Friday, September 26, 2008

"Taft" and the homeschool experiment

Ok, I had promised a more serious post, and I will do that, I just think my wife is a great teacher and my children are a treat . . .

The other day my eight-year-old son, Aidan, was his usual squirmy self at the dinner table. Tired of it, I said, "Where is the turtle?" Moments later one of the kids presented me with a blue, American flag-covered cloth turtle stuffed with heavy pebbles. It's a teacher's tactile tool used to help kids remember when they are to be seated. 

So I take the turtle, put it on Aidan's lap, and say, "Hey, we need a name for that fat little thing." I'm thinking, then, "gordo," "tubby," "lardo," or someting like that. But then I hear from the ten-year-old seated to my left, "How about 'Taft'!"

We all started cracking up. It was PERFECT! "Taft," as in the corpulent former President and Chief Justice, William Howard Taft. (see picture below)

As a parent, I thought this was just great. I'm thinking about synonyms for "fat" and  my ten-year-old is beyond that, thinking abstractly, searching her mind for something large and American,  easily-recognizable and personal. In a moment she had it: TAFT!

There was a day when neither my wife nor I would have even considered homeschooling. I thought the folks I had met who did this were monk-ish fools. But this episode with my kids reminds me that I had ignorantly charicatured homeschooling; in addition, it illustrates some of the joys I have found in homeschooling:
  1. Carrie is the primary teacher and she's an incredibly talented woman across the whole spectrum of knowledge and aptitudes. If I were a wealthy man looking for a private tutor for my children (as they did in the old days) I would pick Carrie. I mean, I look at this woman and think: How could I not have her school the children, at least for a few years!
  2. We all learn together and have fun doing it.
  3. We're able to cover a breadth and depth that regular school can't.
  4. The kids are learning together and in the process learning to teach others and in the process better learning the material.
  5. The kids, much more like real life, are not divided according to peer group and communicate confidently with people of all ages. 
The kids have a lot of interaction with kids their same age through the local home school association field trips and through their various community and church activities. They're in group piano lessons and swim lessons; they play sports and visit friends, but my ten-year-old does not conduct herself as a higher form of human being than the little children she meets, and that--quite frankly--is something a see a lot of in the other ten-year-old girls that I meet. I am--if I may dare to use the word--exceedingly proud of my children for the joy and grace with which they typically interact both with their peers and people of all other ages.

We're not planning to homeshool forever. At this point our debate is whether to begin public school in 5th or 6th grade (Van Wert Middle School is grades 6-8), but (getting back to title of this post) I love it that children ten, eight and five all got the joke about a fat, American-flag-covered turtle named "Taft."

Yours in Christ--Lance_+

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New "Race Relations" and "LCMS Structure" posts coming soon

1. Race Relations
A while ago I published a short piece on race relations and some lessons learned on the adoption pick-up trip. I have been thinking a lot, for several months now, about the historic Obama candidacy, and I hope to have a piece on that by Sept 27, 2008.

2. LCMS Structure
The following week I'm planning to begin taking a more systematic view of the LCMS structure proposals that were the subject of my first post back in August 2008. Because my picture from the recent theological convocation in St. Louis ended up on the cover of The Reporter, the monthly LCMS newspaper, I have received a number of requests to speak or comment on the convocation and the proposals. Starting in October I hope to begin offering my thoughts to those who may want to read.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dick Allen & Lance O'Donnell reflect on the Adoption pick-up Trip

This clip, also taken during dinner on our last night in Guatemala, includes the reflections of my father-in-law, Richard Allen and myself on the pick-up trip. My wife, Carrie, is holding the camera and little Brenainn is sitting between us.

Carrie and Lance reflect on pick-up trip

In this clip, taken at the "Los Ranchos" restaurant in Guatemala City, my wife Carrie discusses the trip wherein we picked-up our new little man, Brenainn. We had such a marvelous trip and saw so much, but for both Carrie and I--as you will see in an upcoming post--the most important things were the relationships...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Calculated Risk

Last night I had another of the great joys of parenting: watching one of our little ones brave his first steps from a standing position. You'll notice in viewing the clip that at first he was just standing there in the middle of office, getting his bearings on the standing upright-by-myself thing. Then he heard my voice, turned, and heard me say, "Come!" He didn't actually brave the steps, though, until I extended a hand and re-issued the invitation, "Come!"

The analogies are numerous here and I will let my readers draw some of them for themselves, but at least one analogy is that growth in life involves risk, calculated-risk. My voice and my hand out said, "Try this. I will be here if you fall." He did, and I was.

What a privilege to be the parent of a toddler again and to learn more lessons from the little ones!

Yours in Christ--lao_+

Monday, September 15, 2008

Race Relations, Part 1

Part 1 of a series...

The picture here is of two eight-year-old boys. On the left is Kevin Barrios of Guatemala City, Guatemala; on the right is my son, Aidan O'Donnell, of Van Wert, Ohio. Aidan and Kevin met in June 2008.  a

I wasn't there for the initial meeting in June. Aidan went with his mother and grandmother to Guatemala to visit his little brother, Brenainn, whom we were in the process of adopting at the time.  After Carol, Carrie and Aidan got off the plane and got settled in the hotel, they made arrangements to meet-up with the foster family through the in-country staff of our agency, Families Through International Adoption. Soon thereafter Kevin arrived with Sylvia, his mother, Vladimir, his father, and his older sister and brother (Carolina and Vladimir) and little Brenainn (or "Manuelito"--"little Manuel"-- as they called him).  Carrie had arranged for the whole group to visit the nearby Zoo in Guatemala City with the help of our friend and translator, Claudia. 

Upon arriving at the zoo, I am told, though they could not understand a word the other said, Aidan and Kevin were like brothers from the get-go. Quickly imaginary swords emerged and these two eight-year-olds were Jedi warriors. Then they were playing tag. Then they were target throwing pine cones. All the while, again, barely a word the other said was understood.  

As you can see from the picture, we got the two boys together again in August 2008 when the whole O'Donnell clan arrived for the pick-up trip. We invited Kevin's family to spend a few days with us at the Lutheran Center in Antigua, Guatemala. Kevin, Carolina and Sylvia were able to come along, and Kevin and Aidan picked-up right where they had left off. Within five minutes they were throwing imaginary spears, fighting off enemies, and getting their pants dirty from wrestling on the lawn. Gradually Kevin learned a few English words and Aidan learned a few Spanish words. They had a great time together, got in a little trouble together, ate and played and learned together.

Look at the picture. Kevin's got a much better tan than Aidan.That didn't bother either of them. In fact, indications are that they didn't even think of it. Isn't that wonderful!

As a Christian, I am so TIRED of the race issue. It is genetically and theologically irrelevant. Yet, here I am writing about it, because in this world it still does. I long for the day, pray for the day, in church and civic life, that like Kevin and Aidan we can interact with one another without thought to our different shades. Wouln't it be great, in the civic and ecclesial realms, if race simply didn't matter?

This is, of course, a heavenly longing, a longing that truly can only be fulfilled in Christ:

A Great Multitude from Every Nation
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.They have washed their robes and lmade them white in the blood of the Lamb.
     15     “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
     16    They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
     17     For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
          and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” 
 --Revelation 7.7.9-17 (ESV)

Lord, thank you for that marvelous trip to Guatemala, and--in the play of these two young boys--a glimpse of the glorious unity of Christ's Kingdom.