Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy 200th!

Hard to believe (for me anyway), but this is my 200th post on this blog! Since I am going to recap some of our adventures from yesterday, I decided that was as a good a title as any.

Our fun activities yesterday started with celebrating a friend's birthday at a bowling alley. Evan has been begging to go bowling all summer and we enjoyed getting to see our friends, so it was a nice treat for everyone! This was a really cool bowling alley for the kids. They had the bumpers up on our lanes, of course, and they also had a ball launcher. Joel didn't really like the actual bowling until we discovered the launcher towards the end of the game. Evan did like it, and he bowled most of Joel's game, too, since Joel had given it up. In fact, he even got a strike for Joel! We had warned him that his score wouldn't be as high as it is on the Wii, but he ended up not caring. Our competitive child has been telling us that he won out of the people on his lane, but he doesn't remember any of the actual scores. (I am not sure that he did win, plus I think he and Joel were the only two who finished all 10 frames before it was time to move on.) After some dancing and some cake, the kids got to play in an arcade, too. What an exciting couple of hours for them! I was wiped!!

Since we were only a few minutes away from Ikea, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to shop a little. I was tired, the boys were tired, my chest was hurting a little from the bronchitis, and the store was crowded so I tried to make it a quick trip. It ended up working out alright. Steve took the boys to the restaurant for some meatballs while I hustled through the store. I purchased a few things and investigated some things that I had seen online (for my soon-to-be-new craft room).

Once we got home set up our new (huge) tent in preparation for a camping trip that we are planning. We wanted to practive setting up and let the boys sleep in it before the actual trip. I would call it a "dry run", but it was humid last night and the dew made everything inside the tent wet this morning. Other than that (and getting the boys to settle down for sleep) I think it went well. I wouldn't know from experience, though, since I slept in the house all by myself. ;) If you click on the last picture you might be better able to see the lightsabers stored above Joel's "bed". That was his anti-monster security. Evan had to have a little table for his alarm clock to rest on (mainly for the light-up function, I believe). We've got all the comforts of home worked out, so looks like we are ready to go!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Some days are like that, even in Australia*

So, we had gotten a sales flyer for Toys R Us earlier in the week with some really good sales. We needed to pick up some birthday presents, so we decided to go there yesterday afternoon. The one that I liked best is now closed, but there was another one "a little further" down the highway so we decided to go there. I looked up the directions, but didn't write them down. I saw the name of the exit we needed and the store was right off the highway so it should be easy -right?!? Yeah ... on the way we saw a sign for an outlet mall off the of the same exit that we needed. I thought the sign gave the exit number as 31. At that point the exits were numbered in the 400's or something. Soon, though, there was an exit 32A followed by a 33. Ummmm, where had 31 gone? We turned around and backtracked. Still no exit 31 so we turned around again. We saw the infamous outlet mall sign and realized that the exit was 37. What a difference a little line can make! At least we knew we weren't crazy in completely missing the name of the road or exit 31. So we went a few more miles and found the store.

Inside the store we started looking for the toys we had seen in the flyer. We found them, but there weren't any sales signs on them. Hmmmm ... I took a couple of the items up to the front to see if they were on sale. Yeah ... they weren't. I asked the cashier if she had a current flyer and she showed me the only one she could find. It ended today which made me guess that the flyer we had received at the beginning - middle of the week wouldn't start until Sunday. Seriously?!? After a little more investigation we found that to be the truth. So, we left Toys R Us with some ideas for Christmas (maybe), but no birthday presents.

So, Steve and I were a little frustrated, but were trying to make the best of the trip. We stopped at the outlet mall where I found some good deals. We also checked out some sporting goods stores to look at camping supplies for our upcoming camping trip. We finished the evening off with dinner at La Madeleine, which didn't go quite as well as I had hoped, but also wasn't as bad as the last time we tried to take the boys out to eat.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the comic relief provided by Joel. While we were driving home, Steve had asked who would be the stinkiest in the morning (since the boys would be missing showers again that night) and had then said, "My money is on your mom." Joel said, "I think it will be me, so you can put a penny on my head, Dad." After I laughed (loud and long) I had to make the connection for Steve. Steve told Joel that he had earned a penny for that one.

*If you don't know what this quote is from you should really read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The problem with the world is me

Don't you hate learning painful lessons over again - or is that just me?!? I was reminded yesterday in Bible study of a verse that I often neglect, and it came home with me to teach me more that night. This passage is from Genesis 8:21 and is part of God's promise to never flood the entire earth again.
Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.
Sounds pretty hopeless, but it is true. Those of us who are parents are often wondering why our children do the rebellious things they do - sometimes over seemingly trivial things. Are their lies the results of active imaginations or a bent to do evil? Why do they take food without asking (after being told not to and then sneak it away somewhere), when I would probably give it to them if they just asked? Okay, just a couple of examples - you probably have many more yourselves.

The problem is that as civilized as I have become as an adult, I like to think of myself as a pretty nice person. I try to let the clerk know if they made a mistake in my favor. I try to take meals to friends who are sick and in need. I sometimes even try to help strangers who look like they might need it. I look at the good I do and think it outweighs whatever tiny bit of evil might still be lurking in my heart. Last night I was confronted again with the reality that this type of thinking is just living in denial.

I won't go into unnecessary detail, but let's just say that things don't always go perfectly in my house. Last night as I was processing a series of imperfect moments from earlier in the evening, I was cataloging all of the wrong that others (who shall remain nameless) had done. The thoughts of how others could have behaved more correctly to me and how could I get them to understand how to do it were also consuming a lot of my time. Then that part of Genesis 8:21 came back to mind, only it was as if God said, "every inclination of your heart is evil." Well, as you might imagine God and I struggled for a little while over that one. But I had to agree with Him. That was the first step. But while admitting that you have a problem is good, it alone does not make things right. That's when I was reminded of the need to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" from Romans 12:2. Then I remembered Paul's famous confession of his own struggles in this area from Romans 7. I know it's long, but it's good. This version is from The Message, but you can click here to read it in the NIV (or pick another translation of your choice).
I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

So the answer, as I understand it, is my submission (from Romans 12:2) to God's transforming, renewing, making-me-more-like-Christ power. And I was also given hope that I can be "confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

So, the problem with my family, my friendships, my work, my finances, my church (if there were any, of course), myself ... the world - the problem with it all begins with me. It's my selfish desire that springs from my evil heart. So, in wanting everything to be about me, in a way I am succeeding. At least the problem is all about me.

The solution begins and ends with God. As Paul said, "Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Moderator note: Melissa did not write this. Steve did.

Joel wants to be a rock star... Unfortunately, my positive influence - the various blues and jazz electric guitars & effects in my closet - did not work to appropriately shape his direction. Apparently I do not get that stuff out enough anymore, and the pleasant acoustic guitar instrumentals I do play just don't keep his interest. No, but the five chord hard rock song "Rockstar" by Third Day does!

Now I do listen to rock from time to time, but Third Day is not even in my personal top 50 for cool rock bands... Melissa likes them though. At least the lyrics for the song are positive. Actually, Joel changes them around from "I wanna be a rock star, but I ain't got what it takes", to much more interesting things like "I wanna be a rock star, but I don't have a guitar for a concert", which he plays using his light saber as a guitar. Clearly, he's already into rock song writing.

His first homework for preschool was to decorate a picture of himself. Here's the results - with just a little help from Melissa:

So, to try to dissuade him from his chosen career path, I used the power of YouTube to show him a video of Third Day playing "Rockstar" live. He jumped around for a while, before noticing that there was a Lego version. Ahh, Lego stop time video's of Third Day songs, Joel laughed hysterically for almost the whole song. Actually, he used his fake laugh to coincide with the part I thought legitamately funny.

Here's the link:

Parents really should be more careful what their kids listen to...
Monday, September 7, 2009

Adventures of Amazing Math Boy!

Okay, so he didn't invent calculus or anything like that, but Evan has been impressing us with his (what we think is) advanced mental math skills lately. No lie - the kid knows how to multiply multi-digit numbers in his head. Yesterday he overhead Steve talking about someone selling video games for what seemed like a ridiculously low price. Steve said, "Even if you bought them for only $10 each at 30 games that would still be a lot." A minute or so later Evan informed us that 30 games at $10 each would be $300. I asked him how he knew that and he explained that he already knew what 10 ten's was (100), so then he just had to do it three times. So, he broke down the word problem into its compenents and into pieces that he knew how to handle.

Today we were talking about $30 steaks and he told us that 4 $30 steaks would be $120. I think the first equation was more impressive, but here he did it with different numbers. I could tell he was doing some counting of some sort, but didn't know what he was "ciphering" until he blurted it out. (Even then he can be pretty vague and I have to ask questions to figure out what he is talking about. For some reason I don't know what he means when he says, "That would be 120 for four" a minute or so after the adult conversation has moved on.) So communication skills may need some work, but we are pretty impressed with his apparent innate way with numbers.

By the way, Steve and I do not take credit for this ability. Neither of us claims to be good at mental math, but my brothers are. Steve's brother may be, too, but I am not sure. I guess it's somewhere in the gene pool because this is certainly not something we have taught him.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Joel's First Day of School

I was a little concerned about how Joel would do in school. He gets upset when he changes classrooms at church, or gets new teachers, or has to go to a new class (like for VBS). I wasn't sure how school would go over. We have been "talking it up" for a while, though, and for whatever reason he did great on his first day! He pulled his folder out of his backpack, put his lunchbox and backpack up, found out where to put his folder and settled down to play. He never even looked my way when I left the room. He was glad to see me when I picked him up, but he said that he had fun at school. His favorite part of the day was recess, but that seems normal. He asked this morning if he was going to school again, but he's not. He goes two days a week, so today we get to play together. So far I have spent a lot of time on the computer, though, so I need to get off and play with him now. Hope that you enjoy the pictures!
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