Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fun from a College Girl's Viewpoint

By L.A. Kohl
September 4, 2007
(published in the Sept. 12, 2007 edition of "the bullseye")

It just sort of happened as the child-rearing years went by – our children developed a knack for having and creating fun in very simple circumstances. The cute thing is this: the enjoyment of simple things continues even into the college years.

Our eldest is now in her second year of college. We talked on the phone recently, so I could find out what kind of things she found to do over her Labor Day weekend, since she chose not to come home. Here is her recounting of just one evening’s worth of “fun” with her friends…

It was the first night of the weekend - Friday night. One of her friends from Wichita loves baseball, and she wanted a bunch of them to go together down to Springfield to watch the Springfield Cardinals play against the Wichita...ummm…I have to show my baseball ignorance and admit that I don’t know the mascot of the Wichita team. 

Anyway, several were going, so she said, “I decided I could spend five bucks to go watch the game, even though I’m not into sports.”
“Besides,” she continued, “I have never been to a professional baseball game, so I thought, ‘why not?’”
(I chose not to inform her that she still has not actually been to a professional baseball game.)

She went on to tell me that the first half of the game was okay; kind of boring, but she was getting into it a little bit. Then, she said, the real fun began in the second half of the game.

I started imagining the game getting much more exciting and tense, fans standing, yelling, cheering, all that stuff…you know, typical sporting event kind of fun. I was mistaken.

“Kyle and Casey left for a few minutes,” she said, talking about a couple of her good friends, “then they came back to get me because they said they found this really incredible hill for rolling down.”

Thus, she continues to tell me how she spent the second half of the ballgame rolling down an amazing hillside with a couple of friends. That’s what made the second half of the game more entertaining?

“I just had one problem though,” she laughed, “I kept rolling into Kyle and Casey. I guess I roll downhill crooked – so what’s up with that???”

I have to admit, I didn’t have an answer to that question. I did kind of want to ask her a question, something along the lines of, “So what’s up with baseball having a first and second half?” But once again, I chose not to say anything. Besides, she was busy telling me that only one of them actually broke their cell phone in the midst of the rolling antics, and it wasn’t her. That was good news, since she has already ruined one in the washing machine.

“And then after the game and a great fireworks show, we all decided to go to Braum’s for ice cream,” she continued. “We only got lost three or four different times…it was great!”

“Then, when we finally found it, we all decided we’d go to the grocery store side, and just buy one big tub of ice cream and share it all together…so we sat in Braum’s, all of us trying to eat this hard as a rock tub of sherbet with little plastic spoons, knives and forks. We broke a TON of them, and it was just a blast – I don’t remember the last time I laughed so much!”

Rolling down hills, getting lost, and sharing a half gallon of ice cream with friends…that’s what makes life rich for her. And from my point of view, I can say it is quite a relief when I can remain so calm and collected while listening to my college daughter’s Friday night escapades.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A View from the Sardine Can/Van

By L.A. Kohl
August 12, 2007

(published in the Aug. 15, 2007 edition of "The Bullseye")

We have just recently returned from a family vacation. Well, it was kind of a vacation…kind of a family reunion…kind of a mission of mercy. Anyway I view it, however, it was most definitely a study in how sardines must feel once they’ve been packed into that tiny little can.

Our immediate family of nine decided it would be fun to drive down and visit my brother’s family, who live in Houston. Of course, we wanted to be able to take my parents along, as it has been several months since they’ve seen their son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. And then, we also wanted to take some other extended family, whose mom and sister are currently spending several weeks in Houston while the sister has daily radiation treatments. Three of them were able to come along with us…making it a grand total of 14 people in our 15 passenger van. Oh, and let me not fail to mention, exactly half of those passengers were teenagers; six of the seven being female in gender. Lucky guy.

For those who have never been in a 15 passenger, allow me to explain: when all four bench seats are in place, there is about one inch of space between the back seat and the back doors. Thus, we had to tell everyone that it was going to be like taking a flight somewhere, and only taking along a carry-on bag. Absolutely no checked baggage would be allowed. We had to limit everyone to a bag that could fit under their seat. But then, everyone wanted a pillow…perhaps a blanket…a couple books to read…some snacks and drinks. We were packed to the rim by the time we made our final pick-up stop in Columbia, bright and early that first morning.

My husband chose that moment, before we had even reached the interstate, to make a very short and timely speech. I believe, if memory serves me correctly, it went something like this:

“We have a very long way to go today. By the time we reach Houston late tonight, many of you will not love each other as much as you think you do right now. And you will definitely think I am more annoying than you have ever before thought possible.”

Might as well tell it like it is, I suppose.

By the way, did I mention that we had seven teenagers along with us? When we would make a “pit” stop, four of those teens, who were all the way in the back, decided it took too long to wait for all the passengers to pile out of the side doors. They would get the back doors opened, and hop out over the top of the back seat. Watching them try to get back in the van in that similar fashion was quite amusing. I noticed a few odd looks as bystanders would see all of these people flowing out of every possible opening of our van each time we stopped. Once we arrived in Texas, I believe they were probably thinking something like, “And they’re not Mexican???”

Speaking of reaching Texas – that was tough to explain to the little ones. Before we even made it to Kansas City, our youngest uttered his first, “Are we there yet?”

The eight year old understood we weren’t there yet, but she was anxiously awaiting our arrival in Texas. She kept asking, “Are we in Texas yet?”

We tried to explain that when we did actually cross into Texas…we still had a large part of our journey ahead of us. It’s hard to explain the vastness of Texas to a youngster.

But ask me about the confines of a sardine can, and I can now explain that in full detail.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Different View of Teen Relationships

If you haven’t figured it out already, you’ll know it by the end of this article; I have a different outlook on life than your average Joe. Some may say I’m old-fashioned, that I should wake up and join the 21st century. I prefer to think that I am much wider awake than most “modern” thinking people.

Take for example, the recent phenomena of dating. I believe there are much better options for our youth than what society is teaching them. Today’s Hollywood scene continually screams at them, “Find someone you’re attracted to, get alone with them, and do what comes naturally.” Sorry, but we’re not sitting back and letting our children learn that lesson.
Instead, when they were little, we loved to let them watch things like “Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang”, so we could point out the line where the little girl says, “Just as soon as he kisses her, then they HAVE to get married.” Our teens realize that high of a standard may be a little extreme…but they recognize the value of high standards.

Once teens get physical, then they’ve developed a bond and attachment with a person - many times before they really even know the other person. Leave the physical part out of the bargain for awhile, and all of a sudden you have to actually get to know each other. And you get to know each other before you’ve let the physical aspect cloud your perspective.

Recently, one of our older daughters moved us beyond the “boys are for playing soccer and fishing with” level. She came home one night and excitedly announced, “[He] told me he liked me today!” (I don’t want to use names or they’d both be embarrassed.)

This is our first experience at this next level; but I have to admit – it’s going very well so far. They write each other notes and have both agreed to take things very slowly and not hurt each other. They’ve already been discussing their differences – one is spontaneous and the other is a planner, one is outgoing, the other is quiet, etc. They’ve been to a movie…but they went with siblings and friends. They’ve danced together…in a group competition that was being judged by their school’s formal night chaperones. They’ve sat side by side late at night on the way home from a track meet…and did Sinbad impersonations and practiced Australian accents. They are both having LOTS of fun, and making me wish I’d been as wise as they are at their age.

I see it as much healthier than the typical, physical oriented dating scene prominent in our culture. There might be some temporal pleasures in that easy come, easy go type of relationship…but I believe the hurt and damage it does in the long run outweigh those temporary gratifications.

If your teens are going to date, then at least encourage them to get creative in their dating and hold off on the physical stuff. Several years ago my brother-in-law did something I considered very creative and sweet. After getting to know his future bride-to-be in group situations with mutual friends, he decided to ask her out on their very first, one on one, date. After going out to eat and taking her to the hospital to visit her grandmother, he took her to the university’s outdoor amphitheater on a lovely starlit night, and they sat on the stage together and colored pictures (with brand new colors and coloring books – who could resist that?!) while talking and getting to know each other better.

Contrary to what society teaches – teens are not mere animals which have to act upon some physical drive that can’t be controlled. They are individuals with a mind and a soul – and that mind and soul should be sought after even more than the body. All of us “old” people can tell you – the body will deteriorate…but the heart and soul of a person will only continue to develop and blossom, if properly handled.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Soldier's View on the way to Iraq

May 6, 2007 (published in the May 23, 2007 edition of "the bullseye")

We had the opportunity to experience a “view” recently by email, through the eyes of 1st Lt. Brad Shultz who is currently on his way to Iraq. He expressed himself so eloquently that I really wanted to share it with others – so I asked his permission to share it. Our family has known Brad since he was a boy, and we have always been impressed with him. It’s a comfort to know that such quality young men and women are committed to our country, serving faithfully in the military, even anxiously awaiting the chance to go and serve in Iraq.

I haven't been too homesick yet; it is hard to be homesick when you are really excited to be going somewhere new. I got to stop in Guam for a couple of days and I will be in Singapore this week. I am really excited to get to go to Iraq later in the deployment. I have been trying to get out there since I moved out to California [Camp Pendleton] almost two years ago.

I did start missing the sun since I rarely make it up to the flight deck, but the past week I have spent several evenings out watching the sunsets in the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea. It was awesome to…watch in wonder as we sailed past beautiful tropical islands in the Philippines that were still, for the most part, untouched by human hands…beautiful white sand beaches with trees and fauna of every imaginable type. We even passed one island that had a perfectly shaped volcano on it. I can't imagine the depth of God's beauty when everything I see out here is only a shadow of his glory. I look out at the scenes that surround me and I am amazed at the glory of God…An attempt to explain them would ruin the shear beauty and amazement to be had by simply gazing and being awed. So it is that as I have seen many beautiful new things on this trip so far, I have really been meditating in my heart on the beauty of the Creator. It seems as though sometimes we get so lost in the woods, unable to see the forest because we have been so preoccupied with dodging and stepping over the trees that block out path that we lose track of the purpose behind creation. Indeed sometimes we are so busy and worried about the things of this world that do not matter that we take our eyes off the Creator and place them on things that are far less deserving of our attention. If we do look at the beauty that surrounds us every day we have a tendency to enjoy the glimpse of majesty before us without thinking about the greater majesty that is unseen behind it. We live in a world that is prone to over analyze the planet we live on and try to explain it; some even try to explain it as being apart from God.

As George MacDonald put it in his Unspoken Sermons: "In what belongs to the deeper meanings of nature and her mediation between us and God, the appearances of nature are the truths of nature, far deeper than any scientific discoveries in and concerning them. The show of things is that for which God cares most, for their show is the face of far deeper things than they...It is through their show, not through their analysis, that we enter into their deepest truths…To know a primrose is a higher thing than to know all the botany of it -- just as to know Christ is infinitely higher thing than to know all theology, all that is said about His person, or babbled about His work…Nature as well exists primarily for her face, her look, her appeals to the heart and the imagination, her simple service to human need, and not for the secrets to be discovered in her and turned to man's further use."

In closing, no matter what your opinion is about the war in Iraq, let’s not forget the upstanding individuals who are serving there. In a way, they are carrying out a portion of Brad’s George MacDonald quote, in performing “simple service to human need”, and we who are comfortably and affluently enjoying the benefits of freedom, should remember to pray for their success and their safe return.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Highs and Lows of Family Vehicles

By L.A. Kohl
April 1, 2007
(published in the May 16, 2007 edition of the "Bullseye")
Large family = large, gas-guzzling vehicle, correct? For the most part, that’s true. We’ve progressed from an old Jeep Wagoneer, to conversion vans, to a Suburban, and finally to the ultimate…a fifteen passenger van.

However, about four years ago, when our eldest became old enough to learn how to drive, we quickly found that Suburbans and fifteen passengers were not the ideal driver’s education vehicles. Thankfully Nate had a business client who needed some work done, and also happened to have a used car lot, so with a little swapping, bartering and not much money, we came up with what I consider to be an ideal little vehicle. Good gas mileage, AWD to get up our icy driveway in the wintertime, and most importantly from a mom’s perspective – great ratings in the crash tests. I won’t tell you what it is, as I wouldn’t want to be found promoting one car manufacturer over another – I’ll just suffice it to say that our daughter calls it a “SUV wannabe."

Imagine my delight when at Christmas time, our now nineteen year old daughter brought the SUV wannabe home from college and announced that it was time for her to make her own car purchase. She didn’t want to keep driving the “driver’s ed” vehicle…she wanted a car that was all her own. More importantly, she wanted one with a manual transmission, so she would be forced to learn how to drive a stick shift. (This conveniently also guarantees that her younger sister will never ask to borrow her car, as she has no desire to learn to drive a five speed!)

I was secretly cheering inside…now I could drive that little SUV wannabe to town anytime I needed. I could actually have fun driving on Route E and Highway 124, not getting all tense trying to navigate our big bus of a van around all those curves. And instead of having to climb/hop UP into a vehicle, I could actually sit down into the vehicle. By “down into”, I mean way down into…so far down that I have to careen my neck slightly to see over the top of the steering wheel. But hey, not a problem; it’s worth it to actually be able to reach those drive-thru windows.

However, when driving this little low rider, I sometimes pull up to a parking curb and hear an ominous “scrrrrkkch”…the sound of the front spoiler/bumber bottoming out on the curb. It sits so far down, that even though it is a very fine SUV wannabe…I did manage to get it stuck in a field once because the mud was more than six inches deep. Basically, it doesn’t matter how badly a vehicle wants to be an SUV, if you bury the axles, it probably won’t work like an SUV anymore. You’re getting the picture by now; this car sits low to the ground.

I was reminded of its lowly state once again this past week, as I was happily driving along curvy Highway 124 on my way to Columbia. I noticed a dark blob up ahead, right smack in the middle of my lane. It looked like some type of road-kill, lifeless and unmoving…probably a coon or opossum. I assessed the situation and knew I was going to have to straddle it, as there was a car coming from the opposite direction, preventing me from swerving around it.

It wasn’t until I was almost upon it, and then a moment later heard that ominous “scrrrkkch” sound as I went over the top of it, that I realized it wasn’t just your average, shapeless and mushy road-kill.
I couldn’t help laughing out loud as the realization sunk in. I had just bottomed out my little SUV wannabe on a snapping turtle. That was an all time low for us!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Dads and Daughters

By L.A. Kohl
March 14, 2007
(published in the Apr.25, 2007 edition of "The Bullseye")
There have been countless articles and books written on the subject of the importance of the father/daughter relationship. With six daughters of my own, I have a vested interest in the topic. Thus, I eagerly perused another magazine article on the subject a couple of weeks ago, but found some of their advice a little disheartening.

The article was good in that it asserted the importance of a dad spending time with his daughter, and staying in touch with her life. But it also acknowledged there may come a time in a young lady’s life – usually sometime from 11 to 13 years of age – when a daughter may not want to have much to do with her father.

I think we all understand that. As good as the relationship is between my husband and our teenagers (we currently have four daughters who are teens) I still see the “rolled eyes” look and shaking of head that my husband gets from a teenage daughter on occasion. What I didn’t like was the article’s suggestion that there is not a lot you can do about it. It went on to imply that sometimes a dad just has to wait out the “cold shoulder” years, and hope the relationship gets better once the daughter reaches her twenties.

If you are a dad who has taken that laid back approach, let me encourage you to get aggressive and creative in reviving a healthy relationship with your teen girl. Teenagers make some huge choices during those years – decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life – and to think that a dad ought to just sit back and watch his daughter make those choices without his involvement is a scary and dangerous approach.

I’m thinking of something along the lines of a good, old fashioned bribe! If you’re serious about this, you’ll be willing to spend some resources and make some efforts toward results. So, why not offer your daughter a $100 shopping spree, or whatever price you can fit into your budget? Make a day of it…just the two of you. Drive to a mall a couple hours away, wander around different types of stores, take her out for a nice lunch, etc. Hopefully, after an awesome day like that with her dad, your daughter will warm up to you a bit, and be willing to participate in some other one on one activities in the future.

My husband hasn’t done the shopping thing too often – but he has an amazing relationship with all of his girls, because he manages to do lots of varying things with them. He’s done a little bit of everything with them: hunting and fishing together, teaching their 4-H classes, bike-riding, camping, working together on all sorts of jobs and projects, four-wheeling, helping them develop their interests, going to movies together, helping them through algebra, geometry and calculus, and even going on mission trips together. The activities you do are not what matters – it’s the time together that counts. Just being available to your daughter, seeking ways to spend time with her and letting her know you’re interested in her life. Being willing to apologize when you goof up, to let her talk and ask you some hard questions, knowing that she can trust you to give her some straight answers…those are the types of things that can make or break a father/daughter relationship.

One last little thought…it is not your job to just be the “cool” dad, or the tough dad, or the dad with the deep pockets and the car keys. Instead, your job is to love her, guide her, love her some more, and be there for her no matter what. Prove to her that she is precious and valuable, and hopefully she won’t be able to turn her back on a dad who treasures her so highly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Girls, Boys and Tools

By L.A. Kohl
February 18, 2007
(published in the Mar 21, 2007 edition of the Bullseye)
Life has taken on a new dimension the past few years; now that we have a boy in the house. After all those years of girls (which I wouldn’t trade for the world) it’s now rather humorous when the occasional battle of the sexes reveals itself.

One of those occurred recently, when our young son turned four years old. Nate and I were headed to town with the two youngest, Jessie and Josiah. Before we left home, we stopped to get the mail. Much to Josiah’s delight, there was a birthday card for him from his Grandma Kohl, along with a $20 bill.

“Look!” he exclaimed, “I’ve got a dollar – now I can buy something at the store!”

After taking a few moments to try and explain to him that it wasn’t JUST a dollar…it was like twenty dollars all in one; he didn’t really seem to care one way or the other. All he knew was that he had money in hand, and we were going to town.

I, being the more conservative and practical one of the family, tried to convince him that he had just received several new toys for his birthday, and perhaps it would be wise to save his $20 for some other time when there might be something special he wanted. Nate, the ever supportive husband, chimed in and said, “Well, I need to go to Lowe’s – we’ll just look around and see what they might have in their after-Christmas clearance section.”

I could see it now. The two of them would walk into every man’s dream store; dad would see some cool new tool that he really liked, and would suggest to Josiah that was a really neat thing-ama-bob…and the money would be gone. I let my objections be known, and thus, when they dropped Jessie and me off at a near-by store before heading to THEIR store, Nate promised he would be a good boy, and not coerce Josiah into buying anything he didn’t want.

Imagine my shock when an hour or so later, I was putting my purchases into the car, and noticed a box bigger than Josiah helping him fill up his half of the back seat.

He smiled up at me and said, “I bought RED tools!” (He loves anything red.)

Immediately dad began explaining that Josiah picked out that 100 piece tool set all on his own…dad tried to steer him away from it, show him other interesting things…but since it was a $60 set marked down to $20, and since Josiah really liked it, they just couldn’t pass it up.

Jessie took one look at all those fascinating pieces and parts, neatly arranged in their plastic packaging, and begged, “Wow, can I play with your tools Josiah?”

“NO!” he replied without a moment’s hesitation, “Girls can’t use tools.”

(In a house full of women, I have no idea where he learned a sexist remark like that.)

But suffice it to say – Jessie and Josiah are the inseparable duo, and once we arrived home the two of them enthusiastically sorted sockets, drill bits, and all sorts of things I don’t even know the names of, for an hour or more at least. Josiah never once complained about Jessie’s interference. I was beginning to think that tools weren’t such a bad thing for a four-year-old after all. But then, when I was in the other room, I heard Josiah cry out in pain.

As I came back into the room, Jessie looked very guilty, holding a socket wrench behind her back. Josiah was crying and holding the top of his head. An older sister announced that Jessie and hit Josiah with the socket wrench, and Jessie muttered something like, “I didn’t mean to; it was an accident.”

Josiah stopped the tears momentarily, just long enough to glare at her and stammer in his little boy lecture voice, “That’s why girls shouldn’t use tools!”

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Coincidence, or Providence?

By L.A. Kohl
February 16, 2007
(published in the Feb. 28, 2007 edition of the Bullseye)

February…in spite of the snow and frigid temperatures, it’s a month of romance and love, isn’t it?

Often at this time of year, I find myself reflecting on the “love of my life”…not just because of Valentine’s day, but also because that life-altering, first date occurred for us on February 19.

The year was – on second thought, let’s skip that detail – and the place was the Westran Courtwarming dance. We were both juniors in high school; young, idealistic, and with no idea of the journey we were beginning to embark upon with that first date.

Have you ever stopped to ponder the circumstances that brought you and your mate together? To me personally, when I take the time to think about it, those circumstances are nothing short of miraculous.
Nate didn’t move to Huntsville, Missouri until his sophomore year of high school – he was Iowa born and bred. I didn’t get to know him until sometime after that; even then, we were just friends. And then, four short months after we started dating, his family moved again – two hours away. Thus, there are a lot of “what ifs” in our scenario that could have turned out much differently.

Perhaps the first, and biggest one was “What if his family had never moved to central Missouri?” After all, the Kohl’s had been farming in eastern Iowa for over 100 years, and still are to this day – why would one of them chose to move elsewhere?

And in that one’s desire to find more affordable farm land…why did he choose central Missouri, out of all the other states and locations he considered? The fact of the matter is, Nate’s father decided way back in the early 1950’s, when he was just a young, single man in the Marines, that someday he would like to own a large farm in central Missouri.

Perhaps it’s self-centered of me, but I like to think that it was all “providential”…with some greater plan at work than anyone realized.

And then what made Nate decide to ask me out when he did? (Actually, if the truth be told, he had asked me out previously, but I turned him down…let’s not dwell on that.) What if he hadn’t gotten up enough nerve to ask me a second time…and then a few months later his family had moved away and I never saw him again? Believe me, I’ve thanked God many times that Nate was a determined young man! And again, I believe a greater plan was in the works, and not just mere coincidence.

I say all of this to encourage you to take a moment and consider your own story. Whether you grew up next door to your spouse, or met them half a world away from home…I believe in many cases, there was some element of “providence” that brought you and your spouse together. I know not everyone has a storybook type of romance – in fact, some of you may even believe that your first encounter with your future spouse turned into more of a nightmare than a dream. I’m very sorry that life is sometimes like that – but we are all human, and humans are prone to make bad choices on occasion, especially if providential guidance is ignored.

But if you are truly grateful for your spouse, then take a few moments together to reflect upon your not-so-coincidental beginnings, and to thank the One who brought it all to be.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Final Reading Adventure

By L.A. Kohl
February 5, 2007
(published in the Feb. 7, 2007 edition of the "Bullseye")

As our homeschool year began this past fall, my husband suggested that perhaps I should try teaching kindergarten to the five-year-old and the three-year-old (our only boy) at the same time, and see how it went. I was all for it. As much as I appreciate being able to homeschool our children, I’m not relishing the idea of doing it for another fifteen years. If I could get the three year old up to speed, perhaps my job could be finished in only thirteen years.

Don’t get me wrong; we don’t want the little boy to be forced to grow up too soon. In our homeschool, kindergarten takes a sum total of maybe an hour a day tops; so it’s not like he still doesn’t have plenty of time to be a child and play to his heart’s content. In fact, on days when mom really doesn’t want to be a kindergarten teacher and would like to let him play all day, he rarely stands for it.

“Mom, what letter are we going to learn today?” or “When are we going to do some school?” he asks, making me feel guilty for wanting to slack off a little.

We spent most of our first semester trying to get the alphabet down pat. It went well…but I was putting off what came next; teaching them to read. I love it once they figure out the reading process and I relish watching their excitement as they sound out words and read their first sentences. But getting them to that point has always been something I dread, for more often than not it is an extreme test of my patience.

Thus, I let most of January slip by before I pulled out the book; the book that is supposed to help me through this difficult task. The current one I’m using is entitled “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”. (I would not have chosen the word “Easy” if I were writing the title; an adjective more akin to “Hairpulling” seems more fitting.)

Lesson one teaches them two consonants sounds, how to get them to “read” those sounds, and then a word game to help them learn to listen and blend sounds together. We got past the consonants, and were starting the game part, which I thought would be simple.

“We’re going to play ‘Say-it-fast,'" I began. “I’ll say two words slowly, and then you will say them all together, quickly. Say ‘motor’ (pause) ‘boat'" I said, very long and drawn out. “Now, say it fast!”

They looked at each other and said, “Motor (pause) boat," very long and drawn out, but much louder, as if that helped.

“No, say it all together quickly!” I tried to explain. I really didn’t want to say it for them, or it would defeat the purpose of trying to get them to put sounds all together; but eventually I had to, just to show them how the game was supposed to work. Thus, we kept working on “motor boat” over and over; me saying it very slowly, and then trying to get them to say it quickly. When it looked like perhaps they were finally catching onto the game, I went on to the next two words.

“Okay, here’s a new one,” I began. “Say, ‘ice’ (pause) ‘cream’…now, say it fast!”

The boy was all full of enthusiasm now, as he was sure he knew exactly what he was supposed to do…
“MOTOR (pause) CREAM!” he articulated, as loudly and slowly as he could.

Okay, so maybe I should resign myself to the fact that I may be doing this for another fifteen years…

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ramen Noodles, Anyone?

By: L.A. Kohl
January 8, 2007
(published in the Jan. 24, 2007 edition of "The Bullseye")

A short time ago, my husband entered the house and somberly asked, “Where is Jessie?”
Little five-year-old Jessie came running at her father’s mentioning of her name, and he said, “Sit down Jessie…I have some very sad news to tell you.”

I thought, “Oh no, what’d he do…run over one of the cats – or did the cats eat her favorite cardinal?” (Jessie has decided that a cardinal would be a wonderful pet – but as we had to explain that they are a wild bird that wouldn’t like to be caged, she just watches out the window and claims whatever current cardinal she catches a glimpse of as her own.)

No, as it turned out, the news was of an entirely different nature…
“Jessie, I’m very sorry, but I just heard on the radio that the man who created Ramen Noodles died today,” her father stated, while putting is arm around her tiny little shoulders.

Wow, what a blow. Ramen noodles are to Jessie what lobster and a rib eye steak are to many of us – a wonderful treat. Almost all of my children love them, even the nineteen year old…but to Jessie, they are the best, the most wonderful thing that mom could ever fix for her lunch. Unfortunately, mom realizes that they have little nutritional value, and thus refuses to fix them for her more than once a week or so.

She wasn’t too terribly upset by the news – after all, there were packages of Ramen noodles sitting in mom’s pantry, and more to be bought at the store when those were all gobbled up…so what did she really care about the man who invented them?

Some of the rest of us were rather interested in hearing some of the facts, however…and I thought perhaps you would be, too. There are very few of us who haven’t consumed a few packages of those things during our lifetime.

I myself began enjoying them during my short college stint. It was such a simple thing to heat water in the hot pot, dump the package in for three minutes, then drain off the water and stir in that wonderful seasoning packet. Unfortunately, cleaning up the hot pot afterwards was a big pain. (I guess I didn’t own a bowl to dump the noodles into???) On top of that, my room mate had to go and inform me about the extreme amounts of sodium that were in that seasoning packet, and how it would harden our arteries by next month if we kept eating them…and thus, I guess I consumed much less of them than most young adults do.

Which brings up this little tidbit of information…do you know which group of people consume more Ramen noodles than any other group? Graduate students! What other food can you get like a hundred servings of, for the low price of $3.19? And so quick and easy to prepare, as well? It’s like a graduate student’s staple food.

Do you know how long Ramen noodles have been around? (This was a surprise to me.) Their creator, Mr. Momofuku Ando, developed them during the 1950’s, when he decided that an affordable, filling, and easy to prepare food was needed by the poor people of Japan, who were still struggling and diligently working to rebuild their country. Ramen noodles weren’t imported to the United States until 1970; but its worldwide market is now enormous, as a total of 85 billion packages were sold in 2005.
Mr. Ando died on January 5, 2007, at the ripe old age of 96. He claims to have eaten Ramen noodles almost everyday since inventing them in the 1950’s.

Could it be that my room mate was a little overzealous in her artery-hardening claims? Perhaps. So come on, Jessie – let’s go eat some Ramen noodles!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Happy New Year?

By: L.A. Kohl
January 8, 2007
(published in the Jan. 17, 2007 edition of "The Bullseye")

You see it plastered on everything from paper plates to newspaper headlines during this time of year; that little phrase “Happy New Year." But as our family is struggling with some discouraging news at the beginning of our new year, it’s made me stop and think twice; there are no guarantees, are there? Wouldn’t it be nice if saying “Happy New Year” could make it a fact, a done deal…and not just wishful thinking?

Don’t get me wrong – life is good for our immediate complaints. It’s what is happening in our extended family’s…no, more than extended family…extremely close friend’s lives that is so disheartening.

Childhood cancer. The Hallsville community dealt with it over this past year, with little seven year old Timothy Grant. There is not anything remotely “happy” about that, is there? Cancer is an ugly thing, no matter what your age, but childhood cancer just seems the most utterly unfair and despicable of them all.

And thus, as a new year begins, with all of its unknowns and uncertainties…my mind has been full of questions – those “why” kind of questions that everyone asks when life deals you a rotten blow. Why would my daughter’s best friend have to suffer like this? Why, after losing her biological mother to cancer – does this fifteen year old have to suffer through it herself? Why does this family, who has already gone thru so much pain and suffering in their short lifetime – have to go through another struggle like this? It makes a person, even a person with a strong faith, want to cry out and say, “What is going on here, God????”

And that’s the struggle, isn’t it? Not understanding what is going on…wanting to believe that God knows best, and yet not seeing how anything even remotely resembling “best” is taking place. From my little, extremely limited and short viewpoint of life, all I can see right now is “unfair."

In very simplified terms, it’s like when I, as a parent, deny one of my children of something that they think they really want. Every parent has heard their child cry out, “But that’s not fair!” And likewise, God must hear it a million times a day, from His children all over the world, “That’s not fair, God!”
And sometimes, realizing that our small child will never comprehend, no matter how hard we try to explain it, a wise parent’s only explanation is, “Honey, life is not always fair.”

I think at times like this, God is like that…He wants to take us by the hand, and say, “I wish I could fully explain all of the whys and why nots…all of the eternal perspectives that I’m looking at here…but you simply cannot understand all of that right now. You’re just going to have to trust Me on this one, and realize that I never promised you life would be fair.”

And so we try – we try to believe that someday, in eternity, we’ll be able to look back on this short little journey that we called life and say, “Oh, so THAT’S why that happened!”

Until then, we just have to begin each year with our simple little “Happy New Year," and hope and pray for the best. I’ve decided, however, that this year, more than anything else, I want it to be a “Miraculous New Year” for a dear, brave, fifteen year old girl and her very special and supportive family. Here’s to you, Amanda – may this be the most miraculous year of your life!