How Hope Went Down the Waterfall…and I Ate Ice Cream

Author’s note: This is a re-posting from my old blog site. It was one of my favorites, so I wanted to post it here.

dangerMy wife and I had such high hopes. We were going to take our kids to a state park, hike to a waterfall, observe God’s glory in creation, play in the sparkling water at the foot of the falls, and most importantly, create some wonderful family memories. It would be a fantastic experience we would all remember forever. It started out so well. The drive to Dupont State Forest outside of Hendersonville, N.C. was beautiful. The weather was cool, the trees were green, and the sun was shining.

We were going to have a good time.

Then, like the water cascading down the falls, our hopes came crashing down to reality.

It started with Child #3, who complained the entire way down the trail. “My stomach hurts. My feet hurt. I don’t like walking. I want to go home,” he said. Despite the best threats and bribes we could muster the whining continued for the half mile down the trail.

Still, we were going to have a good time.

We arrived to the base of the falls and sat down for our picnic lunch. Then the complaints began from Child #2 and Child #3. “I didn’t want a ham sandwich. Ew, there’s a bug. My pants are dirty. Mack touched me. She’s eating all of the grapes.”

Still, we’re going to have A GOOD TIME.

triple-fallsBellies full and nerves a bit frayed, we climbed to the pool by the falls. Pictures were taken with smiling happy faces. We took our shoes and socks off to let our feet rest in the cool waters. The glory of God was seen in nature. My wife and I hugged each other and smiled. We said to our kids, “Enjoy yourselves, children. See what God has made. Look at the beautiful water. Listen to the roar of the falls as it –” “MOMMY, MACK FELL IN THE WATER!” yelled child #1.

“WHAAAA! MY SHIRT IS WET. MY PANTS ARE WET. I’M COLD,” said child #3.

“Mommy, I stepped in the water,” said child #2.

“Why?” asked my wife.

“She pushed me!” said child #2.

“No I didn’t!” said child #1.

“I’m sorry I got wet,” said child #3.

“Where’s my socks?” I asked.

“I think I dropped them in the water,” said my wife.

“I want to go home,” said everybody.

Still…we’re going to have a good time.

Now each of us is either dirty, wet, frustrated, tearful, or all of the above as we headed back to the car. Child #2 is wearing my shirt because she fell into the water and her clothes are soaking wet. Child #1 is sulking because she had pushed Child # 2 into the water and was soundly rebuked for her behavior. I’m carrying child #3 because his legs hurt and I’m tired of hearing him complain.

Still…we’re going to…oh forget it.

So what is the point? Do we as parents just give up on these outings? Should we not try to make pleasant memories for our families? Is my wife crazy to keep trying this sort of thing? Of course she is! Wait, that’s not my final answer.

The truth is sinful/fallen children and parents, living in a fallen world, who go to water-falls, (see what I did there?), are going to experience days like today. We’re going to screw up, fall into the water, yell at our kids, and our best laid plans for great memories are going to go awry.

So what do we do? We alternatively laugh or cry at our experiences and seek the Lord for the grace to redeem even the worst of days.

On the way back to the van, my wife, the more Christ-like of the two of us, stopped us in the middle of the trail and asked us all to pray. So even though we were tired, wet, frustrated, angry, bitter, and disappointed, we stopped and asked God to give us better attitudes, forgive us, and help us love one another.  We acice-cream-sundae-167571_640knowledged the morning had been a disaster and prayed for his grace for the rest of the afternoon.

Then we went and got ice cream.

And we all had a good time.

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Parenting & the Secret Service

SS1My wife and I can’t hit bull’s eyes on gun targets, we don’t wear cool shades, don’t have fancy com-links in our ears, and we don’t protect high ranking members of political society, but we do have the unique training required to be members of the Secret Service.

Really all parents do. Unless you’re a parent who has never taken their children out in public, you are a highly trained in observing and protecting precious cargo, and you didn’t even have to take a 6 hour lie detector test to get the job. Parents are trained in observing, protecting, and communicating effectively to protect and preserve their children.

Let me give you an example. My wife and I took our kids out in public where they were offering free food and free bounce houses. (Trained agency wives know how to find these wonderful events). When entering this crowded spectacle with our children, my wife and I instantly went into SS mode, protecting #1, #2, and #3, (the children’s code names).  Continue reading

The 7 Stages of Long Trips with Children

DoctorGoing on a long car trip with your kids? Planning that big vacation to the beach, grandma’s house, Disney, or that random relative you have in Kansas?

Are you worried or stressed? Concerned about how y0ou, your spouse, and your children are going to handle all of those miles in the car together? Well Doctor Travis is here to help. I’m going to share with you the 7 stages of long trips with children. Knowing these stages will help you be better aware of what’s to come and plan your trip accordingly.

Stage One: Unbridled Optimism – “Yay! We’re going to Disney/Grandma’s/the Beach! What fun we’re going to have! We’re on vacation! Family memories will be made!

In stage one everyone is happy, excited, and blissfully unaware of the difficulty of what’s to come. This will be the best part of your trip by far.

Doctor Travis says: Enjoy stage one as long as possible.Savor your unrealistic expectations now because it won’t last long. Children can ruin stage one in the time it takes to drop a drink on the floor of the van or hit their sister in the face with a stuffed animal.

Stage Two: Settling In – “Okay people we’ve got six hours to go. Get out your drawing pad/books/toys. No, we’re not stopping; we just left the house.”

In stage two the driver of the vehicle has settled into cruise control, the GPS is set on your destination, and the other parent is trying to get the children to bunker down for the trip. If a parent has planned well the children will now have their hands full of games, snacks, activities, and other distractions guaranteed to keep them occupied for at least the next 5 minutes.

Recommendation: Accept the fact children will fight against stage two. They don’t want to settle in. They just want to get there. Here we begin the annoying question you’ll hear for the next 5 and a half hours. “Are we there yet?” Accept this annoyance, it’s not going to stop. Ever.

Stage Three: Interruptions  – “I’ve gotta go to the bathroom. I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. Are we there yet? I don’t like this movie! My stomach hurts. So and so touched my foot.”

Now things begin to go downhill.

Kids are no longer interested in their toys. Their bladders, which you made sure to empty before you left, are miraculously full again. You end up having to stop at a seedy gas station and what should be a 5 minute rest stop turns into a 20 minute disaster. If you’re lucky you won’t reach stage three for at least an hour. If God has poured out his favor on your trip, then maybe you make it an hour and a half. More realistically, you could reach stage three in 30-45 minutes.

Doctor Travis says: Buy yourself your favorite candy bar and drink, (non-alchoholic, remember you’re still driving), to console yourself.

fatigueStage Four: Weariness – “Are we there yet? Why is this taking so long? Why did you take this road? What is that smell in the backseat?

Now fatigue has set in. You’ve still got a long way to go, but you’re sick of driving. Your body aches from sitting in one position for so long. Parents get chippy with one another. The children are in outright revolt in the back seat. If you’re lucky you’ve got some sort of DVD player they can watch, but even that is no guarantee of relief. You can only pacify your kids for so long.  Every mile mocks you with how far you have left to go.

Recommended Prayer:”Help me Jesus not kill my children, wife, husband, dog, or other drivers on the road. Amen.”

Stage Five: Losing It – “Ha ha, hee hee, Woo hoo!

Here you start laughing uncontrollably. The stress of the trip has worn down your brain so much that you sort of lose your mind. You don’t care anymore. Anything and everything can and will be funny in stage five. This is one of the better parts of the trip because it can lead to great memories of you and the kids doing absolutely ridiculous things and making everybody laugh.

My thoughts: Enjoy it. Entering stage five means you’re probably almost there, but you still have…

Stage Six: Zombieland – “………………………………………………….

The laughter is gone. The movies have been watched. The snacks have been eaten. All your CDs have been played. Your brain is fried. The children are whimpering in the backseat. Your body feels gross and stiff. The dog may or may not have thrown up in the back, but at this point you don’t care. Everyone is staring blankly at the road ahead, which drags on and on and on…You’re wondering whose idea was it to go on vacation in the first place.

Recommendation: Hey don’t look at me. This was your idea.

we-made-it-001-e1403402026904Stage Seven: You made it – “Everybody get out.”

Congratulations. You survived. Now go and enjoy your trip. But don’t enjoy it too much.

Remember, there’s still the ride home.

The Mystery of Children

MysteryToday let us examine one of the great mysteries considered by parents everywhere. It’s one of the truly baffling baffles which ever baffled a baffler, (shout-out to Dr. Seuss). Scientists have pondered. Investigators have investigated. Physicists have physicized. Journalists have journaled. Politicians have put forth legislation. Instructors have instructed. All around the world the great and mighty, the high and low, have tried to sort out this mystery, but none are able to solve it, to address this issue, and answer the parent’s question:

Why do my children act this way? Continue reading

Thomas Lee Returns & I’m Warning You

warningI previously wrote about Thomas Lee, the little boy at the pool whose name I heard 52,000 times within a half hour period because his mother kept saying his name over and over again. I also spoke about the dangers of cell phone parenting. Good news! We were lucky to see old Thomas Lee again at a recent visit to the pool. Unsurprisingly, his presence provided more entertainment and learning opportunities for all involved.

Our good buddy Thomas Lee continued to act like a child, which is what little boys are wont to do. (Wont is a fancy word you use if you’re a journalism major). Thomas Lee ran around, grabbed stuff that wasn’t his, swam in places he wasn’t supposed to swim, and acted crazy. I’ve got a little boy and he acts much the same way, so I understand. The problem wasn’t with Thomas Lee, but his mother. She determined her previous tactic of saying Thomas Lee’s full name repeatedly, (“Thomas Lee! Thomas Lee!”), wasn’t working, so she tried another course of action, “the warning”. (Cue dramatic music). Continue reading

A Serious Problem for Parents Everywhere

Crumbs

I want to talk with you today about a very troubling subject. It’s an issue all people, particularly parents, have to deal with. It can destroy a person’s sanity. It can wreck your house, car, or any public area. I’m talking of course about Goo. I’m writing this highly scientific article (ahem) in the hopes of educating you all about the dangers of Goo and to prepare you to properly respond to the spread of Goo in your home, school, church, and neighborhood.

For those of you who may not be aware of Goo, let me enlighten you about this dangerous and stress producing substance.

Goo is qualified as any sticky, crumbly, or messy substance produced or left behind by children. Examples of Goo are graham cracker bits on carpets, hand prints on mirrors, left over raisins in car seats, and of course, boogers. The list of items which qualify as Goo is endless. If it’s wet, sticky, gooey, trashy, or not designed for a certain area of the house, then it’s probably Goo. Continue reading