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Hiking in the mountains in the snow – those who know me know this is not my idea of a good time. However, my Eagle Scout husband and newly inducted Scout son see it as a grand adventure.  And so the preparations began in earnest, as the tab for all the needed equipment escalated more rapidly than the National debt.

By Friday evening, all was in readiness for the pre-dawn Saturday morning departure. My husband went to help our daughter straighten her bed on its frame, but she soon came downstairs, saying “Dad needs you. It’s his back.” With my heart in my stomach, I went upstairs to find my husband lying flat on his back, unable to move. Not exactly where you want to be the night before a hiking trip with a bunch of Boy Scouts.

After a long soak in a hot bath and some pain medication, it was only minimally better.  By morning, he stiffly got ready and couldn’t even lean over to tie his shoes. I couldn’t imagine how he could hike six miles with a pack on his back, but he was determined since it was our son’s first big outing and the troop was counting on him. Another Scout mom lightheartedly remarked to me, “If they do have to tote him down the mountain on a stretcher, it will count toward their First Aid Merit Badge and will probably count as practice for the next camporee!!”  Small comfort, but I appreciated the humor.

This fierce determination to push himself is not his typical character, but then I realized what had happened.  Our roles have changed.  When our children were babies, I would be up multiple times in the night, rocking them and soothing away the pain and fear. Even when I didn’t “feel like it”, it was what I did because they needed me. Now they’ve been sleeping through the night for years, and most of the time would choose to hang out with Dad rather than spend time with me. I have seen my role shifting, but did not realize that I was trading places with my husband.  Now I am the one in the background, keeping the pieces together while he is in the forefront, providing the needed security.  He went, not because he wanted to, but because he knew he had to.  That I understand.

They returned this afternoon, tired and smelly and happier for the experience. And his back didn’t even hurt (much) while he was gone.

I am infuriated over what I just read. A 13 year old diabetic girl was given the new HPV vaccine at school against her parents’ consent and against her own wishes. Unbelievable! Where have parents’ rights gone? The worst part about it, from the parents’ perspective, is that the vaccine has not been tested on diabetics so they have no idea what the possible side effects could be for their daughter. The school was apologetic and said that the doctor administering the vaccines was to blame, but it doesn’t change the outcome.

My son’s school was giving the flumist vaccine today, which I refused to sign the consent form for and told him to reject if offered to him. I have no hard feelings towards those who choose to do it, but he already has a myriad of allergy and dietary issues, and I don’t want to complicate things further by putting more foreign substances in his body. Also, with the flu vaccine, I feel like it is a hit or miss situation since they never know if they’ve chosen the right strain for that year anyhow. Better to eat your veggies and get a good night’s sleep to fight off most viruses, in my opinion. But, if my son comes home and I find out he received the vaccine against our wishes, the fur will begin to fly. Not because I think his health is in imminent danger, though it could be because we never know what he will react to, but because it represents a trumping of governmental herd-mentality thinking over individual parental rights. Just because I send my child to be educated in a public school does not mean that I give up my rights as a parent regarding his medical care.

Okay, I’ll take a deep breath now and hope for the best. And I’ll pray for TallSkinnyKiwi and his daughter that she will suffer no long term effects from this outrageous abuse.

Read the original story here.

Remember roasting marshmallows over the fire as a kid? Do you like your marshmallows slightly toasted or do you burn them to a blackened crisp? I’m a “slightly toasted” gal myself. My kids, however, compete to see who can keep their marshmallow burning the longest without it falling off the stick. And, they would ask, what is the point of roasting marshmallows if you don’t make s’mores? In fact, they wonder, what is the point of building a fire if you’re not making s’mores? I may be the only mom who actually keeps a “s’mores supplies” container in her pantry so that I am ready at a moment’s notice for this diabetic’s nightmare of a treat. Since we got weary of the children begging for fires in the middle of summer, we invested in an outdoor firepit. Now we can enjoy our s’mores year-round.

I mentioned last week the Unplug Your Kids weekly project. This week’s theme is smooth. My craft queen daughter and I thought for a while but did not come up with any inspired crafts. So, we opted to stretch the definition a bit; after all, when the hot marshmallows melt the chocolate, that chocolate is pretty smooth! And it did get us off of the computer tonight and outside for some fun family time together. We even attempted to sing “Kumbaya!” All was well until darkness was creeping over the land and my daughter, barefooted, stepped in a deposit the dog had left behind. There was great wailing and gnashing of teeth heard from afar. However, the allure of more sugar soon allayed her frustration, and laughter and silliness prevailed once again.

For those of you who may not, horror of horrors, know how to make s’mores, you need only three ingredients: marshmallows, graham crackers, and smooth milk chocolate bars ( and a fire, of course). One crucial trick we have learned is that the cheap brands of marshmallows always end up as one huge, sticky glob. Buy the Jet-Puff marshmallows if you want to actually get the marshmallows out of the bag and onto the stick to roast them. Roast your marshmallows until they are slightly brown to charred black. If you have a steady hand and you’re a bit of a pyromaniac, you can rest a graham cracker topped with a chocolate bar on one of the logs while you’re roasting your marshmallow. It’s sort of like the old game of Operation, but if you’re successful, you get yummy, gooey chocolate on your s’more. Assemble all the parts and enjoy. See you around the campfire!

Hug your kids a little longer today. Read that book to them one more time and go have the tea party or play the Wii game with them. Your to-do list will be there tomorrow, but your children may not. My family has come up against this hard reality this week, as we have seen the frailty of life, wrestled with God in prayer, and watched God in His wisdom call a 12 year old boy home to be with Him. It’s not the way any of us wanted it to turn out, but it is what happened. My heart breaks for those parents and sister that have to go back home, walk into his room, and face the fact that a new reality begins today; life will never be the way it was but they can learn to live in a new kind of normal.

I pray that all those affected by this, both those who knew Zach and those who happened to be present at the accident, will find peace in their souls. These kids have seen a little too up close and personal just how fragile human life is. I pray that this whole experience will cause them to seek their purpose on the earth and to follow hard after what God has for them to do. Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” A different version says, “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.”

May we all number our days a little more carefully in our pursuit of a heart of wisdom.

After yesterday’s post, I felt the need to post on ways to love our kids well and enjoy our time with them. To that end, I have recently discovered a great blog called Unplug Your Kids. The author shares my views on TV – who needs it? – and offers creative alternatives to engage our children. She presents a weekly Unplugged Project with a theme and encourages others to pool their ideas. In keeping with this week’s theme of White, I wanted to share an activity that my kids enjoy and that can appeal to younger and older children – soap carving on white bars of Ivory soap. I know – children, soap, and knives don’t mix. But there is a safe solution. The book Soap Carving for Children gives step by step directions for making your own carving tools out of popsicle sticks! We found that the popsicle stick tools work best for the simpler projects and are great for young hands. My kids had almost as much fun just shaving off pieces of soap as they did trying to carve a sculpture. They also enjoyed carving faces and designs into the soap, which is much simpler than trying to shape it into something else. We started out following the directions in the book and ended up with our own creations. If you have younger children, they would have fun with a bar of soap and a stick or two. If you have older, patient kids, they will enjoy following the directions, making their own tools and feeling the satisfaction of creating a piece of art.

We’ve all heard the warning: “Be careful what you wish for.” It hit home for us this weekend in a way I never expected. I had hoped that my boys would have a life-changing experience while on their fall retreat. But not like this. Not by coming face to face with tragedy. My middle schooler witnessed a horrible accident to a fellow student – the stuff parental nightmares are made of. The young man was coming down a 1000 foot zipline at about 45 miles per hour when he hit, full force, a platform that had mistakenly been left in the path. The other kids watched him hit it, watched the platform go crashing down the hill, and watched their unconscious friend dangling from his harness until the workers could get him down and the Lifestar medical helicopter could take him to get medical assistance. What started out as a weekend full of fun ended quite differently, especially for one family. They have a long road ahead, as the extent of the boy’s injuries, which include a cracked skull and possible brain damage, are still unknown.

How do you prepare your children for these possibilities? And how do you deal with them when they strike close to home? The church staff did an awesome job talking and praying with the kids and reestablishing some sense of normalcy to the weekend. We parents were briefed on how best to talk with our kids on their return and what possible reactions to expect. But the simple truth is that we live in a fallen world where mistakes are made and bad things happen to good people. And through it all, God is still God and He is still in control and worthy of our praise regardless of the circumstances.

I remember back to 1988, when as a college student I had recently returned from a semester in London. Flashing across the news were the reports of a plane that had exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, carrying many college students headed home from a similar study-abroad program. My dad looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Do you see? Do you see now why I didn’t want you to go?” I honestly hadn’t remembered his being resistant to my going, but I tried to understand his pain. I understand it even more now, as that child who went down the zipline at the wrong moment could just as easily have been mine. But I can’t wrap him in a padded suit and lock him in his room. Life is meant to be lived, and life is full of risk.

Jeremiah 29:11 states: ” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He can bring good out of the most tragic of situations and will often use the most unlikely people to further His kingdom. I don’t know what the future holds for the victim of this tragedy, and I don’t know the long-term impact it will have on the witnesses. But I do know that God has a plan for it all and His future is full of hope. And I know that since we are not promised tomorrow, I’ll hug my boys just a little tighter tonight and thank God that He has given us today.

Don’t you hate that pit in your stomach when you know you’ve made a big mistake but you’re not exactly sure how bad the fallout will be? Then you lose a night’s sleep tossing and turning, beating yourself up for doing something that seemed reasonable at the time, but now you know it wasn’t. Do you remember back to high school when even minor decisions carried the weight of the world?

Enter my son, high school freshman, perfectionist, and science lover working on his first science lab report of the year two days before it was due. He had written formal science lab reports before, so it should have been a fairly straightforward assignment. But he panicked – the all-out, I-can’t-think-straight- and-I’m not-even-sure -of-my-name kind of panic that renders one incapable of coherent thought. He couldn’t get a graph of his data to look right when all of a sudden it dawned on him; his lab group had done the experiment backwards and all of his data was inverted. Because they were using some new high-tech equipment to perform the experiment at school, there was no chance of us replicating it at home. Gone are the days of science experiments with simple household supplies.

We let him have a good cry, assured him that this wasn’t the end of the world, and then together came up with some strategies to handle the situation. He would contact the teacher first thing in the morning to see about the possibility of re-doing the experiment on his own time. If that wasn’t possible, we would encourage him to write the paper explaining his skewed results in light of his errors. Either way, some good life lessons were being learned. By morning, his head had cleared and by that afternoon, I had my son back. He had been able to re-do the experiment during lunch ( my son who is hungry as soon as I put away the food had given up his lunch to do this!). He confidently came home and with a renewed sense of purpose has been diligently working to complete the paper.

The whole episode reminds me of those VISA commercials:

Cost of trying to write a lab report with incorrect data:1 night of tears, 2 stressed parents, and 1 missed lunch period to re-do the experiment with the teacher

Value of redeeming his self-confidence and knowing that he overcame one of life’s many hurdles on his own:

Priceless.

Parenting. It’s everywhere you want to be.

My middle school son came home from his church small group with an unusual homework assignment : find a “manly” man. Not just any manly man will do -this must be a “cool dude” on a TV show. Is there such a creature? A cool, manly man on a TV show my son could watch? We have pretty much given up on network TV at our house over the last few years, as there was really nothing we could find to watch that was worth more than our family time together in the evenings. Nonetheless, I scoured the websites of the major networks, searching for a show that might meet the criteria. Lots of sex, hype, and reality shows, but nothing that looked like it might have a suitable character- unless it had a TV-14 rating. As my son is only 11, that will not do. I do not want to expose him to mature situations just to show him how a manly man would handle them. I do, however, want him to have characters to look up to and learn from. Are there shows today aimed at young people that will show them a cool, manly man? Plenty of shows from my childhood come to mind, such as Little House on the Prairie, the Brady Bunch,  Andy Griffith, and Leave it to Beaver. Granted, those men may not have been “cool” by today’s standards, but they were men of character and everyone around them respected them. Today’s shows seem much more likely to have the father portrayed as a clueless buffoon rather than someone worthy of respect. So, my search continues for the cool, manly man on TV. If you find one, will you let me know?

Meanwhile, I’ll ask my son to read this Rudyard Kipling poem instead:

IF

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling

Have you ever watched a baby bird first learning to fly? The mother mercilessly pushes it out of the nest, confident that once he begins falling, the baby will beat his wings and realize that he had great abilities that he never knew were in him. Within days, the baby bird gains the abilities and confidence to leave the nest for good. I felt much like one of those mothers when I said goodbye to my son on his first day of high school. But, I confess, I wasn’t totally confident that he would spread his wings and fly as I knew he was able to do. He has handled the myriad of adjustments very well and the first midterm report cards come out this week. I’m happy to say that academically he is doing quite well and is finding his niche of friends. We have hit a few bumps along the way, but every problem with school and teachers that I would have handled in the past, he has tackled himself with grace and maturity. The new and challenging environment has brought out a heightened sense of responsibility and confidence. My fledgling is learning to fly sooner and faster than I had expected. Just don’t leave the nest for good anytime soon, my son.

Preparing for his first day at the new school, my son’s only fear was that someone would steal his map of the school. Now, we have to get this in perspective. He commented at orientation that the entire building of his old school would easily fit into the auditorium of the new high school – and he was right! 275,000 square feet of building means a lot of hallways to get lost in! We carefully planned out his routes on the map and he walked them out ahead of time, once with the map and once without it, memorizing the shortest paths. But, by the third day, he confidently told me he knew his way to all of his classes and didn’t need the map anymore. Until next semester.

Don’t we tend to be the same way about life? “Oh, I’ve been down that path before; I don’t need the road map any longer,” we think. We get confident in our familiar ways until a new opportunity presents itself. All of a sudden, panic strikes and we’re scrambling. Where is the map? Which way do I go? How do I choose? I want a printed map, with the path clearly highlighted in yellow. I want to know where I will be on the map today, tomorrow, and six months from now. I can’t lose my map or I’ll be lost forever, or so it feels. Sometimes, God shows us a clear path to follow and life is easy for a while. But sometimes He tells us that HE is the map. “Don’t take my map!” we cry. But God says ” Trust me. I AM the map, the only map you will ever need.” Do you think He’ll help my son find his English class next semester?

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