October 16, 2017

Beat Dependent


The more we are together, the more I realize that I am dependent on my wife for certain things. She always buys the shampoo and tooth paste (and we never run out). She plans vacations. She knows how to make popcorn in a pot and not in the microwave. There's nothing wrong with being dependent of course, but as I take on more responsibility as a parent, I am finding that there are things I should know how to do that I just don't.

Last night, for instance, we were going to have pizza for dinner because Katie bought some dough that was about to expire. We used to have a Pizzaz pizza maker, a gift from our good friend Jason, which made homemade pizza night something to look forward to. The Pizzaz didn't make the move cross-country, but homemade pizza is still awesome. But also intimidating, as I have never made it before and a big blob of dough is kind of weird to me. And so I did. And the dough was undercooked and our youngest woke up puking this morning. Still, I tried and everyone survived, thankfully...

Our oldest is becoming quite skilled at using the potty, and one of our training methods has been to reward her every time she used it with a cookie, a temporary tattoo or a present from Tootie, her grandmother. Last night she chose a tattoo and I realized I didn't know how to put them on, because it was something Katie always did. I put the prize off until this morning, but I am a man of my word and so today I figured out how to apply a child's tattoo. No puking on this one. It's a double tattoo, and actually looks pretty good:



Those are silly examples, but the fact of the matter is, particularly in regards to dads, that it is easy to let our wives take on more of the parenting responsibilities when it comes to day-to-day activities. Katie tells me about moms she meets all the time that complain about their husbands' ineptitude in practical parenting skills. And so I want to take this time to encourage any dad readers out there that you can do more! You can and do play an important job in parenting your child!

To do so will just take work and the desire to learn about your kids and what they require to make it through a day. But therein lies the problem: It's easier to let your wife do "mom things," while you go and earn that paycheck, thus fulfilling your duties as dad. Not so, dads. Providing for your family means much more than putting food on the table. You are valuable for more than that and are certainly able to do it!

I don't write this to demean or simplify either role in parenting -- food on the table is necessary -- but I write rather to encourage dads to stretch themselves in ways that they either thought weren't possible, or were content not trying. Your family will appreciate the extra effort and time, and I think you will find the progress rewarding as well.

I ran into an old friend today who said he had his three kids all week long due to his wife being out of town. "I don't know how to do anything," he said. "The school had to do my daughter's hair today!" To that I say, "It's okay." I commend him for stepping up and not dropping off the kids at grandma's for a week. To him I also say, "You can do it!"You are more than you think you are. You are strong and courageous. You are patient and competent. You play a part no one else can: you are Daddy.




October 9, 2017

Keep Experimenting


Kids are really different. This becomes more apparent when you have more than one, of course. Our first learned different words at a different rate, walked later than the second, is a much more fluid dancer but also a little less adventurous. She also used to hate going to bed (still does most of the time, though it's not as bad as it used to be); but once you got her to bed, she was out for the night. We got this book, 12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks, which was recommended from a work friend. I think it took 14 weeks for us, but it pretty much made the difference. However, once you put her down, you usually had to go back in a few times to comfort her before she would actually pass out. Yeah, maybe we should have just let her "cry it out," but sometimes it's hard to take the sound for more than a few minutes.

Conversely, our second child was extremely difficult at first, in regards to sleep. To be fair, we were in a 2 bedroom apartment and were putting her to bed in our room, and then transferring her to a pack-n-play in the living room once we were ready to sleep. Naturally, that didn't last long and we decided to move across the country to solve the problem (sleep deprivation will take its toll). After a few months, she actually went to bed really nicely. By the time she had her own room, you would hold her for a few minutes and then she would actually lean into the crib to go to sleep. However -- and this is a big however -- she would wake up several times a night. Not always, but about 85% of the time, our sleep would be broken up by a crying kid in need of a pacifier. Once she got the pacifier, it was out like a light for a few hours most nights. But then there were the odd ones where she would wake up 5-7 times. Exasperated, we would try and take turns, though who is keeping score when you're in the middle of a deep sleep cycle and can barely tell what's going on outside of your own head?



And then the other day my wife mentions that Waverly is almost two years old and still not sleeping through the night. Really? Wow... I thought, as it hit me that Ellie was far past this point at her age. Like I wrote, kids are different, but man, shouldn't she be sleeping soundly by now? For our sake and hers. Age kind of gets away from you after the first child. For your first, you are acutely aware of each month and milestone. "Oh, she's 7 weeks old...14 months..." Then, after two years, it kind of dies down. Of course, we had Waverly when Ellie was 21 months, so maybe we just couldn't keep track anymore -- I have heard mothers say her child was 32 months before...c'mon, that's too much.

Anyway, two nights ago, my wife decides to leave a closet light on with some books in Waverly's crib when we put her down for sleep. She typically fights this time of night, her energy really boosting once the lights go out. But on that night, she didn't make a sound outside of "reading" her books. The night went on, she slept, and that was that. It's been three nights of this, and it has worked every time. And so I wanted to write this whole thing to encourage all the parents out there to keep experimenting when it comes to your daily routines. Don't just accept things like a bad sleeper or a child who won't eat vegetables, because there might be a solution that will save both of you a lot of heartache, and will likely be healthier for everyone in the long run. I guess the same thing applies to life outside of parenting, so if that's you, congratulations for reading so far into a blog post about parenting, and hopefully it is now worth your while!

October 2, 2017

"I Just Want You"


Nap time is never a guaranteed thing at our house. My wife very cleverly started calling it "rest time," so our oldest could play by herself in her room while the youngest slept, also giving Katie some time to relax before the afternoon craziness that would inevitably come.

I have tried to keep rest time going during my tenure as the stay at home parent, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. Ellie started getting into an Amazon show called Creative Galaxy, which is a fun little cartoon that encourages kids to approach problems through creativity. At the end, it shows live action kids doing art projects, which always inspires Ellie to do the same. Suddenly, rest time has become "art project time," which involves a constant interruption for paper, scissors, crayons, glue, etc. I think of myself as a pretty creative guy, so I hate to stifle her own endeavors, but it is cutting into my own time, which is when I usually write or do house projects.



So this has been the little daily battle that has been going on while my youngest slumbers away peacefully. I usually try to play with Ellie a little and then shut the door for rest time, but she always retorts with, "But Daddy, I'm not tired." I assure her that it is important to be by yourself sometimes as a means to rest, but "introvert" is a word that means nothing to her right now, so this is typically futile. Eventually, I shut the door and she becomes sad, eventually playing quietly until she needs more paper to cut and a refill of tape.

Today was much the same, but when I told her it was rest time, she got very somber and hugged my leg. "What do you want, Ellie?" I asked. "Daddy, I just want you," she replied, and squeezed a little tighter. The words melted me, and I laid down to play for another 15-20 minutes before calling it rest time and coming to the computer to write this blog post.

These were powerful words coming from my three year-old, expressing what is likely one of the deepest desires of her little beating heart. But they struck me deeply as well, because I think that's exactly what God wants to hear from us; though if I'm honest, it's rarely what I want. Sure, I want to know God, and I know the more I get to know him, the more of him I will want. But there are so many things in this life that I also want, that overshadow his relationship far too often. It's the worst kind of eclipse -- one that happens every day -- the beauty of creative pursuits perverted as they take the place of the only thing that can truly fulfill, the only One who can.

It is no wonder that Jesus valued children so much, as through their words can we catch a glimpse of our own relationship with God. Even then, sometimes I find it difficult to believe that this could even be what God wants from us. But then I read verses like this, and my mind is changed, and my heart leans a little closer to the God who so strongly wants it to:
The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)  
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) 
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)   
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (James 4:8a)  
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God... (1 Peter 3:18a) 
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)  
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1a) 
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. (John 15:12-14)  
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)  
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)  
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17) 

September 29, 2017

The One He Loves


Here is another throwback to some sermons I listened to during my tenure at my boring desk job. I was lucky enough to watch Judah preach this one in person (not the recorded one, but the topic was the same). He's a compelling speaker and if you ever get a chance to see him, take it! But one thing that struck me about Judah Smith from the beginning was that he pretty much says the same thing every sermon: God loves you a lot and wants you to be in relationship with Him. That's it. Over and over, just with different words and a unique twist here and there. But what could be more foundational to our faith and our existence on this planet? Sometimes it's hard to believe, but when we hear the passion in Judah's voice and see his excitement over the reality of God, you start to think that maybe it's true.

Here is The One He Loves By Judah Smith

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (John 11:1-5)

Notes:
  • When Mary/Martha want Jesus to come save Lazarus' life, they don't cite his love for God, but God's love for him
    • The theme of their lives is God's love for them, not their love for God
  • The closer you get to Jesus, the less our works matter
  • We will never be able to "hold up our end of the bargain" in our relationship with God
    • This is how we have relationships with others
  • http://thecity.org/message/the_one_i_love

September 25, 2017

The First Hard Day


I wrote before that I recently became a stay-at-home dad for the second time, and I am totally loving it. Well, the honeymoon phase has worn off I think, because things are starting to get hard. The kids seemed very happy to have me home for the first couple of weeks, and were pretty much obedient. Over the last few days though, I have noticed a little more obstinance showing up. I was bracing myself for the explosion, and today it came.

My daughter hates cleaning up. It's a real point of contention for us, because it drives me crazy when kids don't want to clean up after themselves. I'm big on social responsibility, and realized that children don't often share my sentiment when my wife and I used to teach Sunday school for our old church. Getting fourth graders to clean up their crayons seems just about as hard as training a dog to make me a sandwich. So when my own daughter, a three year-old, shows signs of this same blatant disregard for responsibility, mixed with a healthy dose of laziness, I can't stand it. We are trying different techniques -- taking away toys and making her earn them back with chores mostly -- but nothing seems to be working fully.

Today was an all-time low. With several bins of toys already on the prison shelf, I gave her ample time to clean up before we did a craft. She piddled about and played her usual routine. I even offered to help a little and did help. No dice. When the timer was done, she lost about half her toys in a matter of minutes. Tears ensued. Meanwhile, the oblivious one year-old was prancing around needing her own level of attention, but I just didn't have it.

Fast forward to the park, where something was still just off. The girls were being a bit asocial and just wanted to swing. Eventually a ball made it into the picture along with a boy who wanted to play chase. Ellie wasn't having it. Waverly wanted to swing and, being the younger, needed a little extra help, but the older one was just feeling incredibly needy. Not able to split myself in two, I had to choose. It was pretty much lose lose, but I tried hard to balance the time.

And then there was lunch. The gate to the kitchen that usually allows me a peaceful preparation broke today somehow, so now they are able to take things out of the trash can, while also arguing because Ellie didn't want to share the two walkabout toys they have. That's another point of contention -- Ellie feels she doesn't need to share, but rightly deserves every toy in the house, whenever she wants it. "We share everything," I say over and over. Eventually the conflict leads to tears and a tantrum on the floor.



I'm sure this is just a normal day for most of you, or was when your kids were this age, or maybe will be when you have kids, but it was just difficult. Like I said, something has been off all day. I was even casting out evil spirits in Jesus' name during lunch, just trying to get this negativity out of here! It's only mid-day right now as I'm writing this, so I'm hoping things get better. Anyway, I wanted to write about it to kind of process, but also encourage you (and me) with some more positive thoughts...

First, even though this is a hard day, this is still the best job I have ever had. I'm sure of it. And I'm sure it's what I'm supposed to be doing right now. It reminds me of my years in searching for a perfect job that I would love every day of. "Find something you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life," as the saying goes. But reality taught me that even the "perfect" job will not always feel perfect. There will be tough days and tedious tasks. It doesn't make the job any less perfect, it just makes it a job.

Second, don't let the arguments turn personal. They are just kids testing you. Stand your ground and keep going, as calmly as possible. I learned that from my teacher wife, who really did a good job being the stay-at-home mom the past year-and-a-half. The tantrum now will turn into an "I love you Daddy" later. It's also important to remember that, even though my kid appears lazy or socially irresponsible now, she is only three and we are not done yet! Maturity is a process. Sometimes I fear the worst for my kids, but that shows little faith and will not lead to good places.

Another aside along the same lines is to not speak negativity into your kids life. I often hear parent say things like, "You're being such a brat" and "Why are you so lazy?" We are speaking titles and labels into our children's lives that they will learn to adopt as the years go on. Sure, the action is lazy and bratty, but their identity is not those things. Even if it feels that way, speaking it will only solidify it, which is the opposite of what we want.

Okay, TV time is almost done and we will see if the oldest wants to nap. Here we go...