Rejecting Sainthood

Me with Artemis and Apollo

Me with Artemis and Apollo

On Saturday one of the priests at our church received a call from woman that she knows who had come to the heartbreaking decision that she was no longer able to care for and support her 15 month old twin children. Her home was unfit for habitation, her water and electricity had been shut off for over a month, and she was just unable to provide what these children needed. So she made the best (and most difficult) decision possible and allowed her children to go into the care of someone else. On Saturday night they stayed with a family from our church.

We learned of the situation on Sunday and in order to assist we collected some of the clothes that Peanut had outgrown and found some of Bubba’s toddler clothes in the garage and took them over to the family that was fostering them, along with some toys and a spare high-chair. We felt good that we had been able to help these precious children who were in desperate need of some compassion.

On Monday morning, we received an email from the Children’s Minister at our church that the family that had taken the babies over the weekend were unable to keep them for an extended period of time and so other accommodations were needed ASAP. And Wifey felt a stirring to take them into our home.

I said no. We already have 4 children and barely manage to keep our sanity as it is. Nor do we have a vehicle large enough to transport 6 children, all of whom are in car seats. And, to be perfectly honest, it is my Spring Break and I’ve been looking forward to some down time before a hellish couple of weeks when I go back. Plus, we’d promised to have a great week with the kids taking day trips and doing a lot of fun activities which we couldn’t do if the twins came to stay. It just seemed really inconvenient and impractical and I didn’t want to do it.

Wifey graciously accepted my decision. If we were going to do it we both had to be on board. And she agreed with all of my reasons. But I could tell that she wasn’t convinced, and the more I thought about it, the more unsettled I became. What if they couldn’t find another home and they had to be moved day to day? Those kids didn’t need that after the trauma that they were already experiencing. And we were certainly already equipped with almost everything we needed to care for toddlers and what we didn’t have the church would provide. And it seems selfish to not be willing to help so that I can take more naps. My one hold-out was our promise to the kids. So I decided to leave it up to them. I explained the situation, making sure they understood what they would be giving up, and gave them a few minutes to think about it. They seemed to be struggling with some of the same reservations and feelings that we were. They wanted to help out, but were they willing to sacrifice this special week? Finally, we asked for their decision and they both emphatically said that they wanted to help the twins. I was so moved by their generosity, and so proud!

But I was still unwilling to fully commit. So we offered to take them as the option of last resort. If NO ONE else was willing or able, we would take them. We furiously cleaned the house in the off-chance that they were coming, and as we readied our home, both Wifey and I became more and more compelled to just take the plunge. When we finished up, we called the church to check the status of volunteers. There were several families that were able to help for a few days, but no one who could take them long-term. That decided it. We wanted them to come live with us until a permanent home could be found. Sure it would take some sacrifice and quite a bit of rearranging, but we knew it was the right thing to do. So an hour later we opened the door to two of the most beautiful, precious and sweet children that you could imagine (we’ll call them Apollo and Artemis). And despite a night of little sleep and overall controlled chaos, I know we are blessed to have been chosen for this task.

Naturally, since making the decision, we have been inundated with praise about how wonderful and brave we are and have even been called saintly. But it makes me uncomfortable that people react in this way. Perhaps for the non-religious, such an act does seem to be saintly. We are putting ourselves at great inconvenience for some kids we’ve never met and for absolutely no personal gain…other than warm fuzzy feelings that is. But we don’t see it that way. When we were struggling to decide whether or not to open our home, what kept nagging at us was this verse “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). The Bible is full of calls to care for orphans and makes it a top priority for every Christian. So it isn’t really because we’re so saintly that we do this. It is because we are called to do it specifically by God. We’re not saints, we’re just Christians. Regular people following the example of Christ.

Last night our priest stopped by to drop off some final supplies, and before leaving she said that we were role models. Now THAT is a label I’m willing to accept. I pray that by our actions we can inspire others to give more deeply of themselves in service of others, following the example of Christ. I am inspired by my children who were so willing to sacrifice of themselves, and I am proud to set the example for them that even when difficult, it is paramount to assist those in greater need. I think that more Christians need to be willing to give what they have and beyond with the faith that God will support those that follow his commands.

A saint is someone who rises to the top among his or her peers by going above and beyond in service to God. I pray that by our actions we are NOT saints, but that we fit into the crowd of other Christians who are all doing the same.


Space Unicorn Riding Backwards on a Pig

We have spent the last hour sitting with the kids on the couch watching the YouTube videos of Parry Gripp.  They are HYSTERICAL..and nothing beats Bubba’s uncontrollable full-belly laugh!  Here are a few of our favorites:

Baby Monkey (Riding Backwards on a Pig).  This one is just foolishly cute, and the song is REALLY catchy.  Be forewarned, you’ll be singing it the rest of the day!

Space Unicorn.  Why are unicorns always drawn flying through outer space?

Spaghetti Cat (I Weep for You).  I don’t know why this is so funny, but all of us were nearly crying.

Pile of Kittens (In My Mind).  This is like a sexy music video…starring a cat.  Oh, and a cat falling through the air.

Young Girl Talking About Herself.  You know this girl…and find her annoying.   And great to laugh at! 

Soccer Ball (In the Face).  I’m not usually a fan of AFV type videos, but the kid at the end of this video made me laugh out loud…and I rewound it several times just to see it again.


The Big Decision

As you may or may not know, Sissy has had a pretty rough year in kindergarten.  She has always been academically gifted, hitting her milestones early, learning to read proficiently by the age of 4, and a pretty solid understanding of numbers and addition before the age of 5.  She is also incredibly imaginative and artistic.  The downside to giftedness is that it is often accompanied by extreme anxiety, and she has unfortunately also developed this as well.  I posted a few weeks ago that she was experiencing panic attacks in school and had begun vomiting at times when she was feeling overwhelmed and that she had even started to vomit at times of relative calm.  Her pediatrician expressed concern that this type of reaction could lead to an eating disorder at a young age as a way to exert control over her life and emotions and she suggested that we have her evaluated by the school psychologist.  We followed this suggestion and for the past few weeks Sissy has been observed in various settings, has had a SST review (an analysis of the need for special services), weekly meetings with the school counselor, and finally a sit down with the psychologist.  Earlier this week I sat down with the school principals, the counselor, the psychologist, and Sissy’s teacher to go over their observations and recommendations.  And the overall findings are:

Sissy is too academically advanced to function properly in her class.

Her teacher has been wonderful this year in creating a truly differentiated curriculum for her, but she can only do so much with 18 other kindergarteners to contend with.  In addition, part of Sissy’s anxiety comes from a self-imposed need for perfection and a desire to please those in authority, so she has actually digressed in many areas because she tries to mimic the work of her “peers” when the teacher compliments their work.  She doesn’t understand that “great” for them at a kindergarten level isn’t the same as “great” for her at a more advanced level.  So she gets worked up and overwhelmed and…vomits.  In her mouth.  And then doesn’t tell anyone about it until she gets into the car to go home where she will erupt into a sobbing mess, often for several hours.  She is making social connections in class, but is having trouble relating to her “peers” because they are not yet in the same place as she is intellectually.  She does much better with older children and adults who can relate to her in a more mature way.

All this to say that public school just doesn’t seem to be the place for Sissy.  She has qualified for the GT program, but it only for one hour each week and there is only one other kindergartener that qualified.  And we could try to skip her ahead a grade level, but even that would not really put her into the right academic group in several areas.  She is a self-motivated learner and the public school system is built on a mass-feed mentality where it is difficult to allow for students to pursue learning in their own unique ways.  So we are about 99.8% sure that for at least the remainder of elementary school that Sissy will be attending school in our own home.  That way we can create a curriculum that is suited especially to her and allow her to learn in the ways that are best for her unique gifts and temperament.  She will socialize through group activities, some local non-religious home school leagues, and through our church community.  We will utilize the amazing educational resources that technology provides (and that the public schools are unwilling and/or unable to commit to) to help her expand her learning in meaningful ways and also to make connections with other students and experts.  We will begin with an independent academic evaluation to assess her grade-level proficiency in the various academic areas and will then build our curriculum from there, using a mix of rote and project-based learning (PBL) as dictated by her learning style.  We will document and portfolio her work and will have her assessed annually to measure her progress.

I say we are 99.8% sure because this is a huge decision and commitment and we are taking the rest of this school year and summer to pull together resources, network, and evaluate ALL the pros and cons, and until we finish that we are not going to make the final decision.  But based on several months of discussion and research, this seems like the best option for her.  So, keep us in your thoughts as we start on this journey, and we would appreciate any help or feedback that you would like to share!

Bubba Lays an OVO

On Friday my parents took me and the family (minus Peanut) to see Cirque du Soleil‘s show OVO, which is currently playing in town (watch the preview above for an overview).  The show is presented in true circus style, under a the big top, and was one of the most amazing performance experiences that I have ever…experienced.  The acts, the costumes, the music, and the performers were all mesmerizing and top-notch.  We all walked away in awe.

Bubba and Sissy at OVO

But the most wonderful part of the evening wasn’t the performance.  It was watching Bubba watch the performance.  He was enthralled with every single aspect.  As each new character emerged, he would point wildly and jump up and down in his seat.  Several times I looked over to see him standing in front of his chair, as if to get just a few inches closer to the stage.  While Sissy had a hard time figuring out what bugs the various performers were supposed to represent, Bubba never even had to think about it.  He knew what each of them were based on their often abstract costumes and stylized movements, sometimes even before Wifey and I had figured them out!  During intermission he ran around just outside the tent, so excited to go back in and see some more.  For a full two hours after the show was over, he just kept going on about it, reliving every last moment.

As an artist, the fact that Bubba was so moved by this performance touched me in a way I can’t describe.  Several times my eyes filled with tears as I watched him immerse himself in the experience.  We try, as parents, to let our children find their own passions.  While we certainly are very involved in the arts, we try not to be overbearing with a push that they be invested in them as well.  We allow them to explore a variety of interests and encourage them to try their best in everything that they attempt.  Because of this, it is even more special for me that Bubba was so impacted by this performance.

If you have the chance to see OVO, I highly encourage you to DO IT!  And if you have the chance to take a child, don’t miss out on the opportunity.  You won’t regret it, and it may even be one of the most memorable moments of your life.

The Balancing Act

Since I decided to try to post at least once per day, naturally I have gotten completely distracted by other things.  I have never been one to spend a great deal of time online, especially since my Blackberry allows me to check my Facebook from my phone.  But starting this blog made me curious about other dad blogs, which led me to other blogs and websites in general.  This coupled with a recent decision to integrate more technology into my classroom and a newfound obsession with Twitter has led to me spending an unhealthy amount of time cruising the net trying to connect with other educators and trying to find Web 2.o tools that can impact my instruction in a meaningful way.

Let me interject here that I am a full-throttle type of person, meaning when I decide to start something new I tend to jump in with both feet and take it to an extreme.  The downside to this personality trait is that I also tend to crash HARD.  If plans don’t work out in the way that I imagined they would or if too many roadblocks get in my way I lose hope and steam and often abandon the effort altogether.

This trait also has other repercussions, most notably that it drives my wife crazy because my tunnel vision detracts from my involvement in the lives of my family.  I will spend every spare moment engaged in whatever project I am working on and it will take a force of nature (or my wife’s exasperated scolding) to snap me out of it.

I want to be awesome at all things that I do.  I think that working hard to do the best that you can do is an important lesson to instill in our children.  It is important for my kids to see that I am a lifelong learner and that I am always striving to improve.  It is important to my marriage that I feel successful in my professional life so that I am happier overall and am bringing positivity and internal peace to the table.  But how can I manage my time so that neither my personal nor professional life suffer for the other?  To be the best I can be at work I have to dedicate personal time to improving my teaching practices and connecting with other professionals.  To be the best husband and father I need to be able to dedicate my time at home to my family.  And I can’t keep staying up until the wee hours of the morn to try to squeeze both in because then I am too tired to function successfully in both areas.

The solution isn’t as simple as “just prioritize” because both sides feed each other.  I can’t put off all of my professional planning until summer break because I must be consistently evaluating and improving or face having wasted an entire school year.  And I can’t just settle on mediocrity in both areas because that would make me miserable and would set a terrible example for my children.

If I had more time in my day or only had to work 4 days a week I would be more able to fit everything in (or maybe not), but as both are highly unlikely I don’t know how to find the balance.  So, what’s the answer?  Is there a solution?  Are my personal standards naïve?  Or am I just missing something that will make everything fall into place?

Enlighten me dear readers!  How do you find balance?

My Mouth Can’t Resist Those Beautiful Globes

As I draw you close your aroma makes me dizzy with desire.  I feel your warmth as my lips brush against your flesh.  My tongue travels over you, exploring your hidden recesses and folds and experiencing your taste, sometimes bitter, sometimes smooth and rich.  I savor your sweet juices as they spread throughout my mouth, making me crave you more.  I slowly bring my teeth together and feel you give yourself up to the experience.  Though many will never understand my passion, I can not bring myself to let you go.  And so I write this letter to you my tantalizing friend, my taboo love…

  My dearest Brussels Sprout

Brussels sprouts before roasting

Image by johnsu01 via Flickr

It’s true.  I can not hide it anymore.  I LOVE BRUSSELS SPROUTS!  Ah, it feels so good to finally speak aloud what I’ve been feeling for these many years.  I love their slightly bitter yet buttery taste, that they are perfectly bite-sized, their soft yet firm texture, and their pleasing color.  Plus, they look like tiny cabbages which is super cute.

Growing up I only ever heard horror stories about brussels sprouts.  My grandmother tells a yarn about how my grandfather always begged to have brussels sprouts, a vegetable that she despised.  After years of whining she finally gave in and made them, but instead of eating them he hid them behind some of the other food on his plate.  On both the big and small screens, children (and adults) bemoan the horrible torture of being served the dreaded sprouts.  The very mention of brussels sprouts is enough to send dinner guest fleeing for the hills.  So, naturally, I HATED brussels sprouts for many a year, despite never having eaten one.

But a few years ago, the wise and beautiful Wifey made them and insisted that I try them.  As I eyed the plate I could feel my stomach turn at the very thought of the supposed taste.  Why would she have prepared these little balls of evil?  Didn’t she know that they were the WORST food in the entire world?  Everyone despises them.  E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.  I didn’t want to offend her after she worked hard preparing a meal for our family but I was also terrified that the result of putting that stinky green ball into my mouth would be immediate projectile vomiting.

I decided I had to risk it.  I speared the brussels sprout on my fork, brought it to my mouth, forced my jaws apart, and popped it in.

It was love at first taste.  I ate another.  And another.  I may have stuck my face into the serving bowl to lick the remains.  And from that time on, they have become a staple on our dinner table.

Bubba Can't Resist the Tempting Sprout

Peanut LOVES Her Brussels Sprouts!

What may be even more unbelievable than my love for these little bulbous miracles is the fact that my CHILDREN love them.  They actually cheer when we have them and we end up fighting for seconds.  Peanut will completely ignore any other food on her plate, demanding more and more and more.  The kids are silly for sprouts!

So, judge if you must.  But my passion for brussels sprouts will not be contained.

What Am I Thinking?

"That other bald one looks like she’s plotting my demise. I need a good defense strategy"

Since we haven’t invested in that Your Baby Can Read program, I think you can safely assume that The Baby has yet to develop the skill to articulate her thoughts. So, here is your chance to weigh-in. What is the thought running through The Baby’s head in this photo? The best response wins a shout-out and the photo’s caption!

Update: Congrats Jill on the best (and only) caption suggestion!!!!