Category Archives: Family

Life is not fair

Standard

“The coach stacked the team.”

“What do you mean?”  I asked my son.  He was sitting next to me on the bottom step of the bleachers, panting and sipping water from a squeeze bottle.

“The coach picked all his favorite players and put them on the other team.”

“So, you’re saying the teams aren’t fair?”  I was stalling as I contemplated what to say or do next.  I don’t believe that parents should always rush in and fix their kids’ problems for them.  I don’t like it when parents control the outcomes in favor of their kids.

“Yeah, basically.” My son responded with disgust and discouragement.

“So what do we do when life is unfair?”  I asked him.

“Suck it up and work harder,”  He responded immediately.  I smiled at his interpretation of our family values.

“Exactly.  When the teams are unfair, you’ll have to work harder to beat the other guys.  That’s all there is to it.”  And I sent him back to his team.  I wasn’t sure what he would do with that.  But I was proud to see that for the next half of the soccer game, he really stepped it up and gave it his all.  So much so, that he took a direct hit at close range and his ankle swelled up like a golf ball.  (Hopefully it will look better in the morning after ice, elevation and ibuprofen.)

Way to go Boy!  Not only did you give the other team a run for their money that night, but you demonstrated to me that you have absorbed the family values of no whining and no complaining, work hard and make the most of what life gives you.  You’re team didn’t win, but you have a strong character and solid values.  You’re a good sport in both games and in life.  I’m proud of you, Son.

Advertisements

A Simplified Life

Standard

This week I read a blog that someone wrote about living in Africa.  Her main point was that life is simpler but more complicated at the same time.  For example, she wrote about a man riding his bike down the road loaded up with a 6 piece bedroom set.  Simple, yet way more complicated at the same time.  She said in Africa a dishwaher is a person.  Simple, yet more work.  I related to everything she wrote… except the part about the hippos growling in the river.  I felt like she could have been talking about Costa Rica.

This week I had conversations… electronic conversations… with two professional teacher friends back in the United States.  One teacher friend is teaching in a huge school.  He is one of 6 third grade teachers!  They have 1,400 students in Kindergarten to 8th grade.  I tried to wrap my brain around that.  We have 6 teachers FOR THE ENTIRE PRIMARY DEPARTMENT at our school.  We have 126 students between Kindergarten and 12th grade.  My son is one of two Seniors.  We have one lone 9th grader.

Photo credit: boltron- / Foter / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: boltron- / Foter / CC BY-NC

The other teacher I spoke with was telling me that her district is starting an new 1 to 1 iPad instruction program.  Every kid will get an iPad and the teachers will use technology to teach them.  She has 45 kids with iPads and she’s looking for ways to use the technology.  She asked if we could set up pen pals for her students.  Can you imagine giving an iPad to a Kindergartener?  How many minutes will it take for them to drop it the first time?  How many will be ruined with spilled juice or sticky fingers?  What a waste of money.

So I was talking to my kids about this in the car on the way to school.  I explained that many parents in America wish that their kids had smaller classrooms where their kids could get one on one attention from the teacher, not from an iPad educator.  Many parents wonder why schools don’t just use books to teach kids.  In our school we use a combination of two popular, high quality Christian school curriculums, all book based.  Parents are lamenting the loss of a simpler life.

Can you image a world where the largest class in the whole school is 14 kids?  That’s our school.  Can you picture what a classroom looks like with real books in the desks and on the shelves.  Do you wish your kids had one on one attention throughout the day?  It happens here.  I pointed out to my kids that they have the kind of education that many people in the United States WISH they had for their kids.  Sure they have to wear hot, scratchy uniforms every day, but they have small class sizes, personalized attention from their teachers, and real books to use.  It’s all a matter of perspective. The simple life can be the good life.

What kind of bird is this?

Standard

When we first moved to CR I sent my inquisitive, science-loving nephew Nathan several nature questions to solve.  For example, we have a particular kind of ground cover whose leaves close up when touched.  I took some video of us touching it (this is NOT my video, btw.) and sent it to Nathan with the question, “what is this?”  Nathan and his mom researched it and came back with the answer, “Mimosa or Shy Plant”.  I bought myself a plant book after that.

My next question was concerning a very noisy and social yellow bird that woke me up every morning.  He was large, yellow and black, and not afraid of people.  I took pictures and sent them to Nathan.  He decided it was a “Social Flycatcher”.  I bought myself a bird book after that.

Once I took a picture of a butterfly that looked exactly like a leaf.  And another time I snapped a picture of a clear butterfly!  We have more species of butterflies here in CR than anywhere else in the world.  We actually export butterflies… well, the cocoons really.  I’ve posted pictures of strange fruits, trees, bugs, flowers, sloths, birds, monkeys, crocodiles, and sunsets.  This country never ceases to amaze me with the wonders of God’s creation!

Here's the butterfly that looks like a leaf.  Amazing Camo!

Here’s the butterfly that looks like a leaf. Amazing Camo!

My last question involved a volcano near our city.  The volcano has a lake in the crater, as many volcanoes do.  The lake changes color from lime green, to grey, to turquoise, to redish depending on the level of heat and acid coming from the volcano vent under the surface of the water.  Scientists monitor the color of the lake and the quality of the steam.  They watch what happens to the vegetation around the crater to give them an indication of when the vapors turn toxic or more sulfuric or dangerous.  So one day in the newspaper there was an article that claimed the the lake in Volcan Irazu had “mysteriously” disappeared.  So I sent Nathan the question, “What happened to the lake?”  Turns out it really is no mystery.  It’s something that happens on occasion.  We had had a particularly dry rainy season and then a crack had developed in the edge of the volcano crater which caused the water to drain down into the volcano for a time.  After some hard rains, the lake was back again, cooling off the volcano again like a natural wet blanket.

A young Taylor looking down into the crater lake at Volcan Irazu.  The lake is actually really far down below.

A young Taylor looking down into the crater lake at Volcan Irazu. The lake is actually really far down below.

So here’s my most recent nature question.  I’m going to ask all of you readers too to see if anyone can come up with the answer.  We saw this bird up in the cloud forest of Monteverde.  I think it might be a kind of toucan, but I can’t find it in my bird book.  What kind of bird is this?  There is no prize for the right answer.  Just the intrinsic satisfaction of being right.

What kind of bird is this?

What kind of bird is this?

It takes a Village

Standard

Recently I was sitting in a serious, important meeting and someone messed up a famous quote.  They said, “It takes a village to raise an idiot.”  Even as I type that, I get the giggles because misquotes just tickle my funny bone!  (I guess that’s one reason why my husband and I get along so well.  He’s a wealth of misquoted movie lines and love them all.)  The real quote is, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  And I really think this is true.

For example, I came home from our first day of school and spent some time decompressing on Facebook.  I sat there reading posts from my Momma friends who were sending their kids off to their first day of school.  They posted pictures of their precious off spring in clean uniforms and new backpacks.  They made a variety of comments about their emotions ranging from proud to sobbing to stunned disbelief that their child could be this old.

It all made me ponder how much work happens on both sides of the school room door to prepare a kid for this first day of school.  Parents have spent weeks stocking up on school supplies, labeling crayon boxes and lunch boxes, wrapping up summer plans with a final day at the State Fair, switching out summer closets for fall wardrobes, visiting school open houses and meeting teachers, etc.  All to prepare their child for their first day of school.

On the other side of the door, teachers have been hard at work for weeks already!  They have been working on lesson plans, browsing Teachers-Pay-Teachers and Scholastic.com for ideas, decorating their rooms, labeling desks and lockers with cute owl name cards, twisting their brains around impossible schedules to make sure they fit in all the required curriculum, taking work home with them over the weekends, etc.  All to prepare to receive your child in their classroom.

Parents naturally think of praying for their kids.  But add in an extra prayer for their teachers too.  They have already been hard at work for your kids.  They are investing their lives in your children.  Ask God to make it a worthy investment.  Especially if your child’s teacher in not a Believer, pray for your teachers.  Ask God to show you how to bless your child’s teacher.  Shine God’s light into their lives in exchange for the hours and hours that he or she will be pouring into your child’s life.

And BTW, I’m still not really blogging.  I’m still taking a break… OK, I’m really just saying this for me at this point.  No one really believes me anymore.

Mothers’ Day

Standard

Today is Mothers’ Day in Costa Rica.  Since we have lived in the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica, I think I should get three Mothers’ Days a year.  There are two times of the year when it’s best to make big purchases in Costa Rica.  One is Mothers’ Day and the other is Black Friday… which is neither on a Friday nor are sale prices to be expected, but sometimes you get lucky.  (That idea still catching on down here.)  But Mothers’ Day is the day to make big purchases here.

Though I’m not expecting a car or a refrigerator or even a blender, I would like a coffee date with my husband or maybe, as my 6-year-old says, “a pack of flowers”.  The fresh-cut flowers are one of my favorite things about Costa Rica.  They are cheap and exotic, beautiful and fresh.  Sometimes I buy myself flowers just for the sheer pleasure of having beautiful things in my house.  Nothing makes me “mushy” like getting a bunch of flowers for no reason at all.  I just love that!

So today on Mothers’ Day I will feel sorry for all of you Mothers back in the States who only get one Mothers’ Day per year and who just get ordinary roses or carnations which your husbands pay outrageous prices for.  I will gaze lovingly at my “pack” of lilies, bird-of-paradise, daisies and hibiscus and think about how lucky I am to get three Mothers’ Days per year.

“I will not die an unlived life”

Standard
Photo credit: aguscr / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: aguscr / Foter / CC BY

A friend of mine used this quote last week and when I asked for the source, she sent me the link to this beautiful blog.  This is exactly how I feel about my life… plus I do it all with a latte in my hand and I don’t see any point in going for skim milk.

“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.” —Dawna Markova

My Mother-in-law is from a generation where people lived with plastic over their furniture and lamp shades.  She never takes the plastic off of things.  She says she’s saving things, but I don’t know who she is always saving things for.  There has never been a special guest in the house who has merited the removal of the plastic from the lamp shades and table tops.  Never.  So when she dies and the house is inherited by her children, they will find all the furnishings unused and brand spanking new… from the 1980s.

I can’t live like that.  I like to put pictures of my own loved ones in my picture frames instead of keeping the picts of the department store model families that come with the frames.  We actually asked her about this once.  She jokingly told us that these people were better looking than all of us, so that’s why she never changes the picture when she buys a new frame.  Really I think she is secretly planning to return the frame to the store someday.  But I can’t live like my house is a store.  I want my life to feel “lived in”.

I try to live life by fully focusing on the beauty of the moment.  I don’t always succeed in this since I’m naturally future focused and like things well planned ahead of time.  However, this is my goal- live and love this moment.  Whether good or bad, stressful or relaxing, I reject guilt and fear which rob me of my joy and thankfulness.  I find God in the moment.  He’s in the past and future too, but I am only in this moment so I can only connect with Him right now.  This living in the moment is so hard for me sometimes, but it’s always good for me.  It’s worth doing something that is good and hard when you get the kind of joy that I find in this challenge.  I live fully in the now.  I will not die an unlived life.

Violated!

Standard
Photo credit: just.Luc / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: just.Luc / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

It is a horrible feeling to know that someone has been in your house, looking at your pictures, touching your things… robbing you.  I count that our house has been broken into 3 times, our car has been stolen twice, and less importantly, our garage has been broken into and our bikes and tools all stolen.  And only one of those home invasions happened overseas.

I am fully convinced that God knows our fears even better than we do.  I believe that He was preparing us for life overseas by forcing us to face our fears in our own beloved Minnesota.  We don’t live in Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.  But sometimes when we are overseas we tend to romanticize “home”.  We think, “This never would have happened to me if I had stayed in Minnesota!”

But that’s just not true.  Houses get robbed in Minnesota too.  Cars get stolen in middle class neighborhoods in First World Countries.  If someone wants to get into your house badly enough, no amount of locks and security systems will stop them.  They could drive a car through the wall of your living room if they wanted to.  Bad things happen in America too.

So I think the Lord knew that by facing my fears while we were still living in America, it would have the effect of releasing me from those fears.  It’s like facing your fear of heights by going rock climbing or facing your fear of public speaking by giving a toast at a wedding.  Once you see that your fear was survivable, well then it has lost its grip on your mind.

It took a long time after each violation for my peace to return to me, but eventually it did.  At the moment of our last break-in, in Mexico, my husband and I held each other and cried.  As I cried, I prayed out loud and thanked God that we were safe, that our children were at school today, that not much was stolen.  I repeated the scripture verse from Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”  And I felt like we passed a test.  Deep in my heart I felt the approval of the Lord.  I sensed that we would not have to face this test again.

When we picked up our kids from school, we worried about their reactions when we told them that the house was broken into while we were away that morning.  They only asked if all their toys were still there.  They were not the least bit concerned otherwise.  I marveled at how the Lord had given them a resiliency that I didn’t even think to ask for.  I thanked the Lord for giving us peace once again.

Birthday Girl

Standard

Emma and her friends

This is my Emma (in black) and her friends.  Today she turns 12.  She is the reason I never went back to home schooling after language school.  She is such a social butterfly that it would kill her to stay home day after day.  She absolutely loves school, everything about it.  The Lord has given Emma a large circle of missionary friends here in CR.

Right around this age girls normally divide into two camps, the little girls and the big girls.  The little girls still play with their dolls, still draw and write, still say they love their teachers.  The big girls are moving more towards the teen years.  They bop around with ear buds plugging music into their heads.  They stare vacantly at their texting device of choice.  And they spend longer and longer amounts of time preening in the mirror before they go anywhere.

Maybe because she’s a middle child, Emma is successfully straddling both worlds.  She’s making her metamorphosis gradually, and I’m happy about that.  (I’m not ready to pack up the dolls yet.)  She had a “Cup Cake Wars” themed birthday party.  At the party, we gave her make up for the first time.  All the girls ran screaming and squealing up stairs to give each other make overs.  They came back down all sparkly and jazzed up, ready to curl up with their pillow pets and watch “Little Women”.

Happy Birthday to my Emma Daisy, my very own American Girl Dolly.  I hope you love your new iPod.  ❤

“Finding Nemo” and Faith

Standard

I looked high and low for a youtube clip of this scene from the Pixar movie, Finding Nemo, but I couldn’t find it.  Do you remember the scene where Marlin (Nemo’s over protective father) and Dori (the little blue fish with no short term memory) are trapped inside the whale because Dori thought she could speak whale and tried to ask for directions?  In this scene, Marlin is throwing himself against the baleen of the whale trying to escape to continue his search for his lost son.  In discouragement he sinks to the bottom of the whale’s mouth and gives up.

He says,  “I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.”

Dori pauses and comments, “Well, that’s a funny thing to promise someone.”

“What?” Marlin looks up in a bit of surprise.

Dori continues, “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him.  Not much fun for little Harpo.”

I’ve thought about that often.  A good parent doesn’t over protect.  For the good of the child, parents need to let their children have experiences in life.  Age appropriate experiences can provide wonderful teaching moments.  Difficult experience can provide opportunities for growth and for trying new things.  Risky experiences can build courage and faith when handled properly.  You can’t prevent things from happening just for the sake of protecting a child from what MIGHT happen.

My Lucy with Nemo in Disney World.

My Lucy with Nemo in Disney World.

God does the same with us.  If he wanted to, he could place us in a perfect little environment with a protective dome over us.  We could live in a celestial terrarium where nothing would ever happen to us that was outside of our control.  But what fun would that be?  We would never need to learn to trust if there was never any risk.  We would never explore our limitations if we never faced challenges that pushed us to our edges.  We would be bored silly with how safe and ordinary and self centered our lives would be if God never allowed ANYTHING to happen to us.

Maybe that’s why we encourage people to “get out of their bubble” and have an adventure or go on a missions trip or try something scary for God.  You can’t stay at home forever.  Get out there and see what can happen when you let something happen.  Don’t be scared of the possibility of something bad happening.  You should be more afraid of nothing ever happening to you.  Take a chance!  Don’t fear the what-ifs.  Turn them into why-nots?

Kennedy Space Center with our family.

Kennedy Space Center with our family.

Love to the End

Standard

I often speak of the friends that the Lord has put into our lives who love us unreasonably.  You know, those friends who have no reason to open their hearts to you, but they do.  They take a chance and reach out.  Those are the friends through whom I most feel the love of the Lord radiating towards me.  When that dear friend hugs me, I feel like God is taking me in His arms and smiling down into my upturned, little girl face.  Those are the friends that “stick closer than a brother”. 

Recently one of my Facebook friends posted this beautiful photo of her step mother and her aunt reconnecting at a funeral.  The story she posted with the picture brought tears to my eyes.  I wanted to share it here to show you how far love can take you.

Two hearts still connected after so long.

Two hearts still connected after so long.

This is a picture of my mom & my sweet Auntie Bernice yesterday at the funeral of my dear Aunt Hazel. They may look like two ordinary, older women but there is so much more to the story. I will cherish this picture because it reminds me of the long time & unlikely love these two women have shared.

Aunt Bernice is my first mother’s (Bernadine) sister.   My mother Bernadine died at the age of 29 leaving my father Dale a widower with 4 young children under the age of 7.  Aunt Bernice was so close to Bernadine.  They were born 20 years apart…to the day!  She being the oldest  and my mother being the youngest of 9 children.  What a sorrow she felt at the loss of her dear young sister!

Then my father starting “courting” my 2nd mother, Barbara the same year.  Many family members were not happy (that had to be so hard).  But dear Auntie Bernice, with so much love in her heart, just opened her arms to Barbara.  She insisted that she stay with her when Barbara came to visit us that first time.  When Barb and Dale married that following July, 1965, sweet Auntie Bernice LOVED my NEW mother just like she was one of her sisters.

Over the years Aunt Bernice has made sure to pass on all the memories of our first mother, her sister, on to Barbara.  So now our second mother had those to share with us (dad forgot so much!). Aunt Bernice loved on us so deeply over the years, even moving to be within a block from us so she could help.  What a wonderful link she has been to our first mother’s family.

Now they are nearing the next part of their journey.  Mom is 82 and Aunt Bernice is 98.  So yesterday at the funeral of Bernice’s other sister Hazel, I wheeled my sweet mother close to my dear 98 year old aunt and they spoke, quietly heads bowed.  We all stood in such awe.  Later when I asked my mom what Aunt Bernice said, she told me, “She said that she loved me from the first moment she saw me.” I am in awe of that kind of love.  It only comes from the Father.

Thank you Mari for sharing the story of your step mother and your aunt who loved her like a sister.  It isn’t just because I too knew Barb and Dale and loved them both that the tears swelled in my eyes.  This is such a beautiful story of the love of God shining through us and it’s power to heal and hold.  Because Bernice accepted Barbara who replaced her own lost sister, the children were blesses as well.  Her love brought wholeness where there was brokenness.  That’s what Jesus does.