The Little Things

When the girls were in the early grades of elementary school, my wife and I were always receiving crayon artwork and simple poems, cutouts of the sun and cottonball clouds, paper alphabets and glittering numerals.

As they have grown, the doors of our kitchen cabinets and refrigerator are becoming less and less populated by such sweet things.

Today, we know our children love us just as much as they did in the age of Crayola and Cookie Monster – it is just more in conversation, a telling hug, a good cry or a good laugh. The love is there, just not so much in paper and sequins anymore.

And I know it’s simple, but the photo here reveals the “little thing” that occurred just last week. A few weeks before, I had mentioned that I couldn’t get my iPhone car charger to work anymore. I kept telling myself that I needed to replace it but days quickly turned into weeks and I kept putting it off.

And then our oldest, returning from college, heard about my need and just went out and met it. She said nothing at all to me about it. She bought me a new charger and righted the world on my behalf, just like that!

And it has me thinking. We have gotten older and they have gotten older. The ways we care for each other and the gifts we give have changed.

But the little things…they remain.

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The Family That Flips Together…

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Snow days out of school and work allow all kinds of things to happen at home. Monday was definitely one of those days!

Our youngest was up earlier than usual for a day off and so she piled into bed and covered up between us. She talked with me about the snow outside, the icicles hanging from the roof over the back porch, when we would be sledding today, what time I wanted to get up, and, finally, if she could be totally in charge of making pancakes.

We agreed to that and we were off to the kitchen in no time. She even coined a new phrase to commemorate her hard work at the griddle – “chips and flips.” The “chips” stand for the mountainous volume of chocolate chips she and her sister have come to love in their pancakes; the “flips” stand for how much she has grown up in this past year to be able to now successfully flip a pancake to cook on both sides (not an easy task!).

There is a favorite book about home life by Robert Wolgemuth entitled The Most Important Place on Earth. In it he writes about all the ways in which parents can build a strong family. He says, “We thought we were [making pancakes]; we were really doing what families have done for centuries: working together, laughing together, and learning to love each other in the process.”

It makes me stop and think harder about the little things, the chores, the meals of our sometimes ho-hum life at home. It’s even the chips and flips that are bringing us together. The life of a family is lived every day of the week…snow days, too.

P.S. Here are a few of our favorite children’s books about pancakes…Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola, and If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff.

Dad, Where Are We?

You can’t learn before you set out, can you? You go along the road, and you learn as you go. – P.L. Travers

I love a Table of Contents. Whether it’s brand new or something I’ve read before, most every time I pick up a book I like to check its list of chapter titles. Sometimes I do it so I can learn something about the book, while other times I just like to see how many pages I’m in for! Either way, that Table of Contents does my brain good. It’s a key of sorts, a treasure map to get me on track and it often can help to clear a little path through a big forest of words.

And that is what I thought about when I captured this photo on our family’s hike through the woods last weekend:

Valentine Bigfoot Hike February 14, 2014

I’m not sure that you can really see it, but the brambles and thorny vines and ragged stones that envelop this particular area are especially arduous to navigate. Our littlest one is also just the right height to get swatted in the face by a stray branch. It also grows rather dark under the dense tree canopy here, even on the sunniest of days.  I can’t tell you how many times we had to turn back and detour around an obstacle while we were out there that day. At one point, we weren’t even completely certain which way was which. It was then that the girls would stop exploring and move closer to us and say, “Dad, where are we?” or “Dad, which way now?”  In other words, no Table of Contents.

It all makes me think just how much a hike with your family resembles life with your family. Sure there are sunny days and laughter and plenty of fun in the adventure of it, but there are also the thorns and the rocks and the brambles and the questions. Sometimes, we can answer their questions…and sometimes we can’t.  In other words, no Table of Contents.

The saving grace, though, comes in experiencing the hike – and life – together.  I’m certain of it.  Even the hard times have a silver lining when your family has your back.  There is simply nothing like it, not even a Table of Contents.

P.S.  There are two books about being a dad that have transformed my thinking and acting on the subject.  They are The Father Connection by Josh McDowell and These Things I Wish for You by Christopher Kimball.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. – Izaak Walton