Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Innocent Lie

I have a bone to pick. You can skip this blog if you're not in the mood. I won't be offended. I think I just need to share with candor, and hopefully gentleness, something that really bothers me.

The Innocent Lie.

I am not speaking of those lies that children try to pass off on their parents. Rather, I am speaking of the lies parents participate in towards their children. And even more specifically, I am speaking of the lies spoken to make childhood myths come alive, and appear real for that season in life when the innocence of children is at its best.

Santa Clause.
Tooth Fairy.
Easter Bunny.

I don't find these innocuous. I am in the minority - at least it appears that way from my many conversations with acquaintances, relatives and friends. I came to think that perhaps I was simply a miser - a glory hog who didn't want to share any of the credit for her hard work with some red-suited, white-whiskered relative stranger who manages to show up when everything is peachy but doesn't stay around long enough to help clean up any of the mess.

It must be me.

But I still couldn't swallow it. I sat down and really thought about what my problem was with these traditions. I realized that the answer is in the fact that children are being lied to, encouraged by their parents (who are entrusted to teach them truth) to falsely believe something they know to be unreal. Okay, so we admit that these imaginary beings aren't real. Where's the harm in letting children use their imaginations to heighten the fun during these few short years?

Hey, let me be the first to say that I love imagination! My children regularly come up with all manner of games that create worlds outside of this one. They are princesses in far distant palaces, flying across the sky on magical beings. Or perhaps they are knights riding into the burning sunset made brilliant by two suns! Multi-colored robes, enchanted wands, and supernatural powers are the norm for a make-believe world worth it's weight in imagination. I happily encourage all these fancies! So, what's the difference between the Easter Bunny and a world filled with talking bunnies who each have their own special power?

I am not lying to them, telling them their talking bunnies are real.

The problem with a lie is that eventually the truth comes out. It always does. Perhaps it takes years rather than a few moments, but in the end... out it comes. And when it does you have broken trust. After all, a lie is a lie. But so many adults have gotten lost in the idea that the adventure of believing that lie is worth the pain and confusion when the truth comes to light.

How can we be so obtuse? I would imagine that my children are not vastly different from others. One of the largest lessons I am constantly working to teach is the value of truth. Lying in our home warrants a double dose of discipline - one for the disobedient action and the other for the lie. Our mantra is, "You will always get into more trouble if you lie." How can I work to train my children to understand the absolute necessity and value of truth if I am engaged in purposely falsifying facts in order to encourage my children to believe something that is a lie? How can my children utterly trust my word as they grow if they know, deep down inside, that I have not always been 100% honest with them?

Lastly, I fear the possible ramifications of these "innocent" lies on the trusting hearts of my children as they walk their own faith journeys. We tell our children that Santa Clause is real, but you can't see him. We tell our children that the Easter Bunny is real, but you can't see him. We tell our children that the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns are real, but you can't see them. We tell our children there is a God who is real, but you can't see him. Then we reveal that Santa Claus is a lie. We share that the Easter Bunny is fake. We finally let our kids in on the truth that the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns were all pretend.

But we somehow want our children to retain the truth that God is still real - He still exists even though everything else they used faith to trust in has been proven false by the very people who should have protected that unique ability to accept truth without jaded reservation. We inadvertently create cynical human beings who have the propensity to eye the world through a subconscious filter of distrust.

Do I exaggerate?

Perhaps not every child becomes disenchanted with the wonder and blessing of seeing the beauty beyond their own empirical observation, but I am unwilling to take the chance. I will not require from my children something I am unwilling to give to them in return.


Monday, December 21, 2009


Christmas is just around the corner. I realized this tonight as I prepare to wrap presents (no chuckling, snorting, finger pointing or comments from the peanut gallery welcomed). This time of year tends to take anyone's breath away with its sheer velocity of opportunistic events. Commitments abound and season's festivities overflow as one invitation after another arrives to join some worthy tradition guaranteed to spark holiday merriment in even the basest of scrooges.

In a word this time of year is: hectic.

In our home it is no different. Well, maybe a little different. After all we have seven little people to usher through the perils of traditions. On top of that we have three birthdays. Did you miss that?

Three Birthdays.

Bethany turns 9 in just a couple of days - December 23rd to be exact. She is planning a sleepover with a friend for the 22nd, and then a family dinner of her choice for the 23rd. She wants buttermilk pancakes for her meal. She happens to think that McDonald's pancakes are the best, and each year on her birthday I am forced to find a way to duplicate this nutritionless wonder of white flour. Mind you, I make pancakes rather often... from fresh milled whole wheat berries, honey, and cinnamon. Yeah.

Next comes Mary, who will be four (my fingers froze for an entire moment after typing that number) on the 27th. Her birthday falls on Sunday, which is usually roast night. She too gets to pick her meal of choice, but roast might be the winner. We happened to have it tonight (we were out of town last night) and she literally ate me under the table. I think she might be a carnivore at heart.

Hannah's birthday finally closes down the year on the 30th. She is going to Valley Fair Shopping Center with me, her best friend and her best friend's mom on the 28th. At nearly 11 the delights of shopping are opening up, and rather than take the booty in gifts she prefers the delights of cash. I can't say I blame her. I have long preferred the known gift of my own choosing over the surprise of someone else's pick. She is also speculating on going out to dinner rather than staying in. She's got good taste.

So, here I sit on the 21st with nearly 10 solid days of festivities before me. I'm pooped just writing about it. But I'll see you on the flip side with some great tales to share!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Star Wars

When you asked Caleb what his favorite movie was he would answer either Star Wars, or Robin Hood. There was nothing terribly shocking in those selections, except that he had never seen Star Wars! Undaunted, as he often is, the truth of Star Wars being one of his most favorite movies simply resonated in his soul, and didn't require the actual viewing for proof.

We finally decided it was time to test his devotion with the real deal.

The first episode he watched was the original Star Wars. I was at book club. He was riveted, my husband tells me, and I definitely heard quite a bit about the story the next day. He even said this to me a few days following:

Mama, can me and you have time to watch a movie, just the two of us?

Sure, Caleb. That would be nice.

We could maybe watch, Star Wars!

The opportunity presented itself sooner than I expected. Christopher took his four older daughters on a date to see, The Princess and The Frog. The afternoon was wide open, Josiah and Phoebe were both sleeping so I suggested that we watch, Empire Strikes Back. Caleb was game.

I am not sure what I enjoyed more - watching a great movie or watching my son watch a great movie. There were several wonderful moments during the 129 minutes, but these are the best three.

1: Nowhere did Caleb need to cover his eyes, shy away from the action, or ask me to fast-forward through one of the many fighting scenes. He watched, with great patience, and interest as Storm Troopers, Rebels, X-Wings, and Star Cruisers duked it out on our television screen. However, there was ONE time he felt compelled to cover his eyes with both hands... when Leia kissed Luke in front of Han after Luke's near death experience on Hoth. "Is it over yet?" he asked.

2: Luke lands on Dagobah and meets the, "cutest little green man" Caleb has ever seen. He chirps, coos, and sighs about the adorable creature, so excited to see the green character on film. Suddenly, he stares wide-eyed at me and proclaims, "THAT'S Yoda!!" Oh, to watch the movie again for the first time.

3: The great moment of truth drew closer, and I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the moment I knew was coming... and went. Caleb didn't say anything when Darth revealed his identity. I realized quickly that it was because he didn't really understand what was said, so I rewind and coax him through the dialogue, until finally his eyes brighten with the truth. Darth is Luke's father! He literally falls out of his chair and onto the floor in his melodramatic way. Then he sits back up, stares at the screen open-mouthed and says, "So, Luke has to do whatever Darth says, now?" Apparently I have done my job right, and children obeying their parents will last well into his adulthood.

I love it!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Our Backyard

This is probably not breaking news to many of you, but it still surprises me to look out my window and see my new backyard! I am so thrilled with the final results. However, it hasn't always been lovely to stare out my window.

When we first looked at our home there was more potential than actual value. The entire house was run down, in need of some serious love. The backyard was no different. A random paver patio surrounding small fruit trees planted under a clothesline was only one part of the haphazard design. Other gems included a raised butterfly garden shaped, well, like a circle drawn by my 3 year old. The side yard was a mishmash of hard-packed dirt flower beds, widely varied paver styles, and weeds. To say it was ugly would be an understatement. There were two poured concrete patios, one attached directly to the house and one tucked into the back corner of the yard. The second smaller one must have been poured to create a foundation for a shed. This might have been a nice touch, except it was irregularly shaped and sat at odd angles to the fence line. Ugh.

We bought our home as a foreclosure. The money we were saving ourselves from a non-standard sale would be spent caring for the run-down state of the house. Things like refinishing the hardwood floors, replacing all the kitchen appliances, and painting the entire inside of the house were no-brainers. Purchasing a substantially smaller home than we previously lived in meant we had to find living space in every nook, so the backyard was also one of the projects planned from the very beginning, the vision being that it would provide an extension of sorts to the living space inside. However, once the inside of the house was functional the outside got somewhat forgotten.

Josiah was the impetus behind reviewing our project. His boy-ness required constant supervision, and activity. A secured, safe backyard was the only choice to continue enjoying our little boy. We also realized that our decision to home educate meant sacrifices in certain activities that required balance. Physical fitness, and kinesthetic learning were factors we took seriously. We set to work researching play structures, discussing ideas, and refining our vision for the space. Finally we settled upon a design that took into consideration the needs of the yard, our budget, and as much aesthetics as possible.

We found a company called CedarWorks located in Maine. They work with individual families to create play structures that are uniquely designed for their specific needs. Through them we drew plans for a play set sturdy enough for all 7 of our children. Using white cedar, a naturally splinter-free and rot resistance wood, the structure would last through all my children and be available for my grandchildren! This would become the central focus of our yard, and create a wonderful diversion for all our children.

Adding the elements to surround the play structure was our next task. We chose commercial playground quality cedar chips for the base of the play set. Our trampoline was also nestled into the pit made from these chips. A paver path wrapped the house, and bordered the pit so someone could access the far side yard without traipsing through wood chips. We also purchased new large pavers for the other side yard, creating a useable space for storage, and easy accessibility. I desperately wanted something green to look at, so a strip of lawn was added behind the larger concrete patio - the only thing we kept from the original backyard. The final touch was a gift from my mom - her perfectly working 6 person hot tub!

So, we are now complete. I added the photo album on the right side of the blog. Take a peek. And if you are in the neighborhood please drop by. Make sure to bring the kids, and your suits!