Score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 4th inning. One out and Carter steps up to the plate:
Like most boys his age, Carter really like to play video games and, while Mandy and I try to limit the amount of time all of our kids spend on them, there are some I like more than others. One game I do not mind him playing as much is Minecraft, which can played be like a digital LEGO adventure. In an attempt to take advantage of his love of the game, I was excited to hear that Code.org had recently released a Minecraft module.
You can see the end-results of Carter’s code online here and you can even view the source code by clicking on the “How It Works” button: https://studio.code.org/c/130452489. It is only a start, but he had a lot of fun playing around with this teaching tool last night, much to the delight of his two younger brothers that have both already asked for their own Code.org accounts.
I never like to admit to anyone (especially myself) that I am getting older and I certainly do not want to fall in to the cliche of constantly talking with my kids about how much more difficult my life growing up was than theirs is, but is it just me or is it insanely expensive to raise kids today? Forget the cost of clothes and food (you know, the basics) but when you consider the growth of entertainment and media devices and services that our kids have to choose from today the accumulated cost can be overwhelming.
My Childhood (Family of 4)
Cable TV: $0 (We had an antenna)
Internet: $0 (What’s that?)
Movie Rentals: $5.00 each (Blockbuster)
Streaming Movies: $0
Movie Ticket: $3.55 (1985)
Cell Phone: $0
Number of electronic devices in the home: 3 (TV, VCR, PC)
My Kids Childhood (Family of 6)
TV: $100 (Comcast)
Internet: $50 (Comcast)
Movie Rentals: $1.50 each (Redbox)
Streaming Movies: $20 per month (Netflix)
Movie Ticket: $8.13 (2013)
Cell Phone: $85 (None of my kids have one…yet)
Number of electronic devices in the home: 19 (3 TVs, 2 DVD players, 3 cable boxes, 2 cell phones, 3 iPods, 2 iPads, 2 laptops, Xbox, Wii)
Inflation certainly has a lot to do with how much more expensive it is to raise children today but the sheer volume of devices and services that we choose to offer our children has caused a greater portion of the growth. Not that I am ready to cut any of this out–I enjoy using these devices and services to the same extent the kids do–but, oh my, it is certainly expensive and I am sure I have forgotten some things from my list. Share your list with me and I will update mine.
As parents, Mandy and I feel that one of the most important gifts we can give our children is the gift of discipline. Perhaps contrary to prevailing beliefs, we do not feel that it is our job to give our children everything that they ask for. Discipline and self-control mean having the willpower to tell yourself “No”, and this means that we–as a means of teaching–end up telling our children “No” on a regular basis.
“No, you cannot each that candy before dinner.” “No, you cannot stay up until Midnight watching that movie.” “No, you cannot quit the team that you have committed to.” These comments, and all of their similar variances, are common utterances by any parent. And the stakes of the “Nos” only increase with age. “No, you cannot date that boy/girl.” “No, you cannot drink alcohol until you are older.” “No, you cannot make that choice on your own.”
I was reminded last night, however, of the power of saying “Yes” by my six year-old son, Seth.
I have always been a very active participant in my children’s bedtime routines. I enjoy reading to them, singing songs with them, and praying over them before they close their eyes. Some nights these routines are long and drawn-out because we have extra time. Other nights they are short and to the point because we have returned home after a late night of activities. Some nights, however, the routines are shortened because Mandy and I simply do not have much energy left and need the kids to go bed.
Last night could have been one such night. It had been a long weekend of being indoors because of an inordinate amount of rain (which wiped out a weekend of baseball) and we were all going a bit stir-crazy. After reading Seth and Ethan two books while sitting on the floor with them Seth asked me if I would “Superman” him in to bed (a process whereby they “fly” in my arms with their hands held out in front of their bodies and then I drop them on to their bed). I told him, “No”.
Seth, to his credit, did not complain. He did not whine. He simply looked at me with big eyes, accepted my answer, and hopped up in to bed. In that flash of time, however, I saw a glimpse of a future where I would be wishing Seth would ask me to “Superman” him in to bed but he no longer asks. His childish wishes and tendencies having been replaced by a blooming maturity that foreshadows the man he will become.
So, after singing a song with both them, I told Seth and Ethan to stand up because I was going to “Superman” them in to bed. Eyes returned to their large state but this time were joined by ear-to-ear smiles and giggles as they took a trip around the room in my arms. Changing one word did not radically change any of our days.
Or perhaps it did.
In a world filled with necessary “Nos”, it was a poignant reminder of the power of saying, “Yes”. Two little boys (and one father) were able to share a sweet, fun moment that will become part of the tie that binds them together forever. There is value in teaching our children when to say, “No”. But there is also unbelievable power in showing them what it means to say, “Yes”.
I have coached little league baseball for the past four years (a total of nine seasons between oldest boys who have an opportunity to play in both a fall and spring season).We play in the Grassland Baseball league in Brentwood and love the small community feel of the league. This spring I have added the responsibilities of an age-group commissioner (7/8 year olds) to my responsibilities of head coach of two teams. I have a list of baseball coaching resources and want to start a list of resources that I am using as a commissioner.
- Player Evaluation Template (Excel) – Since our 7/8 league is a draft-based league (instead of a bring-your-own-team league) we do annual player evaluations on multiple dimensions to try to keep the competitive balance between teams as even as possible. I used this document as a tool for the evaluators to mark their scores. The copies I provided to the evaluators already had the player demographics loaded so all that needed to be written in were the discrete scores.
- Consolidated Player Evaluation Template (Excel) – Ideally, each player is evaluated on each dimension by more than one evaluator. If you are able to secure multiple evaluations, this consolidated evaluation tool provides average rankings based on the various dimensions. I chose not to include dimension weighting (where one dimension is “worth” more than other) but you could easily modify the template to do that if you wanted to.
- Player Evaluation Form (PDF) – Good, concise form evaluating players on the fundamental skills needed to play baseball.
- Many states now have laws in place governing concussions in youth sports. States such as Tennessee require coaches (and some even require parents) to view concussion training each year. Two good online training resources are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Federation of State High School Associations.
I will add additional resources as I come across or develop them but I would appreciate learning about anything that you are using as well if you are inclined to share them with me.
Ask ten couples who have adopted about what they think of fundraising for an adoption and you will most likely get very different opinions from one extreme to another. Some will tell you that they would have never dreamed of raising money to help finance their adoption. Others will tell you that they simply could not have gone on the adoption journey without outside help. Regardless of their stance on fundraising, all will agree: Adopting a child is expensive. Really expensive.
When Mandy and I decided to adopt a little girl we considered the financial consequences of our decision along with the impact adding another little one would have our lives and, especially, our three boys. Initially, we decided that we would pay for all of the adoption expenses out of either our income or our savings and would tap in to our home equity loan if we needed to. We decided not to do any fundraising, not because we were against it, but because we felt that God had blessed us in such a way as to allow us to pay for our adoption out of our own means. But God had other plans.
First, our church family at Harpeth Hills stared an adoption fund where families could give money to specifically help those that were adopting. Then, our dear friends and owners of Katy’s Gifts in Nashville offered to host a shopping event where 100% of the profits from the event would be donated to us. Finally, we borrowed an idea from another family that had adopted a little boy from Ethiopia and held an adoption garage sale. In the end, we were able to raise about a third of the total cost of our adoption, which gave us the flexibility to save our home equity loan for the surgeries that Molly Kate needed.
Below is a list of ideas for fundraising that is not intended to be exhaustive but includes commentary where I have personal experience or directly no someone that does.
Clothing. Several friends of ours sold clothing from organizations like 147 Million Orphans where the organization split the proceeds of the sales with the adopting family or simply allowed the families to purchase the merchandise at wholesale prices to then resell for profit. We also had friends that had custom shirts printed specifically for their adoption, which they then resold. Two drawbacks to this type of fundraising is that it will most likely raise small dollar amounts and you have to pay for the merchandise upfront, which may be an issue for some families.
Churches & Foundations. As mentioned above, our church started an adoption fund specifically for people to be able to give to who wanted to support families on their adoption journey even if they were not going to go on the same journey themselves. Additionally, there are many foundations and non-profits such as Show Hope that have grant programs to help off-set the cost of an adoption.
Garage Sales. We live in a large neighborhood in Franklin, Tennessee, which holds two community garage sales annually. With over 2,000 homes in our neighborhood, the garage sales draw people from a large geographic area and provides plenty of traffic to raise money for an adoption. We quietly asked a handful of friends for any donations of items they no longer wanted to sell in our garage sale and had five or six respond very generously, including our friends from Katy’s. We then advertised the garage sale as benefiting an adoption, posted it on Facebook, Twitter and Craigslist, and ended up having a really successful event.
Private Dinners. Whether it is a well-known local chef or just someone who is an extraordinary cook, we have had a couple of friends who invited select family and friends to a private dinner at a high cost-per-plate. This is a private twist on an old non-profit fundraising tactic that offers much more than the basic rubber chicken dinner.
Restaurant Events. We did not personally avail ourselves of an event at a restaurant but we have known several families that worked with an organization such as 1 Seed to host a fundraiser at a local restaurant. The basic premise is that that adopting family purchases the food upfront (or has it donated) and then hosts a lunch (or dinner) where family and friends volunteer as the wait staff and diners pay higher-than-average prices for their meals and also have an opportunity to make an additional donation at check out.
Retail Store Events. We have friends that run a local gift shop and Hallmark store who asked us if they could host a fundraising event on our behalf. The owners of Katy’s Gifts covered the labor cost for the night and then donated all of the proceeds from sales to our family. Additionally, several family members and friends offered to bake goods, which we then sold on the sidewalk outside the store. This bake-sale also served as a great distraction for our three boys as they manned the table outside, which meant that they were not inside running wild.
Sporting Events. This is another type of fundraising event that we did not personally experience but we had friends who did. Our alma mater, Lipscomb University, began hosting Adoption Rallies where the proceeds from all tickets sold to a given game would be donated to the adopting family. That adopting family would then do their best to get as many of their family, friends, co-workers and anyone else they know (or barely know) to come to the game.
On Monday, Mandy and I drove Molly Kate to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital to our second attempt at her first surgery. The surgery that would repair her cleft lip. We had made the same trip approximately four weeks ago only to be turned down due to the fact that Molly Kate had pneumonia four weeks prior to that. This trip, however, would have a better outcome. Although they were about an hour late starting surgery, at 3:00 PM on Monday we watched as Molly Kate was carried down to the operating room for her 3 1/2 hour procedure.
It is now Friday and we are hoping to go home today, but will most likely go home tomorrow. Molly Kate has done remarkably well and has charmed every nurse (and nursing student) that has worked directly with her or just been on her floor. Our frequent walks around the 8th floor have garnered “She is just so cute” comments each and every trip outside our room. Molly Kate is fiercely independent and will not even hold my hand on most of these trips but that is alright. She is doing just fine.
Watching Molly Kate respond to this surgery and reflecting on what I have seen has caused me to think some less-than-pleasant thoughts about her life prior to our Gotcha Day a little more than three months ago.
Molly Kate is very independent. I mentioned this earlier but not the reason that I suspect that she is so independent. For children that are born in to and continue to live in a home filled with loving parents and other caregivers, they have a near-constant advocate for their needs. For children raised in an orphanage, however, they learn–quickly–that they have no other advocate than themselves. This leads them to a place of feeling very independent. Not because they want to be independent, but because they have to be independent. She is learning every day that she has multiple advocates that love her dearly, but this is a long-term learning process.
Molly Kate has been hungry before. Because our surgery had to be rescheduled, our surgeon–Dr. Kelly–had to “fit us in” and gave us a 2:00 PM time slot. On the surface, this may not sound like a big deal but when you think about the fact that the surgical candidate cannot eat anything after Midnight the night before surgery, a mid-afternoon start-time feels less-than-ideal. We fed Molly Kate some oatmeal right before bed at about 8:00 PM on Sunday night and some apple juice on Monday morning but, other than that and the fluids delivered via IV, she went until breakfast on Tuesday morning without eating. And she did not cry once. Living a life where we get cranky going four to five hours without a meal, it is incredibly sad to realize that Molly Kate has experienced true hunger before and, therefore, did not complain about not being able to eat more more than 24 hours.
It was a blessing that Molly Kate’s lip was not fixed before she came home. It is rare that an orphan in China with a cleft lip not to have that lip repaired before their first birthday or at least before they are given to their adoptive family. Both Mandy and I questioned why her lip had not been fixed but it was never a big deal for us, and certainly not for the boys, who never once said anything about it. Seeing Molly Kate struggle to come out of the anesthesia, however, convinced us that the fact that she had not had surgery in China was a major blessing in disguise. Molly Kate really struggled with waking up. She was on a lot of pain medication, so she was not in pain, but she was truly pitiful to behold. She was barely moving, with her eyes closed and constantly crying. Huge, crocodile tears were running down her cheeks. The nurse in recovery quickly traded places with Mandy and then something magical happened: Almost immediately after being placed in Mandy’s lap, Molly Kate said, “Mama”. For the very first time. Ever.
Surgery this week was just the first step in Molly Kate’s medical journey. There will be a second surgery in January or February to fix her palate. Followed by a third surgery between the ages of four and fix to finish the work on her nose that was started on Monday. A fourth and final surgery will be between the ages of 10 and 12 when a bone graft will be performed to rebuild her gum line and dental implants will be inserted to complete her already beautiful smile. She does not understand any of this yet but Mandy and I do.
We feel blessed to live in a city with such a wonderful children’s hospital staffed by talented and caring medical professionals. We trust that God will bless us throughout this entire process and that He will protect and care for Molly Kate when she is out of our sight but never our hearts.
My house can be a wild and crazy place. For 7 1/2 years boys out-numbered girls 4-to-1. The boys ruled the roost but Mandy was the un-challenged Queen. You had to enter my home with caution. “Tackle” was Seth’s second word and “wrestle” was Ethan’s third. Ball, stuffed animal and Nerf fights are common, almost everyday occurrences. Enter: Molly Kate…and our whole world was turned upside-down.
There is a big difference between boys and girls.
We were walking in to church one Sunday when Carter was about 18-months old. He was holding my hand and we were walking across a grassy area. Carter, without being told or made aware that it was even there, reached down and picked up a small stick and started waving it around. Like a sword. It was the first “weapon” he ever wielded. No one had to explain it to him; He just knew what to do with it.
There is a big difference between boys and girls.
We had been home from China about two days when I noticed something interesting. Molly Kate was walking around Mandy’s and my room while we were getting ready in the morning. Without being told what to do, Molly Kate went in to our walk-in closet, looked around, and started trying on Mandy’s shoes. That is right, my little girl, who had been home from China for roughly 48 hours, was playing dress-up with Mandy’s heels.
There is a big difference between boys and girls.