Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for June, 2013

How In the World Did We Get Into This Mess? Additional Links

Here are some additional links not mentioned in the unit study that may be fun, or helpful when added to any World History curriculum:

Asia:

Weird Asian News

Canada: 

Rick Mercer Explains: The Canadian Government on You Tube

Amusing, but not all encompassing.

Canadian Government on You Tube

Very good, but contains a picture of the middle finger, twice. Why? I don’t know. 

China:
Off the Great Wall on YouTube

England: 

The True Cost of the Royal Family Explained on You Tube

The United States: 

50 Great Facts About the 50 Great States by Mental Floss on You Tube

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College Degree by 18 Pitfalls

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

I have four children who have graduated from our home school, and three more to go. Over the years I have seen many different home schooling trends, and one that crops up frequently, and is very appealing to many home school families is the idea that home schoolers can get their college degree, or at least a few college course, out of the way while they are still in high school. And it is true, you can do this, but there are some things you need to be careful of before you waste a lot of time and money…

1. Some courses will not count towards your student’s major.
Course like Algebra and Trigonometry are expected to be taken in high school. Yes, they are offered by many colleges for those who need a refresher, but they may not count towards the major your student is pursuing. For example, if your child wishes to go into an engineering field, they will be expected to take Calculus their freshman year. It will not be necessary to have college credits in Algebra for this degree. Check to see what your child will need, and do not enroll them in courses that will not count towards their major, unless you are unable to teach it yourself. By paying for this course you may be throwing money away.

2. Some courses do not transfer to other colleges.
In the New Mexico state college system all courses transfer to all other colleges in the system, but the grades for those course do not. If you are looking to bolster your student’s GPA by taking courses elsewhere, this will not help. Further, many colleges will only except transfer credits for general education course (gen. eds.) and you must take most, if not all, the courses for your major at the college you plan to graduate from.

3. Some colleges do not recognize the accreditation of the college your student enrolled in.
Colleges do not have to accept courses from another college. Make sure the courses fully transfer to the college of your choice before you enroll.

4. Some colleges limit the amount of transfer credit they are willing to accept.
Your student may have 30 hours of college credit, but if the college only recognizes 15 of those hours, that is what they will receive credit for.

5. Some degrees are only recognized by certain organizations.
One of my friend’s children received her teaching degree from a Christian college. This degree was not accepted in the state they lived in, and was only good at Christian schools that recognized this college as having a valid program. This limited her daughter’s options for employment.
Another friend’s child received his degree in ministry at 18. He will be pursuing his masters and is hoping to become a pastor. This is good. Most pastoral search committees are only interested in your knowledge, and not where your degree came from. Unfortunately some Bible colleges are not recognized by other Bible colleges, and you may not qualify for their master’s program, or to be hired as a professor (even if you have obtained a PhD) if you do not have a degree from a college they approve of. Many colleges who allow a student to start college as a freshman in high school have a tendency to not be recognized by other colleges.

6. Having enough credits to make you a ‘junior’ does not mean you will graduate in two-years.
Every major has certain requirements that must be met before you graduate. Most courses taken in high school will not fulfill these requirements, even if the college accepts them for credit. Many students enter college having paid for a boatload of credits, only to find out that their courses only count as gen ed, saving them the equivalent of a semester’s worth of course work.

7. Most majors you can graduate with at 18 do not result in ‘real world’ jobs.
Challenging majors require challenging pre-requisites in high school. Most children beginning high school do not have advanced math and science courses under their belt and will therefore not succeed in these majors. Majors that do not require a lot of math, or science, or even advanced writing skills often do not have much of a market for employment.

8. Even if you have a degree, there may not be employment for an 18 year old in that field.
Police officers must be 21 to apply. Social workers, pastors, military officers etc are also people who are expected to be older. Medical, dental and law schools also dislike accepting students who are very young (though they will make exceptions for really high scorers on their placement exams). At 18 years old there are few people who will hire you. If your child is not planning on a masters or PhD in their field, early college may just result in a frustrating job search.

9. The reason many of us home school is to teach our values to our children.
Teens are just beginning to understand mature concepts. This is the time for them to explore their faith. By placing them full-time into a college environment they will be spending more time exploring the beliefs of their professors than they will learning those their parents’ believe in. While I do believe in exposing my children to many different ideas, I also believe in teaching them well what I believe to be right as a foundation for future learning. Depending on what college you choose, this may not occur.

Don’t get me wrong, there are advantages to obtaining a college degree early. Dual degrees are impressive. (I graduated with two under-graduate degrees and a minor before going for my masters.) But, they are also costly if you do them over the course of eight years. (Receiving a dual degree because you took the maximum number of credits each semester is different since colleges typically charge a flat fee for full time students who, when I attended could take 15-23 credits per semester.) An early masters or PhD, or dual PhDs is also not a bad idea, if your child can handle the course work.

So, if your student is truly a protégée, then go for it! Why hold them up in life? If you have the money to invest in their education, and do not feel you can teach more advanced high school courses in your home, your local college may be a better option than your local high school. But, if you and your children are like most of us, graduating early may only place them in an awkward position, and may cost you more in the long run than you planned to spend.

(If you do have questions, call the college’s admissions office. They are there to help!)

Proverbs 31: For Women Only?

Photo by Matija Barrett

The list of characteristics in Proverbs 31 has rightly been used as a criteria for finding a godly wife. And, much to the chagrin of many a godly woman, is the only real listing of its kind found in the Bible, making it impossible for women, when it is used incorrectly, to point to the ‘male’ list and say, ‘See, see, you’re not doing so well yourselves!’ Despite the nastiness that sometimes accompanies these endeavors, the question does remain: Is this a list for females only, or are they universal characteristics one should look for when anyone is considering uniting themselves to another for life?

So let’s look at the qualities listed in these verses, first noting that there are some criteria given in verses 3-9 that speak directly to the men. (Also notice that, if you are like me, you have probably never heard these verses of Proverbs 31 preached on before…)

The verses of instruction spoken directly to the son by his mother tell him:
1. Not to spend his energy chasing women who will only do him harm.
2. Not to drink wine or crave beer as a ruler, since doing so will result in poor decisions being made.
3. To give beer to those who are in anguish, so they may be relieved of their misery.
4. To speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
5. To judge people fairly.
6. To defend the poor and needy.

So what does this man look like? He is not a player or a partier. He makes good decisions, helps those who are in pain and he stands up to bullies. He does not make snap judgments, and is not overly critical but instead treats people fairly, which involves not making excuses for bad behavior as well.

And then there are verses 11-31. And the question is: Should men have these qualities as well? (And I think we can all agree that women should not be partiers, and be a person of good morals like the man described previously as well.) So let’s look at the qualities a wife should have:

1. She is a person her future spouse may have confidence in. One who brings him good, and not harm every day (not just when she feels like it). To choose a husband that does less would be disastrous, and an emotionally immature male, who does not constantly seek the best interests of his wife would best be described as abusive, so yes, these characteristics are universal.

2. She selects wool and flax. She knows how to pick quality products to meet her family’s needs. This too is a good trait in a man.

3. She works with eager hands. Again, a lazy man, who does not wish to work diligently, will not make a good spouse.

4. She does not mind traveling far to get the best quality food for her family. A man too should be willing to expend effort to see that his family has what is best.

5. She gets up early and makes sure everyone under her authority (her servants and her family) is well fed. A man too should not be prone to sleeping in nor negligent in making sure that the basic needs of the people in his care (and this may include employees) are being met.

6. She considers a field and buys it, and the start-up capital comes out of her earnings. She has resources and is able to start her own business and run it. (Remember, during this time in history, most people were self-employed.) A man too should aim to have extra earnings to invest and the knowledge to make wise decisions regarding those investments.

7. She works vigorously and her arms are strong enough to do the work that is necessary. Similarly a man should also be a vigorous worker and in good enough health to do the work he has chosen without tiring.

8. She sees that her trading is profitable. She does not make poor business decisions. A man too should be good with money, and his business dealings should be profitable. This means that he is not investing time or money in projects that will inevitably fail. This may include: degrees that have no real word application, get-rich quick schemes, having a dead-end job or being frequently out of work.

9. Her lamp does not go out at night. She remembers to do the little things that are necessary to a smoothly run life. Today this would be remembering to put the garbage out, changing the oil, not forgetting the things you need, like your wallet or cell-phone etc. These qualities are important for a man as well.

10. She sews. While she is a wealthy woman, she has the skills to do the basic tasks that would be needed if her family fell on hard times. Today this would include: basic maintenance of the home and car, coupon cutting and budgeting, home haircuts etc. These skills are good for a man to know as well, because even the best laid plans sometimes go awry. Further, men do sew in scripture. The Levites make the priestly robes. Men sewed items for the Tabernacle. Jacob made Joseph a coat of many colors etc. So while today fabric is often more expensive than premade clothing making more than basic sewing a luxury, sewing itself is not restricted to the women in the Bible.

11. She is generous to the poor and needy. A man who cannot give to those who are truly helpless, will not likely be generous to his wife and children either.

12. She does not fear the snow, since her household has what it needs. (More than what it needs, since they are clothed in scarlet, an expensive cloth.) Men too should seek to provide those under their care with more than what they need so that they do not have to fear being cold, or any other misery. The scarlet cloth also indicates that they are not hoarding their wealth by being stingy, but using it wisely to bless those in their care.

13. She decorates her house and dresses well. A man too should not be a slob, but should be able to dress and keep his surroundings in a way that garners respect. (But balanced with the verses to not be showy, meaning that what he does is respectful, not ostentatious and designed to make others feel small.)

14. Her husband is respected, meaning that her actions benefit him and do not demean him in the eyes of others. A man too should never do anything that would bring shame to his wife, whether through his own behavior, or by putting her down.

15. She makes garments and sells them. She has profitable skills. A man should also have skills that may bring extra income into the home.

16. She is confident, and does not worry about the future. This is not a false confidence, but because she knows she can handle life. A man too should have enough success in life, before being married, to be confident that he can handle whatever the future brings.

17. She speaks with wisdom and instructs others correctly. A man should also be known for giving advice that actually works.

18. She watches over the affairs of the people in her household and is not lazy. She knows what is going on in the lives of those she cares for. A husband too should know what is going on in his house.

19. Her children call her blessed and her husband praises her. She should be the type of woman who you would not think of making fun of. A man too should be someone whom put-downs would just seem silly if applied to him. People, especially those who are close to them, should respect both the man and the woman, or they are not ready to be wed. (They still have some growing up to do!)

20. She surpasses all women. This can only be true in the eyes of her husband, since it is advice to every man about the woman he is to marry. Her future husband should believe she is the best there is and he is lucky to have her. A future wife should believe the same about her future spouse.

21. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting. A wife should not be chosen based on her looks, or how much she flatters you and makes you feel like ‘the man.’ These things will not last. A woman should also not choose a spouse based on his looks and smooth talk. These too will fade, and often the guys with the smoothest lines can’t wait to try them out on someone else…

22. She should fear the Lord. Yes men, so should you.

23. She is to be praised and receive the rewards that result from what she has done. Her husband should not treat her earnings or accomplishments as if they were somehow his doing. Neither should a wife usurp the praise or rewards due to the husband for what he has done. This means that the man does not take a Bible teaching he heard his wife use and repeat it as his own, that a wife does not utilize all the household money on clothes while he has none to enjoy for his own needs etc.

In teaching Proverbs 31 as a list of criteria for a spouse in general might we motivate the young boys to strive harder, and encourage the young ladies to pick better, more mature men? Shouldn’t the man be at least as mature as his wife? Just a thought.

Photo by Matija Barrett

The Declaration of Independence on Relationships

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The Declaration of Independence describes to all nations, not just England, what tyranny looks like, and when it is right and proper to end a relationship. While this is a relationship between Mother England and her colony, it reasonably follows that tyranny is tyranny no matter what the relationship and that the same principles that defined a tyrannical leader in the 1700s should be applicable today.

So what principles can we apply to church, home, employment etc to ensure that we, whenever we have authority, are exercising it properly, and so that we, whenever we are under authority, know when it is proper to say enough is enough?

1. Everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Any behaviors that physically affect a person, keeps them from being free to leave the situation or keeps them from pursuing their dreams is an oppressive relationship. Sure, there are always choices that must be made, and one choice often precludes another choice, but the person whose life is affected by the choice should be either part of the choice, and/or be allowed to leave and choose to pursue happiness elsewhere. (The exception to this is incarceration, where your behavior required you to be separated from others for the good of society.)

2. People should try to restore the relationship, and should not break relationships for ‘transient’ causes (things that are short-lived), but when there is a ‘long train of abuses and usurpations’ then it is a person’s right and duty to throw off this form of government.

There are two important points here:

-The colony (the person under authority) has rights that can be usurped. Being in a position of authority therefore does not give one unlimited power.

-The person who is oppressive is the one who forced the other to break the relationship. It is therefore the oppressive persons fault the relationship failed. The oppressed was correct to leave.

So let us look at the specific things that England did, and examine how an individual may oppress another individual in a similar way.

1. The King, a tyrant, refused to consent to laws for the public good.

Many leaders have this problem. They either do not like to make decisions, or do not like to take advice, so there is little guidance and direction given to the people who are under their authority. Or, if there are rules in place, the leadership undermines these rules by refusing to back up the person charged with enforcing them, by somehow negating the rule or by telling the person in violation ‘not to worry about it.’ Rules provide protection from oppression, as well as a framework that defines how the work is to be done. Too few rules, or no back up leads to the chaos of anarchy, where everyone does whatever they feel to be ‘right.’

(Today, this would be the federal government not enforcing immigration laws, and denying the states the right to handle the problems this lack of enforcement creates themselves.)

2. No one can make necessary rules without the king’s consent.

The people under the king, but over others are not able to make decisions on their own. Everything must pass through the leader (king), except that the king is not available, so when a problem occurs no one feels like they have the right to handle the situation.

3. The person in charge creates situations that make discussions, or meetings so difficult that they are not worth having.

In a marriage, or an employee/employer relationship this may be a person that refuses to listen, yells and goes on the defensive whenever they fear someone may say anything they do not wish to hear. Or they may walk away. There is no way to solve problems since there is no easy method for communication.

4. When someone does stand up for what is right, the leader removes the person, or committee, or shuts down the methods of communication.

This may be shutting down the committee that brought the problem to their attention, removing the suggestion box, refusing to go to counseling/mediation or just being generally unavailable so that no conversations may occur. The person does not like the methods used by the person bringing the matter to their attention and makes no effort to offer another solution to facilitate conversation in a timely manner.

5. The leader makes the people under them aware that life will not go well for them if they do not cater to his whims.

The people under him are scared to disagree. They know that there will be things withheld or they may even lose their position if they do not keep the leader happy.

6. A tyrant also harasses people.

Why? To let them know that, if they think life is bad now, he has the power to make it worse. This keeps people fearful. They know the situation is bad, but they also know it will get worse if they make the leader unhappy by trying to change it.

7. The leader also uses an unreasonable amount of resources.

The person in charge feels that, because they are in charge, they are entitled to use the resources freely, without thought about the people under them and what they might need. In a home, this may be watching what you want on T.V. without thought to what others may wish to see, or what might be appropriate for young children. It may also be spending recklessly, even if it is within the ‘rules,’ even money is tight. In the home this attitude would be, ‘I make the money, so I am entitled to enjoy it.’
A leader in the workplace, or in government is responsible for making right and proper decisions, not skirting the rules so that things work to their, or the people they prefer’s, advantage.
This is not the attitude of someone with a servant’s heart who wants to see their family, business or country prosper.

8. A tyrant also maintains methods of keeping people in line when there is no reason to do so.

The people under this leader have given no indication that they may behave badly, yet the tyrant sets up rules and processes by which to catch people in the act of committing crimes there is no reason to assume they will commit. This creates an atmosphere of fear and perfectionism, where everyone under this authority is afraid of being caught making a mistake. Leaders who do this, like the King of England, often have a group of informants whose word trumps even the most respected people outside their circle. Signs of this type of leadership include excessive security cameras trained on the staff and people who fear meetings since they assume they may be called on the carpet for something at any minute, even though they cannot think of anything they could have done to deserve such treatment.

9. A leader does not respect the rights of the people under them.

For the King of England, this meant that he could quarter troops in private citizens’ homes. In a church, this style of leadership causes members of the congregation to feel that they cannot say no to requests on their time, hospitality or donation of money. In a family, this means you really should talk with your spouse before inviting people over, especially if it is for an extended stay. In the extreme this means, do not tell your mother she can move in with you without speaking to your spouse first!

10. Mock trials: A leader pretends to listen and play fair, but everyone knows the situation has already been decided and the process is a sham.

I attended a meeting once about a Bible study curriculum I did not feel was accurate. When I arrived the DVD series was not available to reference, and it was clear the decision was already made, regardless of what I may have to say, since the ‘decision maker’ was absent and someone was sent with typed notes in their place. Any time you decide to ‘humor’ a person, rather than getting to the root of the problem (which may be the person’s behavior, stubbornness or lack of knowledge) you have circumvented the process of true justice which, if done correctly, should lead to increased knowledge and maturity.

11. Cutting off trade and imposing unreasonable taxes.

A leader who limits what people can do outside of their authority, or makes a person jump through unnecessary hoops to serve is in spirit doing the same thing. They are restricting the opportunities a person has to use their skills in a productive way. This may occur in a marriage when one spouse places unreasonable demands on another that thwarts their ability to get a job or an education, instead of coming up along side of them to help them succeed. In a church, this may be excessive requirements for even the most qualified to go through before they may serve. Often these are tests of ‘loyalty’ designed to produce ‘yes-men’ who will give the leader little trouble even when what he wants to do is complete folly.

12. Creating pretend offenses that people under them must answer for.

A despot of a leader often has thin skin and believes that many completely innocent actions are really secret passive-aggressive moves aimed against them. Typically this is because the leader engages in passive-aggressive behavior and so believes that everyone around them is as guilty as they are. Sometimes is it the result of past bullies, who, because the leader was not sure of himself, were allowed to attack him and those he loves for far too long. Many discussions about supposed backstabbing are a sign that this may be the issue.

13. Arbitrary and constantly changing rules that the leader does not apply to everyone.

A tyrant by definition wants things his or her way. They are controlling and a symptom of this is that the rules do not apply to them, or the people they currently favor. Why? Because the rules are not about right or wrong, they are about controlling the people they do not see as worthy. The rules change frequently because they are based on the leader creating the environment they desire and not about what is truly right in each situation.

14. A tyrant feels free to change agreements whenever they wish, even agreements that were put into writing.

This type of leader believes that leadership means they can do whatever they want. Meeting times and other plans will often change at the last minute to fit their needs, because their schedule and what they do in life is very important. They do not see that this has any negative affect on those around them, since they view others as having less important things to do.

15. Declaring people ‘out of his protection’ and waging war against them is his way of maintaining control.

If you do not please this leader he will deny you the things that are under his control that are necessary for you to do your part in the relationship. He will go further and punish you for not doing what he has denied you the ability to do by withholding the resources (which may be information), or creating a time crunch so you will have to rush to get what he wants done, even though others have known about it for weeks.

16. He will enlist others to ‘punish’ you as well.

There are many types of mercenaries, and many reasons why people will be a mercenary even today. Sometimes it is just lack of information. The leader, who is trusted because of his position, has twisted the facts and painted such a bad picture of the person they are thwarting that other people react badly to the person as well. At other times, blind loyalty, or not wanting to be on the leader’s bad side themselves motivates others to avoid and alienate the person the leader is currently displeased with. The addition of these ‘mercenaries’ typically makes the person under such authority leave the situation. While this happens in a church or work environment, this can also happen in a family. Be cautious of the person who is always on the phone telling you how awful so-and-so is.

17. A tyrant incites trouble within the organization or group they are in charge of.

These are people who stir up strife. They are typically experts at making it look like they are not involved and are the only sane person in the situation. But, when there is a pattern of upset people around the person in charge, look closely. There are people who know exactly what to say to create contention. Why? So they can be the heroes; the only person everyone likes, and the person people go to with their problems. It is a way to gain power and control, although it may just be a sign of ineptitude. (i.e. I do not know how to lead, so I play the devil’s advocate to avoid a decision, and then blame the people I riled up for the delay in progress.)

Also contained in the Declaration are the things good people do to rectify these situations. They:

1. They address their problems to the appropriate people humbly.

2. They warn others of the leader’s behavior because they do not want to see them hurt. (This is not malicious gossip, since its intent is to help and the information is pertinent to the situation.)

3. They remind people of the agreements that were made, and show how the leader violated these agreements. (These are not charges with no basis, but things that can be proven and reviewed by others. Good people want the matter out in the open, where people can decide for themselves what is right or wrong. Tyrants want everything hushed up and kept secret. They believe that no one, even people who are appropriate to help in these situations, needs to know their business.)

4. Good people understand that oppression is intolerable and that there is a time when separation is necessary, although that time is only after many, many attempts to reconcile have been tried.

In short, a tyrant’s goal is not justice, but control. Their wish is for everything that is not to their liking to just go away. They punish anyone who doubts their way of doing things, they do not like constructive criticism and tend to see others who do not share their views as being out to get them. Tyrants create fictions about why people should blindly obey or follow them. Even when their motivations are good, they do not feel the need to explain themselves, which makes it difficult for people to follow them, since they do not understand why they are doing the things they were instructed to do. Tyrants may appear anywhere, and are not always the people who have actual positional authority. (For example, many three-year-olds are effective tyrants in homes where parental authority is lacking.) The root of tyranny is selfishness, and a belief that my way is the best way. A tyrant may do many good things, but it is because it serves their own interests (which may be being perceived as good) and not because it is the right and proper thing to do. Life with a tyrant has many ups and downs because it is the rules of whims and not the rule of righteousness that takes precedence (though a tyrant may cite the law, and what is right, when it suits his purpose, but abandons it, or sites a contradictory rule, when it does not).

I hope this helps you sort out the situations you are facing. Many people feel guilty leaving oppressive situations, or standing up and doing anything about them, when the fault and reason something must be done has nothing to do with their behavior, and everything to do with the person over them behaving as if they were the only one whose wants and opinions truly matter. (And yes, we can apply this to the situations in our government as well…)

Teens- It Can Be Easier!

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

Let’s face it, being a teen today is tough, and most parents do not have the best of relationships with their children at this age, but I don’t think it has to be this way. I have raised seven children, three of whom are still teens living at home, and they are not difficult. Even my older children (the three that came to us as older children through adoption) improved their behavior as teenagers. Why do I think we were we different? Because we chose to be different. We didn’t mind being completely unique, and that helped us make decisions we otherwise might not have made. Here are some problems I see that contribute to the angst today’s teenagers face:

1. There is too much work (and most of it is not productive). The school system today assigns more homework than ever before, and sports teams meet five days a week for practice, plus games (which typically cause a student to frequently miss class). Combine this with church activities, chores and a growing body that needs rest and you can see why an average teen is a little testy. We avoided this by home schooling. One of our children grew in spurts. (He would come downstairs and all of a sudden nothing would fit right.) When he got tired, I let him rest, knowing he would be three inches taller when he finally woke up. Why? Because he had what I termed ‘puberty brain.’ He was so tired no decent amount of work was going to be done by him anyways, so why fight it? The other 360 days of the year he was a hard worker so I gave him the rest he needed. Not all of my children grew this way, but he did. There needs to be some flexibility in life for real needs and if there is a real problem with the amount of work, or other school expectations, there should be other parents who would also like to see a solution as well.

2. They have no real control over their lives, but are trying to become adults. Teen years are frustrating. A teenager is rightly trying to become an adult, but they have very little actual control over their lives and many of the rules they encounter seem arbitrary. To solve this, make rules that make sense, and advocate for your teen when they are subject to rules that are just plain nonsense. If possible look closely at the person in authority over your teen and how they handle their authority before choosing an activity for your teen. Two of my sons enjoyed the boy scouts, but we moved and the men over the new troop made up punishing rules that were ridiculous. The boys watched while the leaders broke the rules but they couldn’t. When my sons wanted to quit, I let them. This was not the type of leader I wanted my boys to be, so removing those men as role models in their lives was fine by me.

3. Because school and sports take up most of their time, they have very little time for real responsibilities. Real adult responsibilities, like helping to change the oil or make a dish to take to a sick friend, create a feeling of accomplishment. Most children do not have these opportunities, and adding too many responsibilities to their lives is almost cruel. Further, there are many, many opportunities for fun that are set up in such a way that a parent would be cruel to make their child miss out, but take up much of their time and money. (Do you remember when prom was only for seniors? Now many schools have one for multiple years, and many of the dances are just as fancy as any prom I attended!) Teens are therefore learning that it is their job to have fun, and mom and dad’s job to provide it. Anything that conflicts with this will cause tension in the house. So how do we solve it? By giving our teens the opportunity to perform adult tasks and help out when possible, and by teaching them the things they need to know for adult life, and by advocating for a sane amount of extra-curricular activities.

4. We focus too much on socialization. ‘Socialization’ has become a big deal in recent years, but it has become skewed to mean ‘socialization with one’s peers.’ While friends are important, many people will not see the friends they had in high school much in their adult life. Socialization with your family, who will be there later in life, is therefore also important, but it is something we often leave out. The Mormons actually have a great idea. They are advised to set aside one night a week, usually Mondays, for family time. There is no working late for dad, or any other activities. This night provides time for the family to re-connect and helps the children remember where their true priorities lay. Public school teens are very busy, but they still need to realize that their first priority is their family.

5. Teens have too many moms. The average teen typically has more than one person they call ‘mom.’ This can be a teacher, or a friend’s mom. This may seem affectionate, but it really is inappropriate. Some teens even have ‘mentors’ that are assigned through the school or other programs. This also messes with the family dynamic because in general these adults are not supporting the family unit. Instead there is a subtle hint that they know better than the child’s family. So, when a teen is caught between pleasing a ‘mentor’ or other friendly adult and their parents, who do you really believe is going to win? The person who loves on them all day with no judgment or accountability involved, or the person who takes away their phone and grounds them from the party they wished to attend? The Bible says that a person cannot serve two masters. This is true, and some of the relationships teens are building with other adults boarders on usurping the proper authority of mom and dad. Sure, a teen with negligent parents might benefit from this, but all other teens need to be encouraged to go to their parents for advice and help. The fallacy that teens can’t talk to their parents is just that, a fallacy. Most teens have awesome parents, they just don’t want to face up to what they have done. And they are not being helped to grow up by allowing them to avoid the consequences and letting them believe their parents are the problem.

6. Bait and switch. Many of the problems I see good teens having come from situations I would have a problem with as well. Here’s the deal. The teen is told that Christmas break is coming up and they will have two weeks off. They are then told that there is a list of assignments to be done over break. What?!?!? Break means break- no work. And if mom and dad planned a vacation, how are they going to manage all of this? Things like this are common in a teen’s life, and they are wrong. They are picked for to be drum majorette, then they find out someone changed their mind. They have a game Saturday, then at the last minute it is on a Friday and they must be there. Some teens lives are so arbitrary it is easy to see why they explode. So when Mom says, ‘But we have plans on Friday,’ the teen is stuck between a rock and a hard place- disappoint mom, or disappoint the coach. And the coach usually wins. Why? Because he has the psychological ‘You’re letting down the team,’ on his side, plus he can bench the child from an activity they love. (This happens with church activities as well, where the leader assumes the teens can drop everything at a moments notice, not realizing how it messes with a family who is actually trying to spend time with their child.)

7. We juvenilize everything. High schools now have days where you wear your pajamas to school, and youth groups focus more on eating gross foods and games then they do on growing up. This is not what the teen years are about. Sure it’s ok to have fun once in a while, but the fun occurs after the work is done, not instead of it. A teen who is truly intent on being an adult, ready to live on their own and consider marriage after high school should feel weird when asked to do pointless juvenile activities. Adult jobs that pay well do not have pajama days, for obvious reasons, and no one makes their accountant or physician eat gross food as a way to judge their competence.

8. They don’t know their parents. With school, sports and other activities the teen has had very little time to get to know their parents. The majority of their interactions occur when the teen has done something wrong. This is not the way to build trust and an easy relationship. A small child does not see their parent the same way an adult does. If you do not build a more mature relationship with your child now, where you both talk and listen to their ideas, it will be harder to do later, after they move out.

9. Parents do not make the rules clear. The teen does not automatically know everything you expect him to do. If you are not clear about it, they can become confused. ‘I didn’t know’ is a frequent excuse teens use, and while it is at times a ploy to avoid getting into trouble, sometimes it is the truth. Be clear with your expectations, especially if they are different from the norm. For example, my son once ‘courted’ a girl who was an oldest child who had parents who were extremely into ‘purity.’ This was fine with him, but he did not know the rules. It seemed to him, and to me, that the parents were making things up on the fly, after they were done, which meant he was frequently shamed for things he did not know to avoid. For example: My son gave her a fairly expensive necklace; he should have known it was too much. My son held her hand; he should have asked first. They offered to let him stay at their house when he visited; he should have known to refuse. Don’t be like this. Dating, driving and other things are going to be options for your teen to experience. Come up with a game plan that is clear and known by your children before these options present themselves.

10. The teens have no life plans. There is another fallacy going around that teens need to ‘find themselves’ before college. Well, while your teens are finding themselves, and often only finding themselves in trouble, other teens are preparing for a life that supports the family they hope to have. They will be the doctors, lawyers and business owners, and hopefully, when your teen is ready, they will offer him a job. Sound harsh? A teen with no goals does not see why he needs to do anything. A teen with goals stays out of trouble because he does not want to ruin his future. Let me give you an example: My oldest son came to my house at ten and a half, and he was a handful. He was also a cocaine, fetal-alcohol syndrome baby who scored low on IQ tests. He is now making six-figures. Why? Because he had a goal, and he worked hard to achieve it. At 17 1/2 he joined the Marines. After four years of service he worked private security, going to classes to acquire all of his clearances so he could carry a gun, and then took a job doing contract work in Kuwait. Is he perfect? No, but he is doing better than many of his peers. Why? Because sitting on my couch was never an option. And when he wanted to quit high school I told him we could help him get a loan on a septic truck so he would at least be making enough money to feed his future family. (Messy jobs no one wants tend to pay well.) He didn’t like the septic idea, which is why I chose it, so he pushed through. Buying into ideas that say your teen in incapable do your teen a disservice. I knew my son could complete high school, but I also knew it would be hard. I also knew he really wanted to be a Marine. We worked together and a boy with behavioral issues and a pretty low IQ passed the ASVAB and served tours successfully in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am sorry, but I am tired of hearing that it can’t be done. That teens are wired this way, and there will always be conflict, and that sitting on your couch finding themselves is the way to success. This is bull. My nephew just graduated from college and is looking forward to working on his masters. Most kids his age living near us are thinking about maybe working at Walmart, and they are ‘good’ kids. The difference? It’s not the brains as much as the expectations that they grew up with that set them apart. And those expectations will likely cause them to struggle financially for the rest of their lives. Further, the extra time in their parent’s house is not helping their relationship. Lack of responsibility is creating tension when mom and dad become tired of cleaning up an adult child’s messes, and watching him sleep in every day. So ask yourself: Is this really what you want for your child? And if you do not, what are you going to do to change it?

A Physical Therapist on Nutrition

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

When I was in college I took every nutrition class they had, was a teaching assistant for Nutrition and Behavior and even cooked for two Nutrition PhDs making perfect ‘ten’ meals. After college my continuing education courses also included sports nutrition whenever one was available. Here’s what I learned:

1. An active lifestyle is the most important factor in maintaining good health.
This does not mean you have to run a marathon. Too much exercise, or too intense an exercise program wears down parts of the body and makes old age uncomfortable. And, the common saying, ‘No pain, no gain,’ is a misconception (unless you are a complete wimp with absolutely no tolerance for the minimal pain that comes with exertion…). So keep it safe, and fun, resting when you are injured, and try to choose an activity you can do throughout your lifetime.

2. A balanced diet is the best diet.
Most of the vitamins you need are water-soluble meaning you pee them out easily. This means you need to replenish them often. Further, when your cholesterol is high you are told to increase your intake of fish oils. Why? So your HDLs (good cholesterol) is in sync with your LDLs (bad cholesterol). Your omega threes (fish oils) also need to balance your omega sixes (corn oils). If your diet is high in omega six, like most people in America, you are at risk for increased swelling, and diseases associated with swelling such as arthritis. Diets consisting solely of one type of food, whether it is hot dogs or mushrooms, increase your likelihood of cancer. Also fad diets often have good short-term results, with bad long-term effects. So… a variety of foods at each meal is best.

3. Whole foods are better than processed foods.
This should not surprise anyone, so whenever you can eat food in its rawest form. (But wash it first. E-coli and hepatitis are not fun.) This means whole grain breads, pastas and rice and fresh fruits and vegetables. Sugar is also a refined food, so limit its consumption. Sugar, as it is sold in most supermarkets, is stripped of its nutrients and therefore contains ’empty’ (non-nutritious) calories. Typically one should eat with the goal of maximizing the amount of vitamins and nutrients per calorie if possible. This means high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and white flour are not your best options.

4. Many health foods are not health foods.
Check the label. Just because it looks like a granola bar does not mean that it is not full of sugar. The ingredients in a product are always listed from largest quantity to smallest on the label. Also remember that all food contains calories, so that nutritious smoothie you just consumed will help you put on weight just as easily as a cheeseburger. It just contains more vitamins and nutrients to keep you healthy.

5. Emotions matter.
If you are stressed, depressed or overly tired you are not as likely to move as much, and more likely to crave food. Take care of your emotional well-being and find ways to simplify your life in order to stay healthy. Having adopted three older children I understand that this is not always possible. Do your best, but know that sometimes sacrifices must be made for a greater good and that is okay. When life gets easier, ease yourself back into healthier living. After thirty trying to jump back into vigorous exercise typically results in needing a physical therapist. Trust me, slowly ramping up into a fun, safe exercise program is the best way to achieve long term results. (Though most physical therapists are fun people. Just make sure you have good insurance, we’re not cheap!)

By the way- this is a lecture I am giving to myself!

My favorite diet:
I believe a macro-biotic diet is best. This means no refined sugar or processed foods such as white flour, white rice or white pastas. Only whole grains, vegetables, fruits and low fat milk and meats (unless you are pregnant or still growing, or exercising like a Navy Seal then the fat is fine). Eating 5-8 small meals a day (every two-three hours) instead of three meals a day is also best, just make sure they are small. Regular exercise is also a must. If you are gaining weight, increase your exercise and decrease your food intake. If you feel sluggish increase your food intake and increase your sleep and exercise. Don’t use caffeine to stay alert, get more sleep.

Now the down-side of this diet is that it interferes with social eating. While restaurants are doing better at providing healthy choices, most friendly parties and church pot-lucks are not. Since hospitality is an important part of Christian living, keep any diet in its proper prospective unless it is necessitated by a health concern.

How to make recipes ‘healthier:’

1. Use whole-grain flours instead of white. There are a few varieties typically available in most areas. You can mix them up or alternate them as you like. You may also add wheat germ as part of the amount of flour called for. Cookies and cakes may be made this way. Check the Internet for some whole grain recipes as well. Others have perfected their recipes and were nice enough to share. You may also use whole grain pastas and hearty rices as well.

2. Substitute no-sugar applesauce for oil in muffins or any other recipe that might taste good with apples. You can also use baby food, such as pureed prunes or peaches for variety.

3. Add dried berries and/or nuts to salads and recipes that would taste good with them for increased variety.

4. Check out vegetarian options to lower calories and fat and increase food variety. Some of the fake meat products are quite tasty- just don’t tell your spouse it’s meat and think they’ll be fooled. Meat in small quantities is good, since it contains fat-soluble vitamins. The amount of meat most Americans consume trends towards breaking the ‘do not eat only one thing’ rule. There are also mayonnaise, salad dressing and ketchup substitutes that are pricier, but lower in sugars and fat.

5. Try adding fish to your diet. Crab salad (imitation crab is usually halibut), salmon patties and tilapia are quite good. Tuna can also be added to some casseroles or served on its own. Vary your fishes as well.

6. When making crumb toppings for cakes and pies use 100% fruit juice concentrate (usually apple- do not dilute, it is so sweet you should use less) instead of sugar and butter. You can also mix it into the pie filling with a little whole-wheat flour instead of sugar and cornstarch. Oats also make a nice addition to crumb toppings. My topping is usually a handful of flour, a handful of oats, cinnamon, a little nutmeg and just enough apple juice concentrate to make everything clump together. (As you can see, I am a very precise baker!)

7. Substitute cottage cheese for ricotta. Some ricotta may be needed for taste in some recipes, but half cottage cheese and half ricotta may be nice.

8. Use soymilk in recipes. This not only decreases the amount of fat, but increases your variety of foods.

9. Learn to use spices to flavor meals instead of high sugar glazes and/or ketchup. Spices also contain anti-oxidants (things that help trap bad stuff like free radicals and get them out of your body) that are good for you. Use spices liberally.

10. Avoid fried foods. There is only so much oil a person needs in a day, and most fried foods have soaked up more than we need. French fries are the worst since potatoes make excellent oil traps. They also taste really good so you are unlikely to eat just a few.

11. Add vegetables to everything. You can even puree, or finely chop them to sneak them into sloppy joes, meatloaf, hamburgers, soups, and casseroles.

12. Use cast iron pans to increase your iron intake. Low iron (anemia) is a common cause of fatigue. Adding spinach or other dark greens also helps. Adding chlorophyll to your water helps too, but get the mint flavored kind. Pure chlorophyll is not all that tasty.

13. Drink unsweetened teas or water. Raspberry tea is my favorite. Teas often have vitamins and tannins that are good for you without the calories. Find a brand you like. You can even put it over ice. I like peppermint tea this way.

14. Oats can be added to ground beef. It increases the amount of fiber in the food and decreases the amount of fat by decreasing the amount of meat needed. Just add the oats after the fat is drained. Oats are fine in meat while baking, like in a hamburger or meatloaf, but are not good browned with your meat. Add them after browning for sloppy joes etc. Oats also make hamburgers fall apart more easily, so unless you put foil down, or really want to frustrate someone, don’t use much for grilling.

15. Try salsas instead of dip and chutneys low in sugar instead of glazes. Opt for baked chips instead of fried and whole grain chips instead of potato and corn for variety.

16. Watch your corn consumption. Most Americans eat too much corn. We use corn oil for cooking, eat corn as a side dish, have corn chips as snacks and there is high fructose corn syrup in everything. Corn is not a bad thing, but overconsumption puts your omega sixes out of balance with your omega threes, so unless you are going to eat a whole lot of fish as well, try another vegetable every now and then.

17. Decrease the meat. Baked potatoes with toppings make a good meal. Portabella mushrooms are great and there are a lot of recipes for them. There are also pasta dishes and rice casseroles that are very tasty. (Just use whole grain pastas and avoid white rice.) I will fry mushrooms in a little BBQ sauce and make sandwiches with them like they are pulled pork. My kids loved them until they tasted real pulled pork…

18. Vary your meats. American diets are typically high in beef. Try other lower fat meats as well. Most of them come ground for recipes, and you can mix them together for different flavors and textures. Add spices if you find them bland.

19. Remember that cut up fruit, or chilled canned fruit in light or no sugar, or even olives can function as a side dish as well. The more sides you serve, the more variety you have and the less of any one thing you eat.

20. Frozen grapes, pomegranate seeds and other fruits make good summer snacks. Fruit in a cup with a little whipped cream makes a desert than is better than most cookies and cakes.

Since vegetables do not keep as long as one may like I have a few interesting ways to get rid of limp veggies and any leftovers. Remember, the healthier you have eaten during the week, the healthier these meals will be.

Garbage Loaf: (You can call it whatever you want. I have boys and tomboys, so garbage loaf works for us.) Take all the leftovers and vegetables you think would taste good with ground meat (which is almost everything). Crumble them up and mix them in with your meat. Add Italian spices, onions, garlic, ketchup and/or BBQ sauce, and any extra healthy chips that are in the bottom of the bags that are too small for anyone to want to dip, but too many to throw out. Add an egg; separate it and add only the white if you want to decrease the cholesterol. Spinach and other dark greens also hide well in this recipe. You can top it with leftover spaghetti sauce too, but you don’t need to. Bake at 350 until cooked through. It’s not the healthiest meal, but it’s better than most meat loafs. Add fruit, bread and salad sides to this meal for balance.

Leftover Soup: Again, take all the leftovers and limp veggies that would work well together in a soup. (Really this only typically excludes breads and cake. It can include your leftover garbage loaf.) Crumble them up. Add V8 juice and Italian spices and pepper to taste. Onions and garlic are also a good addition if you like the flavor. Again, you can hide dark greens well in this recipe. Simmer until everything is as soft as you would like things in soup to be.

Anything Casserole: Take everything you have leftover that will go well together and crumble it together. Add a whole grain pasta or rice. (You can hide dark greens like spinach in this too.) Add a cream of something soup (not low cal/fat but tasty). Add enough water for the pasta or rice to cook (slightly watery, not soupy). Take the ends of the whole grain bread no one will eat and turn them into breadcrumbs. Add Italian spices, then sprinkle them on top. Bake at 350 until rice or pasta is done. If you use leftover rice or pasta (already cooked) then just heat it through.

My son wrote home from the Marines stating that the thing he missed most while on tour was the ‘meals with no name,’ so while these recipes may seem a bit iffy, they do turn out quite good. The only problem is that when your child, or spouse asks if you can make that again, the answer is ‘Only if we have exactly the same meals we had this week again and don’t eat the same amounts…’ A few times the meal was so good we attempted to create a recipe based on the main ingredients present. It worked, and we have a few unique meals we now make.

Disclaimer: This is, of course, not meant to be official health advice. If you do have health issues please see a physician who may recommend a nutritionist to help with your specific problem.
Remember, this is my pep-talk to myself.

Advice to young moms: Don’t stop exercising! It is much harder to get back in shape than to stay in shape, so unless your family really needs you 24/7 (as mine did, and many people with children with disabilities etc do), find time to take care of yourself.

O.K. Men- It’s Time To ‘Man Up!’

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I just read an article that has me fuming. Why? Because it is all too common. So common in fact that the writer of the article, a woman, did not see a problem with it. (And this was a secular, typically feminist, magazine!) Here’s the quote: “Given the surprise nature of the date, she didn’t know to arrange a babysitter and, besides, they had Mass and Mother’s Day brunch the next morning.”

What?!?!?! Did this guy not know he had children? Did he miss the fact they were too young to stay home alone? So he arranges a nice date in a fancy hotel and they have to leave without spending the night. Classy. But the article paints him as the king of romance. I think not!

Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. Too often I hear young mothers complain that they can’t go out because their husband cannot handle the responsibility of taking care of their own children. Or there is just too much mess to clean up when she comes home. Or there is too much prep to do before she leaves because her husband does not cook, or microwave, or even know how to order a pizza. Men, this is ridiculous. If you want to bless your wife, or even keep her sane, she needs to be able to take some time to relax and recharge without feeling like she is being punished for it.

Here are some thoughts for when the wife is away:

Take the children somewhere, anywhere. This keeps the mess in the house to a minimum and makes you look like a hero. Some suggestions are movies, museums, duck ponds and anything that has the word ‘play land’ in it.

Plan to go out to eat. This too cuts down on the mess. If you must eat at home frozen pizza is easy and the instructions are right on the package- just don’t forget to set the timer. Some varieties even have a vegetable or two on them (which your children will probable pick off, but at least you tried).

Remember, you cannot take your eyes off of young children! They seem to have a type of radar that knows when the adult is not looking. This is when the messes are made, and the things that necessitate an ER visit are done. Realize that this will not be a night where you kick back and watch TV or play a video game. Children are hard work that is why your wife is not as spunky as she used to be. But… If you give her enough opportunities to rest and relax she will have some more of that pre-kid spark back!

Practice makes perfect. The more time you spend alone with your children, the better it will be. And the advantage to all of this is that your children will see you as a competent human being, and not the person who cannot even figure out how to boil water for the mac and cheese. Trust me, this helps with your relationship with them. Just remember, the worst thing you can do to your wife is to trash the house while she is gone. Make sure the children are mobilized to clean (which may mean down for a nap, or happy in a swing) at least an hour before she gets home. (Take into consideration the time- too long before she gets home and you’ll just have to re-do it.) If you do fail, apologize and help her when she gets home. Don’t act as if you are now off-duty and any mess that was made is now hers to deal with!

I hope this helps. Motherhood is a tough job. If your wife does not take some down time she will not be as good at it. Make sure it happens in a way she can actually appreciate. Thanks guys, I know you’ll do well. (Subtle positive reinforcement here- not my typical sarcastic style- so enjoy- I really, really wanted to call certain people schmucks, but refrained. See how good I’ve gotten!)

Now if you are already doing this- check with your wife and see if she thinks you are doing this. I once took a karate class with what I thought, from their reports, were some of the best dads around. Then I found out they were the same husbands the wives complained about during the kids’ class at night! The biggest complaint: The husband, trying to be a ‘good guy’ would attempt to tackle a large, usually unnecessary, job, like cleaning the laundry room while the wife was away. He would ignore everything else and the laundry room would be spotless. (Not that anyone checks out how clean someone’s laundry room is when they visit. At least not anyone sane.) The problem: While he was cleaning the laundry room, the kids were destroying the rest of the house, so the wife came home to a very clean laundry room, a husband who expected praise, and more housework than she could ever imagine! Are you seeing the problem?

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