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“Nevertheless, She Persisted”

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My two daughters run my house.  My wife and I have big plans for both of them.  My oldest is the straight-and-narrow kid, who is going to get straight A’s and follow all the rules.  My youngest is the firecracker, the spitfire, the evil genius, the wild card, who is also going to get straight A’s but sneak out on a school night to go meet her friends at the frozen yogurt place across the street until waaaaay after curfew, which will be 4:15 P.M.  And when we catch her in the act, she’s going to do what she does now:  flash us that smile that says, “Who, me?  Noooo! You’re being silly, dad!  I’ve been here the whole time!  Ok, maybe not the whole time, but the whole time you thought I was here physically, I was home in my heart…and yours.”

 

I am not looking forward to the junior high or high school years.

 

Part of what makes my youngest daughter, who is now five, such a wild card, is her persistence.  Some might call it stubbornness.  It just depends on who you ask or when.  So there are times she digs in, and, if it is not something too serious, we’ll give in.  Those times are mildly inconvenient or not preferred, but they are not too problematic to give in to.  Most of the time, though, we try and diffuse the problem and help her get to more of a compromise.  We’re not always successful and she slides down the metaphorical hill that results in a temper tantrum.  And it’s not too surprising considering both my wife and I were stubborn, according to our respective parents.  Our daughter is just following in our footsteps-the apple of my eye.

 

I’d like to call it persistence, though, because, as much as I want my kids to be respectful of me, other kids, and authority figures, I do want them to stand up for themselves.  I don’t want them to be walked all over, and I don’t want them to just say “Ok” to whatever it is and harbor resentment and bitterness against someone else for the rest of their lives.  Ya know, like I have.

 

It is about balance.  It is about knowing when to push, when to pull back.  To know when to hold ‘em, and to know when to fold ‘em.

 

Well, this persistence played out a while back.  I didn’t see it first hand, but I have seen other examples of it.  I was at my older daughter’s hockey game, and my wife took my younger daughter to a family baby shower where her two cousins were also in attendance.  Usually once a week my in laws have my two kids and the two cousins over to spend the night for the four of them to play.  That week they didn’t get their weekend together, so after the baby shower my daughter asked my wife if her cousins could come and spend the night at our house.  My wife was totally caught off guard, tried to deflect and make up reasons to prevent it from happening more for my sake since I don’t like change, but, in the end, she didn’t have a good reason.  And my daughter was starting to step and slip down Tantrum Hill.  At every turn my wife said, “No,” my daughter would just say, “Yes!” and jump and down and say it again, and again.  And again.  Having witnessed this before, I know it just continues until someone gives.

 

Nevertheless, she persisted.

 

So I got a call as I was leaving the hockey game.  You know the kind of call, because you probably have made that call yourself in your life at least once, or were on the receiving end of such call.

 

“Hi, Honey!  So…how are you?  Ah huh, yeah, that’s good.  So…guess what?  We’re having guests over tonight!”

 

Now, I’m not opposed to guests in my house.  I’m just an introvert that likes my free time, my personal space, peace and quiet, and no changes to be made anytime ever for any reason.  So my wife asks her sister if it’s ok if her boys spend the night, and, of course, she says yes, because what parent wouldn’t jump at the chance to have a kid-free night?  I know I would if one was offered to me.  My daughter got her wish:  Her cousins came over, they played and had fun and got their usual weekend of family bonding in.  And that, actually, worked out:  since the kids were occupied it gave my wife and I time to chat and catch up.  And drink wine.

 

Persistence pays off.

 

Both of my daughters are going to be a handful, namely for me since I am not great at change or conflict resolution.  I need a new strategy since “My way or the highway!” isn’t very effective most of the time.  I need to ask myself, “Do I want my daughters to stand up for themselves?  Do I want them to, respectfully, defend their ideas and discuss solutions in the boardroom to the boss?  Or do I want them to be ‘Yes’ people that fold to the power of the position that is facing them?  Do I want them to shrink back?”  I know I want them to stand up to bullies, or other physical confrontations.  In an incredible time as now of the #MeToo movement that started late last year, the year of the Women’s March that for two years in a row had record numbers of people marching in the street, and a record number of women engaging politically running for public office, I want my girls to be women of power, too.  Not necessarily to be CEO’s, politicians, or women as the face of a movement, but women standing up and not backing down in the face of opposition.

 

Part of persistence is pressing on, not giving up.  Some people should give up on their goals.  I always think of the early rounds of American Idol contestants that believe in their hearts that they are born to be stars but can’t hold a note, or they are too pitchy, dog.  Some people, though, shouldn’t give up.

 

Nevertheless, persist.

 

I also want to encourage them and to know it is ok to stand up for others.  Speaking up for the voiceless, helping those in need, and serving others are actions that Jesus preached His followers to do.  I pray they follow in His footsteps.

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The Grass Is Dead

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Phiippians 4:11-12 NIV

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

 

Maybe it is part of being an adult.  Or maybe it is just part of being a human.  I have a tendency, when I go to someone’s house for the first time, to check out the stuff they have.  Also, I’m curious, in some instances nosy, about things people have.  Like, just recently we went to the house of my daughter’s friend.  The parents invited us in to chat a little, and when we first walked in, I was scoping it out:  nice T.V., sound system, nice couches with no kid blankets on them, no toys all over the floor, at least in that room of the house.  I was getting jealous.  For a minute I wanted their house.  Then we got a peek into their backyard that was neatly landscaped.  Jealousy rising.  Kitchen was nice and clean, relatively modern.  Jealousy rising.  No pool.  Jealousy subsiding.

 

There are other people-friends, neighbors, co-workers-I feel envy towards at times.  Whether it be the nice car or truck they have, the job they have, the TV setup, or even the kid-free lifestyle they have.  Some, even the single life they have I sometimes wish I had.

 

But there is a catch:  I hated being single.  I don’t want to be single, I love my kids, right now, I don’t need a TV bigger than my neighbor’s, and I don’t need a perfectly manicured lawn (hence the picture at the top; that is really my lawn).  I just want what I don’t have.

 

I was terrible at being single, for example.  At least being single and trying to get dates, that is.  I am painfully shy and was not be able to ask girls out, so I wished for a date but didn’t often do the work to get one.  I did get a few dates stepping out of my comfort zone from time to time, but it didn’t happen as often as I wished it did. I dreeeeamed about meeting my “soul mate,” having kids, and coming home from work to the pitter patter of my kids running to me screaming, “Daddy! You’re home!” and giving me a hug.  Now my kids barely look up from their homework or TV when I get home, but that’s beside the point.

 

The point is:  the grass is always appears greener on the other side.

 

Depending on my mood, if people ask me how things are going, or how my family is, I’ll answer, “Livin’ the dream,” which I’ll say in the most sarcastic and snarky tone I can.  But, if I think about it, I am living my dream.

 

I don’t make as much money as I dreamed I would be making when I was in college or earlier times of my career, but I am making a good living.  I definitely don’t have my dream job, but I do have a good job where I know I am helping people and making a positive contribution to the world.  

 

Regarding my career, I’m finding out through some personal development and general conversations with my wife that the CEO job I had dreamed of, or thought would be my ticket to happiness, or that the world tells me I should strive for, would be terrible for me.  Mostly, it would require a lot of decision-making.  Considering I can’t even decide dinner some nights, CEO might not be great for me.  And by “dinner” I mean eating dinner.  There are enough instances of me skipping a meal, my wife asking me if I am ok, and then I realize I never ate lunch or drank any water yet for the day.

 

Regarding my kids, parenthood is a grind, for sure.  I’ve talked about the challenge of keeping your head above water as a parent.  Between work, karate class, hockey games, playdates, and birthday parties, life is busy.  I am really just the homework facilitator or foreman and shuttle driver during the week.  My wife gets the playdates and birthday parties on the weekend, and somewhere in there we sneak in a date-night from time to time.  However, some weeks, we’re both so exhausted come Friday, date night is a glass of wine or a beer, a couple of tacos, or a slice of pizza, and a little binge watching and we’re done.  Not that either of us are fiends for the dance floor on a Friday or Saturday night, but not many people ask me what I did over the weekend are in awe of the answer or are hit with FOMO.  I wasn’t that way before marriage or kids, so why start now?  Stay in your lane, right?

 

There is always something in this world to entice us.  The fancy {new-insert product here}.  I don’t neeeeed the new iPhone that uses my face to unlock, but I wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered to me.  I don’t neeeeeed Playstation VR, but I played it once and it sent me on a shallow dive with hemming and hawing for a week of what to put on my Christmas wish list.  Part of the struggle is working through what Paul said to the Philippians.  I bounce back and forth between wanting everything for myself, or deciding I need to give everything away to the poor.  Sometimes I want to give all my money away to rescue all the kids in the world, or have all the water wells in Africa built.  And other days I want a BMW M5, a lifted Ford Raptor, and a Prius (I need a car to commute to work!).

 

Then I snap back:  what’s my priority?  What’s my goal?  What is the example I am setting for my kids?  Do I want them growing up struggling with just being consumers all their lives?  They already want every toy they see.  Or do I want them to learn stuff isn’t everything, the end-all-be-all of living?  That money doesn’t buy happiness.  I’m still trying to be consistent in remembering what brings me lasting joy.  I at least know I won’t find happiness on another patch of grass on the other side of the fence.

 

So I am letting the grass die.  The dream…the dream that keeps changing based on the latest and greatest.  The dream for something shiny and new..  The dream of wielding power, or proving my worth with a salary, or a position, or rank, or the corner office.  I’m letting that dream die.  My new dream is my old dream.  My new dream is the life I’m living now, the life I’ve always wanted.  The life God has been faithful to give and bless me with.

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To Youth, To The Dreamers

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Remember Time Cop with Jean Claude Van Damme?  Unfortunately, I do (look it up after you read this, but you’re probably better off not having watched it, unlike me).  That is a movie where time travel doesn’t have the happiest of outcomes at first, and not one of Jean Claude’s finest films, although that may not exist at all.  Maybe Back to the Future is a better example of the time travel.  Hijinx ensue, but at least it’s fun and not so dire.

 

As much as you would like to, you can’t go back.  I can’t either, just to be clear.  I don’t want you to think I’m trying to rub it in or something.  And I don’t think I would want to go back.  As much as I wish I did things differently the first time, I wouldn’t change anyth…much.

 

Here are a few things I wish I could change or would have done differently if I had the chance:

  • I wish I learned to play an instrument
  • I wish I worked more overtime when I had less responsibilities/people counting on me being around
  • I wish I was more disciplined in school
  • I wish I took more chances
  • I wish I held back more often
  • I would not have sent that mixtape

 

We don’t like making wrong choices, and sometimes it is hard just making any choice at all.  I used to go shopping, pick up a number of items I wanted, know I could only afford half of them, but I couldn’t decide what to keep and what to put back.  So I would end up just putting them all back and walking out of the store with nothing.  The few times I would only get the one or two things I could get, I felt like I was missing out and would go back a couple of days later to get the things I put back anyway.  I couldn’t live with the regret of buying the wrong whatever it was.  Then later would regret I bought any of it after getting the credit card bill.

 

Even though I wish I could change some things or would do or say something different in certain situations if I could, I am glad that I can’t.  I don’t live with regrets, necessarily, I just wonder how events would be different.  As annoying as the cliche “everything happens for a reason” is, I agree with it.  I know there are lessons and wisdom gained going through the experiences I have been through.  It has all shaped me in some way.  I wouldn’t want to miss out on that.

 

My past work experience, for example, helped me trick my wife into thinking that I was a good sales rep, or that I was a sales rep at all, even though I faked my way through that whole phase of my career.  We both worked for the same company but in different regions and slightly different time periods, so we knew the lingo, knew some of the same people, and had an understanding of the business; a foundation for our relationship to build on.  The facade came crumbling down when she would explain certain sales techniques, and I would look at her like I heard a dog whistle.  Occasionally when the topic comes up, she shakes her head and calls me an “imposter rep.”  It all worked out.  She still married me even with my imposter status, so she has no one to blame but herself.

 

Anyway, not only is that wisdom for me to use in the future, but it is knowledge and wisdom I can pass on to my kids.  Most of the time growing up, I thought my dad just had crazy stories of how the world worked.  However, there were a few nuggets in there that have always stuck with me and am thankful he was able to share them with me.  Hopefully, I can do the same for my kids (be the dad whose kids think he’s crazy, that is).  They already do, but why not add more fuel?

 

There is still time for me to do stuff I missed out on earlier in life.  I just need to focus and try not to be lured away by the seductress known as Playstation.  For some reason, I came up with the brilliant idea that I need to learn to play the drums.  Since my kids are taking karate, the dad of my daughter’s friend was encouraging (egging me on is more like it) to do something like go hiking, or camping, or shooting guns.  You know, all the stuff men would do.  I said no to all of it, but I thought I should join my kids doing karate (I’ve been watching for years, I could totally take some of those kids out and show them who the real sensei is).  So soon, there will be a blog post about me kicking out the jams on my drum set with the use of the Crane Kick made famous by Daniel-son.

 

No, I’m not entering a mid-life crisis.  What are you talking about?  Oh, and I’m trying to talk my wife into buying me a sports car.  But I’m fine.

 

A couple of the pearls of wisdom I hope my kids eventually appreciate are:

  • Enjoy your youth
  • Make the most of your time here
  • Do your best, always
  • Live free and take a chance
  • Be yourself, know yourself
  • Protect yourself
  • Let go of mistakes
  • Live in wisdom

 

These are all cliches, for sure, but there can still be value to them.  I certainly enjoyed some of my youth, but I also squandered portions of it.  It can be hard to know what is best in the moment.  You just do the best you can with the information you have available at the time, which is what I will tell my girls.

 

There are things of youth I cannot do much of anymore.  I can’t still play soccer.  I learned that after I could barely walk after playing in my first game in an old-man’s league.  I was never much for the nightlife, but I am definitely not in shape to stay up past 9 P.M. now.  There are plenty others things I can’t do in my mid-life crisis age.  It would be too sad to list them all here.

 

I can still be super silly with my kids, however, as well as be a source of knowledge and wisdom when the situations come up.  Having the mentality of a 13-year old sometimes is helpful when it comes to kids.  I still embrace adulthood and do my best to teach my kids responsibility, maybe a little too much.  They are a little young for me to get too in depth about hopes and dreams and goals and accomplishments and consequences.  All in due time.

 

In the meantime, just keep dreaming, just keep growing.  Be young, wild, and free.

 

Is there anything you would change?

 

What was painful but glad you went through?

 

What wisdom did you gain and hope to pass on to your kids?

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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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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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