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Monday, July 29, 2013

Bride of Chuck-E

No, not this Chucky:

I may blog about a lot of things, but I draw the line at scary kids' toys with crazy eyes. 

This is the Chuck-E to whom I am referring:

I went to visit this little rodent this weekend. Thank you, in advance, Jennifer, for inviting us to Andrew's birthday celebration, thus providing the idea for this blog.

My children love Chuck-E-Cheese. L-O-V-E. I am pretty sure that when they picture heaven, it's a 24-carat gold version of this place.

I am also pretty sure that when I picture hell, I see it resembling a non-air conditioned version of the very same place.

Up until a couple of years ago, Chuck-E-Cheese was but a distant, fond memory from my childhood. I am pretty sure my eighth birthday party was celebrated with the Chuckster, and I am pretty sure it was the greatest day of my life. I still remember how their cheese pizza was made with a sauce that had tiny diced tomatoes in it, and that I was allowed to have root beer to drink. I remember the anticipation that would build in my gut during the moments leading up to the Chuck-E stage show, which in my mind ranked right up there with the Country Bear Jamboree at Disney World. It was a magical, magical place.

Or so I remembered.

It's a funny thing, time. It has a way of painting beautiful pictures of events that, in all actuality, were horrific in every single way.

This seems to be the case with Chuck-E-Cheese's (where a kid can be a kid).

My first adult encounter with Chuck took place about two years ago. I took my children to a birthday party there. On a Saturday.

If you're a parent, you just shuddered. 

At first I was so excited. Overcome with a major sense of nostalgia, even. I built this day up for my children, preparing them for what was to be the best moment of their short little lives. The games, the tickets, the prizes. The mini ferris wheel. The ski-ball machines...oh, those ski-ball machines. My kids could hardly sleep the night before, and, let's face it, neither could I.

We drove up to this little-piece-of-heaven-on-asphalt and anxiously made our way inside, where a wall of noise like nothing I have heard before hit my ears like...a loud wall of noise.

The frequencies that assaulted my ear drums were piercing on every level. High screams, low screams, wails, shrieks of excitement. I felt a bit disoriented, like maybe I had accidentally walked into the wrong place, a place that resembled Dante's seventh layer of hell.

As we were herded like cattle through the railed walkway, we pushed and shoved our way to the entrance gate, where one of Chuck-E's happy helpers stood ready to stamp our hands. You see, at Chuck-E-Cheese's, security is of the highest priority, so they make sure to stamp parents' and childrens' hands with matching numbers, so that upon exit they can confirm that adults are, in fact, leaving with their own children and not someone else's. Which is pretty funny, if you think about it, because after an hour in that place, every adult would be so sonically and experientially scarred by what had just gone down that even a child predator wouldn't try to leave with someone else's kid. Actually, most probably try the opposite, try leaving alone for the sake of some blessed quiet.

Anyway, we made it to the gate, and the pubescent boy stamped my hand with the number 16. He stamped my daughter's hand with the number 16. I sent her through the gate, and turned around to find my son. After locating him (he was drinking from another child's sippy cup), I grabbed him and pulled him to the gate to get his hand stamped. The happy helper stamped his hand. With a number 19.


"You must be mistaken," I told him. "You stamped me with the number 16. You just made him a 19."

"Oh, that's close enough," said the boy.

Ok, can we pause here for a second? I know that our public schools are not what they used to be (sorry, teacher friends, but we all know it's true), but seriously? CLOSE ENOUGH?

Choosing between the value of my time spent trying to explain this concept to the boy and my concern for "security," I opted to just go with it, nod my head, and enter Dante's inferno.

The next hours were a blur of activity. Trying to get my children to participate in the birthday party at hand while the sights and sounds of Chuck-E-Cheese beckoned to them. Trying to keep my eyes on my children at all times while they ran in opposite directions, worried that my son would be joining the family of number 19, never to be seen again. Taking potty breaks every five minutes because their bladders were loaded with red-dye-number-40-fruit-punch. Apologizing profusely because my daughter pushed open the emergency-exit door and set off the site-wide alarm. Twice.

The noise. The people. The smells. The tickets. The tokens.

The ticket redemption.

Oh, the ticket redemption process. There's really not anything more frustrating, is there? First of all, any parent worth their salt knows that you only give little kids a couple of choices, at most. Otherwise, decision-making becomes the most laborious, stressful process under the sun.

My daughter had 89 tickets. At Chuck-E-Cheese's 89 tickets could mean anything. Nine toys from the ten-pt bin, or three toys from the 25-pt bin, or one toy from the 50-pt bin plus one toy from the 25-pt bin, or two toys from the 25-pt bin plus four toys from the ten-pt bin, get the idea.

But even this isn't really the problem. The problem is that she wanted the 50,000,000-pt bag of cotton candy up on the top shelf. Top shelf items aren't for sissies...they are for ski-ball champions. Which I am pretty sure my five-year-old is not. And so we end up leaving with 2 packs of Smarties, 1 temporary tattoo, 1 sticky hand, and one gorgeous "diamond" ring. And tears because we were cotton candy-less.


Honestly, I'd be okay with never setting foot in the place again. Unfortunately, my kids beg, BEG, to go there. If they are working toward a special outing, if he is trying to earn a treat for five nights of a dry pull-up, or she for five books read on her own, what they usually want to do is go to Chuck-E's. Even though, at the end of it all, they usually leave disappointed and in tears. And cotton candy-less.

I am a lot like my kids. I have grand ideas in my mind of what will bring me happiness and fulfillment. I live in a world of "if only's." If only I can do ____, I will be so happy. If only I can get ____, I'll be content. But the truth is, I'm never satisfied.

And we are all this way. Do you know why? 

Because we were made for more than this life can offer us. We were made for more than Smarties...we were made for the Cotton Candy. Problem is, we live in a Smarties world. However, if we know and trust Christ, we have an amazing promise of hope. We have the promise of Cotton Candy from the Master Candy Spinner Himself.

This might seem like a stretch of a tie-in, but go with me here.

In the same way that Chuck-E-Cheese's is heaven-on-earth for my children, I have my own activities and things and trips and you-name-it that I look to for happiness and fulfillment. I think, if I can just make it to my vacation, then I'll be relaxed and happy. And the vacation is all well and good, but then it's back to reality and I face disappointment. I anticipate the day I can buy ____, and once I get it I feel a sense of let down, because I realize that there is a void in me that no object can fill.

Don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with THINGS. There's nothing wrong with vacations, or leisure activities. These are all well and good. But they don't fulfill us. 

Because we were made for more.

When you're made for heaven, even a week-long trip to the British Virgin Islands is a little bit of a disappointment, know what I mean?

When you're made for Cotton Candy, Smarties are a bit of a let down.

I am the bride of Christ, not the bride of Chuck-E. Nothing else is going to satisfy me like Him, here on earth or in eternity. And I know that, once I see Him face to face, once I enter life as it should be and not as it is now, I will never lack for anything again. I will be fully satisfied, never disappointed. I will be drowning in Cotton Candy.

"What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived -- the things God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Corinthians 2:9

We can't conceive the ultimate satisfaction that He has in store for us. We can only guess, grasping at tiny fragments of fulfillment we experience here on earth.

May we live with the hope of Cotton Candy, a hope that shines the light of Jesus to those around us.

Lastly, I just want to say that, after being reawakened to the mouse, the myth, the legend that is Chuck-E-Cheese, I am actually 98% sure I had nightmares as a kid from watching the robotic Chuck-E sing his songs with those demon eyes and motorized ginormous mouse hands.

Feel free to laugh!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hi, Ditch.

My son just asked me if God "tooters" up in heaven. When I answered that, no, I don't guess He does, because God doesn't have a body like man so he probably doesn't have methane building up inside His non-existent intestines, Sutton then asked me if people "tooter" up in heaven. I could have told him that they don't right now, but once their physical bodies are resurrected after Christ returns to earth they might just stink up the halls of heaven. 

But I didn't. I didn't think he was ready for that theology yet. 

Kids say the darndest things, don't they? I never lack for something to laugh at when I listen to my kids talk.  

A few of my all-time favorites:

EMERSON (age 3, when talking about what she learned in Sunday School): "They said Jesus went on a boat and he was real tired and he went to sleep and it was raining real hard and the guy was scared. Then Jesus woke up and he turned into a pirate." 
EMERSON (age 3): "Mommy, you're the best. And Daddy just a little bit the most." 
EMERSON (age 3): "Mommy, I have a baby in my belly." (I then asked her how it got there) "Well, this morning I just poo-poo'd real hard and then it climbed right in." 
EMERSON (age 4, as influenced by her father): "Mommy, I feel like I am going to THROW UP! Sutton is SO stinky! He dropped a huge deucer!" (thank you, Brandon) 
SUTTON (age 4, randomly as we were in the car driving down the road): "Mommy, if a train conductor is driving the train, he can't touch anyone's penises." (can you tell we have been talking about keeping private parts private?) 
SUTTON (age 3, when asked how a person has a relationship with Jesus): "You just throw Him a big stick and see if He catches it."

Sutton's latest phrase is something that catches a lot of attention and raises quite a few eyebrows. He recently heard me asking him to say "hi" to the video camera on my phone, so he turned around and yelled, "HI, DITCH!"

Yeah, I'm thinking the same thing. WHAT?!

I asked him what he meant, afraid he had overheard someone calling another person, how-you-say, a female dog. He told me he made it up.

I laughed so hard. I just couldn't help it.

That wasn't good, because now his favorite greeting is, "HI, DITCH!"

We're working on that.

It's so hard with our kids, isn't it, to teach them how to communicate, how to speak to others, how to function in this crazy world with a measure of patient and gentle speech that oftentimes is not and will not be reciprocated? It's even harder to not just tell them the right way to speak and respond to others, but to MODEL it.

I am not a yeller. Sometimes I raise my voice, often just to be heard over the noise and chaos that is my three children. However, in the last week or two, I have been, to put it VERY mildly, frustrated with their behavior. Summer-itis has kicked in, and the togetherness and sibling interactions have resulted in countless tussles and arguments. My patience is thin. I am tired of the yelling, the fussing, the screaming, the bossiness. You name it, we've had it, and I am D-U-N DONE!

Instead of taming my tongue, instead of guarding my words, I find myself yelling and lashing out at my little ones. Emerson has said to me more than one time, "Mommy, why are you talking to me with such unkindness?"


I could say a lot, but I think God's Word says it best when it comes to how we need to teach our children by example. Here are a few of my favorites:

"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." Colossians 4:6
"Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin." Proverbs 13:3
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly." Proverbs 15:1-2
"A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit." Proverbs 15:4
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." Proverbs 18:21
"Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3

Will you join me in praying that, as we invite the Lord to give us wisdom and self-control when it comes to the things we say and how we say them, our children will learn from us and from the Holy Spirit to speak life and love into the lives of every person they encounter? 

At my house, one way we speak life into each other is to make sure we laugh. Often. We also talk a lot about poop. I don't know why, we just do. We can't make it through a meal without the word "poop" being thrown out at least once or twice. It could be worse, though...we could be saying "deucer."

Feel free to laugh!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


I was a ticking time bomb today, and my timer just zeroed out.


I probably need to warn you up front that this post will not be very funny. I'm sure I will find something from today to laugh at later on, but for now a day like this leaves me closer to tears.

My children have been fighting all day. All. Day. I didn't really know that 2, 4, and 5-year-olds could be so mean. The hitting, the pushing, the name calling, the screaming, the crying. It's just been too much.

My husband and I work super-extra hard on fostering an atmosphere of love and peace in our home. We try very hard to bring everything, whether a success or failure, peacefulness or dissension, back to Jesus. How would Jesus handle it? How would Jesus love someone who is unkind to Him? How would Jesus respond to hatefulness?

And some days, I feel like it's all for naught.

I know this isn't true, and that every single seed that is planted is there to ultimately grow into part of a flourishing garden of godliness, but man is it hard to keep that in mind on days like this!

It's so hard, isn't it, to see our children make poor choices? It's so hard to see them operate in utter selfishness, missing the joy and blessings that come in serving and loving others first?

But then, mustn't God feel the same way when we behave just like our children?

This should bring us some hope, really, the knowing that we can be just as ugly and just as selfish as our children are.

We know better. But we still behave this way. And we will struggle with this until the day we meet Jesus face to face, and our ugliness and our selfishness are wiped away and we are truly holy. Perfected. I can't wait until that day.

Moms, we can't make our children get it. We can't make them holy. And we must cling to this truth in the hard times. We must remember this when we want to give up.

Our job is not to make them kind. Our job is not to make them gentle. Our job is not even to make them love Jesus.


Our job is to show them the love and grace of Jesus, and to pray fervently and constantly that they will catch a glimpse of His love and majesty and fall in love with Him, too. Our job is to openly and transparently share with them our need for Jesus, and to honestly live our lives in front of them as the sinners-turned-sinners-who-love-Jesus-and-want-to-be-better that we are.

Lord, remind us on days like today that all have sinned and fall short of your glory. Remind us that our children are cut from our cloth, and that the sin we see in them is the same sin that resides in us, and that there is hope for us all yet. Remind us that You are writing the story of redemption for each one of our children, and that You do amazing, miraculous things. You change hearts. You see beauty in this ugliness. You are all about taking what is unholy and pouring Your cleansing blood over it until it is drenched in your holiness and without blemish.

Remind us on days like today that You love us and promise to equip us.

You are good and faithful (Psalm 100:5):

"For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations."



If there is anything I can find to laugh at it's this:

These are the "letters" my kids wrote to me tonight after I had called it quits on motherhood and retreated to my bedroom to eat dinner alone, leaving them with Daddy. He (wisely) had them write me apology notes.  Sutton's was a happy face with holes poked out for the eyes and his name scrawled up top. Emerson's was a note that quasi-phonetically said, "I am sorry for making you so frustrated, Mommy. Love, Emerson."


Emerson just came in to me to kiss me goodnight.  She made sure to tell me that, while both letters were sweet, to make sure I noticed that hers is a lot longer, because she loves me more and she is "the greatest."


You CAN feel free to laugh at that!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gucky Broccoli

My youngest child, Foster, has been somewhat of a late bloomer. As is often typical for a third child, he crawled late, walked late, and talked late. Seriously, for a while there I was starting to hope think he'd NEVER talk (call me mother of the year here, but for me that was not necessarily a bad thing since my other two get about 20,000 words in each day). 

Foster turned two on June 23, and along with the various tractors and other deafeningly-loud toys he was given I think he must have also received his big-boy britches. The words started flowing, the attitude kicked into high gear, and he decided he was ready to roll with the big dogs.

He added many new words to his vocabulary, which previously consisted of "daddy, mommy, and no." Words like: gucky (yucky), peeya (pizza or penis, depending on the situation), teet (treat), and more.

He also discovered the power of a shrill, glass-shattering scream, which when loosed around his brother or sister immediately beckoned the adult in the house, and I'd come running while asking, "who hurt Foster?" Only to find out that, in fact, Foster had hurt one of THEM, and was screaming because he had them trapped in a corner trying to take their toy. He is turning into quite the bully.

He's learning to work the system, and I've realized how much I baby him. I am starting to see that he is a lot smarter than I have given him credit for, and Brandon and I have really had to start treating him like the little sinner toddler he is.

All of this is to set the scene so that you will have a greater understanding of what went down last night in Casa De Watts.

After a LONG week of home renovation work that we did ourselves, we sat down to dinner last night in a put-back-together house, breathing a sigh of relief. It has been crazy around here, and after spending much of yesterday cleaning, I finally felt sane again. I cooked a delicious dinner and sat down to eat with my family, ready for a relaxing Sunday night.

My two older children are pretty good eaters. Foster, however, likes three things: peanut-butter-and-jelly sammies, "peeya," and fruit. This poses a problem for him at dinner time, as these things are not typically on the menu. In the past we'd serve him his meal, he'd maybe eat his bread, and then he'd go to bed hungry. However, now that he's come into his toddler-hood, we decided that he should be subjected to the same rules at mealtime as the older two kids. Our rules are pretty easy to follow: 1) stay at the table until you've been excused, 2) use good manners, and 3) try one bite of everything on your plate.

Rule one was simple because he was strapped into his booster seat.

Rule two was simple because he has learned the hard way in the past what happens when he throws or spits his food.

Rule three was what got him.

He sat down, ate his apples, and was then "duh" (done). We informed him that he was not, in fact, done, and that he must try one bite of his chicken and broccoli casserole. He thought we were kidding, I think.

We sat down to eat at 6:00pm.

At 7:45pm, this was Foster:

This was the piece shred of broccoli that he was required to eat:

Now before you start crying child cruelty, let me assure you that he totally and completely understood what we were asking him to do, and that he simply refused to do it. I'd ask him if he was ready to get down, he'd say yes. I'd tell him to eat his broccoli and he'd scream "NOOOOOOOOO" and then kick his feet and slap himself in the face. I'd ask him if he wanted to join his siblings in a bubble bath, he'd say yes. I'd tell him to eat his broccoli and he'd yell "GUCKY BROCCOLI!" He is my little prodigy.

After a long, long week I didn't know whether to laugh or cry as 8:00pm rolled around and he was still sitting there. How could he be so stubborn?

Then the Lord reminded me how like Foster I am. 


My Heavenly Father knows what I need even before I need it, and he often serves me what I might see as "gucky broccoli" because he knows what is best for me. All I can focus on is the fact that it doesn't appear to be exactly what I want, and so I scream and I kick and I cry and I have my own little standoff with God.

In the same way I know as Foster's mom that he needs a healthy, balanced diet to thrive, God knows that I need a healthy, balanced life. This is included tough moments to refine me, challenges to grow me, and answers to prayer that looks very different than I thought they would.

The question is, do I trust Him and obey, or do I dig in my heels, refusing to eat what he has dished up for me, metaphorically-speaking?

The older I get and the more I know the Lord, the easier it is to trust Him. I have seen His faithfulness in my life, and I have learned more and more that if he serves me spiritual broccoli I had best eat it, lest I miss out on what He has for my life. But just because it's easier doesn't mean I always choose the right response, and I will very probably battle between choosing His best for me and what I think I want until I meet Him face-to-face. To battle this is to be human.

I love what Jesus says in Matthew 6. He is addressing what it means to truly trust and know God as our provider and Father, what it means to submit to His plans for our good. He tells his audience (and us) not to be like the hypocrites, who claim to love and trust God in the public square so that they may be seen as holy, but to love and trust God even in the private moments when it's just us and God. He tells us to be sure to mean what we pray, that we might never offer up empty words to God, claiming to trust Him but following our flesh. He follows that up with:

"Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'"

This prayer exposes the ultimate trusting heart. It is a prayer of submission to the Lord, and confesses before Him our need for HIS kingdom to come and rule in our hearts, for HIS will to be done in our lives, and for HIS daily bread (or broccoli!) to be our sufficiency. 

Will you join me in praying this today? Not as a token prayer, but with the purity of heart that comes only in knowing what a mess we are apart from Him. We need Him as women, as mothers, and as wives. We need him in our singleness and in our relationships and on the good days and the bad.

Spiritually broccoli may not appear to be what we want, but if God asks us to eat it, I truly believe it's for our good.

Too bad my son didn't feel the same way. 

Okay, confession time. You might be wondering what time this ordeal finally ended and who caved first.

I did.

At 8:10pm, I knew the situation wasn't going to end the way I had hoped it would, with Foster having eaten his broccoli and declared it his newest favorite food. So I caved. Sometimes the tenderness of a mama wins out. That, and the fact that my eardrums were about to burst from the screaming. 

Feel free to laugh!