Actually, yes it was. I’ve been waiting to post those all week!
Daddy set a tent up in our back yard on Friday afternoon so he and Evie could sleep out. (Mommy will sleep out in a tent if she has to, but considers the presence of a nice comfy bed a few yards away in the house to be indication that she doesn’t have to).
Then we had a cookout on the back deck, preparatory to s’moring it up on our backyard.
The weather was turning gray, but we grilled the trout as well, along with some stuffed portabella mushrooms.
Not surprisingly, Evie did not like the fish. Also not surprisingly, Ellie loved it. Daddy could not de-bone it and get it between her gums fast enough.
Then the rain came, and it rained cats and dogs all night. No one got any sleep what with the caterwauling and the barking and our yard was a mess of fur and blood the next morning…
Just kidding. Actually, it was a welcome treat for our garden, which is doing beautifully, BTW.
On Saturday we went on a hike on Mount Rainier. We drove up to the Carbon River and hiked up a trail from there. It used to be a vehicle trail, but it is closed to vehicular traffic now, so we didn’t have to watch out for cars, which is an important consideration when hiking with a three-year-old.
After about 1.2 miles we came upon a little side trail that led up to a mine. It said it was only 0.3 miles to the old mine entrance, so we decided to check it out.
Turned out that about 90% of that 0.3 miles was uphill, up the side of a narrow gorge that ran up the hill.
When we got to the cave we found that there was a gate across the mouth, just inside the entrance. We couldn’t go in, so we decided to go on. There was a goat trail leading up the side of the mountain so we took it.
It led us to a wonderful little picnic spot where we had an early lunch.
After lunch we headed back down the hill. Ellie was a little tired.
Ellie going up!
Ellie going down.
She was hiking very hard!
When we got down to the car we went a little bit further so that Evie could throw stones in the river.
The final result of all this adventuring was…
I can’t remember the last time she fell asleep in the car.
We went to bowling with Deedee and Papa on Sunday, but we didn’t take any pictures so you’ll just have to take our word for it. However, here is a picture of our Sunday morning coffee hour/baby swap.
And that’s all for this week. It has been mostly a work week.
We still made time for some healthy dream building, including conversations about possible alternate career paths.
Recently a trailer for the movie “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” came across my facebook feed. It was not a typical trailer. Typically a movie trailer shows clips from the movie with pulse-pounding soundtrack, and possibly a deep, gravelly, middle-aged male voice-over. This trailer had scenes from the movie, but it had explanatory subtitles explaining how the movie related to real-life drug wars. It explained that the movie demonstrated how cartels bring a complicated reality to south and central America, and that the violence that erupts between them is more like a guerrilla war, or even a conventional war, than it is like U.S. gang violence. When that violence spills over onto American spoil two of the movie’s characters (who I gather were adversaries in the first film) will join forces to “start a war.” My assumption is that they were trying to aggravate violence south of the border in hopes that it would either draw the violence away from U.S. soil, or provide a reason for U.S. forces to engage in the war outside the U.S.
I don’t have much taste for war movies, or even crime movies, anymore, so up until now the trailer was disquieting but not particularly memorable. But it was the last line that really got me thinking. The final scene of the trailer had the words, “Come experience the excitement in theaters.”
Seriously? That’s what this is about?
I mean, I knew that’s what this was about. It’s an action film, designed to be exciting and to convince people to spend money to experience that excitement, ultimately in order to make money for the directors, producers, actors, investors, etc. Money is the goal, sex and violence sell. Of course they want you to come and experience the excitement.
I just didn’t expect them to be so… bald about it. So obvious.
Essentially the movie makers are selling an experience of adrenaline. In that sense they are no different than the makers of Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Battleground, Halo, or any of a thousand combat related video games. They are trying to simulate the excitement of combat in a marketable package, i.e. a package that involves no risk of bodily injury or death, no heat, dust, sweat, boredom, no training, no discipline, no obedience, no separation from family…
see where I am going with this?
I will not deny that war is exciting. Having spent some time in war myself I acknowledge that some of the most exciting moments of my life have occurred in war, formed of the level of adrenaline, focus, clarity and just shear aliveness that, for most people not saints, only occurs when your life is in jeopardy. I will go further and say that a young man could do worse than make a career of pursuing that excitement. It is not excitement that I am against, it is cheap thrills.
Violence, like sex, excites because it is a matter of life and death. We were made for life and death, for real struggle, real investment, real risk and real growth. That is we were made to fight real bad guys to rescue real good guys (both physically and spiritually). We were also made to make real love that forms real relationships and real babies. There is a proper place for both sex and violence in art, namely to illustrate the truth of these realities and to inform our choices about them in the real world.
The problem with video games and action movies is not that they are realistic and exciting, but that they are not real. When you go to a movie theater to watch people get killed on the big screen you invest nothing of yourself. You feel the rush and rollercoaster, and you may even have a significant emotional event, but when that experience is over you have not changed. You are still the same person you were before the movie. You may have a new appreciation of some topical issue of the day, you may be emotionally moved, you may have had a spiritual epiphany, but unless that mental and emotional reaction is translated into decision, and from decision to action, and from action to habit, it has not changed you.
It is necessary to bear this in mind when watching war movies. If you want to experience the excitement of a firefight, or of fighting a fire, or of digging up IED’s, then pursue that. Join the military, or the police force, or the fire department. Suffer through basic training, put in thousands of hours at the gym, thousands of miles on your feet, thousands of rounds on the range. Obey the orders of those appointed over you, deny your own inclinations, place yourself at the service of your team. Learn to be faithful in little things. Make your bunk, sweep your floor, scrub the platoon’s toilets. Do maintenance on your vehicles and equipment, take pride in them. Endure the boredom of sitting in a firing position all night, or of driving down dusty roads 12 hours a day. Accept the banality of having to answer to idiots and power-trippers who are in charge of you only because they have been in a few months longer. Miss your chance for a “real” fight time and time again, and still keep showing up to work, putting in your time, taking pride in your performance. Volunteer for harder, more difficult assignments, accept greater responsibility.
Sooner or later you may get your chance to enjoy the adrenaline rush. Or maybe you won’t. But if you pay your dues for enough years you will gain something better. You will learn that excitement is not an end, but a byproduct. It is something that happens when you are engaged in meaningful work, because meaningful work in this world is always risky, but you will not pursue the excitement anymore, you will pursue the meaning.
This is something you will not get from action movies or video games. You can only get it from life.
We always read a story in the Catholic Children’s Picture Bible before bedtime prayers. Last night Evie announced that she was going to read the story to us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUSwYZJD_BYNice to know she has been listening after all.
Since last week, Ellie has gained a great deal of mobility. So we have put her to work, giving her a job that will hone her latent predator skills. We even cave her a cave-baby outfit to wear while she chases her quarry.
Seriously, though, she is growing by leaps and bounds. Or at least by creeps and grounds.
Mostly she bear-crawls, commando crawls, and butt-scoots to anything she can pull herself up into a standing position on.
Once there she pulls herself up, and falls, and pulls and falls and pulls and stands and wobbles for a few minutes, until eventually she falls again.
It’s all hard work and requires a lot of eating and sleeping to support.
A lot of food. Healthy food!
Fortunately these are the things that Ellie is good at.
And she has a big sister who is more than willing to help her.
She cooks food for her baby sister. Today it was flower soup.
Holds her sister.
Helps her stay cool in the heat, and celebrate Fourth of July all at the same time.
And Evie also gives her great fashion advice.
The only thing Evie does not do, is go to sleep.
It’s amazing how much these two get up to in any given day. Mommy and Daddy just seem to do the same old same old, most of the time. Although this week we did have some fun family cooking. We made pasta carbonara, out of the Vatican Cookbook.
If you look closely you can see that our copy of the Vatican Cookbook is signed by the owner of La Vittoria restaurant, which is featured in the book. We got it signed when we were in Rome about 1 1/2 years ago.
Then she found a recipe for honey oat bread on the internet somewhere and made that.
It was delicious. Very hearty and robust, but mildly sweet and nutty. We should share the recipe sometime. Speaking of recipes, Daddy made a new pizza this week that is scrumdiddlyumptious. You guys should come over and try some sometime.
That’s all for this week. God Bless, and have a great weekend. Bye!
Welcome back! How have you all been? We had a nice, relaxing weekend after last Family Friday, starting with our weekly shopping trip!!! Woohoo!!!
BTW, it is amazing how much our food bill changes from when Daddy is home vs. when he is on army trips. We had a chance to compare with the recent Germany trip. When the army is buying him all his food, Kathleen and the girls spend about $40/week on food. When Ryan is home we spend about five times that much. Does that mean that Ryan eats four times as much as the rest of the family put together?
Sunday was a day to relax in bed until 7:30.
Even after Mommy and Daddy got up to get ready, Evie and Ellie stayed and snuggled by themselves for a bit before getting into their pretty Church dresses.
Ellie has been trying to stand up for a few weeks now. She can commando crawl around the floor, but her real goal is walking.
Sunday Mass, when we all get to go and worship God together, with no pager, cellphone, email and nothing pressing us to rush away, is one of the most amazing things in the world. Plus, it’s good to catch up with our Church friends.
We made Pizza for Adam and Maryanne and the gang on Saturday. They came over during Evie’s nap, so Edmund kindly volunteered to wake his cousin up.
It was nice to have a quiet, relaxing pizza meal.
Major pizza parties are a lot of fun, but they are also a lot of work, and we are less inclined to branch out and experiment. However, as it was we got to try out a new, fluffier dough, a new sauce mixture, a new take on the picnic pizza topping, and a whole new topping (pest, steak, balsamic vinegar, fresh mozz, goat cheese, light sharp cheddar, and arugula).
Ronny and Amanda were invited but couldn’t come due to work and having to attend a late Mass. They did swing by on the way home to chat for a few minutes and pick up some leftovers.
Daddy took Evie out for her first movie date on Monday. We went to see “Incredibles II.” Evie did not like it as much as we had hoped. Neither did Daddy. But it was still kind of fun, and we went and got bubble tea afterwards, so it was a great date anyways.
The rest of the week was a bit higgledy-piggledy. Kathleen was on night shift, and Ellie does not like not having Mommy snuggles before she goes to sleep. She still sleeps, just not as well as she usually does. Fortunately, Daddy was able to be home fairly early in the evenings, so we got plenty of Daddy daughter time.
Ellie now has three teeth, two on the bottom and one on the top.
And now the week is over, Mommy will be done working in a few hours, Daddy is almost done working. We may make some pasta carbonara, or some pizza, or both.
Recently I have been reading and mulling over two excellent articles over at The Public Discourse. The first is a piece by Anthony Esolen.While I cannot agree with all of his thoughts (most notably his historical nostalgia and his one-sided view of the Middle Ages in some of his books) he is always an impressive scholar, an intriguing thinker, and an awe-inspiring writer. His article focuses on the inadequacy of the maternal approach alone to raising boys up to become men, maintaining that mothers cannot teach manhood, only men can do that. Part of the current crisis in our culture, he maintains, is a crisis of boys who are not growing into men because their fathers are not teaching them.
The second piece, linked in the first, is a piece by Glenn Stanton, whom I had not heard of before. It is even better than Esolen’s piece, focusing on the anthropological origins, or more precisely the ubiquity, of the understanding of the necessity of teaching manhood to the next generation. This is not simply because society cannot do without manhood (which may loosely be defined as “prosocial masculinity”) but because the alternative is either asocial maleness, or antisocial maleness.
Both pieces concur on two crucial points:
Manhood is a learned behavior that must be taught to boys by men. It is a social shaping of male drives into a form that is useful to society rather than a drain on society, or a threat to society, and as such is ultimately at the service of female aims and ends (i.e. ordered to the stability and security of family life and the wider social environment). Nevertheless, it cannot be taught by women. It can only be taught by men. This is because…
Manhood is also an identity that is conferred only by peers, i.e. by older men, or at least by other men. A boy will not accept a definition of manhood that does not carry with it the authority of a man that he respects.
It is the second point that I want to take a closer look at, and where I go beyond both Esolen and Stanton. Both posited that untrained maleness is profoundly asocial, and must be trained to be useful to society by other men, because a boy will only accept the lessons and the designation from another man. They did not get into the weeds about why a boy needs to hear this from a man.
I think the answer lies partially in an understanding of what teaching and learning manhood entails. At its core there is an element of competition. Competition is the heart and soul of the school of manhood. There are many explanations for this, ranging from the theological to the evolutionary, but the observed reality is that (most) boys will engage in competitive activity when left to themselves. This runs the gamut from cooperative competition (sports team vs. sports team) to competitive cooperation (competing for position within a team) to outright competition and warfare (bullying, gang violence, etc.). Regardless of the venue (farming, logging, fishing, hunting, sports, military, business, finance, politics) males will compete with each other. Healthy males will compete in healthy ways, while unhealthy males will compete in unhealthy ways. I define “healthy” competition as competition which leaves the team (family, company, platoon, etc.) stronger. That is, competition which is ordered to the strengthening of the individual members and the overall social body is what Michael Gurian calls, “Competitive nurturing.”
This calls for a re-evaluation of our original proposition, i.e. that untrained maleness is profoundly antisocial. I would argue that in the strict sense, that is not exactly true. Maleness is not oriented toward a stable, peaceful, family-oriented society ordered around the raising and protecting of children. In that sense (what we usually mean by “social”) it is antisocial. Nevertheless, maleness is social, in that it naturally tends towards the formation of what may be called the primordial male social model, the gang.
In reality, the true loner is a very rare bird. Most unattached males throughout human history tend to congregate in gangs, small groups of half a dozen to a few hundred, depending on circumstances. They establish hierarchies by competition or outright violence. They define themselves vis a vis outsiders, they adopt a gang culture which may be simple or elaborate. After that they operate toward the outside world, not as a conglomeration of male individuals, but as a unit, i.e. a gang.
It is here that trouble begins, because it is in aggregate that untrained maleness is most definitely antisocial. In fact, because of the “us vs. them” mentality, coupled with unattached male energy, the natural tendency of a gang, any gang, is towards protecting our own, and pillaging everyone else’s.All warfare, organized crime, genocide, social violence, and tyranny in human history have been perpetrated by gangs, or by gangs of gangs. Very, very little of it is done by women. Probably even less is done by lone males.
In pre-modern settings, the most stable male relationships are not male-female, but rather male-male. I believe (without having conducted an exhaustive study) that male-female friendship or comradeship were rather an exception than the rule in pre-modern society. Sexual relationships (for men) do not bring with them any intrinsic requirement for stability, fidelity or even longevity. We run into the fundamental biological sexual cross-purposes, namely that the woman is intrinsically invested in the act of procreation, while the male is not. What is to her a commitment of her entire life, and a risk of her entire life, is to him no more than a fleeting pleasure, over in moments and soon forgotten unless actively recalled.
I believe it is this fundamental biological fact that underlies the need of male-male relationship. In essence, evolution has engrained in men the default position that women come and women go, but the battle buddy, the blood brother, the comrade-in-arms, he stays forever.
This is frightening but important. The flip side to this is that there is one observable, hardwired social tendency in the unattached male, which is his need to achieve the respect of his peers, to be identified by them as “one of the gang.” The gang instinct is a real and powerful need in men, often understated, nearly always misunderstood. (For the record, this is not the only social tendency in men, it just happens to be one of the strongest, one of the most underrated by our society, and the one most relevant to this discussion).
That is why the teenage boy needs to know himself a man in the eyes of men for it to mean anything. It’s nice when a mother praises him, or a sister admires him, or a girlfriend flatters him, or a wife affirms him. It is nice, but not sufficient, because it does not come from a man, and does not come in a manly way.
Male approbation is always earned, never given. Another way of putting it is that I love you as I choose, but I respect you as you choose. It is usually based on four characteristics: courage, strength, technical know-how, and dependability. These are the virtues of struggle and combat, the virtues of a gang of men battling for their lives and their families against whatever odds, which is why they must be tested by competition with other men, or with some outside element (nature, wild animals, rock-climbing, etc.) under the judgment of other men for the verdict to be valid. When a woman admires a man’s courage, she might be making an informed decision, or an intuitive judgment, or she might just be being nice, or she might be flattering him for some ulterior motive. The one thing she is not doing is testing him against a worthy opponent because she is not a worthy opponent. She may be worthy, but she is not an opponent. Human males are almost universally hardwired to shun competition with women (violence against women is something else entirely).
These are the virtues that male brains are hardwired to admire, to look for in other men, and to demand of their peers. A healthy society of men will hold themselves accountable to these standards one way or another.
It is important to note that these are “amoral virtues” meaning they have no necessary connection to any higher moral code. They are as much the virtues required of a missionary or pioneer as they are the virtues required of a gestapo officer or cartel hitman.
To summarize, as this has been long and somewhat wandering:
Manhood is a learned behavior that must be grafted onto basic asocial maleness in order for society to survive and thrive.
Untrained maleness will spontaneously form into gangs because that is how males define themselves, vs. other men.
Manhood must be taught to boys by men because of the fundamental drive of men to define themselves vs. other men.
It is only by building masculinity onto this foundation, the gang instinct, that it will be brought into service of women, and thus the family, and then of society at large.
Welcome to Family Friday! Mommy has been super busy last week making jam. She and Deedee went out to you-pick strawberries on Friday and picked a flat of strawberries. 10 hours later, this was the result!
She was a busy woman, but the end result is delicious!
On Saturday we had a get-together with Adam and Maryanne, and Ben and Christine. We went to Point Defiance park where Ryan, Adam and Ben did a short (but sweet) ruckmarch.
It was a pretty low-key ruck, except for the middle part, when we had to climb from the beach to the top of the plateau, and the last part, when we ran from the top of the plateau back down to the picnic area.
The women and children were waiting for us with great expectation.
Then it was time for food, planned, prepared and served by the men. Surprisingly, it mostly consisted of 5 1/2 Lbs of Beef skewers, a pound of hot dogs, and two pounds of bratwurst. But we also had some corn on the cob and asparagus on the grill, plus a salad, so it was totally healthy.
In the afternoon, we went up to Deedee and Papa’s house to visit with them and wish Papa a Happy Father’s Day.
We ended up at the garden. Deedee and Papa are set to have a berry-bonanza again this year. The strawberries are on like gangbusters, the blueberries are loaded with little hard green berries, and even the raspberries are starting to turn pink.
Ellie enjoyed the garden’s bounty as well.
Mostly we just spent the day lying around in the shade.
Happy Father’s Day, Papa!!!
We had a wonderful Father’s Day ourselves on Sunday.
We took advantage of The Ram’s Father’s Day deal to go out for lunch. Ellie thought we ordered all that food for her.
Mommy went on a bread making spree.
It has been super hot here, for Washington. That is, the temperature has been in the 90’s. That is not super hot for anyone who has ever lived in the deep south, or the Midwest, or the Southwest. But in Washington it is hot.
There is only one adventurer in the world, as can be seen very clearly in the modern world, the father of a family. Even the most desperate adventurers are nothing compared with him. Everything in the modern world, even and perhaps most of all contempt, is organized against that fool, that imprudent, daring fool – against the unruly, audacious man who is daring enough to have a wife and family. Everything is against him. Savagely organized against him. Everything turns and combines against him. Men, events, the events of society, the automatic play of economic laws. And, in short, everything else. Everything is against the father of a family, the pater familias; and consequently against the family. He alone is literally “engaged” in the world, in the age. He alone is an adventurer. The rest are at most engaged with their heads, which is nothing. He is engaged with all his limbs. The rest suffer for themselves. In the first degree. He alone suffers through others. — Charles Peguy, Clio 1.
It has been a fairly ordinary week here at the Kraeger house. Just hanging out, working, playing with the girls. You know, that sort of thing. Deedee had a birthday on Sunday, and she turned 60!!!
We went out to lunch at a restaurant called “Shenanigans,” and let me tell you, there were some shenanigans.
Evie made herself right at home next to the window and kept calling out all the things she could see on the water. She also made friends with the man in the next seat. By the time we left she had dubbed him “Captain Tim” and also “Uncle Tim.”
Not shy at all, that one.
Then Evie and Ellie went up to Deedee and Papa’s house for the night, where they ate all the strawberries.
Evie found Mommy’s old hand prints!
Daddy continues to excel at physical therapy.
It’s a good technique.
With one arm out of commission, Daddy is trying to make time for reading, and is actually making it through some books, a little bit here, a little bit there.
Ellie is working out too.
The trick she is working on is called, “Pull myself up, any way I can.”
Which is ambitious, considering she doesn’t crawl yet. Who needs that, right? Skip the horizontal, go straight for the vertical.
Unfortunately, horizontal has a way of catching up with you.
Mommy has also been busy, as usual. Last week she made some plum jam and canned it.
She made a small batch because it’s more of an artisanal jam than one that you would put on peanut butter sandwiches or anything like that. It has a sweet, tangy flavor with a gorgeous color.
The rest of the week has been pretty much normal. Here are some pictures of it:
That’s all for this week, folks. Have a good weekend, God Bless!
It is the most annoying pink car in the universe. It has a squeaky little cartoon voice that says things like, “Ha Ha Ha Ha!” and “Voom!” and “Here we go,” alternated with a silly little ditty about riding into town in a pink car with the top down, and the more classic and educational “ABC’s.” The slightest turn of the wheels causes one or another of these sounds to burst forth, the volume is loud, and the use of electricity, apparently, very efficient as the batteries have not yet died. The worst part is that the on/off switch is large and meaty and not the least bit hidden, easily found and manipulated by little fingers.
It is a great favorite of Evie and Edmund both, which is why the car has been living on that shelf non-stop since sometime last fall. That is, at least six months, maybe longer.
It was placed there during a visit from Uncle Adam and Aunt Maryanne, much to the consternation of the under-two crowd. They had been fighting over it non-stop for the whole evening, despite being warned that if they couldn’t share it, it would simply get taken away. They couldn’t share, and it did get taken away. Tears and mutual recriminations followed, but not the slightest sign of understanding or repentance, until five minutes later when the whole episode was completely forgotten.
We were none too anxious to have it returned to general population so there it languished through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Birthdays, Easter, until one fateful day, a week or so ago.
Kathleen was upstairs, playing with the girls, Ryan was downstairs loading the dishwasher. All of a sudden Evie looked up at the shelf and said, “That’s the pink car. It got taken away because Edmund and I couldn’t share.”
Well, Kathleen and I were flabbergasted. I came to the top of the stairs and shook my head and made some comment about never taking for granted what Evie remembers or doesn’t remember. She didn’t seem to want the car at the time so we just left it there until a few days ago when she said, again out of the blue, “Mommy, may I have the pink car, please.”
So now we are enduring the squeaky cartoon voice every waking hour, but we are content with it. You have to enjoy the parenting victories when they happen.
Evie has inherited Daddy’s habit of retreating into her own little world and ignoring anything that she doesn’t like. Of course one of the things she doesn’t like is being told “no,” or having the relationship between choices and consequences explained to her. She likes to avert her eyes, start humming, kick her legs, spontaneously make up stories about “Cousin Masha…” anything and everything to distract herself from the discipline. We can’t break through her trance without resorting to corporal punishment or physical restraint, and most often those merely escalate the situation and make her pay attention even less, so we have to outwit it or maneuver around her blocks. Most often, we just have to outlast her.
That is the secret weapon of parents, I think. We can be more consistent, and we can last longer. We can afford not to be heard in the moment, we just can never give up repeating ourselves ad nauseum saecula saeculorum Amen. If it requires six months of fermentation in a three-year-old brain for a concept to sink in, so be it. If it takes the next fifteen years, so be it. We’ve got all the time in the world, kiddo. We can afford not to get freaked out in the short term. That’s the toddler’s job, and she does it magnificently. Our job is to keep our perspective and our cool and remember, we got this. One way or another, one day or another, you will get the point. It’s just a matter of time.
“Chivalry is only a word for that general spirit or state of mind which inspires a man to heroic and generous actions and keeps him conversant with all that is pure and beautiful in the intellectual worlds.
— Kenelm Henry Digby, “Maxims of Christian Chivalry”