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Volunteering for Chaos

By Dustin | Children

Volunteering for ChaosOn the line.  Everybody on the line, I yell to my gathered throng of three- and four-year-olds.

Very few are listening.

One girl is picking clovers out of the grass.  One of the boys is preoccupied scaling the goal.  Two girls in the corner hold hands and twirl about, oblivious to the screaming parents, loud whistle and frustrated coach.

I should know.  I’m the coach.  One of the girls twirling away?  That’s my daughter.

Welcome to a typical practice at my U4 YMCA soccer team.  We do a lot of running and talking, but sometimes, it seems, we do very little soccer.

I spend more time lecturing about not using hands, not tackling our teammates and not picking grass while the ball is in play than I do actually teaching the game of soccer.  Not that I can contribute a whole lot anyway.  You see, I really don’t know much about the game.

Why would someone who knows nothing about soccer coach it?  Two words:  my daughter.

As a youth pastor, I’m gone from home quite a lot.  By the time you add up youth camp, mission trips, winter trips, overnighters and long-weekend events, I figure at least one month of my year is spent away from my family and hanging with teens.  That doesn’t include nights at football games, dance recitals or school plays.  It also doesn’t include late night phone calls or hospital visits.

To put it frankly, I know my daughter misses some quality time with her dad.  So what can I do to ensure we spend some time together?  I volunteer to coach her soccer team.  To be honest, at the U4 level (which means under four years old), it’s really just organized chaos.

I do the organizing.  They provide the chaos.

The kids get to run around the field.  They get to dress in a uniform and make friends on the team.  At the end of each game, everybody has a fun time and they get snacks and juice.

I get so much more.  As a dad, I want to spend as much time with my daughter as I can.  These are formative years in her development. What better way than serving as her coach?

It’s a natural fit.  It requires just a few extra hours a week, and for that, I get to be on the field while my daughter goes for the goal.  I get to high-five her and her friends for a job well done.  I get to be present with her as she’s learning to be independent, make friends and become part of a team.

You can’t replace that.

So here’s my advice.  If you can, volunteer to coach or help in your child’s sports team, band or dance troupe.  You’ll get quality time with your child that won’t cost you much money and just a little extra time.

We spend so much time doing other things that a few extra hours on the field or riding the bus is going to be far more valuable than the fun stuff you could fill it with.

wayne camp photoWayne Yeager is a youth pastor, a husband, a dad, a student at Liberty Seminary (currently seeking an MA in Pastoral Counseling) and a sci-fi geek.

He lives in Western Kentucky with his wife and daughter where he serves as a full-time minister of youth.  You can follow his blogs at http://wyeager.blogspot.com/ and at http://ministryplace.net/.

(photo source)

Till Death Do Us Part: 3 Unusual Life Lessons Learned at My Dad’s Bedside

By Dustin | Children

Till Death Do Us Part

With My Dad – Listening to Stories

My Dad passed away last week.

It was a bittersweet event – he had suffered deteriorating health for several years and was ready to be at peace.

And we were fortunate to have our immediate family present to offer support to my Mom.

Yet losing a close loved one is never easy.

Over the past few days, I’ve had time to reflect on my Dad’s (crazy, crazy) life.  As is often the case, we can learn a lot more in hindsight than we ever realize while events are happening right before our eyes.

My father led quite an unusual life, and if I shared a fraction of my upbringing with you, I bet you’d have a hard time figuring out how/why I became a marriage advocate, let alone a stable husband and father.

But I think that’s partly what makes his legacy so beautiful to me.  He didn’t follow the straight and narrow path, yet he blazed a trail for me that I’m sure he never recognized.

I’d like to share a few of the unusual lessons my Dad taught me during our 33 years together, culminating at his bedside during his final weeks.

1. Love Isn’t Always Enough, but It Can Conquer Many Evils (When You Let It)

I won’t sugar coat it – there were many years of my Dad’s life when he would not have been considered a good man.

He suffered deeply from alcoholism that would completely corrupt his personality and actions.  Abuse and abandonment were common when he was on a bender.

It was truly a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type of scenario that our family lived with through most of my childhood.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that I hated him at times.

In a moment of remarkable courage, my Mom told him she was divorcing him when I was 12 years old.

They had been married for 14 long years after a 10-day courtship when my Mom was 22 (he was 40 at the time they met).

After some initial push back, my Dad eventually realized that she was serious.  It took this time of disaster for him to realize just how much he loved her and how he’d taken for granted all that she meant to him.

I remember him telling me during a visit to the hotel room where he was living that he still loved her and he was going to change to show her.

Shortly thereafter, my Dad quit drinking cold turkey after 40 years of intense alcohol abuse.  He was truly a changed man fueled by love.

Bethany and I stood as witnesses when my Mom and Dad remarried during my college years.  In total, they were married 30 years with a 6-year break that he never liked to remember.

A few years later, as the abuse he inflicted on his body started to take hold, my Dad was told that he had to quit smoking if he wanted to be around for my Mom and his eventual grandchildren.  Once again, he quit smoking cold turkey – breaking a 2-pack a day habit he started at 12 years old.

My three kids are very happy he made that choice through love since they probably wouldn’t have met him otherwise.

There’s no doubt that evil is a real and destructive force in our world.  However, when you focus on Love, I truly believe you can overcome…my Dad showed me this in stark contrast.

2. Live a Life that’s Worthy of Story Telling

I had the opportunity to speak with the hospice chaplain a few days before my Dad passed away, and he remarked about two things – my Dad’s mischievous grin and his incredible stories.

Keep in mind that this pastor only knew my Dad during his final two weeks or so, and he couldn’t actually speak much at all at that point.  Yet, his stories persisted and even through a lot of struggle, those stories brought out that “shit-eating grin” so many people will remember him for.  They lit up his eyes.

My Dad led a very hard life.  He was born to the children of German immigrants and farmed throughout his childhood.  His Dad committed suicide.

He joined the Army but didn’t complete his full enlistment.  He spent his career as a union laborer working outside doing all sorts of generally crappy jobs.  He drank away many days and nights, and punished his body for decades.

To say that his life was unglamorous would be a major understatement.

Yet, he had so many endearing stories that left an impression on everyone who heard them.  Amazingly, I actually think they were all true.

There was one particular set of tales that made me feel quite lucky to exist in this world.  There were just so many opportunities for God to stop short of getting around to creating me.

Aside from some gruesome childhood accidents like burning his leg up after pouring kerosene in a burning barrel that then exploded, there were several direct attacks on his ability to procreate.

His testicles were largely torn from his body in an adolescent farming accident (sorry for the cringe, guys).

Sometime later, he was working on another farm and got trapped in a hog house and attacked by a boar.  His play-by-play version of that ordeal was legendary.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

My Dad was declared clinically dead on three different occasions, all before he even met my Mom. 

In one case, he was buried in a sewer trench collapse for over 40 minutes and was essentially left for dead while rescue efforts dragged on for a very long time.  He doesn’t remember much of the event, but the newspaper clippings highlighting the incredible story of “Slim Riechmann” were amazing.  It turns out the 6’5″ 230-pound man I knew weighed about 140 pounds in his twenties.

Two other “I was dead” stories involved horrific car accidents.  One story was accompanied by an odd scar on his forehead – it turns out that was where the gear shifter of his car was implanted through his skull.

In a twist of irony, it was a “rare night” where he was driving sober.  He was hit head-on by a drunk driver and pronounced dead on the scene with severe head and chest trauma.

Never let a wheelchair keep you from dancing to Elvis

Never let a wheelchair keep you from dancing to Elvis

Family members have threatened to write a book of his many stories, although many of the witnesses have since passed on.

I imagine his incredible tales will instead be carried on verbally…with the same heavy doses of “do as I say, not as I did” admonishments that I received.

By the way, I’ve never set foot in a hog house or ridden on the back of a combine…and I’ve cautiously crossed paths with many vehicles on late nights with thoughts of my Dad’s scar story front and center in my mind.

My Dad lived life his way.  It wasn’t always pretty, and it was often painful, but he created a legacy of stories that will outlive me.

3. Actions Rule, but Words Do Matter

Like I mentioned before, my Dad’s actions during my childhood gave me good reason to hate him.

Aside from the abuse of others I witnessed, he’d also lose his temper with me on occasion.  The violence was always followed by words of remorse and apology.

While his painful actions ruled my perceptions, I never doubted his love because he took the time to share it in words.

My Dad didn’t have a robust vocabulary, but he meant what he said.

When he told me that being an engineer would be a “good puss job,” it was a sign of pride.  As a construction worker, he had to be out in the heat building things, while the engineers would stop by in their pleated khaki pants to check up on the project.

They were pussies, but he was happy to know that I had the smarts and education to be one of them and not another grunt worker.

My Dad proved that wisdom doesn’t have to be poetic to get the message across.

For example, he had several great tongue-in-cheek life lessons that I’ll never forget.  And he shared them in a way that only he could:

  • Never get a tattoo – it will make it too easy to identify you if you kill someone.
  • Drink your beer before you get on the highway – full cans bouncing around inside your car hurt like hell when you have a wreck.
  • (Told to me and my teenage girlfriend Bethany on the way out the door for a date) If anything happens, name it after me – Norbert is a saint’s name, you know.

Obviously, these were goofy ideas to give your son.  But my Dad was a goofy guy who loved me enough to share them.

While it’s best to live by example, you can still leave your mark through the expression of your own brand of wisdom.  The words you share with others – through stories, life lessons and expressions of love – do matter.

In a few days, we’ll celebrate Norbert Riechmann’s life in a small graveside service.

My Mom will be sad to say a final goodbye to her first (and second) husband.  Loved ones will share their kind memories, while putting to rest some not-so-kind words they’ve held onto for years.

And my Dad will finally be at rest after 75 years spent living life his way.

I hope I get to meet him in heaven some day.  I’m sure he’ll have some awesome stories to tell.

Get Out! Forming a Babysitting Co-op

By Dustin | Children

Babysitting Co-opMost couples realize the importance of dating to keep strengthening their marriage.

However, once you introduce children into the picture, dating takes on an entirely new purpose.

It is even more important to carve out that time to spend together or you may never get time alone.

Unfortunately for many young couples, money can be very tight when you are first married and just starting out, and the idea of paying for night out on the town and the cost of a babysitter can be daunting. Forming a babysitting co-op can make it a lot easier to continue to date!

Setting Up the Co-op

There are several different ways to form the co-op.

One way is to use coupons that you swap with each other when you babysit. This way allows for more flexibility and you can have a larger group.

When you need a babysitter, you contact another family in the co-op and see if they will babysit for you, and then you give them coupons they can cash in when they need a sitter.

Another way is to set up a schedule with each family in the co-op being responsible for sitting at their home each week, on a set night usually Friday or Saturday. Then the other families in the co-op will drop their children off for the evening, and pick them up. It helps to have a scheduled time that all the children need to be picked up by.

Although this does not have as much flexibility, it may help you begin scheduling and going on dates, because you will still need to babysit even if you do not use all of your co-op nights.

Choosing the Families

One key to success in the co-op is choosing a blend of families that will work well together.

It helps to have children that are near each other in age in the co-op. This does not mean that every family needs to have a two year old or a four year old. But if you can find a blend with both older and younger children, it will help the co-op to go more smoothly since one child will not be bored the entire time.

Additionally, you need to keep the number of children in the co-op to a reasonable and manageable size. Generally if you have more than four families it can get complicated, but if you have large families you may need to limit it to two or three families instead of four.

Babysitting on Your Night

It is best to have some sort of structure to the night, especially if you have a large number of children in the co-op.

You can begin the night with free play and allow the children to explore your home. If you have a yard, letting them play outside while it is still light out can really help to make things go better.

After free play, you can have a snack and possibly complete a craft activity. Generally, it is best to put on a movie towards the end of the night, as the children tend to get crazier as they become more tired. This gives everyone a chance to unwind and makes it easier to start having children go home as parents arrive.

Have you tried a Babysitting Co-Op?  Does it sound like something you’d like to try?

Heather Green is a freelance writer for several regional magazines in North Carolina as well as a resident blogger for onlinenursingdegrees.org. Her writing experience includes fashion, business, health, agriculture and a wide range of other topics. Heather has just completed research on associates degree in nursing and online nursing programs in nc.

 

A Baby and Marriage – How to Double Your Joy!

By Dustin | Children

Note: This guest post was written by Surabhi Surendra of Womanatics. I receive messages weekly from folks who are frustrated with their marriage after their newborn baby arrives. It can be such an amazing yet stressful time – enjoy Surabhi’s advice on how to make it joyful!

A new baby is like the beginning of all things – wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities. ~ Eda J. Le Shan

Your newborn baby opens up an entirely new chapter in your married life.

Often it is associated with sleepless nights, less or no time for the couple, zero sex, more conflicts and other such negative thoughts. But I personally believe a baby brings freshness to a marriage.

It adds a whole new dimension to otherwise disciplined, scheduled busy lives.

Having a baby, undoubtedly, brings a pile of expectations with it. Your sleep gets disturbed; you need extra time or a helping hand to juggle this major new responsibility; the innocent, soft young child cannot take care of itself and thus you have to watch him 24/7.

These are some of those major issues that a couple has to sort out when a new family member arrives. Still, having a cute, little bundle of joy to love is more than exhilarating.

I’d like to share with you some lessons that we’ve learned along the way since welcoming our baby in our marriage.  I hope this helps your double your joy!

Understanding that baby is part of your bodies

Your egg and his semen gave birth to the baby. He is neither only yours and nor just his.

He is part of both of you and it is your love that gave him the life he took inside the womb.

It is bliss to see your baby growing into a new person slowly every day, and it gives immense pleasure to see glimpses of each of you in him.

Look at the way he opens up his eyes or twists his lips to smile or raises eyebrows while sleeping. His yawning, coughing, moving, smiling – everything he does will amaze you, especially when his mannerisms match with your own style.

From his body color to hair texture to moles to nails, baby embodies both of you. The more you try to watch him and tell yourself that this young, little piece of life has your DNA, the more you will love him and your marriage for bringing him to this world.

Baby gives you a purpose

A baby brings freshness and colors to life. Forget about those sleepless nights and the pile of dirty diapers for a while and focus on the gift of tenderness.

Every evening when you come home, you have a gentle cooing voice waiting for you. Next morning while leaving for the office, you know at least one person wants you to stay.

I understand many of you may complain about the scene that happens when kids don’t let you go or they are ready at the gate to be picked up beforehand, but I can’t believe that anyone actually hates it. It might disturb you for a few moments or make you late for a meeting but deep inside, every parent is glad that his baby does not want him to leave.

Mommy gets super busy with the baby. Baby gives her abundant love and undivided attention and yeah, he needs the same in return.

After a baby is born, both partners get a sense of purpose. Saving money, getting home on time, building healthy habits, talking softly and politely and much more – these are some of the basic good things a baby’s arrival brings in your daily regime.

Baby lets you love and respect each other more

Who would not love her husband more when she sees him happily playing with the baby? And ditto is for the husband.

When you start taking care of the baby, both of you feel a strong sense of respect and love for each other. It establishes you not only as a gentle, kind-hearted, loving and responsible human being but also makes your spouse drool over you for your simplicity and love.

I cannot forget the day when my husband pecked me on my forehead and thanked me for giving the most precious gift to him – our baby daughter.

Of course, a new baby brings challenges as well.  Here are few ways to tackle some of the common issues that may surface when you bring your baby home.

Husband feels neglected

This is the most common of all and also pretty logical. Until now, you gave all your attention and care to your hubby and now there is a new man in your life, so obviously the other man will feel side-lined.

But here is the trick – playing together with the baby or sitting on the couch and watching him groove while you cuddle with each other are some of the best ways to have intimate fun.

  • Try to develop a schedule for the baby and put him to sleep (whether in your bed or baby’s nursery cribs) at least an hour before you doze off. That one hour is just yours and you can use it the way you wish to.
  • Sit on the bed along with the baby and give him a complicated toy to fiddle with. While he does his engineering, both of you can have your time.
  • Talk about the general, light stuff while the baby is awake because as long as he is there, he will keep taking your attention away. Keep the serious matters for the evening.
  • Utilize your phone. I remember how I and my hubby talked on the phone in the day time during lunch when my baby was mostly asleep and we were free. Call each other during the day.
  • Let your husband rock the baby while you prepare his favorite meals or do something exclusively for him to make him feel special.
  • Go for an evening stroll along with the baby.  You can chat while the baby enjoys the view.

Less or no sex

If you have lost interest in sex post-delivery, it needs another post to talk about ways to re-ignite the passion. But if it is because of time, you can easily sort it out.

  • Like I said above, put the baby to sleep an hour before.
  • Hire a nanny or leave the baby to his grandparents for some time while you get intimate.
  • Keep some time for just the two of you and do not compromise on that.
  • It is actually not about zero sex, it is about zero intimacy. So the key is to get intimate and there are several ways to remain intimate without making extra efforts.
  • If for some reason, you actually can not be close physically, make him feel emotionally secured by expressing your love for him.
  • While sleeping, as a usual practice, baby sleeps in between. Every morning before getting up, keep a high pillow next to the baby to avoid his fall and hop on to your hubby’s side.
  • Show affection. If you can’t show it physically, at least be generous vocally.

More Conflicts

With the same amount of limited time and extra added responsibilities, it is normal for a person to feel stressed.

Babies do become sources of stress for parents at times. This stress results in conflicts. But just like other cases of arguments, these conflicts can also be resolved with mutual understanding.

  • A baby is not one person’s responsibility. It is a decision that both of you took. So, men should lend a helping hand to their wives often.
  • The best solution to sort out conflicts is communication. Talk about the problems and your feelings before they erupt and cause more damage. If you feel neglected, resentful or stressed out, tell your spouse and discuss the possible solutions.
  • Discuss the main cause of conflict. If it’s the extra physical work that causes the problem, hire a maid or divide the tasks. If it is your rude behavior, explain to your man that it’s probably because of the various physiological and biological changes your body has undergone. Also, consult a doctor if things get serious.

Having a baby is probably the most important thing to happen in your life. Enjoy it and make it a happy time for the baby, too. His presence will not only make your marriage stronger but will also make it more playful and cheerful.

Since the birth of my 15 months old daughter, my life has changed and it is all for the good.

How do you feel about your baby? Let us know in the comments.

Surabhi Surendra lives in Andamans and blogs at Womanatics – a blog about women, relationships and inspiration. If you enjoyed this article, you may like to become a Facebook fan.

A Baby and Marriage – How to Double Your Joy!.001

It Gets Easier. Right?

By Dustin | Children

Life as a young, busy family can be downright tough sometimes.

Here’s a scenario that any couple with small children can probably relate to…and I know we can because it’s a true (and completely typical) story for us from just last weekend.

One Hour, Two Thirty-Somethings, Three Small Children

Bethany and I are standing at the start of Mass at our church, confident that the kids are finally under control.

It’s been a long Sunday filled with lots of playing, cooking, feeding, driving, disciplining, doctoring, explaining, reading, loving, yelling, celebrating, stressing, enjoying and being…together as a family.  We’re certainly ready for some spiritual renewal.

The first five minutes have been a welcome respite, as the kids were distracted by the church musicians’ practice and were (kinda) quiet.

Then, just as Mass gets underway, comes the shrill, whiney “BRADENNNNN” from the mouth of our 4-year-old daughter Kendall to pierce the relative silence.

Braden has decided at this point in his life that he MUST have a green crayon.  No, unlike his little sister, he is not coloring.  But that green crayon is his or at least he NEEDS it right now.  Right now.

This isn’t our first rodeo, so Braden and Kendall are quickly separated to stand on either side of us.

Kendall gets her crayon back, Braden makes a (loud) appeal for keeping it, while our priest prays and appears to do a good job of ignoring that rude family in the third pew.  Braden relinquishes and is convinced through stern, not-so-quiet whispers from Mommy that this would be an excellent time to be quiet, turn around and respect God by paying attention.

For at least 5 seconds, calm ensued as if by Divine Intervention.  It was heavenly.

Then it was 11-month-old Avery’s turn.  She’s got an ear infection, so she rightfully requires some extra love and attention.

And she’s had plenty of it since I’ve been holding her the entire time with one arm, while policing the previous fight with the other.

Well, apparently being held, pulling my hair, periodically screeching like a rabid monkey, slobbering on me, arching her back away from me so as to maximize stress on my lower back, and kicking me in such a way as to discourage any future siblings isn’t enough.

It’s time to cry!

This is one of those resonating, inconsolable cries that everyone notices.  It even earns a look from our priest, and he’s pretty numb to such interruptions.

It’s at this time that the beads of sweat start to form on my forehead and my ears feel like they’re on fire as I’m sure the 300 people behind me are all staring at me wondering why I’m such a lousy father.

This is also the time that Braden decides it would be a swell idea to crawl under the pew, kicking the back of my knees in the process and nearly causing me to tumble.

As she sees my temper flaring, Bethany motions for the hand-off.

I give her screaming Avery so she can bail to the church foyer and end that madness.  Meanwhile, I wipe my forehead and look down…to see Braden waving a green crayon in Kendall’s face.  Her breath is held tight, mouth turned down and I can practically see the steam coming from her ears.

She’s gonna blow!

And so it goes for the next 50 minutes, off and on, between moments of true joy like genuine hugs and kisses between all of our family members during the Sign of Peace to many more moments of stress, frustration and a bit of physical pain.

It’s just another Sunday afternoon for the Riechmann family. 🙂

It Gets Easier

After Mass is over and we’re gathering up our things, a sweet older lady makes the point of walking up to Bethany and telling her how cute our kids are.

Naturally, it’s hard to accept such kind words at a time when you’re not sure if your children are possessed by demons, but a polite smile and a “thank you” was reciprocated.

But this lady had a bit of wisdom to share.  She smiled very knowingly and said, “Don’t worry, honey.  It’s tough with small children.  But it gets easier.”

Thank God.

It’s All Good

This is just a 10-minute snippet of our life as the parents of three small children.  Am I complaining?  A little.

But would I change it for anything in the world? Not a chance.

Small children are tough to raise, especially when you try so hard to be consistent and firm in your boundaries.  It requires a LOT of energy, patience and encouragement, even when it comes from strangers.

If you’re facing similar stress in your family life, be sure to get a healthy dose of regular date nights away from the kids, time alone with individual children so you can bond more directly, and give your spouse some time to be alone and just focus on taking care of their body.

That’s what we do as much as possible, and it makes all the difference.

We still have lots of struggles, but at the end of the day we are so incredibly thankful for the blessings of our crazy little children, screams and groin kicks and all.

So, for you slightly older families out there, does it really get any easier?