Holiday Hoopla

Halloween:  The Candy & The Chaos

I remember the days when Halloween was a one day event that kids dressed up for and hoped to get the most candy of all their friends and siblings.  Maybe I was just oblivious when I was younger, but it seems that there are so many other opportunities to celebrate Halloween now.  In fact, we are still five days from the actual day of Halloween, but my kids have already been in costume three times.

They are adorable as a minion (Despicable Me) and Minnie Mouse, so I don’t mind one bit.  I especially don’t mind that they have dressed up three times and only have about twenty pieces of candy a piece.  Our girls are way too young, in our opinion, to have too much candy.  Since they have only received a little bit it’s easy to try to teach them about how it is special and not to be eaten at just any time.

Turkey Day Drama

Thanksgiving is coming up quickly.  This is often the most overlooked holiday—much to my wife’s dismay—and that’s not the way it should be.  Thanksgiving is a great day to spend time with family, watch some good football, and eat a feast.  This has been the go-to prescription for many people over the years, including me, but retailers and other factors are cutting into the traditions.

I usually take part in the Black Friday craziness, but I don’t buy much, if anything.  Maybe that’s why I won’t take part in the Thanksgiving Day shopping, but I’m pretty sure I just don’t like the idea of an industry changing how they do things in a way that helps their bottom line (theoretically) while hurting their employees.  The extent of my Thanksgiving shopping has always been a morning trip to the corner store for a newspaper and sometimes a coffee.  I welcome you to join me in abstaining from the Thanksgiving Day shopping, and instead stay home, spend time with family, and relax.

The Trees and The Lights

Christmas is just two months away, but that doesn’t mean we need to freak out about holiday plans, present buying, and family photos just yet.  Take it easy, make a plan, and help yourself to a lower stress Christmas season.  It’s too early in the year for me to comfortably write a lot about Christmas, so that’s all I’ll say for now.

The Smartness of Our Phones: Blessing or Curse?

Early in the day yesterday I began to dislike the smartness of phones today.  Many people have forgotten how to use their phone simply as a phone.  If something needs an answer quickly, then please make a call rather than sending a text.

I won’t usually stop what I’m doing to check on a text, but if a call comes in I will at least look to see who it is from and answer it if it is someone I know.  To me, a call means important or urgent and a text means chit-chat.

Yet as the day went on I realized how thankful I was for the smartness of my phone.  I don’t have a super-crazy-good phone, but I do have a smart phone.  And the things that it allows me to do are amazing.

Many people argue that smart phones make your life easier, and though I can agree that some apps can help simplify parts of your life I can’t fully get behind the idea that my phone makes my life easier.  Wasn’t it easier when people had to wait for me to check my messages or emails at home before I responded to them?

Though I won’t say my phone makes my life easier I will say that it adds some richness to my life.  I know that seems strange to say that a piece of technology that makes calls and checks emails can add richness, but it did yesterday and it does many days.

Facebook for Family

Between work, my wife’s birthday celebration, and other responsibilities I didn’t get much time with the kids on Friday or Saturday.  I missed my girls.  But thanks to Facebook on my phone I was able to see my girls enjoying themselves.

On Friday they spent the day with their auntie Momo, and one of their adventures was a walk.  Sounds mundane, but the little ones played in leaves along the way and the pictures are awesome.  My sister-in-law is really good at using her phone as a camera to catch so many awesome moments with her nieces.

Our daughters also had their first sleepover at grandpa and mimi’s house on Friday night.  So when Saturday morning came it was nice to not wake up to one daughter crying or the other standing next to our bed, but I still wanted to see my girls.  Thankfully grandpa and mimi each took pictures and posted them to facebook.  It was nice to see that they were having such a great time.

Voice Notes for Big Moments

We’ve been working with our oldest daughter on potty training for a little while now, and though she is pee trained she is not poo trained (yet).  We’ve been trying to figure out the best way to get her to understand that her poo needs to go in the potty too: we’ve tried chocolate, we’ve tried rational reasoning (which usually works for her), and many other things.  Finally yesterday she gave in to us and made a poo on the potty.  She has done it before, but it had been a couple of weeks.

Sadly I wasn’t there to help celebrate the moment, but once it happened I had a text message from my wife alerting me to the goings-on.  I was super excited for my daughter, but stuck at work.  So I recorded a voice note for her and sent it to my wife, so that my daughter could at least hear my excitement for her before I got home and showed her my excitement.

Connecting With and Without

There are so many ways that the smartness of our phones allows us to connect across great distances, to help us feel present or help our presence be felt even when we aren’t there.  But we also need to remember that when we are there the best way to be present is to put the phone away.  Use it to share memories, but build those memories with the people around you and not the phone in your hand.

Dear Readers, I’ve Been Slacking. I’m Sorry.

Some of you may have been wondering, “Where has DADandFATHER been lately?” but I’m guessing for most of you that’s not true.  In fact, you are only now realizing that I haven’t been posting as regularly as I had been.  Either way I feel you deserve an explanation for why I’ve been slacking lately, so here are the …

Top 5 Reasons I’ve Been Slacking on This Blog Lately

5.     Good old procrastination. I’ve consistently thought about this blog, and the posts I plan to make, but in the end I’ve been deciding that the blog can wait while I do other things.  The other things are what make up the rest of this list.

4.     I’ve been soooooooooo tired. Between work, the warm temperatures, and the other things on this list I have felt quite exhausted lately.

3.     Family time. My wife and I have been attempting to make changes wherever we can to find more time to be together one-on-one and together with our children.  Sometimes that means sacrifices have to be made.

2.     I fell into a gigantic emotional hole. Tough times are all around us, and I let the ones I was facing take me down.  This was a brief hindrance, but nonetheless it was a hindrance.  Thankfully, through time with God and conversations with my wife I was able to leap from that hole.

1.     A broken water line. So on top of the emotional hole I was in I also found myself in a literal hole in the ground for far more time than I would like to ever be (and I’ve been fixing golf course irrigation for 12 years).  We had a water line break in the front yard of our “investment property”, so over the course of 9 days we dug, fixed, tested, dug, dug, dug, clamped, cut, fixed, and backfilled.  The pipe was 5’ 8” below ground, and the clay at the bottom was like concrete.  It was a not-so-fun time.  This water line took up most of our free time and even cost us each a couple of days of work, but now it is fixed and the hole is filled in, and we can resume life.

 

So, this blog has been lacking, but now it will return to regularly scheduled programming.  Tune in tomorrow for my latest attempt at humor through the weekly Top 5 list.

What I Learned from Family Vacation

This past weekend my family and I embarked on an adventure.  Seven of us (my wife, my 2 daughters, 2 sister-in-laws, my nephew, and I) went camping in northwest Michigan.  We were smart enough to get two tents, but there were still seven of us traveling together so we had no idea what to expect from the trip.

The primary worry I had going into the trip was sleep.  Would our little ones (Mikaela, 31 months & Juliet, 14 months) sleep in a tent?  Would they need their naps?  Would the rest of us get any sleep?  Would the weather allow us to stay in our tents or would we have to spring for a hotel?

In the end, sleeping was not a problem at all.  The girls went to bed in the tent in the same way they go to bed at home—made a little noise, but soon they were silent and asleep.  The difference was that Mikaela wasn’t restricted by being in a bed, so when we opened the tent to join the little ones on the first night we found Mikaela sleeping just inside the tent door.  We had laid her down at essentially the opposite corner of the tent.  She continued to move into random spots throughout the night, but she stayed asleep so we were happy.

Beyond the worries of sleep I was looking for some time with my family where I didn’t have to worry about work or “the real world”.  I even managed to only use my phone as just a clock, camera, and crazy enough a phone until we were two-thirds through our drive home and needed GPS.  I had a great time.  I felt relaxed, and I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything.

We did so much in such a short amount of time, but more importantly we shared so much time together and learned so much about ourselves and our girls.  We learned …

  • we can camp as a family.
  • we like minivans (Bettina was very skeptical before the trip, but we rented one and it was fantastic).
  • the girls can handle swimming in cool water.
  • the girls love the beach.
  • we need to let the kids stay up late every once in a while, because you never know what you’ll be privy to. We had a fire going outside the other night and I was holding our oldest in my arms while we sat around the fire.  She looked up and said, “Do you see that star? It’s like: ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ …” and continued singing through the song.  It was awesome and adorable.
  • we are all here for each other. If either my wife or I starts to get down the other is there for a pick up, and if necessary our girls are there with silliness or a hug to perk us both up.
  • dune sand will follow you everywhere you go.
  • McDonald’s really struggles with coffee orders sometimes. I mean they really struggle sometimes; they kept thinking we wanted orange juice at the speaker and then handed us food at the window.
  • transitioning back to reality is no fun, but vacations can’t last forever.

I’m really glad we took that trip out of town.  It was a great experience, and I hope that we can do it more often moving forward.  Now that we know the kids can make it through two nights in a tent we might be able to put together another trip down the road.  I don’t know when it will be or where we will go, but I’m already looking forward to it.

In the meantime I’ll try to incorporate bits of our trip and bits of what we learned into our regular life, so we can enjoy regular life even more than we already do.  Some aspects may be easier than others.  I truly enjoyed what we had up there and I enjoy what we have here as well, so if I could mesh the two together it could be amazing.  I think that’s worth a shot.

 

Side Note—Bettina’s Motherhood Perspective post was supposed to be posted today, but instead it will be this coming Sunday so stay tuned for that.

A Poetic Aside

Hello world, I haven’t seen you in a few days.  Family has taken precedence for the last week or so, so the blogging has been pretty minimal.  Today’s post won’t be much different, but consider this the transition back toward normal.  Today’s post is a poem I wrote after completing the devotional for Psalm 90:12 a couple of weeks ago.  It’s been awhile since I’ve shared any of my poetry with the world, so this took some time for me to get the courage up to do.

Check back Friday for a new Top 5, Monday for a new devotional, and next Wednesday for my wife’s monthly hijacking of this blog.

Here’s the poem:

Let’s keep the fear from our faces
and the worry from our minds.
The brevity of life
can’t be ignored.

The numbers on our days
continue to climb upward,
but what will be
our final digits?

We cannot know the end
of our time together,
so let’s live, let’s love,
let’s have life while we’re here.

Days may bring
problems unexpected,
but we can face them
together arm-in-arm.

Remember the past
and hope for the future.
But today is what we have,
so today is when we live.

One Project, Five Years: Then and Now

Five years ago my wife and I took on a major project – we partnered with her parents to invest in a rental property.  Bettina and I decided that we could handle the renovation job pretty much on our own, so we chose to handle the majority of the work and only bring in hired help when necessary.

The renovation included a new kitchen, new bathroom, landscaping, cleaning, some flooring, painting, and many other odds and ends.  The house was on the market as a foreclosure that hadn’t seen any updates since it was built in the 1940’s, so we definitely had our work cut out for us.

We’ve now had the house for five years and we’ve decided it’s time to sell.  So guess what we get to do?  We get to do it all again.  Luckily the kitchen and bathroom don’t need to be remodeled this time, but there is still a great deal of work that needs to be completed.

Time Keeps on Slippin’…

It’s amazing what a difference five years can make.  When we took on the project the first time we were married and “busy”, but this time we also have two toddlers to throw into the mix.  Five years ago we started the project at a time when I was laid off for the season and Bettina had set hours that she worked.  We were involved in other activities, but it was nothing we couldn’t step away from for a brief time.  So we were able to give as much time as we wanted to this project.  We were able to set goals that seemed unrealistic, but we were still able to meet them.

Overall we wanted the project done in two months, and that’s what we did.  This time we have four days between the time our previous renter left and the time the house will be listed for sale.  We agonized to come up with a plan to actually complete everything in that time since we both have work and kids that are taking our time.  The project isn’t horribly difficult, but with our change in situation we are finding it harder to get things done well and quickly.

Where are We Now?

We have completed day 2 of 4 and we’ve made solid progress, but we still don’t know how we will get done by the deadline.  We know that we will, but we just aren’t sure how it’s going to happen.  It seems that each time we start to make progress we have to take a break to get the kids home or to get ourselves to work.  This makes it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel without fearing it’s a freight train at full steam.

The Difference, The Experience, The Blessing

This time around the project is different in so many ways.  There is a ton of uncertainty and even some fear.  We are creating and sharing new memories with our little ones.  We know just how far the house is from where it used to be, because we did the work to get it there just five years ago.  And we simply don’t have the luxury of time.

Yet we are still confident that we can complete the project to our standards and within the allotted time.  While doing so we are able to hear our oldest ask, “Where can I clean?” and see our youngest walk over and pick up a broom and then start sweeping the floor.  We can learn what it’s like to work an entire morning with a 13-month-old on our backs—ok, so only Bettina did that one.  We can encourage each other when frustrations rise, and we can commiserate together when things just won’t go how they’re “supposed” to go.

Each day is this project—both in 2009 and now—we have been able to learn a little something about ourselves and about each other.  And this time we get to learn a little about our girls as well.  I’m enjoying this project again, but I can’t wait until it’s done and the house is sold.  I’m thankful for the memories we’ve had while working this project, and I’ve truly enjoyed my time in that house.  Not every day or every moment has been floating-on-a-cloud fun, but the good has outweighed the bad.  It may take some deep reflection and some funky math, but the good does outweigh the bad in this one.

Ultimately, this was an investment property, but we may not make our money back.  Nonetheless this has still been an investment property for me, because I have gained numerous intangibles like memories and experiences (but it would still be nice to make our monetary investment back).  I hope that future projects, no matter what size, are able to provide me with similar value throughout my life.

I hope you’ve enjoyed tonight’s journey through my brain.  Check back Friday for another dose of weekly ridiculousness with my new Top 5 list.