Thursday, July 28, 2016

Orange Leaf

The elementary school (and its PTA, local boosters, and heads of different volunteer classroom committees, ect.) hands out coupons for discounted fare from local area businesses, normally as rewards for academic and/or good behavior/civic performance. Both my kids have gotten their fair share, being both academically inclined and generally helpful for the teachers. As a reward for performance goes I have to say those coupons make for a sense of accomplishment to my children, and "cashing in" on them is something important.

Well, as you  might can guess we had a left-over coupon which was reaching it expiration date, and I had promised my daughter we would go. As happens in life things either came up or efforts weren't taken to make it happen. But I had promised her we would, and it was a promise I intended to keep, feeling strongly it was right to do.

With just three short days before the coupon was to expire my daughter asked if we could go, and, typical of her, asked at a really rather awkward time. Her mom had just woken up from sleeping, and was a few hours away from needing to go to work, while they (my children) were a few short hours from bedtime.

In the moment, however, all I was concerned with was making it happen. I had promised a while back, and in my mind the promise was as good as certainly answered, we just hadn't gone. And while it was not ideal, timing-wise, I made sure with my mom we had the time enough to go. In and of itself not a big deal, asking my wife if we have the time. In my mind in the moment it was a matter of carving out a window, making good on a promise, wherein my daughter saw me leaping to the actual action of answering a promise already agreed to. Put slightly differently, in the moment it was a matter of walking out that to which I had already, previously, said yes, wherein my daughter saw not just an immediate response of assent but of immediate action which actually brought about the fulfilment. It's a nuanced distinction, to be sure.

The point, as always, is that, in this fatherly heart towards my own child I see the father-heart of God to us all: a ready and active willingness to walk out His promises (which are "Yes, and Amen in Christ Jesus").

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Shopping, & Swimming with the "Grands"

So far this Summer we have made do with an older, full length swimsuit shirt and a pair of older volleyball shorts in a modified tankini sort of style -- one which fits my daughters naturally fashion-conservative bent. I had been prepared and ready to buy a new swimsuit (kids do growingly shoot up after all) at the start of the summer. While she had an idea in mind when we first went shopping she had not found a suit she wanted. And for the most part the impromptu swimsuit we were using actually satisfied her more than what she had found or expected to find.

So, when we were invited by our friend with the pool to come swim with the adopted grandparents -- that kindly, older couple who attend our church and act as local surrogate-grandparents to our kids, doting on them and lavishing them with attention -- we naturally made that our mission for the day. With both my wife's family and my family living so far away -- thus making for the routine and weekly interactions with older family so impractical -- these "adopted grands" occupy that niche for my children. To be sure it is a niche which my wife and I as children ourselves got to experience only infrequently (yet significantly) growing up, and I am happy for my children in this more-frequent form of the blessing.

At any rate, and somewhat spontaneously my daughter mentioned wanting a new swimsuit. Without pause I not only immediately agreed to such, but even turned us to getting ready and out the door. In the moment I wanted my daughter to know I was wanting to answer her request, and had only been waiting for her to be ready to ask for it. I wanted her to see she could ask and that I would leap to and lead out in making it happen. I knew the plans for the day where she and my son did not, and bemusedly thought of how much fun showing off her new bathing suit to those from whom she found affirmation would be.

With my son, well, he definitely could have used a new suit, but wasn't needing one. When he found the one with the Star Wars Stormtroopers he so admires, well, it wasn't a question, he too would get a new suit. I had decided he should have a new suit simply because I wanted one for him, and it was right for him to get one since his sister was getting new clothes.

We didn't stop there, however, and wandered over to both the underwear isles (for girls, then for boys) and then to the shoe department. There in the shoe department we got him some much needed flip flops and found matching Stormtrooper Converse-style high tops for both of them. WHile the underwear and flips were needed the high tops were a fun frivolity, but on clearance and arguably needed so as not to be an exorbitant addition. Suffice it to say, the trip was one where the blessing I intended did not stop at a swimsuit but was thorough in all areas of need.

This willingness to bless when asked, and to lead out even in the answering, fully even, well, this is to me very much the father-heart of God to us.

Having found my wife agreeing to the added layer of frivolity (and also because I needed new shoes, arguably) I got online and found myself an adult pair of Converse-like high tops of Star Wars theme, though artistically I picked out some with the Darth Vader motif. The humor to me being they (my children) are my little stormtroopers and me their "jedi head honcho."I wonder if anyone has ever described Star Wars in such Texas vernacular? A further artistic relevance here being that Darth Vader himself is very much the modern icon of a flawed and wounded father needing fatherly healing yet, ultimately, showing a father-heart which sacrifices his self for the sake of his son.  Any rate, it is fun and we plan to unveil our new kicks at church as soon as mine come in the mail. I guess look for pics in the comments below.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

New Lands on the Horizon

So, my daughter told me the other day she wanted to travel to Pluto. She has really gotten in to this space kick of hers. I had downloaded some space apps to her tablet, primarily ones which were more educational and age appropriate in nature. Daily she educates me on new space facts. Unbeknownst to her has been a great week for historical space accomplishments, like the anniversary of the moon landing and of the first mars probe landing and its pictures, and I have relished sharing those with her.

At any rate, we've been swimming since the pool party /  "Social Hour" post. We actually went Monday. While at the pool we somehow got around in conversation to discussing the upcoming Fall semester and extracurricular activities. I think I brought it up, remembering I had received a reminder about the upcoming volleyball season and registration.

The idea for some time now has been to put my son into some form of martial arts in his first grade year, now that the Kindergarten year and transitioning into school has occurred. Personally I want him in Aikido, though Jujitsu may be easier and more preferred for his age level. At any rate when I brought up the question of what my daughter wanted to do with volleyball the conversation took that sharp left into the question of martial arts for both of them.

As we floated or treaded water and discussed the idea, I returned to the question of volleyball and offered that she could try a different sport if she wanted. Enthusiastically she  considered the idea of basketball, and I said I would look into the matter -- if there were a league for her age group. In that moment I was less concerned about the particular sport and activity (for her), and more concerned about partnering with (and deferring to) her desires, aye, even to her adventurousness to try something new.

In one very real sense I was letting her set her own path, and wanting to not stand in the way of (to not be a hinderance to) her adventuresomeness. I knew from what our beloved first coach said at the end of the first season a year ago -- that trying new sports developed her as an athlete -- that this was a good thing for my daughter to do, but such wisdom didn't even really factor in. I merely wanted to be out of my child's way to decide, once she knew she was supported and released to go forward.

Yeah, I would say the father-heart of God for and towards us can be seen here, very clearly.

The discussion of extracurriculars is ongoing, as I still have to research the matter, but for now, well, this is the sense of things, and I am sure more posts will come about. I know in this moment I admire my daughter's adventurous heart, and my fatherly heart to equip-through-providing-no-resistance-to-good-things. If I dwell upon it, I may see His heart for me in my own life's particular context.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Social Hour

Saturday an event had been planned at our friend's pool. There was to be other children there, a new family to the community. I went because I wanted to be with my children, but I was endorsing my wife going because I knew it was good for my children to be allowed to make new friends and to meet new people, and (more importantly) because I wanted for them to have social time and to be amidst a social setting in community. I wanted for them to be in a social environment, around a cohort of their own enjoying the activity they most enjoy.

Personally I went to "be there for them".

In all of this I see the father-heart of God for us.

As things turned out I was allowed an opportunity to fellowship within a group of people whose narratives and lives in that moment were ... diverse in terms of emotional place and degree of trial / tribulation. End of the day I was blessed, richer in my soul. I think I began even making new friends in the new family, and strengthened older relationships.

Not much of a post, and really "down and dirtily" told. Maybe it is the mood I am in today, or the place I am in in this season. Maybe there is a hidden art tucked in to the manner and story telling.

Before going to the party I had taken the kids to the store. Earlier in the week, again at the pool, my son had broken his water pistol -- the reward for cleaning his room and donating to Salvation Army -- smack over the head of his sister. It had been an accident. But he was still contrite enough to own the thing and politely turned down a replacement. In that moment I resolved he would get a new water pistol.

Since I knew early Saturday we were going later to the pool party, and because I had wanted to get him a replacement water pistol, I took the kids to the store to get one. This time, however, I bought two water pistols, because I wanted for both of them to be able to enjoy themselves, and for my son to not have to own the mistake when there was something I wanted for him (i.e. fullness and fun at the pool and the building up of him and his story). I wanted not just the singular blessing of a water pistol, but of a water pistol fight, which is really the actual fun of such things.

So I bought two -- one for him, one for his sister.

I see something else of the father-heart of God here, in how even in what I wanted for just my children's experience earlier in the week (that is, in having fun with a water pistol reward) I was not willing to let circumstance and accidents get in the way of, and thusly providing replacement opportunities (i.e. water pistols). More so, however, I wanted the funnest fun, the fullest fun of the opportunity. Squirting a leaf in the pool is one thing; squirting your sister in the eye and being squirted back, well, you see where this going: so much more fun!

It was somewhat incidental that the day of the pool party was the day the two siblings got to squirt each other, and so there were two experiences being had at the same time.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Two-fer" (part "B"): Diving Lessons

As I mentioned in another post, we have a dearly beloved friend in the neighborhood who allows us usage of her pool. My son takes to water much like a fish: almost naturally, and definitely with acumen. My daughter , like any child, loves water and swimming, but is more cautious. Like her mother, my daughter has a sensitive gag reflex and getting water up the nose is no small event. Suffice it to say we are working her diving and swimming.

Monday I messaged our friend that we would like to come over. Previously the friend and I had co-labored to teach my daughter how to dive. My daughter had wanted to learn, and we both (the friend and I) had done our best to provide a basic platform of knowledge, but she had by no means quite grasped the sense of the thing. Hence, when Monday came around and swimming seemed the course, I felt it was right and good to return to the diving lessons. My daughter wanted to learn how to dive deep.

Being more cautious than her brother, it seemed I would need to take a lesson our of the professional volleyball coach's handbook, and to teach in incremental steps, and through repetition of those steps. Ultimately, however, this was her project, and while I wanted her to have the safety of skill, what I wanted for her in this regard was to be built up in an undertaking of her own choosing. My role became one of cheerleader. I knew in the moment that her sense of self needed safeguarding, and was of primary concern, over and above developing the ability. With each (failed) dive (attempt at a dive) I would encourage her in her effort or progress, as the moment warranted.

At the end of the day, as the saying goes, it was her passion I wanted fostered, her drive I wanted built up in her, over and above and beyond her skill.

In this I clearly see the father-heart of God for us.

"Two-fer" (part "A") : Solar System

Last Saturday was a fairly laid back afternoon with the kids. I was still recovering from a significant puncture wound (a story for another time). The kids had a collection of boxes of unwanted toys and out-grown clothing they had amassed as a result of a deal I had made with them some time back: they collect and box-up such things and we would take them to Salvation Army and donate them to needy families. As a reward for their efforts they would be "treated".

It wasn't so much a teaching moment as it was merely an effort both to organize the house a little bit, and to create a conceptual understanding of stuff and it's value relative to space and the effort associated with dealing with said stuff.

At any rate, we collected the stuff into the car and dropped it off, then headed next door (at the kids request) to a discount book store. Because the kids had been very quick and very available to aiding me in my convalescence their mother had already purchased for them a reward in the form of food treats (a specialty cheese cake, to be exact), so the stop into the bookstore was more at their request than in effort to reward them as had been promised.

I decided that, despite the food treat, it was still right and good to follow through on the promise of a reward, especially when it involved their choice in the matter, so I set a small expense limit and encouraged their looking. My daughter, surprisingly to me, showed some interest in purchasing one of those glow-in-the-dark kits with luminescent stars and planets of our solar system, despite having the option to buy a book from the story series in which she has an interest.

Well, when we got home my daughter was anxious to get started putting up the stars and planets on her wall. I was excited as well, pleasantly surprised to find she had an interest in that in which I had an interest, shared that interest. Enthusiastically I brought her into the office and got online and did an image search for a good poster of the solar system so she could place things in the right order. I wanted in that moment to partner and to help and to enable what I had already thought good on my own, full of wonder at what fruit this interest might bear in her. She began cutting out a paper sun, which I just thought was swell.

No sooner was she involved with that task than I secreted her tablet and began to download the NASA and Hubble Telescope apps, and an educational space exploration app, without her knowing. I was "going goofball" over this, for sure, and I did so owning that fact.

Clearly for me in this is a picture of the father-heart of God, who delights in us and along with us, sharing with us and working on our behalf, as we take interests in those things of His heart, even of His creation (His creation which He, the absolute standard of Good, called good itself).

Well, increasingly now, though not newly, she has made comments about wanting to be a scientist and working as an animal rescuer, and so I have taken this sciencey interest in Nature/Creation and began watching animal documentaries with the kids. It's just more of the same -- the same as the interest in space.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Dive Rings and Pool Toys

     We have a friend from church who lives in the neighborhood and who has graciously invited us to swim in her pool anytime we want. Indeed, going over to "her pool" has become something of a mainstay activity for my children, much as going to my grandparent's and my neighborhood pools had been for me growing up.

     The friend is one who enjoys the community provided by people coming over to swim, and recently bought some new pool toys, including goggles for the kids, dive rings, and a floating basketball net. She texted my wife to let her know she had done so and my daughter was anxious to go see the new pool items.

     It is a simple thing, that is my daughter being excited about seeing the new things and getting to go swim, and me being excited along with her. It likely goes without saying that, in this excitement along with my children (for the new and fuller) I clearly see the father-heart of God. For what is good and exciting and blessing to us He is likewise excited along with us (and not just detachedly "for" us). Upon this subtlety, this nuance do small things cease to be small.

     I now consider how I look back on my summers going to the pool, and am likewise excited for how these days will become for my daughter memories she, one far flung day in the future, reflects back upon. Knowing this is coming for her I smile, and am just a little more thankful even for new pool toys, and dive rings, and kind friends.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

New Kitten

     We have a dear, dear older friend who happens to be the kids god-grandmother (like a god-mother) that called with a request of us to re-home her beloved kitten. It turns out there is an aggressively antagonistic neighbor being rude and complaining about the cat doing "it's business" in his yard. We headed over to the god-grandmother's house and got the kitten, and all the accoutrements (carrier, food, medicine, scratching post, ect.).

     I made certain to explain to the children what we were going to do when we got home and why. To be sure, it was going to be an adjustment for the kitten, since we already have cats and a dog, all of whom are used to each other but not so keen on new or foreign ones. I explained there was likely to be hissing on both sides, though I was sure the dog would do just fine (gentle soul that he is).

     I wanted the kids to have a new pet, certainly, and I think they were all wanting a new one, but we had not been actively looking for a new pet. So, simply put, when our friend called it was a matter of blessing our friend, even running to her aide in a manner of speaking. We could have not been wanting a pet but would have taken it in regardless, out of love for her. If someone had put forth the idea of getting a new kitten I would sought to get them a new kitten just out of love for them.

     All of this is to say that, despite any way the acquiring a new pet could have come about, I would have wanted for my children what I wanted in that moment, which was for them to have the full experience of what it means to care for an animal. I wanted for them to be fuller "care-takers" for the benefit and blessing that comes from caring for something. I think this is what is meant by "having dominion," and I feel it is what God wants for us to be able to have, all out of love and desire for us.