Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sell-out or Worn-out?

As we are now in limbo, living with friends back in our home town of Franklin, TN, I walk around doing the slow-Southern-daily-life-thing with great existential questions running around in my brain at warp speed. What are we doing with our lives? What do we want to do? Is it really about what we want? What is God calling us to? Is there really such a thing as a unique call or do we all just get the general call to love God and each other during whatever journey we are handed?

I kind of thought we made a decision to trust our minimal understanding of these questions and head back home.  We loved life in the city: the grit, the culture, the cleaning out of some cob-webbed parts of our brains where Southern culture allowed us to collect dust. We lived where we were needed. Why should all the people with resources-financial, social, systemic, and otherwise- congregate in the cozy neighborhoods while those without voices are crammed into the dirty spaces left in between? 

One of our reasons for going into the city was pictured in a metaphor that many urban missionaries are drawn in by: if there was a tree fallen in the road and 9 people were carrying one side and only 1 on the other, which side would you go to? That made sense to us. We wanted to help on the side that needed it. The city-side. Lets face it, it is easier to love your neighbors if they dont really need anything from you. So, we chose the city and could barely imagine ourselves ever wanting to return to our quaint Americana village of Franklin, where all those helper-outers were. 

But, after much emotional angst and equally emotional prayer, we decided that after 5 years in Philly, we would move home. Im not sure if it was our desire to live out the next season of life close to my family overshadowed our desire to be a conduit of change in the world that led us to our decision. (I hope not) But, I think it was a mixture of many things that when parsed out seems to not make that much sense. Is is about not wanting to raise my kids in the city, filled with danger and the unknown? (Philly is one of the leading cities in numbers of murders, but also has a phenomenally diverse population with rich history and culture.) Is it because life in the ministry was stressful and I wasnt sure if my not sleeping well had to do with that, living in the city or just my age? (I am getting older and I think my mom doesnt sleep well either).  I dont have a great reason, but I think I decided that it was okay that I didnt have a perfectly wrapped answer. It just felt like time to come home. Right or wrong. Good or bad. Sell-out or just plain worn-out. 

Dave reminded me often (in my most angsty moments) that at the end of the day, God was still in control. His world was not going to fall apart if we made the wrong choice. His will for our lives wasnt going to be thwarted by our moving. God is still God, whether in Philly or Franklin. (Those are the moments when I most clearly remember why I married Dave.) Although it sounds awfully oedipal, Dave reminds me of my dad. Just a few weeks ago, when the buyers of our house found out that their mortgage fell through for the second time, Dad told me to not bother Jesus by praying about it. "He's asleep at the back of the boat. Its all under control. If he's not worried about it, neither should you." Not exactly the most solid theology ever preached (I mean, whoever heard of someone preachin' that you shouldn't pray), but its faith-filled simplicity comforted me. Yeah, if Jesus isnt worried, why should I? 

My goal of writing this post was to maybe help myself out of my current angst ridden brain and back into sanity. My questions are still not answered really, but my heart is calmed. Where will we live? Where will we work? What should we invest our time in? Who should we reconnect with? Can we change the world from here? What if we end up just caring about soccer season and making fruit tea for Cousin Mae's baby shower? Shhhh. Details. Details. Jesus is napping. 

Saturday, July 19, 2008

You Know You are in Trouble When...


I am envious of the girl in the BEFORE picture. 

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Dude

Atticus still is nothing but pure delight stuffed in a 3 year old body. Today, after pooping (sorry to be so graphic...not really) he says to me, "Mama, that is giant." Looking down at his creation, I nodded in agreement, "Yes, Atty, yes it is." He then looks at me with all seriousness and proclaims, "It will kill you." 

He kills me!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Graduate

On May 22, 2008 Dave graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary with a Masters of Arts in Religion.  It took five years, but he did it while being a dad of two and working full-time in ministry at liberti church. I'm really proud of him. The amount of reading and intellectual rigor required to succeed in his program of study was tremendous. I have to say that I have a new respect for Dave's ability to apply himself, his discipline to study and his patience to actually learn the material. I was always the kind of student that learned quickly and spit out enough of the information correctly in order to get by. I never once asked myself, "Do I really get this?" I feel like watching Dave has led me to a new definition of Intellectual. He isnt going to toot his own horn or use heady words (actually, his vocabulary astounds me!). I mean, he isnt a saint...he tries to get his self worth in other ways, but for someone who personally tries to get props from being quick and witty, I am often humbled by Dave's understanding of things way beyond my grasp. 

One of Dave's favorite authors, Abraham Kuyper, writes, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, "Mine!".  I'm convinced that Christ has claimed Dave's degree as his own. Where ever we land vocationally, God has used this time at seminary to fulfill many purposes already. I see another side of Dave that I would never have seen had we not come to Philly. Even though that is enough for me, I know that God will continue to use Dave's gifts to serve others and to image the One who created him. Congratulations Dave!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Creative Rage

Ellie (after losing a few priviledges due to some disobedience): I hate my family! I hate the world! I want to put up my middle finger at the whole world!

Pretty creative, right? I mean, I figure I should just go ahead and find the positive in her tantrums. Please dont be disturbed, it only makes sense that my little extremist would only rant in extreme ways! :) So, I'm kind of impressed with her level of verbal accuracy that describes the norm for most human experience...rage to the point of flipping the bird at the whole world. It makes sense, really.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day

Being the mother to these absolutely beautiful children is the biggest blessing and challenge of my life. 

Atticus, my little friend, brings me such uncomplicated joy. I am nothing but delighted by this intent, happy, curious, destructive, active, talented, monkey-like child. While Atticus is around, there will always be someone who makes me laugh. My heart is at peace knowing he is my son.

Ellie, my soul, is as equally horrifying and as she is awe-inspiring. She reflects the best and worst of me. She will always be my mirror. I am amazed by her depth and her intelligence. Her insight into others and the world is far beyond her years. Her thoughtfulness is overwhelming. While Ellie is around, there will always be someone who sharpens me and seeks to care for me. My heart is proud that she is my daughter.

This Mothers Day has been a special one. Not because it was fun or I received great presents, but because I reflected on the blessings that have been heaped on my head by God. "Mothers Day" could possibly end up being just a set up for a huge disappointment. Seriously, moms dont just need a day off. What kind of rest, gift or brunch really celebrates the sacrifices mothers make for their children? How do you honor someone who feels constant guilt for not loving you better? 

The standards that have been set by society are impossible for moms to meet, yet everyday we toil to care for the hearts of our children, protect them from harm, keep a house like Martha Stewart, cook like Rachel Ray, perform at the A level in our work...yet if we work, we have compromised our roles as primary care givers and if we stay at home full-time, we are laughably out of touch with culture and marketplace. We think that we have been liberated by the feminist movement because we are now included in world of work. But, what have we really been liberated to? Feeling guilt for our failure to be perfect in two arenas now. 

So whats the answer? Not to go back to the '50's, that's for sure! No, its again, the Gospel. Our guilt can only be eased by knowing that God has paid the penalty for our failures as mothers. He, in his overwhelming love for our kids, can even use the pain we have caused to draw our children to himself. He has gifted us to take part in the redemption of the world. It is not our responsibility to save our children, nor the world, but the gift to participate in his redemption of it. It is an honor to use our gifts to serve, sacrifice and die for our children and for the world. Today, I celebrate the blessing of serving, even though I fail miserably at it. 

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sweet Sisters Bakeshop

My sister in law, Laurie just opened a bakery in Blue Bell.  I spent the afternoon there yesterday, taking photos for the website that Dave will be designing for them. The treats that her and her sisters were churning out were amazingly decadent. Atticus was so hopped up on sugar when we left that my attempt to go shopping at Home Goods afterward was not only futile, but completely dumb. He crashed into a sugar coma on the drive home with a ring of chocolate and Dorito crumbs lining his face. What a happy day for him! Everyone needs an aunt with a bake shop!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Little Miss Miss

Ellie: What are you reading?
Mama: Parenting with Love and Logic.
Ellie: (snort!) Just 'cause I lied to you?! 
(see the steam rising off my head...)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Quotable Ellie

Ellie: I decided not to vote for Hilary.
Mama: Really? I thought you wanted to.
Ellie: Nah. I want to be the first woman president.

Just Another Evening Stroll

Last night we took a walk down Kelly Drive, just to let the kids run around before bed. We took advantage of the beauty that we have so close by. We walked past boat house row and the statue garden. The kids ran around the dogwood, cherry and poplar trees. The air was crispy and so many people were out getting their evening exercise, walking their dog, practicing crew. Ellie jogged most of the time with Atticus trailing close behind. Ellie stopped only to pose in her best Miley Cyrus impersonation. Atticus was mostly worried about the dog he overhead me mention that I saw floating in the river last week. Oopsie, so much for sentimentality. Anyway, they both slept great last night. I did too. Its amazing what a walk will do for you. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sarah Mingles with the Singles

As I leave Philadelphia, I am grieving the loss of my single friends that abound in the urban setting.  Of course, they all would hate to be classified as "single", and after the conference that liberti just hosted on singleness and relationships in the gospel, I understand (I promise) how singleness is not an identity but a conditional state of being and a valuable gift to be used wisely.  As a side note, I also learned that many singles in the northeast actually appreciate this state of being far more than I had understood. (It's not every girls dream to be married with 2.5 children?? Is that possible??).  Urban areas have a far higher percentage of unmarried people, and many of them like it that way. 

Married folk tend to assume that singleness is synonymous with self-absorption. However, the reality is that the contemporary culture is changing and traditional pressures to be married are being exchanged with new ones: identity no longer is defined by last name or having an heir. Self-fulfillment is found in a multitude of other options: career and social life, to name a few. 

After reading a great article written by Paige Benton called Singled Out, I was reminded that for starters, neither marriage nor singleness is where we find our ultimate fulfillment; it is neither marriage nor children that should be our sanctifier, but Christ himself. Learning how not to be selfish is not a gift bestowed on those of us who are forced to not be self-focused (due to diapers that just must be changed), but a call to all of us in the body. And looking at this picture of some of my closest single friends in Philly, I clearly see that these girls are far from selfish. Each of them has served my family in many ways. Each of them has called me, challenged me, to find myself in Christ alone. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

I had such a great birthday week. Yes, week. Im a firm believer in the extended birthday celebration. It pretty much revolved around food and people, but mostly food. On the day of my birthday, Dave and Robert (our soux-chef/friend/comic relief) cooked up some red muscles and duck spring rolls. Tasty! On Friday, I had dinner out at London Grille (where Roberto is a chef) and we ate well there too: grilled octopus, specialty cheeses, ribs that weren't really ribs, but I forget the name. After the MPJ show (on tour with Ingrid Michealson, btw), we went to the Belgium Cafe and had fries and beer. On Saturday, Dave's folks grilled steaks, asparagus and mashed potatoes. So much for the Biggest Loser Competition. I think I have gained weight since we started. Oh well, its my birthday month. 

Glow in the Dark Knives

That's my dodgeball team name. We are awesome, but were bitterly defeated in our last tourney. Even Team Bradford, composed of 5 children and one balding dad that throws like a girl, got further up the bracket. DANGIT! There's always next year. STAB WOUND!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Simple Life

I just finished reading God and Country, an essay by Wendell Berry, about organized religion and the fractured idea of stewardiship. Because organized religion is so dependent upon the economy of our nation, it feels, if you are a member of a church, imperative to give to the building fund instead of funding research to stop, for instance, global warming. Is the American church really about truth, beauty, righteousness and the desire to serve? Or are we more concerned with the maintenance of our building? Coffee breaks during the worship service? God in Genesis commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it. Many Christians use this as their justifier for being meat-eaters as well as destroyers of the environment. Berry quotes God's clarifying instructions on how to treat the earth (in case you were confused) from Revelations: "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die." 

I have been very confused lately about what exactly I am 'called' to as a believer. Is it evangelism? Is it simple workmanship...being faithful in the menial tasks of the everyday? Is it social justice? Is it parenting? Community? Family? The Church? As Dave and I leave the full-time 'ministry' of being on staff at a church, its difficult wrestling with these questions. I am driven to be closer to home, the one with my extended family and well as my life-long tribe of friends. Is that being faithful to God and his call on our lives? 

Though, I am always drawn back to the simple wisdom of Papa Joe, "Its not about right or wrong; Its about life," I still wrestle with what it looks like to be Kingdom-minded. I don't want to live for my own little kingdom. But, there is a sense that God has made things like family, community, work, traditions, stories and art and they are all good. Do I over-spiritualize 'kingdom-living' to be about living in the most oppressed, most needy place on earth and church planting? Though, again, the command in revelations is to be about those things that are dying. I suppose you can do that anywhere. Strengthen the things that remain that are ready to die...the black family, the Sudan, the environment, hope, community, the Church, my libido. :) 

The simple life is so appealing except that I don't really like doing laundry or the dishes. There is very little peace in my home (but, glory of glories, I cleaned all day today and Atticus occupied himself with legos and his scooter for most of the day! Dave made chicken nachos while Ellie did her homework. I was savoring this rare peace. Was it because I vacuumed, I wonder? ) 

Whatever the answer, I will be encouraged today to live as Wendell Berry is calling me to: Ally yourself with what is worthy. On that note, I think I'll go watch the latest episode of Lost.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


We hosted a Mexican potluck and everyone came with the best Mexican appetizers ever. As many of you already know, dips are a weakness of mine. Or, rather, a strength if you see the world as I do. I got this recipe from and did a search for the queso pablano dip. Its basically just a monterey jack cheese mixture topped with goat cheese, broiled in an iron skillet with  a roasted pablano vinagrette drizzled on top. To die for! We ate every last bite. And guess who licked the skillet?

Cross-Dressing: An Original Sin?

Here is documentation of the sins of the mother passed down to the daughter. Ellie, like her mother 30 years before her, dresses her siblings in drag. Actually, I think Ellie and Aunt Dede (Sharon at age 2) make handsome boys. But, why all the band-aids on Dave? A bad botox job? Were boo-boos a gender specific detail when it comes to cross-dressing? I'm guessing the band-aids were Stacey's idea...not the brightest bulb in the tanning bed, that one. Atticus and his Uncle Beef make for lovely females as well as innocent victims of older sisters. Dave, I am sorry and if you need therapy for gender confusion, I will happily chip in for therapy. Atticus, you are going to have to take your issues up with Ellie! (Sorry for the sideways shot on Ellie and Atticus, I'll get my IT guy right on that.) Be sure to click on each photo for an up-close shot! From left to right, Stacey (5), Sharon (2 1/2), Dave (3), Sarah (5). 

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Biggest Loser: Family Style

So, our family has decided that we all need a little healthy competition to motivate us to lose weight. Although some members, not to be named, have dialed in their weight loss goal as a whopping five whole pounds (please!), the rest of us are looking to drop whale size proportions. 

In an attempt to reach our goals, we have partnered up to see which team will lose the most weight by Easter! Team 1: Sue and Stacey, Team 2: Brad and Sarah, Team 3: Dave and Chrissie. Each person has put $25 on the line. Winning Team Takes All! Teams need to post comments every Friday to taunt and mock (aka. motivate) the other teams with how much total weight they have already lost. If you are in the family circle and have decided to participate, you can still enter with a partner! Just post your name, partner's name and how much total combined weight you hope to lose...again, just so we know the competition. And, family members, please understand that just because Suzie wants to lose thirty pounds, doesn't mean Suzie will, so don't shy away from signing up, thinking she and Dave are a shoe-in!

Good luck to all the teams, and may the biggest losers win! 

Friday, January 18, 2008

Worlds Away

Actually, by looking at these picture you cant tell how different Franklin, Tennessee is than Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I mean, there's a trolley, brick row homes that have been turned into market places, traffic lights. Of course, you can't tell that that is the entire downtown captured in one picture of Franklin. You also can't tell that Philadelphia has a population of over one and a half million people and Franklin gets credit for being the home of a little over fifty thousand. Philadelphia has the second largest Irish, Italian and Jamaican populations and the fourth largest African American population in the nation while only 10% of the Franklin population is non-white.  About 20% of Philadelphia's population is below the poverty line, while less than 7% of Franklinites are in poverty. Actually, Franklin is one of the wealthiest cities in the one of the wealthiest counties in the US.  Benjamin Franklin is one interesting cross-over between the cities. Franklin was actually named for Mr.Ben Franklin, Philadelphia's own. 

The significance about the differences between cities is what seems to run through my head on a daily basis since our family's decision to move back home to Franklin. Desire to be closer to our family and long-time community has spurred our decision, but doesn't make it an easy one. Franklin doesn't have liberti (our fledgling-toddler church community), cheesesteaks or Kelly Drive, but it does have Mimi and Papa Joe. It doesn't have Nam Phong (the cheap Vietnamese restaurant in South Philly) or North 3rd (our favorite wing joint), but its got La Hacienda (Philly can't compete with the Mexican food even though it's got every other nationality in the universe covered) and it's got Country Kitchen on Saturday mornings at Mimi and Papa Joe's. 

My guess is that I am slowly beginning the mourning process of leaving Philly, but still trying to comfort myself with the notables of Franklin. Change is never an easy process. Leaving friends is an impossible one. I expect my experience when we get back to Franklin to be similar to when we left it five years ago: excited for the change and new experiences mixed with the sadness (and, let's face it, down-right depression) at not having access to my people. Of course, in this move,  "my people" will now include the amazing friends we have made over the past five years. 

Culture Shock will be an inevitable for us. Ellie mentions her brown-ness every time we visit Franklin. Raising a brown child in a white world is a challenge we will face wherever we plant, but it will just be more noticable there. The cultural differences are huge at any rate. Gender and race attitudes are certainly more appealing for us in the culture of the Yanks. There is a certain amount of intellectual integrity, social concern and global awareness in the north that has been refreshing here. But, when it comes to the daily grind of life, Southerners really do win the day with community, integrity and just plain niceness. I'll be glad for the slower pace, the kindness of neighbors and, of course, sweet tea. Oh yeah, and parking.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Atticus the Wonderboy!

Local News: Wonderboy Warehouse Sale this Sunday. Ultra-cool boys clothing designed and made by a local artist. And, oh yeah, did I mention that Atticus was a model for their Spring catalog??

Keep an eye out for Wonderboy clothing at children's boutiques! Even stores in Nashville carry this uber-hip line! Check out their website. Hopefully, they will post their spring line soon and Atticus will make his on-line modeling premiere!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My Buddy and Me

How cute is he?? Atticus is a superior buddy. My little friend standing in front of Independence Hall. We often wait for Ellie to get out of school at Washington Square Park, which is across the street from Independence Charter School. I'm never at a loss to imagine horse drawn carriages and wig-wearing men walking around in capris and tights (of course, this could be due to the fact that there ARE horse drawn carriages and wig-wearing men walking around in capris and tights around this extremely touristy area of the city!) I never thought my kid would see more horses on Chestnut Street than in Franklin, TN! I'm just happy that he is as relaxed and contented in just about any environment...except maybe the Maurice Sendack exhibit at the Please Touch Museum. Atticus is in mortal fear of Where the Wild Things Are. 

Look, Bubba! You are standing on history!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Corner Store Kids

Raising kids in the city is so far from what I'd envision parenting to be like. A highlight of the day for my kids is to go to the corner store. I guess if we are trying to find the suburban analogy to the corner store, i would compare the corner store to the Eckerd's Drugstore. I grew up walking to the Eckerd to buy candy with other kids from my neighborhood. If I was totally honest, I would have to reveal that I was actually the only one who didn't use my allowance on candy, but on a large bag of Doritos.  

But, the corner store is really incomparable to the suburban drug store. Actually, the term drug store may actually be more suitable for our corner store. Mrs. Young, the proprietor of said store, is an old crotchety asian woman who seems to have been hardened by life in the neighborhood. The same clientele come in and out, shouting profane greetings at her, trying to get a rise. Most of the time she doesn't take the bait. She remains stoic and tells them how much they owe her. 

Does she keep IOU's or a running tab on each costumer? It would seem so. She seems to know just how many cigarettes she has sold to each person. Here, in Philly, you buy single cigarettes, since you can rarely afford the entire pack at once. I think the going rate is .25 cents per stick. Blunts might be more. (Philly blunts, the kind with the wacky tabacky, aren't for sale at the corner least, as far as I know.) 

I tried to take a picture of Mrs. Young, but she wouldn't let me. When I asked her if I could, she turned her back to me even though I did not even have the camera out. She refused to turn around until I left the store. I see Mrs. Young several times a week, but she has yet to smile at me. No one on our block smiles at each other. It's a subtle nod and perhaps a quick "How ya doing?", but that's the extent. It seems like smiling is a level of intimacy that isn't risked very often around here. 

Going to Mrs. Young's is a treat for Ellie and Atticus. They can actually buy something they want for a quarter, which is nice and kind of reminds me of Andy Griffith days. Minus the sweetness. Its either ice cream (the cones dipped in chocolate rolled in peanuts kind) or Cheetohs (Atticus' poison of choice). 
I don't think that having my kids go to the corner store is a negative thing, it's just really something that I haven't gotten used to yet, even after 5 years in the city.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Year, Carrots and Good Eye-sight

My New Year's Eve in Philadelphia? Oh. I was just laying in my bed, watching the Penn's Landing fireworks out my window and relaxing to the sound of gun shots a block away. Of course, I only assumed that what I was hearing was gun shots until I heard the news this morning that there were multiple arrests made for illegal use of hand guns, as well as news of several critically injured from stray bullets! I guess my first question is always: How then should I live? In light of guns being fired in celebration in my neighborhood, how am I as a follower of Jesus Christ with little children supposed to live? 

It reminds me of an Ellie story...

This time last year, Ellie, Atticus (my 3 year old) and I were on our way down Girard Avenue on the coldest day of the winter. We were stopped at a red light. Up ahead, I noticed a woman walking toward us down the sidewalk. Now, because I was talking on my cell phone, my brain was slow to compute. This was no ordinary woman, but an obese woman without a stitch of clothing. My thoughts slowing disengaged from my conversation to this surreal sight. This naked woman looked like she was out for a Sunday stroll. "What in the world??" I said out loud.

Ellie, on-point as always, quickly sits up to get a look out the front window. "Ellie, cover your eyes!" She immediately obeyed. (Hmm.) 

I then watch as a police cruiser slowly pulls up to the sidewalk and an officer gets out. He approaches the woman with one arm behind her back, gently shepherding her into his vehicle. She gets in and they drive away. The light turned green and it was my turn to go.

I look in the review window and note that Ellie is still covering her face with her hands. I tell her its okay to look. I asked her if she saw anything. She answers, "That police man?" I sighed in relief. She didn't see anything. But, I decided to double-check. "Did you see what that police man was doing, Ellie?" 

You mean, putting that naked woman in his car?

Nothing gets by this girl. So, I then launch into a discussion about why on earth that woman, on the coldest day of the year, was walking down Girard in absolutely no clothes. However, Ellie, true to form, had to disagree with me on those details. Mom, she was not totally naked. She had panties on. I reassured her that she was entirely nude.

Again, I am called to ask the question: How then should I live? WWJD??  Even though I felt pretty much alone in my struggles, I prayed for wisdom and began to connect the sight we had just witnessed to our most recent family devotional. "Ellie, do you remember when we talked about how Adam and Eve disobeyed God and then, from that point on, sin and yuckiness entered the world? Well, that woman is not supposed to be cold and naked walking down the street. It makes God sad. We don't know why she is alone without any clothes, but we do know that God does not want that for that woman. She is made in his image and he wants only good things for her. And, one day, He will heal the world so that will never happen again. Do you understand?"

Yes, Mama. But if she was naked, what was that black stuff in her bottom?

 Ellie, WHAT were you doing looking that closely at her bottom??

 I eat carrots, babe. 

I swear!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Ellie Quotes on Demand

Ever since Ellie, my brillantly warped but beautiful 7-year old, has been quoted in our family newsletter, requests for more quotes have prompted the beginning of this blog. In response to any story or quote, I ask that you follow these suggested guidelines:

1. If you are entertained:  Click on an ad that is posted on our site. The money procured will not, as you might think, go toward Ellie's college fund, but toward her counseling one. She's on her own for college, but I feel vaguely responsible for her therapy.

2. If you are disturbed: Leave some wisdom that might help us avoid excessive costs for therapy. 

With those guidelines clearly stated, I give you the most recent post-worthy quote:

Papa, will I get in trouble if I hold up my middle-toe at you?
-Ellie, age 7