Tuesday, June 28, 2011


     This morning I heard a story on the news as I was getting ready for work.  Scientist somewhere have conducted a study to find out what the most annoying sound in the world is and it turns out that it is (drum-roll): whining kids.  Now the first thought I have about this is why the heck did people spend money to learn what any parent in the world could have easily told them for free.  On second thought though, it is kind of nice to have some solid evidence that there is a good reason I often fantasize about ear plugs.
     As dads, we have developed an uncanny ability to block out the sound of whining.  Moms don't seem as skilled at this and that is probably for the best because sometimes I'm sure there is a legitimate reason for the whining.  You probably want at least one parent capable of hearing the children in case they happen to be bleeding profusely or have managed to wedge their foot in the hole at the bottom of the toilet bowl.  Most of the time though, children revert to whining for far less serious things like wanting a bowl of rice crispies at 6:00 in the morning or their older brother not letting them sit in the correct seat at the dinner table.

     Dad's are far less adept at blocking of the sound of an angry mother who has been effected negatively by a child's whining and so, we ultimately are forced into action one way or another.  With 5 kids, there is an constant background noise of whining.  It starts about the time the sun rises and continues unabated until 10:00 at night. This is why I stay up too late.  It is the only time I can actually concentrate.

     I love kids.  Every day is a learning experience.  Today we learned that geckos really can snap off their tails if they feel their lives are in danger.  It turns out that having an 80 pound 8 year old grab you and try to shove you down his brother's pants produces an adequate amount of fear to make you lose your tail.

     I honestly don't know how Karlye can put up with them all day.  If I was a stay at home dad, there would be sound proof cages installed in the basement.  In the old days when I was a kid it was easier.  There was the outside.  Mom would kick us out the door and lock it behind us, the attic fan running to block out the sound of our whining.  Those were simpler days when no one worried about some sicko abducting children out of your yard.I'm sure we were bored out of our minds most of the time, but we always somehow managed to find something to do.  Now the kids have Xbox and Wii, satellite and Netflix, computers and a thousand toys and there is absolutely nothing that they can find to occupy their time.

    Well, will did manage to install malware on my computer so I would have hours of fun trying to get the internet running again.  One of the kids entertained themselves by twisting Karlye's glasses and popping the lens out.  I think I am going to need to take my poor wife out for a relaxing night out, or send her to get a massage.  I need to keep her healthy and happy because if she every quits on us then my only option will be to start reading through military school brochures.

     In all seriousness though, life without children would be so dull.  We have friends who chose not to have kids.  They have dogs instead.Not pet dogs, but family member, surrogate children dogs.  Yes they get to go out anytime they like, they can jet set all over the place and don't have to make emergency trips to the grocery store for milk and bread.  I'm sure they are quite happy with the life they have chosen, but something tells me that despite all the noise and chaos I have experienced a joy that is greater than any they will ever know.  Life is short and the only thing that lasts is imprint we make on the lives of these little one that God has given us the awesome responsibility of turning into the next generation of men and women.  I scarcely feel capable of fulfilling that task.  I worry every day that I have failed them as a father and that I am messing them up beyond any help of their future therapist.  I think every parent has felt that way though and most of us turn out okay.

     So while they can whine and can annoy, they also are capable of some of the sweetest most tender expressions of love.  It is those moments that more than negate any frustration that they give us.  I just need to remember that the next time I'm trying to talk to the annoying survey lady on the phone and Josiah screams at the top of his lungs 2 inches from my ear.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gracie turns 3

   Gracie, I was terrified of you before you were born.  Actually I was terrified of any little girl.  I had a grasp of what boys were like, but I wasn't sure I could handle a girl.  I didn't know how to relate to you.  I wasn't sure I would have the patience or empathy or whatever part of a person that gives them the ability to listen with rapt attention to a little girl's stories, worries, troubles and cares.  I didn't know about dresses and shoes and matching colors.  I didn't know how to play with dolls or stuffed animals.  I understood wrestling and rough-housing and throwing kids in the air.  Girls have always perplexed me.

     Three years ago you came into my life anyway and a whole new world opened up to me.  I was told by the old ladies at my office that I would spoil you and I secretly swore to myself that I never would allow that, because I've seen too many little girls grow up into spoiled big girls.  I swore to myself that I would avoid the frills and pageantry. I never wanted a princess.

     What you have shown me is that girls have a way of changing their daddies' hearts.  I still don't think I can ever spoil you because I love you for who you are and I would never do anything to spoil that precious innocence and unique personality.  You have taught me that there is nothing about you that scares me.  You have taught me what sincere love and adoration are.  I love coming home every night to have you meet me at the door saying, "Daddy, are you done with your work?" followed by "I missed you so much."  I have never felt so blessed as I feel when you endlessly chatter on about everything under the sun, because I see a love for life and a hope for the future that you don't even fully comprehend and I have begun to lose sight of.

     You have complete faith and trust in me, far more than I deserve.  That faith makes me want to try harder to be the best daddy possible to you and the best husband I can be to your mother.  The other day you told mom that you wanted to marry me when you grew up.  I hope that I am the kind of father and husband that you could use as an example of the man you will look for in a husband someday.

     Now my fears are not of you, but for you.  I sometimes wish I could freeze you in time at this exact age before you lose your innocence.  I still dread puberty and later dating and watching you grow up needing me less and less. I think you know that I will always be your daddy and you will always be my little girl, yes, even my princess.  I feel sorry for any boy that ever wants to date you because between me and your 4 brothers, he's gonna have some tough interrogations before he will ever get that privilege. 

    For now though I am more than content to watch you run around in your tutus and princess dresses telling me the storyline of Tangled, Alice the Wonderland, or Booty and the Beast.  Yeah, we will most likely have a confrontation tonight about you staying in bed, but I am glad to know that if I lay beside you, you will drift off into your dreams in just a few minutes.

     I don't know the best way to protect you from whatever threatens to hurt you in your life, but you can know that I will be there for you.  You will most likely make me mad and break my heart from time to time, but you can't ever do anything to tarnish my love for you and I hope that I will always see the same unconditional love and admiration when I look in your eyes that I see today.

     I thank God so much for giving you to me.  He knew that I needed you.  It was one of the most precious gifts he ever gave me.  Happy Birthday.  Now let's get you  ready for bed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

To My Sister on Her Wedding Day

     I think I was the first person you ever saw.  I was the first person to ever hold you after they cut your cord and cleaned you up.  No, I was NOT in the delivery room when you were born, but they called me in while you were still naked and wet and squalling on the scale.  When they had you dressed, they handed you to me.  I was 17, a junior in high school.  I always felt a special bond for you because in a way it seemed you were mine.  I was going to protect you and care for you.

     You don't remember, but I used to experiment on you when I was taking early child development classes in college.  I new you were brilliant.  You did things babies your age weren't supposed to be able to do.  I actually did a project on you for class.  I remember a time when you were maybe 18 months old.  We were at Grandpa and Grandma Weatherford's house and they had just gotten their gumball machine.  You sat and watched as all your siblings and cousins stuck their pennies in the machine and took the colorful balls out.  After a while you walked into the other room, went up to Dad, stuck out your little hand and said, "Need money Dad."  You were about 18 months old and not only was it cute, but I was amazed that you already had a sense of object permanence and were grasping abstract concepts such as monetary value.  Okay, my education classes had warped me a little, but I sure was proud of you.

      You were always tough as nails too.  Maybe you just learned early on that as the ninth kid, you weren't ever going to get much sympathy, but you could take a tumble and get up and go like it never even phased you.  I watched you running on gravel once when you were not even 2 yet.  You wiped out big time.  Your little knees smashed hard onto the rocks and when you stood up, your legs were scraped and bloody.  I started to run to you and then stopped in amazement, because you never even cried.  Instead you squatted down and picked little chips of rock out of your bloody knee caps and then took off running as fast as before.

     You were my little gravelly voiced sidekick when I lived with you and I would try to picture what you would be like when you became a woman.  I imagined you would be strong, and courageous, beautiful and a person of great character.  Eventually I grew up and took off on my own.  I left you in good hands with Dad and Mom, but in the transition, I sacrificed that bond I had with you.  From then on I watched you grow from a distance.  For me it felt like you crawled into a cocoon and now much sooner than seems possible, I am watching you emerge and stretch your wings and I am so proud of what you have become.

     Willie is a lucky guy and I think he is a great enough guy to have someone as special as you.  I look forward to getting to know another brother and friend.  Marriage is wonderful and you two will be great at it.  It is hard work, let me assure you.  There will be amazing times and hard times.  Sometimes you will be running full steam ahead and then suddenly you will find yourself face down in the gravel wondering what happened.  Just get up, clean the gravel out of your knees and keep on running.  I pray that you will be caught up so much in the joy of your life together that you won't even notice the occasional bump or bruise.

    I don't know exactly how to tell you as a woman what marriage will be like.  I can give you a little advice on men though.  It might possibly come in handy since you are going to be spending a lot of time with one from now on.

     First of all, men need to feel needed and respected.  We don't always deserve respect, but it is what motivates us to be better than we are.  You show Willie that you respect him for what he does and who he is and he will give his all to make sure he's earned that respect.  Yeah, we want to know that our wives love us, but it means a lot more to us to know that you're proud of us.  Our biggest fear in life is that we will fail you in some way.  We have pretty fragile egos no matter how much we pretend otherwise.  We go to work each day so that we can provide for our families.  We can endure criticism and stress all daylong every day if we know that you will be there for us when we get home.  Sometimes a "thank you for what you do" is the best motivation a man can ever receive.

     Secondly, keep your priorities straight.  God comes first and Willie second.  Eventually you will probably be a mom.  It is so easy to pour so much energy into children that you don't have any left for your spouse.  It won't seem possible while the whole marriage thing is new and exciting, but in 10 years when the shininess has worn off and the luster has faded, when kids are screaming and demanding all of your attention, remember what you feel for Willie today and always take time to get alone as a couple.  So many marriages focus so much time on the children that when the children are gone the couple has no relationship left.

      You two are a team, formed by God for a purpose.  He has taken both of your strength and both of your weaknesses and forged them into something unique.  Find that purpose and dedicate your marriage to fulfilling it.

     Put value on the things that matter.  Invest in eternal treasures.  Don't get caught up in collecting stuff that grows old and sits in boxes in the basement.  Be content with little even when you have times of plenty in your life.  Hold material things with an open hand and never be afraid to sacrifice the temporal for the eternal.  The size of your house, the logo on your car, the value of your bank account, these things do not bring happiness or make a strong home and family.  Time is precious and it slips by far too quickly.  Use every minute wisely and squeeze every last drop of goodness from each second.

     This day may seem the greatest in your life so far, but it is just a day and will soon become a memory.  The real joy of a wedding day is the journey that follows.  You both are grounded and equipped for whatever life may throw at you.  Do me proud little sister.

      I love you so much and am so proud of the woman you have become.

Monday, June 13, 2011


     Recent headlines once again are detailing the self-destruction of another one of the men of power who pass laws to tell us how we should live.  It happens so often, that we no longer are shocked and most buy into the idea that somehow we can still trust a man who would lie to us and betray his pregnant wife.  Meanwhile we watch as the elite mock another as incompetent and ignorant while she stands by her convictions.  They pour through her private correspondences looking for any scandal that might destroy her once and for all.

     I once thought I wanted to be great at something.  In my younger years I truly believed that I was capable of greatness.  I wasn't sure in what way it would manifest itself, but in my heart, I knew that I had a seed that properly planted and tended would outgrow who I was and make me somehow larger than I was.  Life has shown me that I am not destined for fame or glory in the wide world.  I have far too much a sense of my own weaknesses and faults.  I also have come to see that greatness is not what brings power and fame nor does celebrity forge greatness.  I'm still not even certain what greatness really is, but I have a pretty good sense what it is not.

     I look at the people I have known in my life.  I think of my father who never finished college and had a once successful business ripped away from him in a short time.  He raised 10 children and has remained faithful to my mother for 43 years.  He has never wavered in his faith in God.  He has his weaknesses certainly.  He never achieved any degree of fame or renown, but he is someone I would consider truly great.   

     I once though greatness was the ability to make a lasting impression on the world.  I thought it meant living in a way that the world could not forget you.  How many men can ever accomplish that though.  Time has a way of erasing all that we do.  Most of our accomplishments are remembered only by ourselves and are buried with us at the end of our lives.  More often than not it is their great failures that survive men in history.  Still, we long for greatness.  I think we just don't know what greatness really is.

     I imagine a lake.  It's surface still like glass.  Each life is a drop of rain falling into the body of that lake creating a series of ripples spreading out across the surface.  If we could alone see how those circles of influence spread, we could perhaps measure the worth of that life.  Some would be small, scarcely noticeable.  Others would make a huge splash and create great waves.  The problem is that no drop strikes the surface alone.  Humanity is a rainstorm pelting the surface endlessly and the circles collide with one another.  The result is a billion ripples overlapping and getting lost in one another.  The imprint of even the biggest impact is soon lost in the midst of the storm.   I think I need a better definition of greatness.

     In life there is no equality.  We all are given varying degrees of wealth, power, talent, intellect, beauty and determination.  As I experience more of life, I am starting to believe that it matters not so much what we are given, but what we do with it.  I have seen people with countless wealth throw it away for nothing.  I have seen great intellect squandered.  I have also seen men with very little of either achieve far more in life than they should.  Some men seem to be born lucky and others cannot seem to catch a break.  Perhaps greatness is not measured on an absolute scale like we want to believe, but rather on a more individual basis.

     I want my children to know themselves.  I want them to find their strengths and I will help them nurture those strengths.  I want them to work hard and enjoy life.  I want them to strive to be more than they are today but be content with what God has given them.  I believe we have but one purpose in life and that is to be all that God created us to be.  It is easy to compare ourselves to others and give up when we find ourselves less gifted than the next guy.  I will not let the world judge me by its standard.  I will teach my children that they should also not allow themselves to be judged by the world's standard.  Maybe I will only achieve greatness in the eyes of my sons and daughter.  If I can live a life that holds fast to my convictions, if I can say at the end of each day that I have not compromised who I am or what I believe, and if I can stand someday before my Creator and say that whether He entrusted me with 10 talents or 5 or 1 I invested it wisely, then I suppose that I truly will have lived a life that was great.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summertime is here

    There are those times in life in which storms blow and we struggle not to get lost in the noise and confusion, but the storm always passes and as the rain drops are still clinging to the leaves, the sun breaks through the clouds.  We crawl out from our shelter and feel the refreshed air on our faces as we soak up the warmth.  For a while we will have a respite.
    That is how I have felt this week.  After being overwhelmed by the devastation I saw last week, maybe I needed some time for nothing to happen.  I needed the contrast of the quietness of solitude up against the noise of chainsaws and piles of debris.  In truth, this is a week just like most others.  I really hasn't been particularly quiet or slow, but I think the shocking reality of Joplin maybe has caused us all to better appreciate and enjoy what we have.
     It is summer.  School is out and days are long.  T-ball and baseball rule our evenings.  While I work, the family treks to the pool.  The two oldest are swimming semi-competitively.  They brought home their first ribbons.  Actually Karlye brought them by the office so they could display them with pride.  Caleb had a blue and two reds, Will a white.  They love the water.  They get that from their mother.  I go to the pool only under coercion.  Maybe if I still had the body I had at 24, I'd enjoy it more.  I think though that I still would be no fan of the pool.  I have too many memories of bad experiences at the pool as a child.  Swim lessons where I was more worried of drowning than I was interested in learning not to.  The night I lay crying at my aunts house with blisters on my sunburnt shoulders after too long in the sun at the pool with my cousins.  Some inner fear still possess me at the though of public swimming.  Just another strange quirk I developed over the years.

    My boys are growing up.  Now they are baseball superstars.  It is fun to watch their enthusiasm.  For them, this is the big leagues.  I realize that I have never taken them to a professional ball game.  I think it is time to rectify that.  Hopefully they will have gotten some athletic gene from their mother, because they certainly haven't got much of a chance that I passed one on to them.
      Caleb is the most competitive of all our children.  He cannot stand to lose.  There is a drive in that kid.  I often wonder what he can accomplish in life if he can stay focused.

     Will seems to enjoy himself but tends to show signs of absent mindedness that his mother blames on me for some reason.  He more than the others wants to please us.  He cares the most what we think of him.  I've said before that I see a lot of myself in him.  Maybe it's a firstborn thing.  He basks in our praise.  I am afraid sometimes I am to slow to give it.  That is something I have to remind myself of.  It is to easy to come down hardest on him.

     Josiah is his own special character with little quirks and idiosyncrasies.  He wants to prove that he is just as big as his brothers and is often frustrated at feeling just a little too young to fit in to their big kid world.  At the same time he marches to the beat of his own drum.  I am glad because I want him to stand on his own merit.

    I think it is wonderful to be in this time of life with boys enjoying the spring of youth, unsullied by the world in full possession of their innocence.  Sometimes I think that they are at the perfect age, when life is simple and summer is a time to relax and be free to be a kid.  Soon they will want more.  They will yearn for adulthood not knowing that forever they will try to get back the magical freedom of childhood.  

     I'll take each day as it comes and pray that these times will be ones that they will remember as better than the reality.  I'll let them bask in their glory as the great athletes they imagine themselves.  I won't be one of those parents who yells at coaches or get on their case if they let a ball roll past them.  I want to encourage them to give their best effort.  I also want them to realize that some times, it really is just a game and if you can't enjoy it, then you'd be better off not wasting your time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A tribute to Joplin

     I really don't know how to share my experience in Joplin in a way that people can understand.  I hope this video give those who haven't been there some idea of both the tragedy and the hope that I witnessed.  For those people who are suffering, I give this as a tribute to you.