“I thought we had more time.”
I can’t shake this phrase today in thinking about my brother. As adults, we were not as close as we would have preferred. Living so far apart made that difficult but, I thought we had more time to grow close once again. We were as different as brothers could be. I’m tall, he wasn’t. He was an artistic creative soul, I am more logical. I have a beard, he struggled to get a soul patch going. My favorite hobbies are indoor things, his were mostly outdoors. But in all of these things, we still had so much in common and I thought we had more time to explore those things.
I thought we had more time. Those 6 words will haunt me as they will many others who were in his life. But we don’t, and I don’t. All I can do now, is wrestle with this beast that I’m so unfamiliar with and learn. Learn what losing Ben will teach me. To love much more intentionally. To live more free. To create without fear. To be humble and honest about my failings. To see beauty in all of God’s creation. You see, all these are areas he excelled in and so he still inspires me, as a big brother should.
Bear with me as I may use this forum to share some of my grief but also to look forward.
Peanut began to show an interest in art when she was seven or eight years old. She started by tracing line art drawings that we would print out for her. She then progressed to doing more and more complex art of her own, mostly using pencils, pens and markers. As she matured as an artist, she began working with paints, pastels, charcoal, mixed media nod even a little bit of sculpting has been thrown in for good measure. As parents who are not artistic ourselves, we have just stepped back and watched in wonder as she has continued down this path. This type of pursuit of an interest is precisely why we chose to homeschool in the first place and we have provided her with the space and time to go where it will lead her.
And so here we are, six years into the “hobby” and I don’t think we can still call it a hobby any longer. She “arts” every single day and continues to push herself to try new techniques, methods and styles. Will this lead to a high paying career one day? I don’t know and I don’t really care at this point. Because what art and her pursuit of it has done is teach her to be disciplined, to be courageous and to put herself out there in ways that we never envisioned.
She has been a part of a homeschool art studio for about a year now and they submitted pieces to be judged as part of the 40th Annual Lubbock Arts Festival. They were competing with more than 50 local area elementary, middle and high schools and as a group, they took home three Honorable Mentions and one Best in Show. That Best in Show award went to our Peanut. She submitted a painting that she did in acrylic paint called :A Deer in a Forest.”
We are ecstatic for her. Her piece was one of the few paintings that was submitted and that really helped her stand out among all the other artists. She showed courage to work in suck an unforgiving medium and to put it out there to be judged. Those things are not easy for eighth grade girls and we couldn’t be more proud of her.
A love of reading is one of those things that we as parents desperately want to impart to our kids. Whether we have achieved that is still a work in progress. However, pictures like these, of our seven year-old G man at the library seem to have us at least pointed in the right direction. Now, I’ am debating on whether I should warn him about those crocodiles (or are they alligators?) chomping on his feet. Oh well, at least he’ll go down reading.
In every family with multiple kids, there has to be at least one. You know who I am talking about. The one that craves the attention. The one that can look mom straight in the eyes and tell a fib. The boy who cried wolf. The one that’s a storyteller.
We certainly have one of those. In our family, the storyteller is Gideon. He is seven years old, has super cute dimples and also has practically zero impulse control. Let’s just say, he’s a hot mess and a work in progress. He challenges us daily as parents and frankly, sometimes we just want to dropkick the kid. He really should come with a warning label and this was never more clear than a few weeks back, after dropping him off at Sunday School. You see, we should have warned the teacher of his stories and his uncanny ability to make you believe every word that comes out of his mouth. But we didn’t, and the results were hilarious.
I was waiting in the crowded hallway outside the kids’ classrooms. waiting for Andi to pick up the boys. Out she comes, laughing while Gideon is following close behind with a sheepish look on face. I thought nothing of it since that is pretty much his default face when we are out in public. Then come his teachers and they looked at me and said, “Oh, you are looking good for someone who died two days ago.” Um. Thanks?
What in the world did they mean by that? Well, apparently our storyteller wove a real doozy for them. At the end of class, they asked the kids if they had anything that they needed to be prayed for and when nobody spoke up, Gideon raised his hand. He proceeds to tell them that his dad had died two days earlier of cancer and that he would appreciate their prayers. So, being good Sunday School teachers and also good human beings, they surrounded him with the other kids and they all prayed for him in his time of great loss. Fortunately for him, dad was standing right outside in the hallway, waiting for him to come out of class.
As was said so eloquently in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I’m not dead yet.” This was definitely a story to remember but it was just one of many from our storyteller.
In my ongoing series of articles about great podcasts, I’d like to take a moment and write about Ungeniused. This twice-monthly podcast is pretty short in length, about 12-15 minutes per episode and is all about the weirdest articles found on Wikipedia. It is hosted by Stephen Hackett and Myke Hurley, the co-founders of Relay FM, which is one of my favorite podcast networks with numerous great shows.
Ungeniused is a great show for those that like odd and strange bits of information and the hosts work wonderfully together. They are clearly good friends off-air and this shows through in their easy banter. Each episode focuses on one article that they choose beforehand and then they simply talk about the things that they find interesting about it. It is very easy to listen to, is quite family friendly in my experience and I think kids 10 and up would find it quite engaging. It would be a great fit for driving in the car or even to break up a homeschooling day with the kids.
One of my favorite episodes that they’ve done is Episode #30 Bat-Bombs, Pigeon-Guided Missiles & More. This episode was about various military projects during World War 2 and how they turned out. It was quite interesting but also very strange that these projects almost took flight (pun intended). I heartily recommend the show and feel it would add something new and delightful to your day.
Haka Hadoween everybody! When one of the kids was little, they couldn’t say “Happy Halloween” correctly and it came out “Haka Hadoween.” From then on, we say it at least a hundred times every October and it brings us joy every time.
We survived it. I say “survived,” not as a play on Halloween themes, but because a couple of the kids were struggling with colds leading up to the day which is never fun. Additionally, Boy Wonder had major ostomy bag issues during the two nights before October 31st, resulting in sheets needing to be washed, bags needing to be changed and sleep being lost. In spite of all this and the normal stressors of homeschooling life, Halloween went off great.
The three younger ones all had homemade costumes completed in time, by mom and they looked amazing. They each had a clear idea of what they wanted to be and it was neat to hear their choices. Boy Wonder wanted to be Green Arrow, likely because he had this cool bow and arrow set that lit up with green LED lights and it looked great walking around the neighborhood in the dark. G-man wanted to be a pumpkin for some reason and if you look at him, he really is built to be a pumpkin. Lil Bit wanted to be a bat. Not the superhero, Batgirl, but the flying rodent. Also not sure the reasoning behind it, we were just glad she didn’t want to do a princess again. Peanut went her own way and bought a raccoon onesie from the store and wore that while trick-or-treating with friends.
This was the first year that she went with friends instead of staying with the family. I guess she has finally reached that age where that is going to be the norm. It made us a little sad but we remember being her age and how fun that was so we let it happen. The rest of us stopped by a trunk-or-treat that was down the street but after standing in line for five minutes, we bailed and hit the streets instead.
That was probably the last time we will even consider a trunk-or-treat as they are just lame. I mean, I don’t want the kids doing the whole cattle line, shuffling forward a few feet at a time, in this quest for precious candy. By the end of the night, they had done much better by knocking on doors and they got the wonderful experiences and memories that come with that. Plus, I know all the people behind those doors that answered the ringing doorbell were overjoyed that kids were keeping the tradition alive. We saw more kids and families walking the neighborhood this year than we have seen in years and that was awesome. So until next year, Haka Hadoween!
Earlier today, I was struck by this Tom Waits quote that I stumbled across.
We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns.
Tom Waits is an acclaimed musician, songwriter, and actor and this quote offers an interesting insight into life in our modern age. When I read it, I think about what our responsibilities are as parents. It is part of our job as parents to teach our kids the value of knowledge, of sifting through the avalanche of information that the internet gives them access to. in order to find what matters. We need to teach them the critical thinking skills to help them to not be so easily swayed by “news” and social media.
By doing this, our children will be much more valuable to society for they will stand out among their peers. They will see the truth for what it is. They will see the value in experiences and relationships over material possessions. They won’t just be monkeys with money and guns.
This is a series of pictures that were taken by mom of Peanut doing what she loves. Art has come naturally to her as neither of us as her parentals have this talent. But, along with the gift has come the desire to work at it. She is ALWAYS drawing, painting, creating. We often have to tell her to stop just so she can get some other school work in. Will this lead to a future career one day? I don’t know and I don’t think it really matters. What matters is that she is working hard at developing her skills and that can apply to any future career. In the meantime, we are just going to appreciate the gift that she is to us.
Our son Micah, also known as Boy Wonder, was born with a condition called Hirschsprung’s Disease. This a birth defect that affects one in five thousand births. The Cliff Notes explanation of his version of the disease is that more than half of his large intestine did not have the nerve cells that move stool along and out of the body. He had to have this portion of his colon removed and the remaining bit reattached in a surgery called a pull through. He had this surgery at 3 days old.
From this point to now, the disease has been there, altering the course of his life and ours. He has struggled with many side effects, including bleeding rashes, lack of control over his bowels, major diet restrictions and dehydration among others. Through it all, he has fought with a cheerful determination and faith. However, we have always desired better for him and so, after many tests and scans and consultations, as a family we decided to essentially wipe the slate clean and start over. About a month ago, Micah had a complete revision of his pull through. The doctor cleaned out a lot of scar tissue during a seven and a half hour surgery and decided to go with a colostomy to allow his colon to fully heal.
This was not what any of us hoped for but we are adjusting to a new normal, for now. The ostomy is only temporary, and he is healing nicely. There have been some advantages for him along with the challenges. He can pretty much eat what he wants, including fruits that have been heavily restricted before and even sweets and candy, in moderation. He is no longer chained to the bathroom and has more freedom as a result.
Looking forward, we do not know what things will be like. The plan is to reverse the colostomy once he has healed sufficiently and then see if he has the control we hope for. What we do know is that this has given him the best opportunity for that and everything else is in God’s hands. In the days leading up to his surgery, we asked Micah if he was nervous and his response was typical for him. He said “No, I’m not worried. God’s got me.” And so, this is how we face the future. God has us.
YouTube. What a blessing and what a curse it is, all at the same time. It gets used a lot around here and by a lot, I mean, way too much. When used appropriately, it can be a valuable tool in our education toolkit. Unfortunately, it is the non-educational usage that has been causing problems in our house. Whether it is video game gameplay videos with coarse language, comedy videos with crude jokes, top ten lists with “sexy” content or who knows what else, it is definitely a brave new world out there for us parents. Additionally, we have found YouTube to be one of the toughest sites/apps to manage with parental controls. So, be aware and use with care.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about YouTube Red. This is a relatively new offering from YouTube that offers ad-free video watching along with a growing library of original content that you cannot access via the normal, free YouTube. Pricing is set at $9.99 per month for an individual account and $14.99 a month for a family account with up to 5 users. As a side benefit, you also get access to the Google Play Music service included in that price which could be a huge benefit, depending on the user. For us, this may replace Spotify if we are pleased with it overall, saving us that subscription fee.
We have been seeing ads for this service pretty regularly, but have resisted the service, until now. Until the end of October, Google is offering YouTube Red free for three months and you can cancel it at any time. This was just too good to pass up so we signed up and have really been enjoying what the service offers. First of all, no ads on any videos. That’s just great because who really enjoys sitting through those pesky pre-roll videos. Secondly, there are a number of shows on Red that have caught our attention. For example, we were able to use Mind Field by Vsauce as part of school today with our 13-year-old and she was chattering about all she had learned for hours afterward. Finally, the added benefit of the Play music service is a great way to sweeten the pot. The ability to stream or download millions of songs and curated playlists makes it a worthy successor to other music services, and it’s included for free with YouTube Red.
Is it worth it? The short answer is yes, especially with the free 3-month trial that they are running right now.