Sunday, June 22, 2008

Surrogate Parenting: Week Two

It is Sunday evening. The house is quiet except for Tara watching "Extreme Home Makeover." That's the show where they build you a new house and then the new owners jump around screaming "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" and occasionally even worse things when they see their new digs. The giving side of it is beautiful, but whenever I watch it, I'm reminded that we're all too materialistic. There are other things they should be far more excited about than a beautiful new home. At the same time, Paul teaches in the NT that God has given us all things for our enjoyment. Every blessing can be received with joy and thanksgiving because it is ultimately from the hand of a good God.

Keven finished his first week with us and is well into his second. He had a rough first few days but began learning and growing almost immediately. I have been teaching him the basics of Christian theology and Aunt Tara has been teaching him the basics of structure, self-discipline, and good decision-making. Ultimately these two fit together; one is the philosophy that guides; the other is the practical outworking of this philosophy. Both of us gravitate toward our strengths.

Some us you wanted to know what happened to the entrapment scheme that Tara and I set up for Keven a few nights ago. This involved empty food boxes in the snack cupboard. The answer is that nothing happened. He obeyed and stopped snitching food without permission. Sorry that there's nothing exciting to report!!

On the more interesting side:

Keven got blamed three times today for things that we finally discovered that he did not do. For example, I found a string cheese wrapper buried in his sheet on the couch and I gave him the what-for for taking food and lying. As a consequence I let all the other boys have a string cheese for morning snack but not Keven. Later Tara pointed out that, hadn't I had a string cheese last night while sitting on the couch?

So this was the beginning of wonderful life lesson for Keven. He has learned repeatedly this weekend that once you lose people's trust, it's very difficult to get it back quickly. He has also discovered that all of our boys immediately look at him when anything is broken, out of place, possibly wrong, whatever. Several times it hasn't been his fault!!

Keven also made a pretty funny mistake today. He was climbing up my tractor and pretending to drive. So far, so good. But then he climbed up onto the steering wheel, including his feet. (according to Evan) Now what would you expect would happen if you climbed bodily onto an old steering wheel of a 1954 tractor? The wheel will turn (no power steering) and dump you unceremoniously on your side. That is exactly what happened to Keven. We heard a yell from the other side of the house and I told Tara to hustle around because I have something pulled in my lower back that doesn't allow me to run today. So she saved her nephew and he recovered pretty quickly.

We are back to work this week with three big jobs to finish. I also have bids scheduled for Monday afternoon, so I am excited to see what will come of all our work this month.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Slowly Twisting in the Wind

I hate waiting for things. I always have. I know that this is a discipline that God uses in our lives to make us learn to trust Him and to be people of patience and perseverence, but I still hate waiting. Inigo and I would have understood each other.

Today I am waiting to know whether this summer will end with us moving back to town or with us refinancing and winterizing the acreage that we're on. I guess I like either choice; it's just that one has to be made sometime and I don't have a lot of control here.

I started painting the front face of the block building last night. Toby helped a little but soon lost interest and turned it back over to me. I am going to try to get out there and complete it before I go to work this morning. Toby also asked for farm fresh eggs for breakfast. That was when I realized that I'm away too much. I almost never do anything special with the kids (well, they go to job sites with me on occasion, but I haven't made special breakfast or special anything else for a long time).

I think I will go wash my face and see if I can finish the barn.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Liar, Liar, Pants on...

I need to get to bed, but this is just too good to leave. After VBS tonight, Tara found a Hershey bar wrapper from one and a half candy bars that Keven plowed through while no one was watching today. He then lied about and Tara busted him. Again.

He normally wakes up during the (I guess) early morning hours, heads for the snack shelf, and loads himself full of whatever he thinks would be tasty. Then he goes back to doze somewhere.

So tonight Tara and I took all the decent snackable foods and put them in another cabinet a full 7 feet off the ground (did I mention that Keven is a for-real, 3'5" dwarf?) and filled the snack cabinet with empty boxes of granola bars, cereal, pop-tarts, etc. which were still in the recycling bin.

I never hope for disobedience, but if he does raid the cabinet, it's going to be majorly unfruitful!! Well, except for the cantaloupe that I put up there, too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Holy Business, Batman!

So things continue strangely at our house. Keven woke me up this morning at 5:12 a.m. which is what he is supposed to do instead of going in to the boys' room and waking them instead.

I went to work without any children today, which also qualifies as strange. Usually at least one of them ends up with me. Yesterday Evan did about a 9.5 hour day out in the field with me. The last time Toby came, he did over 10. No crying, almost no complaining. Amazing.

The third strange thing is just the sheer volume of business that has been going on. I can't even get to all the bidding opportunities in a timely manner. Not that I'm complaining; it's just a little unusual.

I brought Toby home with me tonight. Everyone else is at our church's VBS doing "Power Lab" which I think is focused on Jesus' power to do...well... anything. Toby is too young for the VBS and too starved for Daddy to be left in the nursery.

I am thinking about sending a donation to Focus on the Family Action. They are fighting a covert supporter of the gay agenda who has poured over 110 million dollars into state legislative raced during the last few years. Through his efforts he unseats candidates who are in favor of biblical marriage between one man and one woman.

It's the end of the world as we know it...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christianity

We were warned that our visiting nephew had a variety of needs, and so far the warning has been quite accurate. While going into detail on those would be very interesting, our respect for his privacy would be pretty dreadfully compromised. It would be enough to say that he's developed lying as a defense mechanism and that he's not used to obeying as an initial response to instructions.

After the first several hours, I realized that he would need a crash course in Really Important Things, or Christianity in Twelve Easy Lessons. So I have created a list of 12 big questions like "What's the most important thing in life?" and "What is God like?" and so forth to go through while he's here. Evan and Keven and I will be doing these little studies together. I figure, God's pretty much dumped the kid in my lap. The least I can do is teach him a little bit of what God has taught me.

The weather is stunningly beautiful here. The days are sunny with low humidity, fluffy clouds, and 70-something degree highs. You'd love it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

All Work and No Play...

makes Toby a dull boy. Well, you be the judge. This morning we rolled Toby out of bed at 7:30 to go to job sites with Daddy. This was motivated by two factors. One, Toby usually cries in the morning when I leave because he wants to go with me. Two, Tara was today heading for Jackson, Minnesota to pick up her nephew Keven. The nephew in question will be staying with us for the next two weeks. It made sense to have one less child in the car, especially the one who gets squirmy when left in a car for 2-3 hours.

So we piled in the van before 8:00 and lumbered onto the gravel road together. Toby was still a little groggy but woke up quickly. He was ready for his day.

We did a lot. We opened properties for other contractors, delivered equipment, gave estimates, and the like. Toby, for his part, got to meet Jack and Georgia, a couple of 90-year-olds who have lived in the same house for 51 years and have been married to each other for 67. They were both lucid, interesting, and interactive people, stunning for their age. We will be doing some dirt work on their property to minimize moisture coming into the basement.

Then we went to Veronica's house for roto-tilling. Her 7-year-old daughter squealed when she saw Toby: "Mom, he has a kid with him!" So Toby had a pretty easy time at that house, too. There he learned how to jump on a full-size trampoline and how to chew large gumballs from a gumball machine in the living room.

After our morning escapades, we returned to downtown to the house where Dan is painting some of the upstairs rooms (sub-contracting to me). Dan is awesome and has the ability to uphold his bragging that he can cut an interior with a 4-inch block brush. I've seen his work and I now believe it to be true, though I think he used a 3-inch sash brush instead. :-)

Skipping the end, Toby lasted without a nap for an 11-hour day of contracting. He pressure washed, he stained, he chatted with clients, he played with other people's toys, and he helped Zach carry equipment. He did just about everything I do in a day except billing. Did I mention that Toby is three?

Our nephew Keven is busy testing the boundaries in this household by telling tall tales and trying to say shocking words that will apparently make our boys impressed. So far it hasn't worked too well, thank God. Evan and Aidan are not really buying it. Already Keven has fallen into our pond, which has to be the scummiest water in Minnesota. He has also threaten Evan that he's going to steal Evan's wallet if Evan told about something that he said. Evan (he's Evan) told immediately and then stashed his wallet for safe-keeping while Keven was asleep.

Please join us in praying that God will do amazing things in our lives and in Keven's life while Keven is here with us. It's gonna be a strange two weeks.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Depressing News about my English Skilz

Your English Skills:

Grammar: 100%

Vocabulary: 80%

Punctuation: 60%

Spelling: 60%

This is troubling, to say the least. On the other hand, how many people know what "halcyon" means? I think I might have at one time.

Grandma Attacks Classical Christian Education

So business season is in full swing, and the sunshine has returned with strength and beauty. We are trying not to waste a moment as well as trying to enjoy every moment. So far it's been pretty easy.

I worked yesterday afternoon for the grandmother of a student at our school. She is a former public school teacher, media center coordinator, principal, and finally, before her retirement, superintendent of a district in this area. A loud, energetic, and articulate lady, she confided in me that it breaks her heart to see her grandson in a private school. She knows/agrees that it's a good school, and apparently helps out with tuition, but his absence from the public schools troubles her greatly. She also said that she doesn't know if she agrees with the philosophy of the school.

My sense of this woman is that she must have been an outstanding administrator. Her district built several schools during her tenure and increased its student population by 700. Obviously she was a lady who could "get the job done."

The question we need to ask, however, is, "What is the job?"

In other words, if you raise glorious funds and build grand buildings, but damage the student by the content of what you are teaching, your work is largely in vain.

Christian parents ought to have a problem with the public schools for several reasons, but here's the key one: America's public schools demonstrate on a daily basis that God is irrelevant. Teachers in public schools must teach from the perspective that any belief system might be valid, or none might be. They must teach that evolution is the best approach to understanding our origins and our basic nature. In other words, they are require to lie (either implicitly or explicitly) to our young people about who they are and for what purpose they have been placed on earth. They simply are not allowed to tell the Truth.

Is it any wonder that our government schools are full of underachievement, drug use, gangs, violence, despair, teen pregnancy shallowness, disrespect, foul language, and depression? When you tell young people that they have no purpose beyond themselves, no One who loves them, and no One Who will judge their lives and their actions, you can expect exactly what we're seeing. And worse.

I haven't said anything controversial in my personal life for a long time, or in my blog, but I am ready to say something today. I am ready to call out all the Christians who believe that two hours on Sunday morning will counteract 42 hours of humanist instruction during the week. Even if the onslaught of philosophical naturalism during these formative years doesn't wipe your child's salvation, it seriously damage her ability to love God with all her mind because the educational system will feed her untrue information that she will absorb without realizing that it is untrue. (This happens to all of us -- we mentally hold two things that are mutually exclusive -- shall we say "A" and "non-A" -- and think them both to be true at the same time.)

I think I have said my piece for today. If you want to comment in disagreement, I ask you to think about your comment for a little while and don't merely post out of emotion.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Today's Searches and Breaking News

Yeah, I know I've already blogged today. Do you wanna make somethin' of it?

Tara was going through our stat counters tonight and informing me of our statistical information. "Well, honey, yesterday I had 16 hits and you had five. And the day before that I had 20 and you had six." Well, now I feel good and valuable in this world. Sigh.

Of course the funnier part is to see what key words people were entering that sent them to my blog. In honor of Boo Mama, I'll list a few of the stranger ones.

Guinea Foul Eggs -- I don't know if that was a typo or just their opinion of guinea fowl eggs. I do have guinea hens, one less since Tara ran over one a few days ago. (**Tara here, we have no evidence that I actually ran over it.)(***Jim here, except it was found dead in the driveway with no evidence of foul play. Or is that fowl play?) We also have three adorable kittens that no one has run over yet. (Anybody want a kitten? I have light gray, gray, and black. The light gray one clings to you with death claws, so I have named him "Cockleburr".)

Scare Central Sioux City Tara -- this one weirded me out. Sioux City isn't central to anything, though Tara can be scary at times. Mostly it's not her fault. She was raised in Sioux City, you know.

Computer Illiterate = Latin Teacher -- There's nothing I can say that would make this one any funnier.

Menards Washing Machine -- Yes, I admit that I shop at Menards, frequently, but I have never bought a washing machine from them. I prefer to buy things used.

The conventional wisdom around church this morning said that Jay and Emily had four showings on their house within the first week and also have received one offer. The offer was the lowball/insulting sort, but still let me emit a barbaric yawp as appropriate here. YAWP! Lord willing, better offers will follow soon, and we will be swingin' into action within a month or so.

Tara and I watched an episode of the Red Skelton show from what must have been the 50's. It is stunning how hokey television was in its early days. The original viewers still seem to have been impressed. The real challenge of television is to unearth something worth broadcasting.

From all of us here at Tractor Antiquus, we're in touch so you be in touch. Thank you and have a good night.

Rain and Family Togetherness

It is raining again this morning. I woke up around 3:45 a.m. and realized I was hearing raindrops over the sound of the fan (Tara and I run a fan in our room because it blocks out the other noises that tend to wake someone up during the night). So I went to the open window because I enjoy rain and the experience of listening to rain is not one you can choose... you have to wait until it rains to enjoy it.

While I was listening, I heard the sound of the water sloshing over the gutter, so I went outside and cleaned the low gutter to prevent any sloppage onto the laundry room wall. This was easy and I soon returned to bed.

Avery got up early and ate three pancakes all by herself. She is a big eater for someone who doesn't even weigh twenty pounds. During breakfast, Tara and I noticed that Avery babbles conversationally at us, but doesn't really seem to mean anything by the syllables. I don't remember the boys doing that, or at least much of that. It always seemed, even if they were unintelligible, that the boys always meant something when they spoke. Evan, in particular, by the time he was Avery's age, was already fairly conversational.

I had some wonderful insights yesterday afternoon while mowing with Toby, but I cannot remember any of them now.

Speaking of yesterday, we decided to have a family day. We loaded up all the kids in the morning and headed for grandpa's house. Then we drove past a house near downtown that might be a possibility for our family. After that we arrived at one of the highlights of the day, a trip to HOM furniture, which is new in town as of this spring. Now most children I know do not relish a trip to the furniture store, but mine are different. I took Evan and Aidan to HOM furniture a few weeks ago, and they absolutely loved it. Partly, I think, it was the acres of gorgeous furniture, partly the see-through glass elevator, and partly the free chewy cookies and drinks from the soda dispenser.

So we took all four children to HOM yesterday. They had a great time again, and Tara and I got to dream about what it might be like to have new furniture. We did have new furniture once, right after we were married, but it was furniture that we bought off a truck. You know, one of those deals where the truck sets up on a vacant corner lot and you can buy a three piece set (couch, loveseat, chair) for $550.

We also went to two graduation open houses for lunch and after lunch, sandwiching in some time at Saver's and Aldi's as well. Then we came home (not HOM) and I mowed for a while in anticipation of the increasing precipitation.

Well, I've got to get ready for church. Have a good Lord's Day, y'all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Been Readin' Poetry

It is rainy and cloudy today in Minnesota... a good day to talk about poetry.

I taught English and Literature for 12 years, ending in 2007. The problem with being an English teacher is that you don't really have time to read. Yes, I hope that elicited a chuckle. However, it is a true statement, properly understood. What it means is that you don't have time to read anything that you actually want to read. You only have time to keep current with curriculum. For example, I've read A Tale of Two Cities ten times. The Giver? Thirteen times. You get the point.

My mother-in-law, Sheila, brought us several volumes of best-loved poems of the American people this spring. I ignored them for a while and finally delved in a few days ago to see what kinds of poems these were, and how does one decide if a poem is best-loved by the American people?

It turns out that the compiler was an editor of a major American newspaper, and that she received requests all the time to publish this poem or that. So she kept a tally of what was requested how often, and the winners became yes, Best Loved Poems of the American People. Sadly, I don't think too many of us contemporary folk even have best-loved poems, or any poems. Except for song lyrics, we have become a culture devoid of poetry and too little interested in anything of beauty that requires patience or skill to create.

In protest of this, I am reading poetry. I read Ella Wheeler Wilcox's "Growing Old" and several others whose names I cannot yet remember. I also recognize lines here and there that my mother used to recite at random as she did her housework. She never knew the whole poem or whole song, only enough to call it mind.

Speaking of literature, Jan Karon has a new novel out called Home to Holly Springs. Tara and I both love Jan Karon, the author of The Mitford Series which features Father Timothy Kavanagh and a host of supporting charachters. These books weave together her gentle sense of humor, small-town life, a love of writing and quoting other writers, and Father Tim's believable walk with the Lord.