Monday, May 25, 2009

Tales of a "retired mom"

Well, I am never really going to be a retired mom, but you know what I mean. In a few short weeks, our youngest will be 20 years old, so I kind of think my active parenting years are over. You know, I am still a parent, but the relationship with my kids is different. We have had at least one teen in the house since Jan 1991--over 18 years!

Anyway, I ditched one of the big symbols of active parenting--my mom-mobile--or in layman terms, my mini-van. Yep. This past week I graduated to my dream vehicle. I mean, I must be having a mid-life crisis or something, because we actually bought my dream vehicle.

Bob and I were on our way to the Chrysler dealer to see if we could get a deal on a new car. His dad is retired from Chrysler, so between that discount and the fact that Chrysler is trying to dump a lot of vehicles, we figured this would be a good time. Well, traffic was backed up, so we took a detour to a used car lot that we really like to look there first. It is nice, clean and the guys are really professional. It is a small, family run lot-not your typical used car lot at all. We bought a nice car for Kari there almost two years ago.

John started showing us the smaller cars with low mileage, which is what we told him we wanted. BUT, then, what did I see? A red JEEP!? I mean, there it was, calling out to me. And it was red--THE best color for a vehicle, in my humble opinion. My eyes lit up and my husband knew, as did the salesman, that getting a smaller car was probably not going to happen.

Back 45 years ago, when I was in third grade, the dentist in town, Dr. McKinley had some teen age girls--they looked like California girls, you know, long-legged with great hair. To a short, dark haired 8 year old with a pixie hair cut, they looked like movie stars. And they had a pink Jeep! It had a pink and white striped awning type top, and it was pink and it was THE BEST VEHICLE I had ever seen. Ever since that summer all those years ago, I have wanted a jeep--not pink, but red. I pushed it out of my mind for years, but the longing resurfaced from time to time.

Well, you know what happened. We took it for a ride and I was beside myself. I NEVER get excited about cars, and don't know one make or model from another, but this Jeep was in my blood. I told Bob it was impractical, we came to find a car. He said, no, we came to find a smaller vehicle and one with low mileage. The Jeep is smaller, has only 21,000 miles, one owner, no accidents. PERFECT!

So, now I have my dream vehicle. The first day I drove Kari through the creek, twice! I still have to figure out how to use the 4 wheel drive, but I plan to take it out to our farm and give it a try there.

I can't believe how much younger I feel when I am driving it--the wind blowing through my hair. My mom-mobile is in the driveway waiting for a new home, but my Jeep is waiting for me. Waiting for adventure. Waiting to climb any hill or cross any stream. Retired moms have all the fun.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Nerver Tease a Weasel, Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the problems that I had trying to teach my children important character traits by reading books written specifically for that purpose. They just did not translate across to make an impact on my children. They might know to Never Tease a Weasel, but brothers were fair game!

I believe character traits are caught not taught! But, I think we can do something to make catching them a bit easier. It is somewhat of a secret, but I will share it with real books! Not books designed to teach character--kids are too smart for that, but when you share real, living books with your children you will have many opportunities to talk about the characters in the books--what they did right, what they did wrong, what they should have done.

I remember when I read Little Britches to Kari and Scotty. That book is full to the brim of character lessons-most of them learned by the author, Ralph Moody when he was growing up in Littleton, Colorado around 1910. This autobiography is a wonderful account of growing up on a ranch--about responsibility and honesty and about the relationship between a father and son.

Ralph is an amazing storyteller who weaves his story like a fine tapestry. It is amazing how he remembs so well what it was like to be a child and the lessons Ralph learns in the book are as applicable today as they were 100 years ago. Whether you homeschool or not, this is a delightful book to read aloud to your children. It will make a lasting impression on the whole family.

And who can forget about the elephant who is "Faithful, 100%"? Horton Hatches the Egg is another story where you can talk about doing what is right, about responsibility and friendship, about love, adoption and what makes a good parent. This is a great read-aloud book that brings up many character issues for you to discuss with your young children.

There are so many wonderful stories with great story lines and characters worthy of emulation or of scorn. One of our favorite biographies was about Eric Liddell--the guy the story "Chariots of Fire" was based on. He was dedictated to running and to God, yet he had to make a choice between them. His story is inspiring and humbling--a great book to read-aloud to older elementary and middle school children.

And then there is great historical fiction like "Daughter of the Mountains," that teaches faithfulness and sticking with a job. There are bad guys you can talk about as well as those who are good and kind. This book, like many others, gives you, the parent, an opportunity to talk about those core beliefs that you want to pass on to your children.

Another book for younger children is "The Bee Tree." It not only teaches natural science, but also the value of reading and the wisdom of older people.

I could go on and on--and if you want more recommendations, let me know, but basically, pick out a good book and begin reading it to your children. Talk about the situations, the characters, their decisions and what they could have or should have done differently. What would you do if you were in their shoes?

So read a book to children,
Now there's some good advice...
You can talk about the characters
And whether or not they are nice!

Take care,

Nerver Tease a Weasel, Part 1

Over the years, I have had many people ask me about how to teach positive character to their children. Years ago, I thought you could teach it through books specifically designed for this purpose. We checked out books with titles like "Let's Talk about Whining" and "Let's talk about Lying" from the church library. We still own a book called "Never Tease a Weasel." It has been well over a decade since I have looked at this book but I can still recite:

Never tease a weasel,
Now there's some good advice.
A weasel will not like it,

And teasing isn't nice.

But, you know what, those books did not help one bit to teach my kids not to whine, lye or tease. It was like the books were one thing, life another.

My husband went to a seminar once and brought home some beautiful books with animal lessons. Each animal was supposed to teach a Biblical truth, a character trait for the children to emulate. They were beautiful books with matching coloring books. The kids enjoyed the stories and learning about the animals. One year I had Chad [then late middle school age] teach a lesson every week to Kari and Scotty for their science. The books were that good!

There were ducks and wolves and all sorts of interesting facts woven into the fiber of the underlying theme of teaching character. They loved those books! But, just because a baby duck has to obey his mother at the first call or he will be left in the nest of the hollow tree to die, it didn't make my kids want to obey when I first called. And, if you follow the logic of the book, the mother duck had some serious character issues of her own if she would leave a baby behind just because he didn't obey her the first time she called. I mean, he was her baby, after all.

Then I understood! Character is caught not taught!

The way to teach children how to be honest, is to be honest. [harder than reading a book called "Let's talk about honesty."]

The way to teach children compassion is to be compassionate.

Scary huh? You know it's true. Kids watch us like hawks and they don't miss a trick. They see if we give back the extra quarter the clerk gave us in our change. They see if we help a neighbor or look the other way so we can avoid them. They know if we pick up the phone when we know it is our mother-in-law on the other end. They hear us gossip. Don't get discouraged! Granted, we are not perfect and we make mistakes; but I think realizing that we are teaching character when we think our kids are not looking, will make us better parents-- better people- and better ambassadors for Christ! And, we don't have to be perfect to do a good job.

Character is caught, not taught.

Next time I will talk about another way to share your core beliefs related to character with your children. [Never Tease a Weasel, part 2]

Take care,

[Photos: The kids learning the value of hard work and being good workers; Chad reading to siblings, showing kindness and compassion]

Friday, May 8, 2009

Christian Beggars...

I was reading a post on the Sonlighter Club Forums the other day about a mom complaining about all the extra fees she was being charged by a church who ran the mother's day out program her child was in. It actually was incredible. In addition to the monthly tuition:
  • $125 activities fee
  • Miscellaneous supplies such as: Kleenex, hand wipes,water colors,crayons, etc
  • She needed to provide snacks once every two months
  • Two boxes of vanilla wafers
  • She had to pay $10.00 to have a Thanksgiving feast with her child--and I use the term feast loosely--it was 2 chicken strips. some macaroni and cheese and a roll.
  • And I can't remember what else, but I am sure I forgot something
But, what put her over the edge was the basis of my blog today-They want every parent to contact 10-20 local restaurants to ask them to donate gift cards so they can make a "restaurant basket" to raffle. There are 14 kids in the class, and the school will give them a list of who they are supposed to contact to avoid duplications. That means 140-280 restaurants will be hit up for free gift cards to help support a Christian Mother's Day out program!!!

This is just so wrong! Christians out begging the secular world to support us! This is a huge issue for me. Why should a local merchant, who is just trying to survive in this economy, fund a mother's day out? I mean, the very idea of presumably Christian organizations saying--"Hey, our God cannot provide for our needs, can you give us some of your hard earned money?" makes me want to scream.

I see this all the time--and it isn't just Christian organizations, either. I know a lady that has a small one-woman shop. She is not getting rich at all and works hard and long to make a go of her little shop. She gets people in there all the time--from other towns as well as the town the shop is in--asking her to donate all kinds of stuff. I mean, if they are so committed to the cause, why don't they buy the thing and donate it themselves? Why should she donate to causes and organizations she doen't have any relationship or commitment to?

I know a lot of churches and organizations do it, but I think it is wrong and presumptuous. No wonder the world thinks Christians are a joke. We should be giving the merchants something out of our love and/or bounty--not begging for them to support us. This type of begging ruins our witness in our communities and in the world in general.

Take care,