Personality Soundtrack

I’ve been asked before to write a post or two (or four) that explores the uniqueness of each of my kids. Last weekend I shot some really terrible video of the kids swimming at our mini-vacation (the real one is coming up next week). Dan and I actually laugh about the quality of the video. (Don’t blame me – iPhone doesn’t believe in service to my corner of the world, and I don’t have a fancy Flip. Blackberry is all I’ve got for impromptu moments like this!)

But despite being a grainy, fuzzy mess of a video, it is actually quite useful as a personality display. Here is the video and below is a description of what you might have missed the first time through. : )

swimming from danieljohn on Vimeo.

So, first of all, this is a five foot pool all around. But my kids are not swimmers and are not five feet tall, and so it might as well have been a hundred foot pool! Ada is in the yellow BabyFloat in the middle. Ada is six. Ada likes to be in control. After spending most of her time crying she was so nervous about the water, Dan tried to help her “overcome” her fear by putting her in the unsinkable, immovable baby floatie. No one is going to make a baby floatie that tips over, Ada, you are perfectly safe!

00:05 She is still nervous, but Ada starts bossing telling Dan that Macy needs help swimming to me (Mama).

You can see Dan towards the middle there. Macy is wearing blue water wings and a blue duckie floatie around her middle. She is the bravest of them all. With her arms draped over the duckie body she flops and floats all over the pool. I’m not sure why Ada thought she needed help from Dan, but earlier she was crying because she thought Macy was going to drown (with the two water wings and an inflatable duck around her middle!), so this is a better approach. The big pink blob is a huge inner tube that Jesse is lounged on – wearing Dan’s sunglasses.

00:19 Instead of helping her to the ladder, Dan grabs Macy’s feet and starts spinning her around in the water. This is his normal dad reaction. Why be boring? Let’s do it the fun way!

00:30 Claire makes her appearance. She has her arms wrapped around two pool noodles and is kicking her legs like crazy. Her activity in the pool is like her activity in life: constant motion. Seriously, we swam for about two hours each of the two days we were there and Claire was moving like this the entire time. No wonder she’s such a skinny shrimp! : )

00:46 Classic Jesse: “Can you make it, Macy?” He is the big brother I always dreamed of!

00:50 Classic Macy: animal noises and monster sounds. I have no explanation for this.

01:07 More Classic Macy. Me: “Say, ‘I made it!” Macy: “No, no, I need get swim to the steps!” She has her own ideas and her ideas are best. (My dad claims he lived with a little girl like this about 32 years ago, but I think he’s fibbing.)

01:15 Background noise: Ada singing, “A wed-ding toda-ay! A wed-ding toda-ay!” It was true. We were there for a wedding, but around our house it could be anything, “It’s rain-ing today-ay!” Almost anything can bring on a song!

Just One Thing


My friend Anna is a Rare Rock. She teaches the 3 and 4 year-old’s Sunday School class and when Jesse (now 9) was 3 she offered to pick him up and take him. Wrestling two babies and a preschooler alone, since Dan’s “paying gig” is every Sunday morning, I was never making it to Sunday School.

In turn, each of my three big kids has learned to wait at the door on Sunday mornings and watch for Anna’s white car to pick them up. It is a special treat for them and a wonderful help to me. Now Macy just turned 3 and earned a spot in Anna’s car. She wasn’t even born when Anna started this tradition. Rain or shine, late nights or holidays, Anna is there.

It’s just one thing (among the many) that Anna does to help others, but it makes a big difference in the little lives in my house. From Anna they are learning consistency, faithfulness, and devotion. Sometimes it doesn’t take a life-altering decision to be a Rare Rock, it just takes one thing. “The next right thing” is what Dallas Willard calls it.

Happy Weekend, Rare Rocks!

The Best of Men . . .

I fell in love with this guy more than 10 years ago:






Our youngest was born on his 30th birthday. Two people to celebrate on one wonderful, sunny day.

If life together is this good now, I can’t imagine how wonderful it will continue to be. There must be nothing better in this life than to spend it with the person you like most in the world. (And the little people he is responsible for are a pretty great package deal!)

Looking for Our Totem-Stories

Have you read Phyllis Tickle’s The Shaping of a Life: A Spiritual Landscape? I didn’t know it, but my soul wanted this book. And I’ve only read three chapters! From the very first page I felt I was drinking from a cup of perfectly chilled water, its river rushing through my being with life and refreshment.

This satisfied feeling is easily contrasted to it’s empty counterpart: web surfing. You know that feeling, right? It is already late, you should have accomplished a million other things tonight, but instead you are still click-click-clicking through random links on blogs, Facebook pages, and shopping sites. For some crazy reason when I get in that mode, I actually imagine that the answer to my current dream or dilemma might very likely be found in my next click. And so I keep clicking. Usually this leaves me only with a sleepy regret of wasted time and another day coming without promising anything more substantial.

I have associated this dissatisfaction with a spiritual hunger that can never be fully satisfied in this life. And I still think that is true, but Tickle’s spiritual autobiography offers another suggestion that seems even more applicable. She describes the shared conventions among her regional ancestors (from the Scotch-Irish and Native American legacies) that were integral in the shaping of her childhood experiences:

. . . . Not the least among these was the belief that for every child there was an appointed narrative, a story that would unlock life for him or her. Like a totem, the story would be for one’s whole life an identity, an explanation, and an enduring tool. Without such a narrative, one would be forever confined to a stumbling confusion and a wearying poverty of spirit. The work of childhood was to discern one’s narrative, and the work of the adult community was to provide an abundance of possibilities from which each of us might choose.

I find myself in both of these categories: wondering if I could name my totem-story from childhood and also accepting my responsibility as a parent. I don’t worry that I have not provided these opportunitees, instead, I recognize how very hard we all try to engage with them in our everyday lives. I don’t necessarily think that my son is going to be a major league baseball player, but what if baseball is part of his totem-story, a way that he makes sense out of this life or a passion that at least offers him positive focus during the tumultuous years of adolescence? I know Claire won’t be a world-class equestrian, but what if horseback riding lets her fly across fields in a way that her compromised physical body never could. What if this is her place of solace and comfort?

So we spend too many nights in the month of June eating sandwiches out of a cooler and playing hours and hours of baseball. We schedule swimming lessons and music lessons. We research community theater and consider after-school tutoring. I know all of this can be over-done and twisted into torture for a child, but today I’m struck by the genuinely inspired intentions of our parental hovering.

In the end, Tickle’s totem-story turned out to be the Christian gospel. Confined to her bed during a childhood illnes, she was fascinated by reading the Old Testament story of Moses holding up the bronzed serpent that the Israelites had only to look up to and be saved from the venomous serpents all around them. As she grew into adulthood, she learned more from the New Testament Gospel of John: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The verses that follow these are the most recognized in the Bible: “For God so loved the world . . . ” A connection was made for Tickle that guided the rest of her life. (Side note: This material has tons of talking points for the theologians among us. What an incredible association between our disease and our remedy!)

I suppose what I’ve gleaned so far from Tickle’s lovely book is that my desire for my children to find their totem-stories is noble, but they are just as likely to find it during a simple afternoon of reading as from a packed schedule of events. Of course I won’t stop looking for opportunities, but I’ll also be comforted by the perfect grace and timing of God. After all, he tells really great stories.

Probably Good Advice for Singles

There is a famous conversation that went down a couple of years ago between me and my friend Christie. Maybe it was infamous. Anyway, Christie and I were talking about the positive traits we had discovered about our husbands after we married. We were mentioning things like being good with money, knowing how to change diapers, being open-minded to new things, etc. Unfortunately, we were having this very positive conversation in the context of (and this is about the point when our husbands joined the table) “Things We’d Know To Look For If We Had To Get Married Again.”

I think you can see where things went wrong during that lunch hour. And our husbands still don’t believe that we were complimenting them.

You get us, right? I mean, who knew Dan would call my Mom when I’m sick (so she could bring over Mountain Dew) and teach the kids to let me nap while he fixed dinner? I wasn’t smart enough as a single to look for this kind of thing, but I totally lucked out! (He also does laundry. I knew this in theory, but in practice it is WAY better than I thought it would be. I mean, all the laundry.)

So, speaking of things to look forĀ  . . . What are some of your spouse’s positive traits that you didn’t know about until after you married? Go ahead, brag!

Irish Thoughts

Dan’s mother grew up in O’Neill, Nebraska, home of the World’s Largest Shamrock, so he was aware of his Irish heritage (as if his gorgeous red-haired cousins aren’t proof enough). And my Mom has always told me that Grandpa Adair told her his people came over during the Great Irish Potato Famine. Still, neither Dan nor I have spent much time researching our family trees.

That changed on Friday night after we watched the new NBC program “Who Do You Think You Are?” This is reality TV that I get – no challenges or games or edited drama. Although the show is sponsored by Ancestry.com and its accompanying product placement, the premise is straightforward and fascinating.

The program helps celebrities use Ancestry.com and professional historians to trace their genealogies. We watched Emmitt Smith discover a relative named Mariah, a slave and mother who found a way to keep her four children together even within the slave trade in Alabama. By the time Smith visited a charity school full of children in the country of his origin (discovered through DNA swabbing) – children who would otherwise be sold into slavery today – I was completely hooked.

But that’s not all. Dan signed up for the free 14-day trial membership at Ancestry.com and guess what? My family tree traces back to Ireland pretty quickly.

Our people were the Divine’s from Dublin. How charming is that?

My Number Ten

My eight year-old son, Jesse, is playing organized basketball for the first time this year. I’ve always loved watching sports and I’m Jesse’s biggest fan, so I knew I would enjoy watching his games even if he mostly sat on the bench. But he doesn’t sit on the bench. He starts, which in his own words means, “when the game STARTS, I’ll be playing!”

He plays tough defense and has made a few points. But what I love the most is who he is on the court. When he makes one of those few shots, he acts like every one is the game winner. Hands up, cheering for himself, high stepping to get back on defense – he embraces the moment of joy and accomplishment.

He is also the first guy to offer assistance to an injured player, even if that player is on the other team!

Tonight Jesse’s game happened to be played in the gym of my old high school. Many, many hours logged on those wooden bleachers. When old friends and acquaintances would ask, “Do you have a kid out there?” I would very proudly point to Jesse and say, “Right there. Number Ten. He’s mine.” It doesn’t matter to me if he’s the high scorer. I’m proud of how he smiles at me when he first notices me sitting in the stands. How he runs as fast as his little legs can carry him all the time – from the beginning to the end of the game. How he skips a little when he hits his mark at the wing position.

When it comes down to it, I just love him. Isn’t it cool that this is how God thinks about us? We don’t have to be the best. He’s just happy with how we look like Him, how we try hard, how we care about others.

Yep. That one right there, He says, she’s mine.