Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary!weddingpic

Yup, once again it is our anniversary. Last year my wife and I made list of things that we loved about each other 18 things About my Wife on our Anniversary. This year I would like to do something a little different. I would like to tell you one of my favorite memories of when we were younger.

My wife and had both participated in some level in scouts as a kid. I made it only to Star Scout. At that point I got out of scouts for various reason. My wife, who is much more awesome that I am, got her gold award. (for those of you counting, that is the equivalent of making Eagle in Boy Scouts.
There were other differences in our scouting experience as well. I, big surprise here, was never out going and after about the age of about 10 the songs that they sang at sing-a-longs were pure torture to me.
Poll The Princess Bride KissMy wife liked these things. When she was repelling, caving, and primitive camping, she worked with the younger girls to learn these songs.

When we were first married and our first son was born, we would be riding in the car, and he would fuss, and she would start singing camp songs to him. He grew up to songs like, Two little Froggies, Ding-a-ling-ling Goes the Fire Truck, And the one that has stuck with me ever since.

A Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe

Obviously there are various version of this song, as with all camp songs. But being the strong willed person that my wife is, this is the one that sticks in my head.

I could imagine the boy would would dare to tell her that. It took on special meaning again when our fifth child was a girl. She was and is as strong willed as her mother, plus since she has four older brothers. I again could imagine the boy who tried pull something like this with her.

This is one of my favorite memories of my wife because, despite the fact that really disliked many of these songs when I was kid, they have brought so much joy to our lives of the years as we have, first sung them to the kids, then taught them to them as they got older, and then finally listened to the older kids teach them to the new ones.

2014-10-25 11.05.30Thank you dear for that, and remember. Gonk, Gonk went the little green froggy!

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18 Things I love about my Wife on the occasion our Anniversary

weddingpic
Not to be outdone by my wife and her list, who is much more awesome than I am, here is my list of 18 things I love about my wife on the occasion of our 18th anniversary. And yes, it is a day early.

1. My wife can balance a budget, and no matter what I bring home manages to make it all work.

2. She has always supported my many and varied career changes.

3. Moving is never really a question with her, just a part of life. Not if, but when.

4. Through everything she had remained hopeful.

5. She convinced me that I wanted a big family, and she was right. So very right.

6. She believes in me.

7. Through everything, even when I lost hope about my writing career, she has always supported me.

8. She is not afraid to try new things.

9. Given the choice, I think she would rather be a mom than anything else

10. Shows no fear at the idea of 30+ kids coming over for the afternoon to play

11. She laughs at the people who say, “I have to cook a huge meal for Thanksgiving we are going to have 11 people!” That is our house everyday.

12. Even with our limited budget, she always makes sure that we have good, and interesting food to eat.

14. She is always excited when a new baby is on the way.

15. Even though we never really planned on it, she has taken, the addition of chickens, sheep and multiple dogs without batting an eyelash.

16. She can laugh at my mistakes while still not making me feel stupid for having made them.

17. She puts up with all of my Bill Cosby jokes.

18. She makes it look easy.

and one more for next year.

She loves me more than I deserve.

Thank you Cheryl. Here is hoping for many more chaos filled lovely years with you. Always and Forever yours

Defining Moments

Recently I was invited to attend a military retirement ceremony. As normally happens there was a lot of pomp and the ceremony. What impressed me more than the ceremony was the retiree’s speech. He had been a fighter jet pilot, and he talked about the flights that meant the most to him, the ones that defined his career. I won’t bore you with all the details, but he talked about super high flights, super low ones as well as some others that were in between. The last one he focused on was one of his first solo flights, and how at that moment even being so young, that moment changed his life forever, and some times how he wished he could have that moment back. Not so he could change it but so that he could relive it and savor the moment more.

The point of his talk was about valuing those moments. Stepping out of that moment (looking back) and looking at the time around those moments and realizing what they meant to you, to your family, and to the world around you. How they shaped your life, how they changed you.

I started to think about maybe the top 5 (because he picked 5) times, the top 5 moments in my career to date that have shaped who I am. First, I realized that my career is boring. So I expanded on the idea to include the rest of my life.

I thought it might be a fun experiment to try to write those ideas down, talk about what they meant to me and then share them with the world. Then I thought it might be interesting to invite some other people to do the same thing.

Defining Moments

When I set out to write this post, I had some pretty specific ideas about what I wanted to write, but when I actually sat down to write, I found that they didn’t really meet with what I think I wanted to this series to be about. I mean I could talk about the day I got married, or the day I first become a father. Without a doubt, those were huge moments in my life. They shaped who I am. Both of those have completely changed who I am. Becoming a father, taught me that I love being a father, and getting married has taught me and will continue to teach me what it means to really love, and thank you for that my dear.

While these events were important, there are a few events that have changed me in other ways. The first of those was the day I got off the plane from JFK airport and walked into Frankfurt International Airport. What followed was almost 7 years of cultural shock. I spent from just before my ninth birthday until after my 16th birthday living in Germany. We traveled every chance we got. I learned to ski, I speak some German to this day, and I have respect for the culture of Europe that I don’t think I would have gotten had a not lived there.

The next event that defined who I am was only about 6 weeks later. When we moved to Germany there was no housing available right away. And we were stuck in a hotel. We didn’t speak the language, we didn’t really know our way around, and even though we had a great sponsor who showed us around, it was pretty easy to get depressed pretty fast. That was what was happening to my mother who was stuck in the hotel all day while my father went to work and my brother and I went to school. It was spilling over, so one day my father said pack some bags we are going on a trip. While there was some moaning and groaning, we all piled in our newly acquired car and headed south to Garmish. We spent the weekend in the General Paton hotel. My brother and I got our first experience of ordering fish by picking it out of the tank.
Understand that it rained and sleeted all the way down, as it had almost every day since we had arrived in Germany. We had seen nothing except the same grey skies that we had seen in Frankfurt. And even though we had a nice room and a good meal, I think even my father was beginning to question driving the 6 hours to just spend time in an even more cramped hotel room. That first night about midnight, my dad got up to get a drink of water on his way back to bed he took a moment to peek out the curtains. The next thing we knew the curtains were opened wide and all of us were awake. “You have got to see this,” he said.
The sky had cleared up, the moon was out and right out our window were the Alps bright as daylight in the moon light. It was that moment that I think turned our minds around, and we all decided that we wanted to be there. The beauty of what we were seeing was to this day indescribable. It also started my life long fascination with living in and around the mountains. So to my poor wife who probably had no idea why was so excited that whole drive out to Colorado just before we got married on seeing the mountains for the first time, it is my dad’s fault.

I met my wife the year before we left Germany, and I have always maintained that I knew she was the the one for me the day I first noticed her walking into our classroom. The fact that I didn’t notice her until the ned of the day and that she was in most of the rest of my classes that day, well we will just gloss over that part. While I still maintain that is the case, I was young and stubborn (read stupid.) It was not until I was sitting on a mountainside in France, that I realized it was not the girl I was dating that I missed, and that I was my wife-to-be that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

The birth of each of our kids has been something special. Our first son was taken away from us and put in the NICU only 24 hours after he was born, my wife had an emergency C-section and we were 200 miles from home with no money and no way of getting back. I remember holding him and thinking what the heck have we gotten ourselves into. And each kid after that had their own surprises. Our first daughter, and 5th child was born while I was away at school, I remember getting the call about 5:30 am that my wife was going to the hospital, and then failing the quiz that day, and the rushed trip home that weekend. The three children that we planned to have at home and because of one complication or another ended up in the hospital anyway, and then our current youngest being born at home when I ran out of the room to get a towel and the look on my wife’s face when I came back and she was holding that precious little one. My children have change my life in ways I can’t even begin to describe.

Each one of these moments has changed my life. They have defined who I am in ways that even before I started writing this I didn’t realize.

Later this week Scott Roche will take a stab at telling us about his defining moments.

Want to join in the fun? please use the contact form below to let me know.
Thanks,
Jeff

The Sinner’s Guide To Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher – A Review

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family PlanningThe Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning By Simcha Fisher.

This book came highly recommended, so when one more person recommended it to me, I decided that it was time to get a copy. Well actually two copies, since the deal right now is if you buy the hard copy you get the kindle version for free. That worked out really well since my wife prefers hard copy and I prefer e-copy.

I should start this review by saying my wife and I have been practicing NFP for more than 14 years, and we have been teaching it for just over 13 years. So while I was excited about reading this book, we have some experience in helping people who have questions about the why’s and the where’s and the hows of NFP. We have heard many of the complaints, promises and hype about it. We have lived a lot of the pains and joys of it as well. And in the last few years we have gotten rather tired and probably jaded by all of the sunshine and unicorns side that you see most of the time.

This book, is not one of those sunshine and rainbows, puppies and kittens. Well maybe it is because, as anyone who has ever had a puppy or a kitten will tell you, that while they are super cute and there are some great benefits to having one, they can also be a pain. Ruined floors and furniture, torn up shoes, walks in the middle of the night that and unexpected puddle that gets your socks wet right after you turn the lights off.

So on with the review. This books starts with a disclaimer. This book will not teach you NFP. It will not tell you about all the different methods, it will not even tout one version of NFP over all the others. It won’t tell you about the dangers of using artificial birth control. So if that is what you are looking for, this is not the book for you.

After the disclaimer, the first few chapters are about the realities of living with NFP. Why you might choose it, and some of the common arguments. And I enjoyed reading about them. Even though I knew it was the case already it was good to hear that other people struggle with using NFP as well. The chapters on why, biologically speaking, the struggle can be so darn hard was especially nice to see.

For a long time my wife and I called ourselves the NFP dropouts. After reading this book, the title no longer seems all that appropriate. While my wife says she already kind of knew this, believe it or not, outside of class, guys really don’t talk about these things. So it was nice to see that there are other couples out there that are just as much “dropouts” as we are.

I have only given this book three stars. And all three stars are for the first half to two thirds of this book. the last third of the book deals with, well, it deals with sex. Ok NFP is about sex. Not entirely, a good portion of what NFP is about is learning to listen to and interpret your wife’s body, in order to help prevent or to achieve a pregnancy. But that is just a start. NFP is about respect and love and intimacy that extends way beyond the bedroom.

While I suppose it was good information to get out there, and as one of the reviewers pointed out, that normally you would only find this kind of information in a very intimate conversation with a close friend, some times it would be good to keep more of that information to those close intimate conversations.

I am a prude. I will admit it. But, I am a prude who is willing to talk about just about anything in a one on one conversation. We have had couples ask us some of the questions that were handled in the last third of this book. So it is not that the subjects are “off limits” or something. The problem I had with this section of the book, was that it was no longer a close personal intimate conversation. If I had not been laying on the bed right next to my wife, I would have been really uncomfortable reading this. After all, if I were talking about this kind of stuff, I would have her there with me, so if I were reading it I would need to be sitting right next to her, even with that, I was glad she finished the book before me so that she knew what it was that I was reading. To say it made me uncomfortable would be an understatement. While I know there are those that would disagree with me, I feel that some conversations are best left to intimate situations when both the husband and wife are involved. So while I appreciate the effort Mrs. Fisher made in getting this information out, I kind of wish she hadn’t. As it stands by the time I was finished with this section of the book, I was soured on the whole thing, and really had to try hard to put my feelings aside to write anything positive about the book at all.

My last comment on this book is this. Who am I to say one person’s writing style is better or worse than another. So I want to make it clear that, that is not what I am saying. I know that Simcha has a very personal and rather informal style of writing. I do like her style for most of the things that she writes, but some things require a more formal style. I think if some of the subjects that I found uncomfortable were written with a less irreverent and a more formal style they would have been easier to deal with.

If you are struggling with NFP and feel like you are all alone out there, and if all you are hearing from the people around you is the puppies and rainbows side of it, this is likely a great book for you. If you have been using NFP for long enough that you know that it is a struggle and that there are other people out there like you, this book might be just more of what you already know. At best it will be an affirmation, at worse it will make you uncomfortable if your not reading it with your spouse.

View all my reviews

Since you know what I think about it, and you know my wife read it as well, here is her review.

Happiness and Trepidation

baby[1] a Few days ago my wife and I made kind of an announcement, and I am just getting around to writing about it. We always love sharing the news about our little babies, but this announcement came with a fair amount of fear and trepidation.





First, let’s start with the happy part. HEY everyone we are having a baby! We are so very excited about it. We wanted to shout it from the roof tops. So there we were yesterday shouting it from the highest roof top we know (Facebook.) We showed the picture to the kids. As a small aside, it is wonderful to see how many of them saw the ultrasound and not only knew what that meant, but also could pick out the baby. They were all very excited. The only concern we got from the kids was from our oldest. He asked, “does this mean I am going to have to learn to drive an even bigger van?”

I love babies. Not just my own but other people’s as well. If we are at a function were people have kids, you are likely going to find me holding one. I love100_4923 being dad. Some days my head feels like it is going to explode if I get one more question about why, why, why, or a child who does not want to do their school work, but at the end of the day I know that despite the headache, despite the piles of laundry that I still need to fold and have the children dump back into their hamper because they don’t want to put them away, this is why I am here. I love being a dad. I love being with the kids, wrestling, playing, building train tracks, drinking imaginary tea and eating imaginary cookies. I love teaching them new things and practicing the old, and over all just watching them become the people, that I know they will be.

100_4958So why, with all this joy, do I also have trepidation and sometimes even abject fear? Let’s start with the simple answer, it is a new life a new and precious, and fragile life, and I am not as sure of myself as I once was about these things. Despite all our medical knowledge and all the prayers, there is danger involved here, both for the new baby and mom. But let’s not focus on the big things.

How about the questions. As you probably know, this is baby # 11 for us. That is a pretty big number. Big enough that people, even good Catholic families, tend 2013-12-31 18.45.52to give you side ways glances, and ask you questions like How did this happen? Sometimes I actually look forward to these questions now, because I feel like I am prepared for them, usually because it is an opportunity to practice my snarky responses. But some times the questions come from people you didn’t expect. Sometimes even the people you expect to be supportive really aren’t and that is some times hard to deal with.

Some of the questions aren’t like that though. Some of them are just questions, but they hurt none the less. No matter how carefully they are asked. For example, my wife’s doctor’s nurse, a wonderful woman who is very caring and supportive had some background questions to ask, and the conversation went like this.

“How many pregnancies have you had?”
*My wife counting on her fingers* “15.”
“How many living children?”
“9.”

See, a simple question asked with respect and dignity and yet, it hurts. It is not because it was wrong of her to ask or anything, just hard to think about those babies that we will never get to hold.

So yes, while I am very excited, I am fearful. I am uncertain about my own abilities. We debated for a while if we were going to tell any one other than our very closest friends and those people who needed to know. (The God parents for example.) I was all for sending out birth announcements as a way of letting most people know. But my wife did something that reminded me that this is a reason to be joyful. She started telling people. She started telling them and letting them know how happy we were. And we are, and I am. So welcome to the world my little one. We can’t wait to meet you.
– Love Dad

Closing Doors, Opening Grace

This post was inspired by post a Originally posted on Seminarian Parents:

Closing Doors, Opening Grace


doorsKevin Cummings was one of the first people I met online. Even well before I got to know him (and I still don’t really know him I just like to think that I do.) I knew I liked this guy. He used to run a podcast called Short Cummings Audio. Short humor essays that he called Life — In Funny, Six-Minute Slices. I got his sense of humor, and that meant to me a lot.

As I talked with him several times I felt like I got to know him. Turned out he was Catholic and a father and well, just an all around nice guy. So when he started a new website called Seminarian Parents. I was interested. For a lot of reasons, but one in particular, my oldest son and maybe one of his younger brothers are discerning a calling to the priesthood. The blog is about the personal journey, both as a parent and a fellow Catholic from “mere mortals” to priesthood, and about the journey the rest of the family is taking around him.

A couple of days ago he published the article linked here. When I saw the article I knew I needed to share it with people. But I knew that I also wanted to say something about it. I want to try not to take any thing away from what Kevin has said here. I think he has some pretty important things to say on this subject, but I wanted to add to it.

I think very few people seek out a vocation. They look for jobs and friends and, do what feels right at the time. But a vocation is something completely different. Kevin Actually already wrote a piece on vocation that does a better job than I can of defining what vocation is. But in short it is about your life’s work. What it is that you are going to do with your life. That is so much more than just your job.

Like Kevin says in his post, Marriage is a vocation, albeit one that a lot of people don’t take seriously any more, but a vocation none the less. It is, in truth no less of a commitment than someone entering the priesthood. Priest’s make sacrifices to be a priest, and married people make similar but different sacrifices to be married. They are vocations, and they both require a high level of commitment. They both require a level of sacrifice.

When I was younger, after I was engaged to my wife, I thought maybe I heard the calling to the priesthood. I remember those questions swirling in my head. “Am I ready for that level of commitment?” And it hit me that even though I was only engaged at the time, I was because I was already talking about that level of commitment with someone else. It was not the level of commitment that turned my mind from one vocation to another, because while they are both different, they are both life long commitments.

I appreciate the priests who we know, and have made this wonderful choice to be priests. We actively encourage our children to look at religious life as a real choice and to pray so that if they hear that calling them they might be ready to answer it. We also try to teach them that marriage is the same kind of vocation, and requires the same kind of sacrifices, and requires the same kinds of prayer to discern.
Thank you Kevin for such a great post about opening up to Grace.

This post was inspired by a post Originally posted on Seminarian Parents:

Closing Doors, Opening Grace

I Herd That

DSC02308Recently I read a post by one of my friends and co-founders of Flying Island Press, Zachary Ricks called Going Straight. Before you read on, I am going to ask you to go read his post, most of what I am about to say is not going to make sense unless you do.

Ok you read it right?

No?

I’ll wait.

We’re good now right?

Before I get into this two deep let me say two things.

First, my farming experience has come as an adult. I don’t think it lessens it, but it does make it different. My experience is also on a much smaller scale, you might call it hobby farming, heck you might even call what I am doing just goofing around. Whatever you want to call it, it is different than what he has experienced.

Second, I am going to use some humor here. I am not in anyway meaning to lessen the message that Mr. Ricks is sending. He has a good message here and I am hopefully going to add to it and not take away from it. We are both using the farming metaphor to describe life, and well that just lends itself to some pretty humorous things. Not the least of which is the idea of two “old men” arguing about which kind of farming is a better metaphor for life.

Mr. Ricks starts with the premise that if you are going to get anywhere in life, if you want to reach your goals you need to look straight ahead and plow your rows straight by keeping your eyes on your goal. If you do then you will make nice straight lines. While I was reading this, I could not help but think about the very small amount of “creating rows” I have done. First, I will say that I have never done this with a tractor. All of our farming has been done by hand. The biggest power tiller that you can rent from your local supply store is the largest piece of equipment that I have used on our farm. That being said the tiller (and yes I know that is different than disking and that is different than plowing but hey I gotta start somewhere) I have used on the 3+ acres that we messed with this year, yanked me around until I was sore even after days of trying to pick the rocks out of the soil, and I never had anything that looked like a straight line. When we went back and use the furrower the story was much the same. Then we had a string guiding us and I was still all over the place. I guess it does not mean that we had a bad field, just that we had one that didn’t have straight lines as hard as we tried. So while I like the idea of keeping your eyes on the end of the field and getting straight to your goals, it is not something I really have any experience with.

Well one of the reasons that we make straight lines in our fields is that we want to be able to use equipment in helping us to continue the growing process. We want to have it help us spray the crops to keep the weeds down and of course water. If your lines aren’t straight, then when you run your equipment through you’re going to run over some of your crops.

What does this have to do with life? Simple. If you don’t keep your eyes on where you are going and keep your “lines straight” you are going to have a hard time later, some of the work that you did in the past will get lost, because you didn’t do it in the right order, or it was off track. You might even waste time redoing things because you didn’t understand enough to have done it right in the first place. You might find yourself at the end of the field, (the end of a project) only to realize that you plowed the wrong field. These are very real dangers, and very good reasons for keeping your eyes on your final goal.

Crew_working_DSC02345While I don’t have any experience plowing and making strait rows, one of the things that I do have some experience in, is herding animals and pulling weeds. For me, while the idea of keeping your eyes on your goal makes a lot of sense, I find myself having to make sure that not only am I headed in the right direction, but also that the animals that I am trying to herd are going there as well. That means taking my eyes off the end goal. That sometimes means running around side to side to keep the strays from wandering off. It means some turning my back on the goal so that I can run back and get a sheep that has decided to be stubborn. It is these side trips that can, from time to time, tell you if an animal is sick, tell you if you have missed a spot where they could graze, figure out which ones of them are the leaders (if you don’t know already,) and in general get a good look at your animals. Some times you even learn that you and a new sheep needed a bath.

These side trips in life, let you know what you are missing. You might find things that interest you, they might give you ideas about future projects, or help you to realize that you have a problem. While you always want to keep an eye on that end goal, you don’t want to be chasing “sheep” all day, some times it is good to move from side to side and look at things from a new angle. You might just find out something about yourself that you didn’t know before. But you to want to keep an eye on where you are going so that you don’t end up getting completely side tracked and not making it to your goal.

As for the weeds, well, while you are down on your hands and knees pulling weeds it is a good idea to know where in the field you are, but over all that can some times make things worse. If you have ever worked on a really large project, one that felt overwhelming, you likely know the virtue of just keeping your head down and moving forward, because if you look at the end goal too much you will get depressed because it seems too far away. Along with not letting your self get overwhelmed, there are things that need a level of detail that you can’t give them if you have only half your focus on them. If you are weeding along with your eyes on the end of the field, to make sure that you are in your row, then you might start pulling up the plants that you are there to weed around. Sure, it might mean that you accidentally change rows, or that you reach the end of the row before you realize it (won’t that be a pleasant surprise,) but it also means that you have given the little details the level of attention they need.

If you look closely to this picture you will see that the thing I have around me is a baby sling.  There is a baby in there, but I am also using it to help me hold the apples I pick. I am such a good dad. Here baby, hold these apples that are bigger than your head.I don’t think any one way is right. Mr. Ricks points out that not keeping straight means that it will take you longer to reach your goals. He is right. Some times it feels like it takes way too long to move the sheep from the barn to the pen only a hundred feet away, but as I said some times it gives you a new perspective. Then again some times it is just down right annoying. When you are trying to get ready for work and need to get the sheep moved, the chickens fed and the children all up and started on their day before you get yourself out the door.

Can life be described as one farming metaphor or another? Likely not. I guess what I am saying here is that you have to be flexible. Everything in your life is likely there for a reason. If that means you get to make nice straight rows, awesome. If that means that you spend a while running after sheep, or down on your hands and knees in the dirt, well that is part of life too. Keep open, keep flexible, and don’t get discouraged if your life is not always straight, you can do better next time.

Thank you to Zachary Ricks for the great post, and wonderful ideas. You can learn more about him and what he is up to at his site Mad Poet Files Trust me you want to keep an eye there, beyond being wise, he is also a wonderful story teller. His book Battle Hymn is awesome and I am eagerly awaiting the next one in the series.

Rules For Dating, A Guide For Teenage Boys. – A Response of Sorts – With Updates

After some serious thought, I have updated this article a bit.  I think you will like some of the changes, and all of the important things are still here.
Today I read an article that I really liked. Teenage Dating for Girls Part I “Teen Dating for Girls- Part II.” Having girls that are not yet teens I was interested, and I wanted to see what the author had to say.  One of my favorite things was that she openly said,  These are our rules, they might be different for other families, but these are some basics.  I really liked that.  Too many people kind of say, hey these are our rules and should be everyone else’s as well. I am going to say right up front that I am following the same line. These are our rules. They might work for you, they might not, but they are our rules, you don’t have to like them. (See the warning message on the side —–> )
However, it struck me as I was reading this, that while this was a list of the rules for girls it should also be at least a starting point for a list for boys.  After all, the boys that are taking our daughters out are just as much in need of guidance as our daughters.  More importantly, our sons need guidance on what is expected of them if they want to date.

DSC02263[1]

The great thing about a list like this is that many of the rules apply in both directions:

You need to be at least 18  display a certain level of  maturity before you can start dating.

     While this is not a hard and fast rule, it should be a good rule of thumb.  But, why wait so long?  Well the answer is simple.  Dating (courting) is really about trying to find a mate.  Since this is a list for boys, they are looking for someone to be their wife.  If you are not serious about being ready to get married you should not really be dating.  
I have had some time to think about this rule.  While is still mostly stand behind it, I think putting an arbitrary age on it is a bit problematic.  My wife and I started dating early and at that point in time I really was looking for someone to marry.  I think the age limit really needs to be more of a maturity limit.  So I have reworded the title. 
     Let me clarify here, dating is not the same as going out with a mixed group of boys and girls, even if there is some obvious pairing.  The more obvious the pairing the more likely it is that a chaperon is necessary, but this is not the same thing as dating.  This is the time when young men and women should learn to be around each other.  See how the other reacts without all the other social pressures of actually dating and the need for “romantic interests.”

Getting to know the Family; being friends first

    Just like the list for girls the list for boys should include that if a boy wants to date a girl, he should be willing to spend time meeting her family and spend some time with them.  This is also true of the girl.  She should have a good idea of what kind of family he comes from.  Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters might also be able to see things that our starry eyed young man can’t.
    To that end, being friends first is a huge deal.  It is not always true that you will build a friendship before a romantic interest begins because some times they happen at the same time.  Again remembering that dating is about finding the right person to spend the rest of your life with, and that while you are young it is very easy to be blinded by those romantic feelings.  If you have time to get to know the person first it makes that “happily ever after” that much easier.   Besides it is a lot easier to get to know someone’s family when you aren’t under the pressure of trying to impress them because you are romantically interested in one of them.  If you have spent time hanging out working in their garden, playing with their brothers and sisters, talking with their parents you will have a much better idea of who it is you are getting involved with.

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     Girls who want to date my sons, if you come to my house it is not a test.  It is not a trial, you are not there to be judged.  You are there to make friends, to learn and understand, to see the young man that you are interested in, in situations that you might not have seen him in before.

Being a Gentleman Is a Must.

Dear my sons.  
I really hope that I don’t have to tell you this.  I really hope that you have seen me treat your mother and your sisters with a level of respect that helps you to understand what it means to be a gentleman.  I don’t always pull your mom’s chair out, and I joke about opening doors and letting them go in first (dragons) but it is incredibly important stuff.  If you are not a gentleman around your date and I see it, I will say something about it.  
Love,
Your Dad.
When the tools are put away and it is time to go out on a date there are some things that you leave behind, on the farm as it were.  This is just a short list but it should give you a good starting point:
  • Swearing (you should not be doing this anyway.)
  • Passing gas and burping.
  • Talking about your bodily functions or those of the farm animals, (Unless that is a serious part of your conversation.)
  • Chewing gum or your food like a cow (sheep.)
  • Watching the TV and not your date. (I know every place you go has one up on the wall, remember that what is on TV is never as interesting as the person sitting across from you or maybe next to you.  NEVER!)
  • Discussing where the food you are eating comes from (again if this is not a serious part of your conversation and even then, once it is on the plate this is generally considered bad form.)

There is a flip side to this of course.  The woman who you are dating should know how to act like a lady.  I won’t say that…

Ok guys, let’s make this simple. we live on a hobby farm.  We have animals, and we go and plant and pull weeds and generally get messy and gross at times.  Your sisters are not excluded from this work.  In the same way that you are not excluded from doing dishes, laundry, and general house work.  We are equal opportunity mess makers.  Your date should understand that.  See the section above about being friends first.

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What am I driving at here?  Think about your sisters.  When it is time to put the tools away and head off to church or nice dinner think of the way they act and dress and are treated. That should be a good measuring tape for your date.   If the young woman you are dating does not think enough of herself to dress appropriately for a date, what is she going to think of you?  Again, understanding what you want for each other is very important and why getting to know someone well before you start dating is important.  Some young women dress, well um let’s just say immodestly, because that is what everyone else is doing. But some young women do so because they feel that is the only way they can get and hold your attention.  Here is a hint: If that is the only thing keeping your attention on her, your relationship is in serious trouble.  Let her know that you have more respect for her than that.  If she feels that way, it is likely that what she needs is a friend and not a date.  I am not saying that you can solve her problems.  I am not saying you should even try.  I am not saying that she even has a problem.  But I think that there needs to be a level of understanding between you before you start dating.


Asking Permission Or Maybe Not

While I still stand behind this idea, I also think that it is, well, let’s just say that there are some difficulties here.  
First, thinking that asking a persons parents means that they are then going to say yes to you is a mistake.  A person, even a child does not belong to their parents.  This is particularly true in the case of romantic relationships.
Second, we are talking about a commitment for the rest of your life.  If we are talking about “The Question” this is not something that should be sprung on any one ever.  You should have some long and serious discussions about this way in advance.  Keep in mind that a person is never truly free to say yes, if they are not also truly free to say no.  Yes, a strong enough willed person will be able to make the right decisions no matter the circumstances, but very often we feel outside pressure.  If you already have the approval of their parents are they going to be worried about disappointing their parents if they say no?  
When it come to “The Question” I am a big proponent of popping the question part really being a show and tell for family and friends.  You should have already talked about this in depth, and maybe even asked the person in private, so that when they are standing there in front of their family, friends, a crowded restaurant, Yankee Stadium and you ask “The Question” you really should already know the answer.  (Hint: it helps the world at large around you if you are good actor and can act surprised, but if not, remember this is not really for them.)
In short asking permission can be a very slippery slope.  
There is also the reality that not all families are traditional. Many parents, fathers especially,  don’t respect the rights and boundaries of their daughters.  This can complicate things when or if you ask permission.  Again, these are discussion that you should have with your potential date / spouse before hand.   See my section on being friends first.  If you are already friends having this discussion with them, while it might be a little awkward won’t be totally out of left field. 
This can be a pretty scary thing to do. But remember that it is a sign of respect for both the woman you are dating and the family she is coming from.  I did not ask your Grandfather’s permission to date your mother.  I didn’t ask his permission to marry his daughter, and I am sure that to this day, that colors our relationship.  I am sure I will never measure up to what he believes his daughter deserves, but I also suspect that I would be a great deal closer to that measure if I had, had the courage to ask.  Have courage.  Be strong.  And know that once you have asked the hardest part left will be asking her.
Again I am going to point to the section on being friends first.  Getting to know her family.  This becomes important when it comes time to ask.  It is much easier to ask someone a difficult question when you have mucked out stalls with him, or whatever it is that you might do together.
So let’s sum it up here guys.  You should not start dating until you are serious about being ready to spend the rest of your life with someone.  You likely should not take someone you can’t see yourself spending the rest of your life with out on a date.  You should be a gentleman, your date should be a lady.  Remember that you want to live happily ever after.  You might date someone who you can’t live happily ever after with, and that is ok.  That is part of the dating process, but you should not go into a date, or start dating someone with the intent of not following through.
I want to thank Everyday Catholic for giving me the inspiration for this post.
I know that some people are going to  disagree with me, please feel free to let me know in the comments, but I will warn you that if you are not respectful I will not post your comment.

The First Kiss

Poll The Princess Bride Kiss

I remember the first time I kissed a girl.

It was not what I expected. You have seen the movies I am sure, the first kiss is always perfect, and it shapes their life afterwards right? The couple always remembers that first kiss. Well we flubbed it. Missed each others lips and everything. Thank goodness for me, this was not my first kiss with my wife to be. But the funny thing was that even though the kiss was bad, it was really good.

I don’t know how many of you remember your first kiss. I remember very little about the kiss itself other than it was clumsy and the way it made me feel afterwards. I remember kissing other girls after that, but none of them made me feel like that. It was like floating. It was a wonderful feeling. And it didn’t matter after that which girl I kissed it never felt like that again.

Well, almost never. Yes, I dated other girls before I met my wife to be. But she was something special. Usually the fact that you are dating is sealed with a kiss, but not with her. With the woman who would one day be my wife things were different. We had been dating for several days maybe as long as a week before we kissed that first time. You will notice that I said, several days maybe even a week. The truth is, we don’t remember for sure. But we do remember the date of that first kiss. We silently agreed never to talk about the real date and just accept the date of the first kiss as the “official” date.

Just like my very first kiss, our first kiss was a bit of a mess. I have no excuse. I mean I had done this before. It was her first kiss, but I had done this before. I should have been able to handle it. But that was the thing. With this woman, really very much a girl still at this point, everything was like the first time, all over again. But that is the way it should be right? I mean when you meet that person who is perfect for you, the past should not matter, and everything is new.

isabel_with Mom and DadFast forward 20+ years and there are days when we manage to miss on a kiss, and it still feels like that first kiss. I am not saying things are perfect, or that we are always happy. That is not it all what I am saying. But there are enough of those good, wonderful, glorious moments that they out weigh any of the bad.

This picture in particular, is one of those low moments but it has been, at least for the past year, one of those moments that has also drawn us together. We are older now, I have grey hair, at least the hair I have left is going grey. I get injured when I run too much, and I can’t pull all nighters and still function as well the next day like I could when we first met. My wife is still perfect in my eyes, I know she has changed too but she is perfect in my eyes. The thing is that we really make a great team. We know how to compliment each other. She really knows how to make me feel better when I need it. I think I know the same things for her. I am far from a perfect husband, but I do try.

That is, if you ask me, what marriage is all about. It is not that cloud nine feeling you get when you first kiss. That should be there of course, but there is so much more than that. There is the need to support each other when you are at the bottom of the ladder and it is so far up to cloud nine that you can’t even see it, and everything in the middle. There are going to be those days when you want to throw in the towel, and there are going to be those days when you wonder why the heck you would even think about throwing in the towel.

If I had a time machine and could go back to my younger self and tell me one thing, it would be this. Life is hard, but that first kiss, no matter how goofed up it is, is going to be one of those moments you will remember for the rest of your life. Remember it when you are at those low points, it will remind you of how good it can get. Remember that it is not all going to be like that, but those moments that are like that, are totally worth all the ones that aren’t.

MileStones

20120427-202840.jpgIt is not every day that you get to celebrate a major milestone in your life, but for me today is one of those days. I am going to keep this short because, well I have more important things to do today. Today, my wife and I celebrate 17 years together. Over the years we have had our ups and downs. Mostly up. We have moved 6 times, lived in 6 different states, had 10 kids, 4 cars, 3 houses 4 dogs something like 75 chickens and 6 sheep. Like I said it has been a wild ride, but I can’t imagine anyone else I would want to have at my side, and I know I would have never made it here without her.

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