Fun and/or Games?

Spring has sprung and so has soccer…

I don’t really like to brag, but my little Colombianos are pretty great at soccer. We’ve played in our church league for several years (as you can see), and we’ve done quite well. Our church league kept things pretty lighthearted, and even though we didn’t officially keep score, our winners usually got more points than the other winners.

Now, we are in the great state of Alabama, and naturally all of the kids wanted to play soccer again this season, including our littlest who just got old enough to play.

We enrolled in AYSO, and got everyone on a team. This was easier said than done since they were still organizing teams up until the week before the first game. I would have volunteered as assistant coach or referee, but with my knee surgery coming up, I figured I would be more of a burden than a blessing in either role. Unfortunately, my oldest had his first practice and game cancelled since everything was so last minute.

With a lot of tears and regretful support of his brothers and sisters, he, Beth, and I geared up to watch and support kids in four soccer games last Saturday.

First up was my oldest daughter. She aged up, and this year, she’s on a bigger field with actual goalies. We got there, and she was super excited. Then, her coach told her that he had her earmarked as a goalie for the second half within earshot of me. I resisted every temptation to say, “A-hem… Excuse me, but she’s in my family, and we are forwards.” I was bothered because she has never played goalie in her life, and I didn’t know how she would do, but then again, none of the girls on her team have played goalie before. It was purely an arbitrary choice on his part, and I wanted her to respect her coach, so I said nothing. It’s just hard for me to watch Sea-Biscuit all fenced in.

Also, AYSO in the spring is less formal, and they are not issued uniforms. Her team was asked to wear something light blue to coordinate. We had a girl in a My-Little-Pony hoodie, another one wearing a North Carolina Tar Heel shirt, and everything in-between.

Then the other team came. Every one of the girls was in a matching soccer uniform with unique numbers (which I found out they had kept the season before when they all played together). Two were a full head taller than the biggest kid on our team. It was pretty intimidating.

As play got started, the first goal was scored before the first minute of play was done. It didn’t help that the goalie on our team for the first half didn’t know that she could use her hands. When our goalie finally figured out that it was OK to use her hands, she walked almost to midfield before she kicked the ball, precipitating a penalty kick which was taken by one of the bigger girls that could put it over the heads of everyone in our team and into the corner of the goal. My daughter also got tangled in the legs of another girl trying to steal the ball shortly into the game, and even though the referee told her that he knew she was going for the ball, he called her for tripping which I think made her play a lot more timid the rest of the game.

Another goal.

Another goal.

Another goal.

Finally, it was halftime, and my oldest girl was put between the pipes. She knew she could use her hands, but she thought she had to set the ball down if she was going to kick it back to a team-mate. At this, the other coach yells to his girls to steal the ball that’s officially in play. She took a pretty hard ball to the leg at the end of the third period, and she limped off the field. I had to hand it to her because she got back out there, but two more scores were made while she was keeper.

It was super hard to watch that game, and I was pretty upset that we played a stacked team with a final score of 9 to 0 after sitting in on the AYSO introduction meeting where they insisted that they would try to balance teams and they would work to keep scores within a 4-point differential.

Next up, my youngest daughter. Her game was like watching a bunch of excited puppies chase a chew-toy. It was adorable. All of these girls are 5 and 6 year-olds, and ALL of them were just excited to be on the field. There was little to no organization, and and I think they tied 2 to 2, but nobody even cared… kids or parents. Several times throughout the day, she said “Daddy! I’m so excited to play soccer!” That was enough to make me feel good about all the money we spent for registration and soccer shoes.

My two middle sons were up next, but they played at the same time on different fields so Beth and I had to split up. I went with my middle son, and he played well. His team won 5 to 0, and his coach purposely asked him to play defense the rest of the game after he scored two goals in the first quarter. That made me feel a lot better. Finally the win that I wanted! I was fresh off of my oldest daughter’s loss, so I was a proud of him for telling one of the kids on the other team “good job” that played very well (This wasn’t spontaneous, but I appreciated it even though it took some subtle prompting on my part).

Beth told me that our youngest son played well on his team, but the rest of his team didn’t. They subsequently got their tails handed to them.

So that was the day. A win, a draw, and two losses. We went home, and I proceeded to work in the garage as I had planned all week. When I did this, the kids came out to enjoy the beautiful day we were having and started playing in the driveway and the trampoline (or “Jumpoline” as my youngest daughter calls it – We are not correcting her because we find this term equally adorable).

As I worked, the more I thought about that first game with my oldest daughter. She is arguably my best player. She’s fast, she works hard, and she’s a team player. I don’t expect her to beat everybody, but I hated how terrible that game panned out. The little naughty Tyler was sitting on my shoulder saying stuff in my ear the whole time:

“I can work with her a little extra through the week, and make sure she understands the rules.”

“I’m sure I can go to the soccer field with just her and run some extra drills so she’s that much better.”

“I need to tell her coach that she doesn’t need to play goalie anymore. We could do a lot better if she was on offense.”

“The other team had players that were already specializing in specific positions. Maybe that’s what our team should do.”

“The other coach was such a jerk to capitalize on my daughter’s inexperience.”

“Is there a way that she could get on a better team like that who’s clearly been playing together for several seasons?”

“She’s finally to the age where things are more competitive, and if I don’t start lobbying for her, she’s not going to get those advantages. I need to sign her up for camps and drill her every night.”

With all of these nasty thoughts brewing in my head, I found my oldest girl, and sat with her for a few minutes to debrief the game.

Me – “So, how did you feel about the first game of the season?”

Her – “I had such a great time! I got to play a new position at goalie! It was really hard with a lot of rules, but I thought I did OK for my first time. I made some new friends on my team, and I almost have learned everyone’s name. Coach says we are going to learn a little more about strategy this week and where to be when we are playing. I think it’s going to be great. Did you see my sister’s game? That was so funny. She was super excited…”

No! You were supposed to be angry and upset like I was!

When we started adopting, we went to a training where they told us that we bring “our junk” into parenting sometimes. It was clear that that’s what I did. My goal was for my kid to be the best kid on the team and dominate so I could brag about it (subtly of course because I’m a Christian… Usually I lead off with “Did you see the game last week?” and just nod my head when other’s say “Yeah! Your girl was awesome.”).

Also, I get emails from AYSO that say there are tournaments that I can sign my kids up for where they would get more intense training by professional coaches and compete at a higher level. Naughty Tyler is all for it. Naughty Tyler’s goal for his kids is to be the best at soccer and eventually represent their country in the World Cup.

Unfortunately Naughty Tyler’s goal is also his junk!

I saw her attitude. I saw my kids playing together and having fun that afternoon. I saw my youngest daughter so excited to be on a team (which got named the “Blue Sparkle Unicorns” at the last team practice). The Holy Spirit (because there is no Good Tyler) reminded me that that’s why we play soccer.

I wanted to tell God, “Yeah, yeah. It doesn’t matter if we win or lose as long as we’re having fun. That’s great for the kids, but I want them to win!”

But, if we are truly being honest, out of my two daughter’s games, the one I enjoyed the most was my youngest’s. My expectation was fun. In my oldest’s, my stomach was in a knot and I went from frustration to anger (subtly of course because I’m a Christian… I’ll just pretend in my head that their coach’s head is going to explode). My expectation was for her to dominate and bring honor to the family name. Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut, but God know’s my heart… and now, so does the interwebs.

What a crappy parent am I! I’m not joking. I am a vain, proud, and envious person that did not show a “Christlike concern for all people” like the Royal Ambassador pledge tells me I need to.

Why do I ruin it for myself and come close to ruining it for my daughter? Why can’t I just enjoy the game for what it is. I know we probably all struggle with it to varying degrees. I’ve seen my kids almost kill one another over the death of a Mario or a Luigi (as you can see).

I thank God that my daughter’s voice of reason kept me from indulging my evil schemes and anger over a soccer game. I’m also thankful that in spite of my junk and the lopsided game, she had fun.

I hope she can next week (as well as the rest of them). I also hope that I can do some spiritual cleaning and get rid of some of this junk before then. They’re good kids and they deserve to have fun with an excited, happy, loving parent that’s there for them no matter the score.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Hey, Mickey, You’re so Fine…

I hope you enjoy the title… Try getting that song out of your head!

Yes, two weeks ago, we drove down to partially-sunny Orlando, and went to Disney World. This was actually a Christmas present that we gave the kids.

To make things fun, I devised a scavenger hunt Christmas morning to tell them the news. It was a masterful 25-clue hunt that lead them all over the house finding pieces of a puzzle which, in the spirit of “National Treasure”, had a secret message on the back of it. Skipping every other letter revealed that we would be going to the happiest place on earth in two weeks with Grandma and Grandad.

Unfortunately, what I thought would be a fun, unique, and wonderful team building exercise became two hours of stress for the kids. I knew we hit our low when after sitting for 15 minutes in front of our card catalog, our oldest daughter says in the whiny-est of voices, “I don’t know what drawer the puzzle piece is in…”

Her clue: “If our card catalog was the game battleship, (letters across the top and numbers down the side) D-6 would sink my battleship.”

Maybe it’s more obvious for a 35-year-old than a 9-year-old.

Nonetheless, the truth that was unveiled was as poorly received as the game…

“That’s over a school week! We can’t go.”

“What’s Disney World?”

“I thought we were going to Texas next week… Are we cancelling those plans?”

Oh, you naive little Colombians! Truthfully, it was kind of cool that they didn’t fully understand the greatness of the gift. Disney World is one of those places you can’t really encapsulate in words. You can only truly appreciate it when you are there.

Surprise number 2 on the trip also had a poor build-up to unveiling…

There is no obvious route from Madison, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia. That, combined with a time change made a 12-hour journey in the car into a 16-hour journey. After riding in the car all day, the last thing the kids wanted to hear after unpacking was to load up in the car and go to Cici’s Pizza at 8:30 pm. Cici’s is usually their happy-place, but we were all a little saddle-sore. However, when they got there, the found out that 7 of their friends from Texas (two other families) were also there and would be enjoying Disney with them.

For the next five days, we Disney’ed the crap out of ourselves. It was fun, as a parent, to see the kids discover how amazing a place it was. One of our first honest-to-goodness roller-coasters was “Everest” in the Animal Kingdom on day 1, and after coming off of that ride, the boys didn’t want to see or do anything except get back in line and do it again. That lasted until we forced them to walk away and ride another ride… which had the same effect. Every ride, every show, and every character we met was the new high. It was great to see them enjoy a pretty wonderful place with their family and friends.

God also gave us great weather (cool, but not cold), and the parks weren’t too busy being an off-peak time of the year. It worked out great.

This is our group. My family decided to support Green Bay on this day. I was uncomfortable being put this close to Pocahontas.

This is our group. My family decided to support Green Bay on this day. I was uncomfortable being put this close to Pocahontas.

My wife and my father, getting to be uncomfortably good friends on the trip. Also, the youngest behind them is an adrenaline junkie... She loves roller coasters. When she's about 3 inches taller, she'll be able to ride a lot more!

My wife and my father, getting to be uncomfortably good friends on the trip. Also, the youngest behind them is an adrenaline junkie… She loves roller coasters. When she’s about 3 inches taller, she’ll be able to ride a lot more!

I really just liked this picture with me and my peeps. I think we're waiting to see the Nemo Musical.

I really just liked this picture with me and my peeps. I think we’re waiting to see the Nemo Musical.

She gave up seeing Belle to ride it. It seemed fitting that she should get a picture with it.

She gave up seeing Belle to ride it. It seemed fitting that she should get a picture with it.

I like to call this picture, "Everything my wife loves..." That Guacamole was about $9, but it did taste pretty amazing.

I like to call this picture, “Everything my wife loves…” That Guacamole was about $9, but it did taste pretty amazing.

My Mom and Dad. This was the last day, and they were still happy!

My Mom and Dad. This was the last day, and they were still happy!

It's a small boat after all... After this picture was taken, I had to swap sides with my youngest daughter because when we put to sea, we had a pretty bad list to port...

It’s a small boat after all… After this picture was taken, I had to swap sides with my youngest daughter because when we put to sea, we had a pretty bad list to port…

God didn’t really hit me with anything Earth-shattering on this trip, but he reminded me of some stuff I already knew.

Toward the end of day 2, we got on “It’s a Small World” in the Magic Kingdom, mainly because it was a “cool-down” ride and there was no line. I didn’t notice it in times past, but each room in the ride is from a different region on the globe. I was pretty light-hearted (as I’m sure Walt Disney intended me to be riding in this giant plastic boat listening to the upbeat song playing ad nauseum) until we got to the part devoted to South America with all the little boys and girls singing in Spanish. I no longer look at those kids as being on the other side of the planet far away from me… those are my kids.

In a perfect world, I believe every kid needs to go to Disney World at least once in their life. It’s a magical place, and it was great watching my kids take everything in waves of amazement. That’s why we gave Mickey our life’s savings to go (I exaggerate… a little).

I also believe, in a perfect world, every little boy and girl would have a mom and dad.

Truthfully, if I could have the second, I would pass on the first. Thankfully, God has blessed my five with both.

Thank you, God, for the big things and the little things. Thank you, for being a Father to the fatherless and for places like Disney World to enjoy. Thank you for dying on the cross and for Mountian Dew. Thank you for grace and for comfortable sweat-pants. Thank you for mercy and hot showers to sing in. Oh! How blessed we are, and how much He loves us!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Too Big to Fail?

Today was report card day.

I’ve got a kid in kindergarten and 1st grade, and I can’t make any sense of their report cards whatsoever. Their report cards say things like “on target” and stuff like that, but as long as they are not eating glue and are being decent citizens, I’m not too worried about them. I’m not apathetic, but I do know Beth is checking up on them, and she’s pretty good about letting me know if there’s a problem.

My two 3rd graders are doing well too. For the most part, they bring home A’s and high B’s. One is pretty darn smart, and the other is a really driven worker, so they tend to be neck and neck. I do always ask, “Did you do your best?” To me, this is an equally important component since our grades indicate how much we learned and our level of effort indicates our integrity and self-discipline.

However, my 4th grader is a different story. For the past two years, he has consistently been getting C’s in Math and English. There are a lot of reasons why I think this is.

  1. He has only been speaking English for about 18 months. While we have been in the US now for three years, we only began making English the official family language about the middle of last year.
  2. Three years ago, he could barely count. With so many transitions before coming to the US, he didn’t have a solid educational foundation poured, and he is playing catch-up in a lot of areas.
  3. He’s now going to an all-English school and doesn’t have the bilingual program that we had before. We’ve made Alabama a lot more diverse by being here. Before our family descended on our new Elementary school, they only had 3 Latin children, and all of them came from one family. Needless to say, they don’t have the need to put programs in place to help children with a Spanish background.
  4. School is just not his thing. He just doesn’t enjoy learning that much unless it is about dinosaurs or Indians.

However, at the end of the day, that’s just a string of excuses. He may have it harder than some, but we do not give ourselves permission to under-perform because of it. That sets us on a path of lying to ourselves and denying the reality.

For this reason, every report card he has gotten, we do the same routine. We see the C, we ask the teacher what we can do differently, and we keep working hard each and every day to make things better. It’s felt (even for me) like that part in “Rudy” where he keeps getting rejected to attend Notre Dame, but every time, he’s gone back and tried again. I’ve also been honest with him that if he slips further, failure was a very real option, and he could be repeating a grade with his brother and sister if that happens.

(As an aside, I’m tiptoeing that delicate line of always encouraging him to do better at school but making sure he understands that I love him no matter what grades he gets. It’s hard, but I think we’ve struck a good balance. Also, I’m saying some things in here that might be blasphemous for most adoptive blogs… If I wasn’t 100% sure he felt connected and loved, I would definitely be emphasizing that even more than I am now. I don’t want others (or him) to confuse my attitude about hard work and good grades as conditional love.)

I do believe he is trying his best, even though his best has been a C. A month or so ago, when we first came to a new school in Alabama (a month ahead of our old school), he redid his homework about three times, staying up until 11:00 pm to do it. He didn’t enjoy it, and there were a few tears shed, but he didn’t complain, and he worked his tail off. I’ve never been prouder of him, and I made sure he knew. Let me say, all too often we concern ourselves with moving strife out of a kid’s life when, if in a controlled environment, it could be good for them… I hated having to watch him suffer through it, but he not only learned the school material that night, but he also learned about grit, tenacity, and follow-through.

Though he hates it, I believe he is starting to value his education and understands why it is important. Case in point: his late-nighter was a significantly better outcome than last year when he told us his bad grades were Beth’s fault because she didn’t help him enough with his homework. Oooo! That little comment led to a 30-minute talk on personal responsibility. By the end of that conversation, he knew learning was his job, not his mom’s or his teacher’s.

All of that leads me to today. I came home to the happiest 4th grader in America… All A’s and B’s, finally! Rudy made the football team! Bear in mind, one was an 80.6%, but it still counts, and he was more excited about that B- than some kids are about making A’s.

Thank you to the two schools that had the courage to tell my son that his work was sub-par when it really was. Thank you to all the teachers that honestly assessed his work and gave him those C’s. You didn’t do him a disservice by lying to him and making him think his effort was great. You didn’t cheapen his education or coddle his emotions in the process by eliminating poor grades. You were and honest broker, and you helped him assess where he needed to focus efforts. You didn’t do it to make him feel bad. You did it because it was the right thing to do.

That string of C’s, those long nights at the dinner table, and the extra work at home and school have made this victory taste that much sweeter. His failures have amplified the success he has just had. We are not out of the woods yet, and he knows we have to keep up the effort to at least maintain what he has, but he knows that great feeling of working seriously hard for something and finally getting the result. I’m hoping this gives him even more resolve in the future.

A few years back, we, as a country, decided that there were certain companies that were “too big to fail.” Even though the free market was cleansing itself of poor performing businesses, a natural mechanism of this economy, the government stepped in and put those businesses on life support.

That’s a conversation for a different blog, but I will say, when we take away our ability to fail, we inherently take away our ability to succeed. We are never too big to fail, and if we can pass that lesson on to the future generation (always couched in encouragement and detached from acceptance), they will be better for it. For this reason, during Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I have been thankful for C’s and F’s, losing games, bench warming, and last chair in band.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Happy Accident in Parenting…

I once had an art teacher, Ms. Sylvestri, who would say, “You had a happy accident” whenever I painted something which had an unplanned, but great result.

My father once said that the military is a great option for a kid coming out of high school because it gives them a little bit of responsibility (use this dangerous gun or fix this jet engine) and the discipline to be successful at it. He said that most rise to the occasion when they understand the importance of what they are doing. The military just gives them that opportunity.

So, let me funnel those two ideas into what happened last Friday. I promise it will come together.

I have been telling the kids, when they are 10 years old, we would let them open up a savings account. My oldest turned 10 about two months ago, but because of transitioning banks because of the move to Alabama, we are only just now getting to do this. I told him I would give him $50 to get started, and he could put his birthday money and whatever else he had in his Nashville souvenir money pouch in with it. We grabbed his social security card, and the money he had ($65), and we headed out. At first, he was pretty excited just to get to do something that his younger brothers and sisters are not getting to do, but this lead to one of the most meaningful conversations I have had with him.

I’ve said many times on this blog that I believe one of the biggest problems with parenting these days is we absolutely don’t give our kids any instruction on how to handle money. It’s no wonder when the get out on their own, the rack up a ton of debt and then spend the rest of their lives paying for it (literally).

First, I thought about just writing his social security number on a piece of paper, but the kid had never seen his social security card, so we had a long conversation about what that was, and what it means. He got a big grin on his face when the lady at the bank asked for it, and then asked for mine.

Second, he asked me why they wanted my information too. I told him that if he gets in trouble with money, they would come after me because I was the adult. His eyes got super big. The lady behind the desk just nodded. That’s when I said, “So BE RESPONSIBLE, because if I get in trouble, you get in trouble.” The expression slowly melted into nervous laughter.

As we walked out of the bank, he had his social security card, a bank ledger, a document with his account information on it, and a promotional plastic piggy bank. That lead to the third important topic… identity theft. I told him to be careful with all of those documents and not to leave them sitting around… We immediately had a life lesson in this when my boy sat all of that in the passenger’s seat of my truck with the door unlocked when we stopped for gas. Fortunately, we could see the truck the entire time, but it definitely was a sober moment for him when we got back in. Later he told his brothers and sisters that they couldn’t look at any of his stuff or know what happened, because they might try to take his identity… As far as they are concerned, he might have become a Freemason or joined some other secret society while we were gone.

After we got home, we talked about what we are going to do with the money. Since you have to crawl before you run, Beth and I have talked about a series of goals for the kids, and, since he is the oldest, he gets to be the test monkey…

Goal 1: Raise $1,500 to go on a summer mission trip to a foreign country when you are 13. We thought this would be good because, it’s a big goal, but not out of reach. Also, we want our kids to have the same passion for God and sharing the gospel with those less fortunate. Also, a mission trip will give them other perspectives on money and the world around them. After all, it was on a mission trip that God changed my heart and moved me to adopt the 10-year-old I have today.

Goal 2 is saving up for a car by age 16, and Goal 3 is self-funding your life (gas money, fun-money, etc…) and saving for college/vocational school after. I’ll probably talk about these later, but I wanted to focus on the first for now…

When I told him the first goal ($1500 in three years), that was the second time that day his eyes got super big. Then we talked about it a little bit. That’s $500 a year or $1.37 a day. I told him that whenever he gets money, he needs to give God 10%, he needs to keep some for fun (book fair at school, etc…), and the rest needs to go in the bank. He got a drawer in the desk at home for his piggy bank, and every time he gets $20, he can make a deposit. As an added intensive, the bank told us that they would stamp his ledger every time he makes a deposit, and after 5, he can get a prize. Well, my kids will crawl a thousand miles on busted glass if there’s a smiley-face sticker in it for them, so that was the nail in the coffin.

After a couple of hours, he was excitedly scheming as to how he would get more money. I had to pump his breaks and remind him it was a marathon and not a sprint just before he started selling some of his toys to his brothers. While I love that he is getting passionate about his goal, I don’t want thoughts of “I really only need one kidney…” drifting through his head.

I had in my mind about 25% of what would go down, but the happy accident was, I didn’t plan the ton of adult conversations about discipline, responsibility, goal setting, and how to handle money. I’ve given my kid a little bit of responsibility and a goal, and I’m already seeing him rise to the occasion (There’s the tie-in to the two random statements above – As my youngest daughter says, “Boom, Baby!”).

I don’t know what the opposite of “to add insult to injury” is, but I’m going to give it a shot… To add praise to good health, my other children are now really excited about turning 10 and their rite of passage with getting a bank account… They might be a little disappointed when their’s not a secret induction ceremony at the bank with candles and hooded cloaks, but I’ll wait until they’re 10 for that little heart-breaker.

Funny story: He asked me what he should name his piggy bank, and I shot my mouth off and said “Mr. Bojangles”. I didn’t think he would actually use it. Well… he did. I’ve heard “Let’s put some money in Mr. Bojangles” over and over for three days now, and every time I hear it, it makes me think of that one guy that gets electrocuted in the “Green Mile” who trains a pet rat to do tricks (the rat is affectionately named “Mr. Bojangles” in the movie).

Like I tell most people, I make this parenting stuff up as I go. We blog so we can learn from our mistakes, but this one was a home run. For $50 and an hour and a half, I’ve got my 10 year old more prepared for adulthood than I ever thought possible. If I may end on a corny pun, “Now that’s an investment in the future!” (Yup. The bottom of the barrel. I’m officially out of jokes.)

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Change…

Hello…

It’s been over a month since we last talked to the interwebs, and a lot has happened. This is partially not our fault. Up until a couple of days ago, we had spotty internet service or no internet service at all. Now we’re thumping along well enough to get a few thoughts down on paper.

Since the last time we talked, we have moved to Alabama, purchased a house, and started a new job and a new school.

One thing I have learned is, I’m not a flexible person. I try to be, but I hate it when my plans change. I make my plans based upon what I assumed would be. However, what would be, even for the most thoughtful, forward-thinking individuals is sometimes not what they had in mind.

  1. I thought my company (the same one I worked for in Texas) would have issued me a new laptop when I started working here… “Sure, Beth. Go ahead and pack up the home computer. I’ll take the backup hard-drive and update our records when we get to Alabama.” Whoops! Not so much (my company takes good care of us, so I’m not upset about this, it just wasn’t what I expected). This lead to a lot of phone calls to the bank, tracking every receipt we had, and using the courtesy computer in the hotel lobby late at night (so other people don’t see my financials as they are walking to the ice machine).
  2. I thought the hotel that we stayed at for three weeks would get us two rooms right next to each other. Nope. Rooms 106 and 132 were definitely at opposite ends. This led to a boys’ room and a girls’ room and a severe lack of communication with Beth. Usually we debrief a day after the kids go down, but when the kids were out, we were stuck in our rooms about 200 ft away from each other. I missed Beth a lot those three weeks! We did primarily use one room for storage, and the other was for living.
  3. I thought we would buy a house on the west end of town with an acre of land. The week before our house-hunting trip, we told the real estate agent helping us that we wanted to look at a bunch of houses, but we were about 75% sure there was one in particular that we wanted. She told us she would let the listing agent know that they would have serious buyers at the end of the week and not to make any decisions until then. That’s when we discovered it was a short sale, possibly going into foreclosure, and that property would be tied up for months and months. We expanded our search a little and wound up in a house on the east side of town on the side of a hill/baby-mountain with 1/2 acre. I think we are happier here than we would have been at the other place, but this house wasn’t on our radar until we found out that the other house was unavailable.
  4. I thought up-state Alabama would have less traffic than the DFW area. Our new town of Madison has a red-light at every intersection and tons of people driving all over it. On Thursday of last week, I kid you not, I drove into the middle of a parade. My 30 minute trip to the hardware store for some light bulbs turned into 2 hours of inching our way along the main street of our town. The favorite thing our GPS likes to say is, “Make a U-turn whenever possible”. We thought that should be Alabama’s state motto (Don’t – It really is nice here). Having said all that, we are starting to find the back way to get to things, and can navigate pretty well. One of the blessings about the house we picked was that it is 6.5 miles from work. Now that I know the best route, I can be there in 10 minutes… I’m estimating we will be saving about $300 in gas every month.
  5. I thought that I would get every other Friday off like I did at my old job (again, I thought it was the same company with the same practices). When I asked my boss if the current week or the following week was the off-Friday, I got a stern, “We work five days a week, every week” answer. Oooo! That was definitely going to ruin my plans for this Friday, and every other Friday for the next 30 years. However, it didn’t take me long before I adjusted from 9-hour days to 8-hour days, and most everybody at work works a few hours extra each week and take off early on Friday. That’s been really nice.
  6. I thought our house, being bigger than it was in Texas, would make it quieter, spreading out the people over a larger area. That doesn’t pan out so well when the house is pier-and-beam (not a slab foundation like we were used to). It is amazing how I know where every child in the house is by how the house is rattling. It also gives me an edge for playing hide-and-go-seek. I’m amazed at how a heavy-footed 60-lb Colombian can make four times as much noise as a 200-lb man.
  7. I thought my wife was wasting money ($40) when she bought a super-market end-cap when I asked her to find something to put the TV on. I got home at the thing was in 12 pieces in my driveway with the comment “it needs a little work” coming from her. I, with a very bad attitude, put it together, cleaned it up, mounted some feet to it so it wouldn’t ruin the carpet, and started putting our electronics on it. My thought was, I can always use it in the garage if this is a stupid idea, but half-way though, I caught the vision. It fits perfectly in the space we have, it’s querky and fun, and the little diamond-shaped holes and groves built into it are prefect for zip-tying chords for electronics (organizing wires is a passion of mine… a couple of notches down from God, Beth, children, and Mt. Dew… it may be tied with Mt. Dew.)
  8. I thought our sectional would go in the fun room with the crazy super-market shelf entertainment center. I measured it, and it was 1.5 inches more narrow than the hallway… It got jammed. Then two adults got jammed. Then a wall sconce (however you say that… light on the wall and not on the ceiling) got messed up. Then I got angry. Then, we bought a couple of cheap futons that seem to fit the space even better, and we used the sectional in another part of the house that quite frankly, we didn’t have plans for. That reminds me, yesterday, one of my kids asked me, “Who is ‘Quite Frankly?'”
  9. I thought, after six weeks, we would be close to finding a church home. We are not. Lots of visiting, lots of red-flags, and lots of “when in Rome” moments. We know our old church didn’t have a monopoly on how to do church, but it’s amazing how conditioned we get in doing things a particular way. We’re trying to be open-minded and not Pharisee-ical (It’s a new word, trust me), but at the same time, not water down our convictions. In a lot of ways, it’s been good to re-evaluate where we stand on a lot of issues and talk through the things that we believe and why we believe them as a family. We found a church last week that we really like, but we still need to talk to a pastor, and find out more before we make a hasty decision. We are still probably a month at minimum from joining a new congregation… We should probably write a blog about how much we will miss our old church. To be continued…
  10. I thought that the dogs would be a minor detail that we would have to be mindful of during our move. No. Our company-paid flight to Alabama to move the family down was a no-go because one of our dogs was a particular breed that isn’t allowed to fly due to notorious respiratory issues. That really made the rest of the family sad, and resulted in a two-car caravan across three states with seven people and three dogs over 12 hours. I also had to “negotiate” with the hotel when we showed up with three 40-lb dogs when their policy was no more than two 25-lb dogs in the hotel. The new house has no fence, and our basset hound has issues with doing stairs which every entrance to our place (on the side of the hill) has. This has resulted in a lot of dog walks, patience, and care. We are a lot more mindful of the dogs and their needs than we have been in years at our old home with a fence and dog-door. When we adopted kids, they definitely took a back seat, but we’re a lot more involved with them now than a month ago.

It’s interesting how we always think we are the captains of our own destiny. We plan, we envision how we want things to turn out, we busy ourselves working to that end, and there is no doubt that God allows us the free will to act on these things. However, in this move to Alabama, He has reminded me of all the subtle directions He has steered my life. Almost all of these things, though frustrating, had a silver lining.

I hate it when it feels like the wheels are spinning off and my great plans are falling apart, but I’m finding that’s when God does His best work. That’s also, when we do the best at depending on Him. I’m not quite to the point of “counting it joy” when I have various trials, but I can at least see why James says so.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Saying goodbye to my… house

Dear house,

We have lived in you for 8 and 1/2 years, and now it’s time to say goodbye. I know you are an inanimate object, but if you could think and feel, I would imagine that you know us better than most.

You are the house we came home to when we got married. You are the house that I studied in for countless hours to get a PhD. You were the house our family came home to from Colombia. You are where I learned how to fix things. You are where Beth and I sweated and froze for six months saving up for a new HVAC system when your’s broke. You are where I came at the end of a bad day. You are where I came at the end of a good day. You have heard laughing. You have heard crying. You have been flooded, clogged, or broken in some way… most of the time, because of something dumb that we did.

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When we bought you in April of 2007, you were massive, and we had no idea how we would fill you. Now, you are busting at the seams, and we’ve enclosed your breezeway, put up tons of shelves, decked an attic, and made bunk beds all in an effort to gain more space.

In 2013, we thought about getting rid of you, but God definitely told us no. He didn’t tell us no by closing doors on financing or finding a new place. He told us no with an uneasiness in our heart. Back then, I didn’t like you much. All I could see was how we were stuck inside of you, and you weren’t very exciting. I hated not having any privacy with seven other people. I hated having to pee by the tree in the backyard when both the bathrooms you had were occupied. I hated not having any space to put something fun like a ping-pong table inside of you.

But, you kept our family close, and, by that, you kept our family close. When I went on mission trips, I was reminded that you are still a castle by the world’s standards. You reminded us to live simply, because, aside from God, none of the stuff we wanted to accumulate but couldn’t would matter. I am glad that even though you were small, we used you. There weren’t many weeks that went by when there wasn’t one or two parties scheduled with friends or Sunday School classes.

Now, it is 2015, and I know now, with the way that things unfolded, why God wanted us to stay in you a few more years. He knew the plans He had for us. If I had left you two years ago when I wanted to, it would have been super hard financially to move now that I have to.

Now, in 2015, you will move on to your fourth owners, a couple with a 4-year-old little boy. They will write their lives inside your rooms. They will make you their home. Be as good to them as you were to us. Take care of them… even if they grow tired of you like I sometimes did. I pray that you stay a Christian home where the devil has no business. I pray that you stay a safe place for everyone that comes in.

When we come back to Texas, I’ll be sure to drive past you and check up. I’ll try not to cry too much, but I’m a big baby so I don’t make any promises. Even though you were small, you’ve set a high mark for the next house to live up to!

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We love you, and we will miss you house…

Tyler, Beth, and the kids

Sweet Home Alabama…

We put the cart before the horse on this one…

We started saying goodbye to things before we really explained what’s going on. The dinnermesa is moving out of Texas and headed toward Alabama. There’s a lot of different reasons why, but I’ll just say, it’s something that we felt was best for our family and something that God was calling us to do. It sure makes this decision make a lot more sense now that we see how it was going to pan out.

It’s been almost 3 years since we came home as a family from Colombia. I talked to my oldest daughter tonight, and she told me that this would be the fourth time she’s moved in her 9-year-old life. I told her it was my fourth time to move in my 35-year-old life. Unlike her, I was much more the captain of my destiny than she was (even with my parents at the helm). She was put in a car a couple of times, and everything she knew changed… with no parents at the helm.

When we told the kids it might happen, we told them that no matter if they wanted to stay in Texas (two of them) or move to Alabama (two of them) (one undecided), we needed to pray for God’s will. If it was His will, we prayed for open doors. If it was not His will, we prayed that He shut those doors clearly. We also prayed that our kids who still have a little of South America in them would learn to stop calling it “Halabama.”

After about two months of slowly developing situations, the decision was made, and announced. It was a mixed bag. Some tears and some fist pumps (a new Americanism we’ve picked up this past year).

Then ramifications of the move started coming in like waves with highs and lows.

“So, we will get a new house?” “Yay!”

“So, we’ll loose our teachers, school, and friends?” “Awe!”

“So, we’ll get new teachers, school, and friends?” “Yay!”

“So, we are moving away from grandparents, aunts and uncles?” “Awe!”

“Since Alabama has a lot more trees, hide and seek will be a lot more fun.” “Yay!”

I was a little worried that for some of them, this would look like another crazy, life-changing transition in a long line of transitions in their lives, so we talked through the things that wouldn’t change.

  1. Mom and Dad are Mom and Dad forever. That’s not going to stop, and we will be going with you.
  2. The dogs are coming with us too. (I didn’t think this was a big deal, but that was one of their biggest concerns when we discussed the move)
  3. Our cars are coming with us too.
  4. We will have the same clothes, toys, and furniture. It is also coming with us.
  5. No matter what we face, we face it as a family.
  6. Mom and Dad will still be taking care of the family like we have always done. You don’t have to be an adult. You can be a kid and just be along for the ride.

I don’t know if it hasn’t hit some of them yet, but they are taking it like champs. Our kids’ greatest strength/problem is they transition really fast (all of them). If it happened 15 minutes ago, it is ancient history, and we are on to something else (maybe that’s why they relate so well to the dogs – they are the same way). So we have sober moments in 15-minute bursts, and then we start thinking about all the fun stuff or whatever we were doing before the moment struck.

Aside from packing up stuff to stage our house for selling (which was under contract after 20 hours of being on the market), our lives have been minimally disrupted by the transition. I’m sure when we are hugging family goodbye at the airport, it will get a lot more real, for kids and adults alike. We are about two weeks out from that.

I’m hoping that this can be one of the last transients I personally throw at them, but if they learn that in this world, the things that are constant are God and, to a lesser extent, family, then I guess that’s a hard but good lesson.

I just hope I’m OK at this new job! To quote the movie “Braveheart”, “We didn’t get all dressed up for nothin’.” I’ll let you know in a month or so!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty