Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Baby Buts

Families with babies and families without babies 
are sorry for each other.  ~Ed Howe

I am feeling extremely pro-baby today. That, my friends, is likely because my own personal baby is sleeping in this morning!

We get asked a lot about having all these kids. Why? How? Seriously?

There are a few things I believe about parenthood choices:

1. There is not a perfect number of children to have (or a perfect way to space them). There are advantages to having six, three, two, none. And I never question the size of anyone's family because I know there are a thousand reasons why we get what we get. 
2. There's no ideal time to start a family (or add to it). It is possible to plan your way out of a whole lot of joy if you are not open to some surprises.
3. The way our society views "having kids" is precariously close to the same way we view "having pets" or "starting projects". We want what we want, when we want it, how we want it. Maybe it started with the pioneers who needed a slew of children to work the crops? Or maybe it's a more modern mindset as the success of any given American kid is seen as a statement about the parents who are raising him or her? Not sure. But it really bothers me.

Here are the most common reasons people share with me about why they don't have more (or any) children. Let me say that I TOTALLY get these reasons. And I TOTALLY get the "buts" as well.

You're thinking about having a baby...

but you don't have enough money
but you need a bigger car
but the world is a horrible place
but you need to lose some weight first
but you don't function well without sleep
but there are already too many people on the planet
but you want to see the world first
but it would interfere with your career

Why yes, that's true.

but there is no such thing as enough money--for you, for a couple, for one or two or six children.
but driving a sedan or (brace yourself) a minivan can be really cool--in an ironic sort of way.
but someone's child wins the Nobel Peace Prize every year. And lots of other people's children do millions of things to promote peace every single day in ways that only they could do.
but if you want to be a healthy person there are few things that will motivate you more than a little person depending upon you (Don't believe me? Run a 10K this weekend and see who are the toughest competition --moms.)
but it's empowering to discover just how little sleep on which you are capable of surviving. Plus infomercials are really entertaining.
but if you really believe natural resources are worth more than human beings, then put your conviction into actions that will matter far more than simply having one less person on earth (i.e. drive a lot less, eat a lot less, and plug in your electronics a lot less too).
but you should get busy seeing that big world and figure out where the finish line is.
but no one multi-tasks like a parent. Get your motivation on straight and this can benefit you at work even as you simultaneously realize that career success is not the biggest prize.

It's contentious, this population-control/pro-life or pro-choice/contraception/do I even want to be a parent? debate. There is a whole lot of understandable emotion on the part of everyone. I think that's good...babies should make us feel something.

Just one last thing. Here's a baby but(t) that should make everyone smile:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Camping Contest Winners!

Congratulations to:

Kelly Dunkel
Cyndi Hamilton
Sherry McGhay
Heather Vaughn

See you around the campfire!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Swimming Lessons

In life there are floaters and divers.

I am a floater.

I married a diver.

I am, in general, relaxed. I am content to be still while soaking up the sun and occasionally trailing my hand in the water. Put a good book in my hands and I can forget just about everything else.

He is, in general, intense. He is always seeking, staying under longer in order to discover something else about himself and his surroundings. He only comes up for air when it is absolutely necessary.

One is not better than the other. In the swimming pool of life there are pros to being a floater. And there are cons. There are cons to being a diver. And there are pros.

We need each other.

I pull him to the surface when I fear he is drowning. He pulls me under when he fears I am being blinded and burned by the sun. I'm uncertain whether he would actually drown or I would actually burn if left on our own. But it's nice that we will tend to each other before we have to find out.

A floater enjoys the warmth of the day and the sound of the waves. The scent of the breeze and the taste of a cool drink when things get too steamy. As long as the surface stays tranquil I have very little concern with what is going on underneath.

A diver does not feel the sun, does not hear the waves, does not smell the breeze or taste a thing. He is holding his breath. But in the deep he can fully appreciate the power of what is going on below. He is alone with his isolated sensations.

I listen.

He tests.

I need to test more. He needs to listen better. Those are the lessons we learn.

On our best days we balance each other--floating on the surface for a while and then working our strength by diving deep.

I pull him up for air. He pulls me into the deep. And when it is perfect we swim alongside each other, matching stroke for stroke and breath for breath, enjoying the sun and the cool deep all on the same day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Let's Go Camping!

Years ago my husband read somewhere that the one thing all successful families have in common is not wealth or education or geography. It's camping. In his mind, therefore, we needed to camp to insure that we were growing a successful family. So we camped.

But after a few times of cleaning out tents and laundering sleeping bags and working to get the marshmallow out of everyone's hair, I put down my foot. Hiking, biking, fishing and all that are fine, I declared, but I insist on sleeping in a bed with sheets. And a functioning toilet close enough that I don't have to put on snake-proof boots to visit.

However...I did also say that camping would be perfect if someone else did all the work. I think Coleman read my mind because here is what's happening in our own backyard at the Lake of the Ozarks. And did I mention it's free? And there are prizes? And other people are doing all the work? All. The work. Count me in!

And we're hoping to count you in too. Here's the deal:

Coleman Great American Backyard Campout

What is it?  The Coleman Company, Inc. is hosting a private camping event for 15 families. I get to choose 4 of those families from my blog readers!
Why are they hosting this event?  Coleman has partnered with National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to sponsor this year’s Great American Backyard Campout. Coleman and NWF want to inspire parents to get their families outside, even if they’ve never camped before.

If I win, what do I get? The winners will receive a family ticket (for a family of up to five) to attend the Coleman Great American Backyard Campout event. You are responsible for your own transportation, so it’s better if you live close enough to drive. We won’t exclude you because of distance, though – if you’re willing to make the trip, you can enter! At the campout, you and your family will get:

  • A full campsite worth of Coleman gear for you to use at the event, and take home with you when it’s over
  • Horseback riding
  • Meals, recipes and outdoor cooking instruction from a local celebrity chef
  • Fishing instructions from a Shakespeare fishing pro fisherman
  • Stargazing with an astronomer
  • Live campfire sing-alongs with a local musician
  • Guided morning hike with a delicious breakfast at the destination
  • Easy ways your family can help the environment while camping from Leave No Trace
  • Lots of Coleman helpers to lend a hand if you have questions about the outdoors
  • Plenty of fun leisure activities, like a bean bag toss, Frisbee throwing, card games and more
My family has never been camping before. Can we still attend? Absolutely! This event is designed for campers who don’t have a lot of experience, or any experience at all. Plenty of Coleman folks will be available to give you a hand with your gear and answer any questions you may have. We’ll also have modern facilities and running water at the campsite, so there’s no need to worry about going too “extreme” your first time out.
Where is the event located, since I have to travel? Lake of the Ozarks Park, 403 Hwy 134, Kaiser, MO 65047-0170
When is it? The Great American Backyard Campout takes place on June 23, 2012. Coleman’s event will be taking place from 11 a.m. on June 23 until 10 a.m. on June 24.
What is the Great American Backyard Campout all about? Great American Backyard Campout is part of National Wildlife Federation’s “Be Out There” movement, which is designed to provide tools that inspire parents and children to spend time in the outdoors. Over the next three years, NWF’s goal is to get 10 million more kids playing outside on a regular basis. Spending a night under the stars is the perfect way to start.

Here's how the contest works

In 100 words or less, tell me these things:

  • Your name, phone number and email address. We’ll only call or email you if you’re a winner, and we won’t disclose your info to anyone else.
  • If you’re willing to travel to the event location on June 23.
  • Why your family would like to attend the campout.

On June 8, I’ll be selecting 4 winners from the entries I receive from you. I’ll inform the winners individually, and we’ll coordinate with Coleman to get you everything you need before the campout.

If you have any questions about the contest, let me know. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out from Coleman and get back to you as soon as I can.

Shoot me an email at with your entry and hopefully I'll see you around the campfire on June 23! I'll be the one there relaxing while someone else cooks. And leads the singing. And points out the stars. And guides the hiking.

Now if I can just find someone to come home with me and launder those sleeping bags.