Not Just a Tag Along

Five Reasons Why You Should Go On Your Child's Field Trips.

Well, I am pretty sure I just rode along on my last high school field trip.  I am a year away from my 16th, and final, consecutive year of high school.  I know, I know, don’t think about that statement for too long.  Anyway, I recently was invited (along with other parents) to tag along on a field trip with my son’s Teen Leadership Class to the District Courthouse here in Houston.  I had made the same trip with my older son last year and found it very interesting.  I wondered if I would even get a chance this year.  Knowing my younger son, I thought maybe he would try and let the date sneak by so his mother couldn’t go, but alas, I outsmarted him and warned him early that I really wanted to go and not to let me miss the sign up.

This Teen Leadership class is a wonderful opportunity for the students at our school.  It is the brainchild of Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Entrepreneur Flip Flippen.  The class focuses on developing future leaders through speech, peer reviews, interviews, and case studies.  Formerly it was an elective, but now it can also be used for a speech credit.  Our teacher, a former corporate accountant,  is interesting, engaging and strict with deadlines.  The students quickly learn that she means business and most rise to the standards she sets for them.

While at the District courthouse the students learn about a variety of careers while also getting a quick tutorial in our judicial system.  They are required to wear business dress, act like young adults, be inquisitive and good listeners.  I think most students also leave realizing they do not want to be in the courthouse as a defendant.

In the back of my mind, I was running through my field trip memories.  I counted up and I believe my first field trip was probably in my oldest daughter’s kindergarten class.  If this is correct, my field trip sponsor tenure has lasted 24 years.  While I certainly didn’t get to go on every trip, (nor would I have done this to my children), with four kids I have racked up a whole list of trips.  I got to thinking about what I have learned from all these trips and I tried to compress them into a short list which I hope gives you five reasons why you should be taking a few field trips when you get the chance.

1.Your child’s friends and classmates will forever remember you.  They will call out your name the next time they see you.  They will wave at you in the school.  They will speak to you when you least expect it.  Why?  Because despite popular beliefs, kids really want relationships with adults.  In fact, most children are craving adult interaction.

Research has shown that the number one thing teens want is positive interaction with their parents.  Sadly, many check out during their child’s teen years.  They think since their children have become more self sufficient, it is a time for renewed career involvement while many just struggle to know how to engage their child during these years.  Try going on a field trip with them!  Warning here though, mom and dad…take their advice on what to wear, and just try to be seen but not heard much.    I cherish the relationships I have forged with children over the years through these trips and I am thankful I could be with my own children on these trips, even if it meant I was in more of an observer role.

2. You will learn about the dynamics of your child’s class.  This can be really helpful in understanding your own child better and what his day looks like.  I recall a year where one of our children was really struggling.  There were several potential causes for this and we were trying to figure out which one was the culprit and eliminate it.  Then we offered to be sponsors on a museum field trip.  It was a light bulb moment!  Our suspicions were confirmed that the teacher did not have control of the class.  She offered to take over “watching” two of the four children assigned to us, and then left them in the gift shop!  I had to use the loud voice I was blessed with to round up these third graders in the museum because apparently she lost her “teacher voice” years before, or at  least, her authority.  We also have had the opposite experiences, where our respect for the teachers and their classmates grew.  If you try and be a helpful, unobtrusive sponsor, it can really strengthen your relationship with the teachers, which brings me to my next point…

3. You will have a new appreciation for junior high teachers.  I remember riding fairly far back in the bus on a junior high band field trip.  Wow!  After an hour on the bus with these pre-pubescent and pubescent children I was so grateful for the educators who spend day after day with these lovely, precious, difficult children.  Just go home, pay your taxes or school tuition and be thankful it is not you, unless it is you, then we fall down and thank you deeply for helping us all through this stage of life.

4. You may find out you are in better shape than you thought.  I know, this is a weird one.  In first grade both of my sons went on this amazing trip to a state park where the Native Americans had lived and camped.  It did require some hiking up some fairly tall hills on semi-rocky soil.  I remember the teachers preparing us for this so we were physically ready and dressed appropriately.  The way one of them elaborated…I was beginning to wonder if this was a trip for me.

It just so happened that a former NBA player had a child in one of my son’s class.  It was his turn to accompany his daughter on the field trip.  While I had questioned my strength for this hike, I soon learned that the physically fit NBA player would be the one complaining. Unfortunately, he suffered with back issues, which surgery did not help, and as he was coming up the hill behind me I overheard him tell another parent, that his knee didn’t like the climb ever since “Barkley (Charles) fell on it in practice.”  Here I thought as one of the older mothers (of four)  I was not in very great shape, as it turns out, motherhood isn’t the only thing hard on parents.  You can do this mom.

5. You may learn something new.   Over the years I have learned how crystals are formed, how and where the Native Americans lived before we moved them, and have seen a real sod home which made me realize how rough our pioneering relatives had it.  I learned about responsibilities of the US Marshals, bat colonies living in caves, and just how strong zoo glass is when a lion charged our kindergarteners.  This lion was at the same zoo I went to on a field trip when I was a 6th grader.  I know as an adult, I saw the zoo in a whole different light than I did as a 6th grader.  This is why I needed to go.  I still had much to learn.

As I close this post I just got a text message from senior son, it reads:

“One more field trip on April 27th.”

Maybe I am not finished after all!

Have you been a sponsor on a field trip? Share with us what you have learned, we would love to hear your insights!

“All the Pretty Things”

Choosing to let fire refine you, rather than consume you

I recently finished Edie Wadsworth’s new book “All the Pretty Things” as a part of her launch team.  While I had hoped to be feeding you snippets along the way via social media to entice you to be ready to order this book, it turns out that Amazon released it early and now you don’t have to wait to order your copy.  Wait!  Read on my friends so you will know why you need to order this

I have followed Edie’s blog Life{in}Grace off and on for years, first finding her through a Pinterest picture, I think.  She has an eye for design that is fascinating to me, even if it isn’t my own personal style.  She has amazing soup recipes and a desire to promote homemaking following a career as a physician.  I have to admit that I have not read all of her posts through the years, and while I knew there had a been house fire, I never knew how much fire was a part of her entire life.

 “That afternoon fell into a dark Appalachian night–the kind of night that carried with it a strange sort of loneliness that mountain people knew all too well.  Alone with the night.  Alone with the poverty. Alone with a low-grade hunger that was impossible to fill.”                                                                                              –Edie Wadsworth

Edie has been in the fire and emerged from it, smoky but with a smoke that isn’t awful like burning weeds but rather a pleasant one like what I smell when my husband is smoking a brisket.  She has the “aroma of Christ” from her battles with living in the fire, choosing her own “fires” and walking away from others.  Her smoky smell leaves me with a hunger not unlike the brisket smoke, only this hunger is to be more like my Savior.  A hunger to be more compassionate and understanding and to continue to look for ways to care for the innocent children in this world who have broken families, and these days, who doesn’t have some form of broken family?

Edie’s book begins when she is just a youngster growing up in Appalachia in Eastern Tenneessee.  It ends with her current station in life.  The story takes on a journey of heartache, neglect, love, family, abuse, redemption, perfection, failure, and grace.  It gives us a view of an extended, dysfunctional family from the eyes of a young girl whose heart cannot do anything more but love them despite their failings.  It also gives us a view into the heart and mind of a child victim and what both motivates and sabotages them throughout their life.

13895169_10206993784222328_7146079867776200123_nHaving just finished three years being “mom” to two teenage boys who have similar stories, (only theirs involves water not fire), my prayer was for forgiveness for when I didn’t understand and failed to give them the appropriate response or help to meet their deep needs.  I don’t think being given the opportunity to be on the launch team was accidental.

I finished the book this weekend.  The same weekend as the younger “son” left for college.  He had left our home earlier this summer due to his choices, and while we have no longer been helping with his daily care, we still have had an active part in his transition to independence.  This weekend his “village” of church family who have helped him for years moved him away to another city where he will try and be the first in his immediate family to finish college.  While we have be more than frustrated this past year by his repeated “forgetting” and failures to achieve benchmarks, I read Edie’s book and realize that many of his issues have to be tied to the “demons” in his mind.  All the negativity, all the heartaches, all the abuse, all the hungry nights, all the water trying to drown out his dreams.

What I also was reminded is, that no matter how great your childhood was, as children of God, we all do things we know God does not like, and then we do them again, and then we do them again.  We are human.  HE is perfect.  13920422_10206993787022398_8072257265791258696_oWe don’t have to be, we just need to keep reaching out to him, seeking him, striving to help the children he has placed in our paths, no matter their age.  Read the book, then read your favorite passages of redemption, grace and hope (if you don’t have any Edie does) and then praise your Father through prayer and afterwards through your life.

“May the Friend of sinners, the Father to the Fatherless, the Fourth Man in the fire, and the Finder of lost sons and daughters be our constant joy and peace.  He who became one of us to experience the depth of our struggle is right there in the dirty midst of it all–making all things new and raising what’s dead to new life.”                           –Edie Wadsworth

It is raining here, again.  I think I will go make some soup.  If you read the book, let us all know what you thought of it.

Yikes! It’s Back to School Time

Some of our favorite school things

Today I realized school is on the horizon.  Not because of the usual signs.  One son is working all day and the other one comes and goes to work and various other activities  so the “end of summer” sibling fighting is, thankfully, not happening.  What did make me wake up to reality, was the fact the boys could get their parking permits for school today.  I know many of you are a long way off from high school, but these are the kind of details that come up when you get to this level.  At our school it involves a couple of forms, copies of their licenses and insurance, and of course, cash.  Oh, and their preference for where to park, west lot or parking garage.  Yes, I said parking garage.  I don’t know this for a fact, but I am pretty sure we might be the only public high school with a parking garage.  Anyway, that was our school task for today.

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After all these years of school children, our “back to school” shopping sprees are slowing down.  Now I usually purchase some of our favorite supplies ahead of time, and then (unfortunately) go with the mob to the local office supply store on the first night of school picking up all the things the teachers requested on their syllabi.  When you are in high school, you don’t get those nice little lists in advance.   After 23 consecutive years of sending children to school, 14 of those with high schoolers, I am getting fairly good at knowing what to have on hand.  On Friday I had to pick up a baby shower gift and since it was “tax free” weekend for school supplies, I stocked up on a few things.  I realized that with four, and sometimes six kids, we have had a bundle of back to school experiences.  Today I am listing some of our favorite supplies and systems.  It isn’t earth shattering or anything, just our favorites.

Road tripping

Observations from a cross country trip

I grew up taking long road trips.  It was pre-seatbelt laws so I was all over the backseat.  It was pre-video days so we played all sorts of travel games.  It was pre-cell phone days so we had to pre plan it all and stick to it, or miss a reservation or be late to a family member’s home.  It was pre-GPS days so we had to read maps.  At least my mom and brother were always reading the map.  My map skills are lacking but my mom knows every highway and my brother drives over 100,000 miles a years so I just use GPS and we’re all good.

A week ago we set out to drive from Houston to St. Paul, Minnesota to see our eldest daughter and her husband and help them move into their first home.  We stopped at my parents in Kansas on the way and even were able to make a quick stop to see Robert’s brother too.  Did I mention all of our family went?  Yes, that was six adults (or four adults and two pseudo adults) and one dog with bad breath.  Our new son in law was smart and had to fly home for work on Friday.  Here are some observations I made along the way.

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Faith in the Future

Fostering is not for the faithless

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and think of something you want to write down but you hesitate to get up and do it?  You think, “no I should lay quiet and not turn on lights and maybe I will go back to sleep.”  “I can write this in the morning, I really need my rest.”  I do this a bunch and I did it on Saturday morning and as usual I should I have got up and wrote down my thoughts because I have not been able to compose them since.  So today you get my rambled thoughts about what has been on my heart and mind.

A long time ago, I worked on a bus ministry where we would pick up children, mostly from lower income homes, and take them to Bible class.  We would sing and teach them the whole time they were on the bus.  It was often hard to see if you were making any difference in their lives.  It was not glamorous, it often involved hugging dirty children in their unkempt homes.  The highlights were when they remembered what you had taught them and of course, their smiles and cute personalities.  Whenever I was discouraged or tired of spending my spare time working on lessons, my mom would always say, “We may never know what difference we made, but if one child grows up to remember that Jesus loves them, it will all be worth it.”

This is what I have been trying to remember for three years.  For the past three years we have had two extra children in our family.  Two teens from a different race, whose mother told them to move out.  She told the older one when he turned 18 that he was a man and needed to move out; despite he was a junior in high school.  Then she told him to take his sixteen year old brother with him.  This is where we entered.  We took them in.  We knew them through our youth group, but we didn’t really know them.  Not the learning disabilities, not the terrible grades, the problems with the coaches, not the undiagnosed medical condition, nor the weak ACL waiting to tear, nor the inability to process audible instruction, nor the ongoing crises of their mother and younger siblings, but we took them in anyway.  We did it on faith.  Faith, that God was the one who was calling in our hearts to do it.  Faith, that God was the one who owned our home and our cars and everything else so we should share them.  Faith that if God was asking us to do this, that he would have give us what we needed to do it.  In a sense, it was blind faith.  We were blind to all the struggles that lay ahead, but we were not blind to the faithfulness of our God.

Two years ago the eldest boy graduated and went on to Job Corps where he learned two trades.  He is totally on his own now.  He has an apartment, a good job and had a car, until he wrecked it.  He has learned so much and while he has a long way to go, he is totally changing his family tree from a life of government assistance and poverty to one of financial independence and self reliance.

Yesterday, the younger brother graduated from high school.  He has employment and plans to continue his education at a community college.  He has moved out to live with friends.  He would have preferred to stay longer, but he also preferred to do things his way so we decided it was time for him to launch.  He purchased his car from us with money he saved by working this year.  He has learned that working makes you feel good about yourself and that it is important to do your job well so that the business will do well.   There are many things he does not seem to have figured out, but he will get there.  Some people have to learn by making some mistakes themselves.  I think we all have an area of our life where that is the case.

So lately, it has been hard to see what we accomplished.  There have been many “hit my head against the wall” kind of days.  I know we have made a difference, but only time will show how much we did.

Yesterday we told the younger one that if he remembers nothing else from us, that we hoped he learned that Jesus loves him, he died for him and that he will forgive him when he messes up.  A few days before, his big brother told me, “Even though I only lived with you full time for a year, I learned what a Christian family is and looks like.”  “YES!”  I thought.  “He got it!”

So maybe we won’t have to wait so long to know, but even if we don’t know here, I have faith we will on the other side.

If you are fostering right now, hang in there.  Don’t give up.  Have faith.

Happy Memorial Day

A couple of things to ponder

On this Memorial Day, I know most of you will not be reading a blog post so I am going to keep it short.  I first just want to remind you that while this is a great time to relax and connect with family and friends or maybe tackle a household chore, we could not enjoy any of this if not for the sacrifices of generations of men and women who paid with their lives for our freedom.  We would also not enjoy this if not for the grace of our Lord, who has blessed America with these freedoms.  I pray today that we will not take these freedoms for granted and will do everything on our part to preserve them.

So for today I have two short things to encourage you with:  one to read, one to listen to.

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“Once I was seven years old”

A Guest Post from Natalie Heyen Stafford

A few weeks ago my daughter Natalie told me she had a blog post idea.  Once she told me what it was, I asked her to write it for me as I felt it would have more impact in her voice.  So here it is.  Thanks Natalie.

At the age of seven, my childhood best friend, Brady McNickle, tragically died in an ATV accident. Our friendship began at birth, thanks to our parents’ pre-existing friendship.

As a seven year old, I think I was aware of many things, but maybe that is just hindsight bias.  It was June 17, 2000. I was out on a combine in a wheat field, I think with Mom. Dad was coming to switch spots with Mom, but he stayed in the truck. Mom tells me that this puzzled her, so eventually we got out of the combine and walked to him. She says she immediately new something was wrong by the look on his face, and fell to her knees when he told he what had happened. We packed up and headed for Stafford, Kansas. We lived in Dodge City at the time. I remember telling Grammy that I had packed very well for the trip. I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.

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How Does a Mom “Get Away” without Getting Away?

5 Quick Escape Ideas

A few weekends ago my hero husband took six children on a Father/Child Fishing Day at our friend’s ranch.  There were many other dads and kids there that day from our church, and my husband ended up with six because he took our three teenagers, one son’s girlfriend, and our two nephews.  He is a great guy.  This left me free to do whatever I wanted.  I resisted the urge to do all the things I needed to do and purposefully worked on doing what I wanted to do.  Looking ahead at the calendar I knew that the opportunity to have my own agenda for a day was not going to be on the calendar again for some time,so I took it.

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Mothers Who Raise Children from Another Mother

A Mother's Day Salute

If you knew then what you know now, would you still have done it?   A church friend posed this to me about a year ago.  She was referring to our experience in taking in two homeless boys in the summer of 2013.  I cannot recall now what was going on at the time with one or both of them, (or maybe their mom and siblings) but I am sure we were dealing with one of many “mini crises”.  My response? Well, you have to read to the end of this post to find out.  This is a Mother’s Day Salute to those mothers out there who are raising someone else’s baby, and no, this is not a tribute to myself, it is a tribute to my mom.

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College Dreams and other Fallacies

The confusing images of college in America

We have a mess in this country.  Actually, we have several messes but the one I want to talk about today is the distorted view we have of higher education.  As a country we have perpetuated the idea through our comments, our expectations, our posts, and our media that college is a rite of passage for everyone in this country, and a right of everyone in this country.  We have made it look like all fun and games where you spend your parent’s money, your own future through loans, (not to mention, the grant and scholarship money of hardworking individuals) so you can have a good time and maybe complete a degree in something that will possibly bring you employment.  If you choose a degree plan solely based on feelings, or what is popular with your friends and not on market needs, you may not even be employable.  The truth is college is expensive, hard work, a huge time commitment and a liberal arts education is not for everyone, therefore it should not be a guaranteed right.

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