A Battle for Life: August’s Birth

12314574_10153283054171608_6435122065943222663_oAugust turned 8 years old on Monday, which is hard to believe.  The night of his birth was definitely one Robyn and I will never forget.  After three kids, we didn’t expect that our fourth child’s birth would be the most difficult, and easily one of the scariest things we’ve ever gone through.

Luckily, I wrote the whole thing down just two days later.  Here’s the original version of what happened on September 12, 2008–the night we battled for the life of our youngest child before he was even born.

It has been a whirlwind weekend. What was supposed to be an easy delivery turned into a night of fear and worry and a battle between life and death. Sounds melodramatic, but it’s not, because life is what we are always fighting for against the Evil One. He hates life and will do anything he can to snuff it out.

Some may call it just a delivery with complications, but I will truly forever remember the birth of my son August as a day when God confirmed for me that my children are a gift of life, precious beyond words, and each to be cherished and protected against the powers of the enemy.

We went in at 1:00 pm on Thursday, September 11, to be induced. The doctor was worried that August was going to be too big. That Robyn would have a difficult time delivering him if he went all the way to term.

We made arrangements for the older kids. Got to the hospital and were placed in a room with a great view of the outside–lush green trees and beautifully, unseasonably blue, Seattle skies. The process began, and within hours, the contractions were strong and things looked good.

But an alarming pattern started as well–with every strong contraction, August’s heart rate dropped. At first, it only dropped a few degrees, from a baseline of 145 to 120. But as the evening wore on, and the contractions got stronger, the more his heart rate fell. 90. 80. It would always go back up after, but the consistency was beginning to worry our doctor and nurse.

They decided to slow down the process. Austen had had a drop in heart rate during birth, but it had rectified itself. Perhaps the umbilical cord was in the wrong place, being squeezed too tightly? I went out to the family members who had been waiting and gave them an update. It wasn’t going to happen tonight. Go home, we’ll call you.

We said goodnight. It was around 10 pm.

Our doctor came to the room and would not leave. She stayed as Robyn received her epidural, holding her hand through the process. Now the pain was less–but the contractions, and August’s reactions–were getting worse. We signed a consent for a Cesarean, just in case.

As I wrote the words above 8 years ago, I suddenly realized that the story was much more intense than my narrative made it sound.  This is why the rest of August’s birth story is written in the present tense.

At 12:23 am, August’s heart rate drops to 60, fights its way back, and drops again. In an instant, what was routine becomes a battle for the life of my son.

Robyn is moved to a gurney. There is a rush of activity, nurses coming from nowhere, the rushed conversation of “there’s someone else scheduled–no, I’ve called it–we’re going first.” Robyn is being readied to leave the delivery room and head to the OR. I have time for three thoughts, all of them involve prayer.

I call my mother, who is watching Audrey and Austen. I quickly tell her that Robyn is on the way to the OR–please pray. I call my mother-in-law and tell her the same–and to come quickly, Robyn wants her there. I quickly compose a text message and send it to a random selection of friends and family. I ask them again to pray.

By 12:34 we are in the OR, I am putting on scrubs, a mask. I am terrified. Thoughts of loss and death overwhelm me. I am going to lose either my child or my wife. Life will lose tonight.

I enter the room and see my wife on a table. She is being covered, prepped. There are three doctors, several nurses, and the team from the Infant Intensive Care Unit awaits in case they need to revive my boy. I cannot hold back the tears. I weep.

Robyn sees me. “Don’t cry. I need you to be strong.” I tell her I am not crying and I manage to stop the tears–but I am still terrified. I can’t see straight–tubes, scrubs, machines, a sterile clang of instruments. The doctors begin working in hushed tones–I focus on Robyn and try to distract her from what is going on. She is awake, only slightly uncomfortable, and getting very tired.

The noises stop. The doctors do not move.

Robyn and I fear the worst. Then suddenly, a cry. I see my boy. He is screaming, angry, scared. But alive.

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He is quickly wiped off and taken to the nurses who examine him and determine that whatever happened in the womb did not hurt him. He is beautiful, loud, and pink. A little dried blood is on his nose, but he stops crying when they hand him to me. I take him to Robyn and we both cry. Life has won.

Turns out that the umbilical cord was wrapped around one shoulder, through his legs, and over the other shoulder–almost like a harness. There was no way he was going to come out the natural way. But he is here, alive, and sleeping loudly in the room next door.

Life wins. The prayers of the faithful are answered, and a little boy whose name means “Revered and Exalted,” helps me do both to the very giver of Life. I revere Him for His power, His glory, and the fact that He reveals Himself to me. I exalt Him for His life, for His nature, and for His providence.

Sleep well, August. The battle for your life has just begun.


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I am thankful for Doctor Robertson, every nurse, every attendant, friend and family member who did their part to bring this sweet and wonderful boy into this world.  We can’t imagine our lives without our Goose, Gus-Gus, or any other name he goes by.  He’s one incredible kid.

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5 Things Dads Can Do to Make the School Year Not Suck

I dread the start of school each year because it means the end of lazy schedules, easy-going evenings, and not worrying about whether or not there’s enough lunch meat for tomorrow’s lunches.  It’s easy for most dads to default to mom to take care of things for the kids, but in our family, with four kids, two working parents, and schedules galore, it’s imperative that I do more than just say, “Hey, let your mom help you with that?”

With that in mind, here are five things that dads can do to make the school year not suck.  (Any parent can do these, of course, but these are written from my perspective as a father.)

5.  Pay Attention to What Needs to Get Done.  School is a lot more work than it was when I was a kid.  There’s homework all the time, letters and emails coming from the teachers and schools on a regular basis, and there’s a lot that needs to happen each week.  Parents have busy lives full of their own things–I had some work pop up in the evening the other day, and I got busy with answering emails and making phone calls–but even a second grader now has a ton of stuff to remember.  And guess what–that 8 year old won’t remember.  That’s my job as a parent.  It’s okay to ignore the work for awhile to help your child stay ahead of the game.

4.  Listen When Your Spouse Tells You What They Need Help With.  There’s nothing more disappointing than setting an expectation and having it not met, especially when it’s as simple as “give your son his practice spelling test–and remember to have him write the words down on this piece of paper.”  The other night, as I took my wife to work, she said this exact thing.  I gave my son his practice spelling test during dinner with the kids and did it the way we did it in first grade–which is not what she asked me to do.  So, for him to be ahead, he had to take his spelling test again, right after breakfast and before we walked out the door.  Not a win for anyone, and it could have been avoided by really listening and making sure you know what’s being asked of you.

3.  Keep Things Enjoyable.  Nobody likes homework.  As a former teacher, I can assure that teachers don’t like it.  Kids don’t like it, and when my 5th grader asks for help with her math and I look at it like she’s just asked me to read her something in Klingon, I’m reminded that I don’t like it, either.  So instead of everyone hating what needs to be done, find ways to make it fun.  Break it up into increments, move it around the room, do it while standing on your head and eating jelly beans.  Make sure you keep the focus on a particular task, but give the kids a break, give yourself a break, and then you’ll find the strength to continue with that ridiculous stuff they call “mathematics” these days.

2.  Don’t Stress Out About Grades.  Let me be honest: I don’t care if my children don’t get straight A’s.  I want them to always do their best, and if their best is a C+, I’m okay with that.  If they are trying like crazy and working with their teacher and still can’t get anything above a D, I’m okay with that, too.  Grades are not a reflection of my child’s character, it’s not a reflection on me, and it certainly isn’t a determination of their future success.  Grades are an arbitrary way of measuring progress, and while the education system places value on them and awards honor roll and scholarships, I’d rather give my kids awards for honesty, being virtuous and kind, and having a good work ethic.  Those will get you farther than an A+ in 3rd grade math.  I want my kids to succeed, yes, but I don’t want them to measure their worth by a letter on a paper.  They are much more valuable than that!

1.  Plan Vacations.  Teachers may not like it, but I find great value in taking my kids out of school during the school year for a break.  Vacations shouldn’t just be in the summer.  What’s wrong with getting out of town for a weekend in October or flying to Walt Disney World in January?  Nothing.  Your kids need a break about every 60 days or so, an escape from the regularity of schedules and assignments and all the stress of school, and frankly, so do you.  It doesn’t have to be extravagant or even long–but a healthy break, away from the everyday will do wonders for your family, for your kids, and keep them motivated through the long weeks of math assignments ahead of them.

The school year can suck.  But trying a few of these simple steps out can help make it less so–for you, and for your kids.

P.S.  I just realized I talked a lot about math in this post.  I don’t hate math, but I was an English teacher, am completely right-brained, and do not enjoy math at all.  If you like math, just read “English” or something else instead.

When You Can’t Fall Asleep, Try This.

I start making your mental checklist for the next day as soon as my head hits the pillow at night.  If you’re like me, doctor appointments, school lunches, getting to the post office are just a few things that we remember when it’s far too late to do anything about it.  Meanwhile, your spouse puts his head on the pillow and begins snoring.  Rather than lie there full of resentment, try one of these simple steps.  It’s helped me put the checklist aside and made falling asleep a little easier.

Exercise.  Even if you’re just getting out for a 30 minute walk each day, exercise is the most important thing to help you sleep.  I know exercise can be a challenge to many people.  Maybe you feel like you don’t have time.  Maybe you have an injury the prevents you from exercising.  Find a way to add some kind of physical activity into your day and you will soon realize that exercise is the key to falling asleep quickly. If you can’t find the time during the day then try some stretching exercises or yoga before you hop in the sack.

Turn off your blue screens and bright lights. Studies have shown that with reduced light from blue screens, smart phones, TVs, computers, or even bright lamps, your brain shuts down quicker.  Keep your room dark, cool, and clean.

Cut out the afternoon cup of pick-me-up.   Check the labels on your favorite midday energy boosting drinks. If they have caffeine, then make the cutoff by 2:00 pm. Instead opt for caffeine-free tea or flavored water if you need something sweet.

Save your healthiest meal for dinner.  Heavy full meals right before bed will not only not digest well, but will give you a restless nights sleep.  Opt for a smaller plate, or even a saucer, for your dinner to keep those calories at bay. And try to avoid late-night snacking. If you get hungry before bed, keep it sweet and simple and stick to fruit.

Wine with dinner, not bed.  Although it’s true that wine will help you relax and fall asleep faster, it will also make the second half of your sleep cycle restless. Alcohol decreases deep sleep and increases arousals from sleep.

Try to practice at least one of these sleep habits at a time. Sleep not only improves memory, but also increases your metabolism.  The benefits of sleep far outweigh what we didn’t get done during the day. If you have any other tips or tricks for a good night’s sleep, let me know!

3 (More) Things Every Kid Needs

As I’ve mentioned before, there are 3 Things Every Kid Needs.

A Job to Do. Something to Celebrate.  To Say Thanks.

But there are three more things every kid needs, too.  These three other things can help make the difference in how your kids turn out.  Remember, parenting isn’t just about what happens today, in the now, but parenting about what you want your kids to become, in the future.  This is parenting with the end in mind.

Those three other things?  Here they are:

Kids Need Other Adults Who Can Speak Into Their Lives.  While you might be the biggest influence on your child’s life, you aren’t (and can’t be) the only one.  Smart parents will help choose who those people are, instead of leaving it just to chance, or to your kids (who will choose celebrities, movie stars, singers, and the like).

Find some great adults who can speak into your kids lives about the stuff you can’t or aren’t able to.  These people can be coaches or directors, church leaders or mentors.  They can be the mechanic who works on your car, or the neighbor who has that amazing yard.  Find quality, well-respected, mature, good people, and help your kids connect to them.  Church, school, neighborhood, sports field, neighborhood theatre.  They can be found everywhere.  They can encourage and cheer on your kids in ways that you never can.  Your kids will have other influences–why not be intentional about who those influences are?

Kids Need Experiences More Than Things.  We place a high value on things in our culture.  Having what is new, owning what is now–it’s very important.  Trouble is, things don’t last.  That great new TV you just bought has already been made obsolete.  Your phone is out of date, and you’re still in a contract for two more years.  And don’t even talk about that computer.  Sure, you will probably hold on to your house for a long time, but the furniture in it–it’s already dated, right?

It’s not new to hear that memories are the only things you can hold on to, but it’s true.  If you have a house full of all the newest and nicest things, but never spend your money creating memories, you’re teaching your kids the wrong thing.  Possessions come and go, but memories last forever.  The National Parks I visited with my family growing up?  The road trips I’ve taken my kids on?  Those are shared experiences that we will never forget.  I don’t even remember the color of the last two couches I had.  Things are great, but they don’t last.  Doing things with your kids and creating memories together?  That lasts forever.

Kids Need Grace.  Your children hear all the time about how they’ve messed up, how they don’t measure up, where they have gone wrong.  As parents, it is our job to correct and train our children to make wise choices as they grow up.  But when they don’t, what is the response?  Parents, disappointed in their own failures, often maximize or blow out of proportion a child’s failure.  I know–the response I’ve given to my youngest son over his lack of appetite when my wife has made an amazing dinner far outweighs the actual circumstance.

But what do I want most when I screw up?  I want grace.  And yet, I can’t show grace to a kid who thinks anything with green in it is poison?  You get it–if we want to have grace-filled children, who are quick to forgive, slow to anger, and generally awesome, we need to be grace-filled parents.  When your kids gets a less than perfect report card, it’s fine to have consequences–but measure them with grace.  When your child spills that glass of wine all over the carpet, remember the grace you received for a much greater slight.  When kids see grace lived out, they will live out grace as well.

 

8 Fun (and Inexpensive) Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer

I’ve been thinking about what to put in this blog for a few weeks now.  Summertime rolls around and as parents we want to pack in the most memorable fun-filled summer vacation EVER!  So I went on Pinterest to gather some ideas and I was somewhat frustrated and irritated.  There were lists and lists of 100+ Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer!!!

Please.  I don’t need  a list to tell me to get out the play dough.  (In fact, any mom in their right mind probably hates play dough. Or maybe that’s just my OCD that hates those dried up pieces of play dough that seem to collect into the corners of the kitchen until you get out your vacuum hose and manage to suck them all up.)

But I digress.  I want to create a really fun summer for my kids.  Not just things to do around the house everyday.  Being a working mom, that can sometimes be a challenge, so I just need to make sure that your days off are very intentional.  Do what works for you, but just do it.

This lists actually consists of things that our family does each summer.  (And not to brag, but we do them really well.)  The most important thing to remember is to have fun!  I hope you enjoy your summers as much as we do!

  1. SUMMER READING PROGRAMS.  Each and every library around the country has a summer reading program.  And it’s a safe bet to say that most of these programs have some incentives if your kiddos complete their goals!  Even my teenagers, who usually finish their goals in the first week, love the summer reading program.  And what’s great is when they complete one goal, they can work toward a second goal and more prizes. Check out your local library to find more information.  Cost: Free
  2. GO ON A DAY DRIVE AND HAVE A PICNIC.  This is another one of our favorites, because we love hopping in the car for adventures.  And kids love picnics.   You can find most picnic supplies fairly inexpensively at garage sales or thrift stores or search your garage.  All you really need is a table cloth or picnic blanket and a cooler.  Throw in some fun food (I try to pack things we wouldn’t normally eat at home like Uncrustables and potato chips) and a first aid kit, fill up your gas tank, and you’re good to go! Cost: About $50 (gas, food, etc.)
  3. DOLLAR STORE VISIT.  Seriously!  My kids, even my teenagers, LOVE going to the dollar store.  Give them each a couple of bucks, which I can usually find in the couch cushions or seats of my car, and let them have fun!  I love watching them figure out how they’re going to spend their money.  But my caveat is, whatever they purchase, they have to use once we get home. Cost: $1-$20 (Depending on how many kids you have and how much you give them.)
  4. DOLLAR MOVIES. Every summer, Regal Cinemas holds their Summer Movie Express two days per week at 10:00 am. Kids can choose from two movies each week.  The kids even get a passport that gets stamped every time they to to a movie. The nice part is, it’s early enough that you don’t need to spend money on popcorn or candy. Cost: $1/ticket
  5. VACATION BIBLE CAMP.  This is a big one for us since my husband is a Children’s Pastor and VBC is his Super Bowl. Most churches around the country offer a school or camp, that usually lasts a week, and some are even free!  A week of fun activities, friends, and more–and less expensive than hiring a babysitter each day!  Check your local churches for more details, but if you’re in the Seattle area, click here to find out how you can be involved in our church’s Doctor Who themed adventure! Cost: $0 – $50
  6. GO TO THE BEACH.  Again, this one is free and fun!  We try to get to our local beach before noon because I like a non-sandy place to stake our claim.  The kids love being able to come and go as they please and who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing day in the sun? Make sure to pack a high SPF sunscreen, lots of water, and baby powder to get the sand out of their toes easily.  Cost: $0 – $20
  7. SET UP A POOL.  When our kids were younger, every summer we purchased an inflatable pool.  They’re usually inexpensive if you get theme early enough so we didn’t feel bad throwing them away at the end of the summer. Last year we purchased an inflatable water slide and pool for them and we have easily gotten our money’s worth.  Obviously we won’t throw this one away until it’s full of holes, but this is another activity that doesn’t cost a lot of money and is so much fun for them.  Yes, it is work to set it up and take it down, but it’s so much fun!  And the memories that your kids will make will far outweighs the inconvenience of an end-of-the-day-deflate-session. We sometimes throw in some bubble bath or water toys to add to the fun, which again, you can get at the dollar store. Cost: $20-$100
  8. SET GOALS AND GUIDELINES FOR LAZY DAYS.  Since there are days when my kiddos are home  without me, I like to set schedules for them.  And they are scheduled down to the minute. Believe it or not, kids thrive on routine, so even though it is summer, there are things that are expected of them.  They have chores.  They still eat healthy and exercise. And they get rewarded when their daily goals are met!  It’s amazing how much mileage you can get out of them by putting an Otter Pop or pool time at the end of the morning. If you want my specific schedule for my kids, please leave comment and I will send it to you!  Cost: $0

ME Time

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 18 years of marriage, parenting, working, etc., it’s how much I value my personal time.  When you don’t make time for yourself, you quickly lose yourself.  I know from experience.  Is carving out an hour or two a week easy?  Not always.  But is it necessary?  Yes!  There’s a reason so many SAHMs get jealous of their husband’s lunches out, meetings, and even time alone in the car.  Sometimes a mom’s (or SAHD’s) time spent in the car is listening to the Disney Junior Soundtrack.

The reason I decided to go back to work 5 years ago, was because I needed some alone time.  I know that seems like a strange reason to work outside of the home, but with 4 kids, a desire to find out who I am, and desperate love of adventure, this seemed like the most logical decision for me and my family.  I needed to be away from my family, just for a few hours a week.  Without the distractions of a sink full of dishes or kids tugging on my clothes, I could figure out what I really wanted and who I was created to be.  So many people lose sight of this went they get caught up in their work or families or even in themselves.  In the last 5 years, I’ve come up with 3 ways to help you reclaim your ME time.

  1. Schedule your ME time.  I talked a couple of weeks ago about how important keeping to a schedule is.  Put some ME time into that schedule.  Seriously.  Even if you have to schedule in a mall sesh and hire a babysitter. Do it and stick to it. This should be as important as your work schedule, grocery shopping, or doctor appointments. Make your schedule and stick to it.
  2. Find something you love and do it often. I have several loves. I love to work out.  I don’t compromise my workouts.  I love to spend time outside.  If I have a free hour during the day and it’s nice out, I spend it outside on my patio. I love pedicures. I try to save $20 out of my budget each month (only $5/week, so it’s a no-brainer) for pedicures.  But you better believe that it gets scheduled!  What do you love?  Even if you have to start small, figure it out, do it, and do it often.
  3. Give back to someone else.  Ok, you’ve found yourself, you take care of yourself, now it’s your turn to help someone else. If you have friends or family members that are struggling to figure out what they need, offer to help.  If you can watch your sister’s kids so she can take herself out to to a movie, do it.  If you see that your best friend is too busy at work, invite her over for dinner. Once you figure out what you love and you make it a priority, help someone else find their time and passion, too.

 

3 Rules Every Family Should Live By

Since my eldest was born 17 years ago, my wife and I have realized there are many things people say children should learn, many things parents should focus on to ensure their kids turn out great, to have a happy family.  We’ve tried a few of them.  Some of them have worked, but many of them have been real stinkers.

We’ve done our best.  We’ve had some highs, and we’ve had some lows.  We don’t focus a lot on grades, we don’t sign up for a lot of extracurricular activities.  We may have yelled more than we meant to, and I’m pretty sure we’ve frustrated our kids’ teachers more than once with those middle of the school year vacations.

Yet, in spite of our mistakes, I’m told quite often, “You have great kids,” or “Your family always seems to have so much fun.”  I like that.  I love it when someone compliments my children and says nice things about them.  It means a lot to me when someone notices the smiles on our faces.  As a parent, we know all the ways our kids screw up, so when someone stops and says something nice, it makes me stop.  When they compliment our family, it makes me pause and wonder–maybe we’re doing something right?

Recently, I think I discovered what my wife and I are doing right. In our flawed but fun way of doing things, I think we’ve hit on the right formula for having a great family, and some pretty good kids.  Here are our family’s three rules.  I’m hopeful these will work for you, too.

Rule #1: Create memories.  Wherever you can.  Whenever you can.

Whether it’s a National Park, a trip to Disneyland, or just dressing up like pirates for free donuts–memories are a lasting gift we can give our kids that will outlast us.  Do we go to Disneyland a lot?  Yep.  Have we worn out vehicles by driving on long road trips to National Parks across the West?  You bet.  You can save a lot of money, have a great plan for retirement, and have nicer things.  But I’d really rather have the memories, because these will stick with me–and them–for the rest of our lives.  Because of these memory-making adventures, we’ve created an incredible familial bond.  The bonus?  We actually like being together.

Rule #2: Serve others.  Individually. Collectively.

As a pastor, my kids are stuck at church.  A lot.  This could either be a cause of resentment, or it could be a way to help my kids discover ways they can make a difference in the life of someone else.  When we serve others, we get the focus off ourselves and start thinking about others.  All three of my oldest kids serve in some capacity at our church.  My oldest kids have acted in various Vacation Bible Camps, lead worship, run media, and lead small groups of elementary age kids.  My youngest daughter serves every week leading 2 year olds.  There’s nothing better than seeing them leading kids younger than themselves, and finding ways to use their talents for the good of someone else.  And to be honest, my favorite moments in ministry have been those days when we all get to do it together.

Rule #3: Show honor.  At home.  At school.  Everywhere.

We are all inherently selfish people, and we all naturally think of ourselves first.  When we focus on honoring others first, in our words and actions, we remember that “It’s not all about me.”  We use an honor chart to keep track of whether we are acting honorably or not (even the parents), and it really helps us put others first.  If I can teach my kids to live and act and speak honorably to others, then I will have done something good for the world.

There you have it.  Our three family rules.  If you do #2 and #3 right, go out and celebrate, which leads you back to #1.  Repeat as often as possible.