The Family Discussion

PuppyBaby

“Mom, Dad, we have something we want to discuss with you.”

My husband and I looked at each other in apprehension.  It’s always a little scary when your three kids—even the toddler—band together for a “family discussion.”

My oldest son Kyle took the lead, “You said if mom didn’t get pregnant by Christmas, we could get a puppy.”

The girls nodded their head in agreement and three-year-old Kolby chimed in with a chant, “puppy, puppy, puppy!”

I exhaled a big whoosh of exasperation, delighted at my children’s tenacity and complete frustration at my old and rusty uterus. 

The kids are right.  We’ve tried and tried and it’s time to own up and pay our puppy dues.

I really do want my kids to get their dream dog.  I also really want one more baby.  I guess I want both.

I don’t want to throw in the towel yet (I’ve still got a month) but my biological clock seems to have stalled and stuck—it’s been two years and two miscarriages—so unless we explore infertility, I am more likely picking up dog poop in the near future than changing diapers.

(Insert a melancholy tune)

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this breathtaking sadness at hanging up the cleats in the baby making department. 

I see women all the time who have one or two kids and are so adamant they are DONE. 

While I respect their resolve, I’ve never had that feeling stick.  Not even once! 

No timer dinged loudly in my brain or heart.  The only thing holding me back from the Brangelina adoption of a mini-tribe is money. 

As far as I concerned, the more (munchkins) the merrier.

When I hear people complain about their kids I cover my ears.  Yes, these little (and big) suckers drive me bazonkers, but it’s a beautiful chaos. 

Call me crazy, but I just want more.  More kisses, more cuddles, more baseball games and tutu’s, more giggles and yes…even more teenage angst. 

Children are life—ravishing reminders of God’s blessing and love in a world of chaos. 

Maybe my thinking is broken.  Maybe it’s letting go of control?  I don’t know.  It’s just hard to watch the baby years come to a halt. 

Maybe I’m afraid of who I am when I don’t have a passel of children around to distract me.  Before I had kids, I was a little lonely.  I was a (mostly) only child with a large age gap between myself and my half-brother.  A large family fills that gap. 

The laughter, the noise, the energy…I love it.

Tim and I told the kids we would seriously consider our prior agreement. 

I also told them to ignore any strange noises from our bedroom. 

 “EEEEWWWWWW!!!!! Gross!” yelled my middle schooler.  Kyle just smirked.

(This is one way to guarantee you will never have sex, because kids are smarter.  Kyle simply stays up until 1:00am doing homework, Kolby and Faith wake up at 5:00am since the time change and just for good measure, Kolby also wakes up in the middle of the night to go potty)

We have to be sneaky in this house.

And we just might need to call a handyman to repair the broken fence on our dog run (just in case).

AAAHHH! My Son Brought a Girl Home!

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I saw lots of adorable scarecrows costumes this Halloween—dainty Dorothy’s with a Toto peeping from a basket spilling over with candy—and of course, spooky green witches—but not once did I encounter my favorite character—the cowardly lion.

In all honesty, I believe it’s the costume that best represents us all—a fearful people—raging and roaring in image management as we tremble in our boots and hope no one see through us.

We have moments of glory where we roar our terrible roars and knash our terrible teeth, and then reality rears its ugly head and we go back to worrying about the bills and our health, Obamacare and North Korea, our marriages, teenagers, and a million other concerns.

Fear steals our joy and anxiety makes tyrants of all, but courage—glorious courage—when it breaks through—shines like the light of a million stars.

I saw a glimpse of a courageous little lion stepping out of her comfort zone and into bravery the other night.

On Halloween evening, a friend of Kyle’s—a specific Girl friend stopped by the house to meet us.  The beautiful young lady, accompanied by a friend and her mom, walked up to the door and introduced herself.

Grace and Kyle—while not officially dating—have a strong fondness for each other.  I can see the sparkle in her eyes when she looks at my son.  At the Varsity football games, when they call his name over the loud-speaker for a tackle, she squeals with delight.  She wears his number #34 proudly on her cheek and she even dressed in one of old jerseys for Halloween. 

They are sweet together—it’s high emotion and furious texting and the blood racing tingles of high school romance. 

And to their benefit, these two are trying to navigate the space of family, church, age-appropriateness and really liking each other in a God honoring way

So what was so scary to Grace?  Apparently us. 

Meeting the parent’s—the scary dating experts—the pastor and the blogger—the mom of her crush—were all just terrifying to the poor girl.

I can’t imagine how awkward it was for her.  I was dressed as a saloon girl and Tim was a cowboy.  Our porch was covered in candles, strobe lights, pumpkins, bats and thumping ghoulie tunes.  Kids and neighbors poured over our walkway. 

It was funny way to meet the first girl he’s ever brought home—strangely formal, bizarre, and so endearing.

But I knew if Kyle was making the effort to include us we’d better pay attention.

And so little Grace—the competitive gymnast with the strawberry blond hair—bucked up, put on her big girl pants and braved the parents. 

Although I don’t know her very well and I’m not sure I’m ready for dating, I like how Grace operates. 

Fear does not define her.  She moved at the scary ‘meet the parents “moment with quaking feet and a fluttering heart, (our son told us this all later) but the point is she moved.  She planted those feet on our porch and stuck out her hand with a smile.

Grace defined her circumstances instead of letting her fear (or circumstances) define her.

The cowardly lion ends up learning courage because there is something MORE important enough in his life than the fear to make it worth the frightening journey.

And it makes this mama smile to think my son was the important thing that motivated her to be brave. 

Is there something scary or overwhelming in your life where you need an extra dose of courage?

How Can You Let Your Kid Play Football?

Kyle Materdei

For me, winning isn’t something that happens suddenly on the field when the whistle blows and the crowds roar. Winning is something that builds physically and mentally every day that you train and every night that you dream. – Emmitt Smith

People often ask me “How can you let your kid play football?”

“How can you handle the anxiety? What if he gets hurt? Did you hear about Brett Favre’s memory loss?”

And I respond with, “Yes, I know the risks and they are big. But, when I weigh the good versus bad…football wins, hands down, every time.

Let me explain:

  • It’s About Attitude

I learn perseverance from my own kid. Each week Kyle plays in two football games –a JV game on Thursday and a Varsity game for J Serra Catholic High School on Friday nights.

It was great fun at the beginning of the season (when we won every game), but as we draw towards the end, the beatings and abuse are taking a toll—physically on Kyle and emotionally on me.

As Kyle walked out of the house this morning, he moved more like an old man with hemorrhoids than a studly sophomore athlete.

While Kyle has avoided any major injuries (thank you Jesus), he has about thirty mid to minor boo-boos. He has torn tendons in his hands, what looks like multiple broken toes, four black fingers, bruising from elbow to wrist, and muscle aches from top to bottom.

This is what happens to our boys during Trinity League play—total body annihilation.

And yet despite the pain, his mental strength is greater.

  • It’s About Courage

Yesterday Kyle went up against St. John Bosco, a team ranked anywhere between second and fifth in the country and first in California. Let me say that again…Ranked 1st in California (and folks we got a big state).

Tonight he starts in the Varsity game—against beasts as big as any college line.

His opponent under the lights this evening?

A three-hundred and fifty-three lb senior guard with multiple offers from around the country. Sounds like hell to me—but Kyle’s pumped.

Seriously?

Each week, I watch my barely fifteen-year-old boy playing against these monsters and I try not to cringe with each tackle. I close my eyes, I pray and I repeat over and over “It’s in God’s Hands.”

Generally, Kyle is the one beating up dudes, but last week the two-hundred and ninety lb lineman from Materdei flat-backed him once or twice.

  • I learn to Trust God With my Kid

Only the football mom knows the inordinate amount of time it takes between her kid going down and the moment he moves.

It’s the space of how long I can hold my freaking breath.

Either I let go of control or I lose it. So, I learn to release and rest in the arms of the one who gave me this child to steward.

  • It’s About Excellence

This game has allowed my son a safe place to let out his aggression. It’s taught him teamwork, mental toughness, invaluable life lessons, responsibility, ownership, and crazy loyalty. As I watch him get up each morning before dawn to put his football clothes in the dryer—even though he gets home from practice as late as 8:00pm, then eats, showers and works on homework until 11:00pm—I am in awe at his discipline.

Where does this well of dedication come from—this inner drive for excellence and unrelenting persistence—despite pain, despite injury, despite pure exhaustion?

I like to think I have a strong work ethic–but Kyle’s dedication is more than the sum of me hustling multiple jobs, more than my old single mom status, more than pastor’s wife exhaustion and more than the sleepy mom who slept on the floor of her toddler’s room for the fifth night in a row because her kid is scared of ghoulies. (Dang You Scooby-Do!)

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will. – Vince Lombardi

My question to you is, “How can I not let him play football?”

If you think about it, please pray for my kid (and me) tonight at 7:00pm (and the next two Fridays at the same time!)

 

 

Do I Have to Dress Up for Halloween?

My smallest child has asked me to do something out of my comfort zone.

She wants me to dress up for Halloween.

It shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  I did it plenty of times when my big kids were little.  I was a saloon girl, a cute kitty, and Little Red Riding Hood.  I guess, as an older more mature mom now, my frisky and whimsical side needs a serious kick in the pants.

Why does dressing up seems like…well, hard work?

But, I’m willing to make the effort for my three-year-old Kolby.  So, I started perusing the Halloween aisle and hunting down some online options.  Skanky costumes are out of the question–so that leaves me with very little to look at in the stores.  But, I’m on a mission for the Kolbster.

Here is what looks amusing… 

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Kolby can be Max in our favorite book “Where the Wild Things Are” and Mommy can be the boat.

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I can be Harry Potter and Kolby can be Hedwig the owl!

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This would be really funny if I was still Samantha Adams…but now I guess it’s just AWKWARD. Scratch this idea.

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I just love Bert and Ernie (Even if they are more than roomies now) But these two look a little bit SCARY, so I might need a more family friendly get-up. Kolby could be Rubber Ducky, Faith could be Zoey and Kyle could be the Cookie Monster.

 

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How awesome is this? Tim and Kyle can be Stormtroopers, Kolby can be R2D2, I can be Chewbacca and Faith can be the Princess.

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Seriously? This family is Bat-Ass. Kyle can be a bad guy and Faith can be Cat Woman.

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Kyle can get out his old Buzz Lightyear costume, Faith can be Jesse and Tim can be Slinky…Oh yeah!

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This is exactly what Faith would look like if I made her wear this get up. “Why do you all get to be apes and I have to be the sexy cave girl?”

TMDh0

I just had to include this. Wouldn’t this be great as a family theme? Baby T, Momma T, Daddy T, Boy-Teen T and Girl-Tween T…
I think this is the one!

Work, Mommy Guilt, and Box of Macaroni

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I’ve been accused of dropping off the planet the last few weeks.

My blog has been neglected, my home a train-wreck (until my lovely housekeeper paid a visit yesterday) and my husband and I have passed like ships in the night.  Grandpa paid a visit to help me contain the chaos, but until I finish my project, the turmoil seems inevitable.

So, what detracts me?  What takes me away from reality?

I’m ghost-writing a book and my deadline is Oct. 1st.

No pressure for a mom of three smack dab in football and soccer season, ministry kick-offs and oh, another two jobs.

So, I came up with a scheme (and probably the only way I could finish the book on time) which was to pack my bags and head for the hills -or La Quinta, in this case, to my parent’s giant home in the desert.  I could get away for a few days, write like a fiend and finish the book.

I also thought I might rest a bit and refill my bucket.

But it didn’t work out the way I’d hoped.

Stinking Mommy Guilt interfered.

Oh, she is a nasty thing.  The morning I left, the “Berenstain Bears,” one of Kolby’s favorite shows was on and featured Mother Bear getting a job and not being there for her family.  Father Bear and Brother and Sister were left to flounder and fend for themselves in the wake of Mother’s ambitious dreams.

Kolby looked up at me with big eyes,  “You’ll never leave me, right Mama?”

“Uhhh, oh, ummm.  I love you.” (As my bag is packed and in the car)

Seriously PBS?  Is it a conspiracy?  I thought you were a pro-woman liberal show and now you make me feel like poop!

As soon as I arrived in La Quinta, I put on my pajamas.  These are the same pajamas I lived in for two and a half days.

After a few hours of work, I called home at bedtime and Kolby bawled in my ear.  “I want you to come home now Mama.” My big kids groaned…”We miss you, Mom, please hurry up and come home.”

And Mommy Guilt washed over me in waves of fury.

All I wanted to do was make the wails of my children go away as fast as possible.

So, instead of working and taking leisurely breaks to swim or leave the house and eat or shop, I holed in like a burrowing groundhog and worked twenty hour a day.  In my pajamas.

I took a few breaks to replenish my coffee cup, eat a few old crackers and demolish a box of macaroni.

I didn’t walk outside, watch TV, read, eat much or EVER relax.  Stupid Mommy Guilt turned me into a stark raving mad woman possessed by the desire to get home fast at all costs.

I was like Benji separated from his family and the mountain in between me and my babies and hubs was a pile of words.

I could taste home and it was all I wanted.

I drove home Tuesday evening and finally relaxed, reveling in the arms of my kids and husband. (And maybe crying over the state of my house)

And then one of my neighbor friends -a lovely mommy with three little ones said to me, “I hear you went out-of-town to write a book.  I’m jealous.  I want to write books too.  I want to go away by myself.”

And I shook my head and laughed.

Without a partner in crime, with no margaritas or a pool to lounge by with a friend, with ALL work and looming deadlines…getting away is highly OVER-RATED.

Work and vacation aren’t good friends.

And MOMMY GUILT is a horrible companion!

 

 

Cheer Bullies

Few things in life are all black or white –all good or all bad.

Most events have some redeeming factor or lesson to apply. Grace weasels its way in and finds the light in the darkest of nights.

But occasionally, evil rears its ugly head and I am left scratching my noggin in befuddlement.

Where is the good in this? What positive can I squeeze out of a rotten maggot infested dead rabbit?

(ahhh…but that’s another story about a rancid trashcan and a rabbit that croaked in my yard and an angry ex-husband who found the dead rabbit in the rancid trashcan because his wife didn’t know that dead rabbits need to go in other people’s trashcans)

Anyway, sometimes I ask myself, God, what the (insert an appropiately lame Christian bad word) was that sucker punch all about?

This was the question I asked myself as I left a youth football and cheer board meeting last night weeping.

Yes, weeping.

I walked through a senior center parking lot that lasted for miles and miles gulping and sobbing from a public beratement worthy of Paul and the Sanhedrin (before he turned good…when he still worked for the Dark Side).

And I asked myself once again, “What the hell is wrong with people?”

Years ago I was warned (by a wise mommy mentor) there are a few areas in life where people use unbridled power to manipulate and throw their weight around like the Patriots offensive line.

“Is it Washington politics?” I naively inquired.

“No Sam, its YOUTH SPORTS. Take heed to my words young lass and beware!”

I nodded at the wise sage and never forgot her words. And for years, playing for the Irvine Chargers and for Santa Margarita Pop Warner I had nothing but INCREDIBLE coaches, teams and experiences in football and cheerleading.

I thought I was one of the lucky ones. Sure there were the occasional squabbles and snarky remarks among parents, but overall we were tremendously blessed.

But last night those words came back to haunt me.

This year my daughter Faith was signed up for her second year to cheer for the Cowboys. Last year, her team competed in Nationals and she had a mostly positive experience. I had some concerns with extremely poor orginization within the league (not knowing the time of games until the day before…which will drive a mother of three CRAZY), but I tried to let the bad stuff go and focus on the fun. I helped out as team mom, hosted parties and provided a practice spot for the team (at no cost) at our church as a community outreach to save the league money. My husband and I went out of our way at every turn to support our girl and her team at every endeavor.

We were invested in the team like all parents who think their kids are AWESOME!

But this year things started off a little shakier.

The two oldest football teams –frustrated with the league took their ENTIRE groups of boys to another league. This left a gaping spot for the older girls.

There were no boys to cheer for in their age group.

My almost teen daughter would have to cheer for eight-year old boys.

And for a twelve-year-old girl this =MORTIFICATION.

Faith spent an entire night crying her eyes out. We asked her to pray and consider.

Then we got an e-mail saying her coach quit.

The game had changed. Faith tearfully asked if she could not cheer with this team.

She signed up to cheer for a MIDGET team but was faced with cheering for the MUNCHKINS.

I asked for a refund. Simple enough, right? I paid almost $400 and asked for my money back.

I was sent an e-mail saying I had to appear before the board.

Huh?

(Actually, I was sent five e mails with different times and dates and enough confusion to drive me crazy just regarding the board meeting)

So, I showed up at the firing squad (whoops –board meeting) where a group of YOUTH FOOTBALL Nazi’s terrorized me.

I was questioned, berated, interrogated and verbally beaten down to tears because I asked for a refund.

And then the questions arose as licked my wounded pride back at home?

Are the Cowboys in so much debt and disarray they can’t provide a refund for a kid who requested their money back over a month before practice started?

I was told “this is a business and we counted on your money.” “Even if kids get hurt we don’t provide a refund.” “Has your daughter been publicly shamed?”

My favorite was “How about a credit for next year?” –after I was already choking up. (like I wanted to come back and join this party again?)

And then like robots they repeated over and over a pre-planned message (clearly previously discussed) about what an honor it is to cheer for little boys almost half the age of my daughter.

And I understood why the two older teams picked up and left and took their boys with them. And why the Cowboys were allegedly kicked out of their previous league two years ago after a board member added seconds on the clock to overturn a game and let the Cowboys win.

Will somebody stop this reign of terror and stand up to these bullies?

I might have cried last night –but like little David facing Goliath, I’m just warming up my slingshot.

Have you had experience with youth sports?

Will Your Kid Leave the Church?

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It’s been a hot topic lately –“why kids are leaving the church.”  Over and over it seems church pundits want to blame old pastors wearing skinny jeans as the culprit.  Apparently, the sight of a forty year old with a goatee and paste on jeans makes our youth want to barf and disassociate from the gospel.

They say the church isn’t authentic enough… “Relevant” yes, but lacking meat and potatoes. They say it’s a McDonaldized version of the world with a happy meal Jesus.  The church entertains but fails to teach.  The atheists come at youth with science; the church comes at kids with rules.  The church is judgmental to their gay friends and we focus too much on sex and marriage and “looking good” vs. being good.

This anti-church message propagated on the radio by the rapper Macklemore, whom my kids love, claims the church paraphrases verses out of a 3500 year old book to shame and browbeat those outside the religious parameters.

And our kids are listening. They hear celebrities and artists who lift up and associate Jesus with everything BUT the church.

And it makes me sad, because this hasn’t been my experience with ministry.

(If you go to one of these terrible places that treat its youth with disdain, then leave.)

My experience with the church and youth ministry has simply been befuddlement.  Why are so many kids leaving the church and not coming back?  We try so hard and yet we are losing them?  What is the secret sauce to draw them back?

While I believe some of the millennial critiques hold credence in a sad and awkward way, I’m not buying the laundry list of nitpicky justifications young people use to reject the church as the real and underlying reason. 

All of the millennial criticism I hear boils down to one thing.  (And I don’t need a top ten list to tell you with neat little bulleted points)

So why kids are kids leaving the church?

I believe it’s a lack of love.

Remember Jesus?  He’s the guy who ate with sinners and gangsters, hookers, pimps and hoes.  Jesus is the man who loved the sexually immoral (pretty sure this includes gays too), turned over tables and healed the seriously messed up.

The church in its efforts to gain the youth and save the “lost generation” have forgotten the main thing.

Love

We focus on new buildings, more awesome bands, food trucks and large crowds.  We think we need just one more thing to get them to come back, but when we do this we get lost and caught up in the swirly whirly distraction of the world.

I know great parents who have sent their kids to the mega awesome Church to be DAZZLED and instead their kids come home with a drug addiction from dealers in the church parking lot.

Just because a church attracts a big crowd doesn’t mean Jesus is moving in the lives of our kids.  The draw at these BIG TEEN EVENTS might be good drugs, hot chicks and free food.  Last time I checked, I can send my teen to a rave for a $10 fee.  I certainly don’t need my tithe money to cover it.

What about love?  What about people who care about our kids?  What about parents engaging with their kids and serving side by side with them and using less words and more action? 

We can’t just tell our kids to be good; we need to be honest about our own brokenness and the healing power of Christ. 

We need to be let down our perfectly pinned up church hair and remember our struggles with temptation as teenagers.  We need to let them know we went down some dark roads too and that God’s love is relentless in its pursuit. 

I didn’t make it through high school with my innocence intact and quite honestly; my brokenness is what leads me to Christ. 

The kid that tries drugs or pre-marital sex or even walking away from Christ with unanswered questions may actually be closer to God than the devoted and quiet student who shows up every week to Sunday School and serves in Children’s Ministry.

Who are we to judge the state of a man’s heart?

I hold on to the verse, ”Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Why do we gloss over the “when he is old” part?  There is a gap in between the youth and old.  Maybe the gap includes living and loving, hurting, questioning, and finally returning to the arms of the father.

Why do we punish our kids for the gap years?  Why do we focus on the prodigal son and forget that God gave us two stories –one of a kid who followed the rules and one who ran away –and yet both were loved.

We need to allow our kids to question the mystery and bigness of God and we need to stop acting like we have all the answers. (Read the book of Job again if you think you know it all)

The appeal of Jesus to anyone – a millennial, a young family, a divorced woman, or an old codger is love.  We are to love God and love one another.  We aren’t instructed to put on a show and work our ministers to death so they are so exhausted and grumpy and so un-loving that our kids see just another man (or woman) in a monkey suit (insert skinny jeans) working for achievement.   

When a pastor or a CHRISTIAN doesn’t have time for a hurting kid, we missed an important step along the way.

My son met a kid at the Spectrum (about 15 years old) who passionately spoke his mind about Jesus and God and love. After that night, my kid has looked at his relationship with Christ a little differently.  He prays more.  I find his Bible (gasp) open in the morning next to his bed. 

This is a kid who also has a chip on his shoulder about the church.  My son is a pastor’s kid and survived a church plant.  And while some kids make it through puberty thinking the church is AMAZING, my son has seen some of the darker sides of ministry. 

And yet he is still drawn to Jesus.  When he saw another kid s passion and love for the Lord, it made an impact.

Love burst forth from this kid and mountains moved.

We need to teach our kids that we can’t judge Jesus by the church.  Jesus loves the church and died for the church, but we are a broken lot who mess and muddle up love on a regular basis.  We need Jesus to forgive us for misrepresenting him.  And we need to ask our kids to forgive us for giving them a half version of the gospel.

Jesus is to be our model of love.  The church is the place we try to work it out in community.  Do our kids understand this?

I don’ think kid’s care so much about “cool church” as we think…

My middle daughter is wooed to Jesus through the relationships in her life. I have been consistently overwhelmed at the women surrounding her (female youth pastor, worship leader, and BEAUTIFUL neighbors) who are pouring into her heart and showing her what love and God look like on a daily basis.  She is encouraged to serve alongside them, care for their children, worship God with all her heart and model their love in action.

She could care less if they are cool.  She cares that they love her and they love God.

I remember the same thing in college.  I heard a young pastor explain Jesus in a simple way.  He was bursting with fire and exuberance.  And I was drawn to the person of Jesus Christ.  I couldn’t help but connect with authentic love, relevant sacrifice and a purpose to seek and save the lost, the broken and the disenfranchised of the world.

It’s about love –not REASONS why the church is blowing it.  Those are just distractions.

When I hear someone go on and on about what moves them, I can’t help but get excited.  It’s why we sob at weddings and act like idiots at football games. 

We engage in a story that’s bigger than ourselves and we remember what it feels like to be alive.

And we fall in love all over again. 

I don’t think our kids are leaving because we (the church) haven’t tried.  We have tried until we are blue in the face.  I just think we have forgotten the main thing.

We think kids want skate parks and nifty bracelets, Chick Fillet and hip lounge chairs.

Really?  I think a crappy old sofa with a caring young adult eating PB& J’s would suffice.

When we allow Jesus to not only transform us but to move within us, love becomes the fabric of our being.

And it changes lives.

I believe the biggest obstacle to our kids not finding Jesus is not the failure of the church…I know the church has tried, it’s a failure to remember what drew us to God in the first place.

What do you think? 

For further reading: Why Millennials Need the Church

Photo Source: http://www.csulb.edu/divisions/students2/intouch/archives/2007-08/vol16_no1/01.htm

iPad Babysitter?

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As a parent of a three-year old, I know the quandary a parent faces when their toddler melts down in a fine-dining establishment. 

We silently play a mental game of tug of war.

“Do I pull out the iPad and soothe baby or wait outside in the cold until daddy pays for the meal I didn’t even eat?”

Hmmmm…tough call.

In the days of old, babies clutched a rattle in their tiny fists for amusement and played with their toes –but these days just as many parents hand over the iPad or SmartPhone to: (A.) develop fine and gross motor skills (swiping and poking) and (B) passively babysit.

Do a Google search for “toddlers with tablets” and images and videos of toddlers maneuvering hexagons and triangles bombard the screen.

(Seriously though…my baby could sort shapes way before yours)

But critics shake their head at this early embrace of technology, suggesting addictive behavior and behavioral disorders could follow.

But are parents heeding expert advice?  Am I?

Urvashi Sen of New York City claims her 11-month-old son Ishaan could swipe a tablet before he was 9 months old.

Sen, a member of the group Upper West Side Moms, says she feels conflicted about handing over the technology to her children. Suzy Wolfson, another member, also expressed concerns about her 13-month-old son Leo’s interaction with tablets.

“I feel guilty when he’s sitting there with it,” Wolfson said. “But at the same time, I know I’m going to get him to eat dinner if I give him the iPad. I do think there is real learning and value.”

A study by Northwestern’s School of Communication discovered that 37 percent of parents of kid’s age 6-8-years use their tablet or Smartphone to entertain; despite the fact that over half are concerned the mobile devices may have a negative impact on their physical activity.

But research reveals, the more their kids beg for technology the less parents seem to care.  Because the truth is when the Smartphone is at arm’s length and the baby starts crying, many parents will reach for the easiest solution at hand. 

And once patterns are set, it’s tough to resist.  The baby knows if he cries hard enough in public, mom or dad will cave to the pressure.

What’s even more frightening is the addictive nature of technology.

ABC News conducted an informal test to see if babies would prefer mommy’s arms or the iPad.  Sadly enough, the toddlers were irresistibly drawn to the touch screens.

Infants over and over again are mesmerized by digital toys. When Leo was given the option of his mother Suzy, or the iPad, he went straight to the tablet.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for children age 2 and under –zero “passive screen time.”

Not even for Elmo or Baby Einstein or Yo Gabba Gabba.

Just to fess up…in our home, we cheated by a few months, but generally deferred technology across the board until age two-ish (translation 20 months).  We also set limits on media but occasional fail during the summer months.

Instead, the AAP suggests unstructured play and talk time because they believe these approaches help children learn while supporting development.

This means mommies and daddies might want to consider turning away from their SmartPhones at the park to play pirates and princesses; it means we bring crayons and toys to the restaurant instead of the latest “Cupcake Maker” app, read books at bedtime and pull out the Little People for a game of pretend. 

It means we need to engage with our kids and not use technology to do OUR JOB.

We have to step up as parents even when it’s SOOOO easy to be a boob tube, iPhone, and iPad SLACKER. 

Because who is going to tell on us, the baby?

“That’s a time when these young kids need to be developing language skills and learning to recognize a facial expression, not scanning the Internet on an iPad,” said Gary Small, author of iBrain and professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Alright, exhausted parent’s of the world, as summer begins let’s virtually pinky swear to play more and tune in less.  Let’s turn off Playhouse Disney and go make a real fort with pillows and stuffed animals.

(Either that or your baby is going to turn into a techno-zombie who prefers his virtual mommy.  Just saying…)

How do you feel about toddlers and technology?

Source: ABC News

Throwing Away the To-Do List

 Kolby park

We play a game every night at dinner –day in and day out, we make our kids share what’s on their heart.  It’s called “Peak and Pit” and many of you parents probably have a similar ritual.

But last night my kid’s answers to the game was by far the PEAK of my day. 

Maybe it’s because I’m reading a book called Thirty Days to Live.  Now, just to be clear, I’m not dying –or at least not dying any more than any other day.

So here’s what my munchkins said…

“Allright kids, what went well for you today?”

“Me first, me first,” cried little Kolby, “the best part of my day was park with mama.”

My middle daughter Faith chimed in, “My best part of the day was watching “Ellen” with mommy and rubbing her head because she had a migraine.”

Kyle, my oldest son followed suit. “I had a great time at the park with mom too.  I trained agility (that’s football speak for a workout) and mom sat on the blanket and it was fun to have her watch me.”

And I know this sounds dumb, but (for me) it was HUGE PROGRESS.

I am not by nature spontaneous and carefree.  I like to have an agenda and cross tasks off my list.  My daddy taught me “piss poor planning means failure” or PPMF.  My plan makes me feel SAFE and in control.

But my kids were saying the best part of their day was mom deviating from her agenda.

First, I planned on going to the gym at 4:00pm.  I had worked all day, put dinner in the crock pot and I desperately wanted to run and lift and release for an hour.  My gym-time was scheduled in ink and my butt needed to be on a treadmill for both sanity and heart maintenance. 

But a brutal headache interrupted.

So, I sat on the ground, munched on Advil and let my daughter watch TV with me.  Generally we have strict rules about homework and no TV during the week (possibly because this child’s favorite thing to do is watch bridal design shows for eight hours straight). 

Faith was ecstatic at the change of plans.  My sweet girl saw me struggling and asked if she could rub my head. 

UMMMMM…..YESSSS!!!! 

So, we bonded and loved and laughed over Ellen (who is probably the funniest human being ever).  And eventually my head hurt less.

Faith

Then my son came down stairs with his workout clothes on and I offered to take him and Kolby to the park. 

We picked up Kolby from pre-school, handed her a sippy cup with milk and surprised her with a trip to the park. 

To a three year-old the word “park” is like “walk” to a dog.  She yipped the whole way there.

We made pretend ice cream in the sand and Kolby bossed me around, mainly because she’s a mini-control freak just like her mama. 

My son put out his cones on the grass and I watched him dance around them and sweat buckets in awe.  This almost 200 lb man with the bulging biceps and ripped abs is my little boy –all grown up.  WOW. 

I wrote in my journal yesterday, if I only had one day to live I would be more present.  I would be spontaneous, seize the moment and love my family with all my heart.

Interruptions are messy, relationships take work, and loving my kids in their love language (bridal shows with cuddles, toddler play, and watching my son run around cones) isn’t easy for me.  Although I adore my kids, I get way too caught up in giving them what I think they need –a clean house, warm meals, money in the bank, and structure.

Sometimes what they really need is just me.

And at least for this one day, my kids noticed I was more available.

How would you act differently if you only had one day to live?

 

Hobbits and A Double Standard

Bilbo_Baggins_(2)

My three-year old quoted JR Tolkien yesterday-Bilbo Baggins to be exact. 

Kolby swiped at her runny nose and waved her arms around for emphasis.  “Stop, stop.  I’ve forgotten my handkerchief.  We must go back.”

The whole family burst into raucous laughter as we pulled out of the driveway.

If you know the Hobbit like we do you know this tiny kid has a serious sense of humor.

 We do cover her eyes for the Ork and Goblin scenes for all you parents out right now tsk-tsking us for introducing violence to our young impressionable child.

I had to laugh the other day as I recognized the hypocrisy in my parenting.  We were at the beach and our young friend-Luke, who is obsessed with Star Wars, was asking question after question about the characters.  Luke is not yet allowed to watch the movies.  Seeing that he is only four years old this seems very appropriate.

But the problem is that our three-year old, a much younger child (in his eyes), has not only seen the movie but can also quote Darth Vader, Han and R2D2.

“Kolby has seen Star Wars?” our young friend wailed with indignation.  “But she’s smaller than me.”

‘I know buddy,” I replied.  “But she’s our third child and the third child has different rules than the first child (like you are) and someday you will understand the conundrum.”

Luke looked at me blankly, adorably pouted and dragged his sweet little feet in the sand.

I felt like a schmuck.

What I should have said is, “Here’s the deal Luke, the third child watches everything the first child had to wait years for.  As the first child, you will have more rules and be the guinea pig for your parents.  I’m sorry bud, but that’s the plight of a first-born.”

Or, maybe I’ll let him figure it out on his own.

Our son Kyle, my first-born, wanted to watch Harry Potter in pre-school.  And I as a young Christian mom I freaked out.

So, I made him wait until he was six years old and then made him read the novel along with the Bible passages on witch craft before he could watch the movie.  He also was required to explain the difference between fantasy and reality and promise to never engage in spells or incantations.

By the time Kolby rolled around, we just hid her eyes when “He who shall not be named” was on the screen.

Oh the double standard is terrible!  But it’s so hard to kick the baby out of the room when the teens are watching PG13.

Have you noticed a double standard when parenting your first and last kids?

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