Monday, December 26, 2011

New Videos!

Been almost two months since our last post...yikes! Here's a short one to alert you of two new videos posted above, one of our little Nell (days away from 1 year on planet earth) and one of our Dennis, picking up yet another musical instrument. Also, enjoy the new pictures on your right. Hope to post again soon, soon-ER.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Schwoopie

Ah, my wee little Nell... (yes, 'schwoopie' was referring to Nell, my 10-month old...) I found out yesterday-- after visiting a new mama with a 5-day old, 6 lb baby-- that Nell isn't exactly so 'wee' anymore. I can't fool myself any longer. She's out of the womb-like behavior, doing some speed crawling, even starting to wrestle with her need for some independence from Mama-- a seriously hard thing for me to swallow.
I'm kind of joking, but we're definitely at a transition point with our kiddos. Up until now, my physical attention has been all on Nell, while my daily life, outings, schedule have revolved around Big Brother. When we went out, she was popped into the wrap or Ergo, and there she stayed: through the walks, the parks, the cafes, the playdates. She wanted me, and wanted me close, and everything else revolved around Dennis' wants. Suddenly she's bursting with life, energy, laughter, and opinions. It's so refreshing and wonderful, yet challenging to suddenly realize that we need to revolve our outings around Nell also, on where she can play and crawl, taking into account that she doesn't want to stay squished close to Mama for hours on end, nor is she entertained by the music in the car for long stretches like somebody else we know.
And then preschool entered our lives. Ah, yes, the warmly-welcomed preschool. I was ambivalent about sending D anywhere, until I found The Preschool. The most wonderful, beautiful little preschool, that is a perfect fit for our lives and our parenting philosophy. It's totally play-based, emergent curriculum (emergent meaning that which emerges naturally from a child... activities that the child would naturally be interested in and learn on their own). Very 'hands-off' on the teachers part, staying small in the room and yard, except during guitar-time or when a child seems to need some snuggling. The teachers are super intentional about the way they speak to the children and letting the children problem-solve on their own as much as possible, giving them words to use when they can't find their own. All of it is just so intentional, which is exactly what I (didn't know I) was looking for.
I'm just so pleased with where we're at, how each stage floats fairly gently into the next. As Nell transitions into a new life stage, so does Dennis. Granted, it doesn't feel like that every day, as we have many incidents of sibling tackling (I'm sure you can guess who does the tackling) and crying fits. Sometimes I can't go to the bathroom without N chasing me, crying for MaaaMaaa, or wanting to stick her hand in the toilet. D has some serious pizazz that isn't always easy to channel in the right direction...But my kids, oh my kids. They give me so much life, and teach me so much about the world. I tell myself I'm teaching them, but I know deep down it's the opposite, and I'm cool with that.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Back Again

I thought the blog had been all but abandoned, and yet I find myself unusually inspired on this sleepy Saturday. Unusually inspired to reflect and share my life... even if just with myself. I just finished catching up on a great friends blog--a great friend that lived a few doors from us in Montreal-- and I'm feeling all gushy and emotional as I ponder our move from Montreal to Huntington Beach, unsure whether the gratitude or mourning is winning in their little game of tug-of-war.
Ah, parenting. I don't have to say much more, I suppose. We made a huge transition, going from a very flexible schedule (essentially both of us working part-time) to me being a full-time momma and Denny jumping back into a full load of teaching. Some days I marvel at the ease of it all; others... I don't quite match up to my standards. It is a transition.
Back to that good friend's blog... sigh. We lived down the street from a wonderful couple and their daughter and they were the greatest models of parenting for us. It was all that we were (and are!) striving for, lived out. But really, I miss them. I miss having peers that I connect with on so many levels and whose parenting truly reflects all they believe and practice spiritually. It's beautiful, and it was nice to reconnect with that through their blog. I have to remind myself that it exists here, I just haven't found it yet. And further, I'm not going to find them here, just as I can't recreate Montreal here. Darn. I'm not too good at coming to grips with those facts nor do I want to just yet...
How about a little joyful update to follow the mourning?
Nell: my sweet, sweet Nellie. She is such a light. She's crawling like crazy, wanting to stand anywhere and everywhere, and loves to scrunch up her nose and laugh. So cute. I still love snuggling her at night, even if it means those extra wake-ups.
Dennis is his same, spunky self. He's got some serious pizazz, as I like to call it. He's still rockin' out on his guitar, keyboard, and harmonica (prefers the guitar), and is as chatty as can be from the second he's up to the second he's down. Social through and through, though he loooves him a video at 'Ganya's'.
That's enough. More will follow...someday.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Montreal Reflection (#6)

I knew that no matter how I approached it, attempting to bring some healthy closure to our time in Montreal would make long-windedness inevitable. I also knew that any attempt I made would fall short of accurately conveying the multitude of emotions, thoughts, and experiences we had out here. So, I've tried to bring some closure by packaging, some of the lessons we've learned into tidy little blog posts. The hope was that these lessons would become more portable and thus applicable in our new lives out here in California.
For this post, I'm continuing in the same vein as the others. All of them have more or less revolved around the idea of self-knowledge and calling. One tool for self-knowledge that I've been fascinated with over the past year has been the Enneagram. Basically the word means a chart (gram) of nine (ennea). The Enneagram maps out nine different personality types by defining them according to their "capital" sin. Richard Rohr, in his book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, defines the nine types as follows:
#1: The Need to Be Right
#2: The Need to Be Loved
#3: The Need to Succeed
#4: The Need to Be Special
#5: The Need to Perceive
#6: The Need for Security
#7: The Need to Avoid Pain
#8: The Need to Be Against
#9: The Need to Avoid
The nine types can be defined negatively or positively. The idea with the Enneagram is that although you may feel that several types apply to you, there is one that is underneath all the others. This one type is the root of all the different ways your specific behavior can manifest itself. Needless to say, it isn't always easy figuring out what your type is. Although I've heard stories of people reading a type and being completely convicted and ashamed by how accurately it described them, this was not at all the case for me. Over the past year I've read a number of books on the subject and even taken a standardized test in hopes of further understanding myself. I can say pretty confidently now what my type is now but it's been a year-long journey!
One other detail about the enneagram that I should include before I end this post is the possibility of having a "wing". A wing can be one or both of the two types neighboring whatever type you believe yourself to be. For example, if you're a three, you could have a two-wing, a four-wing, or both (depending on which Enneagram theorist you ask!). Your wing cannot be a five if you think you're a two, or vice versa. Having a wing can help clarify some things if you're having trouble finding your type. It definitely did for me.
So, that's all for now on the Enneagram. I have a few more things to say on that before I start catching up with all the latest current events of our newfound California lives. Hope you're still out there!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Montreal Reflection #5: Change

At the end of the interview with Peter Coyote from The Sun Magazine, the interviewer asks him what he would tell himself if he could go back in time. Coyote lists off a string of one-liners, giving his young self advice on various things. One that stuck out for me was "Things will take four-times longer than you think they will."
This is something that has been difficult to accept and learn. Just as it was difficult to accept Mark Scandrette's assertion that you're inevitably egotistical in your twenties, I've had a hard time giving in to the fact that change, especially when dealing with personal change, does not happen according to our own timing and strategies.
These past three years I've searched in vain for a shortcut to change or "a better me". I thought it could be found in serving the poor, the outcasts and rejected-ones, or in contemplative prayer, immersed in solitude and silence. Or maybe in the hidden symbolism of my dreams, through Jungian psychology. In the arts, in nature, in theology, in marriage and parenthood, in travel...I've dabbled in all of these things in one way or another these past three years in hopes of finding THE path. Of course, finding THE path was pretty much impossible. Finding MY path, however, has been an encouraging, although tedious, process. In fact, I'd say one major lesson learned from our time out here is that there are many paths to THE place God calls each one of us. This can be frustrating to twenty-somethings trying to pin God and the entire world down to one formula, even one that champions social justice! I've learned to take joy in the fact that we're all gifted in mysterious ways, sometimes more unknown to ourselves than anyone else, and that those gifts are unique and irreplaceable.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Montreal Reflection Part 4: Calling

I do believe in such a thing as calling. Quotes like the ones cited in the previous post contain the notion of calling very clearly. The very word vocation, which stems from a latin verb meaning "to call", comes from our own Christian tradition. We all know people who embody a certain calling so well that there's no doubt about their purpose in life. Because of my insatiable thirst for self-knowledge these past few years, I've shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears trying to figure what the hell my calling is. In fact, although I do believe in the notion of calling, I've often despised it for its elusiveness in my own life. I have taken heart, however, in what a good friend recently told me concerning calling. He said, "A calling is something that calls you; you don't call it." In the end, I've come to resonate very much with the famous words, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" (a line from someone who ironically seems to have a very clear calling). Indeed, this refrain along with its beautifully haunting melody, has carried me through moments of deep confusion about my own path in life.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Part 3: Self-Knowledge

Now, I don't pretend to know anything about the second half of life. I'm not there yet. If you look at things in terms of years, I guess around 35 you'd be reaching the top of the mountain, so to speak. So, I still have a good seven years to go. Seven more years to keep "buliding my tower", to keep searching for my identity, and further define my place in the world. These past three years in Montreal have definitely been full of that.
We came out here in order to explore and further form our identites as individuals and as a family. At the end of this time, I'd say we definitely got what we were hoping for. However, I'd also say that such things did not come at the rate or in the quantity that I myself originally hoped for. I think Lauren might say something similar for herself. To give a personal example, self-knowledge was something I avidly pursued the entire time we've been out here. I've continually been thirsty to know who I really am and what I am to do in this life, and I've hoped that this time in Montreal would provide the answers I was looking for. I've pondered quotes like Howard Thurman's, "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive" And then later Frederick Buechner's impossible yet awe-inspiring line, "The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." And I've asked God, really? Is that really true? Is there such a place for me in this world?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Montreal Reflection (#2):The Two Halves of Life

I wrote down many things that Mark Scandrette told me in my journal shortly after our meeting. He definitely had wisdom and I was hungry for it. Still, what he told me about the 20s, about that season of life being inevitably concerned with the ego, put a bit of a damper on all my wisdom-seeking. I believe I was 26 at the time (apparently right in the middle of the ego-trip). Although it was discouraging to hear this at a time when I was hoping to skip over all that growth and development crap and get right to the good stuff (i.e. sainthood?), it was also a relief to hear such a thing. After all, he not only said that it was just a season but also quite necessary. Was it necessary to retain some selfishness, to even build on that selfishness, for this part of my life? Wow! I think this was a bit too much for me to take in initially. However, as time has gone on and I've come across other people suggesting something similar, this perspective has begun to sum up a lot for me and this Montreal experience.
One example would be Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest and renowned authority on spirituality. He has spoken and written a lot about what he calls the two halves of life ( When I attended a retreat lead by him last November he made reference to this many times. He explained it primarily through a diagram with a mountain on it; the upward slope signified the first half of life and the downward slope, the second half. The first half was inevitably about creating your own identity, defining your place in the world, distinguishing yourself from others. The second half, the downward slope, was about letting the identity you've created crumble and be replaced by an even deeper identity founded in a sort of weakness and surrender. Sounds easier said than done, but, according to Richard Rohr, this is the pattern of a life well-lived.
I found this pattern well-illustrated in a quotation I very recently read by Peter Coyote from an interview with him that appeared in the June issue of The Sun Magazine ( He said, "I've reached the place where I do what I do, not because I think I will win, but because it's the only way I know how to be human." There you have it! The two halves of life! The first half about winning, the second about just being, being human.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Reflection on Our Montreal Experience (#1)

A couple summers ago, after our first of three years in Montreal, we were in San Francisco for my cousin's wedding. I had recently heard about a man in San Francisco named Mark Scandrette who had visited the church we were part of in Montreal a few years ago. Without going into much detail, he was a man who seemed to follow in the footsteps of Jesus with a uniqueness and intensity I'd never encountered before. Needless to say, I wanted to meet this guy! I emailed the organization that he started ( to see if I could meet with someone from there. I was delighted when Mark himself responded and agreed to meet me at a cafe in the Mission District while I was in SF. It had the makings of meeting a guru in an ashram. So, I sat with Mark in this cool cafe located in an ethnic melting-pot you only find in big cities. We talked for 2 1/2 hours or so and I asked him about anything I could think of. One thing he said, that has continued to come up in my mind from time to time, has particular insight and relevance concerning my reflection on our Montreal experience. He told me that as long as you're in your twenties, you can't get past your ego. You can't skip over this part of your life where the world still more or less revolves around you. There are no easy shortcuts. It is a necessary season of life.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Adventures!

If you're still out there somewhere, hello! and thanks for your perseverance through a long blog drought, possibly the longest on record since we started this three years ago! Our apologies for keeping you waiting. So, yes, it's been three years that we've been out here in Montreal, and I'm sure by now you've heard that we'll be saying goodbye soon to our adopted city and heading back to our California roots. Preparing for such a transition with two young kids on our hands is an immense task, as I'm learning more and more with each day that passes.
As of now, our plan is to fly to Arizona on June 11th to spend some time with Lauren's parents, Sarah and Randy, and then drive to California in Lauren's car (which her parents kindly kept for us!) a week or so later. We'll then stay with my mom and brother (full house!) while we start looking for jobs and housing. Our hope is that we can move into an apartment in Long Beach (Belmont Heights area) in August. Of course, heading home with two kids, no jobs and very, very little money to our name makes it a bit discouraging/frightful when we look at the numbers. So, I'm doing what I can to get a teaching job next year (I know what you're thinking...) and L has a few tricks up her sleeve as well.
We're trying to strike the age-old balance between faith and initiative, "God will provide" and "God helps those who help themselves". Two adages that seem to conflict, eh?
Anyway, that's the plan for now and, as usual, we appreciate your prayers and support. This already is and will continue to be an exciting, exhausting transition into a new season of our lives, and we welcome the continuing adventure despite the challenges therein.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oh, March! It's a Pinch!

Yes, we've come to that time of year again when the generous Christmas donations run out and most people (understandably so) aren't feeling the desire yet to extend their generosity to us once more. It's an adventurous time, to put it positively. Lauren and I get really good at tightening the belt and using all of those funny odds and ends in the kitchen that would otherwise be forsaken to an eternity on the shelf or in the back of the cupboard. We're thankful for the surplus which has now become essential and for the chance to be more efficient; it's nice to feel a lot of gratitude for small joys and be more focused on day-to-day life.
On the other hand, it is still very much winter in Montreal, although March is upon us, and it will continue to be winter for another month! Uggh! When you don't have much money and it's too cold to stay outside for long, you have to use your creativity and imagination to pass the hours with two youngsters on your hands. On top of that, Dennis has had some sort of strange illness for the last week that has appeared, disappeared, and reappeared several times. Is it a cold, a fever, an ear infection, a toothache, a combination of these? We've made all these guesses. He slept good last night, however, and we're hoping we're out of the woods. Our sweet little Nell is developing opinions, which is exciting, but can be quite tiring as well, especially when her opinions have to do with sleep. She also likes to smile a lot and converse with us through her beautiful cooing, so a little extra wakey time isn't so bad after all.
All in all, we're hanging in there, hoping our financial resources increase over the next few months and giving a lot of time and thought to our future plans. I'll stop here, and save some steam for the next post...à bientôt!

Friday, February 18, 2011


Just writing a quick update for all you who wait with bated breath for the next blog post from the FlanClan (ehhum, hi mom). Nell Lavender is approaching two months and we continue to fall more and more in love with her. Dennis is officially obsessed with anything that plays music, has lights, or buttons. Thus, the DVD/CD player that my mom gave him (thanks, mom) is his very close friend. He also puts on concerts with his guitar sometimes that are absolutely amazing. I have to admit that I'm getting excited about his undeniable love of music!
I went back to work about two weeks ago, so Lauren has been at home with the two kids, learning that new reality. She's doing great so far, especially amidst the austere Montreal winter. She still has two more births to attend and a few more projects/book reports to complete her doula apprenticeship. We're hoping to get to those in the spring. As for work with YWAM, things have been really crazy. I won't get into all the details, but both our Urban Cultures School and YWAM Montreal itself has taken a beating these past few months. Nonetheless, we're moving forward, learning from our mistakes, feeling more united and more positive about the next few months.
So, there it is. It's not much but it's all I can muster at this point. I hope to post again soon!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nell Videos

Two new videos up of our one-month-old Nell on our youtube channel:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Right On!

Below I'm going to paste a page of David Brazzeal's blog entitled "following". David and Sanan are the founders of our church community out here, Curieux, and now live in Paris. I found the following quite inspiring in its simple, balanced, straightforward reasoning.

I consider myself a follower of Jesus...
I follow him in a variety of ways…

I follow Jesus in his simplicity…

He lived a very simple life…didn’t own much, treaded gently on the earth…me, I’m trying to learn how to do that.

I follow Jesus in his creativity…

He was a creative story teller…he spoke in riddles and enigmas…He left people with something to ponder…He was practically a performance artist, knowing that walking into a room and washing feet was more powerful than a lecture on humility.

I follow Jesus in his compassion for the poor…the marginalized…the oppressed….

He seemed to prefer “hanging out” with this group much more than the rich or the spiritual leaders of the day. You can’t read the stories of Jesus w/out this jumping off the page. This is not natural for me (being a middle-class, middle-age, white, male) but I’m learning to follow him in this… by contributing to and volunteering with organizations that help the poor…by treating them like fellow human beings when I see them and by caring extra money to give to them. .

I follow Jesus as spiritual mystic…

Jesus spent long hours alone staying connected to his Father…he frequented gardens and hilltops to find a bit of solitude…So I’m learning to pull away from the distraction and make time to reconnect with him…to meditate…to give thanks…to contemplate…to intercede…to lament…to rejoice…to be silent.

I follow Jesus as someone who enjoyed life…

He had deep friendships…loved to journey together with them and talk on the road…he went to lots of parties…loved and cared deeply for people…So I am learning to be a companion to my friends on the journey…to enjoy long conversations at parties and to love and care for people.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dispatch from the Northeastern Front...

Denny, here. Sorry for the war terminology in the title...but at times things do get a little intense with two kids on our hands. Our lovely Nell was born almost three weeks ago, and as our babymoon comes to an end, two young kids and winter set in simultaneously. C'mon, couldn't we have timed this a little better? What about a spring baby?...One that you can whisk away into the great outdoors without having to put fifteen extra layers on? And the D-man is smack dab in the middle of his twos--headstrong, determined, and creative as ever--reaching new heights (literally) most the time in our kitchen.
Okay, the italics rant was a little therapeutic venting. Sorry to expose you to such honesty. Anyone who's had children I'm sure will understand...? Needless to say, things are getting crazy and we're all learning some good lessons. I've recently started reading my first parenting book, Kids are worth it!, by Barbara Coloroso. In fact, it's been one of the most challenging, inspiring, immediately applicable books I've ever read (and I'm only through chapter three). I'll end this muddy blog post with a quote from that book that hits it on the head for me right now.
"Who of us is mature enough for offspring before the offspring themselves arrive? The value of marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults."
-Peter de Vries
Amen, brotha!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Nell Lavender

So, it's been too, too long since our last blog. Here's a short one announcing the arrival of our lovely daughter Nell Lavender on Dec. 28th at 1:30 in the afternoon right in our bedroom.
The birth experience was amazing (although a bit longer than we anticipated!), our midwife was phenomenal, and Lauren especially was an all-star. It was a privelege to witness and be a part of such an intense, trying, wonderful birth. Welcome, Nell!