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

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

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

Summer Stories…

It’s been a pretty good summer so far.

I go to work as if nothing has changed, and my family goes to water parks, watches matinees at Cinemark, hangs out with friends, and dresses up like cows to eat a lot of free food at, as our youngest puts it, “Chick-a-Lay.” (Feel bad for me. I’m a victim!) Seriously though, it’s literally my job, and I’m glad that the kids are having a pretty great childhood. In the ever-so-wise words of One Direction, they are “Living while they’re young.”

16 Cow Salute. Yes, we have a big family, but this is my family with two others.

16 Cow Salute. Yes, we have a big family, but this isn’t just mine. Three families are represented here.

Ever since April, My free nights and weekends have been monopolized with tree trimming. We’ve had two trees creep into our shingles and another that was on the verge of falling on my neighbors house (i.e. leaning at a 60 degree angle with a rotting trunk). I’ve enlisted my little Colombinos here and there to help me with said project. Unfortunately, I didn’t specifically say, “don’t use the random saw laying on the ground without my supervision.” Yes, I had a kid cut his finger. After I saw that it wasn’t serious, I was about to explain how that wasn’t mature and he needed to be careful and get instructions before he touched anything. However, my son, still dripping blood, preempted me and quickly said, “You don’t have to say anything. I already learned my lesson.” Truthfully, he learned his lesson over the next few weeks when he didn’t get to do fun stuff with his siblings in order to keep the wound from reopening.

A few weeks later, we were moving all of the wood that we cut to the woodpile. As we were setting logs, heavy-handedly, on the pile, a little rat shot out from underneath and darted under the fence into the neighbor’s yard. First, let me point out that I have known that rat was there for several weeks. Being a man in a family of seven with two bathrooms, on occasion I will relieve myself in the back-yard, especially if it is dark out. On one such occasion, I have observed our little friend scurrying around while my lazy dogs are lounging in the flowerbed deciding it’s not worth it. I too, decided it’s not a big deal and didn’t want to go to the trouble of killing an animal that isn’t inside our house. Also, I know Beth hates them. She hates squirrels, whom she believes are “socially acceptable rats”, and any time she is confronted with them, all logic escapes her. For these reasons, I allowed her and the rest of the family to live in blissful ignorance, until the woodpile episode. At this point, the “rat” was out of the bag. I immediately told the kids, “do not tell your mother.” That lasted until our first water break. We immediately went in and someone said, “Dad told us not to tell you about something.” An intense interrogation made another crack and they divulged their secret. This had the effect I thought it would, and Beth freaked out. After I dealt with the Beth, I talked to the kids. I asked them why they told mom about the rat after I asked them not to. Our oldest daughter, a champion of truth, said, “but you told us to always tell the truth and not keep secrets. We can only keep secrets if we are making something a surprise.” Dang. It stinks when past me interferes with what current me is trying to do.

I know it is hard to take your eyes off of the lovely trimmed tree, but this is where our friendly little rat lives... let's be honest, there's probably about 10 to 20 in there. We cut a lot of wood.

I know it is hard to take your eyes off of the lovely trimmed tree, but this is where our friendly little rat lives… let’s be honest, there’s probably about 10 to 20 in there. We cut a lot of wood.

Speaking of embarrassing moments, our little girl, on the way to my uncle’s house for the Fourth of July, was playing with one of the plastic whiffle-balls we had brought with us (for entertainment until it was time for fireworks). Beth told her, “If you get your finger stuck in one of those little holes, I’m going to laugh.” Sure enough, she got her finger stuck in the whiffle ball, and Beth started laughing at her. That made her cry which led to a flood of mixed emotions from the rest of the car. Some were in the empathy camp and told mom it wasn’t funny while examining how to get her finger out. Others, myself included, joined in the laughter. Our daughter through the midst of tears shouted to her mother, “It not funny!” This had the opposite effect on her mother. More laughter with about three people saying “Yes, it is!” Beth managed to turn around, and rip the whiffle-ball off like ripping off a Band-aid. Of course this hurt her more which lead to more tears and more laughter. After tears and laughs subsided, we talked about something Beth reminds us all the time… “being able to laugh at ourselves.” For adopted children, our kids have amazing confidence, but their Achilles heel is being teased, especially from one another. Farting is still one of the only things that they do that can be joked about. Everything else is off limits. This little problem reminded us we still have a long way to go… However, I mentioned the whiffle-ball at dinner a few nights ago, and our daughter cracked a smile. We’ll see how it goes.

Fireworks, driving boats, and our first honest-to-goodness camping trip are all in the books, and we’ve been super blessed to have these fun opportunities this summer. Also, our kids are becoming incredibly useful too. We’ve got a pair of lawn-mowers, and this has cut my yard-cutting time in half! The great thing is, they still think this is a treat, even in this heat! If they do what they are told and follow instructions, they GET to mow the yard. We don’t want to burn this, so Beth and I only laugh at them behind closed doors.

Yes. The spiky-haired kid is driving the boat. Notice the adult supervision doesn't seem too worried.

Yes. The spiky-haired kid is driving the boat. Notice the adult supervision doesn’t seem too worried.

You have decided to caulk the wagon and float it across. Hopefully Zeke makes it to Oregon with us! In all honesty, this was a real

You have decided to caulk the wagon and float it across. Hopefully Zeke makes it to Oregon with us! In all honesty, this was a real “water-shed” moment for us.

Nine people in a pop-up trailer. It was great! Air conditioning, grand parents, smores, and all the bike-riding you can stand. Thank you, Cleburne!

Nine people in a pop-up trailer. It was great! Air conditioning, grand parents, smores, and all the bike-riding you can stand. Thank you, Cleburne!

Believe it or not, this was his New Year's Resolution - to ride a bike without training wheels. I didn't realize he would catch on so fast, so when he asked me to take the training wheels off, I told him to see how he did on his sister's first. Hence the Barbie accessories.

Believe it or not, this was his New Year’s Resolution – to ride a bike without training wheels. I didn’t realize he would catch on so fast, so when he asked me to take the training wheels off, I told him to see how he did on his sister’s first. Hence the Barbie accessories.

Oldest son on the Husquvarna (However you spell that).

Oldest son on the Husquvarna (However you spell that).

Middle son on the Ryobi. With the discharge guard up, the grass isn't as clumpy, but it sure goes all over the place.

Middle son on the Ryobi. With the discharge guard up, the grass isn’t as clumpy, but it sure goes all over the place.

Parenting is still awesome!

At the dinnermesa,

Tyler

Jurassic Decisions…

Our family loves movies, our kids love dinosaurs, Beth loves Chris Pratt, and I love getting out of the house, so the new “Jurassic World” movie seemed like a great Friday night activity.

Understanding that we would be providing the Parental Guidance for this PG-13 film, we thought it would be fun to let our oldest son, who will be 10 in a few weeks, see it. I’m fully aware that this may be a bad-parent call in some of your minds (and I respect your right to disagree), but Beth and I definitely talked it over and decided it was OK, since we felt like we knew what our boy could handle and since the rating was based upon suspense and horror instead of curse words and sex. We had a decision, we arranged child care for the younger kids, and we made plans to go.

However, when we shared our plans with the family, our middle son instantly got that dejected look in his face because he wanted to go. Beth and I were on the fence about it. I remember as a 13-year-old how the first “Jurassic Park” made my heart pump when it first came out, and while I thought it would be a OK for my 10-year-old, I thought it might be a little too scary for my 7-year-old.

“Because I want it” is almost never a reason to get something at our house, but we like to include as many kids as we can when we do activities, so we did something dangerous (This may really push you over the top on bad-parent calls) – We made it his decision.

We talked to him and explained that it was going to be scary and that watching a movie at the theater is way more intense then watching it at home. We also told him that playing with his brother and sisters might be a lot of fun too, and it would be the safe choice. It was made known that if he goes, mom and dad weren’t going to miss out on a movie and sit with him outside if he chickened out. Once he committed to it, he would be with us the entire time. This was not to be callous, but it was to make him think through the consequences and learn to live with them, good or bad.

With the proposition set, you would have thought I asked him whether or not we should have dropped the bomb on Japan. The boy agonized over that decision for three days. He definitely wanted to go, but the no backing out part really gave him pause. Several times, I saw him tear up about it when I asked him if he had made a decision or not. I usually don’t let our kids twist in the wind as much as I did, but for one of the first times in his life, he was making a difficult, adult-like decision, weighing both sides and figuring out what to do. Fortunately this was the better of two goods instead of the lesser of two evils (like a lot of adult decisions), but it wasn’t a clear-cut “no-brainer” choice that he was used to dealing with.

I understand that I could have done some things on my part to make this easier (go to a different movie with him, buy a movie for him to watch at his grandparents, allow him to leave the movie if it got too intense, let him sleep with us that night if he was scared, etc.), but I decided against it. More times than not, we as parents jump through hoops to push consequences out of our children’s lives such that they can’t make decisions whilst being mindful of them.

The day of the movie came, and he announced to us that he decided he would wait for it to come out on video in a few months. His ticket went to his older sister who, in her own decision, planned to stay with her two younger siblings at the grandparents house so they would be less jealous if the middle son went.

I was proud of the maturity it took for a seven-year-old to say no to something they wanted (something some adults need to do from time to time… Yes, I’m talking to myself with my Mt. Dew habit). There have been a few times we’ve asked our kids to make decisions, and they’ve made a less mature choice, but if I can live with the consequences they bring upon themselves either way, I believe they learn a lot in those situations too.

For now, the pressure’s off until “Fantastic Four” comes out! (P.S. – “Jurassic World” was a great movie. Chris Pratt wasn’t allowed to be as charming in this one as he has been in other things, but still, a fun time!)

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Punishing the Innocent along with the Guilty…

Yesterday was pretty full.

We started out the day with three soccer games, back to back. Everyone knows I really like to watch the games up close, so I was asked to referee two of them. The compliance training I have at work tells me this is a conflict of interest and I should decline, but the need for a warm body sometimes trumps ethics (Even though I try to be fair… but more about that later).

We then went to DBU where I teach and watched the baseball team play the University of San Francisco. My kids pigged out on hot-dogs, hamburgers, and cookies while I tried to explain how the game worked. I don’t know anything about baseball (thank goodness I don’t referee that game), so I didn’t know why the ball rolling underneath the outfield fence meant that the home run turned into a double. The end of the game was a walkoff-ball (Is that a thing!?! – Bases loaded and the batter got four balls.) which led to a lot of confusion between five Colombians that are very new to the game. It was a lot of fun, and God held the rain just long enough for us to get home without getting wet.

We then met up with Mami (who had gone to a musical with her mother and sister after soccer) with about a half-hour to get ready to go to our Sunday School party. No time to bathe, but we changed out of our soccer uniforms and into some fresher clothes and held our arms up for a few minutes to let the pits air out (We want to keep these people as our Sunday School class).

During that process, I went to the bathroom. When I was done, I flushed, washed my hands, and rejoined society. I was greeted at the door by one of our dogs with a “best offense” sticker (no doubt earned that morning) stuck directly over the little patch of white hair she has behind her head. I did what any rational-thinking person would do. I congratulated my dog on her scoring abilities, and giggled to myself thinking “How boring was life before we had kids?!”

About that time, our dog realized that she was being honored for her offense too, and she shook aggressively such that the sticker fell off on the floor beside her. I went into the kitchen where final preparations were being made for our mass exodus, and I asked who put the sticker on our dog, not to punish but to say it was funny and the sticker needs to be thrown away before we leave.

I immediately received five quick not-me’s.

This is where the otherwise great day went horribly bad. I told them that someone is not telling the truth. That was when my little defense attorneys began qualifying their answers.

“I don’t play soccer. I’m still too young.”

“I was only recognized for my defense today.”

“I stuck my sticker on my elbow. Do you want to see?”

I reminded them that the person wasn’t in trouble. I just wanted to know who it was so we could clean it up. I also reminded them that our problems get bigger when we lie. Despite my little speech, I had one little Colombian double-down on the lie while four others more frantically proclaimed their innocence. Over the past two and a half years, I’ve gotten to know my kids pretty well, and I had narrowed it down to two kids that would think it was funny and value humor over the personal recognition that the sticker represents.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t be sure, and I pressed a third time. Again, the same response.

I had no idea what to do at this point. A lie had been spoken, and we are a people of integrity, so that means there is a zero-tolerance policy on any lie, no matter how big or small. Those are great things to say, but in situations like that, convictions can be a little inconvenient. I just wanted this little thing to be over because I was looking forward to the party.

A fourth time, I asked, with the same response.

Beth was headed out the door with crock pots and telling me to wrap it up because we had to go.

I asked my two prime suspects directly, “Did you do it?”

“No” and “No.”

Then I had to pull out the big guns.

“If we can’t figure out who is lying, I guess we won’t go to the party.”

Yeah. It came out of my mouth, but my hope was, the stakes would be high enough at this point that one of them would finally move. I also knew that if I wanted to be a person of integrity (there I go with convictions again), I had better be willing to do what I said. That was pretty rough because everything that day was for the kids, and this was something I really wanted to do. They owed me these few hours with my church friends!

“Perhaps the sticker was on the floor face down, and the dog came by and rolled around in just the right manner as to accidentally affix it to her neck”, said one Colombian wanting to go to the party (maybe a little less eloquently as described here, but with the same basic idea).

I explained that it was too coincidental. I also said I was being super duper serious… secretly chanting “please don’t call my bluff”.

Beth gave me the now or never look. I had to make a call.

“Sorry, I guess we don’t know who lied so we are all going to miss the party.” Beth was pretty mad, and, from behind the door where only I could see, she mouthed “Really?!?” She knew what I had to do at that point. She told the kids that she was hosting the party and needed to leave, but they had to stay home with me and clean the house and go to bed early.

The door closed. The car pulled out of the driveway, and five little kids began to cry uncontrollably. I was crying on the inside too. Selfishly, not only did I miss my party, but I was now cleaning the house too, and all I did was seek the truth at all costs… I guess it cost me a lot!

When I was a kid, I remembered once arguing with one of my cousins about something stupid at a family reunion, and when we asked my uncle to settle it, he said “I’ll bust both your rears so I know I got the right one.” At the time, I thought this was barbaric and too heavy handed (pun intended). After all, how can punishing an innocent person be fair? Was I supposed to squeal and accept blame so Solomon wouldn’t cut my baby in half? Yet, here was I, punishing four innocent kids for the crimes of one… AND IT WASN’T EVEN A CRIME. It was a stupid sticker on the back of one of my dogs!

Beth called me from the party and said, “I was really mad at you for keeping the family from going to the party, but it is the right thing to do.” That was good to hear because I couldn’t tell if I was breaking new ground in child rearing or earning the “Worst-Parent Ever” award. Does anyone other than me have those moments?

I looked at the ten tear-filled eyes looking back at me and said, “If you are one of the kids that told the truth, I am so sorry this happened to you. If you are the one that lied to me, your lie ruined the evening for everyone in the family.” (Except for Mami… she said she had a great time not worrying about kids at the party)

We then proceeded to vacuum, fold laundry, do the dishes, dust, and clean rooms for the next three hours. After about 30 minutes of silence punctuated by a random sob here and there, the kids started getting into the work and we were able to get the house in pretty good shape for Beth when she got home… after all, the next day was Mother’s Day!

We then went to bed, and put a pin in this problem for nearly 24 hours. The next morning, Beth used her womanly intuition and, on Mother’s Day, determined who it was and told them it would be their decision, but they needed to confess to me what they did.

Tonight, my oldest son, came to me and confessed to the crime. I was so glad (seems weird to say here, but I have reasons… keep reading)! Not only was he one of my two suspects (and I love being right), but the trust in our relationship was severely damaged for the past day, and I hated that. I hated wondering which one of my kids had the audacity and maliciousness to lie to me repeatedly about something they did. It hurt me knowing that I wasn’t in a harmonious relationship with my family I had enjoyed so much the day before.

We talked about how our sin affects other people. We talked about integrity. We talked about how you have to live in fear with a damaged relationship when you deceive. We talked about how much better it feels to confess our mistakes then to keep them bottled up and hiding them. I told him that he, along with his brothers and sisters were all punished enough the night before, so no additional punishment was coming.

He listened to my whole sermon, but that last part may have been the only part he heard. For now, that’s good enough for me. The “Dog-Tag” affair was finally over.

Baby steps.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty