The kids had an Olympic day last week. These things are a salad of chaos, drama, noise, confusion, snacks, and loud music. And they are taken very seriously, which makes them even more humorous to me.
It doesn't matter that I speak Chinese, I never have a clue what is going on at these types of events. The event was kicked off by red beret marching bands and kids waving all types of things in the air. I'm just glad Kesed didn't use his green flag as a Ninja stick.
Blanketed in cluelessness, I grab one of my children and walked to the tug o'war station. I yelled, 加油！"Add oil!" to cheer on these guys. I decided this was much more entertaining than wherever else my children were supposed to be. So we stayed there, took pictures, and chanted.
You don't get to see Chinese let loose very often. I loved this station. For one brief moment I felt like we were all on the same team of Vikings, hulling and pillaging a nearby island.
Makaria was supposed to be somewhere, but we have no idea where, so we just hit the playground.
At some point I found my other child and his class. They were about to do the scooting dragon race.
They didn't win, but watching 10 kids try to coordinate and steer a ten-foot log was satisfying to the soul. They ended up careening into an unsuspecting grandmother in the audience.
This was also one of my favorite events:
The old "pick your kids up by the crotch and carry them across the finish line race." An oldie but a goodie. Pretty sure that boy in the red got trampled right after this picture was shot. I really wish you could've been there with me. It was that funny. It reminded me of this.
Not one child was harmed in the filming of this race. Now, as their ability to bare children as adults, that is another matter.
Then there was the relay race that involved walking across a shallow bridge like a potato farmer. I love this place.
When we left, we saw Garfield. I have no idea why.
Every time I post a parenting blog, I feel like this should be the warning label:
We are by no means perfect parents. My children don't wear pajamas, they fight over socks, and sometimes they pick an apple out of the trash can and start eating it. Just pretend like what I am saying comes from someone actually has it all together. The box of mothering I thought that I needed fit in, has actually been torn up, reworked, and taped back together a thousand different times.
I have been thinking through the phrase "intentional parenting," here lately. Whether you are an atheist, a banker, an athlete, or a gypsy, we all have values we want our kids to pick up on. Parenting is like bowling. You don't just lob the ball down the alley in hopes that you get a strike. You get the right sized ball, you line up with the arrows, you take a few steps back, and you aim for the pins. Lobbing the ball haphazardly down the lanes might knock down a few pins, but it also might be knocking them down in the wrong lane.
*Let me preface myself by saying, there are NO guarantees in parenting. BUT there is common sense and patterns of life habits. This does not mean that we force our children into an occupation or career tract. We are talking character issues, not career ones here.
1. Helping your children find their voice. Most of the time it's easier if we just tell our kids to stop talking at the dinner table and in public. You avoid statements like, "My mom and dad like to shower together" or "Why are boogers sticky?" But you also avoid questions such as, "If God loves everybody, why do some people go to hell?" This takes figuring out how to give your kids space to talk. Because of our large family size, we have had to resort to raising hands at dinner. While it sounds sterile, it gives everyone the peace of mind that they will get a chance.
If we are in public and they want to talk to us, they put their hand on our arm and wait for us to acknowledge them. It would be easier to shoo them away, but that would also steal their desire to contribute. Our family values children who care enough to contribute. But if you don't allow them to have a voice when they are young, by the time they are teenagers, you will merely get silence and apathy. Let them participate in adult discussions. Have them be the ones who ask your dinner guests the first few questions.
2. Do exercises for desired traits. We strongly value analytical thinking. That means we do logic puzzles for homeschool and play strategy games for fun. We are constantly asking questions like, "If there is a bowl and a spoon at the dinner table, what can you conclude we are having for dinner?" Simple things that keep their mind aware of putting pieces together.
Maybe you are wanting your kids to be clear communicators. To that end, you would need to have them give brief presentations at dinner, describe an event in their own words, read the dinner menu out loud while trying to persuade you to order the night's special.
Maybe you want your child to be artistically expressive. There should be an open, messy space where they can go to create without worrying about staining the curtains. Let them use your camera on an outing and then mess around with a photo editing software. Pull up Garage Band and let them compose their own music without you looking over their shoulders. If they want to do homeschool as a Jedi or naked Batman, let 'em.
3. Building character, requires building materials. If you want your children to love and serve the community, then you need to give them chances to be in those environments at a young age. Last year, we had a family who jumped on a plane with 5-year old and 3-year old boys. Certainly it was not for the joy of traveling 26 hours with young boys that possessed them to buy tickets to come over. This family desires to raise children who love other cultures and desire to see God's work playing out around the globe. This took sacrifice and time on their part. It was hard and exhausting for them. But one year later and their boys are still asking about China.
If you want your kids to love orphans, then find a care center around you and do play dates with those kids; volunteer at a pregnancy assistance home; befriend a family who has adopted and let you children ask those parents questions. You can't wake up one day and expect your 16-year old son to all of the sudden be overwhelmed with compassion for the orphans. It has to become normalized for him to think outside of himself and his Xbox.
SimpleMom has some wonderful posts about living and parenting with intention. I'm going to leave it at this for now. I like to try and keep things short enough for you to hide in your bathroom and read for the 5 minutes before your kids have another question. I hope this helps. It has really helped hubs and I keep ourselves focused. It's easy to look around and want certain things for your children. Pray and decide what your 3-4 are going to be and put both feet in. Don't look around and change out your vision for someone else's. Trust that what God has put in your heart is on purpose, and go with it.
Over at the lovely land of Facebook there have been some changes. If you've already "liked" Carrie Anne Hudson, you might still miss some of the conversation. Like the time we ate with a "filled" toilet bowl as a table...ya see that? Well, if you didn't, it might be because Facebook wants me to pay money to get my page out to everyone, even if they've "liked" it.
I like Facebook, but pretty sure I can come up with a trillion other ways to spend my money. Here's the work around:
If you go to the Carrie Anne Hudson page and push on the "liked" tab, you'll get a scroll down. Check "get notifications" to make sure you don't miss out. I mean, if you're going to the trouble of liking something, better make sure you actually know what the heck I'm sayin' out here in internet world.
And if you haven't "liked" it, head over and throw a girl a bone. I love getting to hear from you guys! As much as it pains me to enter this adult version of playground cliques, this is how the whole social media thing works. I'm trying to not remain an 80-year old crotchety woman with all of this. So there ya' go.
I haven't written much about him. He's an 11-year old boy that our family has spent significant time with over the last two years.
He has grown up in an orphanage here. His heart has been broken and the pieces that have been attempted to be put back together have left deep fissures of pain. Cookies at Christmas and afternoons at the zoo no longer bring the simple joy a child is supposed to walk in. People have extended their lives to include him, but his heart never seems to understand that word. His body is included. His needs are met. His soul is still being suffocated by abandonment.
He has choked, spat, and uttered hatred.
He has peeled back from embraces.
He has taken the word 'love' that his ears hear and translated it into 'hate'. That word, 'love', has been addressed towards him in a number of relationships. But when your mind is hearing, 'hate,' there begins the formulation of an entire army of people for you to fight against.
He is getting bigger now. Hormones, muscles, a stronger will. All of these things are beginning to partner with anger, fear, and abandonment to create a boy who can be scary to love. As a family, it is hard to know how to love someone like that. It feels like you are walking up to a boulder and trying to love it into sand. No amount of affection is going to deconstruct nature like that. Only the One who created him has the ability to change someone like that.
This little boy has spent many nights in our home. He has spent hours upon hours playing dominoes and riding bikes with my children. We haven't seen him in a couple of weeks and now wisdom is telling me that the space in between visits might need to grow longer.
I grieve over this.
I hate this.
But I also have an 11-year old daughter to protect. I have young boys whose lives become forever changed if this other boy decides to press his anger onto them in some way.
This is where I need a memo from the Lord. Some type of formula that tells me when we are supposed to sacrifice of ourselves for the sake of others and when we are supposed to retreat, allowing this fragile boy to fight his own battles.
We can love him, but we can't change him. That type of defeat leads me to trust only on the Lord for this boy's repentance. I don't like using the words, "It's too late," when referring to adoption and foster care. I have found my mind browsing around in that type of vocabulary with this little boy.
Pray for him.
Pray that the people around him would wisely understand his needs.
Pray that Jesus would pursue him relentlessly.
You remember playing dodge ball in fourth grade? That time when you were made the king of the court and on the next play the ball bounces precariously close to your line. Pretty sure it hit the line, but you so desperately want to remain king that you convince yourself that it didn't hit the line. Confusion leads you to yell out, "DO OVER!" The unwritten rulebook of playground etiquette is that never play 'butts up' unless you are sure you can win; if you wear shorts under your dress, you can swing on the monkey bars; and that a DO OVER is a totally valid self-call.
A group of local friends took all 5 of our children to the park to climb a mountain. While they were pretending to be gallop through the hillside like the Von Trapp family, Chinese style...with white and black children...ok, nevermind. Well, while they were out hubs and I were doing this:
We were pretending to be adults who talk about things like world economics. In actuality, we are just people getting old who talked about how great it would be to head home and take a power nap. I like the word 'power nap.' It makes even taking a nap feel sophisticated and consequential.
It was during this little outing that I decided I was going to commit to writing book #2. It was upon those very words tripping out of my mouth that I decided I wanted a DO OVER. I want to pretend I didn't say it. I want to ignore the fact that my mouth opened and a commitment rolled out. To dream about writing again is one thing. To look the one person in the eye who will keep me accountable to actually finishing this task is quite another.
This book is going to take a little longer. Life doesn't look the same as it did last year when I wrote, "Redefining Home." I'm going to take it one step at a time. Writing is cathartic for me. Writing is where I see the Lord scribbling things for my brain to take in. I need writing. We have a wonderfully lopsided relationship that way. Writing doesn't necessarily need me, but I need writing.
By the way, I'm about to do a big fat sale on my fist book because it's been almost a year since its release. Mind boggling. I'll post more on that this month. For now I'm trying to push down the doubt, fear, and insecurities that are attempting to scream out, "DO OVER!"
Here we are sitting with our stomachs lopping over our pants because we've just consumed obnoxious amounts of cinnamon rolls. I'm going to fire hydrant you with this Christmas post and try not to overwhelm you in the details.
After breakfast, our helper was prepping the fish for lunch. It was clearly dead, but the nerves were making the tail wag and the mouth move in mockery that he has gotten the last laugh. It was our own Christmas Story "duck-with-its-head-on" moment. (We showed our kids that movie for the first time this year and they totally didn't get why the Americans were screaming at that duck scene. They also didn't know why the Chinese singing was funny. This whole third culture kid thing can be outright hilarious to the parents.)
The kids each presented their charities that they were giving their Christmas money to. We do little stuff in the stockings and then all the money we would spend on gifts goes to charities that the older kids have chosen, researched, and put into a presentation. I love this part. Malachi picked World Vision. He has really been struck with the realities of poverty lately. On Brain Pop, they have a simulation where you try and keep a poor Haitian family health and fed by making decisions about where to work and how to get education. He has become frustrated because he has lost the game every time. He has come to me several times saying, "Mom, it is almost impossible to get this family out of poverty!"I think he's beginning to get understand that reality this year.
Selah put together several boxes for Operation Christmas Child. We loved their online option where she could customize the boxes and then have them sent straight from the website. She really wanted to see a child joyful this Christmas.
Charis supported Heartline Ministries in Haiti. She wanted to help children and their moms this year. This was the first time she has gotten to pick a charity and do a presentation on her own. Trying to explain the realities of malnutrition and extreme poverty can be tricky. We don't just want children who pity the poor. We desire to build compassionate action-takers. She was pretty blown away that she got to have a part in keeping a baby healthy.
Selah put together a scavenger hunt for the boys because she knew they loved to run around and act like ninjas. She figured it would help them get out some of that extra energy. Gotta love those first borns.
If you follow me on Facebook, you already know that our Christmas glee was accompanied by our neighbor's apartment reconstruction. All day Christmas day, we had multiple jack hammers and sledge hammers pounding out remodeling downstairs. We all limped out smiles because well...it's Christmas. If Mary can give birth in a barn, we can certainly withstand a little modern racket. So this year we piled into the least noisy bedroom and watched The Nativity Story. I feel like this movie ethnically, was appropriately cast. I love that. It's also a beautiful side to the story with focuses much more and the back stage drama and shame involving Mary's "gift." That's been a powerful emphasis to the story for me this year.
We hope you all had a fantastic holiday season. May 2013 be a year that we dig our heals deep into understanding Jesus' words.