Category Archives: Parenting

Playing the Odds

In early February, I usually start some tomato seedlings. I think I wrote about this just a a few weeks ago.

I start with a bank of 72 peat disks, with a seed (or sometimes two seeds, if I’m paranoid) in each one. Then I plant them in larger pots and try to nurse them through the Spring, hoping to end up with a dozen healthy plants. I’m basically betting that I can keep a few plants alive until I put them in the ground around Memorial Day.

How many of these will make it into my garden?

How many of these will make it into my garden?

Since I start with 72, I can afford to lose or give away five plants for every one I keep. By the time I plant them in my raised-bed gardens, I have selected only the strongest, hardiest plants with (I hope) the best chance for producing a plentiful harvest.

Children are not quite the same as tomatoes, in spite of what our culture would say or do. Whatever children you get, those are the ones you plant, and those are the ones that will ultimately produce a harvest for the King. If you start with five ‘seedlings’ (as I have), you’d better do the best you can to make sure they become strong, healthy adults.

A few days ago I noticed that the peat disks on the edges were dry, and that I have lost a number of my seedlings. Also, I kept the greenhouse lid on too long, and a number of the plants have grown too tall for the container, and are now lying across other plants. Already I think I’ve lost about half my seedlings through carelessness and inattention.

Daniel was listening to his music while doing the dishes, tonight -- caught him like a deer in the headlights.

Daniel was listening to his music while doing the dishes, tonight — I caught him like a deer in the headlights.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. My inattention to my children could have terrible repercussions. Playing the odds is not an option with my beloved offspring — I’m not willing to ‘lose’ even one.

It makes me think. I sure hope I can parent better than I tomato-farm.

Project 365, Day 78

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Dan and My Van

Daniel doesn’t currently have a job. He’s put in lots of applications and has some leads going, but right now he’s unemployed. Which is difficult when you have bills to pay. And you like to drive a car to school and not take the bus.

Such a cheerful worker!

Such a cheerful worker!

We are a very easy going family in many ways. We aren’t overly scheduled or structured. I’m afraid Tim and I are just too relaxed, easy-going, fun, (lazy?) to run our lives and the home in a austere or overly orderly manner. That means things are often a bit of a mess, we’ll drop work for ministry and fun, we miss appointments (not on purpose), and we get behind in projects at times.

We can't all live the life of ease and luxury like Marco.

We can’t all live the life of ease and luxury like Marco.

We try to encourage the children to be servant-leaders and to invest in our family and the lives of others. When the older kids were home (ie before college) and managing busy schedules, we often set aside “Bless the Family” time on weekends. We asked the children to spend some intentional time working on a project or cleaning chore that blessed the home in some tangible way before they went off with friends or to work.

As Daniel finds himself without work and funds, I want to encourage him. I want him to be a diligent hard worker. If he can’t work outside the home, than he can labor for me. He can put some of his available time and energy into blessing the family.

A few weeks ago, I told Daniel he had to get some side jobs in order to use my van that week. Or at least TRY to get some work. Within minutes of posting on FB, he had a yard work job. And that job led to another project. Yesterday I had a LONG meeting up in Auburn. Tim and the kids were all off at the Duckabush for a CIT meeting. Before I left for my appointment, I wrote down a list of things Daniel needed to do (before Monday morning) if he wanted to use my van.

A few chores

A few chores

Of course, I forgot to tell anyone that I made that list. Heh heh. Around 9:45 pm I remembered. A quick call in to Tim set Daniel to work. When I arrived home at midnight, the chores were all crossed off and the place looked neat and tidy. [Kudos to David for doing all the dishes and cleaning the kitchen as well while Daniel worked on other things.]

Today Tim asked Daniel (who wanted to take a car to pick up friends and go to an Ultimate Frisbee Game), “What can you do that will make us glad for you to be off using the van? And not in a, ‘Dan, you need to get out of here you’re causing trouble!’ sort of way.” LOL! “What can you do to help around the house that will show that you are a blessing and a joy to have around?”

My Van - getting all freshened up.

My Van – getting all freshened up.

I love how Tim crafts things in ways that empowers the children and gives them the opportunity to earn respect. I tend to “mother” and nag and make lists. Ahem. Well, I am a mother, so I guess that’s somewhat expected. Tim’s approach, however, let Daniel “own” the work and be a part of the decision making process, even if it was only regarding a small thing. Daniel still needed some ideas, but he had sovereignty and control of what work he did.

Nothing like vacuumed seats.

Nothing like vacuumed seats.

Parenting teens is hard work! Teaching and training and discipling them is hard work! In my mind they are still my little ones.

2004 - sweet faces!

2004 – sweet faces!

Letting them go and make their own decisions is hard work! Only by God’s grace and strength!

Project 365 – Day 75

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Best Valentine Ever

Strangely enough, this isn’t a post about my Sweetie, who often gives me funny (or sometimes sizzling hot) Valentines. This, in spite of the fact that Kathy celebrated V-Advent this year by hanging little bags of candy and Valentines for each of us in the week before Valentines’ Day.

Kathy left at least a half-dozen bags of nuts and candy for me, as Valentines' Day approached.

Kathy pinned-up at least a half-dozen bags of nuts and candy for me, as Valentines’ Day approached.

Hard as it is to compete with chocolate, I actually think that the best valentine I have received so far was from my youngest daughter, Sarah. I’ll post a picture of it so you can be the judge.

The hearts on the outside of the Valentine were a good sign, I thought.

The hearts on the outside of the Valentine were a good sign, I thought.

One of the problems with being a Dad, is that you often seem to be doomed to failure. You will inevitably make mistakes (some of us make them every day) and you will not always be loving, faithful or wise. Even when you do succeed by any objective standard, you will often be rejected by children who are blinded by their own sin, or misunderstood and resisted by the spouse that you thought was on your side. No, being a Dad is not for the faint of heart.

Sarah got a kick out of Kathy's silly V-Advent messages.

Sarah got a kick out of Kathy’s silly V-Advent messages.

One of my favorite illustrations of this is from the movie, While You Were Sleeping. In the course of the film, we discover that one of the main characters, Jack, does not want to continue in his family’s business, yet he feels trapped, wanting to please his father. Now that his brother has come out of a coma, Jack catches his Dad in a wistful, reflective frame of mind. He senses that it is time to get things out in the open. Sitting down one morning with his Dad, armed with a box of donuts, Jack seizes the moment:

Pop: “You work hard, try to provide for the family, and then for one minute everything’s good. Everyone’s well, everyone’s happy, and in that one minute, you have peace.”

Jack: “Pop … this isn’t that minute.”

Jack goes on to tell his Dad that he wants to quit working for him, but rather seeks to go into business for himself, making rocking chairs.

Rachel seems to become more beautiful, every year!

Rachel seems to become more beautiful, every year!

I often feel like the Dad in the film — this isn’t that minute. It seems like we constantly move from crisis to crisis, battling 18×7 for the hearts of our children against a hostile, worldly culture and other evil forces that want to devour them. But there is a part of me that is desperately weary of the struggle, and really yearns for that minute.

A few days before Valentine’s Day, Sarah came up to see me in my office upstairs, where I work from home several days a week.

“Hey, Dad, I made you a Valentine.” She handed it to me, smiled, and left. Opening it, I got the chance to cherish one of those moments that a Dad lives for.

It seems that Sarah likes me.

It seems that Sarah likes me.

One of the things that Kathy and I have been talking about recently is the hunger that we all seem to have, to be truly known. As the scripture says:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. — 1 Corinthians 13:12

Sarah hit the nail on the head when she appreciated me for my love of teaching, my generosity and my whimsical silliness, three traits at the very core of who I am. It is delightful to be known and valued and loved as a Dad. Thanks, Sarah, for a great Valentine!

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Exasperating Snow Day

Here in Washington, we mostly keep snow on the mountains (where it belongs). But since we don’t actually live on a mountain, this is a very unpopular policy with the younger set.

This message brought to you by Hallmark, er, Sarah.

This message brought to you by Hallmark, er, Sarah.

Some years, a whole winter can go by without any decent snow accumulation. I’m sure this winter, there are many from the East and Midwest who would gladly trade places with us. Snow seems to be one of those things that fall in to the ‘feast or famine’ category — you either don’t get enough, or you receive a surfeit. Also, when we do finally get some snow, it often falls on a Sunday morning, when we are in church. It is not unusual for it all to melt away by the time we get home.

David and Sarah are huge fans of the snow. Whenever we get a few flakes, they run outside and try to catch them on their tongues, giddy with the excitement. This morning, they were outside at 8 am, making a snowman.

We're not as cool as Zach and Angie, who built one last night at 10 pm.

We’re not as cool as Angie and Zach, who built one last night at 10 pm.

Last night the snow started around 6 pm, and by 11 we had about 2 inches. About 10 pm, Daniel called his buddy, Jake, and soon they had a plan.

“May I go over to Jake’s house to play in the snow?” he asked me. Jake has a big hill on his street.

“Sure,” I told him. “But I’m not driving you. It is pretty late … ”

Stubbornness runs deep in our blood, from both sides of the family. Failing to persuade Rachel to drive him (her car was slipping all over the road) Daniel walked almost 2 miles to his friend’s house.

“Be home before midnight,” I told him, knowing he’d barely have time to get there and back.

At 11:45, he called me. “Um, it took me longer to get here than I thought … can I spend the night here?”

This is our actual Daniel.

This is our actual Daniel.

Daniel is a very honest boy. We don’t always get along perfectly, but it is a delight to me that he will rarely lie when asked a direct question. “This is all part of your scam, to spend the night at Jake’s,” I accused. He had been wanting to spend the night at his friend’s house for several days, but I had refused permission, because Daniel is still sick.

“No, but it is pretty cold, and I’m pretty tired … ”

I tried to believe him. “Come on home, stop arguing with me.” I reiterated. Relenting a millimeter, I continued. “If you take too long, I’ll come out and look for you.”

Did I mention that stubbornness is part of our family’s genetic makeup? I decided that if he wanted to make the decision to walk 2 miles in the snow at 10:30 pm to spend 15 minutes sledding with a friend, he might as well pay the full price of that decision. We try not to always rescue our children from the consequences of their choices.

At 12:30 am, he still wasn’t home. I got in my little Honda, and slithered my way over to his friend’s neighborhood (but not down their steep hill). No Daniel. Coming home, I found him on an alternate street, less than halfway home.

“You didn’t get very far,” I remarked as he tossed his sled into the back seat.

One of these is not like the others ...

One of these is not like the others …

I found out later he would rather have walked all the way home — the snow was very peaceful. Parenting a sixteen-year-old is tricky, and being parented by a 48-year-old is even trickier. I always find it challenging, to avoid exasperating my children.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. — Ephesians 6:4

I am thankful for a son who continues to submit himself to my authority, even though he is sixteen, and six foot three. I often make him angry, yet he does not defy my authority.

When I was sixteen, I was a much more rebellious and difficult boy. I routinely disobeyed my parents and spoke very disrespectfully to them. I used to joke that my parents were praying for justice, all those years, and that I was finally getting my fair due — but Daniel is actually a much better son to me than I was to my parents. Daniel and I are working out our relationship as father and son, both of us making it up as we go along. I am so thankful for him.


Several of these pictures were brought to you by David, with his swanky new camera.

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Eggs and the Navy

Today, Joshua received a call from a Navy Lieutenant (an O-3, equivalent to an Army Captain). “So, we haven’t heard from you about the four-year Navy ROTC scholarship we offered to you. Will you be accepting it, or should we offer it to someone else?”

In recent days, Joshua’s sense of God’s purpose for his college years has solidified into a near-certainty: it seems evident that the full-ride scholarship at Union University is the best path being offered. Joshua really likes the school, admires the faculty, is sold on the honors program, and even found a good church (while visiting last month). Best of all, his cousin Rebecca attends Union — the two of them really seem to enjoy each other.

So Joshua thanked the Lieutenant, and respectfully declined the scholarship the Navy had offered. It is odd, I think, to see a door close that was once hoped-for so passionately. I remember Joshua’s jubilation at receiving the scholarship, and the relief we all felt, knowing that there was at least one way for him to attend college. Now we hope that it will be the source of jubilation for another deserving young man.

Our hopes for a culinary scholarship were dashed early-on, although Joshua can cook one dish: scrambled eggs.

There is a powerful sense of belonging that military service provides, and for many years, we have all assumed that Joshua would pursue military service in exchange for college funding. His enjoyment of his Junior ROTC unit during High School, his personality, and his physical bearing have all contributed to that assumption. Yet now that Union has offered an academic, full-ride scholarship, ROTC is no longer necessary to underwrite Joshua’s college education.

It will be interesting to see what he does. Union has a cross-town relationship with another nearby ROTC detachment, and it might be rewarding for Joshua to join the unit. I worry that he might bite off more than he can chew, with the Honors program, maybe some difficult Physics classes, and the minimum 3.25 GPA requirement that comes with his scholarship.

We had a nice discussion about it today — I often feel very honored when Joshua talks with me about the big decisions in his life. As we agreed last night, it isn’t all about Joshua, but rather about God. How will God be most glorified?

The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. — Proverbs 23:24


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