Friday, April 30, 2010

The Dilemma of Keeping One's Word

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. - Matthew 9:36 (NLT)

Tomorrow is the 31st Annual Virginia Championship Chili Cook Off in downtown Roanoke.

For the past seven years, Living Water Christian Church has participated in some form.

It all started about eight years ago, when the Hatfield family was at the Cook Off and Paul said to us, "I would love for Living Water to be a part of this some year."  Way to think outside of the evangelism box, right?  So we started working on it, and became a fixture at the event back in 2003.  For the first five years, we cooked gallons of chili to be sampled by the masses.  Starting in 2005, we began providing a diaper changing station over in the Kids Fun Area where parents could find a clean changing table, free diapers, hand sanitizer and wipes - just an unexpected service to families who needed it.  A few years ago, we introduced helium balloons to the Chili Cook Off.  Well, last year, we couldn't find a chili cook able to take off Friday and Saturday from work to be able to cook the sheer volume of chili needed to be prepared for such an event (about 50 gallons).  So, we just set up the changing table service and the balloons.  Still, a great way to reach out to the community and show that we care about families (and that we're kind of fun to hang out with too).

I have come to believe very strongly in our participation in this event: we can trace three families in our church directly from the Chili Cook Off.  For the cost of the helium, balloons, T-shirts, giveaways, chili ingredients and man hours all those years, we have gained three families that we can't imagine doing life without at Living Water.  Three families who now know the love and grace of Jesus and are imparting that to their families, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  

This weekend is a busy one for Living Water.  About 10 guys are attending the Men's Retreat at Blue Ridge Christian Camp and one of my most dedicated set-up people is the point man for the retreat.  A bridal shower is being held tomorrow for one of my most dedicated balloon girls.  Her fiance's family has always been a big part of helping with the diaper changing station.

My daughter has two soccer games tomorrow, which I am going to miss because we aren't appropriately staffed for the event.  I'm faced with a huge dilemma.  Do I keep my word to Greenvale School, the organizers and beneficiaries of the Cook Off and be at the event with the two or three volunteers I can wrangle, or do I cancel the helium tank and go to my daughter's soccer games?

It's a dilemma further deepened by the knowledge that thousands of people will see our balloons, be blessed by the service to their families, and maybe consider church or Jesus for the first time.  Is God telling me he is not directing us toward this event this year, or is he wanting me to overcome the challenges that have been put in my path?  What should I do, friends?  What should I do?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Today I Will Fly! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) Today I Will Fly! by Mo Willems

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This series is finally inspiring my 7-year-old to read eagerly. The clever illustrations and witty dialogue, coupled with "I Can Read It" prose, has made the "Elephant and Piggie" series a significant game-changer for us.

View all my reviews >>

Battle of Wills with Wil

He's up in his room.  And I'm down here.  Waiting on him to be ready to complete his assignment.  He didn't do it perfectly, and he started to cry.  Who knew I had ANOTHER perfectionist kid on my hands?  Actually, I don't.  He just likes to do things well, and when he doesn't, he expresses his frustration.  At the second outburst of tears, I sent him to his bed with the instruction to come down when he was ready to finish.  

It's been a few minutes and the tears are done.  My guess?  He's totally forgotten about the whole rumpus and he's looking at a book.  Time to call him back to the table.

I've been working through On Becoming Preteen Wise: Parenting Your Child from 8-12 Years by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam.  Although Wilkin is still seven, I am beginning to see many of our challenges and disputes through a much different lens.  As we transition into the "tweens," he will be accepting a lot more responsibility for his own actions and behaviors as I prepare him for responsibility, not just obedience.

I'm off to retrieve the boy and complete our assignment.  Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart, but it is a terrific way to learn more about my son ... and myself.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


My seven-year-old son Wilkin has an imaginary friend named Stanley.
It all started with his cousin, who had an imaginary friend named Stanley.  His cousin's Stanley was a playmate when he needed one, as his sister is 11 years older and not always keen on playing Hotwheels.  Wilkin adopted his own Stanley shortly after being introduced to Josiah's Stanley, even though Elisa has always been a close friend and they play well together.  I figured Stanley was harmless, just another expression of Wilkin's desire to be just like Josiah.
However, Wilkin's Stanley has hung on over the years, and evolved over time.
Stanley began as a silent confidant and understanding friend who always shared toys and let Wilkin go first.

As Wilkin has matured and faced various challenges in schooling and in relationships, Stanley has become the friend that always lets Wilkin have his way.  When Wilkin was struggling with confidence, Stanley would forget how to play games and Wilkin would always win.  When Wilkin tried to sound out words, Stanley didn't even know what the letters were.  When Wilkin felt he couldn't do anything right, Stanley always let him take his own turns and Wilkin would always come out on top.
Yesterday, Elisa and Wilkin were playing Connect Four.  Wilkin was losing.
Wilkin challenged Stanley to a game of Connect Four.  Stanley forgot the rules.  Wilkin won.
Today, Elisa kicked Wilkin's tail in "thumb war."  
Wilkin challenged Stanley to a thumb war.  Wilkin won.  "Stanley is so weak, and I am so strong," Wilkin crowed (yes, he was using his own thumb to represent Stanley's thumb).
I long for the day when Wilkin feels confident enough to challenge and, maybe even, defeat someone his own age.  Until then, there's Stanley.  And I'm grateful for the way he keeps letting Wilkin win ... and keeps building up his budding confidence.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reading Breakthrough?

I have been trying to find a series of stories that would spark Wilkin's interest in reading.  

The Magic School Bus
Richard Scarry
Dr. Seuss
Thomas the Tank Engine

Well, he loved all of those books, but not enough to read on his own.  

Wilkin adores the Pigeon books by Mo Willems, but the writing style is more a "Read It To Me" than an "I Can Read It," if you know what I mean.  Leonardo the Terrible Monster was a huge hit at our house, but again, more of a bedtime storybook than his style of reading.

Today at the library, while Wilkin was on a learning computer, I again was in search of something to spark his interest.  I just know that once he "gets it," he will take off.  I found the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems, and I knew Wilkin would like them for three reasons: 

  1. easy words he already knows structured in easy-to-read sentences to build confidence; 
  2. hilarious but kid-friendly story lines; and
  3. very cute and funny illustrations.  
I checked out all 5 books they had available: Pigs Make Me Sneeze, I Love My New Toy!, Are You Ready to Play Outside?, Today I Will Fly!, and I Am Invited to a Party!

Wilkin started off wanting them read TO him.  Instead of arguing and saying, "you can read this yourself," I allowed Elisa to read them to him first on the way home from the library.  By the time we were almost home, Wilkin had read one book all by himself, giggling the whole way.  He earns two stickers in Inventor School for reading one book.  Today, he earned 10 stickers just for reading.

Could this be the reading breakthrough I've been praying for?  We'll see!  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Today my daughter's best friend buries her great-grandmother

In January 2009, I traveled to Idaho for the funeral of my Grandma Hardenbrook.  It was a painful but joyous time as I and my family members looked back at her life, cried a lot, and laughed even more.  Tim and the kids were unable to come with me, and I missed their presence and the lost opportunity to be present for the memories and the finality of the burial.  I especially wished my children could have participated in that.  For long-distance family relationships, my kids may go months or even a year without seeing grandparents and great-grandparents.  Elisa and Wilkin grieved when she died and know they will see her again in heaven, but there is a benefit in participating in the funeral.  When my mom's dad then passed away in June, I again traveled without my husband and kids.  I wondered what Elisa and Wilkin were missing by not being able to participate.

On Sunday, Elisa's best friend had rushed with her family to be at the side of her great-grandmother as she took her last breaths.  When I shared this with Elisa, a tender-hearted nine-year-old, tears sprang to her eyes in compassion and sorrow for her friend.  She also knew Mildred - she had been at Taylor's house a few times when Elisa visited - but Elisa's tears were for Taylor.  When I offered her the chance to travel to the funeral with me, she quickly nodded her head, unable to speak.

I know the emotions are still fresh for me, just 15 months after Grandma Hardenbrook's funeral, but I feel like this might be a very meaningful experience for my daughter as well.  As she is physically present for Taylor today, she can also experience the finality of this funeral and grieve for her own beloved great-grandma and great-grandpa.

I will feel the emotions afresh, too.  Having experienced loss oneself makes one better equipped to help those who are going through it.  My friend Marcia very wisely stated yesterday, "There's nothing like losing a parent.  All of a sudden, you're an orphan."  She had that shared experience with Gracie - Mildred's daughter and Taylor's grandmother - that I (thankfully) do not have.  Today, I will be in Clintwood, Virginia to honor Mildred for my friends Gracie and Tony and Rhyanna and Brian, and Elisa will honor her best friend's great-grandmother.