Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can wait two years to do…

It’s the 30th of the month, and after staring down a to do list throughout October, it didn’t look too promising that the list would be completed. I knew we wouldn’t have the satisfaction of crossing most items off the list way back when I wrote it all down, but seeing it in print sprawled across the giant whiteboard in the kitchen helps all of us know what’s in my head. Some projects were easy, like move crazy piece of furniture that has been sitting near the door for three months (DUH! What takes us so long to get that done?! Why must we all trip over something before just putting it away?!?). Others, like “take out carpet in boys’ bedroom,’ requires a lot more planning and action. (Needless to say, that item will be transferred to the November to do list)

Ah well. Between homeschooling, regular housework, CC work and prep, and extra things like taking certain children for X-rays and a cast, some days don’t have many hours left for extra projects. Frustrating, but reality.

So imagine my surprise when I came back from my walk this evening and one of the kids rushed by me.
“What’s going on?” I inquired.
“Oh, Dad told us to go downstairs and find 20 things to throw away, 20 things to give away, and 20 things to put away where they belong!” he answered brightly and quickly, and continued back downstairs.

Well, OK, then! I didn’t even ask for more information. I simply sat down and for the next two hours, fielded questions about whether toys or other items that the kids found were keep, give away, or throw away. It was fairly painless in that nobody started crying (I was worried I would at some point; I really have to talk myself into the purging process, and this time I had no preparation whosoever), and lots got done. The kids brought up a bunch of different categories, and threw away the garbage that had been scattered here and there. By the end of their time, they had enough to drive over to the donation center with Todd.

Woohoo! That’s not bad! I didn’t even have to motivate anyone and Todd had them all down there knocking out a project.

I’m not going to worry about the roughly 65,227 items that still need to be conquered in our house. Those seem to be quite content to wait for me to get to them. For tonight, I’m thankful that one more job was tackled by willing helpers who took the task on by themselves and worked it out. Progress indeed, and in more areas than I’d listed on my to do chart.

We shall see what tomorrow brings….

Despite what the weathermen are saying, it BETTER NOT BE SNOW…


Cast Liberation Day!

It’s been a busy three weeks since Andrew fell and broke his arm, and thanks to the blog-a-day challenge, it’s all chronicled in earlier posts. He was quite excited for this day to come, because even though he hardly complained a peep about his cast, whenever we asked him about it, he did admit that it was a pain and it itched every now and again. But anyone can live with the inconvenience of a cast for twenty-one days, right?

We had another quick trip through the process: didn’t wait long to be called back, only had time to look around the room before the nurse came in to remove the cast, X-rays quickly followed, and then a meeting with the doctor. He informed us that the bone was healing perfectly, and to continue the healing, he wanted Andrew to wear a removable splint for an additional three weeks. Hooray for removable! He only has to wear it during the daytime, and can easily be removed for a shower. Again I say hooray (and I’m pretty sure Andrew does too!)

Here are a few pictures from the process today…


Andrew listens while the nurse explains the process.

Andrew listens while the nurse explains the process.


It tickled!

It tickled!


How many times have I said that Andrew enjoys EVERYTHING?!

How many times have I said that Andrew enjoys EVERYTHING?!


FREE and feeling great!

FREE and feeling great!


And, as if Cast Liberation Day wasn’t enough, the kids had the chance to dress up for a masquerade at their church youth group this evening, and although they waited until the last minute, they managed to scrounge something together.   Patrick teamed up with his friend to be Thing 1 and Thing 2…


Thing 1 makes sure his hair is "just right."

Thing 1 makes sure his hair is “just right.”


One half of the Thing 1/Thing 2 pair.

One half of the Thing 1/Thing 2 pair.


Brendan used my scrubs from a past costume party to dress up as a doctor.  We had all sorts of fun coming up with Ebola-related names for him, but in the end, I only had scrubs–not a hazmat suit.  He liked that just fine, thankfully!

Brendan dressed up as "The Doctor," but he really wished he had found a duck mask so he could have been "A Quack."

Brendan dressed up as “The Doctor,” but he really wished he had found a duck mask so he could have been “A Quack.”

Ben went the extremely casual (and easy) route and wore this shirt.  It’s nothing if not clever!


Gotta love Ben, rocking the "costume, no costume" idea!

Gotta love Ben, rocking the “costume, no costume” idea!


Hannah went to a friend’s party and dressed up as a different “doctor.”

Hannah, Hollye, and Matthew pose for fun.

Hannah, Hollye, and Matthew pose for fun.


 It’s been a full and fun day!

I drove (in) the van today and didn’t look at the temperature gauge once…

Hopefully this is the end of the van saga, but when one drives a 2001 model of anything, one can never be entirely certain.  We picked up the repaired vehicle this past Saturday, and for the first few times I drove it, I was not convinced that it would survive.  After all, I hadn’t been able to drive it even 5 miles when it broke down the last time.  After all that drama and loss of years off my life, I trusted no part of the van.

But nonetheless, the guys at the shop called and said that all was well.  The final verdict?  A blown head gasket and a cracked header.  In mechanic terms, that oftentimes signals the end of an engine.  In our case, in a van with almost 180k miles contained an engine that probably wasn’t going to be any kinder to us.  Besides, the mechanic told Todd that adding new parts to an old engine sometimes doesn’t work out the way you might thing…or maybe it does work out the way you might think: badly.

I’m not sure why this guy was so helpful to us, but he really bent over backwards (I felt) to get us back up and rolling.  He found a replacement engine at a local place that only had 85k miles on it (a baby! just getting started!) and was willing to replace Ye Olde Cracked Header with a Side of Blown Head Gasket engine for half of what it would normally cost.  Now, lest you worry that this guy was feeding us a line regarding what half price on such a large repair really costs, we’ve been down this road before, and the full price number that he quoted us was almost exactly what another mechanic quoted a few years earlier.  I felt like that was confirmation on a number.  So, bottom line: they offered to replace our engine and all the extra stuff required therein (hoses, bells, whistles…) for half price.  Based on where we found ourselves and the prospect of trying to find another 8 passenger van in our price range quickly, this sounded like the best option. And what an amazing blessing that was for us!

So that’s what we did.  It took them about a week to do the necessary work in addition to actually driving it around and making sure the “engine transplant” was a success.  (Perhaps you’ll remember that Mike the mechanic back in Angola also told Todd that he’d driven the van around after his repair and said it was working…I wonder how that was even possible when I couldn’t make it limp for a measly 3.5 miles past the shop.)  I knew it was true this time: I checked the odometer.

I will admit that although it seems to be working very well now, and I can tell that the engine itself runs more smoothly than Ye Olde…oh, you know the one…I still can’t help but think that at any given moment…POW!  BOOM!  OVERHEAT!  I guess it’s mostly because of my nature, which I constantly have to fight and speak against.

Today, though, Hannah drove it to and from work and I am happy to report that I didn’t even think about the temperature gauge.  That may be because I was too concerned with sitting in the passenger seat with a teenager in the driver’s seat.   Yes.  That tends to trump all other concerns, I am finding.   But that is a story for another blog post, I believe.

And so, the saga comes to a close.  We tried to make it to Grand Rapids, MI, but didn’t make it any further north than Angola, and were snapped from the clutches of being stranded there by my brother and sister-in-law.   All’s well that ends well.

But I’m still watching that temperature gauge…as long as I’m driving.

Day 27 and I’d like to give up

It was rather unwise to commit to write a post a day this month, and although it’s almost the end of the 3- days, I’m feeling grumpy about having made the commitment. I’m tired of having to come up with something new every day to write about, whether or not anyone reads it.

But I did say I would write every day, and except for the whole weekend without a van (or a way home), I have so far.

Maybe I’m just tired. Mondays begin at 5:30 and don’t stop until late in the day. I didn’t have to plunge any toilets today, but I was running from the time we arrived at CC until late in the day. It’s amazing how quickly the morning goes, for one thing. The other aspect I couldn’t have prepared for is how physically tiring the job is on Mondays. That has really surprised me.

So maybe I’m just tired, and therefore let a little grumpy creep in.

I had the chance to speak tonight, and although I did bring up socks and toilets (and how they relate to kids), I hope I didn’t come across as too discouraging in my delivery. It’s a fine line to walk between being realistic and being a downer! Being a parent is sort of like living the Peace Corps commercial: “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I do love it, and I hope that I was able to convey that tonight.

One other random thought from today: Andrew and his classmates learned that the capacity of the stomach can be up to 2 qts.


Because of this knowledge, some of the past puke-fests by the kids make sense now. While we thought they must have been vomiting food that they hadn’t yet eaten, we could have known the truth had we just had some basic knowledge of the human digestive system.

Yep, I’m just tired.

Speaking to a group of moms has me all in a tizzy

Tomorrow night I’m scheduled to speak to a group of moms and share some wisdom that I’ve learned over my tenure as a parent.  For one thing, I can’t possibly be old enough to have any words of wisdom to share…right? Aren’t I just starting out on this parenting journey?  The calendar (and my oldest child) tell me that I have been a parent, in fact, for 17 years and so therefore I should have some thoughts to offer.   Here’s the list I compiled that may or may not make the talk tomorrow night:

1.  If you have boys, your bathroom will most likely be gross.  And by gross, I mean, in the running for Worst Outhouses of the Year.   I have come to realize that this doesn’t necessarily reflect poor housekeeping skills.   Five minutes after your best cleaning job, one of those little people could have to go and their aim isn’t really great.  Or even a high priority.  I do the best I can, and keep hoping that some day they will too.

2. There will always be errant socks in the strangest places in your house.  Don’t blame the dogs; the kids are the culprits.  I have found socks on top of the mantel, on the island, and one just recently on the deck.  But the day I find TWO socks in any one place is the day I will probably fall over dead.

3.  Kids will pick the best times to get sick.  (Of course, is there *any* good time to be sick? NO.  The answer is always NO)  Beware especially of car trips, large family gatherings, and the night before abdominal surgery.  That’s when stomach bugs are the most vicious and children are especially vulnerable.  Oh, and whenever you are nowhere near a proper–or even improper–receptacle.

4.  Drinks usually spill on and dirty shoes traipse through any floor that was just cleaned.  I think they have radar for such things.

5.  You would not believe how many variations kids can come up with when placing a shirt on a hanger.  I have counted about 27 so far.

6.  Just when you think you’ve lost your mind with the lack of sleep, crazy schedule, and endless to do lists scratched on napkins or the back of your hand, one of those little people spontaneously wraps his or her arms around your neck and exclaims, “You’re the best Mommy there is!”


Then suddenly, of course, it all makes sense.  You don’t do it for the accolades (huh? Is Worst Outhouse of the Year considered an accolade?), and you don’t do it for the money.  You don’t do it so you can fight the urge to compare yourself to the other moms you know who you’re sure are getting this mommy thing down better than you.  You do it because those little people are your little people, and even though they may leave a trail of destruction behind them and make you want to pull out your hair some days, they are a lot like you: works in progress.

And you just love them.


“For at the proper time”

While I was taking my walk this afternoon in the brilliant fall weather,  complete with clear blue skies as a backdrop to the myriad leaf colors, I had an imaginary conversation with my oldest daughter.  It morphed into something completely different, however.

In my imagination, I sat down next to Hannah on the couch, and simply asked, “When you’re married and pregnant with your first child, will you come to me and allow me to teach you about all the options for your birth and how to prepare for it?”  Does that sound strange?  At first, perhaps, but I spent the better part of fifteen years immersing myself in the pregnancy, birth, and baby world: first as an active participant, but also as an educator.  Over 160 couples came through our classes in the ten years that we taught, and I had the privilege of attending just over 30 births.   Although I wasn’t an expert birth professional, it was definitely my passion and I approached it with the vim and vigor necessary to prepare couples for the excitement and hard work ahead of them.  From our personal experience, the births of our children were some of the sweetest times in our lives together as husband and wife and the teamwork we needed brought us quite close together.

I desire to pass that knowledge along to all of my children, but admit that my relationship is probably best suited to most easily share it with my daughters.  I can teach them how to prepare for birth, I can explain the different amazing steps of the birth process and show how to use that knowledge to work through labor towards the goal of a satisfying birth experience and happy and healthy outcome.  It was such a large part of our lives (and my kids’ lives) for so many years that I hope it’s not a strange or awkward subject to broach.  (Although we don’t sit around watching Bradley birth videos, thankfully, I often think that a well-placed viewing of one of the more…”illustrative” births would have repercussions for years to come with the kids! *Past Bradley folks, I know you know what I mean…*)  My sons are better suited to receive the advice on how to be a supportive husband and father during pregnancy and labor, and how to fill their ‘tool belt’ of support to guide and comfort their wives during that time.  But I digress…

And then, as I imagined sitting with Hannah, before she could even  answer in my daydream, I felt like a gentle voice was asking me, “What else could you teach your kids from experience and wisdom? Can you teach them about Me the same way you desire to teach them about birth?”

Woah.  In an instant, the realization washed over me that although the awesomeness of pregnancy and birth cannot be overstated, it is in an entirely different realm than sharing the knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ.  What better conversation to have with each of our kids, not just once while sitting next to each other one day, but daily, constantly, like the verse in Deuteronomy exhorts.  “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  As much as I read my books for classes, how much more could I impart to our kids if I put the same effort and passion into studying the Bible and memorizing the truths therein?  Even beyond quiet time, and beyond prayer (which, with six kids and homeschooling, I feel like I’m constantly praying, but I think that’s missing the point!)… I’m thinking that prompting was to get me thinking about having the truth of Scripture in my own head and at the ready so I can pass it along to my kids at any time.  In the same way that I could list the stages of labor and explain how the process works in greater detail than most people want to hear, I should be able to give an answer in most situations and encouragement to my kids as they grow into adults and mature in their lives.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but with blessing (1 Peter 3:9)

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble. (Proverbs 28:14)

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to do so. (Proverbs 3:27)

Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

And the voice that quietly spoke to me and encouraged me while I walked, “Be excited to ask your kids if you can teach them about Me like you get excited to teach them about anything else.”   It’s a convicting reminder.  Our kids have grown up in church and in the knowledge of God, but that doesn’t guarantee a relationship.  The personal decision to accept that Christ died for each one of them, and develop that relationship with their Creator and Savior, is ultimately their decision alone.  But am I doing everything I can, both by example and by passionate teaching, towards that relationship and the blessings that come from it? Am I sharing the character of God, His goodness, His promises, and His love?

I have so far to go and so much to learn myself, and sometimes I feel that we are wholly inadequate to bear the responsibilities that come with parenting.  But with the grace of God,  we will keep going, and keep trying to share the most important truths of life.  I’m thankful for the gentle reminder today to be enthusiastic and excited about sharing what I’ve learned with the most precious people I know.  We can’t give up now!

 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)


“Learning to Love What Must Be Done:” a guest post

Tonight, as I feverishly try to wrap up the day’s to do list (as the clock mercilessly plods on–and dare I say, seems to be going faster?), I have nothing to say.  But, as I feverishly try to finish my cooking, baking, bed-making, laundry-folding, and grocery-putting-away-ing, this article is all I can think of tonight.  A good friend of mine shared it with me, and I’d like to pass it forward.  It is convicting and encouraging all at once.  How many times have I corrected my kids for complaining about their jobs while groaning about having to cook dinner again?  I wish I had written this article, but I most certainly did not, so I will try to give all the proper credit to the wise one, Christopher Perrin, who did crafting.  For more information about the Circe Institute, please click here.


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Learning to Love What Must Be Done
By: Christopher Perrin
I am sure that most of you, like me, have fought hard to overcome a perpetual desire to relax and procrastinate when important tasks loomed. Those of you who have never battled with procrastination–well, your problems are obviously of another sort. In college, I recall several who transformed the practice of putting things off into art. Do you remember the guy in your dorm hall who wouldn’t begin his term paper till the night before it was due–and somehow still got an A? These types make it tempting for all of us.

The etymology of procrastination is worth examining: the word comes from the Latin pro ( forward, on behalf of) and cras (tomorrow). Therefore, at its root, the word means pro-tomorrow. Remember the maxim of the slacker: Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? In contrast, we find encouragement of a different sort from the German poet Goethe: Cease endlessly striving for what you would like to do and learn to love what must be done.

I can sure do with a little more Goethe; and I am forced to reason that my children must need his advice, too. Many voices call for our attention–and not all of them bad. Sure, there are the typical scoundrels calling for us: hours of mindless TV programs, on-line surfing and chit-chat and other forms of “entertainment” that do little to exalt our minds or souls (no wonder Christopher Wren called TV “chewing gum” for the eyes). There are some good TV programs available too–some unusually good programs on the History Channel (but also some weird ones). We must admit, too, that amidst the ocean of drivel on the internet there are some exceptionally good sites and resources. Rejecting good things for what is best can be sorely difficult–should the family stay home tonight or take off for a church service or activity?

Finding a routine helps–for the routine answers the questions before they come up. Yes, we are going for a walk this afternoon–we always do. Yes, we will start homework after dinner–that is our routine. Crafting the routine, of course, is not necessarily easy. I know many families have great, thoughtful, tested and re-tooled routines (could you send me a copy?). Some families with younger children (or maybe only one young child) are probably still working on crafting a family rhythm and pattern. Establishing a routine that works well is an ongoing enterprise, that keeps answering the question of what must go, stay or be added.

Once we have created a workable routine, another challenges becomes clear. How do we maintain momentum, energy, stability and peace? At least part of the answer comes from Goeth: we should love those things we must do. Once our daily tasks become beloved tasks, the routine become less routine. This, I believe, is something we can pass on to our children, like an attitude, for Goethe is encouraging a mindset not an activity. If they see some measure of joy as we cook, clean, mow and repair, they are apt to find it easier to love (in a manner of speaking) clearing their plates, bathing and doing homework. Strange as it is, they usually grow up to be like us.

Education, after all, is largely a matter of routine. Nothing is mastered without regular visitation, review and study. And education never stops. If we can, we should cast the work our students do as a labor of love, a life-long love, and we should love what they do too. Education will have its high moments, its epiphanies, break-throughs and moments of joy–much like a marriage. But the larger tranquility of a good education comes from the regular labor of worksheets, translations and reading assignments, in the same way a good marriage grows on preparing a meal, raking the lawn and taking a walk.

Once we have created a routine and learned to love it, we can also find yet even further comfort in knowing that a regular part of our routine must be to break from it. We call these breaks of routine by various names, such as “dinner out,” “week-ends” and “vacations.” These can be holy days in their own right, those special routines that are special largely because they are not daily, and because they are a ritual of celebration. And we celebrate with the most poignant joy when our work is done (the hay is in the barn, the homework is all done–let’s go to dinner). Put another way, when we work well, we rest well.

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