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The Seven Signposts of Spring

23-Mar-14

We recently passed the first calendar day of Spring but I know it’s not really Spring yet. Given Wisconsin’s weather, I have my own criteria for when Spring actually begins.

  1. When we hear birdsong and see squirrels.
  2. When the snow begins to melt in earnest.
  3. When there is no ice left anywhere on our driveway.
  4. When I can walk from the front street to the back commons area without walking through snow.
  5. When we’ve had seven straight days of above freezing temperatures (defined as days where the daily low is above freezing).
  6. When I can’t find any snow, anywhere in our yard.
  7. When we see leaf buds on the trees

We started seeing (and hearing birds) about three weeks ago. We’ve also been seeing squirrels on our deck and in our back yard. The snow started melting about two weeks ago. We’re getting closer to Spring; we’re not there yet.

Week 35: August 28-September 3

04-Sep-12

On Tuesday, the 28th, my car got its first oil change. (Well, the first oil change since I’ve owned it.) Christine and the girls got ready for the day and we all left together, in the van, around 08:45. They dropped me off at work and then went to a nearby park, to play with some friends. Once the car was ready, Christine and her friend picked it up and then dropped it off in the office parking lot for me. I was able to come home around 17:00 and Christine didn’t have to make a second trip out to pick me up.

I had another candidate dinner on Wednesday night. Because Christine knew that I wouldn’t be home until late, she took the girls to Old World Wisconsin for the day. I left work around 17:00 and drove downtown, to meet the Epic job candidates.

I took 4 people out to dinner at The Old Fashioned. I picked the Old Fashioned because there was a jazz performance (Jazz at 5) outside on State St. I figured The Old Fashioned might be quieter than normal, due to the jazz performance. Either I was right or we got there just early enough, because we were able to get seated immediately. After dinner, we caught the very end of the jazz performance, then walked around for a few minutes, then I dropped everyone back off at their hotels. I was able to get home around 20:30.

Friday was another super busy day at work. Between customers needing help and me needing to recreate some code that I accidentally deleted, I didn’t get a chance to eat “lunch” until 1530. When I finally got home, after 1800, I was mentally shot. Christine and I were able to relax together by watching the final episode of Sherlock, Season 2: “The Reichenbach Fall”. It was a very good episode and we’re both eagerly awaiting the start of the third season.

I had a very big project planned for Saturday: updating our budget. I generally do a thorough budget review once a year, after my pay is adjusted. August this year had been much to busy to fit that in, so Saturday was the day. I spent most of the morning and part of the afternoon reviewing all of our current line items, comparing it against our goals and wishes for the upcoming year, and making adjustments as necessary. Once I was done, I went over the whole thing with Christine. She signed off on it and our annual business meeting concluded.

Saturday afternoon I watched Pitt’s first football game of the season. Given our performance against D2 school Youngstown State, the less said about that the better. Sometime in the middle of the third quarter, Katherine and I left to go to Capital Creamery for dessert together. It was her final reward for a very successful couple of months toilet training. We had a great time being out together.

Bethany woke me up on Sunday morning at 0300. We’d put her to bed on Saturday night around 1730. She slept straight through the evening and, very early Sunday morning, decided that she’d slept enough and was ready to get up. We tried putting her back to bed but by 0400 it was clear that it wasn’t working. I volunteered to get up with her and let her play. She played by herself until about 0700. Then, of course, she was tired enough to go back to sleep. I spent my morning hours reviewing my draft plans for my upcoming fantasy football draft.

Christine and the older girls got up at 0700 and got ready for church. They woke up Bethany and took her with them. I stayed home and collapsed into bed for some much needed sleep. When I finally woke up again, around 11:00, I started working on draft preparation for real.

I found an iPad app that worked wonderfully both as a draft cheat sheet and as a way to track the draft itself. I was pretty excited to find it because it meant that I could take just my iPad to the draft and I wouldn’t have to lug my laptop around. I spent the afternoon working on draft preparation and then dozing. I spent the evening at a friend’s house, actually doing the live fantasy draft. I’ll reserve judgment on my team, however, until I’ve actually played a few games.

Monday was Labor Day. A friend’s son turned one and we spent the early afternoon celebrating his birthday with a cook out. The girls had an absolute blast playing with their son and with their dog. Bethany in particular was fairly taken with Nala. She followed Nala around the house to gently pet her and, towards the end of our stay, kept hugging her. I think if we get a dog, Bethany would be its biggest friend.

When we got home, we put all of the girls down for naps. Normally this doesn’t work and one or more of them quickly get up and start playing. On Monday it did work and we had 2 hours in which all three girls were asleep. We didn’t waste that time—we took 2 hour naps of our own.

Esther spent Monday evening getting ready for school. She made her own sandwich, packed her own lunch box, and filled her own water bottle. Then she picked out all of her clothes for school and laid them out next to her bed. She was in bed by 20:00, so that she’d get plenty of rest for her first day of kindergarten.

She Never Looked Back

04-Sep-12

Today was Esther’s first day of kindergarten. Her feelings: excited! She made her own lunch last night and packed it in her lunchbox. She picked out her outfit for today and laid it out. This morning she was up at 6:05 am because she didn’t want to be late for school.

Her sisters’ feelings: quite content. They now can play without having someone direct what they do. We’ll see how long it takes Katherine to start taking on the “oldest sister” role.

My feelings: glad and sad. I’m glad I have only 2 at home to manage now, but know that I will miss Esther sometimes. She is growing up to be helpful and sweet. I also want her to be prepared for whatever she faces when she is not with me and hope that I gave her a good enough foundation.

I dropped her off at her classroom, and she never looked back. I’m looking forward to the next phase of our lives together.

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Week 34: August 21-27

28-Aug-12

It’s been a busy week for the Martins. On Wednesday, Grandma Martin got to spend most of the day at the zoo with Esther, Katherine, Bethany, and Christine. Afterwards, once I got home, we took Grandma out for dinner, to The Great Dane. Grandma enjoyed her first cheese curds and some delicious chicken pot pie.

On Thursday night, I took some Epic job candidates out to dinner, downtown. We ate at Graze and had a wonderful time. While I was gone, Christine and Grandma took the girls to church, to harvest produce. All of the food grown in the church gardens will be donated to local food pantries. Bethany enjoyed picking the cherry tomatoes but she was stuffing them into her mouth as fast as she was picking them. After I got home from my dinner (around 9pm), I was able to watch some Packers pre-season football with my mother.

On Friday, we had a pre-birthday party for Katherine. Grandma won’t be in town for her actual birthday, but wanted to celebrate with her anyway. So we had cupcakes and Katherine got to open two presents that Grandma gave her.

Saturday was a sad day. We had to take Grandma to the airport, so that she could fly back to Texas. We did get to play at the park with her, before we took her to the airport. Katherine was very sad to see her go, but Esther said she was happy to have her leave. When I asked her why she was happy, she told me “I don’t like her phone.” “Why not?” “It’s flowery and stuff and the shape is strange.” It sounds like Grandma needs a new phone before she visits again.

We attended our normal, weekly, 9:30am church service on Sunday morning. After everyone had their naps, we decided to have dessert for dinner, at Cold Stone Creamery.

Christine had two coupons, for buy one / get one free ice-cream creations. Esther ordered watermelon ice-cream with a gummy bear mix-in. Christine ordered cake batter ice-cream with a Butterfinger mix-in. Katherine ordered cotton candy ice-cream (she liked it because it was blue) with a gummy bear mix-in. I ordered chocolate ice-cream with a graham cracker crust mix-in. It was delicious and we had fun being out as a family.

On Monday, Christine and the girls spent the morning doing the weekly grocery shopping.

I came home from work a bit early on Monday evening, around 5pm. I came home early because we had to leave at 5:30pm for an orientation at Esther’s school. Esther went with her new classmates to listen to stories while the parents stayed in her classroom and got an overview of the daily schedule and the yearly goals, from her teacher. Esther had a great time off with her classmates.

After we were all done, we rejoined her in the school cafeteria, for some ice-cream. Shortly after the ice-cream, Esther got to meet with her teacher one on one for a 10 minute “getting to know you” session. It must have been a success because Esther said that she liked her teacher and had fun at her school.

When we got home, we still weren’t done for the day. Christine had scheduled an early morning appointment for an oil change for my car. We drove my car out to the shop and dropped it off, then brought everyone home. By the time we finally stopped, at 8:30pm, all of the girls were more than ready for bed.

We’re Going to Barbados

04-Mar-12

In about a week, we’ll be in Barbados.

Epic employees earn a 4-week sabbatical, after working at Epic for 5 years. I earned my sabbatical in May, 2010 and we’re finally getting around to using it. Epic offers employees the choice of one 4-week sabbatical or two 2-week sabbaticals. We’re choosing to take two 2-week sabbaticals.

Not only is Epic generous enough to give us extra paid time off, but they’re also willing to pay travel expenses. The “international sabbatical” reimburses employees for visiting a country that we’ve never visited before.

I’m taking my 14 days of sabbatical time and adding on 6 days of vacation time. All told, I’ll be away from work from Thursday, March 8th through Tuesday, March 27th. That’s 14 business days away from the office. It’ll be glorious. (It’s 19 days total, which is also fantastic.)

Not only am I taking time off of work, but we’re both taking time away from the children. Grandma is coming out to Wisconsin, to babysit all three girls for the full 19 days. We’ve done overnight dates before (we even did 2 nights away once) but this will be the first extended alone time that we’ve had since Esther was born. I know we’ll miss the girls but it’s hard to express how excited we are to be alone for a couple of weeks.

Why Barbados? Well, it comes highly recommended by James & Liz, who took their sabbatical there last year. It’s a country that speaks English, has a high literacy rate, and a good healthcare system. And it’s tropical and warm, which is a key factor when coming from cold, grey Wisconsin.

I’m extremely thankful to Epic for giving us this opportunity and for paying for our expenses. We certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford a trip like this on our own. I’m also very grateful to Grandma for coming and watching the girls. Making a trip like this without 3 accessories is a real treat.

Why French Parents Are Superior

08-Feb-12

Last night, I read an article about the French style of parenting. It was adapted from “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.”

This is what prompted me to start setting stricter boundaries for our own children. For Bethany: no more nighttime bottles. For Esther and Katya: toys stay in their room or in the basement. I want to stop the trend of having toys scattered all over the living room, dining room, and kitchen.

One of the keys to this education is the simple act of learning how to wait. It is why the French babies I meet mostly sleep through the night from two or three months old. Their parents don’t pick them up the second they start crying, allowing the babies to learn how to fall back asleep. It is also why French toddlers will sit happily at a restaurant. Rather than snacking all day like American children, they mostly have to wait until mealtime to eat. (French kids consistently have three meals a day and one snack around 4 p.m.)

…It’s a skill that French mothers explicitly try to cultivate in their kids more than American mothers do. In a 2004 study on the parenting beliefs of college-educated mothers in the U.S. and France, the American moms said that encouraging one’s child to play alone was of average importance. But the French moms said it was very important.

…After a while, it struck me that most French descriptions of American kids include this phrase “n’importe quoi,” meaning “whatever” or “anything they like.” It suggests that the American kids don’t have firm boundaries, that their parents lack authority, and that anything goes. It’s the antithesis of the French ideal of the cadre, or frame, that French parents often talk about. Cadre means that kids have very firm limits about certain things—that’s the frame—and that the parents strictly enforce these. But inside the cadre, French parents entrust their kids with quite a lot of freedom and autonomy.

…Authority is one of the most impressive parts of French parenting—and perhaps the toughest one to master. Many French parents I meet have an easy, calm authority with their children that I can only envy. Their kids actually listen to them. French children aren’t constantly dashing off, talking back, or engaging in prolonged negotiations.

mercy teams

06-Feb-12

I’ve heard a lot from people who say that short-term trips aren’t really beneficial, that the money should just be given to the organization rather than paying for plane tickets when the people on the team aren’t really going to have that much of an impact in two weeks.

Yep, that’s me. So, why am I wrong?

We sail to a new port in January, untie everything that’s been secured for the sail and scrub down the hospital before setting everything up so that we can function. We train the crop of new nurses, hold screening and admit the first patients for surgery. For the next ten months, we operate and care for the patients on the wards and in the outpatient clinic and eventually it’s time to close up shop and move on. We double-bleach every surface, pack everything away in carts and on pallets and we tie everything back down to the bolts in the floor. Somewhere in December we sail away to a first world port so the crew can have a break and maintenance can be done on the ship. Christmas, New Years, and it’s January again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It can get old.

Not the surgeries and the patients and the lives changing in front of my eyes. That will never be commonplace. But all the in-between. The cleaning and packing and unpacking and setting up. It’s an endless set of jobs that we have to do every single year, and I’ll be completely honest when I say that I’m not a fan.

This is where the Mercy Teams come in. They don’t live this cycle year in and year out,so they don’t remember how much their knees hurt from scrubbing the floors just a few months ago or how tired they were after securing yet another strap. They don’t remember because they weren’t here.

… And you know what? It wouldn’t matter if these guys and girls never even talk to a single Togolese person while they’re here. They’ve blessed and encouraged and strengthened those of us who will be here for the long haul. We’ll go into this Field Service energized by their energy, more ready than ever to pour out our lives for the people here in West Africa.

That’s good to know. Thanks for sharing, Ali. I’ll try to be less critical of short term missions trips.

Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting

03-Feb-12

“I love you, but you need to obey.”

… Using but may be communicating something we don’t want to say—-namely, that there is some kind of conceptual opposition between “I love you” and “You need to obey.”

I grow concerned when I see well-meaning parents who, in an attempt to practice gospel-centered parenting, do not readily insist on obedience because they want to display that their love for the child does not depend on obedience. Unfortunately, parents take on an apologetic air when wills begin to collide. They hesitate to subdue disobedience out of fear of transgressing the unconditional part of love. Insisting on obedience from children feels legalistic or repressive. They fear that they’d slowly stiffen into the hawk-eyed disciplinarians of a bygone era with timorous children arranged silently around the dinner table.

… The but has to go. Try so instead. “I love you, so you need to obey.”

This was a good article for anyone attempting gospel-centered parenting.

Strategic Shopping: A Month-by-Month Analysis

06-Jan-12

Have you ever wished you could know ahead of time when things were going to go on sale? Sure, we all know that turkeys go on sale before Thanksgiving and hams go on sale before Christmas, but what about the rest of the year?

Well, believe it or not, this information is not that difficult to obtain. Each advertising collective has its own month—e.g., January is National Beef Month. The National Cattleman’s Beef Association has chosen the month of January to promote eating beef. That means you can expect excellent sales on steak and ground beef in January.

Use the following list to help plan out your food storage purchases for the year. For instance, if you know that June is National Dairy Month, then you know that products such as butter will be at their rock bottom prices of during the month of June. Plan on purchasing butter twice a year, once in June and again in November. In November, the baking sales get into full swing. (Butter stores well in the freezer.)

15 Tips for an Extraordinary Vacation.

06-Dec-11

These were all good.

In fact, the whole blog looks good and I love the way David writes too.

Bonus link-within-a-link: Travel with Kids: Why You Should Do It – And Do It Now. We do plan to travel with kids. We only have one hard and fast rule: no international travel until they’re all out of diapers. (Come to think of it, I think we have that same rule for camping too.)

Impatience and Laziness: A Further Defense of Gift Cards

02-Dec-11

I have two more reasons for defending gift cards. They’re mostly reasons why I like to receive gift cards and not necessarily a great reason for me to give gift cards to someone else.

Impatience

I’m often hesitant to give people specific gift ideas because I’m impatient. Since I’ve been working in a steady, well-paying job I’ve gotten used to (mostly) buying whatever I want, as soon as I want it. That’s the main reason, in fact, that I don’t have a long list of gift ideas—almost everything I want, I’ve already purchased.

As soon as I put an item onto a list of gift ideas, I’ve lost the ability to buy that item for myself. There’s now a chance that someone else has purchased that item for me. Until the occasion rolls around (Christmas, my birthday, etc), I don’t know whether or not I received it as a gift. And I can’t buy it until I do know.

Because I’m impatient, that drives me nuts. When I decide that I want something, I want to get it now. I don’t want to wait another 3 months (or even 3 weeks). I want to be free to just go ahead and get it, without worrying about disappointing someone.

Sure, practicing the discipline of patience would probably be good for me. But I’m not particularly inclined to use gift receiving as an opportunity for that.

Laziness

Making a gift list would require that I then keep that gift list up to date. There are multiple book series that I’d like to eventually own. There are also multiple books that I already own as physical books that I’d like to own as eBooks.

In both cases, I could make a list of what I want. But then I’d have to keep that list up to date. Each time I think of a new entry, I’d have to remember to add it to the list. And each time I get something (whether on my own or as a gift), I’d have to remember to remove it from the list.

Honestly, that all sounds like a lot of work. And I’m lazy, so it probably wouldn’t get done. Instead, the list would rot and moulder and I’d run a very real risk of receiving something twice (from different people) or of receiving something that I’d already bought for myself. And that doesn’t sound like any fun at all.

Bottom Line

Getting a gift card, allows me to be both impatient and lazy without making either you (as the giver) or me (as the receiver) feel bad. It really is the perfect gift. And I’d love to receive it, with thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation.

Schrödinger’s Gift: A Defense of Gift Cards

01-Dec-11

I like gift cards. I know it’s considered gauche to give them as a gift but I’ve never really agreed with that. The common knock against gift cards is that they “show little thought” or demonstrate that you don’t know enough about the recipient to know what gift they’d really like. That can be true and in certain settings (like the family or supposedly close business relationships) it can be fatal.

But, in some circumstances, gift cards can also demonstrate both humility and that you do know the recipient well. I’m primarily thinking of circumstances in which the recipient himself doesn’t know what he wants and couldn’t tell you if you asked. I’m a great example of this. I love to read. And most people think that buying a gift for me is easy: buy a book. This is true.

But, which book? Aye, there’s the rub. Oftentimes, I don’t know which book I want to read next. I don’t even necessarily know which book I want to read in a year. I have ideas of books that I think I might want to read. But a cursory glance at my bookshelf would reveal that there are many books there that I’ve purchased and never read. I purchased them with good intentions but somehow never quite got around to actually cracking the covers.

Now, there are bad gift card gifts. A gift card to a store I never shop at (and never really want to shop at) does tell me that you don’t know me and didn’t ask others about me. That gift of a card does validate all of the negative stereotypes about gift cards.

But the fact that bad gift card gifts exist doesn’t invalidate the entire category. At least, I don’t think so. A gift card, earmarked for books, tells me that you know that I like to read. It also tells me that you’re willing to admit that you don’t know what I want to read, anymore than I do. And that’s appreciated.

I’ve never had even the slightest hint of resentment about receiving a gift card for books. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s an opportunity for me to browse shelves, slowly and deliberately, looking for something new and unexpected. It’s an opportunity for me to splurge on a book that I might not otherwise buy (but will enjoy nonetheless). It’s an opportunity for me to complete (or start) a collection that I didn’t know I was interested in. It’s an opportunity for me to pre-order that book that won’t be released for another year.

It’s a great gift because, for a time, it’s every book everywhere. And that’s wonderful.

Idols?

18-Oct-11

Last week in Life Group, based on this sermon, we discussed how we could recognize the idols our hearts manufactured and what could be done to deal with them.

Even though it’s a “Sunday School” answer, reading the Bible regularly is one way God has given us to check our hearts. How can we get into a regular reading of the Word when we are so busy and distracted with young families?

Below are some of the resources we discussed.

M’Cheyne reading plan read through the entire Old Testament in one year and the Psalms and New Testament twice. Schedule only

For the Love of God This 2 volume set contains daily meditations that coordinate with the M’Cheyne reading plan.

Volume 1

Volume 2

Kindle Put your Bible on this device and it is much easier to read anywhere you go.

Audio Bible Listen as you drive. Zondervan sells a dramatized version, making the scriptures easier to pay attention to.

A Trip to Sam’s Club

01-Oct-11

I took Katya to Sam’s Club tonight. I wanted to get new formula for Bethany, in the hopes that it would fill her up more and help her to sleep through the night. (Her current formula is the “gentle” mixture and is advertised as being “easy to digest”. We’re hoping that a less easy to digest formulation stays in her belly longer and keeps her full longer.) Christine mentioned needing milk, eggs, and wet wipes too. Katya had a lot of fun on her daddy/daughter night. She chattered to me the entire drive to and from Sam’s Club.

We drilled counting from 10-20. Every time we got to 20, she wanted to start over and do it again. I think teachers resist drilling students because they (teachers) find it boring and repetitive—not because students don’t learn from it.

Katya trotted around the store, in front of my cart. She was quite animated the entire time and had a lot of fun helping me find the things on my list. She even found the milk before I did.

She said “there’s the milk” and pointed to straight to a case filled with sausage. I told her it wasn’t milk and she insisted that it was. I said that it was sausage and she said that it was milk “in there”. I finally bent down and looked at it from her eye level. On the bottom level, you can see through to the rack behind the shelf. She was looking at that level, seeing the milk that was on the opposite aisle, around the corner. She was right—it was milk “in there”.

As we were driving home, she said “I’m tired” and then proceeded to yawn the entire drive home, sometimes quite theatrically. When we got home, I was able to put her straight to bed. I found out that Esther was already sound asleep. She’d gone to bed around 1830 or 1900, shortly after I left for Sam’s Club.

Is Your Child Ready for First Grade: 1979 Edition

14-Sep-11

Check out item #8 on this list. And then keep in mind that this was written when life was more dangerous for kids than it is now.

I ran across this very interesting checklist of items to assess whether or not your child is prepared for all-day first grade. This book was first published in 1979, so I have to say it comes across as quite dated at times. So let’s take a look, shall we? The idea here is that about 10 yesses out of this list of 12 would indicate readiness for 1st grade.

  1. Will your child be six years, six months or older when he begins first grade and starts receiving reading instruction?
  2. Does your child have two to five permanent or second teeth?
  3. Can you child tell, in such a way that his speech is understood by a school crossing guard or policeman, where he lives?
  4. Can he draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?
  5. Can he stand on one foot with eyes closed for five to ten seconds?
  6. Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels?
  7. Can he tell left hand from right?
  8. Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?
  9. Can he be away from you all day without being upset?
  10. Can he repeat an eight- to ten-word sentence, if you say it once, as “The boy ran all the way home from the store”?
  11. Can he count eight to ten pennies correctly?
  12. Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?

Homeschool Blindspots

14-Sep-11

This article by Reb Bradley is very long, but worth reading. Especially as a parent that has considered home schooling my own children.

In the homeschool community I have observed that there can be a great emphasis on outward appearance, whether it is dressing for excellence, modesty, grooming, respectful manners, music style, or an attitude of sober reverence in worship. Some even take their children down a country path of humble fashions, raising food, and making bread. Nothing is wrong with any of these things, but we must be careful - we can model for our children outward changes and easily fall into molding their behavior and/or appearance, while missing their hearts. In some circles emphasis on the outward is epidemic.

A friend of mine, a homeschool mom, just passed away of cancer. In the week before she died, I asked her if she had any regrets in her life. She told me she wished she had baked less bread - she said if she had it to do over again she would buy bread and spend more time with her children. She had invested time and energy in pursuing the “path” because she thought it was part of the spiritual homeschool package.

  1. Having Self-Centered Dreams
  2. Raising Family as an Idol
  3. Emphasizing Outward Form
  4. Tending to Judge
  5. Depending on Formulas
  6. Over-Dependence on Authority and Control
  7. Over-Reliance Upon Sheltering
  8. Not Passing On a Pure Faith
  9. Not Cultivating a Loving Relationship With Our Children

I think these are all elements of parenting that are worth considering, even if you’re not home schooling your children.

Starting a Low-Carb Diet

31-Jul-11

Dr. Eades has lots of helpful tips, for starting out with a low-carb diet.

  • Part 1. Introduction to low-carb adaptation and the importance of eating more fats—lots more fat.
  • Part 2. Here, he focuses on making sure you’re getting enough of the important electrolytes: sodium, magnesium, potassium. Also make sure that you’re staying hydrated and taking the right supplements. Finally, avoid things that stress the liver, so that you can de-fat your liver as quickly as possible.

If you’re just getting started on a low-carb diet or you’re restarting one, these tips can make sure you get off on the right plate.

Parenting 001

16-May-11

I know we want to have conversations like this with our children.

Me: What’s the matter son?
Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me!
Me: Why do you want the toy?
Child: Because it will be fun to play with.
Me: Do you think he is having fun playing with the toy right now?
Child: Yes.
Me: Would it make him sad to take the toy away?
Child: I guess so.
Me: And do you like to make your brother sad?
Child: No.
Me: You know, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means loving your brother the way he would want to be loved. Since Jesus loves us so much, we have every reason to love others-even your brother. Would you like to love him by letting him play with the toy for awhile?
Child: Yes I would daddy.

But, all too often, we end up having conversations like this:

Me: What’s the matter son?
Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me!
Me: Why do you want the toy?
Child: I don’t know.
Me: What’s going on in your heart when you desire that toy?
Child: I don’t know.
Me: Think about it son. Use your brain. Don’t you know something?
Child: I guess I just want the toy.
Me: Obviously. But why?
Child: I don’t know.
Me: Fine. [Mental note: abandon “why” questions and skip straight to leading questions.] Do you think he is having fun playing with the toy right now?
Child: No.
Me: Really?! He’s not having fun? Then why does he want that toy in the first place?
Child: Because he’s mean.
Me: Have you ever considered that maybe you are being mean by trying to rip the toy from his quivering little hands?
Child: I don’t know.
Me: What do you know?
Child: I don’t know!
Me: Nevermind. [I wonder how my brilliant child can know absolutely nothing at this moment.] Well, I think taking the toy from him will make your brother sad. Do you like to make him sad?
Child: I don’t know.
Me: [Audible sigh.]
Child: He makes me sad all the time!
Me: Well, I’m getting sad right now with your attitude! [Pause, think, what would Paul Tripp do? Thinking … .thinking … .man, I can’t stop thinking of that mustache. This isn’t working. Let’s just go right to the Jesus part.] You know, Jesus wants us to love each other.
Child: I don’t know.
Me: I didn’t ask you a question!
Child: [Pause.] Can I have some fruit snacks?
Me: No, you can’t have fruit snacks. We are talking about the gospel. Jesus loves us and died for us. He wants you to love your brother too.
Child: So?
Me: So give him the toy back!

Kevin DeYoung has some great encouragement for parents. It’s also very encouraging to know that not every parent out there does a better job than me at working the Gospel into every parenting scenario.

Vacuum-Bagging Fights Inflation

10-May-11

Food packagers are trying to hide the inflation in food prices by shrinking the size of packages rather than raising the price of the old-sized package. It’s not working, really. Food prices are still going up, even as the packages get smaller.

Still there are some ways to fight back. Lou Dolinar recommends vacuum packing your food: buy a huge bag (or container, or what have you have) of food at a someplace like Sam’s Club. Then bring it home and use a vacuum packer to repackage it into smaller, more meal-sized packages. Freeze or refrigerate until needed.

I think it might be worth a whirl. Also, I like buying (and using) gadgets.

How to bribe your kids?

10-May-11

Gareth Cook, at the Boston Globes, offers some good tips on how to effectively bribe your kids. I’m definitely not beneath using these in the near future.

Choose a specific, positive behavior. “Have at least three bites of a vegetable every dinner for a week.” (Good.) “Don’t annoy me.” (Not good.)

Choose smart rewards. Work with your kid to choose the prize, investing them and ensuring it’s one they truly desire. A few selections from the LEGO catalogue were all it took me to solve an Olympian parenting problem: thumb sucking. But a reward need not be large.

Stay positive. In our house, we call them “challenges.” It is not about “fixing” a negative. Don’t nag. Let it be their choice. Pile on the praise.

Small steps first. Faced with an overwhelming task, start with easy goals, and small rewards, and slowly build. So, you might start with “avoid thumb one day between breakfast and nap.” Consider a detailed progress chart.

(Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the link.)