baseball season is winding down. It's been a special one with all three kids playing this year (Lauren's rookie year!) and each kid has a had an awesome coach. I've enjoyed sitting in the bleachers or helping out in the dugout. I focus on cheering--try not to coach, although an occasional "Watch the batter!" comes out when Lala is playing the field. Matt, on the other hand, has done some assistant coaching: keeping the book, helping with practice, and pitching for Lauren's team.

I'm writing this now, the week before the playoffs start, because while winning in the playoffs is undoubtedly fun, it truly doesn't measure the success of a season. We've watched our kids shake off batting slumps and fielding errors, cheer on their teammates, and make some big plays of their own. All while learning a little more about the game. We've all made some friends along the way.

I love sports. And I love how our family enjoys and loves sports together.