2022 Ship's Log

What drives us and many of our friends to fill every day in December with activity? Are we anxious to squeeze the last from the year, rushing to complete what we’d hoped to accomplish? Do we feel obligated to spend the remains of the year among people?

I’m exhausted and pessimistic, yet I still sense pressure to invite and visit. More than half the stuff on our calendar I scheduled in the last two weeks.

I wonder what it’s like to spend Advent, I don’t know, waiting quietly?

Made good progress on interesting software problems at work, tore carpet and staples out of our master bedroom, and managed a heating emergency for our Evanston tenants. Feels like it’s been a long week!

don’t work please

please, please, pretty please work?

We had a great time with the Cossi’s. Sadly, their kiddos stayed home sick and didn’t get to enjoy Betrayal at House on the Hill with us. And the pizza oven is so, so awesome. I ate two whole (small) pizzas by myself!

Thankfully Microsoft has decided to return the option to publish pictures via links. Thank you!

Have you had this stuff? It's called snow. Delicious.

A couple of weeks ago Amie flew to Vancouver, British Columbia, for Val’s wedding. It was rainy for almost the entire trip, but Amie did capture a few lovely moments.

This is near the university, I believe.
Friends forever.
Percentage of Amie selfies with this face? 95.7%, lol!
And here are the newlyweds. Val and David's wedding reception was at a posh hotel.

Excited for #BoardGame night at our place! Our neighbors are bringing their pizza oven.

Awhile back, Amie suggested I only write log updates for stuff that family cares about (life updates, pictures of the kiddos). But my posts to Mastodon integrate my technology, business and faith interests. If I merge them all together in this timeline, then what?

I’m fairly certain most family don’t actually visit the website, they just read my monthly newsletter (except for you Mom, and you Papaw; many hugs to ya both). So it’s probably not a big deal. I may, however, need to implement a filter on this page so that one can see only the logs which interest them.

If I haven’t lost you already, one improvement that posting to Mastodon will offer is that, for the first time in ages, you can respond to my logs in public!

I’ve been posting more over on Mastodon. You can find me under the handle @acbilson@indieweb.social. I plan to syndicate logs from this site to Mastodon in future, but for now this feed and my Mastodon feed will be somewhat separate.

I notice logical fallacies from time-to-time, but it’s hard to remember them all. Which is why Your Logical Fallacy is so cool. I wonder if I could add their icons to my posts?

I’m excited to host our first Discovery Bible Study in our new home. These are the highlight of my week and I’m stoked to facilitate them again. Now just have to choose what to read…

Folks with similar interests, like Ben, made me aware that Mastodon is growing fast. I’d tried it a couple years back, but now that I have an established habit of writing online, I’m thinking of giving it another shot. If they’ll have me on the server, you can find me at @acbilson@indieweb.social.

I hate this house. If there was any question whether we’d succeeded in cleaning this place, the answer is unequivocally no. Amie’s return confirms it.

She was breathing fine in Vancouver and on the drive home. But after just a couple hours in the house, especially in the bedroom, and she was coughing and wheezing.

I don’t know where we’re going to put our bed, but we need to move it elsewhere so we can tear out the carpet and prime the walls of our bedroom.

I’m full of gratitude for the joyful opportunity to demonstrate Discovery Bible Study (DBS) with folks at Westminster. Invitations like these to partner with others makes the suffering feel light compared to the reward. Am I starting to understand Hebrews 12:1-6 a little? Worth further investigation.

Father, thank you for inviting me to participate in your Son’s kingdom. It’s seemed like participation would always be a war of attrition, and I’m grateful for these breakthroughs which have arrived outside my power. Yet “it is for discipline that you have to endure,” and I ask for mercy to endure like Jesus did, neither succumbing to the Enemy’s hostility nor the inward deception of Sin.

Form disciples in our neighborhood who, in humility and love, will become servants of all. Make us examples of endurance, love and obedience. Let our holiness be obvious to all but ourselves. Match our desire for your words with a passion for extraordinary prayer. For Jesus' rule!

Through the challenges of moving to Rapid City, one of the best experiences has been finding ministry partners and friends.

Joel & Lori have been praying for us almost since we’ve arrived. We’ve been adopted into their family before we’d even shown commitment to the church. They’ve come by for a campfire, and I expect to start prayer walks with Joel in November and host a Discovery Bible Study (DBS) with him soon.

Skyler & Amanda have been easy to hang with and aspire for kingdom impact. They’ve also been crippled by their COVID experiences and came to South Dakota for recovery. Skyler has advocated for DBS at his church and hopes to read Miraculous Movements and Contagious Disciple-Making after he finishes next Sunday’s sermon.

Dominic & Kati are our neighbors across the street. We’ve enjoyed a campfire with them too, and are excited to have our first DBS with them on the 10th of November.

Will you pray with us?

Father, the kingdom of your Son is our joy, hope and mission. Pour your reviving Spirit over our neighborhood, washing the streets of fear and broken relationships and restoring us to right relationships with God and neighbor. Unify your community to listen to your voice and serve with the strength you supply. Let the needy find welcome and support, the lonely find family, and the struggling find camaraderie. May your Son, his words, his works, his wounds and his ways, be our treasure and obedience. For Jesus and his kingdom, forever!

Draw Westgate and Westminster church and their neighbor churches into extraordinary prayer that sparks revival. Bind Dominic, Kati and ourselves together in love and friendship with Jesus at our center, and create opportunities to expand into more homes. Heal Skyler, Amanda, his friends, Amie and I of the wounds inflicted during the first years of the pandemic. Protect us from our Enemy and guide us into the dark unknown with faith.

We were host to a neighborhood Fall event last Sunday. Of the thirty invitations Graham and I had delivered, nearly ten households dropped by at some point during our two hour event - a great turnout! It was remarked multiple times how good it was to see neighbors, some of whom hadn’t talked for years, and to reminisce about times when there were more public gatherings in the neighborhood. Some who I’d only waved at in passing came by to introduce themselves. Many generously brought food so that our small table was covered in snacks.

On another note, we’ve been appalled recently by the level of unseen resistance to actions of love that seem insignificant from our vantage. Our simple gathering, with no purpose than to meet our neighbors and foster community, was viciously attacked. The night before, all four of us came down with flu-like symptoms. The morning of the event we were all on edge, having slept poorly and awaked in pain. I particularly was both detached and intensely irritable such that I snapped at Graham and Amie multiple times. I stumbled groggily from a nap minutes before the event started, waiting for the ibuprofen to lessen the aches while I tended to our campfire in a cold, blustery wind.

Reminder: you must always restart your proxy after renewing SSL certs.

It’s disappointing that books about Disciple-Making Movements are often tarnished with critiques in the first few chapters. Whether the critiques are valid or not isn’t particularly important if it puts the reader who’d most benefit, the leader of a local church, on the defensive from page 1. Illustrations of a better way are far more persuasive than critiques of the existing model, but pastors are unlikely to get to the latter illustrations when the former critiques are so scathing. Can’t we put the critiques in an Appendix?

There’s not been a day like yesterday in some time.

In the morning, Amie, Graham, Royal and I joined a team from Westminster Presbyterian on a hiking trail repair project at Camp Rimrock.

The best part for me was getting to know Skyler a little better. He and his wife moved to Rapid City from Oregon about a year ago. We share some similarities, not least of which is the long-term tension between what’s best for the stability and growth of our children (though he’s got a few more than we), and our own aspirations as individuals and couples. I can’t wait to catch coffee with him soon. May the Spirit of grace sustain his little family and their brand-new-born child.

We dropped in to Grandma Jaynne’s home after a short break. She had some wood to stack. I was thinking about why I enjoy it so much. It’s like natural therapy. Nothing about it feels like work; it’s all enjoyment.

In the evening we had a campfire on our front lawn. Our neighbors came over: Dominic, Kati, Brianna and Jonathan. They’ve been “just a little” busy - last weekend Dominic and Kati were married! I’m so happy they were able to make it, and that they’re doing well. We share a love of board games and a mutual interest in reading the Bible. May we have more opportunities not only to hang out, but also to discover all the riches of God in Christ Jesus together.

I thought that’d be the end of the evening, but while Amie and I were enjoying the fire after Dominic and gang went home, a man walked up and joined us at the fire. His name is Robert. He has an inoperable brain injury that’s slowly paralyzing him. He’s lost hope and has decided to liquidate all his assets and fly to Ukraine to fight in the Ukrainian Army. I guess he’d rather die fighting. I laid hands on him and prayed that Jesus would heal his brain injury. Nothing happened, except that his headache subsided. Would you pray for Robert, that Jesus would finish the work of healing in his body and hijack his self-destructive plans? I cannot help but think there’s purpose in the most random person I could imagine walking up to join our campfire, but also please pray that any schemes of the Enemy would be foiled. Robert isn’t in a healthy mental state, and now he knows where we live.

A trip down memory lane…

One year ago.
Two years ago.
Three years ago.
Four years ago.

Graham saw a double-rainbow yesterday!

It’s a full week. I had a lovely call with Brad Wathen on Monday and Amie had MOPS Tuesday. Tomorrow Royal has his first day at his new “school,” then a show-and-tell at Graham’s school in the evening. On Friday Amie and I are helping to watch the kids in Graham’s classroom so their parents can have a kid-free evening, then on Saturday we’re helping to repair a trail near Camp Rimrock. How do we end up with weeks like this? We just keep saying yes to good things. Maybe we need some great things so it’s easier to decline the rest…

Thanks to the tireless labor of Amie’s parents and my grandparents, we completely renovated Graham and Royal’s bedroom! Every surface was coated with Kilz primer, then at least one coat of paint. Even the downstairs bedroom got a primer coat. We began to replace all the outlets, switches, and box light fixtures, added track lighting in the kitchen, and moved the refrigerator. Thank you Tom, Debbie, Jaynne, Skip, and Carol!!!

The finished product is stunning - my favorite room in the house. It's like taking a vacation at a beach resort, walking into the boy's room.
I don't have too many contrast photos, but look at that window frame. Yuck!
Moving the refrigerator from the middle, where it took up all the counter space, to the end, where it leaves both counters open, was a 1000% kitchen improvement.

I asked for help on a work project and I am grateful to have received it. Even more grateful for Amie since she instigated the idea. But the help turned into more of the helper doing it all and me watching sometimes. Not the most fun approach to getting help. It is the fastest though, so good for the business I guess?

How is it that asking for help is still such a barrier? I will struggle alone for hours, days even, before asking for the fifteen minutes of help that carries me over my current hurdle.

Not long after we arrived in Rapid City (so I’m a little behind), Graham and Royal participated in Strider Fest. It’s a race hosted by the company that makes their Strider bikes. Rapid City is their home base as it turns out.

Royal was at the top of his race and got to ride in the finals of his age bracket. His secret? Slow and steady.
Determined.
The race itself went over all kinds of terrain. Rocky bumps, tunnels, ramps and sprinklers. It was awesome.

Amie’s mom received a load of unspilt logs from a friend named Wes. We were over there last Saturday and split some of it for her. She even let us take some of it home for our campfires!

This electric splitter is awesome. It makes me so happy to split wood again!
Our own woodpile, sigh. It's beautiful!
Enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Graham, Royal and I went on our longest hike ever - a big chunk of the Flume Trail! I didn’t think it would be too much longer after the tunnel, but it turned out to be about a 2.5 mile hike. I only had to carry them a little bit of the way towards the end to give their legs a break. So proud of them for sticking it out!

The trail crosses the stream running from Sheridan Lake and climbs up the southern hillside. Then it cuts west, through a long tunnel built back when panhandlers were searching for gold. It runs along the hillside (sometimes perilously close to the edge; those parts gave my papa heart a fit), then down into a ravine. After that, back up a ridge to Sheridan Lake, then down into another ravine headed east, across four bridges, back to the trailhead.

Graham was an excellent big brother, pointing out every place that Royal might stumble.
Did those little legs really make it over this trail?!
Tired but happy. Next time we'll turn back at the tunnel :)

Have you ever skim coated a wall to replace the texture? Except for applying a layer of Kilz primer (do we have to do this before the skim coat?), we’re ready to give it a shot on the walls of our basement bedroom. What’s the worst that could happen?

Oh wait, found the most provocative. What if this was American history?

Let’s Talk About Race Series - Slavery

Amie showed me a few of Chris Buck’s photographs on Facebook today. I couldn’t find links to the most provocative, but this is an example.

That this photo looks unusual is the whole point. Why?

Let’s Talk About Race Part 2

After hearing my story, you decide if you’d like to work with Xpert Mortgage of Illinois.

Our condo was under contract with a buyer with a $150k pre-approval through Xpert for three months. First, they wanted “just one more paycheck” from our buyer, so we delayed closing for three weeks. Then they were unresponsive and our lawyer nearly exploded with frustration. After weeks of back-and-forth, our lawyer called the president of the company because she’d never seen such abysmal service. Instead of rectifying the situation, our buyer instead received a loan denial letter claiming that they weren’t able to supply $1500. Who even knows where this magic number came from, but both sides, seller and buyer, offered to make up the difference.

This business is not trustworthy. They wasted three months of our time and cost us several thousands of dollars while our condo was under contract with a buyer they’d never loan to. They were not forthcoming about what they needed as a lender and behaved childishly when they made mistakes, all the way up to the president of the company. Their pre-approval cannot be trusted.

After a rocky landing, worse than I could have imagined, our lives are getting a little better. There are now homes for a few essentials-I can find a cup for tea or a screwdriver for a project-and we’re starting to find life rhythms again.

After bouts of sickness Amie has been able to visit more family which has helped tremendously to manage full days with the two hooligans. We’re still cleaning and launching projects every other day, but the regular progress has staved off most of the sense that we live in a hopeless shithole. When we’re really tired or overwhelmed it can still be deeply discouraging, but usually one of us has a slightly better outlook.

The next pivot is Graham’s first week of school. Technically it’s next week, but he won’t start in earnest until Labor Day week. I anticipate Amie will enjoy spending most of the week only managing Royal and will be able to imagine new rhythms that don’t require her every waking moment devoted to our boys. Maybe I’ll find space to start some new rhythms of my own, who knows?

One of my favorite has been doing odd projects over lunch. Since I’m sedentary all morning, physical work is surprisingly effective as a mid-day break. My other favorite is taking one or both of the boys out for a bike ride after work. We’ve met so many neighbors on our rides and it’s given me a great excuse to explore the neighborhood.

Some inspiration for writing online, The Ultimate Guide to Writing Online. It’s a long one I’ll visit again next week.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting more neighbors here in Rapid City than anywhere else. Just tonight a couple, Scott & Andra, came by to introduce themselves tonight. When the boys and I go for rides around the neighborhood we often at least say hi to someone, and sometimes even chat for a bit like Dock & Jane down the street. Now that we have a fire pit (maybe need some chairs…) I’m excited to start having neighbors over to hear their stories.

Only two weeks in Rapid City and I’m already back to Chicago. Flying into O’Hare still feels like coming home.

David Ello graciously picked me up from the airport and we spent all afternoon chatting on their back porch. Such a joy to hang with David, Sharon and Charlotte.

No travel to Downtown Chicago is complete without going out to eat, and I did enjoy returning to the land of food excellence. But it’s not nearly as much fun eating incredible food by myself as when I’m enjoying it together with others. I’d rather eat Papa Murphy’s with friends than eat a multi-course meal at a 5-star restaurant.

This is WHIRLYBALL!!!
ALL these glass-faced buildings were built in the past five years. The effect of their reflective glass faces is to make them disappear. They're the most human-friendly skyscrapers I've seen, hiding their immensity while gearing the lowest levels to be modernly magnificent.
It's an unsettling experience to travel at once from the natural beauty of the Black Hills to the man-made beauty of the Chicago Loop. I feel that I ought to value natural beauty over human-made, but I find them both so captivating in such dramatically different ways that it's impossible to compare.

We can get Palisade peaches here 🥲. What’s a Palisade peach, you ask? Only the most heavenly peach on earth, grown only in Palisade, Colorado.

We can come out of COVID quarantine today. I should wear a mask in public but, since I’ll be in my office most of the day anyway, this hardly matters. Under these circumstances it’s just as painful here as in Evanston, even worse after I factor in the unpacked boxes and dozens of incomplete projects. Hoping things will improve soon now that we’re out of quarantine.

I’ve written a longer update about our Arrival to Rapid City. It’s funny; when I write it down, it doesn’t sound that bad. But living through it: the bone-tiredness, the sneezing and aching, the numbing disappointment; our arrival was terrible. But I’ll forget most of that. That’s how memory works.

There are so many we’ll miss. Here’s a few we’ve gotten pictures with recently, though by no means everyone.

Douglas and his wife Cara are Graham's godparents.
Anne was Graham's teacher and now Royal's at Devonshire Montessori.
Kati Ray (and Tommy Smith, not featured) are Royal's godparents.
Carter is Graham's best friend.
Ammar (right) and Andrea (left) are neighborhood boys that have been older brothers to Graham and Royal.
Jotham (and dad Dorren and mom Rebecca) are regulars at our home, at Little Beans, and at the Evanston Vineyard.
Charlotte, Sharon (her mom), and David (her dad, not featured) have been good friends to our whole household through a global pandemic.

My grandparents were in town for my cousin Colby’s boot camp graduation at Great Lakes Naval Center. It was great to see them, and especially to introduce Royal to his great-grandfather (Papaw).

A visit to the Chicago Botanic Gardens with the boys is a must.
Royal takes a short time to warm up, but then he'll snuggle right in!

While they played with the boys, Amie and I toured the Oak Park Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. The pictures don’t do the tour justice, but here are a couple to jog my own memory.

This was Wright's home, where he lived with his servants, wife, and six children.
This gentleman has been giving volunteer tours here for twenty-six years.
The children's playroom. Wright felt that, while bedrooms were of little importance, a room built for his children's play was crucial. Everything is to a child's scale, and just behind me sits a Steinway and upper balconies for puppet shows.
If I was ever to build a house, it would be in Wright's Prairie style.

Apologies for the site downtime. I’ve hosted this site on a Raspberry Pi sitting next to me on my desk for two years, but I’ll be shutting the Pi off for our move to Rapid City. That doesn’t mean the site will be gone; I am a developer after all!

I’ve migrated everything to Vultr. My Vultr server runs in Chicago, so you probably won’t notice the change. If you live on the other side of planet Earth; however, I could deploy a second instance nearer to you. Send me an email and I’ll see what I can do :)

A little late, but on June 25th Amie and I watched Un Ballo In Maschera (A Masked Ball) conducted by Riccardo Muti with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Choir.

It was magical. Stunning. Breathtaking.

I’ve not been to many operas but I suspect this one was unusual among them. To watch Muti conduct, feeling each movement’s passions: love, fear, anger; is spellbinding. And the opera singers…

I did not until this event realize that a world-class opera singer is gifted, not only with a stellar voice, but also the capacity to act. And what acting! The sly look, the fit of passion; and always planted in place, singing dramatically and synchonously with an entire ochestra.

I could almost shake the cellist's hand!
Every line is translated from classical Italian to English. It reads like a Shakespearean play - Verdi's own inspiration!

Amie’s birthday surprise began with a Graeter’s ice cream cake, vanilla bean with chocolate. Royal’s pick.

Maya, our upstairs neighbor and babysitter for the evening, came down at 6:00, and we were out the door before 6:10. Amie didn’t know where we were going, though she had an inkling.

We parked in a private back alley (thanks SpotHero!) and walked down Broadway looking for a dinner spot. Amie chose Cere’s Table. Delicious.

The food was so good we almost missed our event, the Blue Man Group! We jogged the two blocks to Briar Street Theatre and arrived right at 8:00.

Amie said the show was surprisingly funny and she hadn’t expected so much audience participation. The smoke bothered her throat a little, but overall she had a magnificent time. Me too!

Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures so here’s one of Amie from a few days back.

I received the message from Kati while making lunch for the boys. While we’d been playing at a playground, a shooter murdered several people at a parade thirty minutes north of us.

First came the shock, then the anger and the tears. Several children were shot by a man who evaded the police for the entire day. All public events were cancelled. Friends were at a similar parade in a nearby township. The total injured and dead is still not confirmed, but we’re looking at dozens.

In the morning, we’d felt disappointed that we wouldn’t enjoy the fireworks because we didn’t want to keep our boys up late; by noon we were trapped inside our apartment waiting for a child-murderer to be apprehended by the police.

I am not a person who readily dwells upon potential dangers. When the what-if fears do surface: “what if Amie gets in a car accident while taking the boys to school,” “what if Royal falls off that ledge and suffers permanent brain damage,” I do my best to silence the fears by reminding myself that the Lord Jesus will support us through any suffering and that I must release those I love to take measured risks.

But answer me this: how am I to measure risk in an environment where my son can be shot at a 4th of July parade? Or in his elementary school classroom?

Do you know that Highland Park was only the most fatal shooting yesterday? There were 7 mass shootings across the U.S. There’s already been one more today and it’s not even noon.

Before you assume these are happening in gang neighborhoods, go look at the data. Pull up a few of those addresses and see where they’re located. You know what, fuck that, let me show you right here.

Kansas City, 4 Injured
Richmond, 6 Injured
Chicago, 5 Injured
Boston, 4 Injured
Sacramento, 1 Dead, 4 Injured
New York, 4 Injured
Chicago, 6 Dead, 31 Injured

Tell me this, dear reader. Is it an acceptable risk to take my son to a 4th of July parade? 😭

These days are flying by!

The last two weeks I’ve been totally absorbed in securing a mortgage for our prospective home. Our relationship with the first mortgage broker began well, but when we filled out the loan application we were shocked to find a $9,200 origination fee! The discovery was for the best since it forced me to shop around-a wise practice for any major purchase-but I still wish we’d been able to negotiate with the first broker. Ultimately I went through this process three times and landed on the third broker.

In the midst of loan negotiations we received our home inspection results. While I was ready to give up in my emotionally thin state, the outcome was positive. We’re currently negotiating with the sellers about how to handle a couple concerns, and we still have the VA appraisal, but it’s a relief that we’ve made it this far towards moving to Rapid City.

Ice cream at Homer’s. Do ya think Graham and Royal had a good time?

A dear friend of ours, Ted Burham, speaks before the leadership of Dearborn, MI in this reasoned presentation. I do not know many who speak with candor and without hedging before authorities as Ted does. I too have experienced what is evident in Ted’s presentation; that the Holy Spirit gives words at the appointed time, just as Jesus promised in Mark 13:11.

You may be uncomfortable, as I am, by Ted’s boldness. I hope you will join me in a little courage, however, to consider whether Ted may in fact be acting in loving obedience.

First, let’s consider that Jesus himself promised in the paragraph before (specifically, Mark 14:9) that his apostles would stand before authorities for His sake. Let’s not think it too unusual if we observe this happen in our time.

Second, let’s double-check one of these very events in the life of Paul. The entirety of Acts 24 is devoted to an occurrence of Paul standing before an authority on the accusation of inciting riots. Paul addresses his behavior, but he does not avoid speaking openly also about the underlying reason for his arrest; the reports of his conviction in Jesus' resurrection from the dead (and by definition his allegiance to Jesus as the Messiah). It seems that Paul felt it appropriate to slip in more than was purely necessary for his defense, don’t you think?

Fear not, if you take pains a careful analysis will give you opportunity to discredit Ted. But I wonder, if we could let Ted’s actions stand for themselves and quiet the shame in our own hearts for a moment, might we be grateful for Ted’s witness that the Master of the Universe, Jesus of Nazareth, is in fact the Lord even over those who do not recognize His kingship? Might we put ourselves aside for a moment to ask that the Lord deliver Ted’s family from the hands of angry men, thank Him for giving to Ted both courage and humility at the appointed hour, and request with faith the same impartation for our appointed times of testimony?

I’m stunned. We’re under contract for a mansion!

3909 Brookside Dr., Rapid City, SD

I’ve tinkered with it for a while now, but finally I can show videos on my log!

Because videos are HUGE, I’ve configured them to download only when clicked. Let me know if video makes the site hard to use and I’ll take it down.

This video is Graham and Royal sitting on the window ledge waiting for Mama to come home. They saw a kitty and, later, Royal does a little singing. Enjoy!

The boys transferred asleep from the car straight into bed, hallelujah! We weren’t totally worn out, so we played Terraforming Mars.

Amie's so feisty when it comes to board games. Good thing you can't see MY face.

I won 😆

Recently it seems like the happiest bits of our lives, like Graham’s birthday or Val and Elda’s visit, aren’t getting the writing time they deserve. Alas, not much about that is liable to change until this transition’s over, but here are a couple pictures.

Graham had a wonderful birthday party last Saturday. He wasn’t feeling great and ended up opening presents and staying on the blanket the whole time while all his friends ran about Indian Boundary Park.

Graham's Birthday was a blast!
A video with Val, Elda, Amie, Graham, and Royal
Hanging out with the Elda and the Ello's!

Chris Gow’s analysis of the Parable of the Sower was worth a re-listen and a long ponder. On my walk with Jesus this afternoon the unfairness of grace was used by the Spirit to expose why I’m resistant to pray for a beautiful home for our family in Rapid City, SD. In the world I live in, the world Ben so poignantly describes, I am so aware of my littleness and unworthiness against the backdrop of human agony that I am offended that the King of History would give us any kind of preferential treatment. Yet He does that, doesn’t He? He binds Himself to Abram, even though His covenant drags His Name into disrepute and puts Him in the impossible situation of defending and blessing a sinner. There’s no explaining it: He’s absolutely mad in His relentless commitment to grace.

So, without bartering or offended silence, to the glory of Jesus' radical grace, I ask that the Father would give us a beautiful, restful abode for our family in the Black Hills.

Amie, Graham and Royal have been sick for a month. Never in my life have I seen such persistent sickness as I have in the past year. Royal wakes two or three times most nights, Amie coughs and hacks all day long, and Graham is tired and sniffly. Even though I haven’t had symptoms, I’ve been especially tired, probably from fighting it off.

After a failed hearing test we discovered that Royal has had fluid in his ears for months. He’s scheduled to install ear tubes and remove part of his adenoids.

Watchout world, Graham's got a bat!

Just for fun, a photo of Royal.

The water is back on at the Chicago Botanic Gardens!

This letter is the least I can do for Devonshire Montessori and the parents who learned on their way to drop their children at school that their trip was in vain. This is just the kind of bullshit that has crushed parents for years now.

TRANSCRIPT

I am a father of two boys age 4 and 2. This morning I learned that my youngest’s class will be closed all week for a positive COVID case. The case was present last week, May 11th. That’s 5 days from today, but it will be 12 days before next Monday. The school received this determination at 7:37 a.m. this morning Monday May 16.

Your policy for some time now has been to quarantine exposed children for 5 days with a PCR test. When and why did this suddenly change? Or was this determination a mistake?

When you change your policy and give no warning to parents and schools you leave us both in an impossible situation. I would appreciate an answer to my previous question but, even more, I would like to know how I may best contact your organization’s leadership to express my disappointment and lobby for change, especially since your phone number 847 933 8252 cannot receive calls because the inbox is full.

UPDATE: A nurse called me on the 24th of May in response to my letter. She kindly explained what happened and expressed her apologizes at the constantly changing rules. I am so grateful for the follow-up.

Apparently, the reason this particular case was modified from a five-day quarantine to ten days was purely because the school couldn’t vouch for 100% mask wearing in their toddler classroom. Fancy that, they couldn’t promise that a bunch of two-year-olds always kept their masks on. Anyways.

From the nurse’s description, it sounds like it’s been a major challenge to keep current on the latest CDC guidelines and apply them on each case for every school in the district.

This painting is encouraging to me at this time because I’ve also been meditating on eternal life.

While we live in this temporal life friendship and camaraderie are haunted by fear of loss. The older I become, the more friendships I enjoy, the more barbs of sadness I seem to carry in the friendships that have grown dim by distance and time. But humans aren’t meant to be pincushions of sadness and loss. The promise of eternal life offers a path out from sadness towards hope.

As Jesus rose from the dead with a body unconstrained by space, and since time is a function of space (thanks Einstein), then time also will be for us an endless present, unfettered from the curse of decay. The friendships represented in fingerprint leaves will life on in eternal present, unspoiled by time and distance. Though now I grieve that I may not again enjoy the company of many friends whom I love, I shall yet break bread with them in a fresh reality where goodbye will be erased from our vocabulary.

Graham and I were getting special drinks to celebrate the start of the Sabbath when we were approached by a camera crew who wanted to hear how we felt about the rising COVID risk. Since I’ve spent many hours thinking about this subject, I foolishly thought I should offer my opinion.

Not that the interviewer did anything to make me feel a fool; they were professional. No, as I walked away I replayed the quips I’d made about danger, vaccination, and precautions. Even if they tried, I don’t think I could be made to appear more foolish than what I freely offered.

I said that we follow CDC guidelines, but in the spotlight I couldn’t remember them. I tried to explain how difficult it’s been as a parent, but I couldn’t recall any of the many times we’ve scrambled to find a test for the boys, or the many obstacles children continue to face.

I’m quite humiliated at how silly I can be when put in front of a camera. For a more reasonable response (not that anyone will ever see my interview) here is an open letter I wrote to the mayor of Evanston. I’m not concerned about the rise in cases in our city because, even though the data my post relies on is no longer current, I have not read of a change in circumstance.

https://alexbilson.dev/plants/business/the-vaccine-mandate-is-illogical-and-illegal/

Yesterday morning I went out to look for a delivered package. Royal, who is turning out to be quite the morning person, went with me. Instead of looking and returning to our apartment, he walked out the door and down the street in his pajamas. He was so happy to be out, singing and skipping, that we walked all the way around the block, smelling flowers, noticing trucks, and chasing squirrels. This morning after breakfast he went straight over to put on his sandals for our walk. I guess 6:30 a.m. walks are now our thing.

Every day gets us closer to our South Dakota move. Our condo was put on the market a couple days ago. We thought that we’d find a home to purchase before the end of May, but that’s not looking likely so we may rent after all.

We’ve had a lovely stretch without much sickness, but somehow it still finds us every couple weeks or so. It was about three weeks that Amie had a fever, aches, dizziness and chills. All the same symptoms are back today. If it goes like last time, I’ll have the same in three days.

The boys have soccer practice every Thursday, courtesy of Devonshire Montessori. They’ve both enjoyed it I think, though Royal, to our astonishment, is taking many weeks to warm to participating. Each week he gets a little closer: first, it was sitting on Anne’s lap (she’s the teacher), then rolling on the ground, then rolling on the ball, on the ground.

I’m waiting for Royal to sleep. Since we moved him to the bottom bunk it’s taken longer to put him to sleep. He already has recurrent sleep issues and is now also able to walk out the door. So I’m sitting here outside the door, periodically asking him to get back in bed. Eventually I will get what’s left of the night to myself; maybe an hour.

I’ve had engrossing, timely projects at work recently and haven’t spent a much time writing. Overall a good thing, though it feels like a lapse.

The days are blurry. This might sound like a bad thing, but I think it’s actually good. There haven’t been as many crises to punctuate time.

Amie and I celebrated my birthday last week. Besides baking my annual deep-dish apple pie, she got us Broadway tickets for Moulin Rouge.

The show was lovely and absorbing. We’re always amazed at the artistry that goes into every Broadway show: the music, the movement, the story and the set were all spectacular.

One of my favorite aspects was the way the writers weaved the movie’s music with current rock/pop/love songs. I regularly try to tempt Amie into singing the Elephant Song duet with me, and the way that new hits were weaved in made the entire show familiar and emotionally-connected.

Since his Nanny (translation: great-grandmother) left for home Thursday, Royal looks every morning for her. He puts up his hands in a shrug and says, “Nanny?” with a confused look on his face. He’s also been searching for her bag in which he’d found many treasures.

At church, Royal took off searching the whole building top-to-bottom. Amie followed him and asked, “Are you looking for Kati?” to which he responded exuberant, “And Nanny!”

Royal’s birthday was the most impressive party we’ve thrown yet. It was hosted at the Chandler-Newberger Center. They gave us a room with tables and half the gym. The gym was pre-configured with two courses and an instructor showed the kids how to stretch and then how run the course.

For the most part the kids didn’t bother to follow a certain path but went to the places that most interested them for the next half-minute. Both Graham and Royal periodically disappeared to get a snack in the other room. After the first hour we moved to the snack room, gorged ourselves on bananas and worms-in-dirt, and watched Royal open gifts. He’d already opened his birthday gifts on his actual birthday - these were just the ones brought by guests and Uncle Mark, Aunt Steph and Viktoria.

There were six children and three times that many adults.

Royal's birthday had a monkey theme. Betcha can't guess why :)
Royal's never done a gymnastics class before, but he's a natural.
Every kid had a great time, but none more than Graham and Carter.
It's a miracle; every child sitting at the same table, at the same time!
If you got Royal a card, it was read to him. I can't guarantee he noticed.
Where's Royal?
There were balls on the parachute just a second ago...
Can I make it over that last one? I think so.

YES!!! Official Tolkien Website.

I finished Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro yesterday. Ishiguro’s capacity to enflesh an android and perceive through its eyes a complex web of human relationships and the beauty, and fearfulness, of nature is astounding. I shall certainly read more from this exceptional contemporary author and heartily recommend Ishiguro’s work. I have not even begun to absorb the implications of the story for modern humans and their creations or fully appreciated the author’s visual subtleties. It’s not terribly long - go check it out!

A smattering of pictures from the last few weeks.

Often the best way to gaze above is to lay upon the floor.
Royal's first haircut!
A visit to the beach.

The Pockit is unbelievable, the most incredible microcomputer I’ve ever seen.

Fun fact: a bad case of the hand, foot and mouth virus has a delayed side-effect. You lose finger and toe nails. 😭

The boys have enjoyed visiting Little Beans on Mondays. It’s worked great for Amie too; not only does it occupy our busy munchkins on a day I’m working and they’re not in school, but it’s also been a space to invite other parents to join.

Thoroughly enjoying their snacks.
They even have a ball (er, cube) pit.
And a basketball court with hockey sticks!

I wonder how life will be different after this season ends?

The closest corollary to this experience in my own life was my year in Afghanistan. But Afghanistan irrevocably changes how I perceive this present season. I suppose it’s impossible to have two identical seasons, since the first will always transform the next.

Like Afghanistan, day-to-day survival is the only available option. Deliberate change requires some margin in the messy transition. Without margin, any change I undergo is the effect of my environment. Change is inevitable in survival, but not deliberate. To this season’s transformation I am more a passive observer than an intentional actor.

Like Afghanistan, a community of shared experience is absent. It’s slightly better than Afghanistan, I’ll admit, but only barely. The battle-worn, apostolic parents of the pandemic are enclosed in their own bunkers, no more available to us than we are to them. Praise God, I still engage in meaningful community with a few who share part of our suffering, but it’s limited by circumstance and nearly constant sickness.

And like Afghanistan, the voice of God is conspicuously absent while the work of the Enemy is unrelenting. Weekly I encounter resistances that, due to their persistence and timing, are certainly demonically inspired. I experience momentary respite when our friends are especially careful to pray, but it’d take a dedicated stream of constant prayers to adequately protect against the onslaught - and for how long?

So I wait. I keep a flicker of hope alive, do what good I can, reject the Deceiver’s accusations, and grip the goodness of God in my teeth like a tenacious bulldog. For I am sure that no thing, though all whom I love be lost, though my bed were agony and my food tears, though my path were darkness and my days cut short; nothing shall separate me from Him in whom my soul delights. I will join my friend Job in the dust until the day of my vindication. I do not know what sort of person I shall be when I rise again, but I shall not be the same man who descended into the pit.

Alright Alex, your waxing a bit poetic don’cha think? Well, sometimes it takes a little poetry. Why don’cha go read a Psalm?

Amie’s still sick. It’s almost more than I can do to sign in and work. This is not the story I thought we’d lead, and I’m angry. Angry and disappointed.

I need a break. Amie and Graham are sick, again, and Royal is daily the worst version of a raging toddler. The days go by in an angry haze, reacting to the latest crisis worse than the last.

Sick, again.

The school called Amie at 2:00 p.m. to ask if she could pick Royal up early. He hadn’t slept over nap time and was wheezing. Royal was agitated in the car and his cough, that horrible, barky croup cough, became so intense that he vomited multiple times on the ride home. Even though it’s the fourth time he’s had croup, it’s never been so violent, and in the middle of the day. Amie dropped Graham at home and took Royal to the doctor (not our pediatrician - they don’t take respiratory illnesses. Another clinic).

After two rounds of Albuterol inhaler treatment and a steroid shot, Royal was showing only minimal improvement. The physician recommended Amie take him to the pediatric ER at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

When Amie and Royal were settled into a hospital ER room we started figuring out what we would do. Our only car, with both car seats, was at the hospital. To visit Amie, I’d need to find someone to stay with Graham and find a ride to the hospital. I messaged Maya, our upstairs neighbor who has babysat the boys in the past, to see if she could watch Graham on short notice.

Not only did Maya help watch Graham, she and her friend Shawn dropped in before bedtime. I was feeling anxious, and the presence of other adults was helpful. Maya played with Graham and I chit-chatted with Shawn while we waited to learn if Royal would stay overnight in the hospital. Maya also offered her car, so I had a way to get there. May the LORD richly bless Maya and Shawn for their generosity.

I put Graham to bed at 9:00 p.m., hopped in Maya’s car, and drove to the hospital with snacks and medicine for Amie. Before I arrived she confirmed that Royal would be staying overnight. As we figured out how I swap out with Amie, I realized my mistake. I should have asked Shawn to drive me over. Then he could take Maya’s car back and Amie could drive the car home. So I called Maya (it was now 11:00 p.m.) and asked if they’d do this one last favor. Shawn agreed so, when I arrived, I picked up a couple things for my overnight stay and we headed back to the hospital. Shawn dropped me off, Amie drove the car back, and it was just Royal and I for the night.

It was another hour before a hospital room became available, so Royal slept in the ER for a bit. He was so exhausted that he didn’t wake, even when they rolled him through the hallways, up the elevator, and to the room. They gave him another Albuterol treatment and checked his vitals at 1:00 a.m.

I may be sick, but I haven't forgotten to be cute!

A nurse came by at 3:00 a.m. to check Royal and to suck the fluid out of his nose. I held him down for that one - the poor guy was so upset to be woken up and then tortured by a stranger.

At 5:00 a.m. three nurses tried to give Royal an IV that he’d need if the ENT doctor decided to use a scope to check his lungs. Twice they tried the left arm; once in the forearm and once in the hand, but they couldn’t get a vein even with the vein-finder machine. Once they tried in the right forearm, then they gave it up. I stayed up until 6:00 a.m. thinking they’d come back with an expert, but it never happened.

The nurse was back at 8:30 to check vitals. That’s when I learned that the ENT doctor had decided not to use the scope, so Royal could eat and drink (and he didn’t need an IV after all, whew!). I ordered us blueberry pancakes. Royal perked up after snacks and water, so I put his gown, socks and shoes on and we went to explore. He was a hit around the floor, waving at nurses and finding exit signs. He washed his hands at every washing station and introduced himself at every front desk. He finally was too tired to walk, so I carried him back to the room. He and I fell asleep on the couch because he wouldn’t let me lay him back in the hospital bed - bad memories.

Ready to explore, Papa!

The ENT doctor finally arrived at 12:30. He scoped Royal down to his vocal cords but didn’t find anything amiss. Royal’s breathing had steadily improved through the morning, so the doctor gave the all-clear to leave. Amie arrived with Graham shortly thereafter and, at last, we were able to go home.

The family spent a short weekend up at Lake Geneva, WI. We didn’t know it was gonna be packed with tourists to the ice sculpture competitions! It wasn’t as restful as I’d have preferred, but we all still had a good time.

This better be important, I'm eating my icicle!
Graham really enjoyed the ice slides.
Together!
Despite his face, Royal was happiest after he was out of the ice, lounging by a warm fire. He's a comfort-lover.
There were a dozen ice statues, but this one of the Winter Olympics was one of our favorites.

Graham and Royal are happy to be Valentine partners this year!

Their short memories are sometimes a wonderful gift. Royal got a bite, forgot about it, and now it's gone. Phew!
Such a happy boy :)

Our bible study began yesterday so, as one might expect, something unexpected happened.

Amie had just picked up the boys and was walking to the door when her back ceased up in excruciating pain. She just managed to half-drag Royal through the door and make it to our apartment. I was in the middle of a call, but it wasn’t crucial and my workday ended there. We carefully hobbled Amie to the bed, gave her some Tylenol and propped her up on pillows to ease the pain.

Three hours later, hearing the boys laughing in our family time, Amie walked over to watch. She was there less than ten seconds before she shouted in pain, surprising both the boys, and hobbled back to bed. Both Royal and Graham came to check on her and give her snuggles. She spent the rest of the evening in bed while I hosted Matt Clampitt (we ended up postponing the bible study in favor of rich conversation). She fell asleep around 10:00; even with the burn from the night’s progesterone shot.

The next morning, I picked up an electric hot pad on the way home from dropping off the boys at school. She was able to catch sleep here-and-there until noon, when she was finally able to walk again. If she doesn’t twist or bend over, she can manage.

It’s merciful this happened just before the weekend, so we should be able to keep her from strenuous activity for a few days while her back recovers. Also merciful that it’s muscular pain which, even though there’s nothing we can do to mend it faster, can sort itself out without surgery.

Yesterday was one of the greatest milestones our family has ever achieved. The last remaining fertilized embryo from IVF treatment over three years ago was transferred. In a couple weeks we’ll know if it is the LORD’s pleasure to bless us with a third child.

In the stillness of faith I rejoice at the thought of a third. At other times I feel anxious, even fearful. Generally, I feel gratitude that soon we’ll never again have to work with our IVF clinic. Hallelujah.

Nolan’s piece about technology is like reading my own thoughts, creepy and satisfying to not be the only anti-tech nerd in the world. Amie would say the same thing about the tech in our home (my PiHole blocks most of her email links). I too wonder if fighting this losing battle against technology has any purpose, given that I have to constantly compromise to work and operate in our environment.

I was recently gasped at when it was revealed that I contribute to the spread of Jesus' kingdom AND keep full-time employment. Not having a ‘full-time’ ministry puts me in an unusual category for Americans - the tent-making disciple. This is not unusual elsewhere in the world, where many pastors must work to support their families, but it’s expected in America that, if you’re like me, you’re on staff at a church or parachurch organization. Why am I so unusual?

Yesterday I spent lunch with Dorren, Fareet, Neda, Elias, John and Yen at Pita Inn.

Fareet shared a couple stories I’ll try to share here.

Gary Ministry

Over the course of five months he’d traveled to Gary, IN to purchase cigarettes. Each time he prayed for the vacant buildings on his walk to the gas station.

On one trip the weather was so stormy Fareet could barely see the buildings. He was sad that he couldn’t make it to the gas station for his cigarettes, but the Holy Spirit inspired him to ask. So he raised his hands and commanded the storm clouds to part. In less than 30 seconds a corridor of clear sky appeared between the metra stop and the gas station!

Returning home full of joy at Jesus' love for him, Fareet felt compelled to lay his hands on a church with a collapsed roof and prophesy that it would fill with people for the Lord’s glory. He felt a sensation like a shockwave, and rejoiced as he continued to the train.

On the train, Fareet saw a 60-year-old woman with bad knees that he’d noticed at the gas station. He asked if she had faith in Jesus' love for her and if he could pray for healing in her knees. She said “yes,” and “do it,” but her husband was skeptical. Fareet prayed and returned to his seat.

A moment later, the Holy Spirit nudged Fareet to look back at the woman. She was dancing in the walkway like a young girl!

The last time Fareet traveled to Gary, he rejoiced that a repair crew was fixing the church roof.

Healing Cessation

When Fareet first met Jesus, he was compelled to pray for healing upon finishing the Gospel of Mark. A pastor of a local church learned of his new faith and invited him to join their congregation. Fareet arrived and shared some of the amazing healing stories he’d witnessed. The pastor attempted to tell Fareet that the gift of healing was only for the early apostles.

While the pastor was debating with Fareet, the Holy Spirit said to Fareet, “go pray for that woman with the bent back.” Fareet apologized to the pastor for the intrusion, then walked over, asked permission, and laid his hands on the woman’s back. She was immediately healed. Fareet returned to the pastor and politely asked him to continue his explanation!

Many thanks to the Lord for His love and presence and healing touch.

Bummed that I couldn’t go sledding over lunch break, but it was for a good cause - some high school students created a snowboard drop and pipe. So, even though I’m disappointed, it’s the respectful kind.

I'm standing on two picnic tables stacked on top of each other to form the drop. Genius.

Graham’s latest foray is the “op’opal karse”. He’s built about a half-dozen obstacle courses in the last couple weeks, below is one of his most elaborate. He and Royal have a fabulous time running the course and, surprisingly, neither have been seriously hurt.

Design by Graham

January has been an excruciating slog.

Starting Christmas Eve, both Royal and Graham incurred hand-foot-and-mouth. Then we had less than a week of semi-wellness before they both developed new coughs and runny noses that have lasted to this present hour.

Royal’s sleep has been hit-or-miss, and the combination of sickness and sleeplessness has made him the crabbiest toddler-terrorist I’ve ever witnessed. He’s hit, bitten and slapped Graham and Amie, thrown full cups of hot chocolate on the kitchen floor, and cried incessantly for hours with no means of satisfaction.

Royal: “I wan dis!” (translation: I want this. Pointing to a cup)

Amie: “Ok, here you go” (hands Royal the cup)

Royal: “No!!!” (Takes the the cup and throws it violently at Amie, hurting her foot and shooting milk across the floor. Then throws himself on the ground and wails for an hour).

(Pause for five minutes, then start over)

Graham and Royal have scarcely been at school, either because their classroom was closed by DHS or because we were waiting for a negative PCR COVID test. And we’ve been waiting for negative PCR COVID tests every week. So the biting and screaming scenarios happen on every day and at every moment that one of us looks away from them for longer than ~30~ ~15~ ~5~ 2 seconds.

The “respite” in all of it was that one week, Graham was home and Royal was at school, then they swapped places the next week. There was more peace the few hours they were away from each other, but it kicked up the minute we brought them home. And Amie, although she enjoyed the one-on-one time with them both, was unable to accomplish anything she set out to do because of their constant interruption.

That’s all horrible by itself, but each day there’s something more.

Oh yeah, and Graham takes hour-long naps at school and can’t sleep until 9:00 p.m.

I could go on. Anyways, yeah, it’s been “hard”.

via GIPHY

Where are the public online forums where people explore disciple-making principles and share ideas? Or entrepreneurial four-fold bottom line startup concepts and examples? Or leadership perspectives and personas? Or their convergence? Are they private, or do they not exist at all?

So, Graham is moving. To a firetruck-red house. With a Christmas tree that we can help decorate. And a big cake with candles so high you need a crane truck to put them on. A giraffe named Lanky is his neighbor. He’s going to have a BIG party for all his friends. He sleeps on the roof with his pillow (the tree is on the roof too). And his train set is inside where Royal can’t boom it.

Yesterday was one of the most deeply disappointing days on record.

Amie and I had anticipated a Tuesday morning spent at brunch to enjoy one another’s company and consider our goals for 2022. But when Royal woke on Monday with a cough it sent us into a tailspin of disappointment.

Perhaps if it were the first time sickness had killed our hopes, it wouldn’t have been so discouraging. But that coal-black chain has abruptly jerked us back into the gloom of survival-mode living until our neck bleeds and our bones ache.

But it’s not sickness itself; it’s the persistent, abrasive friction of living in a society that crushes parents and despises children. Never would I spend three hours at an urgent care for a mild cough, but I am left with no alternative if I want Royal to return to school this week. That’s not counting the additional three hours we spent in search of a saliva test because DHS had made it the only acceptable test (not anymore, after a call to the school), with the calls with nurses who didn’t know what a SHIELD test is and suggested we “do more research, perhaps google it.” After a precious day lost wading in bureaucratic bullshit (and not the first day lost this way), we won’t have Royal’s return-to-school pass for 48 hours.

This is what I think of the self-righteous, maternalistic pricks that equate policed obedience with love. I think you’re terrified of losing the regard of your fear-blinded neighbors and constituents. You justify your cowardice with charts and platitudes, but you’ve abandoned reason and love. You claim Martin Luther King Jr. as your champion, but you would never join him in his humiliation, you lukewarm leaders. Be courageous and defend the downtrodden. Protect the rights of the unvaccinated minority, both adults and children, and live for more than the cheap regard of your fear-blinded peers.

Tried out my new Wacom Tablet over lunch today. Thanks Tom, Julie & Ty!

Love Birds

In case you’re wondering what happened to your car’s clock on January 1st… Signed 32 bit overflow

My mom returned to Salina a couple days ago. It was great having her, though it seems like it was only a few hours!

Her return flight was canceled just hours before takeoff, but we drove partway there while we verified that it was truly ended. Rather than wait for the airlines to select an alternative, she bought an Amtrak ticket. Amie took her to Union Station in the afternoon and she was traveling the countryside shortly thereafter.

In this season where most in Evanston have drifted into paranoia and fear, it was a happy experience to have my mom and our friends around the table. And the boys especially are blessed to spend time with new people - a rare occurrence these days!

We’ve had a glorious time sledding and having snowball fights yesterday evening and today.

Yesterday was our first try with the new intertube sled. It worked way better than most I’ve used, and it was fun to share with Danilo, Andrea, Evan and Nike.

Andrea started the snow fight, and soon there were snowballs flying everywhere. Ok, I may have egged it on a bit. When Amie and Memaw brought Royal out, even he joined in! We were having the best time; one of the greatest snowball fights I’ve been in.

Today Graham was ready to go start another fight. Two more children about Andrea’s age joined in. We ganged up on Danilo, who pulled snow into a sled and got us back.

My mom’s here!

Royal and I picked her up from O’Hare yesterday morning around 10:00 a.m. The news has been full of cancelled flights because critical numbers of flight crew are quarantined with the omicron coronavirus variant, so I’m grateful that didn’t happen to hers.

The past two weeks have been an exhausted blur as Amie and I have been caring for Royal and Graham in their hand-foot-and-mouth illness. We’re less prepared for guests than the last visit, but Amie did a magical job preparing our home while we picked up my mom. The boys are the focal point anyways, and they’re absolutely loving my mom. Everything becomes fresh and new when there’s a new person to share it with.

The forecast shows 5-to-9 inches of snow today, so it may be a snow-day! Graham will be so excited - our family bought him a sled this year (shhhh, he doesn’t know that yet ;) ).