Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Logic of Little Ones

By L.A. Kohl
December 13, 2005
(published in the Jan. 11, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")

One of our older girls has been taking a “Logic” class in school this semester. I must admit, we were rather pleased that she had the opportunity to take this class, because…well -- suffice it to say, don’t most teenagers need a little assistance in that area?!

A large part of the semester, the class focused on learning all the different types of fallacies. At the school’s recent fall showcase event, her class got the opportunity to present most of the different types of fallacies in a fun, mock-trial sort of way. It enlightened me. I now realize that my younger children use a lot of those fallacies every day, I just could never put a name to it before now.

Here’s one that any parent with preschoolers probably hears daily. Our two-year-old and four-year-old often take their disagreements to a physical level. One of them will come crying to me and say, “He hit me”, and then the other one will retort, “But she pushed me."

Objection! This falls under at least two different fallacies. One, the “appeal to pity” fallacy, which is when the speaker tries to convince us by making us feel sorry for himself or others. It also falls under the “Tu Quogue” fallacy (Latin for “you also”) which implies that two wrongs make a right; the person committing this fallacy implies that his rival’s comments should be discounted because he has not always been consistent with it himself.

Here’s a little bit more unique one. Our four-year-old was recently amazed that her great-grandpa’s funeral was in a church; but it was in a different town and church than what we go to. Her father tried to explain to her that there are lots and lots of churches all around. She said, “I know dad – there are four of them!”

Objection! I believe that would fall under the fallacy of “fake precision," which is defined as the use of numbers in a way that is too precise to be justified by the situation. Perhaps there are four churches within a 6 mile radius of our home; however, that is too precise for the “lots of churches all around” situation being presented. (Ugh; leave it to a four-year-old to get too precise.)

I'll finish up by picking on our youngest. He’s a boy, and he likes to use “I’m tired” on a frequent basis. For instance, “I’m too tired, I can’t drink my milk” or “I’m tired, I need some candy."

I could go on and on with his “I’m tired” arguments; and they fall under all types of fallacies. First, it's the “fallacy of relevance." This fallacy states that these arguments have premises that do not “bear upon” the truth of the conclusion. (In other words, they introduce an irrelevancy into the argument.) Second, it's the “false analogy” fallacy, which is an argument by analogy that fails because the things being compared aren’t similar enough to warrant the analogy. Third, it loosely falls under the “sweeping generalization” fallacy, which is taking a generalization that is, perhaps, true, and applying it to cases to which it does not apply, without recognizing that exceptions could exist. I think all children are experts on using that “sweeping generalization” fallacy! (Oops – did I just use it myself?)

And now you know the truth…I’m not only an over-worked, under-paid, exhausted and stressed-out mom with lots of kids; I’m a bored mom looking for ways to take my job to a little bit more intellectual level.

Objection! That would be the “appeal to pity” fallacy…I just tried to convince you to feel sorry for me. But at least I didn’t use the “chronological snobbery” fallacy, or the “genetic” fallacy on you. Case closed.

A Matter of Tradition

By L.A. Kohl
December 10, 2005
(published in the Decemeber 14, 2005 edition of "The Bullseye")

The word “tradition” conjures up various thoughts within my mind, but at Christmas time, traditions are akin to the “warm fuzzies” for me. Some are trivial, often related to things like food. Others help us to pass on our spiritual heritage to the next generation. I hope for the sake of your children, your family has tried to carry on some time-honored holiday traditions, as well as to begin some of your own.
My husband has fond memories of going to his Grandma Kohl’s on Christmas Eve and having chili and oyster stew. I’m not sure how oysters worked their way into the Christmas celebration, but I think they’ve been there for years and years. I remember when reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to my girls when they were little; being surprised to see that even during the 1800’s oysters were a treat that people expected to enjoy during the Christmas season. Thus, every Christmas Eve, we cook up a little pot of oyster stew.

I personally remember going to Grandma Cox’s on Christmas Eve, where we would sometimes roast hot dogs and marshmallows in their fireplace, eat some snacks, and sit around sipping on Grandma’s wonderful spiced tea. It’s hard to beat hot spice tea and a blazing fire. When we got back home, my brother and I were allowed to open one present each – a tradition we’ve continued with our own children.

We have a few “new” traditions that our children look forward to each Christmas. One is getting out their personal box of ornaments and hanging each one on the tree. We give them a new ornament each Christmas – so we now have to set up a separate tree just for all of their ornaments! But they thoroughly enjoy pulling each ornament out of their box each year; trying to remember when they got it and who gave it to them.

We also enjoy reading Christmas stories together as a family during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Some are simply cute and sweet – the kind that make you sit back with a smile and go, “Ahhh…” Others are deeply moving and contain great spiritual lessons; often leaving one or more of us a little teary-eyed. Either way, it’s a heart-warming way to end the day before sending the kids off to bed.

Many years ago, we started going caroling on Christmas Eve (or as close to it as possible) and delivering goodies. The last several years it’s mostly been to our neighbors, but some years we go to a widow’s home. Our children look forward to it each year…and I understand that some of our neighbors have come to anticipate it as well! It’s fun to spread a little “Christmas cheer," and since the children help in making the cookies, candies and/or bread that we deliver, it helps to teach them that a lot of the joy in Christmas is in giving, and not just receiving.

We even have a tradition associated with our Nativity scene. It’s a fragile, ceramic Nativity set; thus, each piece is individually wrapped in tissues, hiding their identity. The children think it is great fun to take turns choosing one wrapped figurine, and then unwrapping it to see which one they picked. Of course, baby Jesus is the most coveted one – it’s always been fun to watch their faces light up with excitement when they unwrap Him and exclaim, “I got baby Jesus this year!”

There are others, but those are some of our fondest. I hope your family has many of your own traditions; but mostly I hope that at least some of your traditions, like our little nativity scene ritual, celebrate the excitement over finding the greatest Christmas gift ever given…Jesus Christ.

Front Porch Lady turned Movie Reviewer

By L.A. Kohl
November 9, 2005
(published in the Dec. 7, 2005 edition of "The Bullseye")

With winter upon us, our family enjoys cozying up on a Friday night and watching a movie together at home. We appreciate it when someone we trust tells us “that’s a good movie,” so on those rare occasions when we visit a movie rental store, we have an idea of what to look for. Thus, I thought maybe you’d enjoy hearing about some of our family’s favorites.

Old musicals rank high on the list for us. When I was younger, I thought musicals were so weird…people standing around singing to each other? Get real! But as I grew older and gave them a second chance – I found them extremely entertaining. They’re now amongst my favorites.

Fiddler on the Roof became my all-time favorite long before we had a household of daughters ourselves. It’s easy to relate with Rev Tevya and his troubles with family and finances, and I find his open honesty with God about his life’s daily problems heart-warming.

We also really enjoy some of Howard Keel’s old musicals – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers taking first place. It makes for some great entertainment when seven singing and dancing, back-woods brothers decide it’s time to find themselves wives; even if they have to drive all the way to town and steal them! Following closely in second place is his movie with Doris Day, Calamity Jane. How fun to watch them fight and sing their way through the wild, wild, west!

As for new musicals? They are very few and far between, but even as I type, my four-year-old is trying her hardest to sing “Think of Me” from The Phantom of the Opera. I wouldn’t call it my favorite by a long shot…but the music is some of the loveliest I’ve ever heard (unless, perhaps, a four-year-old is singing her rendition!)

As for non-musicals…sorry to say it, but oldies are still my favorites. It’s just hard to beat Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember or Philadelphia Story, or Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any movie with Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart that I didn’t like. Oh, and if you want a good laugh – try an old Marx brothers movie. I’ve never seen one yet that didn’t have me laughing to the point of tears at some point within the movie.

Okay, okay – so maybe you want some movies that you can actually find in your movie rental store! If you’ve got a video player like ours that can block out foul language, then George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou? will give you a good laugh – it’s the crowning glory of all “hayseed” movies! Second Hand Lions is another newer one that we really like – but again, having that TV guardian set up to block out the bad language is a necessity for us.

My older girl’s would disown me if I failed to mention Pirates of the Caribbean, or the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movies…take your pick, they like them all. Along the adventure line…Nate really likes Master and Commander. But, like most adventure movies produced within the past 20 years, it has a fair amount of blood and gore type stuff. National Treasure is a really great adventure movie that’s amazingly free of blood and gore, foul language, and “adult” situations.

I personally love the movie renditions of Jane Austen’s books, especially Sense and Sensibility and AandE’s very long Pride and Prejudice series. Oh, and don’t forget Little Women, or the Anne of Green Gables movies. I guess it’s the time period that they all depict, but I find the family devotion, simple hardships and light-hearted fun in all of them very endearing.

I could keep going, but that ought to give you a good start. Go light the fireplace, grab a blanket and some popcorn, and take some time to relax with your family during the hectic holiday season.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Deer Hunting Advice from Li'l Tikes

By L.A. Kohl
November 10, 2005

(published in the Wed., Nov. 16, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")My husband decided to rise early and head out to do a little bow hunting a few days ago. It got him in the mood for the fast approaching gun deer season, and gave him a story to tell at breakfast that morning. The kids love it when he comes back from deer hunting with stories to tell…more often than not, that’s all he comes back with, so he has to make the most of it!

On this particular morning, our two, four and six year old children had lots of counsel and ideas for the next time he decides to go out deer hunting. I thought perhaps all of you avid hunters out there might appreciate their advice – especially since it’s probably more unique than anything you’ll get from a deer hunting video, or a seasoned deer hunter.

First and foremost; “do not let the deers poke you." That could get messy, and would not be any fun.

“Don’t shoot the little ones.” Yes, my kids have seen Bambi, and the last thing you should ever do is go out there and shoot something that looks like Bambi.

“Don’t step on the leaves.” Wow, my husband wishes he could follow this advice, but when you live in the woods, it’s just not an option.

“Shoot the freaky bears and dragons” instead. This was my two year olds advice. He’s a boy, and I suppose shooting deer just doesn’t seem quite adventuresome enough to him…freaky bears and dragons sounded much more worthy of pursuing.

Pray about it. After Nate finished with his near miss stories and we were ready to eat breakfast, our six year old closed her prayer before the meal with this…“and please let dad get better at shooting deers, amen."

This next advice also came from the six year old, who greatly admires her big sister’s ability to make her own bow and arrows from sticks and yarn. She suggested placing this big sister with her self-made bow and arrow on the other side of the deer, and then if dad missed, she could probably get it with her stick arrow. After all, SHE is very good with her bow and arrow. If, per chance, she does miss, she’ll scare the deer in dad’s direction.

Here was a good one - “just run fast after the deer." Makes sense, doesn’t it? If that deer runs away from you, just go run after it.

This final word of wisdom came from the four year old, “you just really need a wise dog…one that can smell antlers” would be best.

That was about the extent of their advice. So, if you haven’t had much luck yet during this deer season, maybe you just need to practice your running abilities, get a wise, antler smellin’ dog, and brush up on your prayers.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

From Both Sides of the Schooling Issue


By Rachel Kohl
October 29, 2005
(published in the Wed., Nov. 9, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")

This week I thought I’d let my eldest do the writing…kind of an “insider” look at the homeschool issue. She wrote this as a report for a college level English class she is enrolled in. She’s now a senior in public school, having started there at the beginning of her junior year. Here’s a condensed version of her “view” of both schooling options.On the surface home school and public school are very similar, as both are designed to educate young people. However, in my experience, they concentrate on two different aspects of that education. My home school experience was very academically focused. Any social skills I gained were learned solely from family and a few church friends. I was allowed to stay inside of my comfort zone. I always felt loved and appreciated. Although I received a wonderful education while home schooled, a person cannot make it exclusively on brains in the real world. I felt that public school was a step I had to take in order to grow socially, but the first weeks of public school I felt lonely, and nervous.

The night before I started kindergarten I was so excited that I could hardly sleep. I was the oldest in my family, and thus the first one who got to start doing real schoolwork out of real school books. When I jumped out of bed that first morning, I was bright-eyed and eager to start the day. I savored the first lesson in each subject. I strove to make the best letters that I possibly could in my handwriting book. I enjoyed writing the first answers on the crisp, shiny pages of my math book. I was allowed to work at my own pace and in my own way as long as I could show I was actually learning. I finished my work by noon with the satisfaction of gaining knowledge and completing my work. The rest of the day was mine to spend as I chose, and much of that time was spent outdoors. My sisters and I were free to learn from and enjoy creation, in a loving and safe environment.

The night before I started public school my head throbbed with questions. What if no one talks to me? What if I get lost? What if a teacher yells at me? What if I have to sit by myself at lunch? I felt silly for worrying so much. After all, I would be a junior in high school, but I might as well have been heading off to my first day of kindergarten. I didn’t know what to expect and I dreaded the unexpected. At 6:00 a.m. I finally got out of bed. Even though I had slept little during the night, I was wide awake. I noticed as I got ready for school that my hands were actually shaking. After some last minute encouragement from my parents, I got in my car and drove to school. As I walked into the building it was like I had walked onto another planet. Everything was so foreign. I found my locker and wanted to crawl inside of it. I think the day got a little better as it went on. Looking back now I really can’t remember many details; I think I actually experienced culture shock.

The differences between my home school and public school experiences began to surface those first days. The first day of home school I began to learn how to learn. I learned how to study, how to focus, and how to be self-motivated. At public school I learned additional skills. I learned how to function in the real world. I learned when to stand up for what I believe and when I should just let it go. I learned to not be so judgmental. Home school taught me a lot of academic skills, but public school stretched me and forced me to expand socially in order to thrive.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The "Whole-Hearted" Approach to Life

By L.A. Kohl
October 26, 2005
(published in the Nov. 2, 2005 edition of the "BullsEye")
Have you ever noticed that some people put their whole “self” into whatever they’re doing? Sports are where they often reveal themselves. Those little ones on the tee-ball league, who approach the tee with a look of determination, intense eyes barely visible under the brim of an oversized ball cap. They slug the ball, drop the bat in a flash and make a mad dash for first base. When and if they make it around to home, they usually make a flying dive for the base, even if the ball is nowhere near home.

We have a daughter who is one of those “whole-hearted” types of people. I’ll never forget one of her first tee-ball games. The coach put her in the shortstop position – but she was unsure of where that really was. He promptly went out and drew a line in the dirt with his foot, trying to show her the approximate location. She took it to heart. That entire inning, her little feet barely left that line. You could just see her intense concentration as she strove to keep her feet perched right on it. A ball would head her direction, and her immediate response would be to start after it, but then – oops – she remembered…her place was on that line. The coach straightened her out before the next inning (and probably got rid of the line!), but we enjoyed her absorption regarding a simple line in the dirt.

She’s now sixteen and long past tee-ball, but her whole-hearted approach hasn’t changed.

She just finished her second season of volleyball with a small Columbia team. She no longer concentrates on a specific place on the ground…now it’s “go for the ball," no matter what.
She wore knee pads, like all volleyball players do, but I thought she desperately needed elbow pads as well. She would hear nothing of the sort. You should have seen the girl’s elbows for those two months of the season! They were black and blue most of the time, because she continually dove after the ball if it came anywhere near her. It mattered not that she was hitting the floor two or three times more often than most of the other players. All that mattered was that she was going to try with all her might to keep that ball up in the air. We all enjoyed her “spunk," but her poor elbows took the brunt of those floor diving assaults.

She comes by this “whole-hearted” approach naturally – but not from me I’m afraid. I’m the type that would rather sit back and watch the other people who are putting their whole self into something. Her father, on the other hand, approaches life with an attitude of, “give it all you’ve got."

This week, however, he really outdid himself. He was watching video footage that he had taken while a friend was driving. It was while the two of them were down in Mississippi helping with the Katrina disaster relief. On their way home, as they drove through the heart of some of the worst destruction, he filmed a great deal of footage. Well, this week he had the opportunity to watch what he had filmed…some of it at high-speed as he fast-forwarded through the parts that got rather boring.

Guess what happened? He got extremely car sick! He had to take some pain medicine and go straight to bed. I’ve never seen him so car sick. I felt sorry for him, but I couldn’t help chuckling about the whole thing. He’s the only person I’ve ever known who watched a video so intensely that he got car sick without ever leaving home!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Look at some "Wicked" Slang

By L.A. Kohl
October 24, 2005
(published in the Wed., Oct. 26, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")

No, this isn’t an exposé of naughty slang terms, even though to most people the word “wicked” is synonymous with evil, immoral, and the like. Most parents, and anyone who works with youth, have been enlightened to realize that “wicked” is a slang word that has nothing to do with being evil. Kind of like the fact that anything “hot” or “cool” has nothing to do with temperature.

I find slang terms rather interesting, especially the way they change from generation to generation. A writing course I took years ago stressed that you should avoid using slang in writing, because they become dated so quickly. However, they never told me I couldn’t write about slang terms!

In my teenage years, everything bit. Not literally of course, but if you had a test to study for over the weekend, that was a “bite”…if nobody asked you to homecoming, that was a “real bite”…and not passing your driving test; well that “bites like a big dog." (We compared lots of things to big dogs in those days…don’t ask me why.) “Scumbags” were pretty common, but it was a term you hoped no one ever used when revering to you. “Gag me” was one of those slang terms that you could speak, or just do the actions behind someone’s back if you were too reluctant to say it out loud. Just point the index finger in your open mouth, and everyone knew what you meant. I know, it all sounds silly now, but at least I wasn’t a teen during the “far out” and “groovy” generation of slang. Gag me with a spoon!

Now that I’ve got teenagers of my own, I get to hear my fair share of the more modern lingo. I’ve discovered that lots of things are “sweet," whether or not we’re actually eating dessert. My pre-teen daughter likes the word “dude” - it doesn’t matter if she’s talking to a little sister or not, they’re still a dude. “Awesome” has been around for several years, and surprisingly, it means pretty much what it was originally intended to mean. “Totally awesome” used to be the ultimate in awesomeness, but I think it’s been replaced with “totally wicked." They have the same definition; just a new way of expressing it. Of course, the Bullseye’s “Fatty Friends” have taught us that the word “phat” is a positive term, which has nothing to do with a person’s weight.

There is one slang word that never seems to age – “cool." Can’t you just hear the Fonz, Ritchie, Potsie and Ralph on “Happy Days” using that word? The Fonz himself was the epitome of cool-ness. Even though that show was about teenagers of the 1950’s, I’ve heard today’s teens using “cool” on a regular basis. I think it’s rather astonishing that in the ever changing world of teen lingo, there’s at least one word that remains ageless and unchanging. Now that’s wicked cool.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Some Front Porch Musings about Grandparents

By L.A. Kohl
October 16, 2005
(published in the Wed., Oct. 19, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")

What memories does the word “grandparent” conjure up in your mind? I’m sure the memories are varied and diverse for each and every reader. Unfortunately for me, it is now a word that will always be spoken in the past tense, as my last grandparent passed away on October 8.

My four grandparents were raised in an entirely different generation – a generation that was so unlike mine, I can’t help but look back at their lives with a bit of awe and amazement.

I believe that none of my four grandparents completed even an eighth grade education. I know my Grandpa Cox, who just passed away this month at the age of 93, did not. His family moved from Missouri out to Colorado while he was in the midst of eighth grade, and he never went back to school once they arrived there. Instead, he went to work to help the family make ends meet. The woman he married, my Grandma Cox, began working in a factory at the age of fifteen. My other grandmother, Grandma Hall, had intentions of going into the eighth grade, but when the small country school she attended told her that they didn’t have enough students to offer an eighth grade class…she just got married instead. Grandpa Hall? Well, I don’t know…but I do know he happened to be driving a tractor nearby when my thirteen-year-old Grandma went fishing one day. She caught a snapping turtle instead of a fish, and desperately needed some brave young man to help get it off her hook. It must have been love at first sight – the brave, gallant knight on an “iron clad” stead, helping the young damsel in distress!

My Grandpa Cox did things in his younger years like delivering milk with a horse drawn wagon, and welding items for the military during World War II. Grandpa Hall did anything and everything he could to support his large family during the depression years…farming, building bridges, and hunting a lot of squirrels and rabbits when food was scarce. He would occasionally move the family out to California so that he and Grandma could pick strawberries or other commercially grown produce to earn some money. They’d pack all the kids in the back of their old pick-up, camping out near the highway each night while they traveled.

Of course my grandmothers did the types of things that most women of those days did…making food from scratch (from their bread, to the butter and jelly that went on it) sewing all their clothes, canning hundreds of quarts of produce to get them through the winter…did the work ever end for women of that era?

I often complain about all my daily “chores," but when I consider my dishwasher, my automatic washer and dryer, my vacuum, my microwave…I have to bite my tongue. My Grandma Hall had eleven children, eight that survived infancy; but unlike me, her first six children were boys. During her generation, boys probably didn’t do “women’s work” very often, so I bet for several years my grandmother did all of the cooking, dish washing, clothes washing, house cleaning, etc. by herself – by hand – for a houseful of growing, rambunctious farm boys.

I could write pages and pages about my grandparents; I find their lives fascinating. I wish I would have realized in my younger years what a treasure they were, and had spent more time listening to and remembering their stories. They may not have been highly educated with “book learning," but they were some of the wisest people I ever knew.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Seasons of Life

By L.A. Kohl
October 5, 2005
(published in the Wed., Oct. 12 2005 edition of the Bullseye)

My husband gets rather philosophical at times, and one morning last week happened to be one of them. He caused me to stop and ponder for awhile. Perhaps it is something we should all ponder on occasion; contemplating where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

Fall is now upon us – but for Nate and I, it’s not just the annual fall season. We’ve now reached middle age, which signifies the “fall” season of our life is just beginning. One thing that traditionally happens in fall is storing up for winter time…putting up hay, gathering in garden produce, etc. For us in our lives, that is looking like trying to think a little bit about “winter”. Retirement.

Being self-employed means no 401k plans or retirement benefits, and until now we’ve never felt like we had enough resources to save for something that was still decades in the future. Maybe we still don’t have the resources, but the “decades” are getting fewer and thus, we just recently decided to make an extra effort to start putting a little bit each week away in a safe place, where we can’t spend it at…well, you name the place and we can spend it there! Finances aren’t the biggest thing we’re thinking about during this new fall season of life, however. A harvest of a much bigger magnitude is looming before us.

When we got married at the age of twenty, you could say our “summer” season of life began. Starting a family became the focus of those summer years, helping our children grow and mature into responsible adults. But now we’re approaching the first days of our parental harvest time.

It’s true – we’ll have a very long harvest time, as our youngest is only two years old! But our oldest, much to our shock and disbelief, will be off to college come this time next year. Does that happen to a farmer, you suppose? Does he look out at his field one day and say, “Goodness gracious! It’s time to combine already, and here it seems like I just finished planting!” I don’t know if a farmer ever says that or not – but we sure have been.

What does “harvest time” look like in life? I’m not sure yet (remember, we’re just getting started) but I have expectations. I think it means watching what these young lives will do with everything we’ve instilled in them over the years. Will they water and nurture our teachings and ideals, to be regenerated in the next generation? Or will they trounce on them and become something that we never wanted or intended? It’s a scary time, standing on the verge of this harvest, because unlike the farmer, we can’t just plow everything up and try again next year.

Parents, I know it’s so easy to get busy with your jobs, your hobbies, and all the other countless things that demand our time. But as you pass through your seasons in life, consider how quickly those seasons pass, and how quickly your children are growing. You and I only have one chance at raising these “little sprouts," so we better get serious and make the most of it while we still can.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Woman Named Gladys

By L.A. Kohl
September 26, 2005
(published in the Wed., Oct. 5th 2005 edition of the Bullseye)
My husband just returned from McComb, MS; serving on a Missouri Baptist disaster relief team, running a chainsaw for a week. He told a story of a woman named Gladys that warmed my heart, and I hope it will do the same for you.

The morning that his team was assigned to go to Gladys’s home, the man handing out assignments warned them, “Now, if you all don’t get there pretty quick, she’s going to have the job taken care of herself!”

Upon arriving at Gladys’s home, they found a sweet little widow that was 82 years old, and walked with a cane. She had a large lot, still covered with many limbs and branches four weeks after Katrina. But not as covered as it had been!

She had found a little table top somewhere, and each morning, with her cane in one hand and her table top in the other, she would walk around her yard and pile little sticks and branches on the tabletop, then drag it to the curb and dump it for the city workers to come haul away. When the chainsaw team showed up at her door, she was overjoyed. You see, she was having trouble mowing her large lot because of all the debris that was in her way.

“You mow your own yard?” one of the men asked incredulously.

Yes she did – with a push mower, no less.

As she quickly learned each man’s name, the team began clearing her yard; but it was about all they could do to keep her on the porch. She would have preferred working right along with them. At one point she told them that she had retired back in 1984.

“What did you do before that?” my husband asked.

“I covered seats,” she replied with a sly grin.

“And where did you work?” another one asked.

“At the Sears and Roebuck”, she began. All the men were picturing little Gladys working in a factory, putting upholstery on seat cushions, until she elaborated. “I worked in the lingerie department – I covered lots of lady’s ‘seats’ during the 32 years I worked there!”

She continued telling them more stories from days long ago – days when she would walk three miles to go to school. She had been on the basketball and track teams, she explained. She still remembered the man at the shoe store who would stand outside and wait for the girl’s basketball team to walk by, so he could throw snowballs at them.

“But surely you don’t get much snow down here, do you Gladys?” my husband couldn’t help asking.

“Oh, we get our fair share,” she replied, “And every time it gets below freezing I have to crawl under my house and drain the pipes so they don’t freeze up.”

“You do that yourself?” someone asked, but not quite so incredulously this time!

“Oh sure,” she replied in her charming Southern drawl. “You see, one time when I didn’t, all my pipes froze up and my son-in-law had to come replace them, and ooo wee – I don’t dare let that happen again or he’ll give me ‘what for’!”

You just can’t help but admire the spunk and determination of a person like Gladys. She blessed the men working there that day just as much, if not more, than they blessed her. My husband is now looking forward to a day in eternity when he can sit and visit with Gladys on the front porch of her mansion in heaven, and chat “for a long spell”.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Road of a Lifetime

August 20, 2005
By: L.A. Kohl
(published in the Wed., Aug. 31 edition of the "Bullseye")
I have one last story about our summer vacation…a story about a road.
It was about 10 pm the evening we left Mt. Rushmore, following their very impressive lighting ceremony. We decided to take this road called “Highway 16A” that headed towards Custer State Park, where we planned to pitch a tent for the night. The road immediately took us into some national forest that I forget the name of, but I’ll never forget that road!

Have you ever handed a pencil and a blank piece of paper to a toddler, and watched them fill the page with lots of curly, spinning scribbles? If so, you know what this road looked like. We began chuckling when we realized as soon as we would drive over a bridge, the road curved around and next thing we knew we were driving under it. After about the third bridge in five minutes that did that, the chuckles turned to outright laughter, and the fun speculations began coming forth:
“The highway engineer who designed this road must have been totally sauced!” was my initial observation.

“No, I think this national forest is really only about five miles square, so they curved the road all around to make it last for at least twenty miles,” was my engineer husband’s first thought.

“Oh – I think I just saw a glimpse of Mt. Rushmore out that way,” someone inserted…but the road curved around so quickly that we didn’t get a chance to verify it.

About that time the highway became one-way, with our side disappearing into the woods, and the opposite side re-appearing on the left.

“Oh no”, someone moaned. “This is a never-ending road, and we’re just going round and round in circles and we’ll never get out of this forest!”

The theories were getting sillier by the minute – as was the highway. “I bet they have forest rangers hiding by all the curve signs, turning them around after we go past so we don’t recognize it when we come back around again!”

“Oh, hey – I know I saw Mt. Rushmore that time!” someone insisted.

But they were interrupted by, “Whoa – look at that tunnel!”

It had the appearance of having been chiseled out by hand – probably decades ago, before big fifteen passenger vans existed. It was undersized, one way, and the sign in front of it advised us to “honk”. Just as Nate was about to lay on the horn, a minivan emerged – driven by Orientals. Oh, and here came another minivan, also driven by Orientals. And another, and another, and another – we lost count. This was beginning to feel like the twilight zone or something – was this the “Orient Express” tunnel?

By now some of us were near hysterics, but as we continued on, a few kept claiming that they had caught a glimpse of Mt. Rushmore. However, the crazy theories and speculations didn’t slow down until we reached the third tunnel…

“Oh wow!” we all exclaimed in unison. There, framed with perfection at the end of a surprisingly straight tunnel, was the illuminated Mt. Rushmore in all its glory.

An awed silence fell over the van, and it was then that Nate came to a more realistic conclusion about the crazy road we had been traveling. “The engineer who created this road was extremely patriotic, and he loved Mt. Rushmore so much, he designed the road to give us as many views as possible of it, even after we were miles away from it.”

I can’t help thinking that there was a lesson in that peculiar road. When the path of life seems to be getting crazier by the minute, and you just don’t get what’s going on – maybe there’s a bigger picture, an all-encompassing “view” just waiting around the corner, if you take the time to slow down and notice it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Traveling West - In a Fishbowl?

August 17, 2005
By: L.A. Kohl
(published in the Wed., Aug. 24 edition of the "Bullseye")
July 29 finally arrived – vacation day! That evening we were on I-70 headed west, with plans of driving all night. When we weren’t even to Kansas City yet, and our four year old asked, “Are we almost there?” we were thankful we had planned to do most of the driving while they would be sleeping.

I feel compelled to explain that our large family sometimes feels like we live life in a “fishbowl” when we go out in public. People often gawk at us like, “Is that all one family?” We had our fair share of those moments while on vacation.

We always cause a commotion on the rare occasion when we go into a restaurant, because they have to rearrange tables to seat us. That Saturday morning when we pulled into a truck stop outside of Cheyenne, WY probably topped them all. You can imagine what we all looked like after riding in a van all night…droopy and sleepy eyed, hair going everywhere, clothes all disheveled. The kids were either cranky, or half delirious from lack of sleep. We provided quite the side-show for the people there that morning.

A few nights later we attended the Bar J Chuck wagon show near Jackson. Every night in the summer they serve 750 people an authentic, chuck wagon style meal and entertain them with a singin’ cowboy show. Our large family trying to fit in our allotted spot at a table and our little ones falling off the bench provided a small diversion for those around us.

Then there was that one memorable night we spent tent camping in Yellowstone. When the lady was trying to decide which camp site to assign us, she wanted to know how many were with us. Nine? Well, they only allow six per site. But we’re all one family! Oh, well, in that case…she gave us one of the biggest sites they had, at the back of a “loop” where we couldn’t bother anyone else. And thankfully, in spite of many signs warning us to beware – no bears bothered us. “Safety in numbers” they say…we probably scared them off.

How about this? Hiking a mile and a half around Devil’s Tower in northeastern Wyoming. We had done some back road hiking on our trip, but this was a big tourist spot. I spent most of the mile and a half trying to keep nine people corralled to one side of the path, so others could get past us. Toddlers don’t want to be corralled, though. They want to hop from rock to rock…to stand in the middle of the path and gawk upwards at this huge rock we’re walking around…and to fight over daddy’s binoculars. (They also scream bloody-murder when they trip and skin their nose on the asphalt path.) It probably took us twice as long to get around as it does most people, but we gave everyone something besides a big rock to look at for awhile!

Let’s not forget Keystone, South Dakota, near Mt. Rushmore. Did you know that motorcyclists have a huge rally every year during the first week of August, and they converge on Sturgis, SD? Approximately 500,000 of them were “rallying," so we now know about it. On our return home, we traveled along with most of them across Wyoming and South Dakota. In Keystone the entire downtown was solid bikers…their bikes were parked one after the other all along the street, and the bikers themselves were crowded on the upper balconies and decks of the shops and bars – celebrating and looking like they were ready to watch a parade. Well, our 15 passenger van driving through downtown amongst all of their motorcycles may not have been parade quality stuff, but it was an attention getter!

Life in a fishbowl can be nerve-racking at times, but when you hear the occasional, “What a neat family!” exclaimed from a complete stranger, it makes it a little more bearable.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Thoughts of Vacation

August 14, 2005
By: L.A. Kohl
(published in the Wed., Aug. 17 edition of the "Bullseye")
Summer time is prime vacation time for many Americans. A time-honored tradition for some of us. My father’s parents took him on a month long vacation the summer before he married and left home. My parents took my brother and me on a vacation to Disney World and the beach the summer before I graduated. And as our eldest is graduating this year, we decided this may be our last summer to take our entire family away on a nice vacation.

In about mid-June, when we decided the business had been doing well enough that we could afford an August vacation, the question posed at the breakfast table was this: “Where could we go for a BIG vacation?”

A fun question to consider, but in a family of nine there are sometimes too many opinions!

Immediately, some of the girls suggested the beach. They have very fond memories of a fall vacation we took several years ago, when we rented a duplex on a beautiful Gulf coast beach for a week. But, a few in our family are the adventurous sort, and longed for something new and different. Besides, some expressed disdain at the thought of going further south in the heat of summer.

The Grand Canyon, a couple of others decided, would be an exciting new place to visit. Ah, but someone quickly pointed out, “I thought you said you didn’t want to go SOUTH?!” Back to the drawing board.

I believe it was yours truly who finally blurted out, “What about Yellowstone?” Hmm, lots of thoughtful looks – a few heads nodding – a quick search for the atlas to see just how far away it was. Oh, cool – Grand Teton National Park was right next door. This was looking more and more like the kind of spot we’d like to go, especially in the heat of a mid-Missouri summer!

Unfortunately, after a couple hours researching, it looked like half the country also thought it would be a neat place to visit in the summer. Every lodge and cabin we found that could accommodate our large family was already booked, or was WAY out of our price range. After several attempts, Nate was now on the phone with a broker type of person who had found ONE last option for us. She said it was perfect – right in Jackson Hole, within walking distance of lots of shopping, and close enough to the Tetons and Yellowstone to make day trips convenient. He was interested, but told her to wait a second, as he was looking at me to give him the go ahead.

I don’t “buck” very often, but this time I had trouble agreeing. One – I don’t like making quick decisions. Two – it was a few hundred dollars more than we thought we could afford. And three – when I think of a vacation to the mountains; “within walking distance of shopping” is not what I’m looking for! I asked him to tell her that we needed a little more time to think about it. Of course she said we really shouldn’t put off our decision because it may no longer be available when we called back. As Nate reluctantly hung up the phone, he looked at me like, “I hope we didn’t just blow our last chance.”

We decided to look at the atlas again, and pick somewhere a bit farther out than Jackson Hole. A quick web search immediately turned up a place two hours south of Yellowstone that had a three bedroom, renovated farm house. Their web site used words like “peaceful… private… secluded… in the mountains” instead of words like “within walking distance of shopping!" We got on the phone and booked all four nights that they had remaining during the first week of August.

“Tune in” next week for – the Kohl family heads West (minus the covered wagon, thankfully!)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Does a Large Family = Large Hassles???

July 26, 2005
By: L.A. Kohl
(published in the Wed., Aug. 3 edition of the "Bullseye")
Many people in today’s society question why anyone would want to have a large family. I’ve heard that the average American family has something like 1.7 children, so obviously the majority have decided that there are too many disadvantages to having lots of kids. But you know what? By matter of default, we’ve discovered that there are also several advantages that perhaps many haven’t considered.

Here’s a big plus from my perspective…I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard my children actually say, “I’m bored."

Isn’t that funny? I often hear moms talking about how summertime is so trying, because they have to constantly figure out ways to keep their child entertained and out from underfoot. It is rarely that way around here.

With lots of siblings, all of these creative juices come flowing from lots of different perspectives, and they are always coming up with something fun to try. The other day I caught some of them together brainstorming story ideas. They had notebooks and pencils in hand, and were throwing out ideas. Someone would either nix the idea, or expound on it and then they’d start writing it down. Kind of like a movie studio, story-boarding session; and it occupied them for days.

Speaking of movies…they love making their own. There are enough of them to participate that they can become hobbits, Jedi knights, pirates, or princesses – depending on the mood of the day. One of them runs the video cam and “directs” it, while the others dramatize it all. I love watching their imaginations work, and it seems like the more of them there are, the more freely the ideas flow.

Another advantage that I’m personally enjoying…we’ve had our own built in babysitters for about four years now. Some people may think that’s unfair to the older siblings, making them perform “child care” duties, but we make an effort not to overuse that advantage. Besides, it’s great experience for the older ones, and there are enough of them to share in the duty that I’ve never yet heard one of them complain about having to watch their little brother and sisters. (I think secretly that most of them are still little girls at heart, and they enjoy the excuse to occasionally play dolls with a little sister, or sword fight with the little brother.) And besides, what teenager doesn’t love the excuse to be “in charge” for awhile?!

Another benefit is the fact that they always have a friend around. Now I’d be kidding you to say that they are all “best buds” and they get along marvelously all the time. Hardly! But more often than not, the laughter and “bantering” of friends outweigh the heated words of disagreeing siblings. We often tell them that friends will come and go in life – but sisters will ALWAYS be sisters, so do all you can to maintain relationships that you will cherish for a lifetime.

That’s where I’ll finish up with the advantages…relationship. We are so thankful to have all these individuals, with all their idiosyncrasies and unique personalities, together in our family. We cherish the relationships we have with our children, and can’t imagine how we could ever get along without any one of them. And just think about ten or twenty years down the road, when they all have families of their own – we’ll be filled to overflowing with relationships and relations. How fun!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

What you don't know won't hurt you

July 18, 2005
By: L.A. Kohl
(published in the Wed., July 27 edition of the "Bullseye") One view we enjoy around here is the view back in time…whether it’s watching “Little Women” on video, reading Laura Ingalls Wilder or Jane Austen books, or listening to grandparents tell stories about the good ol’ days. Several months ago, my aunt told a story that a friend of my grandpa’s told them long ago. We all got such a kick out of it, I thought I’d share it with you.

My grandpa’s friend owned a general store, and one day he went to another town to visit a fellow general store owner that he knew. When he walked into the man’s store, the owner was chuckling and laughing aloud, and said, “I’ve got to tell you about what just happened in here!”

It turns out that a lady had walked into his store a little earlier that day, carrying a small brown paper package. She meandered around a bit, but didn’t really seem to be shopping for anything in particular. The owner walked over to her and asked if he could be of any service.

“Well,” she began, “I had a nice batch of cream that I was intending to churn into butter today, but this morning I found a dead mouse in it. I threw the mouse out, but couldn’t bring myself to throw out all that nice cream, so I went ahead and made it into butter. It turned into some of the nicest looking butter, but I can’t bring myself to use it, when I think about that mouse.”

As the owner was worrying about what was coming next, the lady continued, “So, I brought my butter here to see if you would trade me. I don’t expect you to pay me for it, but I thought perhaps you could give me some of your butter in exchange for mine, and then you can sell mine, because what people don’t know won’t hurt them, right?”

The store owner pondered that for a moment, and then said, “Well, give me your butter.”

He took it in the back of the store, and came back a few minutes later with a new package of butter for the woman. She expressed her sincere gratitude and then left. That’s about the time the visiting store owner had walked in and found the man chuckling.

“But surely you didn’t trade her some of your good butter for her ‘mouse’ butter!” the visitor exclaimed in shock.

“For heaven’s sake, no,” the owner replied, “I just took hers in the back, re-wrapped it in some different paper, and gave it back to her; because I figured what she don’t know won’t hurt her!”

That was the end of the funny little story, but it made me think. Maybe that old saying is partly correct – what people don’t know won’t hurt them. But just remember next time you’re tempted to pedal off your mousey butter on some unsuspecting soul (or some other more modern form of deceit), there’s another old saying that you better keep in mind. What goes around, comes around! Or, if you prefer it a little more biblically; what you sow, you will also reap…dead mouse germs and all.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

We all have our moments...

July 16, 2005
By: L.A. Kohl
(published in the July 20, '05 edition of the "Bullseye")
We all have stories about the funny things our children say. They’re just so dog gone cute – these little tykes that are trying to figure out what words to use at the right moments. There’s even some old saying about “out of the mouths of babes." But I’m finding out that it isn’t just “babes” who come up with some hum-dingers!

Just recently, one of our teenagers (who shall remain nameless) came up with a good one. We were setting down in front of a movie, and for some reason one of the girls decided to ask, “What does DVD stand for?” just as those three letters popped up on the opening screen.

“Well, duh,” our occasionally clueless teen piped in, “it says right there ‘Pure Digital Magic’!”

Oh my – we all looked at her like, “what school did you go to?”

In her defense, she realized her acronym error in an instant, and burst out laughing with the rest of us. (Around here, we try not to laugh at anyone, just with them…so we were glad she joined in the laughter, because we just couldn’t hold it in!)

This is the same girl that made a similar quick assumption four years ago while we were in India. We were walking around this big town, trying to find some type of mailbox or post office to mail letters back home to the states. We weren’t having any luck, but all of a sudden our daughter caught a glimpse of a trash receptacle (about the only one we ever saw in the whole town.) Except she had “mail box” on the brain, and the only thing the little square, blue metal box said was “Use Me."

“Hey, that says “US Mail!” she quickly assumed.

Oh, sure. I can just see it now. Hey, there’s one that says “Japan Mail” and another one that says “China Mail” and by golly, there’s one that says “Timbuktu Mail!"

Okay, so once again she realized that she hadn’t quite spent enough time thinking about what it really said. (Who was her reading comprehension teacher anyway – shucks, homeschooling means you can’t blame anyone else!)

I should quit picking on that particular daughter and move on to another one who also has her fair share of “blonde moments” (like most of us do, regardless of our hair color.) But this particular one is a favorite of ours. We’ve gotten many chuckles out of it over the years.

It was a few years ago, and I had cooked a large bag of frozen, pre-cut chicken wings - using some new recipe that was a hit. The kids were counting them out, figuring out how many each person got. Problem was, after they ate their share and there were no more – they still wanted more because they liked them so much.

This brilliant, mathematical daughter lamented out loud, “If only mom had cooked one times as many, then we’d have plenty!”

Okay – so who was her math teacher, anyway? Ugh!

But alas, it’s time to draw these endless stories to a close, seeing as how the “Bullseye” has only given me one times as much space this week!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

How Our Flag Came to be...or NOT

July 6, 2005
By: L.A. Kohl
(published in the July 13. '05 edition of the "Bullseye")
It was the Fourth of July weekend…and we were returning from Columbia late one evening. Nate was having a hard time staying alert while driving, and the kids in the back were tired and arguing. I decided to “kill two birds with one stone."

“Hey Nate – why don’t you tell the kids a story?” I asked, figuring it would help keep him awake, and help quiet the younger ones.

Without hesitating a moment, he began this silly tale that for some reason I thought I’d share with all of you. Let’s see if I can retell it, in a condensed sort of way:

“Long ago, there was a small island by the name of Lahua-ua, that had a prince named Kalawala. Now the island had a long standing tradition, that before becoming king, a prince had to prove himself by performing some great and daring deed. Other princes of generations past had slain sharks, went exploring to distant islands and rode whales, among other things.
Now, our young prince Kawala-ala (as he was sometimes called) wanted to perform the greatest, most daring deed of all, so he announced to the people of Latuna-wooa (as it was sometimes called) that he was going to build a large ship and sail halfway around the world.

‘Oh great prince, how you be our king, if you on other side of world?’ the people asked.

‘Good point,’ replied Prince Kapatawana (as he was sometimes called). ‘Then I have to go all the way around.’

‘Ugh – that be much too far and long a trip!’ they lamented.

‘Not if I go south and sail around the bottom of world, where it be smaller,’ our wise prince replied.

So off he went one day, with a crew of sturdy natives, to begin his adventure.
As you may have guessed, the island of Lawua-hua (as it was sometimes called) was in the tropics, and none of the native Lawua-huaians had ever sailed anywhere out of the tropics. So, imagine their surprise one morning, after sailing past 45 degrees south latitude, when they woke up to a world of whiteness. Snow had fallen during the night!

‘Burrrra, buurrrraaa,’ all the islanders said through their chattering teeth.

But the snow was so fascinating and beautiful, they wanted to celebrate and play with it. Thus, all the natives dressed in red went to the stern, and all the natives dressed in blue went to the bow of the ship…and they had their very first snowball fight! The snowballs flying amongst the red and blue lads shone like bright white stars. And that is how our flag came to be.”

One moment please…what about Betsy Ross? Okay, so there’s a little more to the story.

“When Prince Kutua-ona (as he was sometimes called) returned to the island of Latuka-lua (as it was sometimes called) he married a young maiden. Her name probably should have been Princess Oolahua, or Princess Lana-wana, but alas – it was merely Elizabeth.
So, King Kaluawala and Queen Liz (as they sometimes came to be called) had many years of happiness together. They loved to tell the story of the king’s great adventure, especially the colorful snowball fight, to their children, who in turn told it to their children. Amongst those grandchildren was a young girl named after her grandmother, Elizabeth. Or, Betsy, as she was sometimes called.”

And now, THAT is how our flag came to be. Or at least, that’s a spur of the moment, fairy-tale version…just don’t go repeating it to your history teacher.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I'm Proud to be American

June 30, 2005
By: L.A. Kohl
(published in the July 6, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")
By the time you read this, we will have just finished celebrating our country’s birthday. Many of you celebrated by playing ball, flying flags, eating watermelon, making homemade ice cream, and of course – watching fireworks. But amidst all that fun and recreation – did you take time to really think about what an awesome privilege and blessing it is to live in the “the land of the free and the home of the brave”?

I honestly hadn’t thought a whole lot about what a great country I was born into, until I left if for a season. Spending over two months in India a few years ago gave me a new appreciation for how much our nation is truly blessed. We are blessed with so many natural resources, diversity, physical wealth, spiritual and personal freedoms, and countless opportunities for ourselves and our children.

While in India, we befriended a “dhobi” – a man who washes clothes, by hand, for a living. He had a grown son. This dhobi had scrimped and saved until he had enough money to help his son go off to the big city and get educated in something other than washing clothes. Now the son had completed that education, but couldn’t find a job because his father, or no one he knew, could help “bribe” him into a position in that field…so, he was probably destined to return home and take up the trade of his father.

In America, if a person decides to flip burgers at the local fast food joint for their career in life – at least it’s their choice, and it wasn’t forced on them by a society that says you can’t try to do more, unless you’ve got the money to bribe your way up the ladder. Many can’t afford college, that’s true. But as Americans, we have scholarships, grants and student loans to help out with that. If college isn’t your thing, there are also many technical and trade schools to choose from. And there are small business loans available for those who are creative and gutsy enough to strike out on their own. My point is: the opportunities in our country are just so vast, compared to the rest of the world.

Here’s another thought…how many beggars do you see standing on your street corners? Sure – we’ve got homeless people that we occasionally see in Columbia standing at an intersection – but there is also a food pantry and shelters that they can go to if they get desperate. I’m talking about beggars on every street…not being able to walk through a city without having beggars follow you, or reach towards you, or pull on you. Beggars are almost a normal part of everyday life in most of the world – but America is so materialistically blessed that we rarely reduce people to that station in life.

I know that America’s not perfect. But thank God America is what it is. Many men and women over the past two hundred and thirty years believed in it so much that they fought and died for it. Not only that – but they believed in the concept of freedom so much that they fought and died so other countries could experience it, also. So let us not forget what a blessing it is to be an American, or forget Who it is that has blessed us so richly, lest we loose His blessing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Insights from my Mobile Front Porch

By L.A. Kohl
June 25, 2005

(published in the June 29, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")

With our two weeks of managing youth camp over, we’re finally home again. (Well, some of us are anyway – our van and two of our teens are off to Mexico on a mission trip, and another teen is leaving today for youth camp at Windermere.) I thought I’d fill you in on some insights I learned this year, from my camping front porch.

Within the first few hours, I learned that rain can be extremely loud, whether you are sleeping in a camper or in a metal roofed cabin. So loud that it robs you of sleep and gets your week started with that “I’m all worn out” feeling right from the get go!

I found out that mothers of small children can still do the limbo…with the help of a few energetic, encouraging teenage girls! I’ve got pictures to prove it.

I saw, once again, that a man in his fifties can still relate well with teenagers. And without any effort on his part, he can even build up a fan club. (Yea, Steve!)

Here’s a cool thing we discovered at camp this year…new technology can be very useful and fun, even at a backwoods camp! The video clips each evening of the day’s activities were highly anticipated by many campers. (“Hey Jake, will I be on the video tonight???”)

I learned that today’s young Marine leader can cheat with the best of them. All in good fun, of course…but cheat all the same! I believe I can even quote him as saying, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough”. As I think about it, that train of thought may someday come in handy for him while serving in active duty…except rather than calling it “cheating”, we should call it “thinking outside the box."

I learned that the “camp nurse” position should probably be renamed the “camp mom” position. Campers away from home need someone to show their little boo-boo’s to, and someone to feel their forehead to see if they are feverish or not. Someone to say, “Ah, I’m sorry you’ve got that little bitty splinter…let me help you.” Someone to say, “You know, I think you’re going to be okay.” It was a BIG job, and I’m glad several other people helped me step in when we didn’t have a “real” nurse on site!

In closing, one of the most rewarding things I saw this week was that yesterday’s enthusiastic camper can become today’s responsible, dedicated and respected cabin leader. It is really neat, after a few years of doing this, to see former campers growing up into young adults and still wanting to come back. But now they come back to serve, rather than be served. That’s a life lesson well worth teaching to the younger generation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Good Girls gone bad, or Not...

by L.A. Kohl
June 19, 2005

(published in the June 22, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye", )
We all talk about teenagers sometimes, with a “tsk, tsk," a slight frown, and a shake of our heads. We’re quick to point out that the younger generation is just so disrespectful, or so disobedient, or some other kind of “dis” word. So, I thought perhaps you’d enjoy hearing about some teenage girls who did a very lousy job at camp at being ….BAD!

All of these particular girls shared a cabin together for the week – except the oldest of them…she was in charge of a cabin of younger teens. On the last night of camp, this group of five girls decided that they would really like to pull some pranks…play some tricks…be sneaky…something like that. A couple of them were thinking that this was their last year for getting to be a camper, as they will be graduating high school next year. So, after everyone in the camp had been asleep for about an hour, they snuck out of their cabins and met up to plan their schemes (with TP and whipped cream in hand.)

They just couldn’t help themselves though…they did everything so correctly! Earlier in the evening, they actually asked permission from the camp pastor if they could get up late and do some “stuff." And then, after they had snuck out of their cabins – guess what they did first? They went to see the night watchman and get permission from him, also! Strike one at being “bad."

After they gained all this permission to be “naughty," they decided it was time to TP something. But, they kept thinking that they really didn’t want to make a big mess for someone to have to clean up. Thus, they decided they would wind it into the volleyball net and write something. But, these girls have very few “four letter words” in their vocabulary. After much contemplation, they decided to write “ENCOURAGE” across the volleyball net in toilet paper…that was a big theme we had tried to teach the campers that week. Strike two at being bad.

I have to insert here that these girls were video taping everything they did – for evidence, I guess? Who knows, but anyway, next they wanted to video themselves playing a trick on someone with the whipped cream they were carrying around.

Could they squirt it all over some sleeping camper’s pillow? Perhaps…but when the camper came to, with whipped cream all over their face, they’d probably scream and wake up half the camp. Not a good thing, our nice pranksters decided. So, in order to avoid the camp-wakening scream, they decided they would just have to stage the whole thing themselves, for the sake of the video. One of our five lay on an empty bed in an empty cabin, pretending to be asleep. The girls covered her hands in whipped cream, and then gently tickled her nose. She reached up and wiped at her face, of course getting whipped cream all over it. Looked real enough on the video to be considered a “prank," without the accompanying loud scream! Strike three – you’re out, girls.

You may have struck out at being naughty, young ladies, but your actions “encouraged” me and many others. Thank you for being so dog gone good. I wish our world was full of more teens like you…or at least, I wish our media would tell us more about the ones like you, and less about the disobedient and disrespectful ones.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Good-bye Front Porch, Hello Camp!

By: L.A. Kohl
May 25, 2005

I’m writing this at the end of May...just as our homeschool year is drawing to a close, and our hectic month of June is looming before me. Nate and I are in charge a Christian youth camp, and this year that looks like living at the camp for two weeks in June. And the two weeks prior to that will be a “whirlwind” of final preparations.

Why do I bother telling you that? Because it means my “front porch” will have to be vacated for awhile. There are seasons in life like that. Times when I feel like I don’t have a spare moment to sit down and think about anything...much less write something worth reading. So, when you don’t hear any views from me, you’ll know why.

Do I regret my over-committed, busy, all work and no play (or pay) month? Well, as a stay-at-home mom, I’m used to the “no pay," so that’s a non-issue! But there are lots of “costs” to myself, my husband and our family because of what we’ve chosen to do. However, those of you who have been involved in any type of volunteer work know that the rewards almost always out-weigh the difficulties.

There’s the “cost” of lost time and income. With Nate being self-employed, any time he spends on camp is time lost earning money for our family. But wow – it’s amazing how the past few years that we’ve been involved in this, there always seems to be LOTS of business work for him to do in April and May, which pays for our month of June. That’s just a “God-thing” that we couldn’t work out if we wanted to.

There’s the “cost” of lots of stress and lost sleep as I try to figure out what kids should go in what cabins. What cabin leader should work with what age of kids? What will the final schedule look like? What will we do with the dozen extra kids that invariably show up at the last minute? How many cases of soda and candy do I buy for snacks? What kind of decorations do I buy, and how much money can I justify spending on such “non-essentials”? On and on I could go, but you get the picture.

But all that is off-set once camp finally begins. I get to hear kids exclaim how “cool” some of those decorations are. I finally get everyone situated in a cabin, and most of them are happy with their placements. I get to see kids eagerly line-up for the much appreciated afternoon “snack shack” visit. And most of all, I get to know some of the individual kids that come to camp.

There are too many of them to get to know them all personally – but that smile and hug you get from a few of the girls that you have in a class, or sit by in chapel...those kinds of things are priceless. To see a youth’s face glowing with excitement and awe over a new skill they’ve just mastered, or over a new spiritual decision they’ve just made – that beats any pay-check or personal free time we could have had.
 
So, off I go, as camp registrations are flooding the mail-box and cabin assignments are looming before me. Who knows, maybe I’ll come back with some great insights from my camping front porch! I have learned this much: life may not be simple, but it is rich.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Don't Let Your Wings Get Clipped!

By: L.A. Kohl
May 7, 2005
(published in the Wed., May 11 '05 edition of the "Bullseye")
All over the country, high school graduation ceremonies are upon us. For those of you “leaving the nest” to go on to college, I’ve got a little story for you.

College can be an intimidating place for an eighteen or nineteen year old. Especially for those, like most of you, who have attended high school in small communities. That’s where I was at....well, I won’t say how many years ago.

I made the decision to only attend college for a couple of years.  Conveniently, the college I chose to attend offered a two year Associate’s Degree in Computer Science.

Computers weren’t an option at my high school; although I believe they set-up a classroom full of them the year after I graduated (isn’t that the way it goes?) I only knew it was a quickly progressing field, and there ought to be many jobs for me to chose from with a degree like that. In order to get that specialized degree in two years, though, I had to take very specific classes each semester.
My first semester was pretty cut-and-dry as to what I could take. (You can’t imagine my relief during the first day of “Intro to Computers” class when our teacher told us how to turn the computer on – I was hoping I wouldn’t have to ask!)

When second semester rolled around, my advisor suggested I take the 300 level Statistics class, because it was required for my degree, it wasn’t offered every semester, and it fit well in my schedule. I agreed, thinking that I should get it out of the way. It didn’t occur to me that I was a 100 level freshman, and 300 level meant upper-classman course. Not until my first day of Business Statistics class, that is.
Our highly professional looking, thirty-something teacher strutted into class and started calling out the roll call. When he got to my name, he didn’t hesitate to tell me that I was a lowly freshman and I had no business being in his class (not his exact words.) He looked at the rest of the class – maybe 40 all total, all juniors and seniors – and said that these students were going to have a tough time passing his very rigorous class, and he saw no possible way that I, being only an inexperienced freshman, stood a chance.

I gotta tell you, his little intimidation speech almost convinced me he was right...but not quite. I wanted to graduate in two years even more than I wanted to drop his class.

Over the next week or two, I saw him humiliate various upper-classman, also. I realized it was his cut-throat, business world approach, and anyone whom he didn’t think was “up to par” for his course was fair game. It was during that first couple of weeks – as I watched upper-classman dropping his class right and left – that I decided I didn’t care if he wore designer clothes, drove a hot convertible sports car and strutted around like he owned the place...I was going to pass his class.

Not to brag or anything, but I not only passed his class; my final grade was a straight “A." I hope he never again tried to show a freshman the way out the door.

Graduates, there will be plenty of people in the adult world to cut you down and tell you you’re not capable. My hope for you is that, as you spread your wings to leave the “nest” you’ve been raised in, you won’t let those wing clippers get the best of you. Instead, stand on your own two feet, spread your wings, and let them watch you soar.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Multi-tasking Mothers

By: L.A. Kohl
April 28, 2005
(Published in the Wed., May 4, ’05 edition of the “Bullseye”)

As Mother’s Day approaches, I wanted to write something that would be fun for all of you amazing women out there. As I thought about it, I couldn’t get away from the idea of “multi-tasking."

That is a pretty new term, isn’t it? (I’m not always in-the-know about what’s new and not new.) One of those modern buzz words that people like to use?  It may have originated as a computing term, but I’d be willing to bet it was a man that transformed it into a word that we now use in everyday life. Can't you just see some guy, quite proud of himself for having talked on his cell phone to a client while he was also driving to his son's soccer match, thinking, “Wow – this is the modern man – able to do more than one thing at a time. We’ve got to come up with a term for this...” And the rest is “buzz word” history.

However, all of you women out there know that it is not a new concept. I believe we have been multi-tasking for years...no, more like generations. Our grandmothers called it something like “killing two birds with one stone”. To us, it’s as natural as breathing. Different women have different things that they multi-task...but we are all very familiar with it.

I, for instance, can give a spelling test and type an email at the same time. Or go over a language assignment while making lunch. Or brush my teeth while rotating laundry from the washer to the dryer. You get the picture. I imagine other women out there do things like talk on the phone to a client while planning what they’ll fix for supper after they get home. Maybe some walk the dog and push the baby stroller around the neighborhood, while getting their daily “work-out." Some can talk to their husband and wipe a toddler’s nose, while listening to a child explain when his next ballgame is going to be. The tasks themselves are endless and varied – but the point is, they are “multi!"

I know some of you men out there are thinking, “Well, don’t males ‘multi-task’ also?”

My foremost point of reference in that regards is my husband. That may not be a fair representation of all of mankind, as he’s the king of “I can only do one thing at a time." (He would prefer to call himself "focused.")

It really throws him for a loop if he’s on the phone and a child runs up and asks him a question. It can cause him to go into a near vegetative state – he suddenly can no longer comprehend what the person on the other end of the phone is saying, or what the child is asking. The only thing that seems to cross his mind is, “Oh no, I’m being bombarded with two things at once!”

Either that – or the child may as well be invisible and mute, because their dad hasn’t got a clue that they’re talking to him. I just laugh every time it happens, and think to myself, “I love him, but it’s a good thing he’s not the mom!”

So anyway, here’s an idea for all of you “focused” men out there. Give that special woman in your life a wonderful Mother’s Day by trying to make sure she doesn’t have to multi-task during this one day out of the year.
Good luck with that one...you might as well try giving her the day off from breathing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Spring has Sprung, all by Itself?

By: L.A. Kohl
April 12, 2005
(published in the Wed., April 27 '05 edition of the Bullseye, Vol. 1, No. 27)

As I examine my physical “view from the front porch” during this time of year, words cannot express how much I admire it. The awakening colors all around are so vivid. The many shades of green in the budding foliage – from pale yellows to dark greens – are so refreshing after the dullness of winter. And the splashes of bright colors throughout – like magenta redbuds and pure white wildflowers – make it that much more breath taking. As I contemplate all this, I can’t help but switch “views” from a physical one, to a philosophical one. Louis Pasteur said it best, “The more I study nature, the more I am amazed at the Creator.”

In a recent language assignment, one of my girls had to write a report, comparing evolution with creation. One of the basic “creation” arguments she used, which I really like, was this: could an explosion in a watch factory produce a fully functioning, precision watch? If that sounds absurd, then how much more absurd is it to believe that some big, cosmic “bang” billions of years ago produced planets, stars, galaxies – an entire cosmos, so expansive our minds can not even comprehend its extent? Not only is the universe complex, interrelated, and expansive – but think about all the intricacies of nature itself, right down to the single cell. They say that DNA is a very complex code in and of itself, which makes each and every one of us unique. Have you ever heard of a “code” that came into existence all on its own – with no designer?

I personally have never been able to believe that everything began with a “bang”, followed by millions of years of progressing, evolving life. (The 2nd law of thermodynamics happens to be on my side.) You may say I’m just a simple-minded, religious fanatic who doesn’t know any better. After all, could any well educated, scientific intellectual believe in such a faith-based thing as a “Creator?" I’ve already quoted from Louis Pasteur, (and I could quote from Isaac Newton, Dr. Wernher Von Braun, and others) but consider this modern day example.

Antony Flew. I just found out about him a few months ago. He is an 81 year old British philosophy professor, who has taught at some prestigious British universities, including Oxford. Mr. Flew has spent decades writing books, articles, and lectures about the lack of evidence for a God, or an intelligent designer. Some have called him “the most influential atheist philosopher in the world." However, about five years ago, after a nationally televised debate with Gary Gabermas (a philosophy professor at Liberty University) Mr. Flew began expressing second thoughts. He stated, “I’m an atheist with big questions.”

After a few more years of debating, searching and studying such books as Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, Mr. Flew has now announced that he is no longer an atheist, but a theist – a person who believes there is a God, and that God was the intelligent Designer and Creator of life. Check out Mr. Flew for yourself. I found this article on the web: http://www.worldmag.com/displayarticle.cfm?id=10094.

For a purely scientific look into the evolution/creation debate, I’d suggest the above mentioned book by Mr. Behe. For a little simpler reading, Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation by Dennis R. Petersen is one of our family’s favorites.

There are a vast amount of books, websites, and resources from many scientists and intellectuals who firmly believe in Creation, if you’re willing to question the theory of evolution. As for me – perhaps I am simple-minded, but the view from my front porch is enough evidence to support an all-powerful Creator and intelligent Designer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Boy, oh Boy, oh BOY!

By: L.A. Kohl
April 9, 2005
(published in the April 20, ’05 edition of the Bullseye, Vol. 1, No. 26)

On occasion I have heard about radical feminists who believe that there is no difference – other than obvious physical ones – between males and females. They believe that women are only “conditioned” by society to be the nurturing, care-giver types, and men are conditioned to be the “strong, adventurous” types. Otherwise, we’d all be basically the same.

All I can say to that is – they must have never had a boy of their own!

We have a nearly ideal set up to produce an atypical, “girly girl” male – if that were possible. Our one and only son (who just turned two years old) has six big sisters. This amounts to all types of female influence and “conditioning” opportunities. He’s surrounded by dolls, dresses, emotional ups and downs, and “Eeeek...it’s a snake!” types of reactions.

Let me just say for the record...it isn’t working.

When he was a few months old, one of his first words was “vroom, vroom." None of our girls ever did that. Their first words were things like “Dada”, “kitty” and “ducky." Well, he got the “Dada” one – but after that came words like: car, boat and tractor.

Anything with a motor in it gets his attention. He notices machinery and big trucks when we’re going somewhere – he loves to shout “TRACTOR!” whenever he sees one out in a field, or anything that remotely resembles one, like a bulldozer. He has talked about airplanes ever since we took his dad to the airport back in January. Hardly a day goes by that he doesn’t say, “I gonna fly airplane!” A few days ago he watched a helicopter, so now he not only wants to fly in one of those; he claims he’s going to “drive a heh-coper."

What about aggression? I don’t believe that boys are just “conditioned” to be more aggressive than girls. This boy, born into a house full of females, goes around pointing his finger and saying, “Bang, bang, bang!” for the fun it. Any stick, pencil, or broom handle is fair game...when he swipes it up into his little hands, it is now a sword, and you better watch out. He has clobbered a big sister many a time, thinking he was just having fun. To his sisters’ credit, they don’t always put up with it. One time, after Josiah had done some dastardly deed, I heard his three year old sister yell out, “You better run for your life!”

My girls have always enjoyed being outdoors, but my boy takes it to extremes. So far this spring, I have found him alone outside three times, when no one let him out of the house. I finally figured out his trick...if the window is open, he climbs on something, pushes on the screen until it pops out at the bottom, then out he goes. My girls were never that desperate to escape.

Most kids like animals, right? I have a few girls that even like frogs and lizards, but all but one draws the line at snakes. A few weeks ago when the four youngest children were outside together, Josiah was sitting on the ground playing happily. Then, they all spotted a small garter snake slithering within a few inches of Josiah. The females, in one accord, began screaming and crying...they thought their little brother was history. He just gawked at the snake and his sisters like “what’s the problem?”

Those liberal, free-thinkers can talk about equality and conditioning all they like, but I’d like them to explain away little Josiah. I think he’s living proof that “boys will be boys!”

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

How does your garden grow?

By: L.A. Kohl
April 5, 2005
(published in the Apr. 13, '05 edition of the Bullseye, Vol. 1, No. 25)

If you came to visit me sometime, you would see something that resembles a garden spot a few yards off the front porch. Unfortunately, it’s not a view worth bragging about most of the time.

Nevertheless, each and every spring, we get these tempting visions of 10 foot tall sweet corn, tomato vines sagging under the weight of red, juicy tomatoes, and cucumber vines loaded with potential pickles. This year was no different, and so we started by tossing a thick layer of “natural fertilizer” (pee-yew!) on the garden spot a couple months ago. The first Saturday in April found my husband spending all morning tilling it up, and then we actually planted a few seeds before the day was over.

Imagine...part of our garden was in the ground by the first of April. I don’t think that’s ever happened before. Since then, I’ve been wondering, “Could this finally be our year for gardening success?”

We always start out with these good intentions, but by the end of July (sometimes sooner) I’m usually saying something like, “Why do we waste our time trying this gardening thing every year?”

It would be easy to blame it all on poor soil. We live on a hillside that grows mostly cedar trees, so that is a good excuse...but I know it’s not all the soil’s fault. Any successful gardener out there knows it takes more than good soil. It takes time and effort.

There-in usually lies our failure. We have the best of intentions, but when it comes right down to it, we really don’t make the time to be good gardeners. I really admire those people who are successful gardeners, but I’ve noticed that they usually have already raised their children, or else they have smaller families than we do. My husband and I have to constantly remind ourselves that we’re in a “season” in our lives when our children are, and should be, our priority. That’s fine with us, but it means that sometimes we have to resign ourselves to the fact that we don’t have time to produce a bountiful garden, or create a beautifully landscaped yard, or maintain a spotless home or vehicle. Instead, we have all these active, rambunctious, sprouting and growing children all around us, needing lots of time and TLC.

Thus, the garden sometimes goes to waste and doesn’t get the attention it needs. Someday, Lord willing, our lives will slow down a bit and we will have time for such things. While we’re waiting for that day, and fruitlessly (pun intended) practicing those gardening skills, we’ll enjoy the little growing lives all around us that God so generously “planted” in our family!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A Front Porch View of....Smoke!

By: L.A. Kohl
March 23, 2005
(published in the Wed., Apr. 6, '05 edition of the Bullseye, Vol. 1, No. 24)

Seeing as how there are some of you out there expecting me to write this article, here you go! But, let me say that I’m not going to enjoy writing it, and I hope and pray it’s the last opportunity I ever have of doing one like it.

Yes, recently the view from our front porch did include the presence of smoke...lots of it for a few moments. And no, it wasn’t from the barbeque grill or the outdoor wood furnace. It was from a “ground cover” fire that got started because my husband wanted to do a little clearing and help the kids make S’mores.

He wasn’t really to blame. He did the right kind of things...clearing leaves and debris around a perimeter, and making sure the wind wasn’t too gusty. But somehow one small gust blew something over the cleared perimeter, and within moments flames were spreading through the woods in the direction of our house. Our older girls, plus a couple of their friends, were down there with him and tried to help get it back under control, but all the dead, dry leaves in the woods during this time of year just made it too difficult for them to handle.

It was one time when my husband was quick to admit he needed help...which doesn’t happen very often! The fire was still several hundred feet from the house (and the phone) so he jumped in the vehicle to come up and call 911. As he left, he yelled at all the girls, “Don’t get too close to it, go up ahead and start clearing a path, and pray that the wind changes!”

Anyone that has ever had to call “911” knows that it seems to take forever before they arrive, since you’re well-nigh holding your breath. In reality, it was just a few minutes. But within that time, those hard working, and harder praying, girls were close to getting things back in control...because the wind did change directions. They said they literally felt it happen. Gotta love it when that happens!

Volunteer fireman also started arriving at about that time, and they helped ensure that things really were under control. You also gotta love those people who are willing to volunteer their time, any day or night, to just drop everything and go help someone out that they may or may not know.

So, once again, we’ve learned that the best laid plans can go awry...and good intentions sometimes get you in trouble. However, when it was all over, we found a little pile of burning debris and roasted our marshmallows so we could make S’mores.

I think in the bigger picture of life that could mean this: things often don’t go the way you plan, but you can still try and make the most of it, especially for the sake of your children. You know that old saying about when life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Well, I guess we now have a new saying around here...when life gives you a wildfire, break out the marshmallows!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Progressing Modes of Transportation

(published in the Wed., Mar. 30 '05 edition of the Bull's Eye, Vol. 1, No. 23)
By: L.A. Kohl
March 15, 2005

When I look at the vehicle parked beyond my front porch, I have to laugh at how I’ve “evolved” in that regards. I grew up with a father who, according to my mom, is a “car-aholic”. He often traded vehicles once every year or two, and he loved to spend time on the weekend washing and/or waxing the car. It was usually a nice kind of car that started with a "C," ones like Cougar, Camaro, or Corvette (that one came AFTER I left home!)

Thus, when I became a teen and started thinking about the kind of car I would soon want to own, I was convinced that an early 1960’s vintage Mustang was just the thing for me. (Such a rebel - a non-C classic for me.)

Now is when I have to laugh, because not only did the Mustang never materialize...I’ve never even owned anything with less than four doors, unless you count my husband’s pick-ups. Funnier still, can you guess what current mode of transportation is parked out front? It’s a 15 passenger van...about as far removed from my teenage dreams as you can get. However, it is the essence of practicality, and in a large family that over rules almost all other motives.

It didn’t happen over night, so I’ve been able to acclimate myself to it gradually. It started with the four door cars, then to a mid size SUV. Next it was a couple of different full size conversion vans, then a full size SUV. But, even that would not seat nine, and thus began the search for just the right vehicle for our less than normal family. An 11 or 12 passenger van might have worked, if we never wanted to do a big grocery shopping or pack suitcases in it. Otherwise, the back seat needed removed to make room for “stuff”, and then you’re back to an eight passenger vehicle. No good.
So, we resigned ourselves to the fact that in America, about the only other option was a 15 passenger van, unless we wanted to start shopping for school buses. And when you’re going to get that practical, you might as well go all out. We got vinyl everywhere on the inside – seats, floor, everything. That way, we reasoned, when it needed a good cleaning, we could just hose the thing down, inside and out.

When you take the back seat out, you can fit half a grocery store in there, or use it like a small size truck. Take the back TWO seats out, and a husband can use it like a “good ‘ol boy” sized truck, while also lugging around the kids. (My hubby has gotten the thing stuck three times in the last three weeks trying to use it thus...too bad they don’t make 4x4, 15 passengers.) Put all the seats in, and you can haul the church youth group around, or your own kids plus all their friends. Going on a long trip to visit family? No problem. Even when adding in the grandparents, there is still room for all 11 of us, plus luggage, plus a make-shift cot.

I guess as my family gradually changed, so did my ideals and dreams.
But here is a passing thought – take ALL the seats out, and there might be room for a 1964 Mustang inside. (Like that’s really going to happen? Not as long as I’ve got all these other priceless treasures around here that need hauling around!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Life from a Toddler's Point of View

(published in the Wed., Mar 23 '05 edition of the "Bull's Eye", Vol. 1, No. 22)
By: L.A. Kohl
March 5, 2005

I’ve been doing this parenting thing for over seventeen years now. It isn’t getting easier...but sometimes I think it’s becoming more fun.

Don’t get me wrong, the first few years of parenthood were definitely enjoyable. I just think that I, like most new parents, was too uptight about some things. Now I’m realizing that these little ones are going to grow up, no matter what I do or don’t do...so let’s enjoy the process!

One thing I really enjoy is a young child’s way of looking at things. They have such an uncomplicated, simple view of their world. And to them, everything should have a simple solution.

Our three-year-old has come up with her share of solutions lately. One Sunday as we were getting ready to leave for church, our five-year-old was upset that the jacket she was trying to get on was now too little for her. The three-year-old had an immediate answer for her.

“Don’t worry. When the jacket grows up, then you’ll be able to fit it.”

That kind of logic is exactly what I mean. There just aren’t very many unsolvable problems for a preschooler. And when there is a problem, the “KISS” rule seems to apply...Keep It Simple, Stupid!
Another preschooler solution surfaced just a few days later.

Since we have a boy now, we recently decided it was time to buy some hair clippers. Our boy has very little hair, but it was getting kind of shaggy in the back, so one evening we decided to try out the new clippers. It took both of us – Nate had to hold his head still, while I quickly did the little buzz job. Our three-year-old stood there watching the whole thing, and afterwards said that she wanted her hair cut, too. We told her no, it was bed time, and she didn’t need a hair cut anyway.

She must have fallen asleep thinking about it, because the next morning, she once again declared that she wanted a hair cut. I tried to explain to her that she didn’t need a hair cut.

With big, sad, puppy dog eyes she looked up at me and said, “But my hair is long like a girl. I don’t want to be a girl; I want to be a boy, so you need to cut my hair.”

We “older and wiser” adults know that life doesn’t work that way – clothing doesn’t grow with you, and haircuts don’t change who you are. But, I think we also know that sometimes we adults make things a lot more complicated than they really need to be. So, next time a problem arises, maybe we should all sit back for a moment and try to think like a three-year-old. It might not solve our problem – but it may help us take a little more light-hearted approach to it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Word of Caution

By: L.A. Kohl
January 28, 2005
(published in the Wed., Mar 16 2005 edition of the Bullseye, Vol. 1 No. 21)


I’m hesitant to write this article, because I am definitely no expert – least of all, on teenagers. But I feel like I would really like to say a little something to them and their parents, not as an expert, but just as a mom.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to start “preaching” about some moral topic, although I might like to. This is a topic that keeps re-surfacing, and I find it distressing – not so much for myself as yet, but for other parents. I’m talking about teenage drivers.

It all started almost two years ago, when our eldest became one of those teen drivers. She attended a small, private school in Columbia three days a week, and it amazed me how often she would come home from school and say, “Well, so-in-so wrecked their car yesterday.” She’s in public school this year, and the scenario is still the same, and all too frequent. (Unfortunately, she was one of the ones who had a wreck this year.)

As I thought about it, I couldn’t help wondering what changed over the years. When I was a teenager, I could have counted on one hand the number of my peers who had been in a wreck. (One of those was my best friend, who ran into a grocery store of all things – but that’s another story!) I know a big part of the difference is access to their own vehicle. I could also count on one hand the number of kids in my class who had their own automobile as a sixteen or seventeen-year-old. Nowadays, it’s rare to find a teenager who doesn’t have their own “set of wheels," or one of their parents extra ones.

I’m not against teenagers being able to drive. I just think we (I’m talking to myself as well) as parents, need to continually stress to them that it is a HUGE responsibility. A car can be a wonderful means of transportation...it sure beats a bicycle when you want to get to Columbia. But, the flip side of it is that it can also be an instrument of death, if misused. When I was a pre-teen, a brother of a guy in our neighborhood thought he needed to speed around the car in front of him, even though it was on a curve in the road. No big deal, right? We’re all in a hurry sometimes, and do things a little recklessly, don’t we? Well, the next moment he ran head on, at high speed, into a semi that was coming around that curve. The rescue workers had to literally walk around picking up the body parts of the car and the two guys in it. Not a pretty picture, to put it mildly.

Teens - it might feel cool to drive a vehicle and be in control of where you’re going. Makes you feel all grown up, doesn’t it? It may be fun to drive fast and carefree...but something as insignificant as a loose patch of gravel can instantly change the fun into disaster. When it comes to driving – erring on the side of caution will almost always be in your best interest.