Category Archives: Awesome Children

The Best Lunch

As an aside, I sure do love writing challenges. I discovered the last Daily Post writing challenge a little late in the week, but still enjoyed the creative spark it provided. This week’s challenge seems quite simple: jot down some lunchtime observations. Maybe there will be more of these, but today’s ‘lunch’ was special for me.

It’s 2 PM, or 3, or so.
I’ve lost track, don’t really know.

Teenage Daughter’s at her friend’s house
Watching YouTube videos.

Wifey has a meeting over lunch
And the boys, they begged to go.

That leaves me and Three-Year-Old
Napping in Wifey’s recliner.

Cuddled up, side by side,
I’m sure no lunch was ever finer.

And though no food did I prepare,
I’ve rarely felt so satisfied
Than after this day’s lunchtime fare.


Sky Castles and Peaceful Siblings

My 13 year old son sometimes worries me.

He’s playing Minecraft, which is essentially a giant Lego set on the computer or XBox.

He has built a sky castle hovering above the clouds, with elaborate towers, a church (with a stained-glass window), and a glowstone cross in the distance.

Then he set up an array of iron golems “prepped for war” like Qin Shi Huang’s stone warriors in ancient China. By making a T of iron blocks and placing a pumpkin atop it, you get a moving iron golem to defend you against monsters.

About three months ago, he came home with his little brother (who is 8), and they were raving about playing Minecraft at their friends’ house.

“Can we get it? Can we get it? It’s $20.”

“You mean you were actually playing with your little brother for the last two hours instead of fighting with him?”

“Yeah. It was fun.”

Creativity plus peace in the home?

“Sold. Let me download that right now.”

Taking Root

Thinking of my kids as we move, and the advice I’d rather not give them but I know applies:

Push those roots down
But not too deep
Widespread roots come up easy
Ripping away some clods of dirt
Leaving a scar on the surface
Which quickly covers over
With new grass

Deep roots don’t come up
Without violent force
Strong hands grasping,
Crushing, straining
Until everything breaks free
Deep roots leave a hole
And a damaged plant

Found a new place for you
A familiar spot to settle in
The ground is soft and moist
The air warm and damp
You’ll grow well here
So push those roots down
But not too deep.

What's in a Name?

Last night over dinner, I spent some time teaching my 3-year-old son how to headbang.

Ok, it wasn’t a good mosh-pit style thrashing. He bobbed his head to the music more forcefully than he usually does. And he started singing with me, trying to sound out the words a couple beats after I sang them.

His name means “praise,” and he has been actively interested in music as long as he’s been expressing a personality. The Wifey and I chatted about how interesting it is that he reflects his name, or that his name reflects his personality. Sort of a chicken-or-egg thing. We’re not sure which it is.

We’ve always been very selective about our names for our children. Each time, we discussed and weighed options until we knew we had the name that was exactly right.

The Wifey knew for certain what she wanted to name our firstborn before she even met me. She had a promise from God that she would one day have a daughter with a particular biblical name. When everyone else was positive our first was going to be a boy, Wifey held on to that promise (and a couple other indicators) and knew it would be a girl.

Now 14 years old, our daughter sometimes acts a lot like a boy, so maybe that threw everyone off.

Her name means “bee,” and she’s our social butterfly, flitting from one group of people to the next. Living in the military means making new friends and moving away from others, and our kids have had to adapt to that. But the Bee is the one who always comes home with a list of unfamiliar names and relationships – “Oh, Jonny is the brother of Alicia, she’s the sister of Amara, the one I was hanging out with when I met Charlie, the kid across the street that knows Thomas, Matthew’s friend that Jonathan met yesterday at the park when Hailey came out.” All of it stated matter-of-fact, like duh, why don’t you guys know all this yet?

Our 12 year old son has two middle names, one which means “watchman” and one which comes from a biblical reference for a tribe of Israel who paid attention to things going on around them and thus knew what God’s people ought to do. And sure enough, he is our details-oriented, wide-eyed, “how does it work?” little scientist. He’s into studying rocks and electronics. He watches all the educational shows on NetFlix to figure things out (Man vs Wild is a current fave, and he has built his own survival kit). He builds makeshift machines with the spare parts he collects from disassembling devices.

He took apart his grandparents’ VCR when he was 1. We were there around Christmas, and he was crawling around just doing his baby thing while we visited and chatted. Then we looked up and realized he had VCR parts in his hand, and the front of the VCR was off. He also did this at my parents’ house too, except this time it was unscrewing a wall fixture with… we still don’t know how he did it.

I guess he watches for when we’re not watching, too!

Then there’s our “middle” boy, 8 years old, whose name means “Justice.” Like most middles, he is keenly attuned to any sense of unfairness. If someone gets something, then everyone better, or else we’ll hear about it. He even enforces this standard when it’s to his own detriment, because he’s so passionate about fairness. I’m sure we tried to teach him equity, fairness, and so on. But we never made it a bigger deal than everything else. That’s just how his personality has turned out.

My name, too, has been particularly appropriate. King David was the psalmist of Israel, and more Psalms are written by him than any other. I took eight years of piano lessons, but what I learned most through all of that is how to let the piano “speak” for me, how to sit and pour emotion and feeling out through the keys. My mother would relax in her recliner and listen to me play for hours. She told me more than once how appropriate my name was, and how much she hoped that I would use music to bless others and minister for God just as King David had.

So what’s in a name? What power does a name have over the thing it represents, if any?

My wife posed this question yesterday as we talked. “Do you think God helped us choose names that would fit their personalities? Or do you think God met us in the names we chose, and their personalities developed to fit what we spoke over them?”

I’m not sure. Of course, maybe it’s all coincidence, and it just worked out that way.

Do you know of a particularly appropriate name? Have you seen how names reflect personalities, or vice versa? I’d love to hear about it in a comment.

Happy Bird Day

I call this blog Literary Karaoke because I realized that my writing – like many other things I do – is good enough for people to enjoy it for free, but not necessarily good enough to make a living.

I play piano really well, but I fall into that same category. And I also draw a decent picture… decent enough that people like my artwork, but not so much that I can hang up my military hat and draw a paycheck. (See what I did there?)

Let’s add another thing to the list: Cakes!

Good enough for the price I paid.
Good enough for the price I paid.

Good enough to please our 8 year old birthday boy… and that’s what counts.

He’s the middle child. Technically he’s one of two middle children, but our oldest boy (12 now) and teenage daughter (14 last week) are usually teamed up. So the Angry Bird lover is the one who most often gets excluded, and exhibits the “middle child” symptoms the most.

We aimed to make today special – he got to have one of his friends over for cake, ice cream, and a movie. He got a present from a friend of our oldest boy. He opened gifts from his grandparents, and I surprised him with a Lego set my wife and I had hidden away.

We ate a cheap decoy cake while the cake I made was cooling in the fridge.

But then his friend gets a knock on the door in the middle of the movie. Other neighborhood kids want the friend to come out and bike around the housing area or whatever. And this friend’s logic is, “Well, I have already seen this movie, so…” and he walks out.

Pretty crappy, if you ask me.

At the same time, it’s a hard life lesson. Sadly, all too often, people don’t care about you except for how you benefit them. “I’ll come over for the cake and the ice cream until something more interesting comes along.”

My son didn’t seem to mind, but I still brought him over and let him curl up on my lap to watch the rest of the movie. He snuggled up and fell asleep. It was a rare moment, especially considering how he keeps getting older. (Why don’t they just stay at that perfect cute age of…well, not growing up so fast?)

After the movie, he got up, built his Lego set (which was promptly destroyed by the 2 year old), and played on his scooter outside for a bit. And I decorated the cake with his favorite bird, his favorite color, his favorite frosting, and some surprise treats in the form of Angry Birds gummies around the edges.

Because I want him to know that no matter what the world says or does, no matter how often they’re content to take what they want from him and then set him aside, there’s one thing he can count on.

Mom and Dad think he’s amazing, and there’s always a special place for him here.

And sometimes there’s cake.

Parenting Survey

Today I have a tongue-in-cheek parenting survey for you, dear reader.

My daughter (13) and son (12) begged me to let them go over to a friend’s house to play XBox and watch Disney shows like Good Luck Charlie and Dog with a Blog (which, I guess, is a thing dogs can do now).

Is it wrong that I mainly said yes in order to keep the vultures from swarming over the snacks I was bringing into the house, so that I could eat the first of the snacks?

Or is it pragmatic and wise, when dealing with ravenous teenagers?

Let me know what you think!


Today is entirely unproductive.

I have been doing well on my diet and exercise plan. Today, I am sore from my first day out of my support boot on the foot that’s still healing. So I don’t feel like exercising. I also felt like eating a few more lumpia than I should. (Actually, I don’t know if diet and lumpia EVER go together.)

I wanted to write a bit on two story ideas, but the words aren’t flowing quite right and the ideas aren’t communicating the way I want. So I wrote two pages and stopped there.

My wife and I were going to go out and celebrate Mother’s Day early, on a rare dinner date. We both realized neither of us feel like getting out the door today.

There’s also that level of Candy Crush that has me stumped.

So I think today has become a useless “relax and play Warcraft” day. And I’m ok with that. It’s Saturday. It’s been a long week, and next week is going to be even busier than this one.

I went over the music for tomorrow’s church service.

I learned all about my wife’s FarmVille farms.

I hugged two of my boys close as we watched Despicable Me.

And I let the teenage daughter and almost-teenage son escape to go play with friends.

That’ll do, pig.


Challenge Accepted

This A to Z blog challenge is really kicking my butt. Still, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Two more days and… several entries until it’s over!

Check Fat Guys Vs. Gym for the fitness blog posts and Wanton Disregard for Safety for the spirituality posts.

On top of that, I had a splendid distraction this weekend. My brother, my sister-in-law, and their two sons came out from Chicago to visit my family for a couple days. It’s a roughly eight-hour drive with two small children under 3, so… kudos to them for their bravery!

Friday night, we went to eat Chinese food at a nearby restaurant. We turned around for one moment, and their older child prepared himself for battle using the ancient technique of “crab rangoon war paint.”

But they can never take... our CRAB RANGOON!
But they can never take… our CRAB RANGOON!

We survived the dinner (although our youngest scattered enough fried rice to feed an army), and then we had a nice trip to the park at sunset.

The kids played some basketball with their uncle, and then everyone meandered over to the swings. My youngest and my brother’s oldest both made a beeline for swinging children, as if they wanted to get kicked. Disaster was averted. At some point, my brother commented on how parenting at this age is pretty much 24-hour suicide watch. He has a dry sense of humor that gets me every time.

I like how this one turned out.
I like how this one turned out.

Saturday involved a pleasant visit catching up and sharing terrifying parent stories (many of which involved poop), followed by ice cream at Dairy Queen.

Prior to the visit, we discussed plans or lack thereof. My brother mentioned our visit in 2007, and how he and my parents had a variety of plans to make the most of the time. I don’t remember it, but we must have shot down a good many of those plans based on a desire for “nothing complicated.” My brother was single at the time, and admitted over the phone, “I had no idea why you guys were so set on simple plans.”

Now, with two small children, he laughed and said, “I completely understand. I had to learn the hard way, I guess.”

So we had simple plans, and it was enough. We enjoyed a lovely dinner with a friend from the Wordsowers writers’ group here in Omaha, and then they visited our church service on Sunday morning before heading back to Chicago.

The Bee and the wee cousin
The Bee and the wee cousin
Heap of children
Heap of children
Suprised girl
Suprised girl












Boys being insane
Boys being insane








My brother asked, “Do you agree with this statement? ‘Having children is both the most rewarding and most difficult experience in my life.'”

Of course I agreed. So has every other parent he’s asked.

We had a great time, and enjoyed sharing in each other’s joys and difficulties as parents. Challenging, yes… but one we gladly accept.

New Challenges

Time flies when you’re having fun… or raising kids.

I recall looking down at a crying pink mass of baby as a brand new dad, unable to fully grasp all the changes about to take place, wondering how much I didn’t know, unsure of how I would become the father my daughter deserved.

It's a natural reflex... but it still hits right in the feels.
It’s a natural reflex… but it still hits right in the feels.

Then, in a hesitant and uncertain effort to help keep Deborah still while the nurses cleaned her up, I gingerly took hold of her hand. And she wrapped her tiny finger nubs around one of mine and held tight. And her cries started to quiet down.

That was over thirteen years ago. “Almost fourteen,” Deb would say.

She soon became a big sister to our first son, Jonathan. When we discussed baby names for boys, I thought of David and Jonathan in the Bible – the friendship and closeness they shared. While I know that a parent is not always able to be their child’s friend instead of disciplinarian, I still focused on the hope that my son and I will enjoy a healthy relationship as he grows into maturity.

A few years after Jonathan, Justin was born, his name meaning “Righteous” and “Justice.” And two years ago, we welcomed Judah into our family, whose name means “Praise.”

Life easily becomes a blur of day-by-day responsibilities. Exhaustion sets in, and by the end of a busy day, it’s too easy to get caught up getting the kids to bed and catching a breather before going to sleep to face the next day. Individual days often go by slowly, working at the office or in the home, taking care of dinner and the children’s needs, trying to carve out family time, finishing all the chores and responsibilities, and ushering kids to bed.

But the years flash by when we’re not paying attention.

About a week ago, Deborah was playing Rock Band 3 and some of the various Guitar Hero games. And I discovered she had switched over to Hard difficulty. The jump from Medium to Hard is significant as it incorporates more buttons to press, more notes to hit, and all at a faster pace. Yet she was performing songs smoothly, something of which she never used to be capable.

We played some songs together, challenging each other to see who could get the best performance. She kept up and beat me several times. Then we switched to Street Fighter, and once again I was surprised to find that she put up a fight. In fact, unless I was playing one of the two characters I’m best with, I was really working hard to win.

The bear is one of my favorites if I'm just messing around... because, come on. A BEAR.
The bear is one of my favorites if I’m just messing around… because, come on. A BEAR.

If you’re not familiar with the old-school Street Fighter games at the arcade, whenever a second player puts in a quarter and starts a game against the current player, a message pops up with a shout saying, “Here comes a new challenger!”

That’s what I was hearing in my head as Deborah defeated me a few times.

I can’t wait to get out of my cast and take her on in basketball, which has rapidly become her other favorite game.

Jonathan is no slouch, either. But his strengths are more mechanical. He loves building things, whether with Legos or with various electronics he takes apart (with supervision). Yes, he loves destruction too. He regularly surprises us with new constructs, and briefs us on the multiple special features and components he builds in to each one.

His favorite video game is Plants Vs. Zombies, but he still has that problem-solving mechanical eye when he watches me play. I was working my way through the new Tomb Raider, and at several points where I would be stuck considering how exactly to solve a puzzle, he walked in, looked it over, and pointed out the solution as if it was the most natural and obvious answer. Humbling, for sure.

Justin’s biggest strength seems to be living up to his name, as the family “Fairness Police.” Maybe it’s middle-child-syndrome rearing its ugly head, but Justin definitely protests any imbalance in chores or in rewards. He balances that with giving the most hugs ever (like constantly), so I guess it all works out.

Even Justin has some mad skills with his favorite games. We recently loaded Sonic Dash onto the iPad, and Justin started playing it with glee. It took me several days to get to the point where I could even match his high score, and honestly, that’s probably because I used the coins you earn in-game to upgrade scoring abilities. Justin hasn’t played in a bit; I’m afraid to see what he’ll do with the new powers in game.

Judah is still pretty young, so I’m not sure what skills he’s going to demonstrate. He sure loves to dance and sing to music – fitting based on his name and based on his parents’ musical abilities. He absolutely loves to sit at the piano with me and play (read: pound) notes… but that’s probably true of any two-year-old.

I don’t yet know what to expect from him. However bittersweet it may be, I know that the years will go by in a flash, and in no time, he’ll be showing us where his strengths lie. I want to say I can’t wait to see it, but “almost fourteen” years have flown by already.

I can wait and take it slow, one challenge at a time.