Thursday, October 28, 2010

Like Father, Like Son

We utilize an educational paradigm called, delayed academics. I have mentioned it in passing, but never fully explained why we take the position. Here is why:

Caleb is a lot like his daddy.

That's a compliment that I happily assert. My husband is handsome, loyal, incredibly willing to encourage me, and tells me how much he loves me regularly. Caleb is all these things in junior form. Christopher was also diagnosed with ADD (probably would have added the "H" in there if they called it ADHD 30 years ago) when he was a small boy. For a time he was medicated with Ritalin. Were Caleb in a traditional classroom he to would be facing some of the same issues his daddy faced. Like father, like son.

Caleb is quickly distracted, has a hard time maintaining focus, and doesn't easily retain spoken information. For instance, a while back I was working with him on verse memorization for our church's Wednesday night youth program. He was studying the books of the New Testament. After 45 minutes he was still unable to fully repeat a mere 6 books in the correct order without any prompting. His attention span simply can not keep his focus long enough to work on detail oriented seat-work. What would he be doing in school for 8 hours a day in 2nd grade? Detail oriented seat-work.

I struggle with the ways Caleb does not automatically "learn." But what do I think learning is? For his father it was "learning" he couldn't do what the other kids did. His notes were pinned to his shirt because he was not able to remain focused on the task of delivering them home safely. It was feeling inferior, and inadequate because concepts, lessons, indeed learning did not click for him the way he was told it should. However, my husband is now a highly respected, well-paid senior level software architect who oversees enterprise-wide design solutions. He counsels teams of people through the decision making process for website protocol and design in places that are receiving hundreds of thousands of hits a day. In other words he succeeded. He is, I believe, the exception and not the rule.

So many children, namely boys, are labelled, misdirected, and pigeon-holed by our scholastic requirements. At an age when kinesthetic development is literally causing their bodies to jump we often expect them to sit like well-mannered lap dogs. The maxim, "Girls mature faster than boys," is so well accepted in our culture, and even proven true based on dozens of research studies, statistics, and overall observation. Yet, what is the maturity these studies, statistics and observations are measuring? Often the ability to succeed in a controlled environment more readily embraced by girls. Even with this understanding of the already slanted concept of maturity, rarely are the findings from these studies used  in tailoring educational programs, or expectations. "Boys will be boys," is another highly used proverb that points to the idea of boys being more aggressive, less compliant, and generally more raucous then their female counterparts. Yet again, in the typical school classroom the rules focus on those aspects that come much more naturally and easily to the girls - namely: being quiet; focusing for extended periods of indoor time; learning auditorily or visually as opposed to kinesthetically; working cooperatively and not competitively; and verbalizing needs articulately.

And we wonder why our boys are vacillating so wildly between effeminacy and machismo.

We did not want our own son to have the monkey on his back that often haunts young adolescent boys in traditional classrooms. We wanted to encourage him that the way he was designed was not an accident. That's part of the reason we chose to homeschool. But even within homeschooling many parents are hung up on the local public school's standards for determining what should or shouldn't fit in their home. I don't think I need to state the obvious, but in CA those standards aren't exactly something that should instill trust and respect in our minds. For instance, much of the prevailing thought on how to raise obnoxiously low test scores is simply increase seat-work. Yeah, 'cause if the student didn't understand it the first time you explained it then the additional 30 minutes of working identical problems with the same explanation will definitely help.

Note the sarcasm.

Delayed academics asserts that children learn academically in much the way they learn physically - through involuntary leaps and bounds. I say involuntary because children do not determine when they will learn to walk. If given the right environment, support and encouragement they will develop the skill as their body allows - not in a smooth curve of perfect progress but rather in a one-day-she-couldn't-and-now-she-can kind of way. Mental development follows this same course. Therefore academics are rarely any different than the physical progression of maturity. If given the right environment, support and encouragement most children will "click" with book learning in a sudden, and often mind-boggling way. How many times have you said, or heard the phrase, "The light just suddenly came on for him!" And more times than not there wasn't anything different about the approach of the subject in question - the mind was simply ready to make the leap.

I don't want to waste my time trying to get Phoebe to walk when she isn't physically ready for it. Similarly, I don't want to waste my time, or my children's time teaching them academic rhetoric if they are not ready to learn it. However the rise in single-parent families, and the increase in dual-income families means parents need institutions that can help in providing childcare. With public school already an accepted norm in the vast majority of American families it seemed only natural to put the burden of responsibility on them for the care of our youngsters. But these are schools, so we also expected that our children's time there would create more academically robust students, if for no other reason than to assuage our guilt at leaving them in these classrooms for 8 to 10 hours every day. The result? The expected age for children to "click" with book learning has dropped significantly over the past 30 years. Instead of character being the greatest lesson beyond fine and gross motor skills for the average five, six or seven year old it is paragraph reading and complex fractions.

Now, let me add a quick word for the onset of better and more intuitive means of education. There have been some incredibly amazing inroads made in the connection of small children and academic achievement. Teaching communication through sign language to the pre-verbal, understanding phonics, raising the expectation for literacy across gender and socioeconomic backgrounds are wonderful, and I support all of these developments. What I don't support is the unapologetic use of generalized standards based on convenience and lies.

For a mainstreamed child to read by age 6 is convenient. Therefor, it is necessary that all mainstreamed children read by age 6.

The convenience.

The lie.

There are countless others that follow this same pattern. It simply takes too much time to create a dynamic lesson that can encompass all levels of learning in one room. And in fairness to the traditional classroom, you have to break the children into groups based on something. Age is the most obvious, so assumptions of academic progress based merely on age were bound to occur. Those generalizations were given merit as scores of averages proved them correct. The average age for understanding a concept was noted, birthing the standardized testing phenomenon where administrators, teachers, and parents could check to make sure their Suzy Q reached her potential.

Since when did the average become equal to the potential?

I want my children, both male and female, to set high academic expectations for themselves. I want life long learners who love to read, explore concepts, and not be afraid of asking questions. I want well-adjusted, confident children who have a security in their body's design and development. I am firmly convinced that can not happen when academic pressure is added to the already mounting list of responsibilities placed on children in traditional classrooms during their younger years. I am convinced that children are designed to be children first and foremost - not scholars. Learning through play, interaction, and experience extends well beyond the toddler years. Yet we stifle that natural flow of cause and effect far too quickly creating unnecessary work on our parts, and years of frustration for our children.

So how does delayed academics answer these concerns?

By looking at those same averages used for standardized tests, but zooming out for a slightly wider context to their findings.

On average children reach a learning plateau at age nine, or roughly the equivalent of 3rd grade. During this time the vast majority of students who previously didn't "get it" suddenly understand concepts that alluded them for years. Likewise, many students who were exceptionally bright are quickly absorbed into the norm. In other words an evening works itself out, and from 9 years old on a new game is played. Delayed academics takes advantage of waiting for the new game before ever beginning. Rather than drive concepts into hardened earth it says to wait until the soil has been softened with the fullness of the young child experience. At nine the cognitive abilities are more advanced, and the physical discipline more inline with the demands of book learning for hours each day. The rigors of detailed seat work and rote memorization no longer compete against six-year old bodies bursting with excessive energy. Delayed academics keeps your seven year old from feeling like a failure when it really is just a matter of time. And if there is a genuinely significant learning delay the maturity of the nine year old to handle the truth of their situation will surely be an asset.

Christopher came out of the academic system a victor, though most of his early markers generally pointed in the opposite direction. I have confidence that even though Caleb would be receiving the same marks were he in a public classroom he too will be like his Daddy, emerging as a bright, capable and educated man.

After all, like father, like son.



Friday, October 22, 2010

Leah

L
     loquacious. Yep, she talks. Leah loves to babble about anything, but most especially she likes talking about her babies, imaginary friends, and health maladies. I can't remember the last time she spoke when something didn't tickle me. I regularly have to cover my mouth in order keep my mirth under cover, lest I spoil her transparency and ruin the moment. But really... how does one keep a straight face while being told that Ariel, her mirror-living friend, is the daughter of Satan?

E
     empathetic. My 4th born is bothered by her siblings hurts, fears, or mishaps. She quickly seeks out help on their behalf, usually trying desperately to console the injured party at the same time. Her empathy can even get her in trouble. She has been known to cry more demonstratively than a sibling receiving punishment, lending total chaos to our house.

A
     appetite. At first glance you may suspect me of giving a glowing report on Leah's robust love of food. I am not. While I will say that she knows how to chow down, she apparently forgets that knowledge every other day; forcing her father and me to resort to ultimatums at least twice a week. No, the appetite I do intend to give a glowing report on is Leah's zest for life. She is insatiable. Her personality alone requires a tremendous amount of caloric intake, and feed it she does. She is a walking non sequitur. You can not be around her for more than a few minutes before genuinely laughing yourself silly.

H
     higgledy-piggledy. There isn't anyone in my immediate circle of friends or family who leaves a bigger disaster in their wake than Leah. Seriously. Her version of "clean" makes my version of "messy" look tame. Of course, there can be seen a benefit to this penchant for clutter. For instance, Leah is free to move with inspiration from one project to the next, never fearing that her ideas may grow stale in the brain vacuum of cleaning. And, I must admit, her dance through life leaves me breathless with its wonder and curiosity - never masked or hindered by the fear of what consequences she may leave behind her.




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Monday, October 18, 2010

Marriage

I love listening to my little people muse about their future. Whether it is Caleb sharing about which blue-color job is for him, or Bethany wishing she could be a prima donna, listening to their ideals about what they want to do when they grow up always makes me smile. However, there are times when a real gem pops out, all bright and shiny. 

This morning it was Mary's turn to deliver.

She and Bethany were sitting next to one another on the couch perusing the latest catalogs to arrive in the mail. Bethany somberly read American Girl. Mary animatedly gabbed away while thumbing her way through The Company Store. Every few moments Mary turned her eyes upon one of the dolls in American Girl and asked what its name was. Bethany obliged her with the doll's name before turning the page. Mary immediately dropped the just-spoken-of-doll's name into a sentence that included a product on her own catalog page. For instance:

Kip just loves to use these towels in her bathroom.

The game was working fine for Mary, but Bethany was growing weary of being interrupted every few seconds and began to give off the "don't bother me" vibe. Mary took the hint, and began to simply use her own names in her advertisements. Over and over I kept hearing the same four names in reference to bed linens, bath towels, personalized robes and sheets.

Elizabeth. Isabella. Grace. Josephina.

Peeked with curiosity, Bethany asked Mary about the four girls' names.

"Who are they, Mary?"

"They're my children's names."

"Oh. So you have four daughters?"

"Yes." She smoothed her hair and looked directly at Bethany as she added, "I want four kids, but I don't want to be married. I don't want to have to kiss."



 .

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sleep

Phoebe sleeps in her own bed. She has always slept in her own bed. Recently, however, she began showing us that she didn't like that plan so much.

Because our home is rather tight on bedrooms (3 of them for 9 people) we tend to get creative with our sleeping arrangements. For Phoebe this means going to bed in a pack-n-play at the foot of our bed until we can transfer her to a crib in her own room. Why can't she simply start in her own room, you ask? Because she goes to bed when her sisters are still awake, and would never actually fall asleep if she could watch their antics. She also must nap in our room so that the other four girls can have access to their bedroom during the day.

But I digress.

This system was working excellently until a few weeks ago when Phoebe discovered that she could fold the bottom pack-n-play "mattress" into a triangle, and made a fairly handy step stool out of her playpen and onto our bed. The first time it happened caught me quite by surprise. I was sitting on the couch in the living room when I thought I heard the fast-busy sound of the phone when it has been left off the hook too long. Sure enough, I checked the phone (on the table immediately to my left) and the screen indicated that it was in use. Funny, since I am the only one old enough to use the phone without permission. I took a quick mental count of my children, and their locations.

Hannah: school
Bethany: dishes
Caleb: trampoline
Leah & Mary: littlest pet shop
Josiah & Phoebe: naps

Then I heard Phoebe babbling from my room. In her preverbal ranting I could easily make out the intonations of a conversation. I slipped down the hallway to see what had her gander, only to be met with a peek at an empty playpen. Pushing the door open wider, I saw Phoebe sitting contentedly on my bed chatting away on the phone while it beeped back angrily. She saw me and grinned. My entire nightstand was a disarray of books and papers. Christopher's alarm clock was missing entirely from the other side of the bed. Someone had been busy.

Laughing, I scooped her up and took her out of the room. Nap was obviously not going to happen that day. Oh well, I thought, she just wasn't tired. She'll sleep tomorrow.

Ha! I seriously doubt I need to elaborate on the last two weeks.

And so my story reaches tonight. Up until this time we always managed to win the game by either: a) taking her out of the room until she was more tired, or b) redepositing her into the pack-n-play until she stayed in it. This evening it seemed that route b was the winning ticket. She eventually fussed at the grievous misfortune of being forever daunted in her quest for freedom, but the room silenced soon enough, and we knew she was asleep.

Christopher went in to transfer her. The first thing he noticed was the dark room. We always keep a small light on to help us see through the transfer process, but for some reason it was not lit. Then he bent over the pack-n-play, and there was no one inside. Startled, he shot a glance around the room until, his eyes adjusting the dim light, he saw Phoebe.


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Efficiency

Caleb, always thinking of the newest, fastest way to produce results, came to me this afternoon with a bold, new move to improve efficiency in our meal preparation. However, before I tell you about this bold, new move you should probably have a quick peek into the workings of my kitchen.

I generally cook 3 meals a day, every day, for 9 people. Breakfast, lunch and dinner see my entire family sitting around our table. In between meals the dishes are done, and preparations begun for the following menu. At any given point in time someone can usually walk into my kitchen and find the counters clean, dishes washed, stove wiped down and general orderliness reigning. I don't say this to toot my own horn; I say it so you will fully appreciate the "help" my son is about to offer me.

Tacos were on the menu for dinner. I am teaching Bethany how to cook, and this is her first recipe to tackle entirely on her own. She is doing a great job! I was especially proud of her tonight, because she recognized the need to open the refried and chili bean cans while the ground beef was browning. She carefully opened each one, put the can opener away, and then prepared to add the cans' contents to the meat.

At this point Caleb offered a new solution for the horror of opening cans

"Mama, you know what would be great? If we built shelves above the stove that went across like this (slashes his hands horizontally through the air in front of him). Then we put the cans of beans on the shelves so they sat there. Then I could take a baseball and throw it at the cans (he winds up and gives me a full pitch so I fully appreciate his superior ball-throwing skills). The cans would just explode in half (jerks his hands from closed fists to palms-out in the international sign language for bomb), and the beans would fall right into your pot. You wouldn't have to mess around with all that can opening any more. It'd really make it a lot easier."


Taco Beans
1 - 1.5 lbs lean ground beef (depends on how "meaty" you want it - great without meat, too!)
3 8oz cans Rosarita refried beans
1 15oz can Bush's chili beans in zesty sauce (mostly drained)
1/2 packet McCormick Taco Seasoning
1/2 yellow onion (optional)

Saute onion in olive oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Brown hamburger and drain fat. Add seasoning and onion, stir. Add cans of beans, combine well. Turn heat to med. low and simmer until thoroughly hot. Serve with fixings.


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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Run-On Sentence

Mama, me and Grace got to play together as much as we wanted, it was so much fun, and the park was funny when we were on the slide together, and Grace laughed at me so, I like her house when I went over there a long time ago, and we played in her room, and then we had dress-up so I wore church shoes because I didn't want to have bare feet, because Grace's mom was okay that I wore them, but I didn't ask, but I think it was okay, and I want to wear the special dress when I am there again, but Grace whined about her dress, and I don't think that was nice even though I wanted to wear the one she had, so I can't remember if she has a backyard or not, so I don't remember if we played in it, but I think we might have, but I can't remember, oh yeah, we did play in her backyard after dress up, then I played with her alphabet on her refrigerator while her mom was cooking dinner, because I played with all the letters, even A, G and Y, wow, I am just talking so much to tell you all about it, but now I am tired of talking, so I think I am going to stop for a while.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Caleb

C
     creative. I don't think I have met another boy who is able to come up with the degree of ingenuity necessary to pull off his more hair-brained ideas. For example, Caleb decided to test out how well an IKEA reusable bag would work as a parachute. Of course, there is the infamous roof to trampoline story, which you can read here. And don't forget the plan to swing from a rope off the play-set using nothing but his mouth, which ended in the loss of a tooth. He simply takes these minor setbacks in stride, and continues to push the envelope of his creative genius.

A
     agile. At 4 he could skate, unassisted, on a standard skateboard. Riding his bike came naturally, and within moments of his daddy removing the training wheels. He recently learned how to skim-board while at the beach and took to it like, well, a fish to water. He has a natural capacity for hand-eye coordination, which stands him in good stead during any sport he has tried.

L
     loving. Caleb really soaks up the love; he gives it as well. Hugs, compliments and genuine concern are often expressed by him with transparency and thoughtfulness.

E
     entertaining. There is never a dull moment in our house, thanks in large part to our first son. Need a ridiculously absurd knock-knock joke? Caleb's your guy. Want to watch someone sacrifice their body for the gag? Again, Caleb's your guy. Everything from his laugh to his cry can provide an immense amount of valuable entertainment.

B
     boy. Of course. Recently Caleb said something that was typical of his testosterone-washed brain. Bethany and I made the obvious statement in complete unison, "Such a boy." His pain tolerance has nothing to do with his brain tolerance. He impulsively asserts himself in dangerous situations. He asks questions that defy logic. And he insists that he is the man of the house whenever Christopher is away - even to the store.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Medical Care

Leah regularly regales us with stories of her babies, their wounds, and the treatment required for their care. Sometimes the treatment is successful. Sometimes it is not. In fact, a few weeks ago she pointedly announced that her baby was going to die, "because the medicine didn't work."

Our family has grown accustomed to these tales, but tonight's version brought a fresh wave of hilarity to Leah's audience. Bethany whispered to me, "You need to blog that one." She's right.



Mama, did you know my baby needs surgery on her leg?

No, I didn't. What happened?

Well, her leg is broken.

Oh no!

Yep. So she needs to have surgery.

How did she break it?

Well, there was a hook attached to a rope. I had tied the rope to the middle of the street, and I was pulling my baby with the hook. Well, I was pulled into the middle of the street from the rope, and I didn't get run over but my baby did.

Wow!

Yep. By a monster truck.


And with that, she bounced out of the room.



Monday, September 20, 2010

A Whole New Walmart

Walmart store 4488 has a new, improved look. They are calling it a mini-super because it has a substantial grocery section (including fresh produce), but it doesn't quite cover everything. I must admit, I am not a huge fan of Walmart. It's not that I carry a personal vice against the largest majority private employer in the United States. I simply prefer Target as my box store. But, truth be told, I was actually excited when the announcement was made that the mass merchandiser would be moving into my neighborhood. I am all for micro-businesses, definitely preferring organic, locally grown, responsibly managed outfitters who care about all the "right" things. But let's face it, a mom of seven needs a little Walmart once in a while. So, when the home we purchased happened to be 1 mile from the store I was looking at the proximity as a good thing.

That proximity is proving to be useless.

First it was the several months of inconvenience related to the total store makeover. Now, let me clarify my annoyance before you think I am a complainer simply because I had to learn to go to a different part of the store to get that quick gallon of milk. Yes, I had to go to a different part of the store to get my milk. In fact, I had to ask directions every trip I took because the milk, diapers, baby food, pasta and vacuum cleaner bags were always in a different place. Always. Then, there was the frustration associated with Walmart's need to downsize stock in order to make moving merchandise easier. Need oven cleaner? Oops, sorry. We sold out, and aren't ordering any more until the store is completed. And don't try to find nonfat milk, either. That's gone, too.

I worked to roll with the punches. After all, I was being promised that the end would be a newer, better shopping experience. I grew up in retail. My family owned their own business for over 50 years. I can appreciate the need to occasionally make some mess in order to ultimately provide a better product. Unfortunately, my mom doesn't own Walmart.

Well, the newer, better shopping experience began about a month ago. I even picked up a flyer Walmart made especially for the occasion. It contained a map, and a few explanations for some of the changes.

What a piece of propaganda.

Here are a few excerpts from the pamphlet:

Where convenience is everything.
     We've always brought you the lowest possible prices. Now we've added more of the products you buy most often - all in one location. Why? So you can save even more time and money.

I realized upon my first newer, better shopping experience that the "products you buy most often" are not the products that I buy most often. Rows upon rows of frozen convenience items, chips and soda were added but try and find a can of chili beans and you are outta luck. In fact, I had no idea there were so many prepackaged, sodium laden, frozen food choices. 

Simplified Shopping
     Less clutter and clearer aisles make it easier to find just what you're looking for.

At first glance this sentence makes it appear as though Walmart did a total reorganization from their previous store model. In actuality, they simply moved the pallets and cleared the final debris from their months long remodeling project. Then there is the irony that the new store lacks clear signage to guide you in your quest for their "easier to find" products. I recently went looking for coffee for my hubby and finally found it down the "Cookie" aisle next to the small "Tea" subsection. Nothing noted coffee anywhere. I didn't realize coffee was such a speciality item, and not in need of its own sign because of the small number of people purchasing it. After all, don't you see everyone going into Walmart to buy 5 gallon drums of ground tea? I need to note, for my hubby's benefit, that he was not asking me to purchase him one of those 5 gallon drums of ground coffee. He can't stand pre-ground coffee. He was getting ready for a business trip, and needed a few of those Starbucks Via packages.

Lastly, we have my favorite:

Smart Choices
     We've simplified our assortment to help make your shopping easier. All so you can save money and live better.

This is where the rubber hits the road. Remember in the beginning when I acknowledged that a mother of seven occasionally needs a little Walmart? Things like diapers, lotion, and eye drops are nice to grab a mere 3 minutes away from home. And I must admit, my choices have definitely been simplified. There isn't much guess work to be had between no baby food and... no baby food. Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But seriously, it's WALMART for crying out loud. Isn't that where you should expect to find a plethora of baby food choices, diaper sizes and styles, cleaning supplies, and all manner of health and beauty selections? I have one, maybe two options to chose from in order to allow mass amounts of square footage to be devoted to Pancho's Pizza Packages in cheese, pepperoni, sausage, combo, vegetarian, and seven other extra high cholesterol varieties.

It's time for me to go back to Target.



Friday, September 17, 2010

Bethany

B
     bubbly. We used to joke that Bethany's middle name was so aptly chosen for her because she really did bring us Joy each and every day. She still does. Bethany works hard to find the brighter side of life in just about every circumstance. She has a great laugh, and shares it readily.

E
     early. Especially of the bird variety. No one in our home willingly gets up as early as Bethany. She loves those quiet hours in the morning when the house is still.
  
T
     thrifty. I think the penchant for earning, saving and spending frugally has found a secure home in the heart of my second-born. She could figure out a way to spend $1.50 on two items at the Dollar Store. Bethany keeps me in the loop on current sales, circulars and adds relevant to our home.
     
H
     humane. We have rescued injured rabbits, birds and insects. Our family picks up children for events, brings cards and meals to the sick, and more all as a result of Bethany's penchant for the destitute. I can only wonder at the altruistic activities she will be involved in once she has her own transportation.

A
     artistic. Whether it is a drawing, a piece of music, or theatre Bethany is our family's lover of the arts. She sings, dances, paints and sculpts. Her handwriting was beautiful before she even really knew how to write because she treated writing like drawing, carefully crafting her letters to be distinct and lovely.

N
     nurturing. Simply stated, she is the second mom in the house. Bethany is adept at cuddling babies, helping cook and managing the emotional ups and downs of her younger siblings. She really cares when one of her brothers or sisters is hurt, and works to find a solution for comforting them regardless of what it costs her.

Y
     youthful. I chose this word not because Bethany is "only" 9. I chose youthful to sum up a part of her character that I find lovely - her transparency. Many adolescents at her age are already starting to pretend they are something they are not - older, more mature, more experienced, more... Not my girl! I am proud of her willingness to be exactly how God made her.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Language

Once upon a time people used language with respect, deference, and even a little bit of awe. I adore the scene in My Fair Lady where Henry Higgins denounces Eliza Doolittle's deplorable vocabulary. And she wasn't even using filthy curse words! But our society has lost so much appreciation for healthy communication that it must resort to the same handful of loathsome obscenities for virtually all its dialogue. There are literally millions of words aching for the opportunity to make themselves useful, but I consistently overhear the youth of today resort to a single 4-letter word to describe:
an adjective of shock
an exclamation of joy
a noun of filth
a verb for jesting

Really? You can't come up with something even slightly more original? The real shocker is that these same boys and girls feel their awesome use of vocabulary grants them mastery over the English language. Well, I guess children will push the envelope of appropriate behavior in their ongoing battle to define themselves. Except, where are these children coming into such consistent contact with flippantly abusive language?

Oh, that's right... adults.

For every teenage boy I hear spouting off defamatory curse words to establish his prowess with the Burger King drive-through waitress there are at least half a dozen adult men and women doing the same thing. 

Ridiculous.

And, might I add, shame on them.

Remember the old school rule of thumb for mixed company: If you can't say it to your grandmother then maybe you shouldn't say it? I want to bring back that rule. I am tired of knowing that the only place I am  guaranteed to hear civil language from the beginning of an exchange to the last is the President of the United States' State of the Union Address, and my children's puppet shows. Just about everything in between seems fair game.

Now, before anyone slings me with mud for being an overly demanding moralist let me elucidate my gravest concerns. I do not become personally irate when I inadvertently overhear a private conversation which uses words I find vulgar and distasteful. I have my doubts about the honor of such vocabulary being used in public places where it can be overheard, but really it isn't any of my business. My issue arises from the shameless manner in which recognized curse words are bandied about as though every human over the age of 14 desires to be initiated into the fraternal bond of coarse slang.

I do not.

I do not want a five-minute conversation to qualify as grounds for "language-intimacy." Frankly, if it involves the use of unnecessarily graphic or odious jargon then a lifetime of conversation does not qualify it.

Professor Henry Higgins to Eliza Doolittle:
Eliza, you are to stay here for the next six months learning to speak beautifully, like a lady in a florist's shop. If you work hard and do as you're told, you shall sleep in a proper bedroom, have lots to eat, and money to buy chocolates and go for rides in taxis. But if you are naughty and idle, you shall sleep in the back kitchen amongst the black beetles, and be wolloped by Mrs. Pearce with a broomstick. At the end of six months you will be taken to Buckingham Palace, in a carriage, beautifully dressed. If the king finds out you are not a lady, you will be taken to the Tower of London, where your head will be cut off as a warning to other presumptuous flower girls! But if you are not found out, you shall have a present... of, ah... seven and six to start life with as a lady in a shop. If you refuse this offer, you will be the most ungrateful, wicked girl, and the angels will weep for you.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Christopher

Everyone needs acclamation from time to time. Being told that you are special, appreciated and loved can give your morale such a necessary boost - even for those whose primary love language doesn't include words of affirmation. I always want to make sure those closest to me know how much I adore them! You simply can't overstate your unconditional love. So, I thought I would make an acrostic for each of my children, and my husband, to communicate publicly my affection.

I'll start with my beloved husband.

C
     clean. Not just cleanliness from showering, although that's nice too, but a cleanliness of the mind. Christopher doesn't use off-color humor, foul language, or inappropriate references in any of his communication. He honors and respects others with words that edify.

H
     helpful. For anyone new to the block, we have seven children. That's a lot of diapers. That's a lot of dishes. That's a lot of everything. Christopher isn't squeamish about getting his hands dirty with the business of our life. Rather than passing off the responsibility to the womenfolk, he readily helps me.

R
     responsible. I am consistently amazed at my husband's ongoing dedication to provide for his family. Most mornings find him awake hours before anyone else in the house. He takes on the inconvenience of going early to work so he can be home sooner. And he never complains about the financial responsibility placed on his shoulders as a result of our family size, or our decision to keep me at home.

I
     intelligent. Christopher is just plain smart!

S
     strong. Recently, the two of us were talking about how important it is for a man to feel strong - not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well. Christopher has all four in spades. He exercises discipline in his physical workouts. He grows spiritually strong through his personal devotion to Christ. His humility develops his emotional fortitude. And his willingness to be a life-long learner ensures his mental acuteness.

T
     tender. This daddy loves to snuggle with all his children. He doesn't dismiss his sons from needing his physical touch. He listens to each of the girls' make-believe stories with the appropriate expression of pure rapture. Holding a baby is second nature to him.

O
     open. Christopher is disarmingly honest. He doesn't hide behind false pretenses, or play games to curry favor with people. He is the real deal.

P
     playful. I don't think I have met someone more willing to get silly. Laughter is his second language, and he uses it liberally. He loves to look for the comedy in life, and truly appreciates the absurd. His children's jokes can have him laughing for hours. Just ask him about the bone guy.

H
     harmonious. Christopher is much better than I am at being a peacemaker. He doesn't pout or act like a child if his feelings are hurt, but speaks his thoughts so that we can maintain open lines of communication. He is willing to quickly acknowledge when he is wrong, and repents with sincerity so there can be reconciliation.

E
     enjoyable. I simply love hanging out with him. Whether it is staying home, going on a date, or even running errands the time spent with him just flies. His conversational style is effortless, and his interest in what's important for me is equal to his willingness to share from his own life. 

R
     relaxed. Ever the optimist, he balances my tendency to think the worst when things aren't going my way. His easy-going style keeps him from getting quickly overwhelmed by our houseful of children, even when I sneak away for a weekend alone! He knows how to spend a quiet evening at home; while his adventurer heart loves a good road trip he is equally at ease in our living room.


    

Friday, September 03, 2010

Cooking

Bethany is learning to cook. And, truth be told, she has a definite knack for it. Her favorite is eggs. She has learned to scramble them something delicious. Her younger brothers are quite smitten with them. Most mornings now find her cooking eggs for at least Josiah and Caleb, but she often offers them to her daddy and me!

Here is the menu she created to help us in our selections.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Buy-Back Box

I am learning to streamline some of the training that goes into parenting. The more children we have the more necessary it becomes to have a system that can manage details without my constant intervention. With that in mind I created the Buy-Back Box. Pure genius, if I do say so myself. It has alleviated a huge amount of angst in me, and my home is suddenly de-cluttered and clean. Let me explain.

Once upon a time my children were asked to clean up their belongings. They went about their task with relative ease, and in just a few short minutes completed their chore. Well, completed might be a strong word for what they accomplished - namely, half of the necessary cleaning. So, I reminded them to finish the job. They went about their task with slight murmurings, but in just a few short minutes had completed their chore. Well, completed might be a strong word to use for what they accomplished - namely, three-quarters of the necessary cleaning. So, I reminded them to finish the job. They went about their task with thinly veiled sighs and groans, but in just a few short minutes had completed their chore. Well, completed might be a strong work for what they accomplished...

I stepped on a Littlest Pet Shop toy (read: roofing tack) as I headed to bed.

AHHHH!!

Normally I would seriously debate waking the whole house for a stern lecture while fuming over the negligence of my children. Of course waking Phoebe to prove a point about diligence would only make my night worse, so I usually settled for putting the toy away myself and then reminding my children the following day about their gross misbehavior. The result was often blank stares, muffled apologies, and a general acceptance of the need to, "do it better next time."

The next time went something startlingly similar to the first time.

After three or four of these cycles I would finally reach my breaking point and declare war on all the clutter in the house. Kids were sent scurrying for every stray toy under every bed. The outside, inside and underside of the house was straightened, vacuumed and polished. I ruthlessly threw the detritus of their childhood into the garbage. I ranted about cleanliness, thoroughness and several other obligatory "ness"es known to be so effective in these parental tirades. It felt wonderful.

The problem was my ridiculous notion that I had actually effected real change in my children. All you seasoned parents out there can now stop laughing at me. Eventually I came to recognize the simple fact that my temper tantrums were simply not aiding in getting the job done. Something needed to change. So, I instituted the Buy-Back Box.

And peace is reigning in my home.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Grown Up

Leah and Mary are playing together in the other room. Mary is deciding to assert her ownership over a few My Little Ponies, and Leah is becoming more and more upset. Finally I hear Mary concede:

Sure, you can play with them, Leah... when you're grown up.

But Mary! (she's working herself into tears) I won't be grown up for years. It is going to be at least 20 years before I am grown up!

I know. (Mary says - nonchalantly and without a hint of pity) You'll just have to wait.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Crazy Boy

Caleb is a crazy boy. Seriously. I hear other families talking about their boys, and how they do wild things, but Caleb takes the cake. Besides lacking impulse control, short term memory, and fear he has this uncanny ability to chose only those activities that could kill him.

Case in point.

The kids were playing in the backyard and schoolroom one afternoon while I was trying to get some rest with the two smallest children. Our home has hardwood floors, so noise travels. As a result we use white-noise machines to help reduce break-through sounds during naps and bedtime. The kids adopted the nickname "train" and so they are called to this day. Anywho, I had my train on but could still hear the muffled sounds of kids playing hard. A couple of times I thought about getting up and asking them to be quieter, but they were getting along and that was more important than silence. Then, just as I was falling asleep I heard someone running upstairs.

Wait. I don't have an upstairs.

I heard it again.

I sat up to really listen, but couldn't quite make out what I was hearing. I could tell there were kids on the trampoline outside of my window. I could tell there were kids in the schoolroom laughing. I could hear someone squealing on the swing. Everything seemed normal. I laid back down, and started to drift to sleep once more when I again heard the thump-thump-thump of someone running "upstairs." I finally realized that it was someone running down the hall, but the hardwood floors and train combination were distorting the sounds. I settled in for my nap.

An hour later I emerged from the back bedroom. I was met by Bethany telling me that Mr. Coleman came over to say that he saw Caleb on the roof.

Nice.

I sat down with Caleb to get the scoop.

Apparently I wasn't as crazy as I thought when I heard someone running "upstairs." Caleb had used the brick arch over our side yard gate to climb onto our roof. Running around on the top of the roof didn't make the "fun enough" cut, so he decided to use the roof as a diving board onto the trampoline. That was more like it! In fact, it was so much "fun enough" that he talked his younger sister, Leah, into taking the plunge and together they began a circuit of roof-jump-trampoline-roof-jump-trampoline...

I am not convinced that this is ordinary boy-ness.

Friday, August 20, 2010

non sequitur

Mama, watch my dance.

Okay, Leah.

Lala tra-lala laaa (singing her own theme music)

That's beautiful! Well done.

Yep, because my superhero is cooking.



Don't look for an explanation. There is none.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cell Phone Sense

Our girls, probably like every other tween out there, are constantly inquiring about the date when they will receive their first cell phone. The discussions range from simple suggestion (You know, if I had a cell phone I could take Daisy for a walk, and if you needed me to come home early you could just call me on my phone.) to bribery (If you got me my own cell phone I would make sure to always answer your calls, and do whatever you asked.).

A few years ago a product called Firefly was introduced. The cell phone is specifically designed for kids, with no numerical keypad so only preprogrammed numbers can be accessed. My girls instantly recognized our "need" for this new phone, and Bethany, in particular, has been reminding us of the many features we must surely appreciate about it. Christopher and I keep touting the party line:

You are not getting a cell phone.

It's really that simple. The girls just don't require a phone. Their social calendar is not independent enough to necessitate one. On top of that, we feel rather strongly about developing independence. What does that have to do with cell phones? More and more adolescents are failing to achieve common sense, and logical problem solving skills. Why? We believe that a significant part of the problem is the false sense of security that comes when mom or dad answer all your questions - immediately. Changes in plans, unexpected possibilities, and circumstantial unforeseens are handled by calling home to receive instantaneous feedback on the right or wrong option. The problem is most clearly seen when you remove the potential for cell phone use (i.e. dead battery/no reception). We use these hypothetical situations to help our girls understand why we don't want them overly dependent on cell phones.

Yesterday, the conversation again turned to cell phones, and when the girls' archaic parents would get the knack and buy them one.

Never.

Bethany was utterly unimpressed with this answer and left the room, but Hannah hung on and played the game.

But it would really help you if I had a phone. Then you could call me whenever you needed anything.

Hannah, we have already gone over this however, we can do it again if you wish. When you are accustomed to using a cell phone for aid whenever you are in a questionable situation what happens when you no longer have the cell phone? Daddy and I want to be sure that you are safe without a cell phone before we allow you to have one. And until then, we aren't going to allow you into potentially unsafe situations with the false sense of security derived from a cell.

*blank stare from Hannah*

Okay, say you are driving along a road when suddenly your car breaks down. You are in an unfamiliar town, and your cell phone has no reception. What do you do?

Well, if you were accustomed to always having a cell phone then you would probably run to the nearest phone booth, and call a tow truck. But, if you knew how to solve the problem without using a cell phone then you would just siphon gas with your mouth and drive home.



Maybe we should buy them phones.


Writing

I really love to write. There is something immensely cathartic about organizing my thoughts into neat little packages that can easily be communicated to others. Well, "easily communicated to others" when I do it right. Unfortunately, I have a dilemma with engaging in one of my most satisfying past-times... it is diametrically opposed to my responsibilities. You see ideally I would spend a set amount of time each and every day scribbling out... something. Anything. But instead of doing just that I:

-nurse the baby.
-shuttle my children to and from events.
-home educate my kids.
-prepare nutritious meals for a small tribe.
-rock the baby.
-change the baby.
-scold the toddler.
-engage in a soul-searching conversation with my adolescent.
-check facebook.
-clean up the dishes from the nutritious meals I previously prepared.
-wash laundry.
-play tea-party with the smaller girls.
-chase the toddler.
-buy groceries.
-check email.
-answer the phone.
-answer the phone.
-answer the phone.
-prepare for bible study.
-vacuum.
-teach ethical behavior to the wayward son.
-imagine writing a quirky, hugely popular book of complied anecdotes from my children's lives.
-converse with my husband.
-sleep.

I am trying to find what I can cut out, and from my perspective I'm thinking sleep is overrated.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Is it true? Does absence make the heart grow fonder? If it does, then you should be absolutely enamored with me right about now! So, what has kept me from my adoring fans? Note my tongue in my cheek.

Life.

Yep, that about sums up all the stuff. There have been so many times I wished that this blog could simply stream from my thoughts. Alas, it has to actually be written. So, here is a summary of my thoughts surrounding life, and the details that have kept me from writing them down.

Phoebe.

No, really. She has taken my life by storm, and does not seem remotely interested in giving it back to me. I thought that I would have this whole infant thing cracked after 6 babies. How difficult could a seventh child be? Wow, was that the wrong question to ask!

Phoebe is proving to be my humbler. She evades all my best efforts at parenting, and reduces me to a blubbering pile of jell-o. Schedules and routines - out the door. Independence - not even remotely. What happened? Where did all my best intentions of a well-ordered home go? At nearly 16 months she still doesn't consistently sleep through the night. She won't regularly eat well. It is anyone's guess whether she is going to play contentedly or whine in frustration through the afternoon. And to top it off she insists on climbing onto anything vertical. Anything. Vertical. The result of all of this sanctification is me spending much of my time wandering the house bleary-eyed and confused. Should I try to get her to take a nap, or try to feed her? Should I rock her, or leave her be? Should I...

So, my blogging life continues to get pushed to the back burner. I continue to promise myself that someday I will write to my heart's content. Someday I will post every day. 

Yeah. And someday I won't think that leaving the house with only one spot on the front of my wrinkled shirt counts as, "dressed for success."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Office Space

Christopher is moving up in the world. His responsibilities are growing at work, and prospects are opening up with each new day. He recently made a strategic career move by transferring to a new division within the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC - part of the Department of Defense). While nothing has changed in his externals (he still sits at the same desk) the job he is doing (at that same desk) is constantly throwing him curve balls. Christopher thrives on challenge and change - together they make a heady cocktail for success. Meeting with high-level executives and briefing department chiefs are fast becoming norms in his business day. His supervisor recognized his need for more versatility from standard government protocol, and assigned him a Blackberry and laptop to help facilitate efficacy in and out of his office.

Our family has also seen some changes as a result of his new position. The introduction of travel to the East Coast for week-long business meetings was thought to be temporary when he first accepted the transfer. We now understand it to be much more permanent in nature, and are preparing for the long haul with bi-monthly trips to D.C.; Boyers, Pennsylvania; and both Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia. A significantly more exciting change is the decision Christopher made to go back to school, and earn his Masters. He enrolled in National Defense University, and will begin classes this fall!

We felt like all this elbow-rubbing with the big-wigs deserved a more dedicated place for work at home. He needed space to comfortably make long-distant conference calls to colleagues in D.C., and the privacy for dedicated focus on high-profile projects. We made the plunge, sacrificed in-demand space and created Christopher's new home office. We put together his desk, network connectivity, phone system and computer so that he can easily access his work from the comforts of our home.

I really think it's a fantastic solution.




Thursday, July 01, 2010

Baseball

Caleb finished his first official season of baseball. He exuberantly reminded us of every practice, every game. We knew that he would probably enjoy himself, but we weren't expecting him to be so naturally gifted at the sport. It made it all the more pleasurable for us to watch each week as he grew in his hitting capabilities. His fielding still needs quite a bit of polishing. In tee-ball the definition of, "call it" means everyone screams in unison, throwing punches if another fielder (especially the fielder who would naturally have the right of way in the play) dares to catch the ball. One play saw Caleb, positioned as pitcher, fling himself onto a throng of boys trying to snatch a ball from a fellow teammate in left field.

Left. Field.

I played ball for a few years, and am pretty sure that the pitcher doesn't ever back-up the left fielder. Perhaps I misunderstood my son's noble intentions.

On the sidelines we laughed ourselves to tears watching the players swing at anything resembling a baseball; lolligag to first base and then sit upon the bag; converse so intently with the opposing team's 3rd baseman that the runner was passed by his own teammate on the way home; and run in circles to avoid being tagged out. It was great fun, and every week we looked forward to bundling the family up for another game. We are excited for next year!


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sleepyhead

Phoebe was just agitated. We couldn't figure out the problem. All through dinner we tried to coax her into contentedness with crackers, a water cup, her pacifier, and any number of crazy faces and words. She would have nothing to do with any of it. Exasperated, we finally gave up and prepared to battle our way to the end of the meal with her fussing in her high chair. At some point she quieted down, but by then the rest of our children were making such a ruckus trying to talk over one another that we didn't even notice. The last child finished, and all the kids eagerly asked to be excused. As soon as I gave the word 6 chairs went sliding across the wood floor in unison, followed by the clatter of 6 plates and glasses being cleared. On the way back into the dining room for more dishes Bethany said, "Ah! Look at Phoebe!"

We all turned towards the high chair to discover the reason for her blissful silence.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Necessary Accommodations

It is a little warm on our lovely peninsula this weekend. When I say, "a little warm" I do not mean the mid-80s that many of you consider the definition of warm. Those temperatures are obviously relative to your heat, which hits the 100s plus during your summer. No, I refer to the blazing inferno of 72 degrees fahrenheit (with breeze). Hey, I never said we were heavy weights in the heat department. That's why we life were we do.

But I digress.

Leah came up to me holding a rubber band in her hand and asking me, quite seriously:

Mama, can you please put my hair up in a ponytail? I need you to because Bethany said if I don't have it put up then the back of my neck will suppocate!

She looks at me with her, "Can you believe it?" expression of incredulity. Then she calmly tosses this out as she walks away:

Or worse... the Sahara Desert.

Daisy the Dog

Many of you may already know this, but adding a member to the family certainly bears repeating. Daisy the Dog became a Randall on April 11, 2010. This is more auspicious than merely adopting a pet... I mean, why would I write a blog about it unless there was a story?

Once upon a time I wanted a dog. I mean I really wanted a dog. I asked. I begged. I cajoiled. I persuaded. I argued. I begged again, until I finally got the hint that Christopher was not going to budge on the issue. Sure, he had some valid points, if you call severe allergies and possible exacerbation of Hannah's asthma legit. I think he was just putting me off. Among some of his other reasons were the recognition that a dog would add a level of responsibility he just wasn't sure we were ready to take on. We already had 4 kids. I'll let that sink in.

Four kids.

But, God started to speak to my heart, and convicted me that I would certainly not appreciate the games I was playing if the roles were reversed. Christopher had his reasons, and I needed to respect them. I wasn't going to enjoy any pet if it came into our home without the full acceptance of my husband. And, grrrrr, I also realized I was not honoring him in front of our children. While it was perfectly fine for me to point to Christopher as the authority behind the decision to refrain from getting a pet, it was not fine for me to make a point of showing the children my own disagreement with the decision over and over again. I decided to shut my mouth, and pray. Novel idea, I know.

A few years later we started looking at buying a house. In the middle of several pro v. con discussions Christopher noted that a pro to buying was the freedom to finally own a dog. I was stunned! I had no idea this was still on his radar. I immediately put in my plug to buy. Thankfully there were several other obvious factors pointing towards a decision to buy, so our mortgage isn't based solely on the ideal of a four-legged companion. However, I will admit that during every walk-through we went on during that laborious process the idea of how a dog would fit in the house was at the forefront of my mind. When we finally found our home the backyard was a shambles, and it was obvious we were not prepared to bring home a dog until some serious work had been completed. That work ended up taking us over a year from the time we closed escrow until we breathed a sigh of relief that it was finished.

The day we waved good-bye to our landscape contractors I turned to Christopher and asked if he was ready to make good on his promise. He smiled, and said he was happy to start looking for our family's canine member.

Woohoo!

I did tons of research, read tons of articles, spoke with my allergist, friends, and breeders before settling on a Cairn Terrier as the perfect pet for our home. We started looking earnestly for sellers with reputable breeding practices, and were shocked to discover that our puppy was going to cost us more than some of our children to bring home. Registration fees, initial vet fees, transportation fees, and finally adoption fees all added up to one expensive outlay. To his credit, my husband was willing to move forward, but this time it was me that just couldn't bring myself to take the plunge. I have no condemnation in my heart for AKC registered pets, and fully intend to own one myself someday - but not today.

Continuing to stalk the SPCA for the possibility of a rescued Cairn (as well as rescue and private breeder sites) I happened to read a friend's status update from Facebook. Her husband is in the military, and will soon be transferred to another duty station. She noted that their loving beagle needed a new permanent home, and wondered if anyone might have some leads. Hmmm... I wrote her back and told her that we might be interested. She immediately responded, expressing her excitement at the possibility of their beloved pet going to a family with children and a backyard. It all seemed to be happening so quickly!

Now I needed to tell Christopher.

When I sprang the news on him his initial reaction was less than exuberant. Apparently the thought of a dog was still more appealing than the actuality of a dog. However, he very graciously agreed to stop by our friends' house and meet Daisy. The next evening saw us sitting in the M's living room playing with the sweetest dog. She was gentle, playful, and not given to barking - all merits that we found appealing, to say the least! We discussed Daisy all the way home, and decided that a trial was in order. I called Mrs. M the following day, and asked if we could take Daisy for the weekend.

We told the kids we were dog-sitting (which was technically true) but failed to mention a deeper purpose of seeing if Daisy integrated well with our home. All the children were overjoyed at the idea of a dog. They kept saying things like, "We can pretend she is ours!" Christopher and I smiled to ourselves. After three days we knew it was time to make a decision. She was quiet and very gentle with the children but her willingness to play seemed nonexistent. Christopher noted that he really liked how laid back she was, but even he recognized that our family required a slightly more engaging pet. We assumed she was slightly depressed with the absence of her original family, and when I called Mrs. M to confirm my hunch she agreed. Christopher and I spoke that night, and agreed that we wanted to keep her.

Daisy then confirmed that she wanted to stay with us.

About 2 weeks after we made her adoption final, Daisy escaped from our yard. It was night, and we didn't realize she was gone for over an hour. When we did discover her absence we were sick with dread. Mr. and Mrs. M warned us that Daisy liked to, "take off" and could sometimes be gone for quite some time. She always returned, they encouraged, but we were nervous that her sense of "home" was not yet defined enough for her to come back to us. Christopher and I scoured the neighborhood but with no success. I went home to make some phone calls while Christopher continued in the car. 

We realized there was a possibility that she would try to go back to the M's house, and I was scared that between her attempted Incredible Journey and the 350 foot acre open ranch across the street from our house I had a sinking dread that we had lost Daisy for good. Working hard to keep myself calm for the kids' sake I called everyone together in the living room, and explained that we needed to beseech God on behalf of our dog. We all got down on our knees in the middle of our living, and I began to pray to the Lord. Suddenly we heard a soft noise coming from the front door. My heart leapt to my throat as the possibility of what that noise could be came to my mind. I scrambled up, ran to the door and threw it open to reveal Daisy, scratching to be let in. She had been gone for over 2 hours.

Daisy had come home.

She is now happily a Randall. The trepidation we saw in her through those first several days has completely vanished. She plays with the children, loves to get lots of love from Christopher, and contentedly shares our life. We couldn't have asked for a better pet!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Conversations With A Genius

Christopher and I have decided that Leah must remain perpetually 5. Her precociousness is mixed with just the right amount of tender wonder and innocence. The following two conversations are, verbatim, discussions I had with her just today.

Mama, what is that flag next the the American flag?

The California Flag.

Wow, are we going to go to California?

We live in California.

Hey, Mama, I got an idea. We could take a trip in our van from America to California. And we could drive there, and when we got there we could visit friends. Only, if the friends weren't home, and it was raining, then we might get wet and could die! So we would have to get some food, and then go back to South America. But we might not be able to drive there, so we would have to drive to an airport so that we could fly back, so that none of our children die. You would be so sad if that happened, because you love us.

You are right. I do love you all so much.

Yep, I know. Because I am smarter than anyone.

***

Mama, I am going to have a headache in about an hour.

Really?

Yep. Right now my left brain might start to hurt. So in an hour it is going to be a headache.

Do you have a headache right now?

No. Just that I am going to have one in an hour.

How do you know you are going to have a headache in an hour?

Because my left brain is going to hurt.

Oh, okay. Thanks for letting me know.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Joining The Family

Romans 10:9 says, "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Saved from what?

That was the question Caleb has been wrestling with for some time. Through consistent time in church, countless conversations with his father and me, and I am sure not a little amount of wonder and frustration on his own part, he simply could not understand what was so bad about him that he needed a savior. After all, he is a pretty good kid. And he knows it. Come to think of it, why do any of us need a savior?

Sin.

It's a pretty small little word. And it makes me less palatable to some, perhaps you. That's okay. I am learning that God's approval means far more to me than man's. I am endeavoring to teach that lesson to my children as well - including Caleb. You see, he had a pretty common assumption about his worth; namely that because he wasn't so bad he really did deserve to be given a pardon for any wrongs he may have committed. You know, the ole hardened-criminal-turned-reformed-man-so-let-me-out-of-prison-early deal. Only it was easier for Caleb since he wasn't a hardened criminal (except to Mary). After all, what can a nearly 7 year old really do that is so offensive to a loving God that he would be committed to an eternal torment without a savior's forgiveness? I can see the logic in that question.

The problem is the measurement used for justification. We are pitifully limited, as humans, to truly understand much of anything outside of our own experiential scope. And let's face it, many times we are limited in understanding things even within our experiential scope. But one of the biggest mistakes we make in determining our worth is to lay ourselves beside one another and declare, with much pomp and circumstance, "I'm better than you are." Don't forget the 3rd grade-playground sing-songy voice. That is essentially what we say when we declare to the heavens, "I'm good enough to receive the blessings and glories of everything this life has to offer, and everything a life after death can bring because I wasn't that bad. I mean, did you get a load of that guy over there? He left his wife because he just didn't love her anymore. I stuck with my spouse even through that nasty business of bankruptcy. I'm better than he is. Oh, and check out my neighbor! She yells at her kids constantly, taking off at all hours of the night to do who knows what, while I had the patience and presence of mind to remain faithful to my own children, even when they rebelled against me. I'm better than she is. And don't even get me started on my co-workers, parents, and the vast majority of my friends. I regularly prove through my actions that I make better choices than they do. So... bring on the good stuff." Here is the problem with all that:

God is perfect.

God is the fullness of perfection, justice and love. So, when we go to Him and state our reasons for receiving a pardon they suddenly don't fly. While you might have felt pretty hot standing next to the local juvenile delinquent you can't even stand when you are in the presence of an all-mighty, most powerful and holy God. And the clincher is that no matter how hard we try from here on out, we will always have a past that keeps reminding us of how utterly unattainable perfection is for us.

Yep, we need a savior. In fact, we need not simply a little "s" savior, but a big "S" Savior.

In order to be saved from my own imperfection I can't merely have another imperfect human offer to make me perfect. The old saying, "two wrongs don't make a right" comes in handy to illustrate the simplicity of this concept. This would be akin to accepting the pledge of an already convicted criminal for the veracity of a tried criminal's character, and then the convicted criminal accepting any penalty the other fellow may deserve. Umm, yeah, that's not going to cut it. If we all thought justice could be served with this our prison systems would be empty. Nope, I need to be made perfect through the power of God. But it is God that requires me to be perfect. How does that work?

Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Yep, Jesus Christ, the bodily incarnation of the Deity (Col 2:9), willingly sacrificed himself for me so that I might be justified before a holy God. He required perfection from me, then supplied perfection for me. Caleb began to understand that through the past several months until finally, a few nights ago he came to us and confessed his need for a Savior.

Caleb realized that he could never be perfect. And he knew, as all humans do (Romans 1:2) that there is a Divine Master who is perfect. He began to desire reconciliation with his God, and trusted through faith that his God desired reconciliation with him, providing Christ as the mediator. As a result, Caleb was reborn spiritually.

On May 2, 2010 Caleb Joseph Randall became my brother in Christ.

Welcome to the family, son.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Future Reminiscence

I am know there will be numerous things I miss about teeny people. I am able to realize that I probably don't appreciate several of those things right now. Christopher and I joke, often, about the noise level in our home now, and the way quiet will sound when it is deafening. I can't imagine being done with mispronounced words, baby burbles, sweet kisses, lullabies, first steps, and a million other insignificant treasures. Someday I will move on from this season, and my heart will break just a little each time I mark the passing of another milestone - for the last time.

Yes, there will most certainly be tears.

But, I can assure you, there are some things I won't miss. For instance, I am pretty sure that cleaning other people's bodily fluids can go the way of the dodo without a single thought of whimsical nostalgia. Greasy, Costco-pizza hands wiping across my sleeve will cause nary a tear to spring to this eye when that last meal is finished. Screaming. Yep, screaming and all its variants (including the whisper-yell my children do when I am trying to take a "nap") will be joyfully ushered out my front door.

Buh-bye.

Why do I bring this up? Because birthing and raising small children is not the eternal-season-of-contentment-if only-I could-figure-that-out. Heaven will not be me, slouched over a crib in 5-day old dirty sweats barely hanging onto sanity trying to coo an exhausted yet stubborn infant to sleep. I'm pretty sure I will have clean hair more than once a week, too.

I genuinely appreciate sage counsel, and even well-meant idioms can have their place. However, I really have grown weary of hearing, "You will miss it all when they are gone." No. I promise you, I won't miss it all. I will miss parts of it. I will be surprised by some of the things I do miss.

But I will never miss poop smeared across the wall, crib, bunk bed, face and floor... for the 4th time in a week. And that's okay.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Josiah The Gypsy

I posted a status to my facebook page, stating that Josiah was a gypsy. One of my friends commented that there was obviously a story behind my statement, and by the way, what a great title my status would make for the book. I took her words to heart, and sat down to pen this little ditty. Every word is true.


A little boy, no more than 2,
Whose mama loved him, through and through
Was often called, by that same mom
A crazy, little gypsy bomb.
Josiah Boy (JB for short),
Loved to play all kinds of sport;
Like drawing on white walls with pen
Though Mama always scolded him.
Broken toys and books were found
Strewn across the house’s ground,
And Mama cried from every room,
“JB the gypsies must presume
That I will love you even though
You bring to me unending woe.”
Her youngest son would turn and grin,
Melting Mama’s heart within.
So, he again would race away
Finding somewhere new to play.