Monday, July 15, 2019

The Many Ways We Say It

"His arms spread wide where mine should be . . ."
-"Red Letters" by David Crowder

"Then like a hero that takes the stage
when we're on the edge of our seats saying it's too late . . ."
-"Flawless" by MercyMe

"Took the blame, bore the wrath—"
-"The Power of the Cross" by Keith and Kristyn Getty

"His final breath upon the cross
Is now alive in me."
-"Resurrecting" by Resurrection Worship

"To look on him and pardon me."
-"Before the Throne of God Above" by Charite Bancroft and Vikki Cook

"If you wanna know how far my love can go,
Just how deep
Just how wide,
If you wanna see how much you mean to me,
Look at my hands
Look at my side."
-"Drops in the Ocean" by Hawk Nelson

"And as you speak
A hundred different failures disappear
Where you lost your life so I could find it here."
-"So Will I (100 Billion X)  by Hillsong United

"On the cross He sealed my pardon
Paid the debt, and made me free."

-"I Will Sing of My Redeemer"  by Philip Bliss

"You bore the wrath reserved for me."

-"All I Have is Christ" by Jordan Kauflin

"The work was done with nothing but
wood and nails on Your scar-borne hands."

-"Wood and Nails" by The Porter's Gate Worship Project

"Heir of salvation purchase of God
Born of His Spirit washed in His blood"

-"Blessed Assurance" by Fanny Crosby

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

-2 Corinthians 5:21 by Paul the Apostle

Comstock Chronicles: The Green Monster of Envy

It went something like this.

Rose came down with a fever the afternoon that Mama Mina, Lee, and Rose were see Joseph and Technicolored Dream Coat. So Rose was left behind while Lee went. There were lot of tears and bemoaning the lovely time she was missing. Nevertheless, we attempted to have a good time ourselves by making a fairy garden in a shoe box. It had a glitter-covered T.P. roll as a lighthouse and a play-dough whale in a sea of shiny blue rocks.

Two days later Grandma Stevens offered to take the kids to see the same production. It seemed only fair that Rose have a turn while Lee stayed behind this time. Her trip included an afternoon at the Stevens and an over-nighter. Obviously, when Lee discovered this, he declared that he wanted to have his own private sleep-over in the future too!

We made a fairy garden with Lee this time, hot-glueing sticks to an empty paint tub and for an ocean, we smashed up old pieces of a blue plate, which oddly-enough was one of the plates we got for our wedding and had long since been broken and used to block up the holes of terra-cotta pots. Lee had declared that he wanted to paint his hut rainbow colors, but he ended up mixing all his colors together and painting parts of his hut black. Oh yes, there was also a bloody whale in the ocean.

The next morning I attempted to clean the studio because we have new tenants moving in at the end of the month. Having done this many times while watching children, I set my sights low and decided that dusting the upstairs was a good goal for the morning. As I was gathering rags, a step ladder, Simple Green, and screwdriver, I told Lee to take a few of his own toys into the upstairs to keep him occupied. When he didn't return I went to investigate. There was a loud banging sound coming from inside, and I soon discovered the boy rapping on the spiral staircase railing with the stick end of the feather duster. He looked surprised to see me.

"I'm trying to get my lego out," he said.

"Where is it?" I asked.

He pointed at the hollow railing where he'd popped the cap off and sent his lego man down the largest tubular slide ever invented for a miniature man.

"Well, it's gone now," I said, and then we spent a few seconds frantically searching for the railing's cap because he hadn't any idea where he'd put it.

After plugging up the outlets and bringing over my computer for music, I brought the boys over. Benny stuck his hand in my scaling hot tea while I opened the door. The cleaning lasted no more than thirty minutes, and included Benny unwinding a roll of toilet paper and eating some. He also unrolled the roll of paper towels and crumbled them.

Lee kept attempting to climb things, the closet drawers, the spiral staircase gate, the counters—doing anything but play with the legos he'd brought. You'd be surprised how many climbing surfaces there are in a completely empty room. At one point Benny discovered that by opening and shutting the bathroom cabinet doors, he could create a pleasing and loud banging sound, which he enjoyed until I thought that perhaps this was the adjacent tenants' day off.

I decided to work until I'd finished drinking my favorite tea, which ended up being earlier than I expected because Benny managed to get ahold of my cup again and spill it across the bathroom magazine rack and floor. Thankfully, it wasn't hot anymore. We left the studio looking rather less clean that we'd found it, but I did manage to dust all the surfaces above waist height.

There were errands to run next on our way to pick up Rose. Lee and I enjoyed browsing the aisles of Daiso and the fish market before we picked out some delicious-looking pastries at 85°, which ended up tasting less than delicious.

At the Stevens' house, Rose ran out in a new blue dress. She'd had a lovely time. She'd got a bag of new fancy dresses and a new dolly with long braided hair that she'd named Rebekah. She'd had a bag of M&M's and a new magic wand with a glittery heart.

The green monster of envy was at work in no time at all. And after Lee broke Rose's wand, albeit supposedly on accident, he was decidedly too smug and gleeful to join in our company. Only after a sit-and-think outside with Grandpa Stevens did he decide to apologize in the right spirit. Then he was determined to squeeze as much juice out of his short visit with Grandma and Grandpa Stevens by inquiring what he might have: a silver half-dollar, some action figures, a candy?

I was thoroughly disgusted with my children's greediness by the time we left, and they were no more content at receiving their gifts. In fact, they were down-right hostile to each other. I made my visions of a future involving spankings and prolonged solitary confinement quite clear to them, and they straightened up for the drive home during which Lee lost his silver half-dollar down the crack of the car seat, and I asked Rose about how she liked spending the night by herself. She said she was afraid and she'd wanted to have Lee there with her because of the monsters under the bed. Lee then declared that he wasn't afraid of anything. Rose then wanted to know if Lee's fairy garden was better than her own.

Apparently it was because when we got home and while Lee went tearing the car apart to find his coin, Rose barricaded herself in her closet crying because she said her fairy garden was dirty (i.e. we had used sand to create a seashore). She went to dump out the sand and tear up the rocks that she'd glued on.

At lunch I declared that there'd been a lot of complaining about having different experiences when they'd both had lovely times away from each other. I required them to both name five nice things about their times away from each other and then tell one another, "Wow, sounds like you had a nice time!"

Naturally, before any of this could happen, Benny, who'd been rocking his high chair inches closer to the table, happened at this moment to encounter the corner of the table with his head. Cries drowned out a number of the bigger kids lists of blessings, but I managed to quiet Benny down by the time they turned to each other and said giggling, "Wow! Sounds like you had a nice time."

And so now it's my turn.
1) Benny had a full day to spend with just his big brother.
2) We have a new tenant lined up to move in at the end of the month.
3) There were leftovers in the fridge for lunch.
4) I enjoyed examining the live shrimp at the fish market.
5) I got to drink half a cup of my favorite tea this morning.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Boundaries on Boundaries

Our church fellowship group just finished going through Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, a book that helps people learn "when to say yes and how to say no to take control of your life."

This was my second time going through it, and I acquired some new insights this time around. The biggest being: I don't particularly care to be in control of my life. In fact, I don't think it's possible. Either I'm making decisions based on my anger and fear or I'm making decisions based on the spirit's leading. Either I'm a slave to the flesh or a slave to the Lord. Either I make my master the devil or God. I don't think anyone is ever the master of his or her life, despite what Mr. Henley claimed. ("I am master of my fate: I am captain of my soul.")

Boundaries gives biblical guidelines on how to protect ourselves, our time, and our things against negative influences. The book if full of concrete examples and practical, common-sense advice that can be followed by a Christian or non-Christian alike. Perhaps it was this that made me a little suspicious this time around. What's the point of having a relationships with Christ, if we then take control of our own lives and do it all ourselves?

Townsend and Cloud use several examples of when Christ established boundaries. They also give lists of what lies within our boundaries (our bodies, time, thoughts, feelings, etc.) and different ways of setting boundaries (saying no, physical removal, restrictions, etc.) All very practical and smart sort of stuff. But again, an interactive and ongoing conversational-relationship with Christ doesn't follow a grid work of rules and boundaries. It searches out God's wisdom in every situation. It asks God all day everyday, "Make me to walk in your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Show me your truths and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long." (Psalm 25:4-5 ESV)

I keep laughing at the thought of certain scenarios in the bible that seem to break all the boundary rules, like that story of the men lowering their friend through the roof of a house in order to reach Jesus. I think the principles in Boundaries would say, "These friends didn't respect personal property or personal space. Jesus should've recognized that his boundaries were being violated and said 'no.'"

Then there are all those foolish friends, a.k.a. disciples, that Jesus surrounded himself with who had horribly false opinions about who he was and what he was supposed to do. Jesus should've given those guys an ultimatum. Either respect me and who I am or be gone because I don't need to surround myself with people who have false opinions of me.

And let's not forget that totally boundary-less episode on the cross. Tell me how that wasn't a crossing of every physical, emotional, and mental boundary that Jesus had!

The bottom line is that when we're seeking the Lord in everything, He teaches us when and how to say yes or no. We don't base our judgements on our own wisdom or feelings or fears, but God's omniscient wisdom. For one Christian that might mean going to a town that's hostile to Christians. For another, not so.

Lead by the spirit, Paul knew it was time to go to Rome and be bound. Jesus knew it was time to go to Jerusalem and be crucified. David danced half-naked before the Lord. Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. Rebekah left home. Hebrews 11 has a great list of many other seemingly-harebrained things that God lead people to do. Most of these wouldn't fall into the good-boundary-setting category at all. But they all fall into the having-faith-in-the-Lord category.

Boundaries has a lot of great advice, but having correct boundaries isn't our goal in life. Neither is health or happiness for that matter. Those things are merely the byproducts of the main goal, which is God himself.

To read this sort of book and follow its advice without a conversational-relationship with Christ kinda feels like reading a manual on how to drive a Ferrari at Laguna Seca without saying a word to the Formula 1 racing driver sitting in the passenger seat . . . no, wait . . . he's in the driver's seat. I asked him there because I trusted him.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

To Let Hurtful Words Go

To let hurtful words go.
To let them go up like smoke and blow away in the wind
To not capture them in a box and occasionally stick my nose in
And breathe their putridness as if I needed them to live.

To let others' foolishness or wickedness or offensiveness
Be simply silly
As I am silly sometimes
And hope everyone forgets in a hurry.

To stop sticking their words on me
With double-sided tape and globs of glue
To not press them into my heart of hearts
As if they knew the intricacies there
And that their words would touch me so.

To not take those words to the laboratory
And dissect them under bright lights
As if they were scripture.
To not stamp them onto records
And play them repeatedly on my Victrola
As if they were symphonies and I enjoyed them.
To not build my house upon them
As if they were foundational and universal.
But to let the words go
Like scents on the wind
Or flashes of color on the retina
Or the blur of bushes outside my car window.

To believe the best about someone
Even in accordance with those hurtful words—
Not to fabricate pure motives,
Or excuse them with a colorful past—
But to believe of them what God does.

They are good.
God has said it.
They are pure and right and clean
Because of Christ's blood,
Even if they have yet to see it there.
They need nothing more for God to love them.
I need nothing more from God to love them.
He has given it already.
Those discordant words have burned
In the sacrifices on the alter
Where lies all words except the eternal one.
The Word that was from the beginning
And is with God
And is God.

Now I fall back onto those eternal words
Planted and growing in my mind:
Words worth storing in my snuff box,
Worth smelling their sweetness everyday,
Words strong enough to dissect in my laboratory,
And play again and again on my record player,
And build my house upon.
Words that say of me, "Good,"
Knowing full well the intricacies of my heart
And how these words will touch me there.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Needing Jesus

My daily discomforts, misgivings, and grievances seem to cause me to dwell on either how much I need Jesus or see how much others need Jesus.

If I think too much about how much others need Jesus, I tend to turn myself into a god, high above the common man and their desperate needs. If I think too much about how much I need Jesus,  I tend to be absorbed in myself and my unworthiness without paying attention to the cure—like singing about how hungry I am in front of In-N-Out without ever going inside to get a burger.

Best to acknowledge that everyone needs Jesus and then get on with the acquisition of him, the setting my mind on his truths and then believing them.

Friday, June 14, 2019

What it Means to Believe My Kids are Sinners

Modern psychology seems to believe that a child misbehaves because something is wrong inside him, and a parent's job is to find out what that is and fix it.

Why did Jack scream at me? Is he harboring some inner fear that he won't have enough? Is he jealous that his sister got more than him? Is he still recovering from that incident when he was two, and I left him in the car?

Why did Evie not listen to her teacher today? Maybe Evie's surrounded by too many talkative friends. Maybe she's too young to be in school. Maybe she had a stomach ache. Maybe her teacher scolded her too harshly.

This sort of thinking is both tricky and dangerous.

It's tricky because it's so very close to the truth and yet not. Yes, if our kids' hearts are right, then their actions will be too. But no amount of therapy or proper parenting or ideal environment will fix our kids' hearts. Why? Because regardless of how children are treated, they still want to do things their own way. They're born that way, and no one but God can fix that.

As a mom, I find this extremely liberating.

I'm not responsible for fixing my children's hearts. Just their actions. I'm not responsible for making my children unselfish. Just to act respectfully. I don't have to interpret all their feelings. I just need to ensure that they act responsibly with their feelings. I'm not in charge of assigning them their value. I'm just responsible for respectfully treating them their age.

Sure, there's a lot more involved in parenting than this, but it doesn't have to be difficult. It can't be if God expects just about everyone to be able to do it—educated/uneducated, organized/unorganized, extroverts/introverts, verbose/soft-spoken, playful/serious, good at teaching/bad at teaching, sensitive/impervious, psychologists/blacksmiths. (What is the opposite of a psychologist? I don't know.)

Yes, my children's misbehavior means something. Usually it means that they're either newbies or that they're sinners.  But why is it so easy for us moms to get muddled about this?

Maybe it's because babies usually cry for a reason. I've read that refraining from comforting my child can damage his or her psyche. So I do everything possible to soothe my baby's cries. After all, his well-being is my responsibility. Right? So then the baby grows up a bit, and he still cries about everything: he wanted to eat that leaf, he wants the stick, he doesn't want to go in his high chair, he wants his sippy cup, he wants to grab the dog. And here I am still believing that it's bad for him to cry. I get muddled trying to figure out what need am I not meeting.

I also get muddled because I want to believe that my kids are innocent and good. In fact it's rather difficult to believe that my children are just as self-centered and annoying as everyone else's children because I like my children more than other people's children. But this is just a sign that my love for my own has made me accepting to their brand of scruples.

However, the biggest reason why I have a hard time believing my children are born selfish is because then I must believe that I was born this way too. This isn't just a belief that I have a little problem, like a pride problem or a patience problem or insecurity problem. It's believing that everything I do I do because I think I'm the most valuable person here. I like myself and my ideas are more than everyone else's. I want my own way.

Who wants to believe that? Who can actually stomach that they're totally selfish? Certainly not a self-sacrificing, sleep-deprived mom who lives for others and spends every ounce of her mental energy trying to decide what's best for her family?

Either we believe that we're rebels at heart or we believe that we're not so bad. The delusional mom hangs all her hopes on the belief that her motives are pure and unselfish. She doesn't care so much what she wants, just so long as everyone else is happy. If her actions are questioned, she insists she was only doing it for others.

The sinner wakes up and says, "Oh God, I want my own way today. Help me to want your way more!" If every morning I didn't determine to be a good mom, but rather hung my goodness elsewhere, I'd stop stressing out about doing everything perfectly. I'd stop insisting on performing my own version of unselfishness for my family. I'd stop keeping track of how much my unselfishness has cost me. I wouldn't give my children that spoiling bit of leniency that I never give to other kids.

And if every morning, I woke up and said, "My children want their own way, and today they're desperately going to try to get it," I'd be better equipped for their tricks and better able to love them without fear.

Casting My Line Into Another

These waters are no good.
I've been fishing all day
And all I've caught
Is a shred of argyle,
A belt buckle,
A tangle of hair,
And a shoe lace.

I'm paddling out farther
To deeper waters.
I'm casting again
In another direction,
And while waiting for a tug,
I'll tell you the history
Of all my bad luck.

I was born an angler.
We all are, you know.
But my training was lacking,
For I was taught to fish in a puddle of sludge
With teachers who, more often than naught,
Hooked bits of me instead of tadpoles or guppies.

When I grew of age, I packed my tackle, line and rod,
And told my mentors what I thought of their "fishing."
Then I hiked to a river to find companions,
Who knew how to catch fish instead of me.

The river was crowded with anglers,
Full of tips, advice, and criticisms.
"Not there. Here."
"Not that. This."
"Not over. Under."
At first I obeyed
Until I succeeded to fish like they did
Catching the flies of fishers on the opposite bank,
Who, in turn, were ensnaring their hooks in our lines as well.

So I cut my losses and moved downstream
Where I'd heard the campers ate trout every night.
At the edge of a lake, I pitched my tent on the beach
Beside an old man who was grilling four fish over his fire.

"How did you catch those?" I asked that first night.
He smiled and pointed. "I cast my line in the waters."
"Of course, but how?"
"In the waters!" he repeated. "In the sea!"

Of course! I thought.
Why fish in lakes beside hobbyists and amateurs,
When I could fish the ocean with sea captains?

So I went to the sea, bought this dory and cast out.
And here I've been anchored off shore for a week
Without much luck—aside from that rubbish pile there.

I see you've tangled your line.
Ha! I used to do that too.
Give it here.
I'll untangle the knot.
Stop wiggling.
Look out! Ouch!
You've hooked my hat.
How dare you!
You're just like the rest.
Fine. Have it then.
I'm used to such abuse.
But I'll not keep your company.
I'm raising my anchor
And rowing deeper
Because I'm compelled to cast
My hooks into something.

Now outa my way.
And get your socks off my hook!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Small Group Lessons on Anger, Fear, & Hurt

These are three weeks of homework assignments for a small group. I suppose they could also be used as discussion questions. I wrote this up because I like teaching and it popped into my mind.

Week 1

Prayerfully pay attention to yourself this week. Write down five times you experienced fear, anger, and hurt (5 times each). For each experience answer the following three questions:

1) What triggered each experience?
2) How did you act afterwards?
3) What do you think about your reaction.

Example 1: My daughter back-talked me. I was mad. I talked her down. That wasn’t right of me.

Example 2: A new project was dumped on my lap at work. I was anxious. I worked frantically, skipped lunch, and got home late where I snapped at everyone. I shouldn’t have been the one doing that extra work. It was Joe Smoe’s job.

Example 3: My spouse didn’t acknowledge any of the work I did today. I was hurt. I distanced myself. I didn’t want to bug him. He’d had a stressful week.

Feel free to write down times when you thought you reacted well to experiences too.

Week 2

1) Was Jesus ever afraid, angry or hurt? Cite examples.

2) Did Jesus ever have reason to be afraid, angry, or hurt and yet wasn’t? Cite examples

3) When is it Christ-like for us to be afraid, angry, or hurt? Back up each instance with scripture.

4) Does the bible ever command us NOT to feel these things? In what context? Finding synonyms for fear, anger, or hurt when citing examples may make this easier.

5) Write down 3 times you experienced fear, anger, or hurt this week. Then state whether that emotion brought you closer to the Lord or lead you to justifying your feelings or actions before men. Ask the Lord to reveal to you the truth of what is in your heart.

Week 3

All our passions are ruled by the flesh until they come under submission to Christ’s power in us. This means that if our fear, anger, and hurt is not leading us to a greater faith in Christ, then it is leading us to a greater faith in an anti-Christ, that is, anything other than Christ. Where is your fear, anger, or hurt leading you? To an increased faith in Christ or to an increased faith in something else?

Again write down 3 new instances this week when you are afraid, angry, or hurt. Answer these questions after each incident.

1) What triggered the experience?
2) Where did your fear, anger, or hurt lead you? To a greater faith in Christ or greater faith in something else? As this can be a difficult question to answer, be sure to prayerfully ask God to reveal how you're thinking through each instance.
3) Are there any lies that you’re believing that are preventing you from trusting in Christ? Sometimes dialoguing about this with a mature friend can help reveal the truth. 
4) What does the bible say in contrast to the lies you may be believing?

Example 1: I’m hurt because I’m always the one to initiate getting together with a friend. I feel like they don’t care about me. LIE: I’m allowing the way they treat me to dictate my self-worth. I’m not believing what God said about my worth. The bible says that God is longing to have a relationship with me because he loves me.

Example 2: I’m stressed out because I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with my rebellious teenager, and I’m afraid that if I make the wrong choice, I’ll mess up my kids. LIE: I’m believing that how my child turns out is my responsibility. The bible says that everyone is born a rebel, and that God alone can change their hearts. The bible also says that God will supply all my needs (for parenting too!).

Example 3: I’m so mad that that person said that to me. They’ve no idea how rude that was. I’m willing to overlook it because I’m a Christian, but that was wrong. LIE: I’m think I deserve credit for not pointing out their flaws or holding a grudge against them. I'm forgetting that the Lord has forgiven me just as much as he’s forgiven them. I’m just acting like the unmerciful servant.

When we have the spirit of God living in us, every moment in our lives can bring glory to God. Even our untrusting fears, self-righteous angers, and insecure offenses can grow our faith IF we allow these instances to draw us to Jesus. These cases just remind us that we need him every instance of every day.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Parenting by the Book (Part III)

This is the last of three posts on John Rosemond's book, Parenting by the Book. In this section he talks about proper discipline. By discipline, Rosemond does not mean talking, reasoning, and explaining but rather making disciples of your children to follow the right way, God's way.

Chapter Nine: The Bible Tells Me So

This chapter tells what the bible says about discipline. This is a list of section titles of this chapter.
  1. Discipline and love are two sides of the same coin. (Proverbs 3:12)
  2. Punishment is never pleasant but produces great benefit for the person punished. (Hebrews 12:11)
  3. Punishment is essential to proper discipline. (Hebrews 12:6)
  4. Proper discipline validates a child. (Hebrews 12:8)
  5. Obedient children are pleasing to their parents. (Proverbs 29:17)
  6. Children are to obey their parents. (Colossians 3:20)
  7. Obedience will bring blessings to children. (Proverbs 1:8-9)
  8. The most obedient children are also the happiest, most self-respecting children. (Proverbs 15:32)
  9. A lack of discipline contributes to death—in the everlasting sense. (Proverbs 19:18)
  10. Discipline is the way to life eternal. (Proverbs 6:23)
I appreciate how John Rosemond redeems the use of the word "punishment" in this chapter. I recall reading How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, and both authors frowned upon the word "punishment." They seemed to believe it meant a lashing out in anger rather than a consequence given for misbehavior. Faber and Mazlish seemed to think punishment meant an adult temper tantrum, which I don't think is accurate. The bible certainly doesn't use the word like that.

Chapter Ten: Leadership Discipline

In this rather long chapter, Rosemond reiterates the differences between postmodern parenting and the biblical way. Postmodern parents believe that manipulating rewards and consequences turns out good behavior in children. The biblical way is one of leadership, "the art of commanding" (Rosemond, 210). He states that leaders are distinguished by the following:
  • "They may disapprove of what you do, but they always approve of you (unconditional positive regard).
  • "They lead through example. They do not expect others to do what they have not themselves done or are unwilling to do.
  • "They are enthusiastic concerning their vision, and their enthusiasm is communicable.
  • "They motivate others to follow their lead through positive coaching and encouragement, by helping people reach down inside themselves and bring out the best in themselves. And because they help people become the very best they can be, those people look up to them.
  • "They are decisitve and willing to make unpopular decisions.
  • "They 'stay the course' when the going gets rough." (Rosemond, 207-8)
He spends a good portion of this chapter on spankings, which I don't intend to summarize here not because I disagree but because I wasn't particularly interested in it. 

Chapter Eleven: Command, Compel, Confirm

I appreciated this chapter the most. In fact, I think this chapter could stand on its own apart from the rest of the book as a great guide to parenting. Rosemond encourages parents:
  1. To communicate through commands
  2. To give compelling consequences
  3. To consistently confirm my best interest in my children
"Say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you say you are going to do" (Rosemond, 226). Basically, don't argue with your child. I, Abigail, think it would help if I asked myself, "Is my child asking 'Why not?' because they're confused or do they just not want to do what I've asked?"
  1. "When your child asks for something, and you say he can't have it or do it, and your child demands an explanation, as in, "Why not?!" give one of the only six reasons there are: (1) You're not old enough, (2) you might get hurt, (3) we don't have the money (or will not use it that way), (4) we don't have the time (or won't take the time) for that, (5) we don't believe in that (our values don't allow that), (6) we don't like those kids.
  2. "When you have given your chosen reason in five words or less, and your child stomps his foot and yells out that he doesn't agree with your reason, thinks it's dumb, or wants to tell you why you should change your mind, simply look at him with great compassion and say, 'If I was your age, I wouldn't like that decision either.'
  3. "Then turn around and walk away, leaving your child to—I'm going to steal one of Grandma's favorite lines—'stew in his own juices.'" (Rosemond, 231-2)
I recall Heidi Dehart suggesting that I say, "I need you to . . ." to my children when I command them. This has served me quite well for several years now. It's much more effective than what Rosemond calls "Milquetoast speeches," which are a combination of entreatments, enticements, explanations, and bribes. 

If a child doesn't heed a command, a consequence comes next. The difference between a compelling and non-compelling consequence is whom it affects. A child should be the one suffering the consequences for his behavior, not the parent. And the consequence should be something the child remembers next time they're tempted to disobey again.

Lastly, being a consistent parent doesn't mean to have a consistent set of consequences, those can change, but rather to have a consistent set of values in the house. Parents who value what the Bibles values will always have consistent values. Their aim is the same if they are raising strong-willed or compliant children, boys or girls, handicapped or autistic kids.

Rosemond, John. Parenting by the Book. New York: Howard Books, 2007. Print.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Parenting by the Book (Part II)

This is the second post on Parenting by the Book by John Rosemond. The first post was merely a collection of poignant quotes from the first part of his book. I'm still processing those quotes and deciding what to take and what to leave. He seems to throw the baby out with the bathwater in regards to psychology's influence on parenting. He also seems to believe that Grandma's way of parenting was The Way. In speaking with different people on this topic, I've come to learn that there are many unhealthy and bad examples of Grandma's right way. However, I think he also has many good points about what modern parenting has lost by buying into many psychological theories.

This is now a summary of part two of his book.

Chapter 5: Parenting as One Flesh

Be a husband or wife first and a father or mother second. "For a family to work according to God's design, the husband-wife relationship must be far more active than either parent's relationship with any child" (Rosemond, 121).

This is not the first time I've heard this, but a reminder is always welcome. For me, this means that I need to spend more mental energy figuring out how to best operate with my husband. It's far to easy to allow parenting to be the subject of all my conversations, my free-time reading, and my night-time worrying. 

Chapter 6: Character First

Rosemond argues that parents need to discipline not only a child's actions but their thinking about others and themselves, the way they express themselves emotionally, and their responses to instruction. He encourages parents to be the number one influencer in their child's lives.

"The lower our expectations concerning children, the more we tolerate behavior that should not be tolerated, and the more undisciplined children will become" (Rosemond, 137).

This means to not give a child's self-expression free reign; a child's words and actions all must come under the laws of respect for others.

Chapter 7: Farsighted Parenting

"Parents should aim their child rearing at a target that lies some distance off in the future" (Rosemond, 146). Parents need to think about what kind of adult they'd like their child to be and not necessarily about how to alleviate their children's temporary discomforts. 

In this chapter, Rosemond stresses that teaching children respect is more important than playing soccer or earning A's. That is, values are more important than skills. 

Chapter 8: To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn . . .

Taken from Parenting by the Book by John Rosemond pg. 175
Everything has a season, and a parents' role to their child is no exception. 

I found this chapter very helpful. Everything hitherto I didn't think applied to parents of very young children, and this chapter confirmed this. 

Parents, and most usually the mother, is to be a servant to their child from birth to about age 2 when a child is unable to do things for his or herself. During this time, a woman's relationship with her husband is somewhat on hold because baby's needs trump just about everything. 

However, it is very important for this season to come to an end in the next year of a toddler's life, about ages 2-3. In this year of transition the child comes to understand that mom is not his servant, and that he, in fact, must center his life around mom and dad's agenda and not the other way around. This means learning to do for himself what mom previously did for him, waiting for mom's attention, and seeing that mom and dad's relationship comes before a child's wants.

The next transition is between leadership and mentoring, when mom and dad become more like advisors to the child in helping him or her navigate life and prepare to fly the nest. Lastly comes friendship, the most rewarding of the relationships because now the parent and child are like friends with a common respect for one another. Here guidance is usually only given when requested by the adult-child.

Rosemond, John. Parenting by the Book. New York: Howard Books, 2007. Print.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Camping Sycamore Campground

Hurrah! A successful camping trip to Sycamore Campground, Point Mugu: the first of many I hope. We saw dolphins in the green-gray ocean and a mother and father bird feeding insects to their brood in a tree hole just above our eating area. We bushwhacked our way through a jungle of mustard to find an overgrown trail that took us to an ocean vista. We wet our feet, or in the case of the children their entire bodies, in the frigid pacific, and built sand castles. We ate the simplest of meals and had great fellowship with all the families that went. We're definitely doing this again.

Five families from church all decided back in November to reserve spots for camping this May, and none of us had ever attempted tent camping with our children. Between the five of us, there were thirteen kids, so the little ones all ran around like wild squirrels. The Villas set up a "play tent" where much giggling and rough-housing occurred. Sometimes the children rode each other's bikes. Sometimes they climbed in the trees or tromped through the understory. Sometimes they played hide and seek. And sometimes they mooched food off others.

Sycamore Canyon is aptly named because of the massive sycamore trees surrounding the campground. These served as a playground. Several boys, including Lee & Dietrich, climbed high enough to make their mamas nervous.

Kanon, Rose, Zion, Lee, Addie, and Levi on our natural jungle gym.
So many kids!
We were very appreciative of Richard Villa's bike-fixing-air-mattress-filling-skills as we set up camp. Most of the first day was spent figuring out our tents and deciding how to cook our dinners. Powerful gusts of wind made this particularly tricky. In the later evening the wind died down, and around 9 pm the campground quieted for the night. The adults chatted for a bit around the fire before we retiring to sound of the waves crashing on the beach. Phil and I had the best night's sleep we've ever had camping because of the air mattress he borrowed from a co-worker. I think we'll have to invest in one of these. And Benny only woke once for his usual feeding.

Rose and Lee climbing
The next morning was our hike: an almost two mile loop on a small footpath to a beautiful view. The hills were green and fresh and blooming with lupin and California daisies and mustard and monkey flowers and wild roses. Phil carried Benny who slept in the carrier and I carried the map to lead the way. 

Rose, Lee, Richard, Addie, Phil, Benny, Tai, Eric, Max, and myself at our lookout location.
Rose said her highlight was running in the waves with her friend, NaYoung. They chased and were chased by the waves while Phil and Lee made sand castles. I sat on the sand with Benny and chatted with Josie Oldenburg about psychology. Benny squeezed the sand in his little fists and practiced cruising on our beach chairs.

Phil and Lee build a city of sand. Rose chases the waves in the background.
We ate well and brought plenty of yummy, easy food including sugary cereals, hot dogs,  avocado tacos, cliff bars, cans of soup put right on the grill, and smores made with dark chocolate. We enjoyed the soft strum of the guitar from the Villa's camp in the quiet of our afternoon. And almost everyone doted on Benny. 
Rose, NaYoung, Addie & Lucy gathering around Benny because he was so cute.
Benny was so content during the trip and loved all the people doting on him.
The weather report for Sunday said rain was imminent, so we packed under a light sprinkle. Phil proudly showed me the artful knots he'd made to secure our tarp bundle to the car's roof rack. We ate our dinners together around the fire and after smores, we headed out about 6:30 pm. We tucked the little sleepers into their beds by 8:30 before hopping into the shower ourselves. I enjoyed scrubbing all three children in their baths the next day.

Other highlights included: coming through the tunnel where the 10 freeway meets the 1 and seeing the ocean for the first time, LA's sparkling lights on the drive home, Dietrich enjoying holding Benny, Jewish Nation hot dogs, heating our kettle on Phil's Biolite stove, the Oldenburg's sharing their fire logs with us, Benny learned to whistle, Benny eating his applesauce while entertaining a small crowd of onlookers with his funny baby noises, tall towers of Yucca blooms, little rabbits that look like Bigwig, kids eating their entire candy supplies on the car ride there, perfect weather on Saturday, cups of hot tea, feeling sun-baked and wind-blown and gritty but happy.

I'm putting my packing list here for future reference.

-2 Tents
-4 sleeping bags 
-4 insulate pads
- pillows

-diapers, cream, powder, changing pad
-baby carrier
-Pack and Play with sheet and safety pins
-High Chair w/ bib
-Sun hat
-nursing cover
-bottle & formula
-Umbrella Stroller

Eating: put items in a box
-kitchen towels
-prep table 
-Big water Jug
-Water Bottles
-Paper plates
-Hot items mugs
-Utensils and sharp knives
-Hot water kettle
-table cloth
-cutting mat
-dish soap
-Aluminum foil
-Trash bags
-Ice Chest w/ Dry Ice 

-Fire Tongs
-Camp Chairs
-Bio-lite stove
-Lantern Fuel & Mantels
-AAA batteries

Personal items
-bug repellent 
-baby powder to get sand off
-Cash for showers
-Phones and chargers

-Kids bikes
-Tire pump
-Beach towels
-Beach toys
-First Aid Kit
-Beach Blanket
-Playing cards

-Rain boots
-Bathroom Bags
-Stick Sunscreen 
-kid’s markers & Chalk

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Parenting by The Book (Part 1)

I am in the process of reading Parenting By the Book by John Rosemond, and the book makes some serious claims. I needed a place to gather the books' thought-provoking quotes, so I've dumped them all here. Everything has been taken from John Rosemond's Parenting by the Book with the page number in parenthesis at the end of each quote. FYI: I'm still trying to decide what I think about all this. I certainly don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water, but many of his claims definitely address some of my parenting problems.


"Psychology holds that the individual is fundamentally good . . . Psychology's central doctrine is one of nonresponsibility—fundamentally, the individual is the product of his upbringing; therefore, his vices are reflections of psychic conflicts engendered by his parents' inadequacies." (4)

"Christianity holds that we are solely and fully responsible for our sinful behavior and that only by accepting that responsibility can we receive forgiveness." (5)

"Psychology holds that a person can be "saved" through the process of therapy as mediated by another human being, that coming to grips with the corruption suffered at the hands of one's parents will set one free. Christianity holds that salvation is attained only through faith in Jesus Christ, that he is the Truth, and that only his truth can set one free." (5)

Part One: The Great Deception

Chapter One: The Walls Come Crumblin' Down

"Understanding what Grandma was talking about did not require a college degree. She did not say things like, 'In talking with you, I get the distinct impression that you are still trying to resolve childhood issues of your own, and I think we should give some time to exploring those issues and discovering how they relate to the problems you are currently having with your child.'" (19)

"Grandma talked like this: 'You know, it occurs to me that your uncle Charlie, when he was about Billy's age, did something similar to what Billy has done. Here's how I handled it . . . You've no doubt noticed that Charlie is working for the bank today, not robbing banks. Maybe you'd like to consider going home and doing with Billy what I did with Charlie.'" (19)

"The term most often used today is 'bad choices'—mistakes, in effect, as if a child's rebellious misbehavior is no more egregious than choosing the wrong answer on a television quiz show. Because malevolent motive is absent, punishment is not warranted. Besides, punishment damages self-esteem, or so the new parenting elite warns." (24)

Chapter Two: Postmodern Psychological Parenting

"Grandma knew that the most powerful shaping force in a person's life was the force of the person's own free will. She understood that the choices people, including children, made were influenced by early childhood experiences, socioeconomic factors, cultural expectations, peer pressure, and so on. But Grandma also understood that when all was said and done, people were fully responsible for the choices they made." (35)

" . . . the power of their choosing was more powerful than the power of her parenting." (35)

"Proverbs 22:15 tells us that 'Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.' The Hebrew word that is here translated 'folly' is used in other contexts to mean moral depravity. This means that in any given situation, a child is inclined to do the wrong thing, the self-serving WORD, to consider his own interests before anyone else's." (38)

"Authority, legitimately exercised, slowly liberates the human spirit, which is creative and loving, from the prison of human nature, which is anything but." (45)

"Humanistic psychology's second contribution to Postmodern Psychological Parenting is the idea that high self-esteem is desirable—essential in fact, to personal happiness—and parents should do everything in their power to help their children acquire it." (49)

". . . it's not the person with high self-confidence who is most likely to succeed in life; it's the person who possesses a realistic appraisal of his or her strengths and weaknesses." (59)

"Grandma understood that respect for others, not high self-esteem, defines the emotionally healthy, prosocial individual . . . As respect is given away, self-respect grows within." (73)

"America's kids were a whole lot happier before parents began listening to psychologists (and remember, I am one!) and other mental health professionals. Am I saying that my profession is the problem? Yes, I most certainly am." (67)

Chapter Three: The Serpent's Currency

"In Grandma's Day, home and family were a character-education classroom in which parents were the teachers and children, students. Within this classroom, parents developed and delivered a curriculum designed to teach children a set of values essential to good citizenship. The core of this curriculum was composed of the following 'Three R's:

  • "Respect for the fundamental dignity of every human being, which children develop by first learning respect for people in positions of legitimate authority, beginning with their parents.
  • "Responsibility in two equally important senses of the term: first, accountability for one's own actions, second, a willingness to carry out tasks assigned by authority figures (as well as those that are simply due the family/community by virtue of one's membership within it).
  • "Resourcefulness—a hang in there, tough it out, try-and-try-again attitude brought to the challenges of life." (71)

Chapter Four: The Tower of Parent-Babble

"Postmodern Psychological Parenting postulated that when a child misbehaves, the feelings that supposedly lie behind and drive the behavior are more significant than was the behavior itself. One of the mantras my graduate school professors drummed into me was that misbehavior on the part of a child was nothing more than a sign of underlying emotional distress, an indication that the child was struggling with an 'issue' or 'conflict' that was preventing him from behaving properly. (Note that this presumes that the child does not possess free will; he is a leaf being blown through life by psychological winds over which he as no control.)" (100-101)

"Unfortunately, all too many of today's parents are doing what I learned to do in graduate school. They engage in what I call "psychological thinking" concerning their children's misbehavior. Instead of viewing a given misbehavior as simply an error that needs to be corrected through the application of proper discipline, today's parents interpret it. 'What does it mean?' they ask, and go on to ascribe some psychological significance to it." (103)

"She (a mother) needed to act, not understand. The only thing this mother needed to understand was that by trying to understand the psychology behind her son's hitting, she was transferring responsibility from her son to herself." (104)

"Every single time—not some of the time, but every single time—parents assign some theoretical psychological cause to a child's misbehavior, several consequences become inevitable:

  1. "The child is no longer responsible for what he is going. A parent, both parents, or some other agency—teacher, peer group, or some circumstance in the child's life (the parents' divorce, the death of a favorite grandparent) is responsible. More often than not, the responsible party is the parent—in the parent's own mind, at least. More often than not, the child's mother ends up feeling most, if not solely, responsible as in guilty.
  2. "The child is transformed from someone who is misbehaving into a victim of circumstances that are beyond his or her control. Instead of disciple, he warrants compassion.
  3. "The child's behavior is justified by the circumstance in question. Suddenly, he is innocent of wrongdoing. He doesn't really mean to do what he is doing. His behavior is being driven by psychological forces that are beyond his ability to comprehend or cope with.
  4. "The parent's ability to disciple is paralyzed. How can a parent punish a child for doing what he can't help doing?" (105)

"They (mothers) began to believe that whether their children turned out well was completely up to them—that a positive parenting outcome was a matter of their efforts, their energy, their dedication, their devotion. There was furthermore, a new aspect to the job: to wit, doing everything possible to ensure that their children's feelings were not disturbed, and when they were, to do everything possible to set things right again." (107)

"For the first time in history, women began to feel that the terrain of child rearing was filled with psychological landmines that one untoward move on their part could set off, causing potentially irreparable damage." (108)

"Obsessive, worrisome moms began micromanaging their children, doing what micromanagers, wherever they are found, do: hovering over and racing around, checking on this and checking on that, fixing this and fixing that, making sure of this and making sure of that, helping with this and helping with that, arranging this and arranging that. Moms also began looking over the shoulder of anyone and everyone who had anything to do with their children, including their husbands making sure these people were doing the 'right' things." (108)

"When Grandma disciplines, she was trying to hurt her child's feelings; she was trying to make her child feel guilty. Grandma understood that unless emotional pain was associated with misbehavior, misbehavior would continue unchecked. But then, in Grandma's day, misbehavior was not a psychological phenomenon. It was a sin, and one could not afford to fool around where sin was concerned." (111)

Rosemond, John. Parenting by the Book. New York: Howard Books, 2007. Print.

Monday, May 13, 2019

It's Not My Fault

If every little flaw in me sends me back
to spankings
for sliding down the carpeted stairs in footed pajamas,
And to teachers' scoldings
for giggling in the back of Spanish . . .

If my every misgiving
compels me to ask why,
what does it mean,
and who has done this to me . . .

Then I lose myself 
in conjecture,
constructed from vivid memories and sentiment and anger.

And when I find a source
for my scruples
then you must understand
that it's not my fault.
I am innocent.
I am doing the best I can
with what's been given me.
No one can demand any more.

And I need not ask myself
if what I do is right and good
or good enough.
I need not discover 
that it is not,
or that my faith is misplaced.

I've found proof
that I'm blameless.
And that proof
is not the blood of the lamb.

The devil wins.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Trees of Heaven, Hell and Earth

In the eternal garden where fear and blame are masters no more, a man came upon an old overgrown pepper tree. Now on earth this man had been a sculptor, and so when he saw the weeping canopy and the bulbous trunk, he thought it looked like a woolly mammoth. This musing pleased him so much that he took his pruning sheers and began snipping the pepper tree to shape it like he had once done to wood and clay on earth.

Before he was finished, another man came along. Now this man had once been an arborist. And when he saw the trimmed pepper tree, he stopped dead in his tracks. There was no mistaking its form. It was a woolly mammoth in size and texture.

The arborist burst into laughter. All his thirty-odd years of trimming trees, of selecting a tree’s central leader, of judging the strength of each off-shoot’s angle, and waiting for growth to fill in the gaps, had not taught him to trim trees into woolly mammoths. It had never even entered his imagination. And here now this sculptor, with his skills of proportion and scale, was doing just this.

The sculptor too fell into fits of laughter because he saw the humor of it. He saw the thing from the arborist’s eyes, and it delighted him too. Then when they wiped their eyes dry, they sat in the soft grass and discussed pruning and sculpting until lunch.

Such are the joys of heaven where all the trees are had and enjoyed, and nothing is lost.

Hell is not so.

Upon the shores of the fiery lake where no trees will ever grow, there stood the charred remains of an old oak eternally burnt and dead. And against it leaned a lost soul, the bent and shriveled remains of a man. He stood guarding the dead trunk so that no one would touch it. But the black sulfuric clouds often stung his eyes, so he didn’t see another damned soul approach until the theft was complete.

“Hey, there!” the victim shouted. “What the hell do you think you’re doing with that?”

“What? Oh, you mean this,” the interloper replied holding up his stolen goods. “It’s nothing. Just some useless charcoal.”

“That useless charcoal is mine, and you can’t have it!”

“Why not? You aren’t doing anything with it,”

“That’s because thieves like you keep stealing it from me.”

“What are you going to do with it? Whiten your rotting teeth?”

“I have much grander plans than anything you could dream up.”

“Try me.”

“You’re obviously not the kind of person who’d understand.”

“Ooo! Watch out! Mr. Ingenious here is going to use charcoal to revolutionize hell! If you’re so smart, you can find some charcoal elsewhere.” Then the interloper seized more of the burnt tree.

“I’ll pound your face into the ground for that!”

“I’d like to see you try.”

And with that the two men fell upon each other in that dog-eat-dog wasteland where the trees are all defended but never won, and everything is lost.

But there is a third place where trees grow.

On earth where the property lines divide hers from his, two neighbors, a dietician and an Edison employee, were considering the overgrowth of a massive loquat tree that spanned both their backyards.

The Edison employee saw how the branches were touching the power lines and although he was no lineman or arborist, he decided to trim back the overgrowth. His neighbor the dietician, who also happened to be deathly allergic to gluten, peanuts, and dairy, was shocked to see the results. 

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Keeping the branches away from the wires,” replied the Edison man.

“But the tree! It’s so lopsided now.”

“I can come and trim up your side too if you’d like,” he replied.

“Oh no, please don’t. I like how my side shades the lawn. And what have you done with all the fruit?”

“It’s here. You can have it if you want. It’s not spoiled or anything.”

“Thank you, but I prefer my tree not hacked to pieces.”

“You know, Edison will have to come sooner or later and cut it back anyways.”

“Perhaps, but you had no right to touch my tree!”

The Edison employee felt his blood pressure rising and his arguments clouding his vision like a swarm of gnats. He wanted to say, “If you care so much about your tree, why didn’t you trim it yourself?” And, “If you didn’t want it trimmed why did you let the branches overhang my yard? Every year you let the fruit rot on the branches and fall onto my grass and attract rats and flies.”

But his boiling anger prevented him from saying a word, and in the silence he saw that he wasn’t merely trying to convince his neighbor that he was right, but that he was good. He’d taken her accusations not as an attack on his choices, but as an attack on his character. If he conceded to her point, didn’t that mean that he was not just wrong but bad?

Suddenly, he saw his arguments fall uselessly to the ground. It wasn’t that they were false. They were simply not needed anymore. He'd remembered the truth about his virtue.

“I am so sorry, my dear lady. I did not think about how the tree would look from your side.”

“Why would you?” the lady replied tartly.

“You are absolutely right,” he replied. “I have been a selfish ass. How can we make this right?” 

His admittance was said truthfully and without false humility because he was under no delusions about himself. However, he also didn't measure his goodness in light of his daily mistakes. Rather he understood himself in light of God’s view of him. And God saw a heart that was clean and right and good and loved. God saw His son's reputation upholding the human's virtue. Filled with that sort of goodness and love, the Edison employee could relinquish the argument and love in return.

Such is the way on earth, where trees are given up, and eternity is gained. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Overactive Conscience

What will you say when it accuses
every day
every time you slip
and even when you didn't mean
any harm?

What will your answer be
when your ability to cope breaks
when you fear your goodness wasn't good enough
when your actions anger others
or when a shred of your beastliness shows?

Imperfect! It says.
And it is right.

How will you cure this disquietude?
How will you answer the law pressing upon your heart?

The only reason I got like that was because I was hungry. If I'd known we were going to have to wait that long, I would've brought a snack. I should've listened to my intuition about the people running that show. I'll never go to an unplanned outing like that again.


At least I'm not as bad as those mothers who scream at their kids all day. I try to use a calm voice with my children so as not to transfer my anger.


But my parents think the world of me. And so does so-and-so. And remember that friend who wrote me that kind email about how big of a help I was to her. I'll read it again. I can't be that bad if they think so highly of me.


How very interesting! That must also be what's wrong with so-and-so. He can't take a joke because of his vanity. If only he knew about his flaws. Maybe I should tell him.


You can't hold it against me. I did the best I could. That's all I can do! Do you honestly expect me to be perfect?


It's all because no one taught me how to do this correctly! If I'd had more-instructive parents, I wouldn't be so ill-equipped for life.


Sure, I goofed. But I'm not rotten to the core. How can I be when I've made such sacrifices? And whenever I'm with someone, I'm always trying to help them. Sure, I've got a few faults but I'm not selfish.

Thus, the machine runs again
temporary lubricated with excuses
onward a few days
perhaps a week,
until the so-called overactive conscience
starts up again.

Not Enough! It says.
And it is right.

How will you cure this disquietude?
How will you answer God's law
making demands upon your every effort?

Hear now the Answer spoken for always.

Your wrongs have been righted.
And your "rights"s have been too.
No need to decipher
if you're blameless or not.
Never before God will you be
punished, scolded, or humiliated.

So answer your conscience
with, I'm not enough.
And that's alright
because He did it right.
And he is in me
doing right everyday.

That open heart in my infancy
works now
in my maturity
to complete perfection inside imperfection,
so that now these malfunctions,
these paralyzing break downs,
insist I remember and say,
I can't, but you can.
Lord, help
every time I slip
and even when I don't mean any harm.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Comstock Chronicles: The Beach and the Hills

The children were in good spirits on the walk to school today because they rummaged through a big cardboard box marked "FREE" on the side of the road. They each picked out an armful of items and dumped them into the stroller's storage basket, items that I'm sure someone was equally thrilled to get rid of as I was unenthusiastic about getting it: a stuffed ghost, a felt Frankenstein, cheap red salad tongs, a plastic Dodgers cap, pink mittens too large for any child, and a cookbook that looked like it'd been left outside during the rain.

Lee and Rose danced little jigs on the walk to school and talked about how much they liked rummaging through boxes marked "FREE" on the side of the road. They had thoroughly exhausted the subject when they asked me if I shared in their joy, and I replied truthfully in the affirmative because their joy had infected me. There's nothing quite like seeing my children full of glee even if I must secretly make their stuff disappear in the future.

Tighter discipline, more hours of sleep, and some newly found freedom has released me from my resentment at the trouble my children cause, and I feel more free these days to delight in their antics. Just yesterday we were sitting down to dinner. When Lee didn't appear, I went looking for him and found him writhing on his bedroom carpet with his soft blanket wrapped snuggly around his head and arms.

"I'm trapped!" he said in a voice that did not at all sound panicked. I chuckled and "saved" him from being consumed head to toe by the blanket, remembering similar episodes from Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes.

It is practically impossible to feel dampened this time of year with a sudden burst of warm weather following on the heels of so much rain. The Whittier Hills are as green as Hobbiton. The smooth rolls in the hills are tinged with yellow mustard, and the crevices are accentuated by the darker and more permanent scrub bushes. Neighbors' neglected front yards look like wild country fields dotted with yellow and purple flowers. The rains have washed Whittier's majestic old trees clean, and everything feels fresh and shiny.

The beauty of our city struck me yesterday as Phil and I hiked Turnbull Canyon trail and then down Hellman's Park. The older kids were spending the night at grandma and grandpa's, and baby Benny we put in the carrier for the hike. The grasses on the hills were so thick and juicy. And the wild mustard has grown above our heads. We could see where the new growth from this year has completely covered the widened portions of the trail that were bare with over-use just a few months ago.

The Santa Ana winds were blowing from the east, and we could see Catalina and the Hollywood Sign and the snow-caped San Bernardino Mountains. The sky was as blue as could be and fellow hikers cooed at sleeping Benny.

It was a day for the beach, so after the hike and church we headed down with In-N-Out burgers and little Max Oldenburg. Again the children's excitement was infectious. They chatted excitedly all the way down, holding their breath beneath bridges and pointing out blimps and two Osprey tiltrotor aircrafts.

Phil and I both sent up prayers for good parking, and when we accidentally parked in a one-hour-only location, a sun-burnt lady with unnaturally red hair came out of her tiny house and offered us her parking pass.

We gathered our troupe, hamburgers, chairs, and baby and stepped into the fine sand of Seal Beach. There is nothing quite like the beach. That fresh salty breeze blows away all the cobwebs and household worries. The children run free and cover themselves in sand. 

We plopped down beside a fit and freckled Christian lady with her four boys and plethora of sand toys. Max and Lee quickly made friends and played tractor-road-paving-catastrophe with the other little boys, while Phil put his feet in the water and sanded a new wooden spoon. Rose made piles of sand near me and I attempted and failed to convince Benny that sand between his toes is glorious. I chatted with the woman who unfolded her peculiar situation to me. Seems that she and her four boys live in Iowa and her husband works as a firefighter here in California. He stays in SoCal for several weeks working, and then flies home to Iowa to see family and home. She told me about how strange life is and difficult to figure out. 

When the wind picked up, we gathered our things to go. The boys were so covered in sand, which they had unavoidably dumped into each other's hair, that I feared we'd have to strip them down to their underwear for the ride home. Not one to be left out, Rose asked if she'd have to stripe to her underwear too, and upon hearing that she wouldn't, she proceeded to sandy herself up a bit more.

As we headed out, I apologized to the older couple lying downwind from us. They smiled and laughed, assuring us how pleasant it was for them to listen to our boys playing like little boys ought.

Idyllic really. The whole weekend was idyllic. But I suppose the trick of having a wonderful weekend is not to be ensnared by the lovely times, but give thanks for them and open the palms again for a new thing. 

Today must be for new things.