Vacation From Vacation

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Growing up, one of my favorite TV shows was The Wonder Years.  There was one scene I remember where the main character, Kevin, asks his dad what he does for work.  An exasperated, middle-aged man, home from a long day of work is just trying to sit in his favorite chair in front of the TV and read the newspaper answers his adolescent son with sheer exhaustion in his voice, “I get up, fight traffic, get yelled at by my boss, do the same thing every day, fight traffic, then I come home.”  I’m paraphrasing since it has been over 20 years since I have seen the show, but I am sure you can imagine how that sounded.  The show was also set in the 1960s when enjoying what you did for a living was never a consideration.  Work wasn’t exciting, motivating, or something you would look forward to.  It was a job to provide for your family that you endured minus your two weeks of vacation every year.

 

Unless your vacation gets hijacked.

 

That is what happened to us this year.  I made this joke on my social media:  “There are vacations.  There are stay-cations.  There are sickations.  We chose the last one this year.”  Maybe we didn’t choose it, but it chose us.

 

Every year my parents invite us down to a local resort to stay with them for a week, so they can see their grandkids for a week.  Luckily, for now, my kids need a driver, so my wife and I get to attend too.  The resort is great for the kids with a couple of arts-and-crafts sessions a day, lots of swimming, plenty of margaritas and pina coladas for me, and the best buffalo wings for my wife’s money.  This is my “two weeks a year” that I look forward to every year; the only week I take time off during the year that is for me and not time off for family events or chauffeuring my kids here or there if they are double booked.  It’s not a horrible life, but it isn’t relaxing-by-the-pool-with-a-drink-in-my-hand-for-a-week, typically.

 

This year was already going to be a little different because my oldest daughter had a hockey tournament scheduled out of town, so we were going to lose half the week anyway.  We planned on breaking up the 8 hour drive and do some sightseeing on the way up to keep in step with vacation.  At least that was the initial plan.

 

The vacation hijacking started before vacation even started.  It might have actually started with me.  A couple of weeks before, a lot of people at my work were sick, I think I became Patient Zero that brought it home to my youngest daughter, who then gave it back to me.  Then I think I gave it to my oldest one.  Two days before vacation, I picked up my oldest from karate day camp, and she was really lethargic.  Her sister had a Father’s Day recital and dinner at her preschool that evening, and after dinner she felt warm when I hugged her.  We took her home, checked her temperature, 103, Tylenol.  The fever would stay down as long as we kept her on Tylenol or Motrin.  I took her to the doctor, who didn’t seem too concerned at the time, and prescribed rest and no swimming.  Bummer.

 

Then the coughing.  All the coughing.

 

Coincidently my wife started to not feel great, so the first day of our vacation I took the girls to the resort and let her rest at home.  She has had some lingering health problems this year, and being around sick kids and a sick adult for two weeks didn’t help her situation.  I took my daughters, checked in to the hotel, did some crafts, and moved our lives into our room.  My oldest daughter’s fever stuck around, and she developed a cough.  She hung tough, though, and had as much fun as possible without swimming, or margaritas and pina coladas (for me, I mean).

 

The next day she coughed most of the day as I tried to get her an appointment with the doctor, but it was the weekend and Father’s Day so that didn’t happen.  Then the coughing really kicked in:  She coughed most of the night, which means she didn’t sleep much, which means I didn’t sleep much.

 

Besides all the amenities at this resort, the location was a blessing:  it was only a 40 minute drive home, so we made an appointment with our regular doctor in the morning.  The doctor prescribed an antibiotic just in case, and also ordered a chest x-ray to rule out other possibilities.  And despite all the coughing, she was the same kid she always is:  happy, go-lucky, goofball.  That will serve her well in the future.

 

So vacation recap thus far:

  • Moved into hotel – check
  • Fever – check
  • Coughing – check
  • Spouse sick too – check
  • Coughing preventing sleep – check
  • Antibiotics prescribed – check
  • Chest X-ray ordered – check

 

Once we get the chest x-ray done, pick up some yucky medicine and have lunch, we head back to the resort to make the most of our vacation while we are there.  My wife asked the resort employees for some of the crafts that we can take back to the room after explaining we have a sick kid, coughing pretty badly.  They were nice enough to help us out, and we minimized the disappointment of not swimming some.

 

Since we were not far from home, to try and minimize any discomfort, we decided to spend the night at home and come back in the morning.  That plan changed a little when my wife wasn’t feeling well.  

 

The hits kept on coming.

 

My mother-in-law came by with some comfort food and ended up taking the girls with her to her house.  A couple hours later, she and I checked in on our respective patients.  That’s when she said she wasn’t feeling well herself with some indigestion symptoms.  Then a couple hours later I got the call that I needed to go pick up the girls because my mother-in-law was headed to the ER for emergency surgery.

 

Yay!!

 

Good news, though:  the rest of the week turned around.  The antibiotics started taking effect for my daughter, my mother-in-law had her procedure and was resting at home, and my wife was able to speak to her doctor and get some options on how to get back to normal for the short term.  Unfortunately, she has a more long term situation to deal with, but that is another story for another day.  And at this point, we still have three days to take advantage of as much as possible, which we did.

 

Also, good news, depending on who you ask, was that the doctor said no hockey, so we didn’t have to make the 8 hour road trip.  Fortunately, my daughter wasn’t too bummed about it.  Of course, it would have been great to see her play, but if any of you parents out there have kids who play sports, it is all consuming.  If there is a tournament going on, that is what we are doing that weekend.  So it was a bit of a blessing to me that we didn’t get to make the trip.  That also meant more margaritas!

 

The few days of actual vacation we had left went well.  We got to swim, have a nice dinner with my parents, and enjoy some family time.  It gave me some time to think and rest.  I was able to journal, which I haven’t done in several months.  I didn’t have my Playstation to distract me, so I had to write or think or use my brain in some way.

 

My guess is you exhibit some of these similarities:  get up, work, come home, take kids here, take kids there, dinner, bath for the kids, sleep, repeat.  Possibly if you’re anything like me, you also stay awake much too late even though you know you’ll regret it in the morning and watch TV or peruse social media.  Throw in laundry, dirty dishes, and maybe sweeping the floor, if you’re lucky, and there isn’t much time to think and let your brain rest.  I was glad to have a little of that kind of time this trip.

 

Now I just need a vacation from my vacation.

 

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Dreaming Of Girls, Girls, Girls

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I have a dream.  I’m stealing that line from a great man.  My dream is different, though; a little more personal.  It is still important, and it can still change the world.  That seems to be my goal for the year and possibly for the rest of my life.  This dream I am writing about here has to do with my daughters.  I want to give my daughters the tools they need to change the world.

 

My girls are awesome and that includes my wife.  She’s awesome and is a great role model for our daughters.  She often finds herself as the mediator between my daughters and I, and my relationship with them is better for it.  We are all lucky that my wife is a coach with part of her job is managing people’s emotions.  Very helpful when it comes to strict and cranky dads and, well, kids.

 

This doesn’t even include the fact my daughters got their cute smile and nose from their mom.  

 

In previous posts, I have talked about how I believe in my kids and want them to be the best at whatever they do.  I want to empower them.  I want them to have confidence.  I want them to feel they can do anything they set their minds to, and they are capable of doing all things through God and for God.  I want them to stand up for themselves.  I want to give them all the tools they need to be successful, whatever that means for them.

 

The charge to change the world is not something I am hoping they take on for selfish gain that makes them rich so they can hoard it.  My wish for them is they change the world for all girls, so that all girls know they are loved and are valued.  Change the world for girls who don’t have choices, or don’t feel like they have choices, or are enslaved in one way or another.  Change for all people.

 

Change the world so that all girls may grow up thinking they could become the president.

 

One way this plays out in our house is the mantra to never give up.  Not in the way the early-round American Idol contestants never give up but should.  More in the way skateboarders or figure skaters, for example, keep practicing and never give up.  

 

We have a plaque with “Family Rules” on it, and one of the rules is to never give up.  This played out recently at Legoland when my oldest daughter wanted to try one of the carnival games where you pay $10 for one chance to win the giant stuffed animal that won’t fit in your car if you win it, so you end up carrying around the rest of the day.  She wanted to try a game where you climb a wobbly ladder across a padded mat to the other side without falling off.  If you make it across, you win.  Since our kids are young, the game operator let them both go for the price of one.  My four year old didn’t want to try it, so my seven year old got two turns.  She got maybe one-third across the first time, then two-thirds the second time, but trying a third time meant more money, which we parents were not willing to invest in.  This led to a giant fit of disappointment, which I automatically assumed was about disobedience for not wanting to leave.

 

After being calmed down by my wife (both my daughter and I that is), who took the time to listen to her rationale, we discovered that she was trying to live by our family rule and never give up.  It made sense: first time, one-third across; second attempt, two-thirds; if she was given a third try, victory.  Can’t blame her for having persistence.  It will serve her well in the future.

 

My oldest daughter is also a school nerd, and she loves it.  She totally embraces it.  My wife found this shirt for her that says “I’m a Nerd” on it, and it is covered with math equations and geometrical shapes covering it.  I’m looking forward to seeing what she field of study she decides to pursue.

 

My youngest is not so much of a nerd, but she is certainly smart.  She’s crafty, so we’ll just have to make sure she uses her powers for good and not evil as she gets older.  She’s headed to kindergarten soon, and we’re curious to see how she’ll handle it since everything is boring if it’s not watching TV or playing pretend.  There have been times my wife has made volcanos, or slime, or putty with household items.  This leads to her filling up tupperware with water and stirring it up pretending to recreate these crafts.  The only two problems with this is, one, she’s sometimes carrying the water across the house not keeping all the water in the container, or, two, I have found she has poured something solid down the bathroom sink.

 

Again, after getting some clarification from my wife, she informed me she is trying to do science experiments.  The light bulb in my brain went off (it’s only a 30 watt).  Since I am a scientist myself, I thought I should encourage this behavior but in a controlled environment.  One of my new projects I need to work on is clearing out some space in the garage for her to do some kid-oriented science experiments.

 

Something that I want to do as a parent is to encourage my kids’ interests and not stifle them regardless of the level of my interest.  Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean my kids shouldn’t do it.  I grew up skateboarding in the 80’s and I watched a Bones Brigade documentary somewhat recently.  One of the skaters featured was Rodney Mullen, who was one of the premier freestyle skateboarders of his day.  By age 14 he had turned pro.  However, his dad did not support his skateboarding interest and that hindered their relationship.  I decided then that I wasn’t going to do be that kind of dad.  It doesn’t mean I’m going to like it when my daughters decide to start their goth or emo phase, but it does mean I will be as supportive as I can.  So don’t be surprised if you see in 5-8 years at a My Chem concert, or whoever the hot band is at the time.

 

More importantly, though, more important than what my dreams are for them, is what God has planned for them and for them to seek that plan.  I can have all the dreams I want for them, but they need to tune their hearts, ears, and minds to Him.  I hope to do what I can to guide them to God.  Whatever I dream they do is pointless and worthless if it isn’t part of God’s plan.  That is what I dream for them the most.  That is what I pray for.  That is what I hope they seek.

 

And I dream on…

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Taylor Got Me Like…

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Honestly, I really only know about Taylor (we’re on a first name basis) because of her tabloid exploits that I hear recapped on a morning radio show I listen to.  But, as I have written about before, I am not much of a fan of pop music anyway, so it isn’t out of the realm that I wouldn’t be familiar with Tay-Tays music (yes, that’s the nickname she likes me to use for her).  I almost put music in quotes.

Also, as I have mentioned before, the girls in our house love Taylor and pop music.  My oldest daughter is turning 7 soon, and she seems to know all the words to all the songs that come up on the Taylor Swift, Rachel Platten, or Today’s Hits Pandora radio stations or Amazon Music.  And she’s been singing along for quite some time now.  When she first started doing it, it shocked me because I didn’t realize she knew the words or had heard the song enough times to know the words.  My youngest is almost 5, and she is starting to sing along too.  So cute, by the way.

Since I am outvoted 3-1, I rarely get to listen to music of my choice in the car.  But I am also getting outvoted in the house.  One day, I started doing the dishes, and I asked Alexa to start playing Daft Punk.  My wife poked her head in as a song started playing and told Alexa to play Taylor Swift.  She giggled and left the kitchen, but then my kids got in on the action.  I asked Alexa to play Daft Punk, again, then Haley interrupted and asked Alexa to play Taylor Swift, again.  And then it was my other daughter’s turn to interrupt my music.  And around and around it went until I let out a dad-shout of “Hey!  Stop it!”

The Joys of Parenthood.

There have been a few times I have caught myself singing a Taylor Swift song.  Or there are a couple of pop songs by Rachel Platten or Sara Bareilles that slip through my anti-pop filter that I like.  A few, so I am not 100% against pop.  Some songs make it through because I listen to a lot of podcasts or audiobooks and don’t listen to a lot of music.  So the few times I do listen to music, it is with my kids and it is their choice.

Then I heard a particular Taylor Swift song.  The first time I heard it, I was driving around with my four year old daughter, just a normal day headed to the grocery store, and I almost started crying.  Because Taylor got me.  Taylor got me like a father feeling like his daughters are growing up too fast.

If you’re familiar with Taylor’s work, the song that got me was “Never Grow Up.”  If you’re a parent familiar with the song, you probably know why I started crying.  If you’re not familiar with the song, it is a down tempo, “classic Taylor” song, about a girl wanting to grow up starting as a newborn, through the awkward teenage years, and on to college being dropped off in the big city.  Only then does she realize being an adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and she wishes she could go back to being a kid.

I am a little sentimental at times.  Even before I had kids, watching a particular episode of West Wing where the president is about to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding got me choked up.  So I am susceptible to this kind of vicious attack by an artist like Swift to use a song to make father cry.

So like you, Taylor.

I am a sucker for the heart-felt, sappy song.  Even among the music I do like, “love songs” get played more than other songs on the album.  So maybe it isn’t all Taylor’s fault.  And maybe it isn’t so bad that there is a song that I can tolerate by an artist that my daughters’ love but I can’t stand.  It gives me something to bond with them over.  Sometimes I sing along with them, and I even use my real singing voice instead of my making-fun-of-the-song voice.  Both singing voices elicit a “STOP IT DAD!” from the back seat.  I don’t blame them.  They might have enough reasons to need therapy.  Don’t need to add my terrible singing voice to the list.

I wish I could stop my kids from growing up, but I also can’t wait for them to grow up and see what they can accomplish and see the kind of people they become.  It’s an exciting and terrifying time, as I’m sure it is for any parent.  It has been crazy to watch and fun to see my kids growing up and learning, trying new things, and finding their own interests.  As hard as it is, I’ve have to start letting them grow up now so it is a little bit easier later.

There is some hope for Zoey and her musical tastes.  It is a little early yet for Haley.  She’s all about Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” or she was.  But the other day I was playing Bleachers in the way to karate, which I had played some before.  I could hear Zoey trying to learn to words and sing along.  Then after we got home she wanted to hear it again.  So there’s still a chance!  But I guess the old Taylor is growing on me as well, so maybe I can shake it off.

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Drop of Grace

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But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

It is a battle everyday.  I fight to rest.  And wake up tired.  I call out and ask for relief.  Everyday.  It comes for a moment, until I turn my head to the side.  There is something I struggle with.  So I turn to the other side.  There is another.  I look ahead to try and stay focused.

 

You may have similar feelings even without getting into specifics with what your struggle is, your thorn in your side that you beg God to take away from you.  Or maybe you have no idea what I am talking about because you have excised your demons.  In fact, I assume that you are better than me, because I am the best sinner in the world.

 

If you’re still with me, just a reminder with the verse above:  God’s grace is sufficient for you; God’s grace is sufficient for me.  He makes my weakness my strength.  He does the same for you.

 

When you are challenged with a tough-parent-day (similar to a bad-hair-day), God’s grace is sufficient for you.  When you have made a mistake as a spouse, God’s grace is sufficient for you to apologize to your significant other first and swallow whatever pride you think you deserve.  When you are challenged with your everyday battle that you always face at work, at home, at karate class, at whatever place you find yourself, God’s grace is sufficient for you to rest in the power of Christ and let Him perfect you.

 

I know.  You look at me and see a perfect dad, a perfect husband, and a perfect friend.  Let me burst your bubble.  I am only two of those things.  I’ll let you decide which two.  I am kidding, of course.  I am only one of those things.  As you may also struggle, I struggle with trying to be a great dad, a great husband, and a decent human being.  Maybe you don’t struggle with any of this, as I mentioned earlier, but you can relate because you used to be imperfect and know the pain I feel.

 

Some days I seek complete rescue, but, maybe God doesn’t want to rescue us completely.  Maybe, like Paul, He wants us to have a reminder that I need His grace.  I need His power to lift me out of my weaknesses.  I need this to remember to call out to Him when I am not at my best, for when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Fortunately, God doesn’t keep His grace from me.  Fortunately, I do not need much to be satisfied.  I just need a drop.  Just think:  if I only need a drop of grace to be perfected more and more, how quickly would I drown if He gave it all to me all at once?  As much as I want it, I don’t think I could handle it, so He gives me what I can handle.  Drop by drop.

 

Drop by drop there is a slow drip of grace to my soul to be satisfied.  Drop by drop God strengthens me.  Drop by drop He perfects me.  His power is perfect for what I need today and every day.

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Rearview Mirror, 2016

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What a year.  So full of hope and promise.  Big goals.  Big dreams.  Big hopes of getting stuff done.  Then video games as the path of least resistance, lack of vision and motivation to stay focused on the goal.  Distracted by other “important” things like hashtag wars on Twitter, or…sitting.  Well, maybe not just sitting, but certainly distracted.

 

Year-long goals can be hard, especially when you are not conditioned to set, plan, and execute them, as I am.  I ended 2015 wanting to read 10 books in 2016.  I wanted to write more.  I wanted to get promoted at work.  I wanted to expand my career options.  I wanted to…do a lot of things.  But I got complacent.  I didn’t plan as well as I could have.  

 

There are some things I did do well, though.  Or there are things that did go well.  My wife left her corporate job and started her own sales coaching business, and I helped her by supporting her, taking care of the kids in the evenings, and giving her time to ramp up.  I also did take on some more responsibilities and learned some new procedures at work to put myself in a better position to be promoted.

 

Here are a couple of things that did go well:

-Drew closer to God

My wife started her own business and left her corporate job.  That provided opportunities for me to serve my family, so I did.  I took on some more responsibility around the house by taking the girls to hockey practice or karate classes and by getting them ready for bed on nights my wife had evening appointments or classes.  I definitely drew closer to God seeking patience while spending more time than usual with my kids, who are…lovely come bath time.  It was also a time to draw closer to God trusting that He would help provide for her business or not.  It has been a great year trusting in Him.

 

-Took on some work opportunities

I work in a lab, and my main role up to this year has been analysis of the samples that come in.  Early in the year I was asked to start training on the sample processing side of the lab, called the wet lab.  Part of the catch of doing this was changing my schedule a bit from a 9 AM start time to a 6 AM.  Quite a change that was only going to be on the days I was in the wet lab, but I ended up changing my schedule to 6 AM permanently.  To say the least, I am tired by the end of the week.  The good thing about that change is it helps my wife with her business by being home to take care of the kids after school.  I also applied for a couple of open positions at work, one would have been a promotion and the other added responsibility.  I didn’t get either – the promotion due to lack of experience, and the other due to an improper fit with my career goals.  There were some good things to not getting these roles, though.  Getting passed for the promotion gave me things to improve on, and the other role helped me realize what direction I want to take my career.

 

Cliche of the blog post:  If at first you don’t succeed, try again.  I’m not going to give up.  I’m regrouping, looking at what changes I need to make, and try again for 2017.

 

A year later I am looking forward.  I don’t have as many books to read through the year as my goal, but the goals haven’t really shrunk.  It may have expanded.

 

I just want to change the world.

 

Too big of a goal?

 

Maybe.  Here are some things I want to do in 2017:

-Use my blog to tell parenting stories and share the gospel.  

I’ve been a Christian a long time but only recently have started to understand the freedom God brings.  I want to share how He is transforming me into a better person and parent.  He has a lot of work to do, by the way.

 

-Speak up for the poor.

I am an armchair activist, but I still strive to make a difference.  So I will donate to the cause.  A friend is a missionary in Brazil, last year I was introduced to Charity Water that builds wells in Africa and 100% of the money donated goes to building wells, and recently I was introduced to Speak Up For The Poor, which is an organization that educates girls who would otherwise be sex trafficked in Bangladesh.  I know there is more that can be done.  I am starting by helping with my wallet.

 

-Activate politically.

We live in troubling times regardless of what side of the political aisle you stand on.  There are so many issues that need attention such as global warming, or racial profiling, or improving the education system, which are very different but still important these days.  I don’t know where I will focus my energy as of right now, so I am going to start by contacting my local representative.  You should too.  I’ve spent too much time only being involved around the time of presidential elections.  Time to stand up and get some work done.

 

-Continuous improvement

I am hoping the extra effort I put in last year at work pays off and leads to a title upgrade. To go along with that I look forward to expanding my skill set.  It seems that I am a nerd and am interested in data.  The business world of today is driven by having data.  There is a great Hidden Brain podcast episode about Uber and the data they collect to improve their business.  I would like to do that do that for my company, but that is going to require some education on my part in data science and analysis.  In general, I am always learning through audiobooks and podcasts.  Now is time to educate myself some to grow my career.

 

Here is what I will do not matter what:

-Draw near to God

I can try to change the world, but, one, it will only matter if I do it with Jesus, and, two, it can only be done with Jesus.  What is making it…interesting is lately I feel like I’m being attacked and hindered from accomplishing something for God.  This gives me even more reason to lean on Him.

 

-Try again

Year-long goals is not a regular thing I do.  I don’t normally make New Year’s Resolutions, nor do I normally set goals for myself and try and accomplish them.  This is a new venture for me, and I did not do so well in 2016.  Practice makes perfect.

 

Let’s go get 2017!

 

How did your year go?

 

What went well for you?

 

Where could you improve?

 

What are you looking forward to most in 2017?

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Childish Faith

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What’s the shortest verse in the Bible?  “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)  Okay, what’s the second shortest verse?  “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:17‬).  For any of you who went to private school or grew up in Sunday School at church as a kid, you always hoped that these would be the verses when it landed on your turn to read aloud in class, or the teacher would pick one of these for the memory verse for the week.  No such luck.  Ever.  You usually had to read the lineage of Jesus in Matthew, or any of the Old Testament about characters like Jehosephat or Nebuchadnezzar.

 

“Pray without ceasing” is the verse I want to focus on today.  Never stopping my prayers to God. When I was a kid, this blew my mind.  You mean when I am making fun of people on the playground, I’m actually supposed to be praying?  Or when I am giggling over silly sounding words in the story my teacher is reading, that is a prayer?  This boggled my mind so much, I had to ignore it because I couldn’t understand it and it would cripple me.

 

Sometimes it still does: when I am giving the slow driver I’m tailgating the Number One sign, it is a prayer to God?  Oh crap!  Or, like what happened to me at Costco the other day, when I rudely told a lady, who was trying to cut in front of me in the food court line, where the back of the line was was actually a prayer? (Yes, that did happen)  Damn.  I mean, shoot.  Or shucks, or something.

 

All that: prayers.  Maybe not the best prayers, but Paul is talking about a mindset of prayer, or an attitude of constant communication with God.  Not much different than how we talk with our kids. We pick them up from school, ask them how their day was, who they sat with at lunch, who they played with at recess, what did they cover in class.  Praying to God is the same thing.  Praying without ceasing means to never stop talking with God.

 

One way we have been teaching prayer to our kids is nightly prayers where we give thanks for anything that comes to mind followed by prayer requests.  This year the primary request has been regarding my wife starting her business, getting clients, and making some money.  Like starting any small business, the beginning is the most time consuming, so the girls had a little trouble adapting to mom being home but unavailable even though she was in the house.  So she incentivized them by telling them if they let her work and she makes enough money she would buy them Legoland passes.

 

So they prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.

 

It seemed to work, because Tasha’s business has been doing well and she hit the goal she was reaching for at the time and Legoland pases were granted.  And the girls keep praying the same prayer.  I even hesitate to write, “BUT the girls keep saying the same prayers,” because, sadly, I am apparently jaded or cynical.  In my mind I found myself thinking, “Get some new prayers.  He took care of that one.”

 

Terrible.

 

Then I remembered, “Pray without ceasing.”  I also remembered Luke 18:16-17 of receiving the kingdom of God like a child. They are doing both.  Parents know kids don’t stop asking for stuff or saying the same thing over and over again. Even after you’ve heard something one hundred times or said yes to something, your kids will keep telling you or asking you what is on their mind.  We should be continually talking to God in a similar way.

 

“But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”” http://bible.com/59/luk.18.16-17.esv

 

Of course, I want my kids to be Christians because I know the blessings God can bring to them if they have faith.  Life won’t be perfect, but life is a blessing knowing I have a loving, heavenly Father to put my trust into.  So why would I even consider putting a roadblock up to their faith?

 

I could learn a thing or two from them.  “Pray without ceasing with the faith of a child.” My hybrid verse as my motto or mantra for life following God and trusting Him.  Their prayers are how I should pray.  Pray as if God has already brought the answer.  Pray persistently because you cannot wear out or bore God with the same prayers over and over again.  Pray continually because communication is the key to any relationship.

 

And then pray again.

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“The Journey Is The Reward”

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Most days, we are just trying to get through the day to get to the next.  Survival.  Living for the weekend.  There are those days we all have with our kids when going to the bathroom or doing the dishes feels like a vacation, even though you are still doing work and trying to do it as fast as you can to get to the next thing.  You get to the end of the day, and just sigh.  Maybe you (and by you, I mean me) snap at your kids because they are playing instead of getting in the bath, then they are not getting dressed after their bath, then they are not falling asleep.  

 

But then they finally do fall asleep.  You might have fallen asleep first, but whatever.  You take a glimpse of them sleeping, and you smile.  It all feels worth it.  At least in that moment anyway.

 

The day-to-day task of parenting is a chore.  Some might even say it is a bore.  Some, sadly, say no more.  Ok, I’m out of rhymes for now.  As challenging as parenting is, there is a reward that doesn’t include when they leave the house for the night to stay at the grandparents’, or when they leave for college, or when they eventually leave to start their own lives and families.  Those are rewards, sure.  The reward of, hopefully, raising, training, and teaching your kids how to be good adults, I would think, is what we strive for as parents.

 

It can be hard to remember that, though, in the moment.  Parents have so many things to worry about regarding their kids.  I have mentioned before in previous posts, just keeping everything afloat.  Kids grow up so fast, and parents spend so much time just trying to get them to the next thing-out of diapers, off of baby food, walking, talking, out of the stroller.  Then there are all the events we have to go to:  birthday parties, play dates, family parties.  There isn’t much time to sit, reflect, and enjoy your kids.

 

Both of my kids are in karate right now, and my oldest is bouncing back and forth between that and roller hockey.  Ultimately, I want them to do their best, but that doesn’t mean I need them to be the best.  As much as I want my girls to be the next Serena or Venus Williams, Michelle Wie, or Rhonda Rousey, the physical and mental toll of living as a professional athlete is not always worth the cost.

 

I also hope to teach my kids to rise up to the challenges that life puts in front of them and never give up.  We have a plaque with family rules on them, and one that we often go back to is to “never give up.”  This is often because when “Time to go to karate!” is announced, sometimes a groan is let out followed up by “I don’t want to go.”  We struggle to get them dressed and out the door, and then they are there in class and they are fine.

 

Not much different than you or I, I would imagine, when our bosses ask us to do something hard or out of our comfort zone at the moment.  Or something that simply inconveniences us and what we wanted to do that day.  Or just getting up and getting out of bed for the day and being an adult is required.  Why would we think our kids would be much different?

 

But as much as we hate working, we never give up and, hopefully, do our best.  We do it to provide for our families and set an example for our kids of the benefits of hard work.  Hopefully we also do it because we enjoy the work we do and the difference it makes in the world.  That might be a lofty idealism, but you get the idea.  

 

And if they don’t become pro athletes, whatever their profession is, they don’t need to be the best.  They just need to do their best they can and enjoy what they do.  They don’t need to be CEO, unless they want to be or feel like God is calling them to such a position.

 

What is more important is to teach them to enjoy the ride.  Enjoy the journey of life and not get caught up in the destination alone.  Don’t forget to have fun along the way.  Strive for the best but don’t be so focused on getting to be the best.

 

The journey is the reward.

 

Life is short.  Life moves fast.  It is not slowing down for any of us unless we make a choice to do so.  It can be easy to get caught up in the rat race of life, even as a kid.  One of my favorite authors, Hunter S. Thompson said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”  So enjoy the ride.

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Pushing Me Out Of My Shell

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Being a parent is full of activities and moments that you don’t want to do or be a part of.  But you know you have to do them, or you have to do them for the good of your kids.  Diapers, waking up in the middle of the night, carrying a diaper bag, going to all the birthday parties or playdates just to name a few.

One other thing that parents struggle with is pets and when to let their kids have pets so that it doesn’t become the parents’ pet.  My parents finally let me have a dog when I was 12, which wasn’t a great time because that is when I started to be out of the house more and at friends’ houses instead.  I also left for college a few years later, so it definitely became their dog.

We got out of pets a little because Zoey is allergic to dogs, and Haley is allergic to cats.  We had a couple betta fishes over the span of a couple of years.  One lasted two years, then the two others…didn’t – one jumped out, the other probably suffocated since we didn’t clean the tank much.  Or he was weak and natural selection took its course.  Whichever.  So we took a break from pets for a time.

Until one fateful Saturday.

One fateful Saturday I am at work taking my lunch, and I check Facebook.  I see a picture my wife posts of the girls eating ice cream, and I see a little tank in the shot.  I wonder what that is but assume it is just another betta fish.  Right at that moment my wife happens to call me.  You know that voice your spouse uses that hints, “Hi Honey!  How are you?  I already bought the dress/car/big screen TV, and I can’t wait to show you when you get home!”?  Well, I got that voice and she asks if I had checked Facebook.

She tells me they went to Target and saw a lady standing outside selling baby turtles for $30 for two the same way Girl Scouts sell cookies.  Our girls thought they were so cute and are on board with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles revival, so she bought two.  They are named Mikey and Raph.  The breeder tells my wife they are very low maintenance, only need a small tank or enclosure that allows for plenty of sunlight, and a rock or something for them to climb on.  Sounds easy enough.

Just like any good con.

The next day my wife asks me while I am out to go to the pet store and price out a small betta fish tank to compare online.  Here is where the con gets longer.  I ask the pet store employee which small tank would be good for a turtle.  She asks me what kind of turtles, and I have no idea because I am not a fan and dubious that they are so low maintenance.  She guesses what they look like, and I just assume she’s right.

Next thing I know she is pointing to several different items saying, “You’ll need this, and it is $15.  You’ll need this, and it is $15.  You’ll need this.  You’ll need this.  You’ll need this.  And you’ll need a 10 gallon tank.  This will hold them for now, but they do grow to dinner-plate size so you’ll probably need a 50 gallon tank since you have two of them.  Or you can get this reptile tank kit that has all the items I mentioned and the tank for $200.”

I might have, literally, been spinning.

The con was also exposed as well as deepened.  The pet store employee told me it was illegal for the breeder to sell the turtles to me that way, randomly in front of a store, and it would now be illegal for me just release the turtles in the wild.  The day before my wife was praising this turtle breeder’s entrepreneurial skills making a quick couple hundred bucks standing outside of a store for half an hour selling turtles.  Now I wanted to see her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.

Oh, and the lifespan of the turtles is 10-20 years.  I already have two kids!  I don’t need something else to raise for a couple of decades.   At least the turtles have to stay in a tank.

Two hundred dollars later we left the pet store with the reptile kit, because we (and I mean my wife) couldn’t break it to our kids that the turtles had to go.  And by my wife, I mean also me because I am not capable of making decisions, especially hard ones that break the hearts of little girls that love little turtles.  To make things even better for me, the germaphobe, the cashier tells us we have 60 days to return everything, if we do that we need to tell them if the turtles were in the tank because they need to clean it, because baby turtles carry or generate or whatever salmonella.  So wash your hands if you touch them too.

The con of a bio-weapon.

We’ve surpassed the 60 days and the turtles are still in our house.  The girls are good about feeding them, and we have had some challenges keeping the algae growth to a minimum.  So a 50-50 parent-child pet responsibility.  Not bad for a 6 and 4 year old.

But if I ever find that turtle breeder lady, I’m gonna…!

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Finding Jesus With Dory

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It shouldn’t be too unexpected considering the track record Disney movies have of making kids and adults cry. I kind of cried the first time I saw Frozen when (SPOILER ALERT) the parents died. It just made me think of how sad it would be, from either perspective, to not be there for my kids, or as a kid to have lost my parents.

 

Well Finding Dory wasn’t much different, except for the reason I was crying.  My youngest was scared of some of the intense action, and I felt bad for my older daughter crying because, near the end of the movie before the redeeming scene, it gets pretty dark and full of despair.  Dory is (again, SPOILER ALERT) spit out into the ocean and is all alone not knowing where to go or what to do for a few moments.  No other fish are around, it’s dark, empty, and lonely.  She decides to swim towards the ocean floor where sand is because “Sand is squishy,” and finds a clue that leads to her parents, who she is trying to find.  The clue is a seashell, which her parents had used when she was a kid-fish to help her remember her way home.  She follows a trail of seashells and finds her parents coming back from picking up more shells to make the trail longer.

 

She was lost, and they never stopped looking for her.  For years.  Never.  Just kept gathering and laying out seashells.

 

From a close up reuniting with her parents, the shot zooms out and there are seashells branched out in every direction.  And I started to cry, because it reminded me of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son.  It’s not an exact analogy, but the picture of parents never giving up their search for their lost child, always hoping and believing they would return made me think of Jesus when I fail, or turn away, or just do what I want to do.

 

No matter what, He’s there.

 

No matter what I do, Jesus is looking for me, waiting for me to come back to Him, wanting me to come back.  He’ll never stop looking for me, and He’ll never turn me away.  No matter what my kids do, as much as they drive me nuts at times, I would never turn them away.  There may be some times of tough love and rebellion, but I will always have an open door for them.

 

One of my biggest fears is my kids getting mixed up with that “wrong crowd” that all parents worry about.  Considering how big of a problem that is, there should just be a sign that says, “This Is The Wrong Crowd. Stay Away!”  That would make parenting a lot easier.

 

But I know kids have to make their own decisions and their own mistakes.  I made plenty of my own.  Fortunately, I was blessed to have wonderful earthly parents that gave me a home to come back to, as well as a heavenly Father to welcome me to His home with open arms.  I’ll always have a home in Jesus to come back to.

 

And so do you, if you want one.  It doesn’t matter what you have done.  It doesn’t matter what you have said.  He is always looking for you and ready for you to come home.  All you need to do is take a step towards HIm.

 

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What Do Successful Kids Look Like?

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It’s assumed we want the best for our kids right?  We want the best for our kids, and we want our kids to be the best.  Also, we want our kids to be better than we are or better than we have done.  My parents were pharmacists, and they wanted me to be a doctor.  Not just for the positive aspects of the career, mainly the salary, but because they did believe I was smart and capable of doing more than what they had accomplished.  My parents also grew up in a time when success was symbolized through your profession, your back account, the size of your house, and the stuff you had.  Now, success means something very different for my generation.

 

Success can look very different between people as well.  For the first couple of years of parenthood, success to me meant that my girls would hear my requests – orders and ultimatums – to pick up their toys, clean up their messes, and get ready for school and do them right away.  I wouldn’t have to ask them 3-1000 times in 5 minutes while reminding them they are late for school.

 

Success to my wife was very different.  Success to her meant training them to make good decisions, be good people, do their best in everything they do, and learn to follow God’s call in their lives.  When I am having a temper tantrum over the girls not listening to me, my wife will ask me what my goals for them are.  I am usually dumfounded and don’t have an answer, partially because I am thinking, “They should know by the way I am yelling at them,” and partially because, “Oh yeah, they’re kids, who need to be molded and formed” so I should take it easy.

 

So I am trying to not be an a…jerk to my kids and be nicer to them.  I am doing a better job of expressing my belief in them, encouraging them to do their best and keep trying to get better.  The end-goal is they become successful people, whatever that means to them.  We can’t all be doctors, lawyers, CEOs, or professional athletes, but it doesn’t mean we are not successful.  We just need to decide what that means.

 

So what does success in my kids look like to me?  What it looks like to me is probably a lot different than what it looks like to my kids.  When I came home yesterday, the girls had paint out, their hands were covered in paint, front and back, and the paint mat was almost solid blue.  My first thought, “Disaster!  Let’s start the clean up crew and deploy the hazmat team!”  To my wife, who was on a conference call in her office, was probably thinking, “Great!  They are occupied until Charlie comes home.”  To my kids, “Paint!  More paint!”  In fact, they might have even seen it as a failure because they really only used one color, and the mat wasn’t completely covered in paint.

 

For the first year and a half or so of life, successful parenthood looks like kids that are still alive.  Excluding non-facetious conditions of alive that break my heart (cancer, birth defects, etc), I felt like it was a real accomplishment that my daughter made it to her first year of life under my supervision.  This is considering that on a regular basis the first year my wife and I were married, on my days off and she was at work she would come home and find me with a headache.  She would ask me if I ate lunch or drank any water that day, and I would frequently say, “No.”  Not surprisingly, she would look at me puzzled.  I would stare back at her puzzled as to why she was puzzled.  Also, when my oldest was transitioning to eating food instead of just milk, I would often not do it because I didn’t like the mess.  She still drank milk, I just didn’t give her food because it was inconvenient to me.

 

There is also all the paranoia parents have anytime their kids sneeze, or fall, or have a fever.  Because of my science education and job in the cancer testing industry, and my paranoia, my mind starts reeling anytime my kids get sick and I start to think the worst.

 

Then there are the things that make you put your parenting skills into question, or make you think you are a negligent parent.  “How on earth could this happen?!?” was uttered and thought by me the time the girls got lice from school or the time my oldest needed to get crowns for her rotten teeth before she was 6.  The only thing that made me feel like a successful parent that time was that I had a job that offered dental coverage.  The lice eventually went away by washing with medicated shampoo, and she got crowns, started flossing every morning, and now she has what she calls Robo Teeth (her crowns).  With my wife being the voice of reason, we all survived.

 

However, there are things that do make my wife and I feel like successful parents.  I was totally judging another parent in my head when I heard a mom walk up to the child care person at church and say, “My son is 3 and is newly potty trained…”  In my head, I thought, “Three?!  A little late, dontcha think?”  Both our girls were potty trained by their second birthdays. #AsianParenting.  (Church is a great place to judge people, by the way.  A lot of damaged people to judge, myself included.)

 

Another benefit to Asian parenting is the emphasis on doing well in school.  We started teaching my oldest to read before she started kindergarten, and it turns out she likes school, for now.  My youngest one takes more after me and doesn’t like to do work, but she does like learning and also seems to like school.  We’ll work on keeping that going for as long as we can.

 

These are the things that look like success from mine and my wife’s perspective.  Success to my kids is probably a little different.  They like learning how to read, count, and write and feel successful when they do it, I’m sure.  Especially when we tell them it’s crazy to watch them learn how to do these things.  In fact, we tell them to stop learning because we don’t want them to grow up.  They keep learning, though.

 

But success to them probably doesn’t involve learning.  It might include accomplishing things, but that could also apply to climbing up the counters to get to the cupboard where the candy is, which also happens.  I often walk into the kitchen and find my youngest either starting to swing her leg up onto the counter, or her standing on the counter looking for something to eat.  Same kid, granted when she was 6 months to 1-and-a-half, that was scared when riding elevators.  Now she’s climbing up counters to get food, or opening up refrigerator doors to do the same.  Part of the success is getting up there.  The other part of the success probably includes me letting her have whatever she was looking for since she is already there.

 

Other forms of success may or may not include the following:  going shopping with grandma or grandpa to get a toy without having to open their own wallets, getting mom or dad to read an extra story before bed, mom or dad (mostly dad/me) sneaking them an extra piece of candy, scoop of ice cream, or soda to share, getting me to take them to the park in 100 degree weather and stand in the sun to push them on the swings forrrrrreeeeeeevvvvveeeerrrrrrr, or getting me to go on roller coasters or spinning rides at Legoland or Disneyland.  The Legoland rides are not too bad.  I am definitely too out of shape to do any rides at Knott’s Berry Farm or Magic Mountain.

 

One other exhibit of success from the parents’ perspective is building positive characteristics in our girls.  For example, persistence is a characteristic we want our kids to have, and it is starting to sink in.  My oldest has started to play goalie this hockey season, and it has been challenging for her, understandably.  She is six, still learning how to skate a little while playing hockey, and her equipment weighs half of her body weight.  So her first actual game was rough, for her to play and for me to watch.  I was a stress ball.  Coming off the rink and the car ride home, she seemed fine until she got home.  She got really upset and broke down.  Fortunately, mom was there for her and talked to about her own crushing defeats playing sports.  It was tough to lose by a lot, but because of persistence she worked hard and got better.  It made my daughter feel better, and she was able to laugh off the loss and continues to play goalie.  And when my youngest turned to her older sister in the car the next day and said, “Sissy, don’t give up being a goalie.  It’s against our family rules,” it was clear we are having some success planting seeds of character.

 

Success is very different for everyone.  And even though my kids have a different view of success than I do, I think, even at a very young age, they are successful.  Keeping in mind they are still kids, which I forget a lot, they are quickly becoming actual people.  You can see their personalities coming out.  My oldest is a thrill-seeker and is willing to try new things even though she is extremely shy even around people she knows.  My youngest is stubborn like her parent (hmmm, which one?), but can be so sweet to her sister.  When she had pink eye we had to tell her to not get too close to her sister.  She started crying because she was worried she was going to give pink eye to her sister.  They are sisters and friends who love playing together, and that is enough of a success story for me.

 

What do successful kids look like to you?  What do you think you kids think success looks like?  What are you doing to help your kids be successful?  What are your success stories?

 

 

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