Keeping Our Kids Safe Online – Part 1

One evening a couple weeks ago, Ruthie’s friend called and said, “Go on your Google hangout!”

Ruthie didn’t know what that was, so Bryan set up her own account on the family computer in the living room, and within a few minutes we were flies on the wall to a pre-teen conversation.

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The timing couldn’t have been more perfect: I had just heard Katie Greer speak about keeping our kids safe online, and I felt ready for this moment.

I didn’t know what to expect from the event, since I’d never heard of Katie Greer before. I thought – worst case scenario – that it might be a fear-inducing call to ban all technology from the home, but I was so pleasantly surprised.

I don’t know how the other parents felt, but I came away completely at peace about our family’s use of technology, and armed with helpful information about keeping them safe online.

Over the next few posts I’ll share my main take-aways from the event.

In the meantime, I definitely recommend checking out her site for helpful tips and information on where she might be speaking near you.

Things That Almost Killed Me This Summer

It’s Labor Day, and thanks be to Jesus that school starts on Wednesday (hopefully there’s no teacher strike!).

I’m sure the school year will have a new set of irritations, but here are 5 things I’d like to ditch for Fall:

  • Boys who think toasting a bagel is too hard and takes too long.
  • Siblings who won’t stop fighting, but refuse to stay away from each other.
  • Girls who throw a fit every ten seconds when The Universe doesn’t deliver on her expectations.
  • Candy for breakfast, bagels for lunch, ramen for dinner, ice cream for dessert, and a $500 dentist bill.
  • The phrase, “WHY DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING AROUND HERE?” when asked to put away shoes.

Raise your hand if you’re ready for school!

Day Trip to Mount Rainier

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When I was a kid, probably about Ruthie’s age, my parents took me on a road trip from Minneapolis to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. The most vivid memories I have of that trip are 1) seeing the region’s destruction from recent flooding, and 2) my bad attitude.

In fact, I remember hiking up to the view point to Mount Rushmore, looking at the four faces carved into the side of a rocky mountain, and declaring, “We drove all the way here for THIS?”

Yeah, I was a charmer.

So I suppose it was parenting Karma when Ruthie, who was totally fine during the drive up to the Paradise Visitor Center on Mount Rainier last weekend, suddenly “felt sick” as we got ready to hike one of the trails.

I won’t go into all the details of her bad attitude because public shaming is not my goal here, but it was one of those moments where it was challenging for me to stop trying to control everything and just enjoy myself regardless of how other people decided to act.

And even though she didn’t “recover” enough to pose for a family photo, these moments are easier to deal with now that she’s older, because we can just leave her on the park bench “to die” while the rest of us take in the beauty of mountains and meadows.

It was a beautiful drive, a beautiful hike, and except for a brief mental breakdown when my blood sugar dropped and I was convinced Bryan was a bigger douche bag than Heisenberg, it was a glorious day.

Flickr slide show below:

The Curse of Unexpected Freetime

20130818-181025.jpgAngel/devil graffiti art: “The hidden truth of every woman.”

My plans for this evening got derailed when Ruthie came down with strep throat. So instead of being gone most of the afternoon until late evening, we’re now hanging out at home where she is resting in bed with a movie.

This sort of unexpected free time doesn’t come often. There was a day in July when the boys were at Cub Scout camp and Ruthie was at a friend’s, but I had to work. And there are times when Bryan takes the kids so I can work or finish a project, or pack for a trip.

But when I’m staring down the barrel of multiple hours of free time all in a row, it generates more mental chaos than Jesse Pinkman’s conscience.

My brain starts shouting at me to relax! No, clean the kitchen! Wait, finish hanging pictures on the wall! Shut up, you should journal, or write a blog post, or catch up on work, or paint your nails, or, OR!, OR!!!

And then I end up wishing I’d done something else anyway, and so there’s regret to top it off.

Today I thought I’d try something different. I’m going to do whatever I want for fifteen minutes, then do something responsible for fifteen minutes, then alternate back and forth all evening. My hope is that I’ll fully enjoy my downtime and not worry about everything that is undone, then be fully present in my chores because it is, after all, only fifteen minutes.

I’ll let you know how it goes. My alarm is clanging, so off to clean the kitchen!

How do you cope with unexpected free time?

As the Zugworld Turns

I have one child who is prone to drama more than the other. When I think of how disruptive the drama can be to our family dynamic, I feel sad and despairing and entertain thoughts of what life would look like without such drama.

(Just keeping it real, friends. Don’t freak out.)

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But it’s through my relationship with this child – through woo’ing her heart, through not knowing what the hell I’m doing – that I remember how Jesus loves me patiently despite my own angry and rebellious tendencies.

And I hate remembering that, at least at first. I’d prefer that parenting was easier and more fun.

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Okay… *easier.* It’s pretty fun already.

We Are Not the Brand

“They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general like what they saw. Every day their number grew and God added those who were saved.” Acts 2, The Message

A Christian’s life used to be simple:

Wake up, work hard, worship Jesus, enjoy friends, & love the community.

As their lives were seen and “overheard” by others, a bridge was built from one world view to another.

It isn’t our place to control the outcome of the gospel or spin the story to make it more palatable to others.

It’s our job to provide a glimpse into a radical point of view.

The gospel doesn’t make sense. It’s absurd. And quite frankly, most Christians do more to confuse the story than anything else.

In March, we resigned our sixteen year church membership – in part because our church seemed to no longer be about worshipping Jesus, loving the community, or enjoying friends, but about staying on brand.

Bridges aren’t built through branding. Glimpses aren’t shared through branding.

I like that my life can be seen and “overheard” by others. I wake up, work hard, worship Jesus, and hope that I reflect his love to my friends and community.

I’m not looking for anything more complicated than that.

Don’t Say the Dreaded “P” Word!

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Christians are really big on faith, hope, and joy.

We form these words into felt banners hung from the choir loft and sing choruses with our hands raised…

…but nobody likes to think about patience in affliction.

Ask anyone about patience, and they’ll wave at you frantically and shush you to keep your voice down.

God will hear you, you idiot!

You see, we don’t like to pray for patience, because it opens the door for the testing of our patience. And despite all the suffering and affliction Christ endured to save our sorry asses, we prefer to remain affliction free.

Consequently, we don’t really know what to do with afflicted people.

We want them to have faith! hope! and joy! despite their affliction, but mostly we’d feel more comfortable if they just got over it quickly.

But the reality is, many are afflicted with depression, grief, and physical pain that won’t just go away. And for these, all hope is lost, joy is fleeting, and faith is brittle.

Their affliction is not our burden to bear, but neither is it our place to recoil from their discomfort.

I believe it’s our place to also be patient in their affliction.

This means we sit with them, we listen to them, and we cry with them. And we don’t try to hustle them through a time lapse of their affliction, because then we’d all miss an opportunity to be patient.

Dammit.

See what I mean?

I should’ve kept my voice down.

An Ode to Gay Pride

Jesus had radically different ideas about loving people that went completely against the conventional wisdom of religion and culture in that day: He showed compassion to the marginalized by loving them, valuing them, and revealing their true identity as a daughter or son of God our Father.

This angered and alarmed religious leaders, who chose instead to undermine their identity and strip them of value.

It bothers me that religious people who call themselves Christians continue to marginalize people groups as if the individual people in the group have no value or identity. Jesus never did that. He never shunned a person based on how they identified themselves, or on how others identified them.

Instead, he sought them out to share a meal, have a conversation, and really know them, and it was in those acts of love and compassion that he found a path into their hearts.

Seattle’s Gay Pride Parade ended right at my back door today, and there were a lot of beautiful people celebrating in my neighborhood.

I wonder if we as Christians could ever find a way to have meaningful conversations with people who are very different from us. It’s been two thousand years since the bigotry of Jesus’ day, so I’m starting to lose hope that it’s possible.

(Edited to express hopelessness on 6/14/16, following the death of 50 people at a gay night club in Orlando.)

I Call Bullshit On My Own Temptation Theology

Today I learned a deep and profound thing.

It may have changed my life forever.

I hope it’s changed my life forever, because now that I’m fixated on it, I can’t imagine being content in the unknowing of this thing.

In dealing with the temptation to indulge my temper with yelling and shaming, I’ve always tried to will it away. When my kids were little, I would go to bed every night feeling defeated and filled with shame because I broke their little hearts with my anger, and I would wake up every morning feeling hopeful that today would be a new day, that today would be different.

But every day my hopes were dashed as the cycle continued.

I believe that by God’s grace we should cling to Jesus in our temptation, but I always thought the path to grace and to Jesus was for me to turn away from my rage.

That always seems impossible to me, because no matter what I know to be a true Truth, I’m still going to choose the euphoric relief I feel when the pressure valve of my rage is released.

And no matter what I know to be a true Truth, I’m always going to fight back when my little army advances on me with their own hearts of rebellion.

When I meditate on this very difficult thing, this expectation that I turn away from temptation, I always think of Danny Devito’s line in Heist: “Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it money.”

Well… everybody fails at temptation. That’s why they call it temptation.

And then I was shown this true Truth in Hebrews 2:18…

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

I don’t have to turn away from anything or will myself to avoid temptation. I can stay right there in the pile I’m standing in and take whatever hurtful thing my daughter says to me, whatever disrespect my son dishes out. And as I absorb it, my ego will bruise, the verbal wound will go deep, and the rejection will be profound.

In that moment, I will suffer.

I might even die a little.

But I will not be alone, because Jesus always suffers with me.

He holds my hair back as I wretch into the toilet.

He cleans my wounds and wraps them in clean bandages.

He cradles me against his chest as I cry the ugly cry and get snot all over his shirt.

And when I’m done suffering the injustice of sassy words or whatever bullshit I take so personally from a half pint, I will walk with a limp or perhaps have a scar. But I will carry this wound as a reminder of that time I loved so deeply that I was willing to suffer, because that’s what Jesus did for me when he died on the cross.

This is the piece I’ve been missing my whole life.

I’ve always believed that I took his suffering for granted and didn’t take my sin seriously, but I couldn’t find my way in to a place of empathy.

I get it now.

And I know I am different.

I’m free to lovingly shepherd my kids’ hearts into repentance and reconciliation because Jesus suffers with me, and I don’t have to fight or turn away any more.

This changes everything.

Welcome Camp Whattawedo

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School’s out!

It’s my first summer without full time child care planned, and I’m as fresh and hopeful as Frodo leaving the shire with his little buddies to see a mountain about a ring. Who knows what kind of Gollum I’ll turn into by the end of August, but right now I’m happy about all the things!

Part of my summer plan involved self-directed activities for the kids in the morning while I worked, then we would get out of the house in the afternoon. I thought about calling the self-directed activities something really motivating and winsome, like “Summer School” or…. “Self-Directed Activities.”

And then I read this post by Kyran.

I slapped my forehead and thought, why am I such a curmudgeon?!

*mutters under breath about summer school*

We’re officially joining the Camp Whattewedo fun!

Below is a loose routine we plan to follow:

MONDAY: Creative Projects

TUESDAY: Swimming or Park

WEDNESDAY: Library

THURSDAY: Swimming or Park

FRIDAY: Field Trip!

This is, of course, subject to change depending on where our friends or whims lead us, but I wanted the kids to know there’s a basic plan so they can quit fretting about being bored.

If you have kids at home this summer, join me, Kyran, and others on twitter and instagram with the hashtag #WHATTAWEDO to share your summer fun, frustrations, appreciations, and inspirations. And stay tuned to Kyran’s Facebook page, where we’ll hang out and share progress (and disaster) reports weekly throughout the summer.

How to Break an INFP

The kids stay up until 10:00 now, and since Ruthie wakes up around 6:30 or 7:00, they’re always awake when I am.

ALWAYS AWAKE.

This makes for a very long day of people asking me for things and/or making noise around me.

The CIA calls this Sensory Overload Torture.

Google it if you don’t believe me. You’ll see a video of my kids engaged in a conversation like this:

Thomas: Ruthie, look at this cool thing I made.

Ruthie: …

Thomas: Ruthie! Look at this cool thing I made!

Ruthie: …

Thomas: RUTHIE! LOOK AT THIS… RUTHIE!

Ruthie: …

Thomas: ***RUTHIE!***

*smack*

Ruthie: OUCH! *cries* MOOOOOOMMMMM! THOMAS IS HITTING ME!

THOMAS: I JUST WANT YOU TO LOOK AT THIS!

Ruthie: *cry-screaming* *running away from Thomas*

Thomas: RU!! THIE!!! *runs after her*

*door slams*

*banging on door*

MOM!RUTHIE!THOMAS!MOM!MOM!*bang*RUTHIE!*SLAM*MOM!*stompstompstomp*

*fade to black*

Anyway…

I usually make them go to bed at 9:00, but they can read or do something quiet as long as they stay in their room.

This works for awhile, but pretty soon their “quiet activity” turns into make-believe play, which turns into getting really wound up at 9:30, which turns into a lot of yelling about GO TO BED ALREADY WE’RE TRYING TO WATCH GAME OF THRONES.

My goal this summer is to run them so hard all afternoon that one of them falls asleep in the middle of an argument.

Which reminds me… I’m hatching a plan for my summer of juggling work and kids, partially inspired by a blogging friend. Stay tuned for the deets.

My Ideal Week

At the New Year I was inspired by Michael Hyatt’s blog to create an Ideal Week. I didn’t want it to dictate my life, but provide a little structure I could fall back on if everything got a little crazy.

Here’s what I came up with (green is work-related, pink is personal):

My Ideal Week
Click here to view in Google Docs.

After I created this, I realized my life is a lot less complicated than Michael Hyatt’s.

But even though it’s pretty straight forward, the exercise did help me realize I’m more productive with tasks in the morning and writing or focused work in the afternoon (which happens to coincide with Wine-thirty).

You’ll notice we scheduled in time to be with friends (Friday!). We had three successful weeks of dinner parties with friends, and then _________ [fill in the blank] happened and we haven’t had anyone since.

So you can see it’s not perfectly executed, but I highly recommend giving it a try. I plan to revamp mine for the summer!

Why I Love Body Art

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a tattoo. In fact, I almost got one in 1996, but my friends convinced me to get my nose pierced instead.

That was a good move by my friends, because in the 90’s I would have ended up with a tattoo I created in Word Art.

Re tattoos, I typically hear opinions from two camps: Those who see it as an expression of personal art, and those who think tattoos are for people who flip burgers for a living.

If you watch this four minute documentary by our friend Mike Folden, you’ll understand exactly which camp I fall into.

It’s about a local tattoo artist named Bryan Kachel. I love his passion for creating custom art for everyday people, his views on embracing mortality through body art, and the joy he expresses about his daughter tattooing her stuffies.

That last part is especially endearing to me. If you know me in real life or follow the antics of my kids via social media, you already know how much Ruthie loves to “tattoo” herself, both with ink and stickers.

Body art may not be for you or your kids, but it’s the most carefree way I’ve seen Ruthie express herself, so I not only embrace it, I encourage it.

Like that time I helped tattoo her eyelids…

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