A Mysterious New Family Project

January 23, 2008

The past few days have been consumed… completely consumed that is… with a new family project I am working on.

Check that… worked on… as in past tense… as in DONE.

It was 6 days ago to be exact that my son, Joshua, pushed the final button. He has been on me for weeks – no months – to get this project done and out the door.

Now, finally, he is satisfied and the families and children of the world can see what I’ve done.

What is the project?

Well, rather than try and retell all about it here, I’m going to send you off to actual project.

You’ll get the full story there.

But, just so you know it has do with families, raising children, and being a great, wonderful, and fantastic parent!

Gasp! WHAT? From Joshua? Stuff about families and children and parenting? Who would have thunk it? lol

Ok, enough sarcasm about my family efforts… here’s that website…

www.ForgottenFamilyClassics.com

Enjoy!

Oh, one final note, if you like it, I have created 200 coupons that will let you have this bit of magic for free… as in not payment… as in zero dollars.

But, beware! The coupons are only good until January 31!

If you want one… and I still have some… just email me or drop a request on this page. I’ll send it off to you ASAP.

You and your family will be jumping for joy… and your children will be screaming for more 😉

Ok, now you can enjoy my new project.

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Stopwatch Parenting

January 10, 2008

“CODE RED!!!!!!! CODE RED!!!!  EVERYONE ON THE COUCH IMMMMMEDDIIAATELY!!!!!”

They couldn’t see my face, but I was smiling.  The top-of-my-lungs shouts continued to echo throughout the house and the yard.

The response was immediate… soon I could hear feet pounding heavily on the stairs, down the hall, across the kitchen and from back in the library.  And the shouting!

“Hurry up guys!  Come on! Dad wants us! This is a code red!  Come on!  HURRRRYYYYY”

Combined with my cries, the ruckus was deafening – and effective.

Within no time at all, there they sat, all 7 of them (Sariah, at 4 months old, as yet has been officially excused from coming on the ‘Code Red’ alert… though I’ve considered modifying that policy… after all can’t one of the older ones bring her in?  hehe).

Faces glowing, chest heaving from the run, feet fidgeting, and eyes twinkling with a mixture of excitement and a tiny sparkle of dread… what was it going to be this time?

Looking down on them, my heart just about burst!  What a wonderful bunch of children I have!

“Ok, everyone, I’ve divided the house into 3 sections:  Section one – library, bathroom, dressing room.  Section two – hall, dining room, kitchen. Section three – living room, office, hall, back bathroom.

“Here’s the deal:  The house is a MESS (pig pen really) and I won’t stand for it another minute! (This with a wink and a smile)  I’m going to set the timer for 25 minutes and everyone is going to start in the library.

“If you get section one done in that time, everyone will get $.50.  If you get sections one and two done, then we will go to the dollar movie tonight!  (This followed by shouts and a burst of excitement… we almost never go to the movies)

“If you get sections one, two and three done in that time, then we’ll add popcorn to that movie. Ready…”

Here I was intrupted by 3 little hands shooting up with questions.

“Do we have to vacuum?”  “No, the floors are OK”  “What about sweeping and mopping?”  “Sweep, yes… mop, no”  “Do we…”  “Sorry time for questions is up… Ready, set, gooooooooo!!!! Clock is ticking now!”

With that, the ultimate home cleaning machine exploded into action.  Away they went with an outrageous flurry and passion to meet the challenge and earn the coveted reward.

Margie and I retired to my office.  With no small delight, we enjoyed the sounds of Esther barking commands, Jared laughing, Joshua hustling about, Hyrum wondering when we were going to eat, and all of the above continually encouraging Isaac and Brigham in their short attention span labors.

“Done! Dad, we’re done!!!”

I looked at the timer – 19 minutes. Their best time ever.  VERY impressive.

“Ok gang. You’ve still got 6 minutes on the clock. I’m going to add 9 more.  If you can get the entire basement done in that time, I’ll give you a double bonus surprise. Goooooo!!!!”

And they did.  But they only needed the 9 minutes.  Total time: 28 minutes to total clean.

“Ok, everyone in the library.  Let’s inspect.  So, this is what you guys call ‘clean’.  Now let’s go through each room and inspect to see if your ‘clean’ matches my ‘clean’.

Going from room to room I had them point out what was done right and what could be improved upon.  For the most part they had done their duty wonderfully well.

During the review of the last 35 minutes of sheer energy and efficiency, I asked my children what had made the difference. After all, this same task, at other times, had taken them more than 2 hours of painful nagging and corresponding complaints.  Yet, here we had just cleaned the house, top to bottom in 28 minutes.  No nagging, no complaining, no fighting, no fussing.

What made the difference?

“It was the stopwatch dad. We were racing against the clock,” said Esther.

“And having a really cool reward,” added Jared.

Both were right.

Consider the Olympics.  When we as humans have clocks ticking and rewards awaiting, we rise up and do miraculous things.

Parenting and family life is no different.  Timing, tracking, rewarding, encouraging, and playing… it all puts the purpose back into parenting and the joy back into family life.

So, is your stopwatch handy?  On your mark, get set, gooooooooooo!!!!!!!


Capitol Parenting

January 8, 2008

The doctor’s appointment was at 7:50 a.m… and it was an hour away from home.

Several years ago, we noticed that our son Joshua had an eye that was crossing hard.  The ophthalmologist in Montana diagnosed it as strabismus and indicated that Joshua would likely need glasses for the rest of his life.

That prediction proved to be false while simultaneously proving that God does care for and helps His children.

But that is different story for another day.

Margie came into my office at 6:10 a.m. and wanted to know if one or two of the other children could go with us to Salt Lake.  I said sure!  I’d love to have any of them along.  As she turned to leave, the idea to take all of us flashed through my mind.

“Margie, why not take all of us?  I’ll call the school and let them know Isaac and Hyrum will not be coming today.”

In that instant, the house went from enjoying a routine, run-of-the-mill morning, to a high-pitched, fevered, code red environment.  Ten heads of hair needed to be combed. Ten pairs of pajamas needed to be swapped out for traveling clothes.  Ten coats and ten sets of hats, gloves, and scarves needed to be rounded up.  The table needed to be cleared of the breakfast dishes, dishwasher loaded, and ten voices still yet needed to be raised in morning prayers… family prayer could be done in the car.

All in about ten minutes.

The chaos was wonderful!

In the end it all got done and we suddenly found ourselves in  the big brown van on the way up to Salt Lake City.

Following the doctor’s appointment, we resolved to make a full field trip day out of it.  The vote was taken and it was agreed that we’d go over to the Capitol building and learn a bit about government.

Little did we know that the Capitol had just re-opened a few days before, after several years of extensive remodeling and restoration.  The workers had indeed done their jobs well… the place was striking, beautiful, and majestic.

As we entered the House of Representatives’ chamber, the tour guide there drew our attention to several sets of five point stars embossed in granite on the walls.  One set had the foremost point directed upwards, throwing our gaze up and out of that legislative chamber.

Then there was this one lone star which was pointing downward, encouraging our eyes to return to the rich cherry wood desks and deep green carpets.

“The one set of stars pointing upward, reminds us that we should ever turn heavenward to receive help in crafting and building our great government ‘for the people and by the people’.

“The other lone star, with the star tip pointing down, stands as a constant reminder that God is mindful of the actions of men and is ever ready to return supreme wisdom and knowledge in exchange for our petitions.  What’s more, we must never forget that He will hold us accountable for governments we craft and the affect it will have on His children.”

The symbolism inset into the walls of that chamber by a generation 100 years younger than mine, reminded me of the startling differences between their thoughts and attitudes, and those found among mainstream governments today.

And then I realized that, in some ways, the differences were not just to be found in our legislative halls, but, in far too many cases, within the walls of our own homes.

One of the fundamental rules about parenting that I learned a long time ago – and which I was taught again standing in the House of Representatives – is that as a parent, I’m not nearly good enough to raise these children.  I’m not strong enough. I’m not wise enough. I’m not disciplined enough.

This realization demands that I turn to a power stronger, smarter, wiser, and more resolute than I am.  That power, of course, is the Father of us all.

Within the walls of my home, I have resolved to turn my voice and thoughts continually to my real Father, and fervently hope that He will answer my petitions with the wisdom, power, strength, and insights I need, to be a successful parent in today’s complex world.

As a family, we are ten stars pointing heavenward, hoping that One Star will turn His attention downward.  No doubt He will.


Starts With An “F”… Ends With A “Q”

December 8, 2007

Without even taking his eyes off the board, Brigham, our 4 year old, calmly said, “It starts with an ‘F’”.

And what confidence!  Clearly he knows what he’s talking about.

Still, we stared in wonder and amazement. What?!

A brief moment of silence filled the room as 16 eyeballs stared blankly at the whiteboard in front of them.  “Starts with an ‘F’… humm what is that?”  The board had two sort-of round, swirly, heavily repeated circles where eyes of a face might be, one even bigger one where an open mouth could have been, and that little one could be a nose.

“A face!”

“Nope” And that is when the second set of swirly, whirly, wild circles started on the other side of the whiteboard.

Now the guesses started shooting forth from the children like bullets from a machine gun… “Fan!” “Frog!” “Feet!” “Fence!” “Furniture” “Family!” “Friends!”

But Brigham was totally unfazed… He calmly just kept saying, “Nope”.

After about the sixth circle, he turned around, face beaming with shear joy, body infused with the satisfaction of holding the whole family spellbound.  “AAAANNNDD it ends with a ‘Q’!”

That brought a thundering silence to the room that had been erupting with shouts of joy and peals of laughter.

“What?? Ends with a ‘Q’. Nothing ends with that letter!”

After the shock of the second clue wore off, the guesses continued with (if this is possible) even more enthusiasm and spasms of laughter.  It was a wild ruckus of the best sort – imagine 6 siblings racing around the whiteboard, jumping up and down, shouting at the top of their lungs.

One can be seen crossing their legs, trying not to wet their pants from laughing so hard.

Another can be seen jumping up and down, waving his arms madly.

Another is flopping on the ground, crying out, “An ‘F’ and a ‘Q’… an ‘F’ and a ‘Q’!”

And a fourth – Hyrum, our 6 yr old and newest reader – hysterically questioning, “Faaaquwa?  Faaquwa?  What’s a faaquwa?”

All the while the merry game of pictionary went on, with Brigham happily drawing circles and saying, “Nope” to every guess thrown his way.

Then in a sudden burst of energy and hilarity, Brigham turned to face the family.  Drawing in enough air to practically create a wind tunnel in the living room, he swelled up like a monstrous bloated toad and screamed out, “No!!!!! It’s a hammer!!”

All sense of composure was lost by adult and young ones alike.  A full ten minutes later, we could all still be seen laughing and holding our sides and saying, “The hammer that starts with an ‘F’ and ends with a ‘Q’!”

This night of pictionary on the whiteboard and the game of charades that preceded it, was not planned in advance, didn’t cost a single penny to do, required little  (if any) mental muscle, involved and included even the youngest of the family members, consumed less than an hour, and resulted in more family fun than parents or children should legally be allowed to have.

Family fun time:  It’s at the heart of “The Home Feeling”… give it a try.


The Great Pumpkin Caper

October 18, 2007

Looking in the rear-view mirror, I could see the grin splitting his face underneath eyes that were firm, determined, and dancing with excitement all at the same time.

Our big brown van – a 15 passenger Ford Clubwagon – is hardly what you would call “inconspicuous”, but that only added to the fun challenge that we had given ourselves. My son Joshua had the “package” – a orange, jack-o-lantern shaped goodie bag filled with licorice and bags of popcorn – in his hand and was standing by the double-wide side door, with one hand on the handle, ready to leap out at a moment’s notice.

Driving casually, as if nothing was happening, we passed right by the house. Giggles erupted from the back seats as I said, “We’ll just drive right by, like nothing is happening… they’ll never even notice us!” “Never notice us! Right dad!” I could hear Esther saying. That made everyone laugh all the more.

Once past the house, I stopped and looked back… only to see the lady of the house looking out the big, massive windows on the south side of the house. Hehe.. Sure, they’d never see us or suspect us. After all, we were the only ones in the neighborhood that had a big brown 15 passenger van! Humm, maybe I should have pulled forward out of eye sight of those windows!

And Margie told me as much, “Pull forward, honey – at least TRY to be secretive about this!” More laughter – except from Joshua. He’d been given a mission and was determined to fulfill it.

Of course it would be Joshua – my 9-year-old. Everyone knew it. He is by far the fasted runner of our children. Plus, he is clever about things and would know just how and where to put the secret package so as to get away the fastest.

I pulled forward out of line of sight. Turning around, I gave Joshua the “signal.” In a flash he was out of the car, running low along the fence line, creeping along side our victim’s car, pausing to assess the situation. “Hum – front door or back door? Dog at the front door – he’s sure to bark and blow my cover. Back door is only a few feet from their car – the car will be good cover for me on the get-away.”

With cat-like stealth he was gone, passing like a shadow from the car to the backdoor, always keeping a tight grip on the large treat bag – the “package” – that he held in his hands. Victory was in sight.. .here came the drop… now the doorbell… reaching, reaching… and then… CRISIS! RED ALERT! RETREAT!

Just at that moment, the lady of the house had decided to come to the back hallway to hang up a sweater. With a shock of thrill, Joshua realized that if he rang that bell, she would be sure to look straight at him. The better part of reason took over and his hand withdrew – they’d find it when they came out to the car… no bell needed.

The small shadow crossed down the stairs again and with the speed of lighting he shot across the driveway, back behind the car and then retraced his steps down the fence line where the get-away car waited with door open, ready to flee into the night!

As we sped away and rounded the corner, the entire interior of the car erupted with screams of glee and cries of laughter! The feeling of pure thrill and excitement filled each heart as we thought of the little deed of secret service we had just pulled off. To think of the happiness that goodie bag would bring the children in that home and the fun they would have guessing, “Who dunit??!!” was more than we could bear!

In the 90 seconds it took to get home and out of the car, I realizee something… there it was again – that feeling. The feeling of family. The feeling of unrestrained joy. The feeling of happiness and excitement. The feeling of enthusiasm. The feeling of unity and love with everyone in the family.

It was the “Home Feeling.”

Oh! How I LOVE that feeling. It just sends tingles up and down my spine. It melts away all the stress and struggle and turmoil of life. It brings out the sunshine and dispels clouds of doom. It makes life worth-while. It makes everything OK.

Yep… we had the “Home Feeling” something strong that night… the night of the great pumpkin caper.


Family Night Makes Family Might

October 4, 2007

The room was so richly and exquisitely decorated that you almost had to make a conscious effort to not focus on it.

Rich tapestries, ornately carved oak mantle piece, fine leather and upholstered furniture, gorgeous armoire, rich family photos, fine paintings, costly vases and a myriad of other things reached out and grabbed for my attention.

But, their attempts were in vain. Despite my love of fine things, this night the artifacts and decorations were powerless to rob my energies or divert my gaze. No, tonight there was a different kind of magic in the room that was far more appealing, far more enticing, far more compelling.

My eyes were riveted to a nine-year-old boy standing shyly, but straight and tall and confidently in front of the mantle piece. Compared to the this stripling boy, the finery of the mantle and walls around were like dross – plain and wholly unremarkable.

The boy, of course, was my son Joshua. “I’d like to welcome all of you to family home evening,” he began. It was family night – just like every Monday night is set aside as a family night. We gather together, almost always with just our family, but, on rare occasions, with friends, as we did tonight.

The program, as he announced it, included an opening song, a prayer, a lesson to be given by yours truly, and then an activity and root beer floats to wash it all down.

For my lesson that night, I decided to discuss the ideas of war – not the physical wars that we are and have been engaged in with various nations around the globe – but a much more dangerous and impacting war that each of us wages each day. It is a war that demand strong and powerful soldiers. It is a war of wills and choices… choices that will lead to happiness, prosperity, and joy on the one hand, and choices that lead to misery, slavery, and frustrations on the other.

It was the solider aspect of the battle that I focused on during this lesson. In front of me there were 13 children ranging from 12-years-old down to 2 weeks old. My wife and our friend (an early widow that lost her husband in a tragic airplane accident), both women of immense valor, unmovable values, impenetrable armor, and tireless strength in fighting this battle.

And good thing, it is their strength – the strength of a mother – that has always and will always be the very deciding factor in this merciless battle. It is their hand that rocks the cradle. It is their hand that feeds the nations. It is their hand that nurtures the soul. It is their hand that fashions the attitudes and opinions of man. It is their hand that passes on traditions and ideals. And so, it is their hand that, in the end, almost exclusively defines the courses and paths of nations.

Nothing truer was ever said than this, “If the mother fails in the home, the world fails in all its noble pursuits.”

Than night, as we discussed the battle before us, I could not help but think of the enormous power for good that sat in that room. Among those 13 children five of them are women – or at least one day would be. These sweet daughters of God would grow up, marry, and try their own hand at defining nations and writing history. And those boys in the room, the men-to-be, would become fathers, providers and protectors.

In short, it is today that we, as parents, must fashion the armor and weave the cloth of their lives. Those of us with young children in our homes are not just parents of today, we are the makers of tomorrow. And, perhaps more importantly, we do not just fashion the society tomorrow with the homes we build today, but we enable the present and future joys of our little ones.

Looking around, I suspect that there never has been a time in history that more fully hinged on the competence and passion and determination of young parents. We stand on the brink of catastrophic change and wrestle with the most complex questions of all the ages. So, like it or not, the burden of raising these children to greatness and winning the victory lays squarely on our shoulders.

It is for each of us to question, “Am I up to the task?” Of one thing I am more sure of than anything else in my life: We have the capacity. But of another thing I am still wondering: Do we have the commitment?

Actually, that is what this habitual family night is all about. It is as much for Margie and I, as it is for our children. By coming together each week and setting aside the hustle and bustle of the world around us, we can refocus on our role as parents. It energizes us and renews our commitment as we look into our children’s eyes and feel of their immeasurable trust and love. The experience is not always roses and buttercups, but it always serves as a strong reminder that we hold present day happiness and future progress in our hands. The strength we receive is wonderful and vitally needed.

So, if you are not currently doing it, why not give it a try? Once a week for a couple of hours, just set everything aside and spend nice quality time with your family.

I’m sure you’ll find, as we have, that family night makes family might.


A Mighty Rush of Wind

September 14, 2007

Abruptly, and without any warning, Isaac stopped in the middle of the trail. “Dad, I’m going to tell you this… I never give up, but I’m just going to walk a minute.”

I couldn’t really blame him. The hill we were on up Hobble Creek Canyon was tough for just about anyone, let alone a 5 year old on a regular little MX dirt bike without gears. So, I geared up, and slowly pedaled beside him for a while.

The other three children were well ahead of us. The trail was quiet and we had it all to ourselves. Right about then, I was sure glad that I had listened to him when he begged to come with us on the ride. We were all a little hesitant, but I just could not say no to that pleading, longing, hopeful look in his sweet young eyes. So, I said in the heartiest voice I could muster, “Sure, Isaac! Of course you can come along! We were hoping you’d ask.”

Well, if the joy that leaped into his eyes right them was not enough reward for me – and his three older siblings… because they sure got a kick out of it as well – then this moment on the hill was paying me back 100 fold.

“Daddy, I’m going to tell you this… today, my teacher learned me this song… ‘One, two, buckle my shoe – three, four, shut the door – five, six, pick up sticks… ah what’s the next part dad?”

I had to smile. When he started the song, his pudgy little fingers on his right hand began shooting up. But now, needing to use the other hand, he was having a little trouble managing the bike. Plus, the whole song recital had distracted him from walking in a straight line and he was zigzagging wildly around the trail. What, with my laughing so hard, and trying to keep my balance while riding VERY slow, and trying to avoid his sudden zigs here and zags there, it was just about all I could do to avoid crashing into the poor boy.

“Well, dad, what’s next?”

Oh, right.

“Seven, eight, laa…”

“No, dad! I know the rest, don’t say it! Seven, eight lay them straight – nine, ten… oh, and dad, this is the funniest part. Everyone laughed so hard when we said this last part – dad, you are going to laugh too. Ok, listen to this… nine, ten, A BIG FAT HEN!”

The hilarity and humor and fun of shouting “A BIG FAT HEN!” at the top of his voice and hearing it echo through the canyon was too much for him. He stopped and laughed and laughed. I did the same.

We spent the next 45 minutes in conversations like this. Every now and then we would catch up to the others and ride with them a while, but for the most part, it was Isaac and I riding along and talking.

At the end of the ride stood a huge, steep hill, that rolled upward and went on and on. We all were together then and set a point about three-quarters of the way up that we dubbed the “stopping point”. There we would turn around and head back to the car. Up we went, slowly, sweating, panting, pushing, pedaling…. but we made it.

Turning around, we faced that long stretch of vertical excitement.

“Ok, guys… ready? Remember, hit the back brakes first if you need to stop or slow down… and be CAREFUL. Ok, ready, set… LET’S GO!!”

Isaac, to my sheer delight, bolted out of the starting gate first and got a jump-start on Esther, Joshua and Jared. I trailed behind watching them fly down the hill. The wind was pushing so hard against our eyes that it squeezed out tears. And our hair – oh, what a mess! And our hearts were beating wildly – half with the sheer thrill and excitement of the ride – half out of fear that the plummeting hill would reach out and drag any one of us down into a careening mass of metal and flesh.

In the end, we all made it down the hill – and down the mountain for that matter – safe and sound. We took away from that canyon the thrills of family time and the joys of exerting ourselves.

But, there were other things we took away. You see, this was just two days after we brought Margie and Sariah home from the hospital. We were out on the trail because Margie needed a break. So I took the children out on a ride.

They learned to ride in the canyon, and that they have a father that loves their mother.

They learned the importance of staying in shape physically, and they learned how to care for a new mother.

They learned how to use their gear bikes, and they learned how to be real men, fathers and daddies.

They learned the thrills of feeling a mighty rush of wind as they race down the trail, and they learned the greater joy – the real thrill of life – in serving others… first, in letting their little brother tag along, and second in serving their mother and new little sister.

A mighty rush of wind… it’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone.