Category Archives: Parenting


It was a bright and sunny day on Monday, already near 70 degrees by the time I boarded the ferry, with hazy blue skies and mountains on every horizon. The last time I checked the weather, they were saying this week would be partly cloudy and in the low-to-mid 70s; now they are predicting 90 degree temperatures.

Sunday was one of those picture postcard summer days, with sunshine pouring down like a golden waterfall. The kids spent almost the entire afternoon in the pool or playing with the sprinkler on the lawn. We bought a funny sprinkler that has twenty or thirty little nozzles on flexible tubes coming out from the main hose … when turned on, the nozzles flail about like a bunch of spitting snakes. Rachel appointed herself “Sprinkler Drill Sergeant” and amused herself (and the rest of us) by ordering the snakes about in an imperious voice. Leanne came over and they played outside for several hours.

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At one point (Kathy and I had retreated inside by this time) they came up with the bright idea of using a hose to create a mud hole. Then they began wallowing around in it like hogs … I wish I had taken a picture. By all reports, they covered themselves from head to toe in mud; I made them all wash up thoroughly in the little pool before coming inside. The pool (which we had just cleaned and refilled) was brown with their residue.

A week or so ago we invented a variant of Dodgeball that can be played on our deck … this weekend we played it for quite a while. The rules are simple and it is a game that can be played by everyone on various levels. Joshua makes it a matter of pride to avoid being ‘it’ for as long as possible, and never moves from the position he thinks is most defensible. Daniel delights in the brinkmanship of taunting whoever is ‘it’ and runs from safe zone to safe zone whenever the ball is dropped or not immediately returned. Rachel combines these two strategies, while David (as a pseudo-combatant) runs freely around and is only occasionally struck by the ball (usually by accident). Sarah provides cover for the others and makes a big production out of hiding behind the deck box for safety.

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This is a moment that may not last for very long, wherein the children are all of an age where they want to play with me. In just a few years, the older ones will have moved on to other interests, most likely. But for now, there is a window of opportunity in which we can all play together, and everything can become a game.

Somehow I got a hold of Joshua’s blow-dart gun, and a new game was born. Possession of the rubber-tipped blow-dart entitled the holder to the dart-gun itself, and the hunt would begin. The objective was to shoot an opponent with the dart without losing possession of the gun … all the kids joined in the mad scramble to retrieve the dart whenever it was fired, in hopes of becoming the new hunter. Sarah went around asking to be shot, and David shrieked with glee (and simulated fear) whenever anyone would brandish the blow-gun. It was a lot of fun, for some reason.

I guess I simply like being a Dad. I really enjoy being fun with these strange little people; it never stops to fill me with wonder that God has allowed Kathy and I to have a part in creating these precious lives. Sometimes I worry about my lack of ability in molding them into the kind of people that God wants them to be, but mostly I just revel in the fun of being a parent. I figure if I can teach them to love God, the rest is gravy.

We had scrambled eggs and toast and grapes and cantaloupe and root beer floats for dinner, watching one of the “Little House on the Prairie” episodes. After supper we wrestled for a while on the living room floor and then I sent them off to bed. I read them a chapter from the Bible (we’re back in Genesis again) and then a chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It was a very good day.

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Absentee Dad

Now that I have become a full-time employee, it becomes imperative that I find a solution to this ‘commuting conundrum’ which plagues me.

While few would criticize my decision to accept employment in Seattle after 17 months without full-time work, it seems unlikely that I will be winning the coveted “Father of the Year” award when I see my children only on weekends, due to a 3-hour commute each way. In my experience, whatever people may say about “quality time”, children require both quantity and quality time from a father.

Yesterday Kathy was laid up with her back injury, and I spent the day at home. At one point I played a game of dodge-ball on the deck with the kids … not more than 30 minutes in all, with the requisite number of injuries. That silly game is probably one of the things that they will remember, if only because I so rarely play with them outside.

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So I need a solution that will allow me to:

  1. support the financial needs of my family
  2. assist my wife in parenting the children
  3. build lasting love relationships with my kids
  4. grow the intimacy of my marriage
  5. provide an environment that is pleasing and conducive to my family’s growth

So far, my employer is willing for me to work from home, one day each week. I haven’t yet managed to test that out … I’m still working through some technical issues with my laptop and remote access. I expect that being home one workday each week may help to take the sting out of my long absences on the other days. Nevertheless, I am not satisfied with this arrangement … last week I didn’t see Sarah between Tuesday and Friday nights, leaving before she is awake and coming home late each night.

I don’t want to move hastily, ahead of God. If He sees fit to provide me with another work-from-home opportunity (like my former job, in which I traveled to the city only once a week), it would be a shame to miss that chance. At the same time, I don’t want to fall into the trap of persisting in behavior that is destructive to my family out of timidity or indecision.

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I suspect that a lot of men have sacrificed their families to their jobs on a “temporary” basis only to discover that, after 15 or 20 years, their window of opportunity to impact the family has slowly closed. I suspect that no one laments on their deathbed, “If only I had spent more time at work!”

My children (and Kathy, for that matter) are reluctant to move to Seattle. And of course, there is the question about what to do with our house … the proximity to the Retreat Center property restricts our ability to sell the home in good conscience. I recently hit on a possible compromise: we could rent a small house in Seattle or Tacoma and live there half the week. We might occupy such a potential house from Sunday night to Wednesday night, and spend Thursday through Sunday in the Duckabush. This would likely cut my commute down to a manageable 1 hour each way on Monday through Wednesday, freeing up 4 hours each day to spend with my family. On Thursdays I could work from our home in the Duckabush, and on Fridays make the long commute in to Seattle.

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While the cost of maintaining two households would be non-trivial, it is already costing me more than $400/month to commute to work, not considering the lost time in the car and on the bus. (Ferry time, of course, is redeemed by the quality of these fine blog entries.) If we found a house that was sufficiently inexpensive, we might substantially improve our quality of life by such an arrangement. It occurs to me that the opportunity to visit zoos and museums and parks, as well as the chance to make some new friends, could outweigh the inconvenience of living between two houses for Kathy and the children. I have hopes that Kathy might attend BSF this year with the youngest two children if I can be home consistently on Thursdays.

If you read this blog entry, and have a reaction, please leave a comment expressing your viewpoint. I would value any suggestions that you may make, especially since this idea is still in an embryonic state.

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Xylophone of Doom


On the way home from Pokagon (a State Park just across the border in Indiana) we visited the Outlet Mall. Making a beeline for the Book Warehouse, several of my children admired a book with a built-in xylophone. No lover of noise-making toys, I gruffly assured them that I would NOT be purchasing the book for them, especially considering a long van-ride home.

Then I made a big mistake: I left Grand-Dad alone in the store with three of my kids while I took the other two to the bathroom. When I returned, the deed was done — he had purchased the book and given it to my children to share amongst themselves.

The book seemed innocent enough, and I’m sure that my father-in-law meant well. Who could be opposed to such wholesome songs as “Jesus Loves Me” or everyone’s favorite, “Ho-Ho-Ho-Hosanna!”, even when inexpertly rendered on a xylophone? Yet it is with such an exterior that Satan often disguises his most evil instruments of sin and temptation.

No sooner was the book out of the bag than my angelic offspring began to bicker among themselves for exclusive use. Years of parental instruction on the proper sharing of toys was thrown recklessly to the winds, as each child usurped their turn to pound out “This Is My Father’s World”. Even Sarah was able to quickly articulate (at shrieks exceeding 90 decibels) her outrage when Joshua sneakily made off with the book in the midst of the melee.

Admittedly, the book has a certain charm. Each of the 12 songs are laid out with colored numbers indicating which of the bars to strike with the little plastic hammer. With only a small amount of training, it is possible to generate a song that is actually recognizable (unlike similar efforts on a recorder, which generally produces a series of undistinguishable and off-key tweets).

My children do not lack for toys. Yet at 9:15 that evening, two of them were reduced to shouting recriminations and crying tears of frustration over the possession of this same xylophone. As I reflect, I have serious doubts that man can ever learn to live in peace with his fellow, if we cannot even gracefully share something as trivial as a xylophone.

Ooops — I better conclude this blog entry — Kathy just went downstairs and she left the xylophone on the bed — if I hurry, I might be able to sneak in an extra turn.

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