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Big Brother Tax

Big Brother Tax

I imagine, like most parents, we give our kids opportunities to earn money doing odd jobs around the house. We encourage hard work and reward it with financial compensation. We’ve even given opportunities to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams by helping them pursue babysitting jobs, painting pet rocks and yard work gigs.

But the other day, our G-man (8 years old) ventured out on his own and imposed a legit “big brother tax” on his little sister. I glanced into the TV room and noticed Willow (6 years old) had her piggy bank on the floor so I asked her about it. She responded “I had to pay G a dollar for a shoe shine.” I said, “Wait, you had to pay him a real dollar for an imaginary shoe shine?” Turns out, the answer was yes.

I was emotionally conflicted at that point. On the one hand, G definitely took advantage of his gullible sister with the big imagination for his financial gain and that is definitely a no-no. On the other hand, as a dad and big brother myself, I was a little proud. In the end, I made him give her the dollar back and we had a talk about how he should not manipulate people and that it is wrong to do what he did. Then I gave him a high-five, in my mind.

Sweatin’ Me

Sweatin’ Me

The other day, we went out to eat lunch with our 8 year-old son, G-man. All the other kids were busy doing other things and it was a good opportunity to spend a little alone time with him. We took him to a little cafe here in town called La Madeline, or as he called it La Madames. He ordered a bowl of pasta and was super stoked because they had all you could eat bread and butter. That kid loves him some bread. After a bit, a gentleman walked by and asked him why he wasn’t in school and then laughed after being told that we homeschool. A few minutes later he came back by and ribbed G a bit more about something or other. After he left, G looks at me and says “I feel like that guy is sweatin’ me.”

I’m not sure where he learned that line, but that dude was definitely sweatin’ him.

Seeing Stars

Seeing Stars

Our oldest daughter, Peanut, was showing interest in our waiter at Cotton Patch last night. Apparently he had an earring and that’s all it takes for her. She said “It’s like that star filter that you can put on pictures in Instagram. He’s like just a normal looking dude and then he turns his head and I see his earring and then all I see is stars.” Oh dear.

Cooking With My Brother

Cooking With My Brother

The plain and smiple truth is that I’m not much for cooking. I certainly can do the basics, things like pastas, grilled cheese and even hard boiled eggs (with a little assistance from Google). But, I have always had a part of me that wanted to do more in the kitchen.

I think part of that reason is that my brother loved to cook. He was in every way, a fantastic, passionate cook. He loved everything about it and his home was full of cookbooks and Saveur magazines that helped feed his passion. I have many memories of him, as a young teenager, getting up early and helping Granny make her buttermilk biscuits and red-eye gravy when we visited her. As an adult, he loved re-creating our Granny’s buttermilk biscuits as a way of staying connected to his past.

This afternoon, as my wife was preparing our Thanksgiving feast, I decided to jump in and help where she would let me. She put me on pie crust duty for the mini-pies we were making. As I sprinkled the flour on the counter and began rolling out the crust, I looked at my hands. I could not help but think about how often Ben must have done the same things with his hands. They would have had flour or some seasoning or another on them and that would have been a happy place for him. And there it was, a brief moment of connection, of understanding, of love.

I will never be the cook he was but I am going to keep trying. I loved feeling him with me there, in that moment.

Dancing in the Minefields

Dancing in the Minefields

This has been a tough year for me, one of my hardest in fact. Losing my brother so suddenly has sent me reeling in ways that I could not plan for or anticipate. Grief is a strange thing in that way. As I am climbing out of the depths, I have decided to spend more time actively focusing on the best things in my life, both big and small.

To start out, I thought I would go with a super big thing and write a small thing about my wife and our partnership. You see, our marriage has been full of minefields, storms, chaos and shadows. But all that has seemed like nothing to fear, because i have her.
As we approach our 15th wedding anniversary, I am struck for the millionth time how perfect she is for me, and thus, how perfect our partnership is. I do not use the word “perfect” in the sense that she or our marriage are without fault, because that would not be true. But, for me and what fuels my heart and soul, she truly is perfect. There is this song by Andrew Peterson that i have heard many times called “Dancing in the Minefields.” Tears stream down my face every single time I hear it because of how the lyrics reflect my heart for her. Here are a few of the verses:
Well, “I do” are the two most famous last words The beginning of the end But to lose your life for another I’ve heard Is a good place to begin ‘Cause the only way to find your life is to lay your own life down And I believe it’s an easy price For the life that we have found And we’re dancing in the minefields We’re sailing in the storms And this is harder than we dreamed But I believe that’s what the promise is for So when I lose my way, find me And when I loose love’s chains, bind me At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days When I forget my name, remind me ‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man So there’s nothing left to fear So I’ll walk with you in the shadowlands Till the shadows disappear ‘Cause He promised not to leave us And His promises are true So in the face of all this chaos, baby, I can dance with you So let’s go dancing in the minefields Let’s go sailing in the storms Oh, let’s go dancing in the minefields And kickin’ down the doors Oh, let’s go dancing in the minefields And sailing in the storms Oh, this is harder than we dreamed but I believe that’s what the promise is for
So, through all the loss, the doctor’s appointments, the financial struggles, the daily frustrations and madness, there has also been so much wonderful. Being with you is the easiest thing I have ever done because you chase away my shadows and we just dance. Forever and ever, amen.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Gs3fg_WsEg
I Thought We Had More Time

I Thought We Had More Time

“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.

Brother Ben

Bear with me as I may use this forum to share some of my grief but also to look forward.

Best In Show

Best In Show

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.

This Kid Is A Storyteller

This Kid Is A Storyteller

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 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.

Haka Hadoween!

Haka Hadoween!

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!

Ten Years With Hirschsprung’s Disease

Ten Years With Hirschsprung’s Disease

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.