parenting

Mix Up Your Stressful Nights

Weeknights can be stressful. It seems like the moment the kids come home from school the universe is set on a collision course with itself.  No that doesn’t make sense.  They get home and need food because the three block walk from school wipes them out and they must eat right now! Okay, I guess it has more to do with their early lunch time.  Hey, let me tell the story.  Anyway,  then they unpack their backpacks and papers are strewn about. You need to sign this.  I need this money for the school activity.  Some nights there are sports or other activities.  But there is always time for homework and then next best thing, complaining about homework.

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School days are full days.

Tonight I was feeling the tension.  The kids were fighting. Then a couple of them were playing some random game that involved barking and marbles.  No, I did not understand it, but they were getting along.  That seemed to be going okay until they broke the glass jar.  Then there were tears.  In the next room homework was going on.  That was no going so well.  The way they are teaching math now is like a foreign language to me.  My attitude was going south quickly.   And then the suggestion: “Let’s play telephone”

How long has it been since I played telephone?  I mean that would never have been a suggestion I would have made.  Okay.  Let’s see what happens.  The kids started to come up with their phrases.  “The barn is green and yellow.”  Then there was something about ice cream and kibbles.  We were quickly laughing.  It is amazing how quickly the tension was gone.  There was no more fighting as the kids now tried to think of fun things to say. Looks like the kids figured out a way to bring some life to the boredom and tension of the evening.  My suggestion for you:  play a game of telephone and see what happens. Lighten up a bit and mix it up.  You will be glad you did.  I know I am. 

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Life in Southwest Wisconsin

It has been over 6 months since we left the familiar life we had on Cape Cod for a totally new way of life in Southwestern Wisconsin.  Let me tell you , it has been a journey.   We have found this community to be a huge blessing to us and our kids.  We have also had opportunities to meet kids and families in the community that has only proven to make our transition smoother.  My kids have developed a working knowledge of crops.  “Hey dad, that looks like corn!”  or “I think that is soybeans” have become common conversation.  When we arrived here they thought that milk was only something that came from the milk store.  Now they know what a cow is and will point all of them out when we drive.

This part of Wisconsin is quite scenic and not as flat as most people think.  The sunsets are something to enjoy every night and the culture is just more laid back than we had grown accustomed to on Cape Cod.  This has made our summer more enjoyable.

Sunset

Sunset

Sunset (no filter)

Sunset (no filter)

I have been able to fish more than I ever did on Cape Cod and we have actually gone to the beach more also.  (ironically)  The main reason is that it is much easier to get around.

Scenic

Scenic

 

Fishing

Fishing

On the flip side,  my kids were not used to severe weather.  Tornadoes had become such an obsession for my 7-year-old son that he has checked out every book on tornadoes from the library.  I showed him slides from my storm spotting class and he has increased his understanding of things like wall clouds and shelf clouds, among other things.  This has been fun to see him develop.  That all changed a few weeks back when at 10 pm we were hustling our kids from their beds to the basement as a tornado quickly formed just outside of town.  Once the kids stopped crying they decided we needed to move somewhere else.  Our tornado chaser in training exclaimed “this is the worst day of my life.”  Of course I told him “you are young”   We only lost the tree in front of our house, but out of town they had true tornado damage.

Good-bye tree

Good-bye tree

We are enjoying summer as much as we can because we know that everyday is one day closer to winter.  We went canoeing, went to Lambeau Field for a Packer Clinic for the kids,  and played some little league.

batter up

Batter Up

Kids Clinic

Kids Clinic

Beach

Beach

Canoeing

Canoeing

 

But God has been so gracious to us and this is very simply my testimony to that.  I know God has plans for our family here as we continue to walk forward and I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.    In the mean time we are going to enjoy every day because each day is a gift.  Make the most of it!

oh, yeah, we rode a ferris wheel also

oh, yeah, we rode a ferris wheel also

The Lego Jar – A Brief North Pole Visit (3/1/14)

It has been a while since I have written one of these.   We moved to Wisconsin the end of December, which gave us many things to do in a very short time.  Moving is a stressful endeavor.   Moving in the middle of a school year is difficult.  Moving to Wisconsin in winter seems kind of crazy.  But since when have things made sense?

I grew up in Wisconsin, but 3 of my 4 kids were born on Cape Cod.  That means their idea of winter is snow that melts in two days.  That has made for some minor complaining and wondering about the deep freeze and the cold.  I have been asked on more than one occasion if we will ever see the grass.  The sunsets are beautiful though.

sun

 

 

We do have some snow.

snowmoun

The kids do amaze me with what they come up with.  My daughter told me one day that she wanted to cut my hair “all by herself” and then ran off to get a knife.  One of my boys came home with something that made us smile.  His dream is that everyone would read the Bible. How can you not smile?

dream

 

The kids have been making new friends.  Last Sunday after church we went out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  Somehow we managed to have a whole bunch of young kids with pool sticks running around.  Well, actually, they were attempting to play the game.  I just stayed out of the way.

pool

 

As I reflect on the last year, I am amazed at where we are today and especially God’s faithfulness to us.  For example, we moved from Cape Cod to Southwest Wisconsin in the winter and had no problems with weather.  In fact, the day we unloaded the truck was really warm.  It was the last warm day before some very cold weather.  I mean it feels a like we have turned the page on a different life.  I know that sounds weird, but things are much different here.  We are so grateful for how God lead and planted us here.

But for some of us, it will be nice when summer comes.

A game of follow the leader with a 2 year old leader.

Follow me

Follow me

We went out after dark this past weekend.  I guess that is not as dramatic as it sounds seeing as it gets dark at like 4:30.  But still it is a big deal to take the family out to dinner and then to a store.  The two older boys needed shoes and the younger two needed nothing.  So we needed to divide and conquer.  I figured since my idea of shoe shopping is not doing it, I would let my wife take care of the shoes and I would chase the other two through the store.  It turned into a game of follow the leader.

It was actually quite funny because these two had no agenda.  They just wanted to walk the perimeter and see what they saw.  They would look at me and say “come on dad.” I followed along and tried to prevent anything from falling off shelves.  My daughter would stop and check on random things saying, “oh, cute” as she touched them.  Someone had a cart full of baby stuff and she climbed up the side of it and admired their things.  When the couple looked at her she said, “hi, I am Claire, this is Siah (Josiah) and that’s daddy.”  Then we were off.  Kids have a way of finding the toys and so we ended up there.

This is where it became so fun for me to watch.  They touched all of the toys and pushed all the buttons.  I actually did too.  But I loved their enthusiasm as they took things off the shelf and said, “oh, cool” and quickly went to show the other one.  They did not ask me to buy anything.  They were just excited to be touching toys that they don’t own.  It was actually quite the sight.  I loved it because they were so simple about it.  Everything was amazing, even the toys that I know will break in 30 seconds.  They loved them all and had such wonder about it.   It was such a calm moment that I stopped to thank God for it.  There was no chaos.  There was no rushing.  There was just enjoying the moment together.

Christmas brings that out of adults too, but it is usually stifled by stress.  I know so many people will talk about what it means to enjoy Christmas and remember the birth of Jesus, but the honest truth is that so many people still get roped into the consumer driven Christmas.  It is sad, really, because there is so much more to it than presents and credit card debt.  Kids teach us things like that as they run around in the dirt or build things out of snow.  They show us how this whole “enjoying of life” thing works when they walk through a store with no agenda and showing kindness to random people.  (some of them ignoring her)  Kids are learning too many negative things from the adult world surrounding Christmas.  I think it is time we stop and follow them around for a while.  It will give perspective and it will make you get your hands full of paint.   It will make you slow down and appreciate an early morning.  But, I believe it will also bring back a little of that  sparkle that is missing  in so many today.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas and find that the celebration brings joy, not stress.

 

Jesus’ Birthday List

What do you give someone who has everything, literally?  Now before you think of that difficult person in your life to shop for, let me redirect your thoughts for a moment.  We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas and yet we get the gifts.  This has been a consistent issue that my 4-year-old son has had this year.  Just the other day he said, “I want to give Jesus something for His birthday, but nothing I give Him he will want.”  That got me thinking.  What would be on a wish list for Jesus.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together – Colossians 1:16-17

Obviously, Jesus is not going to want some material gift.  As the creator of everything, getting a new electronic toy is not going to be meaningful to Him.  So, maybe our focus needs to be on things we do for other people.  After all, that is what Jesus modeled, right. What would his list look like?

There are some deeply troubling needs in the world.  Would the top of his list have things like a cure for cancer, food for the hungry, the end of human trafficking?  Would that special gift be that all would have access to medicine or clean water?  Maybe those are too large to try to wrap our mind around.

Well, then how about family needs? Could there be marriages reconciled?  Maybe some parents and children need to find a way to love each other.  How about the financial strain that plague so many families?  Could that be remedied with self-control?

Perhaps instead of something like that, you would look at your own life.  What am I doing for Jesus, is it enough?  Are you showing His love to other people?  Are you avoiding sin or are you embracing it, rationalizing it as ‘not too bad’? Do you prioritize worship, prayer and the reading of the Bible?  Is that what Jesus wants?

While all these things seem nice, I believe that the answer to this question comes in a statement Jesus made.

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  – Matthew 22:47-49

If we limit what we do for Jesus to a simple material item, or something that is done for Jesus out of duty, we are missing the point.

Jesus was not concerned with material things or having people do something for him out of obligation.  All he wants is for you to love God with all your heart as you follow Him and then love other people.  If we are loving God and people, the needs that are out there would be addressed.  If God has your heart, it gives perspective to life’s struggles and hope for a future.  When we love God we desire to be with Him, we cast off sin and turn to His ways.

Remember the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18?  He came to Jesus and described how much he had done for God in his life and still he felt like something was missing.   He had kept the commands, or so he said, but realized that without eternal life he had nothing.  Jesus said, “You still lack one thing.  Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” -Luke 18:22

Jesus was not after this man’s wealth, but He realized that the one thing holding Him back from loving God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength was his wealth.  As it turned out, it was the one thing this man was not willing to part with and even the promise of treasure in heaven didn’t entice him to follow Jesus.

There lies the answer to what Jesus wants from us– our life.  He wants us to choose to love and follow Him.

So, while we don’t have a present under the tree wrapped for Jesus, we do have a life that can be given to Him.  Each of us will make a big difference in the world when we love God with passion and love other people.

We told our 4-year-old son that it was not about something we could give to Jesus that he could open, like Legos, but it was living God’s ways.  It is by not doing things our own way, but rather follow God’s ways.  It is by helping other people and showing His love to the world.  For him, we made it personal with things like being kind to his brother, sharing and helping his friends.  They are all ways he can practice his love for God and people.

This Christmas Season give to Jesus what he has wanted all along, your heart.

The Lego Jar (11/23/13) – I am that hero!

What would a week be without the boys putting on strange clothes?  I guess it is better than losing their clothes, although that does happen enough also.  It seems like we are being influenced by vampires and super heroes.  I don’t know which one scares me more.

Scene 1

We have a young boy aspiring to be a super hero or a vampire.  I guess it depends on your particular bent.  He did wear this outfit to church one day.  Enough said.

I do not say "Bleh, bleh, bleh"

I do not say “Bleh, bleh, bleh”

Scene 2

If you have ever seen Larry Boy, this will make sense.  We have some super suction ears.

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Of course today we are going to be building some sort of camo fort.  I will keep you posted.

Have a great weekend!

The Lego Jar (11/16/13) – Mixed Feelings

The kids are watching a Barney movie as I type this.  I have mixed feelings about that.

The truth is there are a lot of things I have mixed feelings about today as I hide from the purple dinosaur in the room.

Moving

We are moving to Wisconsin the end of December.  (I know, who moves to Wisconsin in winter?)  There are mixed feelings with that.    There is the excitement of a new home and new people to meet.  Then there is the anxiety that comes from taking 4 kids on a 1200 mile move.

My 4-year-old has helped with the packing by adding a bag full of rubber ducks.  I guess that helps.

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Look I helped!

Children – Do they ever stop?

I have mixed feelings as I watch my children grow up.  It is a lot of fun to see them learn and discover things and they are cute in pictures.  But they are just growing — a lot.

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Reading on her own while her brothers wrestle

Reading on her own while her brothers wrestle

I love the little things that I see my children picking up.  My daughter was recently running around the house singing “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  She even threw in the “no turning back, no turning back.”  May God grant that in her life and all of my children.

I love it when they come home from church and we talk about their Bible lesson from that week.  Kids have such a way of understanding the story.  I think it would do all of us good to hear a child tell us a Bible story sometimes.

And then there’s Si….

relax, have a sip a tea, mow a little grass

relax, have a sip a tea, mow a little grass

And with that, I guess they want me to make breakfast.   I hope you have a great weekend!