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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Believe In The Best Version Of Your Kids

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One of the side effects of trying to be a good dad, a good human, and someone my kids want to be around, is that I have been happy.  My wife jokingly says to me on occasion, “You’re happily married, remember?”  It is true, I am happily married.  I just need to tell my face from time to time.  Usually, those are the times the kids are acting a little bonkers, or I am tired from staying up too late the night before playing video games, or writing, like I am now.

 

Since I have been focussing and letting God work on this self-project of not being a jerk, I have become happy.  As a result of being happy, my wife said this is the best version of myself.  This has spilled down to my kids where they like being around me.  The negative stuff before spilled down to my kids as well, don’t get me wrong, but, obviously, this is better.  There are still times where I lose my cool with my girls, but overall our house is calmer, and I handle the temper tantrums better.

 

These days my family is getting the best version of me (hopefully it continues and gets better), and one of the consequences, positive, of course, are the positive vibes that flow through our house.  Out of these positive vibes is belief and encouragement I have in my kids.  It isn’t that belief and encouragement didn’t exist before.  It is just not weighed down by negativity, or fear of a temper tantrum right around the corner (tantrum thrown by me or my kids), or by my unrealistic expectations of my how my girls should behave.  I definitely believe that my kids will be able to do whatever they are built and designed by God to do, but sometimes my desire to be logical or reasonable gets in the way.

 

I have always been proud of my girls, that has never been a question.  But I think there was a cloud over our house that I put there, because at the drop of hat they might be in trouble for something very small, like dropping their fork at the dinner table.  That atmosphere would change a kid’s desire to be bold and take risks, or their desire to try to succeed, because of fear of nothing ever being good enough.  Never mind a kid, an atmosphere like that for adults isn’t good either if they’re always afraid they are going to get fired, for example.

 

So I changed.  As I wrote in my last post, I made more of an effort to be less of an a–hole and become more grateful.  Like I said, it is not easy and takes time, but it is worth it.  Now that our house is filled with a little more positivity, I think any words of encouragement go a little farther and mean a little more than they did before.

 

School and learning is a real easy way to encourage my girls.  They love showing off how much they can read, or write, or their math skills, or how many numbers they know.  My 3 year old shocked me one day by reading the number 100 on a package at Costco.  She thought it was $100 for a box of coffee pods, but still.  It is crazy how much they are learning and absorbing and how fast they are doing it.  She has also been asking how to spell words, we tell her, and then she writes it down.  Crazy to watch.

 

As well as having belief, I have been trying to be more empathetic and patient.  I mostly have had a, “Tough luck, kid,” approach to parenting.  That and, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or, “Don’t worry.  It gets much, much worse.”  Surprisingly, kids don’t respond well to those types of encouraging words.  Oh, sorry, “encouraging” words.

 

What they do seem to respond to is pulling them gently in your lap and talking to them, not at them and talking not screaming, like real people, which they are.  You have to simplify it so that it is age appropriate, but they will get it.  I’ve had to learn with assistance from my wife that my 3 year old will be more than willing to get in a shouting match with me and ready to go the distance (not looking forward to her teens).  But I did have a situation the other afternoon where I brought her to her room for a few minutes for excessive whining and told her she can come out when she was ready.  When I went to check on her a few minutes later, she was playing.  I sat down, she came over to my lap, and we talked about why she was whining, why I was upset, and each of our roles in our house.  She understood most of it, it seemed, and we moved forward with a better understanding of each other.

 

We have a plaque that my wife found at Target or somewhere that has a list of family rules.  We have to remind the girls of the family rules sometimes, like “Always Be Kind,” and “Listen To Your Parents,” but we all need a reminder once in awhile.  One of the rules, about fifth or sixth on the list, is to “Do Your Best.”  Now that I think about it, I need to remind myself to do my best from time to time.  I hope to model doing my best so that my kids will try their best.

 

So do you believe in the best version of your kids?  I am sure you do.  How do you tell them?  When was the last time you told them?  Do you mean it when you tell them?  Not the baby-talk kind of way like, “You’re the cutest baby I’ve ever seen!” kind of way.  Or the way early American Idol contestants have blind devotion to singing even though they don’t have the talent and people keep telling them to never give up their dream.  Tell your kids how awesome it is that they are learning or growing or whatever it is they doing and like.  Tell them how proud you are of them for not giving up even when it was hard to complete their task.  Whatever it may be, give them some encouragement.  A little encouragement can go a long way.

 

How can you help your kids be the best version of themselves?  What does the best version of your kids look like to you?  What can you do to help your kids be their best selves?  Help shape their talents and interests with love and reality.  This might make them cling to you, though, so be warned.  But I would bet if you believe in them now and let them know, they may stick around during those teenage years when you’re worried about them clinging to someone or something else.

 

And what are you doing to be the best version of yourself?  Your kids are going to mirror what you do.  What are you doing to make yourself better?

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Obviously It’s Better To Not Be An A%@hole

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Sometimes people don’t want to be around me.  The people that I don’t like inherently know that I don’t like them.  They can see it and they can feel it, maybe even smell it.  I’m not saying this is good.  I just know it is a reality.  Tasha tells me all the time that I don’t have a good poker face or voice – people, like my kids, can tell when I am upset.  I am getting a little better, though.  A little.   There are still people that drive me bananas no matter what I do, though.  This morning I asked Haley to get ready for school, and she said no.  I asked her two more times after that, as nicely as I could, to get up.  She still said no.  I asked a third and fourth time, teeth grinding, fists clenched, and probably eyes widened, to no avail.  She still said no with a “Mommy” for emphasis.  

 

That interaction was a typical scenario in our house for awhile, usually ending in me blowing my top and kids screaming.  I’ve been working and praying to change and it has improved over time.  It has been a process, but it has taken some time and has been worth it.  I knew I needed some real changes.

 

One thing that has encouraged this change is my wife.  I realized that at her core, she believes in people.  Clients of hers have said to her, “I just want to be around you.”  People don’t say that to me because I do not believe in them.  I have trouble seeing the best in people.  Maybe it is the competitive side of me to look at others and perceive myself as better than them.  Or it is the judgemental side of me that focuses on people’s flaws instead of looking at the logs in my own eyes.  

 

Another thing that helped me was my wife letting me know, not so subtly, how some of my discipline of the kids affects the atmosphere of the room for everyone, naturally.  Years ago while visiting friends, I reprimanded Zoey in front of everyone, and it really sucked the air out of the room.  I knew I made it awkward.  When Tasha had a chance, she asked me not to discipline Zoey like that in front of people because of all the awkwardness.  For some reason, I always remembered that, and, earlier this year when we went to visit the same friends, I made a conscious effort to be more aware of how I discipline and how I say it, if necessary.  My wife was appreciative of that and suggested I apply that to all situations, not just those friends.

 

Helpful change Number 3:  My kids got me a cool Star Wars journal at the $1 section of Target, and I decided to use it as my Gratitude Journal.  Every couple of days or so, or if something that I really want to remember happens, I will write about it in my journal.  I try to make the gratitude thing that I write on about my kids, but sometimes it is about good things that happen at work or with other people other than my family.  I also try to make it actually positive, not backhanded-positive, like, “I’m so glad I didn’t yell at my coworker today.”  That isn’t a real positive, even though some days it could be.  Most days it could be.

 

Dads these days are involved and that includes encouraging our kids with our words, or at least should.   So I started to make an effort to use my words to encourage them, instead of giving them an imaginary head nod, which has helped.

 

One way I can encourage both of my girls pretty easily is with school.  My 6 year old is finishing kindergarten but is already doing first grade math.  It was sad:  I was trying to help her (“help” can be used loosely) and I couldn’t even figure out what the word problem was asking.  She is also a reading fiend, and I tell her often that it’s awesome she can read.  It does freak me out a bit that she can read so well, so I jokingly tell her that learning is bad and can melt your brain.  It’s not wrong.  An exaggeration but not far from the truth.  My younger daughter is 3 and is constantly asking how to spell stuff so she can write it down.  The other day she wrote a note to her teacher asking her to promote her to Pre-K2.  Being Asian, Tiger-parents has its’ positive effects.

 

Husbands, this also works on the wives.  I also have an easy time with this, not because I’m husband-of-the-year, or I understand women or anything.  My wife started her own business at the beginning of the year, so she has had some challenges starting out, naturally.  At first, I did the “man thing” and tried to fix problems when she would vent or just be explaining her day.  I stopped doing that and just listened.  I also have been doing my best to support her and encouraging her to do what needs to be done to get some momentum.  If she needs more time, take it and I’ll watch the kids.  She needs to move money around in the budget for supplies or advertising, move it.  Do what you need to do.

 

It’s easy to be supportive of her, because I know she’s going to get it done.  I also know that the ticket to my early retirement is for her business to do well, but don’t tell her that.  

 

It does take some work to not be an a–hole, and recognizing your own butt-face-ness is the first step in changing it.  It does take work, and you may grind your teeth down to the gums in the process.  However, the benefit will be all those deposits in your kids’ emotional piggy bank.

 
The benefit to me is showing.  Things are changing.  Over time my kids and my wife have wanted to be around me more.  My wife said to me recently that this is the best version of me that she’s seen.  They still choose mommy over me a lot of the time, but you can’t win them all.  So I’m doing something right.  Finally.

 

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