Poopier Things

About a month ago, Benji find he’d saved about $30 in his allowance. That kind of cash doesn’t sit around for long; we promptly went to the toy store to blow that wad on Legos and Douglas stuffed animals.

While we were there perusing the stuffed animal selection, what should we see but a large-ish plush poop emoji with a happy smile and hearts for eyes. Benji immediately latched onto it, not for himself, but because he felt that Daddy needed this stuffed poop. Could we please buy it as a present for Daddy?

I said we had to have some holiday or some reason to give it to him. Not surprisingly, I thought idea of giving the poop emoji a permanent home was pretty crappy. I wanted to find a way to squeeze out of it… But I also kind of wanted to see what Ian would do if presented with such an excretory gift.

He wanted to know when Daddy’s birthday was — January. Oh. That’s a long time.

What about Christmas? Oh, December is still a long time.

Finally I took pity on him and admitted that our wedding anniversary was on August 9, not that far off. I said that we could buy it for Daddy as an anniversary gift representative of our marriage. (Don’t worry, that’s not actually the case.)

We agreed to not tell Ian about this plan, and amazingly, Benji only ever mentioned it when we were alone.

Last Wednesday after I got my tattoo, I was home earlier that usual. It was the perfect opportunity! I whisked Benji off to the toy store. The entire way there he fretted that someone might have already coughed up the dough for the poop. I couldn’t decide if that would be good or bad, in the long run.

Fears aside, the heart eyes poop remained available. Sales of plush poop emojis must have been a little constipated since we last were there, but we got things moving again with our purchase.

I had them gift-wrap it, which was amusing–the teenage boy doing the wrapping had no idea how to wrap a plush triangle–and off we went home to deliver our load.

To his credit, Benji managed to not say what it was, and he let Ian open it. When Ian got the wrapping paper off, all my doubts were blown out the window. Ian literally was speechless for minutes, and then he started laughing hysterically for longer. I have never seen him so surprised, astonished, or delighted at a joke. It was well worth the cost of the poop just for the first five minutes after it came out.

And that is how we now have a plush poop emoji, which Ian generally shares with Benji.

What My Tattoo Means

As I mentioned in my previous post, I got a tattoo this week. This is something that’s been a long time coming, and I’ve been thinking about how to share about what brought me to doing it.

For several years, I’ve kept having the idea of idols in my life popping up. There’s this concept of idols as put forth by Timothy Keller in Counterfeit Gods that says an idol is basically anything that becomes the top priority in my life, supplanting God. Idols are usually good things–family, work, exercise–that soon become all-consuming things, things that define who we are. When that happens, their goodness becomes twisted and ruined.

When God is in His proper place, first in my life, the fundamental foundation of who I am–a beloved child of God, always imperfect but always covered by grace–remains true no matter what happens in my day-to-day experience. When an idol starts to supplant that definition of myself, I start to waver. That’s when start I having to earn or prove my worth, when I start to feel like I need to do more, work harder at whatever my idol is, prove I’m worthy of love.

For a long time, then, I’ve been feeling God nudging me and telling me that my Saturday bike rides are too important in my life. I’ve long reserved Saturday morning to midafternoon for a big ride, and I’ve been feeling like God is telling me that I’m willing to put them above the well-being of my family, above my own well-being, above other important relationships. That that aspect of biking, the riding hard and fast and long with a bunch of guys I know, has become too big and important in my life.

As with any idol, biking is a good thing. It’s healthy, and for me it facilitates mental health, too. Even going for big Saturday rides is a fine thing; it’s great to get out and push myself, and many of the guys I ride with are my friends who I only see on Saturdays. Before I got my job at Tamarac, it was also one of the few times I got to be away from home and Benji for an extended time, and simultaneously have adult conversation. Saturday rides have played an important role in helping me stay healthy and sane the last five years.

But every single Saturday, all year long, regardless of how the week went or the emotional status or anything else, really? Especially since I started working at Tamarac, I have much less time with my family than previously. I don’t need the escape from home or social outlet (although these guys are still my friends!) nearly as much as I did before. Now what I need is relationship time with my family and our friends.

For a long time I haven’t been interested in listening to God’s nudges about this. But on July 5 I got sick with this fever virus, and it didn’t go away for a full 11 days — including two Saturdays completely off the bike. Despite my best efforts at eating to maintain muscle mass, I did lose fitness. I’m substantially slower than I was before, and I can’t just hop on my bike Saturday morning to crank out a quick 100 miles.

I pondered this reality last Saturday while I was not riding, but was keenly aware that Dad and several of my buddies were doing a one-day STP. They were all off doing a hard ride and getting stronger and faster, and I was at home pulling weeds and shooting squirt guns. I realized then that, while this sickness doesn’t end my season, it probably ends my season with those guys.

Through the day, I went through so many emotions: Frustration and disappointment and discouragement as I compared myself to them; slowly moving to acceptance and the reminder that comparing myself has never made me happy and anyway, I had a really great time with Benji and Mom and squirt guns. Finally I reached the point when I accepted that God was right: I needed to reprioritize my Saturday riding. It could no longer be paramount in my life, not now and not ever.

It took literally taking away my fitness for me to accept that my Saturday efforts–riding 20 mph for 100 miles, or climbing 10,000 feet in 100 miles, or doing something equally challenging each week–while fine goals, they can never be the most important thing in my life.

I shared this with Ian, and we had a talk about it. I felt so unburdened and freed! In that moment, I let go of comparing my riding mileage or speed or climbing to others. I let go of having to be my strongest, fastest self every day and every season. I put God back in His place and reordered everything else right:

Jesus
Others
Yourself

(Trust me, this is coming to the tattoo.)

This is only one example of where I’ve had to make a significant course correction in my life. Anorexia and vulnerability are two other areas that jump to mind, plus lots of marriage-related moments.

Every time, I’ve had to come back to this truth, which I first really started to absorb in Henri Nouwen’s wonderful Life of the Beloved, as I mention in this (surprisingly insightful) post:

I have value because I am God’s beloved. He loves me not because of what I’ve done but, by grace, in spite of what I’ve done. I am beloved. Nothing I do, no amount of brokenness, will stop the grace-filled love God has for me.

The tattoo is my reminder to make that truth my North. I want to remember every time I look at it that I am beloved and that God freely loves me over all the ugliness in my heart and all the nasty failures of my actions. It’s a powerful truth that changes how I live at the deepest level. I don’t want to forget it, and now every time I look at my arm, I will remember.

And about biking? This week, my first week healthy, Ian and I decided together what kind of bike ride would work for us as a family. It looked like this.

I rode alone. I left at 9:00, an hour later than usual, and I played more with Benji than previous Saturday mornings. My ride was short, by summer standards, but I did get out. And when I got home, I took Benji for a walk in the woods and some playtime at Blyth Park while Ian got a nap. We are all happy.

Except for my hands, which got sun burned because I didn’t put sunscreen on them and I took my gloves off because I was too hot. But I kept my arm covers on and my arms–and, more importantly, my tattoo–remained un-burned.

I Got a Tattoo

Compass Rose Tattoo

I am pretty stoked.

How I’m going to keep it out of the sun for the next 30 days while also doing my usual bike training, however, remains a mystery yet to be solved.

I originally set up my tattoo appointment in April, and the earliest date that worked was June 29. But the artist had to have foot surgery, so they rescheduled a week or so before the day. The rescheduled date was for September, but they added me to the list of people to call if sooner spots opened up. One did open up, last Thursday, and I quickly took it — and then had to cancel when my fever returned with a vengeance on Wednesday. Fortunately, the artist had another cancellation for today, and I’m so pleased to report that, despite my extreme apprehension, my fever did not return today.

I rode my bike there, and I worked hard to get there early but arrived just a minute or so late (no big deal). On the bright side I got a good workout at the same time.

Then it was tattoo time and yes, it HURT. A lot. It didn’t get easier and it didn’t hurt less, but it was bearable and I bore it. Without crying, throwing up, or passing out, all of which the artist said she’d seen.

So now it’s done! There’s some aftercare that seemed mostly focused on keeping it clean and well moisturized, and not getting sunburned.

Like I said: Pretty stoked.

Biomass

It’s Saturday. That has, for many years, meant that I go for a big bike ride. But with the return of my virus and taking Thursday and Friday off this week again, I decided to skip the big ride. I tried going out by myself, but after a couple hours just felt tired and gross and it was clearly time to go home to rest.

Which I did, for several hours.

After which, this happened.

Before:
Assault the Jungle: Start
Benji rightly dubbed it “The Jungle,” an area on the side of the house (the opposite side from the Meadow of Goodness, in case you’re wondering) harboring weeds taller than myself, plus a density of weed undergrowth that cannot be overstated. I shudder to think of all the creatures living in there, too.

Originally I cleared this area and planted it with some wildflower seeds, just to see what would come up. What I got was a 10:1 weed:wildflower ratio — no fault of the seed packet, I’m sure; I simply didn’t go out and combat the weeds at all.

Silly me.

Now, after a couple years, the Jungle harbors this pernicious vine that keeps trying to take over our yard; I don’t know what it is [EDIT TO ADD: It is birdsfoot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, apparently a good and useful fodder for various animals in pastures, but NOT IN MY YARD], but it has these yellow flowers that grow in clumps, and clumps of five leaves and then a big gap. It alone comprises probably 50% of the biomass in The Jungle. I’ve been slowly trying to get rid of it every time I find it in my yard, but it’s everywhere and it grows through the ground and then pops up, making it incredibly difficult to remove. I can’t truly eliminate it, at least not at this time; there’s too much, and I can’t get down to pull every root when it’s literally filling the side yard to a height of 4 feet everywhere as it grows on top of all the other plants and itself.

No, this was a quick and dirty assault to yank out anything anywhere near or involved with the yellow vine, along with the vine itself. The yard waste bin started out empty, so I decided to just go until it was full.

Assault the Jungle: The End

This took about an hour and a half, during which time I probably inhaled a week’s worth of pollen (sorry, immune system!) and got covered with a full body velcroing of burrs.

I also discovered a day lily, which has these lovely deep red and orange flowers, and several very nice ferns of a couple different varieties. I’m guessing those will all be happier not to be covered in yellow flower vines.

Assault the Jungle: The Jungle Fights Back
Those are my gloves after I stopped, but I had been picking burrs off at regular intervals, so that’s not the total accumulated amount. Next time I’m going in with jeans, long sleeves tucked in, and a face mask. Seriously.

I don’t know when I’ll get back to finish the assault, but still more of that darn vine remains. I will not rest until it’s eradicated from my yard! …OK, I will rest, but I will also keep pulling vines now and again.

Joke Board

One of the things I’ve been doing at work, besides working, is running the Joke Board. This started out as a totally random thing: We had a small white board, and it tended to be propped up in a high-traffic area in our section. We would sometimes use it to share food with a note like “Please enjoy these homemade cookies!” Like this:
Joke Board: Lemon Bars

One day I had a joke that I thought was funny, so I wrote it on the white board to share with people walking by. Several people, walking by, read it and chuckled, or at least shook their heads as they walked away. I started writing jokes up on the board every few days, maybe two or three jokes a week.
Joke Board: Tearable

I’ve been doing this for several months, and people like it. I know because occasionally with a really good joke, I’d see people taking pictures with their phones, presumably to share with friends. Sometimes people would write up an alternative answer if they came up with a good one, or leave other comments (one time someone gave a +1 to an answer, an amusingly analog version of a digital kudos). A few times other people have even put up their own jokes:

What do you call a bear that’s gotten stuck in the rain? A drizzly bear. OR, alternative answer offered: A drown bear.
Why are there no knock knock jokes about America? Because freedom rings.

Several people have told me that they bring the jokes home and share them with family members. I know that I inflict these jokes on my biking buddies, eliciting many groans of dismay (but I know it’s happy dismay). At least two people have told me they specifically walk by every day to check the joke board for the next joke. And of course at work I see many people pause, read the joke, and walk away shaking their heads–the ultimate sign of a successful joke.

All my jokes are either puns or dad jokes. There’s not enough room to write an elaborate joke; they really have to be one-liners or a question and answer. Thanks to the Internet, I have ample jokes to keep the board going, but I now have more pressure than ever to find good jokes!

So we were humming along happily for a while, and the joke board was getting its own following.

Then, oh no! A new guy got hired and chose to sit in the empty spot occupied by the Joke Board. But when God closes a door, He opens a window (or so I’ve heard), so I took the opportunity to have the Joke Board officially hung up on the wall near our area.
Joke Board is hung up

Joke Board: Chicken coop
By the way, getting the board hung up was no joke. I had to contact our receptionist and I asked him to put in a work order with the building management company. They sent a handyman with his little cart of hooks and screws and a level, and this guy hung it up. Alas, he hung it slightly off-center from where we asked, but oh well, now it’s up and it’s official!

I was out sick for a couple days last week, and when I got back there was a new joke up. One of my team members had written a new one, and they told me that they’d even had another joke up in the interim, which elicited several participatory alternative punchlines.

Here’s today’s joke board, which I got so many laughs from–first the pun itself, and then at least half a dozen times watching other people read and react to the pun. It’s truly priceless.
Joke Board: Dyed a little inside

I’m about to do my six-month employee assessment. One of the questions is: “What are some of your accomplishments from the last 6 months?” I’m absolutely putting the joke board in that list.

Some Summery Somethings

On the laundry line, one of the things was a little out of place…
What's Different Here...

Playing with water in the yard, we’ve a real dearth of offensive weapons. Actually we just have the one, the hose. So one person gets the hose and the other people…. get really wet. I cogitated on this problem, looked around the back yard, and literally with a little duct tape, the water table lid, and some PVC pipe, came up with some defense: The water shield.
Water Shield: Construction

Water Shield: Modeling

Which works well enough to let the user get close to the hose-sprayer and dump a bucket of water on the sprayer, although ultimately everyone gets wet, which is, of course, the whole point.

Water Shield: In Action

Architects, Eat Your Heart Out

Today is Saturday. I am still too sick to do a bike ride, but with the assistance of a heavy dose of ibuprofen, I’m feeling well enough to do some low-level stuff with Benji.

Such as the 45-minute architectural wonder we call the Rainbow Castle.

First we built the castle. Benji said, “It needs a strong foundation to hold the rest up.” Good call! He remembered that from a Veggie Tales video (!). I didn’t take any pictures until the main tower was built.
Rainbow Castle 1

Then we decided to build a wall and a moat.
Rainbow Castle 2

We finished that and then added some rainbow blocks around the wall, because rainbow.
Rainbow Castle 4

Rainbow Castle 5

Then we took Benji’s $31 dollars he saved up from his allowance for many months and went to Snapdoodle. There Benji made some really good optimizing choices. He found a two $10 Lego sets and determined that he could still buy a stuffed animal that was $10 or less. So he found one $8 stuffed dolphin, and bought all three things for $30.77 with tax. Talk about getting the most out of your money!
Allowance Booty