Friday, December 24, 2010

The Santa Failure

I've often pondered the "Santa predicament". When do you tell your kids that the magical jolly man isn't real? Is it ok to lie to your children about him? Will this charade cause them to paint Jesus in the same mythical light?

We planned on playing the game as long as we could. Then, our 6y/o started to ask a lot of questions. A LOT OF QUESTIONS. The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back was:

"A friend said that Santa is dead and that only his spirit is alive. Is that true?"

"We'll talk about it on your night to stay up." I replied. (each of our kids gets one night per week to stay up 15 minutes later than everyone else for one-on-one time)

I hoped that she would forget by then. She didn't. So, rather spontaneously, I decided to have one of the top 5 most dreaded conversations of parenthood. For the record, I still don't have a clue how to solve the Santa predicament. However, I now know (and can pass along to you) how not to do it.

I said something to the affect of "Ok. Mommy and Daddy are going to tell you a big kid secret. If we tell you, you can't tell your friends at school or your brothers or sisters."

Her: "Why?"

Me: "Because you might ruin a really fun game if you tell them this secret. Are you ready to hear the secret?"

Her: "Yes, Daddy."


....just kidding....I didn't say that....but the result might have been better if I had.

What I really said: "Santa is a fun game that everyone plays at Christmas time. Mommy and Daddy are really the ones who bring the presents and eat the cookies."

Her (smiling oddly): "Do all the grownups know about this?"

Me: "Yes."

We then talked for a bit. She didn't sleep much that night. She wasn't the least bit sad, which surprised both of us. She actually seemed happily excited to know the "big kid" secret.

I was a bit depressed that I had just killed Santa; but, I felt pretty good overall about how things went down.

Then came the questions. Over the next two days she asked a steady flow of questions that didn't really make sense in light of our previous conversation (mostly the questions were about ideas that should have died with Santa-North Pole, flying reindeer, etc.). Finally one question that she asked flipped the switch on the little light bulb hovering over my head. 6y/o (in a giggly whisper): "So Daddy, who's on the naughty list?"

Now, all of her questions made sense. My daughter thinks that her mommy and I are the ones who keep the nice and naughty list for all the children of the world; and, are the two very important individuals responsible for traveling the globe to deliver presents to those whom we deem worthy. There is no Santa because Mommy and Daddy are Santa. OOPS.

Tonight (Christmas Eve), she was more excited than ever to put out carrots for the reindeer. I just haven't figured out a way to fix my embarrassing failure yet. Perhaps next year....because now I face a new, more painful, dilemma. Not only did I have to kill Santa-now I have to kill the awesome dream of her Daddy as a Christmas superhero. Bummer.

The moral of the story: if you are going to have the Santa talk with your kids, rehearse a bit before you ignorantly ramble on about how Mommy and Daddy do all the things Santa does. Also, please pray that I don't screw up the birds and bees talk also. That would REALLY stink.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Nap Time Experiment

So, nap times can sometimes be painful. Forcing a kid to take a nap for the sake of a cranky-free evening can be a taxing debacle. Punishing my child when he gets out of bed works; but, I hate doing it. So, a few Sundays ago I thought I'd experiment with a different parenting theory: rather than punish him, I'd gently place him back in bed every time he got up. It would be a bit of a hassle, but all I'd be missing out on was bits and pieces of the Cowboys' inevitable failure. I was many times would it take? Here's the answer:

#1. Into bed he goes. (Yes, he is using a Ms. Piggy/Muppet Band pillow case ala 1983. Yes, he is using his sister's comforter. Yes, he is fully clothed-shoes and all-the kid loves to wear his shoes. Stop judging me and enjoy the experiment.) "Good night. Stay in bed." I exit the room and listen for the sounds of the inevitable escape.

#1.5. I hear the sound of something hitting the wall. I go back to check. He's in bed, but has apparently gotten out of bed, grabbed a basket of blocks, gotten back in bed, and is throwing them one-by-one at the wall. "Block Daddy." "Yes, that's a nice block...but I have to take it away so that you will lay down and go to sleep. Good night." Technically, I didn't have to put him back in bed so we'll count this as "put him back in bed" #1.5.

#2. I check on our daughters (who were playing in the play room). Someone else was apparently checking on them also. I carry him back to bed. "Stay in bed. Good night."

#3. "Daddy, brother is out of bed again." Sure enough, he is watching his sisters play again. This time he figured out how to get the door open. Sorry, the photo's kind of'll notice a familiar face just above the horse's rear end. I carry him back to bed. "Back to your bed. Good night."

#4. I hear some rustling back in the girls' room. "Sorry, you can yank the Dora sheet off of your sister's bed another day. Back to bed. Good night."

#5. I work on some laundry for about 15 minutes. I haven't heard anything so I go check. Could a miracle have occurred with only 4 "back to beds"? Well, sort of...if by "miracle" I mean totally destroying his brothers' room in less than 15 minutes. "Back to bed. Good night."

#6. Five minutes later I hear the loud and repeated slamming of a door. He's just hanging out in the sewing closet. "Back to bed. Good night."

#7. It's been another 10 or 15 minutes and I haven't heard anything; so, I get up to check on him. I look down the hallway and notice that the bathroom has been toddler'ed. I take a picture (at the perfectly God ordained moment) as my little one peeks to see if I am watching before he ventures off to destroy some other area of our house. "Back to bed. Good night."

#8. I hear more rustling. I get up to check. There is now a marker, a toy, a toy thermometer, a cotton ball, and a bag of cereal sitting in my hallway. Someone must have heard me coming because he almost made it back to his room before he froze like a deer in the headlights when I said his name. I'm not exactly sure what dastardly plan he had concocted that required these items...but I can assure you that it wasn't going to be pretty. "Good night."

#9. I hear static in the kitchen. He must have turned the baby monitor off. Sure enough..... "Back to bed. Good night."

#10. He's getting bold now. "Hi Dadda." "Thank you for the stick-unicorn. Back to bed. Good night." No, I didn't bother picking up the bag of cereal last time. I don't know why...likely because I was busy yelling at Romo or something.

The End. 10.5 attempts later I finally give up and force him to stay in his room for 15 minutes. In an attempt to stick to my bizarro parenting experiment, I give him a couple of toys, a drink, and some cereal (i.e. bribery). I hoped he would fall asleep. He did not.

The moral of the story: Spare the rod, spoil the child. As expected, he was an emotional crankpot all evening.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10 Quick Tips for Parenting

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.” - John Wilmot

I pretty much find that quote to be true. Obviously, there are very few parenting truths that apply to every child. Different personalities demand different methods. These are a few things that have worked well for us (so far in our relatively brief stint as parents); and, a few words of wisdom from parents we respect who have gone before us.

1. When you have multiple children, spending quality time with each child individually is very difficult. We have started allowing 1 child per night to stay up 15 minutes later than the others for one-on-one time with Mommy & Daddy. This has been surprisingly difficult to be consistent with, but has been well worth it. We get frustrated some days when this 15 minutes may be the only 15 minutes that our son or daughter has had alone with us all day; but, as a wise friend pointed out: God can do a lot with a little.

2. In discipline, as in most things kid-related, consistency is key. We've found that behavior is worse when punishments vary. For example, we might put our son in timeout for hitting his brother one day. He might get a spanking another day. He might get a warning another day. His behavior is always better when the punishment is consistent. We now have a rigid process: 1. Head thump. 2. Tell your brother you are sorry and ask him to forgive you. 3. Give him a hug. We do this every public and in private.

3. Counting to 10 is of the devil. Yes, we are guilty of this at times. "You have until I count to 3 to stop _________." We are inadvertently teaching our kids to wait until we get to 3 to make a good decision. The same is true for escalating vocal volume when giving kids instructions. "Junior, stop playing in the water.....JUNIOR, stop playing in the water.....JUNIOR STOP PLAYING IN THE WATER NNNNNOOOOWWWW!!!!" When we are in public, people often (no, not always) marvel at my kids' behavior. People are amazed when my kids quickly exit a play area the first time that they are asked. My wife has trained my kids to listen the first time. We haven't inadvertently trained them that it is ok for them to wait to obey until we are yelling. Are our kids perfect? Yes. Just kidding, but this is one area that they-more often than not-excel in.

4. Your word-Again, consistency is key. Every kid, through some inexplicable inborn knowledge, knows how to ask the question "5 more minutes pahleeeeeeeeeeeeessseeee?" Our kids are learning almost everything from us...including time management. If you tell your child "yes, you can have 5 more minutes" you need to make sure it is a true 5 minutes. Why this is important: You will inevitably find yourself uttering the phrases, "you have 5 minutes to clean your room or else ________." and "we have to leave for church in 5 minutes junior". I know that I have punished my kids for failing to complete a task within a given time frame....which was a huge mistake because I have taught them that "5 minutes" sometimes means 1 minute, sometimes 10, sometimes 45.

5. Apologize to your kids. I screw up. A lot. Sometimes my punishments don't fit the crimes. Sometimes I raise my voice too much. Sometimes, an hour after the fact, I remember that I had sent my daughter to her room. Sometimes I instigate a game of household-item-breaking living room dodge ball. There is no better way for my kid to learn about apologies and humility than to witness one of their God-given role models (I know, scary isn't it?) in the process.

6. Reminder: someday, your kids are likely going to treat you the way that you treat your parents. Do you want your kids to come home for the holidays with the grand kids? How much of an effort do you make to let your parents see their grand kids?

7. "Teachable moments" are all the rage in parenting books these days. Take every teachable moment that you can. For example: your child has saved up some allowance money and wants to buy something at the store. 1. Junior has a great opportunity to learn that $1 bill won't buy something that is priced $1 thanks to the evils of taxation. 2. If your son wants the $9 Transformer and he only has $7, think twice before pitching in the extra $2.74. You are inadvertently teaching him that $7 is really worth $9.74 when dad is around. You'll be amazed what your son will learn by this simple act of refusal on your part. For example, maybe he'll start asking about prices of items he wants. Maybe he'll start calculating taxes and despise them. Maybe he'll learn how to work toward a specific goal financially. Great life lessons.

8. Your kids watch your every move. Sometimes they even watch you while you sleep. Have you ever opened your eyes first thing in the morning to see your 3-year-old standing beside the bed and staring at you from a couple inches away? This happened to me a few times. I don't know how long she had been there, watching me sleep; but, it creeped me out. Anyhow, kids see all. If you order water at a restaurant and fill your cup with Sprite, your kids will blur lines of morality as well. If you talk on your phone while driving, your kids will also. If you answer your phone during family dinner your teenagers will answer theirs during family events also. Life would be much easier if kids would do as we say not as we do...unfortunately, this isn't the case.

9. Read a parenting book. We just went through Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, which I would recommend.

10. Best advice I have received this year: don't let guilt interfere with your parenting. For me, it is easy to get caught up in the "coulda woulda shoulda's" of parenting, and to get caught up in the guilt of my mess-ups. I have to remember to take things one step at a time. If I screw up a hundred times, just put it behind me and try to do better going forward.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

10 Quick Tips for Saving > $1,300 in the Next 12 Months.

1. Utilize the salvage food store at Hillside & Western once every 2 weeks. FYI...they only take cash or checks. Average yearly savings: a lot

2. Buy spaghetti noodles, a can of tomato sauce, and steamable corn every time you go to the store. When you have one of those "I don't want to cook, let's just go out to eat" nights, throw aforementioned spaghetti in a pot of water, boil for 10-15 minutes, drain, dump in a can of tomato sauce, steam the corn, and eat. This takes less time than loading up the kids and driving somewhere. Savings: Well, a family of 5 can eat fast food for around $30. This meal costs about $3. It feeds my family of 8. Fighting your "I'm too exhausted to cook tonight" urge with spaghetti once per week will save you over $1,000/year. That's enough $ for a shiny new IPad. Side note: Adding ground turkey, salt, and pepper to the not-so-great canned spaghetti sauce only adds $1 to the cost. Good luck eating anywhere for $4.

3. If you ignore me and go out to eat anyway, go to the Chick-fil-A on Coulter on Thursday nights. Kids eat free on Thursday nights. Also, Chick-fil-A is awesome.

4. Buy the $9/month Netflix subscription that gives you unlimited streaming. If you have a Wii, get the Netflix disk for the Wii. Con a tech-savvy friend or relative into hooking your computer up to your tv and introduce yourself to hulu. Cancel your cable or satellite. Yes, the lack of tv during football season is sad; but, I can watch most of the games I care about on Yearly savings: at least $300.

5. Make sandwiches (see costs here), eat, then go to the Paramount Baptist Church Play area (free to the community) rather than eat at McDonald's. Yearly savings (if you go to McDonald's once every 2 weeks with 3 kids): at least $300.

6. When you have kids, birthdays can get out of hand financially. We utilize the Dollar store. For example, for my wife's birthday I took my oldest daughters to the Dollar Store. They got to pick out any item they wished for their mom for her birthday. This cost me $2.16 (yes, I bought her something that didn't come from the Dollar Store). They do the same for siblings' birthdays. Annual savings: no idea...but the kids seem to like it and it makes for some funny gifts.

7. Mortgage Tip 1: Look into refinancing now if your current mortgage rate is above 6%. Rates are at historic lows. Example: You have 26 years remaining on your mortgage. You still owe $150,000 and your current rate is 6.5%. Your current payment (excluding taxes and insurance) is $1,005/month. You refinance to a 15 year mortgage at today's rate of 3.75% and add your closing costs to the balance of the loan rather than paying them out of pocket. Your new monthly payment is $1,120. You just saved yourself $111,960 over the life of your loan. Not bad.

8. Mortgage Tip 2: If you rate is low, and your loan balance is 80% of your home value, call your mortgage lender to find out how to get rid of PMI. Example: You bought a $150,000 house 5 years ago and put 10% down. Your house has appreciated in value to $160,000. If you have paid down your mortgage to $128,000 or less you may be eligible to stop paying PMI. This could save you an extra $1,000/year. Caveat: most companies will require you to pay for an appraisal (usually around $300) and file paperwork to make this happen. It is still worth it. If what I just wrote was gibberish to you, email me and I'll explain it better.

9. Purchase a membership to the Don Harrington Discovery Center. $70/year for a family. We use ours a ton. Yes, I realize it costs money...but let's be honest, if you don't have somewhere to go you usually find yourself mindlessly roaming the aisles of Target. This is cheaper (on an annual basis) than Target or Walmart roaming.

10. Take your kids to the zoo on Mondays. It is free on Mondays. Yes, I realize that you can see the same diversity of wildlife on the road to Wildorado; but, hey, it is free. Again, this is cheaper than roaming around Target with your kids or going to McDonald's.

Disclaimer: Obviously, some of these ideas are Amarillo-specific. Also, you are probably aware of some or all of them. I don't care. This is not your blog. It is my blog. Feel free to leave your own money saving tips in the comments. As you might imagine I'm a big fan of cheapness wise spending.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Walmart vs. Target vs. United

I decided that I was not content to merely compare food prices at various stores (as seen here). What kind of nerd would I be, after all, if my spreadsheets didn't include toiletries? So, off to Walmart, Target, and United I went to satisfy my obsessive compulsion. Here is my random list of items selected for comparison:

Opti-Free contact lens solution 10 oz.
Extra strength Tylenol 100 count
Crest with Scope toothpaste 6.2 oz.
Charmin Ultra Strong TP 12 double rolls
Arid XX deodorant 2.7 oz.
Huggies size 4 82 count
Pantene shampoo 12.6 oz.
Clorox bleach 3 qt.
Tide liquid detergent with Downy 150 oz.
Cascade liquid dish detergent 75 oz.
Windex 32 oz.
Scrubbin' Bubbles bathroom cleaner 22 oz.
Resolve carpet cleaner 22 oz.
Gillette Mach 3 razors 15 count

If you buy every item on this list at Walmart, Target, and United here is what it would cost you:

Walmart: $122.88
Target: $123.78
United: $130.96

If you buy the generic version of every item that you can on this list, here is what it would cost you (Target carries no generic Resolve. United carries no generic Resolve or Scrubbin' Bubbles. So, I used the price from the name brand for each of these items. Also, there is no generic substitute used for Gillette Mach 3 razors at any store):

Walmart: $84.56
Target: $88.19
United: $99.15

The spreadsheet containing the detailed data can be found here: yeah a spreadsheet

Let's assume that the average American's time is worth 43 cents per minute (previously calculated here: Walmart vs. United).

Name Brand: If it takes you, Mr. Average American, more than 2 minutes and 5 seconds longer to buy these items (including drive time) at Walmart than it would at Target, Target would be cheaper (factoring in the cost of your time). The break even number is higher for United: you would have to spend more than 18 minutes and 47 seconds longer at Walmart than United to justify shopping at United for these items.

Generic: If it takes you more than 8 minutes and 26 seconds longer to buy these items (including drive time) at Walmart than it would at Target, Target would be cheaper (factoring in the cost of your time). The break even number is again higher for United: you would have to spend more than 33 minutes and 56 seconds longer at Walmart than United to justify shopping at United for these items.

Other overgeneralized observations: Young trendy people shop at Target. Old distinguished people shop at United. Hooligans, hippies, and people like me shop at Walmart. I think that 90% of Walmart shoppers give the other 10% of us a bad name.

So, there you have it. I hope that you find this life-changing information useful.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Remembering Kaci Ronne

On Saturday a dear friend of ours went to be with Jesus. Today we will be attending her "celebration of life" along with many others who have been blessed by her time on earth. Please keep the Ronne and Reid families in your prayers. Follow their story here:

In loving memory...

We have more than a few wonderful memories of Kaci Ronne; but, there is one story that comes to mind that best describes who Kaci was to us.

When Ryan and Kaci were doing God's work in Albania, Careese (my wife) and Kaci would periodically talk via Skype. One day Kaci sensed that my wife (who was 8 months pregnant at the time with our youngest child) was having a particularly rough day. Kaci had a gift for deeply empathizing with people. She exemplified the old Bible verse "Bear ye one another's burdens". Kaci told my wife not to cook that night because she was going to take care of it. Anyone who knew Kaci knows that arguing against her benevolence would have been futile. Papa Johns pizza showed up on our doorstep for dinner that night...ordered from Albania. Several more times throughout the next few months we received messages that dinner was "taken care of". Whether it was Jason's Deli or pizza or something else, the Ronnes timing was always perfect--their little food blessings always arrived at the height of our exhaustion and were a blessed reminder that someone was thinking of and praying for us. On one hand we felt like we were a part of a modern day miracle--Jesus feeds the 5,000 reshaped into Jesus feeds the Wood family of 8 via the Ronnes from the opposite side of Earth. On the other to put it?...

...well...those of you who have done so know that it is incredibly humbling to have the opportunity to support missionaries abroad. The realization that we were being supported by missionaries who lived abroad was even more humbling.

That was Kaci. Nevermind that they were living in a third world country. The Ronnes somehow found a way to be Jesus to us. To us, that is the legacy that she left: a shining example of Christ in this crazy world--an example that modern Christianity could learn a thing or two from.

It has been our great privilege to watch the Ronne family, including Kaci's wonderful parents John and Deena, be Jesus to so many. Each of their faith, service, selflessness, and realness has been and will continue to be an absolute inspiration to us. Our hope and prayer is that everyone who knows this beautiful family will now prayerfully focus on being Jesus to them. May God shine his face upon them and give them peace.

-Josh & Careese Wood

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Our Sunday in Chronological Pictures Minus Us