Category Archives: Family

2014: The Year of Fun Numbers

happy-birthday-girls

We are rounding out the two weeks on the calendar that we call “Birthday Season” here. All three of our girls were born within two weeks of each other. (Two weeks and a day during leap years.) Strangely, they also fall chronologically in age order: Kirstie’s first, then Julia, then Emma.

It’s a fun, full, frenetic two weeks!

Do you remember as a kid looking forward to “big” birthdays? Every birthday is fun when you’re very young, but certain ones, like, turning ten were fun, because your age took up two places—double digits!—and of course it was fun to reach thirteen, then being able to claim the title “teenager”. Special years followed quickly with sixteen meaning you can drive (fifteen in some places!), seventeen and eighteen, twenty, twenty-one… they’re all fun!

Of course, strangely enough, as the birthdays keep coming, usually, rather than looking forward to and celebrating the “big” birthdays, most tend to begin downplaying (or completely ignoring) them. You know, the ones that end in “oh”.

This year in the Campbell home, five of the eight people will be celebrating “big” birthdays! Somehow, 2014 is a magic year for us. Perhaps it’s because the year ends in four, Jen’s favorite number? 🙂

The first to celebrate was our oldest daughter, Kirsten, who recently joined the double-digit club. Ten years old! She’s quite glad to be the elder statesmen of the female children in the Campbell home.

Next up will be Alex. He will be a teenager this coming October. Teenager?! Crazy. Alex is such a fun person, it’s hard to believe that he’ll be thirteen. He’s much more of a “kid” than his older brother when he entered his teens. But who knows what the next seven months will do to our second son. Deeper voice? Bigger muscles? OR… just the same, fun-loving, fun-making Alex, with a ‘teen’ at the end of his age?

After Alex, the next “big” days belong to Mom & Dad. Both of us being born in a year that ends in four will be celebrating an age that ends in zero this calendar year—40! I think I can recall, perhaps as a teenager myself, looking ahead to the year I would turn forty. It seemed quite distant. Silly, even. Now that time has slowly brought me here, with all that has been part of those decades, I actually embrace the official entry into my fourth decade. (In some ways I already feel like I’m there!) Jen may feel slightly differently, but we’ll both begin checking the 40s demographic boxes by this fall!

Rounding out the “big” year celebrations in 2014 is our oldest son, Ian. Born in 1998, this boy will be giddy on Christmas morning as he’ll wake up a sixteen-year-old! He can’t wait to be a driver, but he’ll have to wait until the 26th, since I’m sure the DMV will not be open on the 25th. 🙂 I’m excited for Ian. He’s a good kid, and we’ll be celebrating this fun milestone marker in his life for that day and probably the week or so after. (AND, we’ll see what it’s like to RIDE in the car that your son is driving. Yikes? Or, Awesome! … we’ll see!)

So, twenty-fourteen has the markings of a banner year for the Campbell family. Who knows what life will bring along the way, but if God gives us breath through all of these days ahead, we’ll be celebrating the passing of time on all these “big” days.

Do you have big days coming up this year? Enjoy! And celebrate the life God gives you. Each day is definitely special, and worth celebration.

Some numbers are just more fun than others. 🙂

Tappin’ Time!

collecting-sapIt’s almost time to start tapping our maple trees! March is just around the figurative corner. The days are getting a bit longer, the weather a bit warmer—right? It is, isn’t it?—and with all of that comes maple sugaring season!

Last year was our first attempt at the art of maple syrup making. Much was learned—more by error than success—and we are excited to give it another go in 2014.

We are waiting for the temperatures to be above freezing in the daytime, and still below freezing overnight. These are the optimum conditions for good sap flow. Thanks to this very cold winter, we’re pretty late in the calendar year for the first steady string of those type of days to begin.

But it should start soon. The end of next week, maybe?

So we’re gathering supplies (like empty milk jugs to collect the sap, glass containers for the completed product, etc) and we’ll be cleaning the reusable supplies, while also brushing up on the techniques of the process from recommended books and online resources. We have friends “in the business”, so we’ve gathered some tips from them and will be trying a few new things—like not boiling down many dozens of gallons of sap on our kitchen stovetop!—and I am hopeful that this year’s result will be thick, sweet, delicious, golden maple syrup!

As an avid fan of all things winter, it is rather surprising how the prospect of harvesting maple sap to make syrup has actually made me eager for the arrival of spring. (I know, right?! What is WRONG with me?!) I know that really makes me like the other 99% of folks who eagerly await spring’s arrival, but… I do still need (want) it to be below freezing at night. So… I’m not that normal. 😉

Do you have a favorite tradition—new or old—that begins with the advent of spring? Are you a “tapper” like us?

Hang in there! We’re just a few weeks away!

Winter Olympics

winter-olympics

The Winter Olympics are a big deal in the Campbell home. So much of a big deal that we even called up Time Warner Cable and purchased a television package so that we wouldn’t miss any part of it.1

Each of us has a different favorite, but we do watch pretty much every event. (Even things like biathlon and cross country events, and figure skating! OK, that was a low blow… the girls in the Campbell home love figure skating events the most, and didn’t miss any of them, I don’t think!)

We are a hockey family, so we watched almost every minute of almost every game. (It’s true!) And a good friend of mine is a big fan of curling, so that was regularly on our screens as well, both men’s and women’s curling. (Both US teams had a poor showing, but the others were fun to watch.) I remember watching curling matches weekly on the CBC when I was a lad, living just outside Buffalo (and thus, Canada). It’s big all year round in Canada.2

Speaking of our northern neighbors, they ousted our men’s AND women’s hockey teams. They are on our naughty list for sure… 🙂

I’m not sure if it’s just because I love cold weather, and snow, and ice, or if I enjoy the Winter Olympics more simply because they are the less popular of the two Olympic games,3 but it’s a fact: I love the Winter Olympics! Already looking forward to the next games!

What’s your favorite Winter Olympic sport? Which was most fun to watch this time around, 2014? Are there any you absolutely detest and refuse to watch?

Time to pack up the cable box again till 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea! 🙂

  1. The TV package will be removed again this coming week, since the Olympics are done. We will probably sign up again in four years!
  2. Ian wrote a great interview article for our family website this past week. He interviewed the friend mentioned above about his curling experiences. Nice work, Ian!
  3. It really could be this. I’m kinda weird, and I really, really, REALLY don’t like following the crowd. That could be why curling appeals to me, too?

Who’s Your Favorite President?

With today being Presidents’ Day, there has been some presidential talk in the Campbell home recently. Last night at dinner, in fact, one question asked of the children was, “Who is your favorite president?”

The responses, which I clarified again this morning, were as follows:

presidents-day

Cam, age 4

George Washington! (Said with staggering confidence!)

Emma, age 5

“George Washington.” Then, after a very slight pause, “And the president who slept under his horse!” (Ulysses S. Grant, according to Alex and his presidential trivia.)

Julia, age 7

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. (Washington, because he was the first president, and Lincoln “because he’s the only other one I know!”)

Kirsten, age 9 (almost 10!)

Ronald Reagan, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. Reagan made her list because, “He’s one of the presidents I know the most about, and because he liked horses.” And Jefferson was a late addition because… we visited his house. 🙂

Alex, age 12

Grover Cleveland, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Grover Cleveland. (The reason Cleveland is on the list twice is the reason he’s Alex’s favorite president.) 🙂

Ian, age 15

Thomas Jefferson: “He liked gadgets, and the Louisiana Purchase. (That was cool) And he was just smart.”

Dad, age Old

Ronald Reagan, Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington. And, George W. Bush, because he has the BEST quotes/sound bytes.1 He was fantastic. (Really! Are there any better?)

Mom, age Older 🙂

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Calvin Coolidge, and Ronald Reagan. (Hmmm… eerily similar to the Dad!) The Mom gave the most thorough reasoning behind her selections: All of them because they were ‘real’, humble Americans, and “George Washington, because he was humble and didn’t even want to be president. Jefferson because he wasn’t a follower. Coolidge because he didn’t need to say much, and Reagan because the further we get from [the founding of the country] the harder it is to have (and live) those principles.”

(She’s smart.) 🙂

We celebrate this Monday in February two of the men who held that office that had probably the greatest impact on our nation: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Their birthdays both right around that day. (Lincoln on February 12th, and on Washington February 22nd.) But since we call it “Presidents’ Day”, often we lump in other presidents, worthy of laud.

Now, who is your favorite president?

There are forty-four possibilities (or, forty-three, if you’d prefer not to count Cleveland twice, like Alex). Leave your answers in the comments below, with as much reasoning as you’d like. We’ll add your favorites to tonight’s dinner discussion!

Happy Presidents’ Day!

  1. This page has some of the best, but just search the web and there are likely hundreds of hilarious quotes from the 43rd president of the United States of America.

[ThisDay] Sex Sells (Apparently)

One of the posts that has received the most interaction was admittedly expected to attract some attention. I wasn’t just searching for website hits… rather, I was making a point. A fun night out with Emma at the mall turned into conversations about large images of ladies in their underwear—everywhere! That night I posted some thoughts on our much we use sexual imagery in marketing and advertising, and the possible consequences of that. That was certainly a memorable post from January 31st in GregsHead.net history. A close runner up was the story called “My Computer Had a Heart Attack” (a good, lengthy read!). For today though, and the last day in this series: Sex Sells (Apparently). (Thoughts/comments welcomed!)

Sex Sells (Apparently)

January 31st, 2013

Aerie Ad - Girl in lingerieI wouldn’t usually post such photos here. But I guess I’m trying to make a point.

Have we really gotten so used to seeing women in their underwear (or less) that it doesn’t even slightly surprise us?

(My hope is that when you saw the photo for this post on my website, you were surprised, or shocked. It hopefully seemed quite out of place. And it should.)

Last night my four-year-old daughter, Emma, and I walked through nearly the entirety of our local mall, and the volume of near-nudity prominently displayed in store fronts truly overwhelmed me. It was not hidden in the lingerie section near the back of a department store. Rather, right out in front, for every passer by.

I did some research when we got home and found out that there are an inordinate amount of lingerie stores in our mall. It could be that this is the reason that there are so many super-over-sized revealing photos, but still, you can’t walk down nearly any corridor of the mall without being bombarded by boobs.

Aerie storefront display - Girls in lingerie

I know I sound old saying this, but… I don’t remember this when I was a kid!

(Yep. Old.)

Now you can be shopping at the Apple Store for an iPad mini and get an eyeful of what amounts to “soft porn” at the same time. (There’s another “intimate apparel” store across the hall from our Apple Store.)

Am I overreacting here? I’m not sure. I am a guy, of course, and scantily clad, beautiful women do have a certain appeal, but what is that appeal? Certainly it is to my flesh—the part of me that is supposed to be dead. We are all well aware, however, that it still fights for life.

Jesus said that adultery is wrong, but that a man looking at a woman lustfully is just the same (since sin is a heart issue, before it’s a behavior issue) … but, I’m not sure that’s why I feel uncomfortable strolling the halls of the mall. (There wasn’t any lustful looking going on.)

I am more uncomfortable when my boys are with me. Aged 14 and 11 1/2, the internal chemicals are beginning to and have already worked their magic and the appeal of women dressed in little, even posed suggestively many times, well… that’s not something I want to test my boys’ will power on. And all to just find a new favorite well-used video game?

Last night it was Emma, who was certainly taking it all in. Once she said, “More bras! Ha!” (Yes, she’s awesome.) So I’m not really sure what she thinks about it, but she at least finds it somewhat humorous.

spencers

But I think in the end, I just find it sad. Near the end of our mall tour we passed Spencer’s. This particular window display was the most overt of all the stores in their attempt (in my opinion) to use sex to sell. (They might even more be selling sex, not simply lingerie, but…) I actually shook my head at their forwardness, and quickly moved along. Later when I was looking for store displays online to share with you here, I discovered that when you click the above banner—taken from their website, but this was also the current store front display—you have to consent to viewing adult material before going further into their site. So, perhaps they aren’t even trying to hide the soft porn part?

(Note: I actually do remember that my mom would direct us past and cast doubt upon the goodness of Spencer’s stores in our various malls. Though I do think we darkened their door a time or two along the way. I think my sister liked some of the stuff in there? I do not remember such displays in their front windows… but I do have this inner, red warning light regarding their establishment. Perhaps this is not a new development.)

What I think all of this reveals about us (yes, pun intended) is a culture that is certainly progressing more and more towards debauchery. Again, I know that I sound old suggesting that “my generation” wasn’t as perverse as “this generation”, and to an extent, I’m sure I’m wrong. People are people. We’re all dead in sin, none of us can escape that; one generation’s societal moral superiority notwithstanding.

But I really do think this is a symptom of a deeper sickness.

Families are now horribly rent asunder: rampant divorce, children outside marriage, multiple parents (but really no parents), gay marriage, abortion… they are all signs of our inner moral corruption and decay.

So it makes sense that we’d continue to feed our flesh—the part of us that drives this decay—and even progressively think less and less of it, allowing it to have more of a hold on us.

We’re naked under our clothes. (Did you know that?) Nakedness is not the sin. The way it’s used to appeal to our selfish, fleshly, worldly desires can be, and those desires can be. Paul said, “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” Perhaps that applies here.

I don’t think I’m talking about the over-sized posters, though.

It seemed so blatantly obvious last night on our walk through the mall that these are symptoms of a culture-wide decline; gradually slipping more and more toward full worldliness, and farther away from godliness. It makes sense, of course, as culturally we have been removing God from everyday life for several generations now. It’s certainly bound to happen this way.

I know I sound old. (And, I kind of am!) This generation is worse off morally than mine, but maybe not than my parents’ generation? (The sixties, hippies, etc? Could be we improved from that?) And we will continue the downward trend until, as individuals, and families, and then as a society we allow God to resume his rightful position as Father and leader and provider and all that he is and wants to be to us.

Until then, it shouldn’t surprise me what is displayed in the large windows of our public marketplaces. If we continue this way, it wouldn’t be shocking to see actual nudity soon, as well as much more sexual images.

This really is the visible symptoms of a deeper issue.

I want to say, “And I hope for our society’s sake that we turn to Jesus and live full lives as he intended us to!” … but I wonder if that’s my wrong thinking about “life to the full”. Life to the full is messy. We are messy, broken, sinners. We are in a broken world, and though we can experience a taste of true, unbroken life, we are still here, in this mess. And that will never change, until we’re not. So, no matter how much we, as a society, might turn to Jesus … the deeper issue here (not the symptoms) is part of the bigger picture of “full life” that God intended. I think.

That doesn’t mean I have to traverse the mall corridors, though. 🙂

I’ll finish by saying that I hope wherever you are right now, you know the Father, the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent (John 17:3) and that you know his abundant grace and life and are living that fully and free from guilt and condemnation and judgement (John 3:17) … because that is how we’re meant to be.

(Clothed, or not.)


Note: The photos in this post are mostly taken from the retailers’ websites. My iPhone camera was not doing a good job capturing the images I wanted to use for this post. All of these images here were on display in three-times-real-life size in the store windows, as well as dozens more.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 30th

[ThisDay] Life Suddenly Changed

You never know what a day is going to bring. We don’t even know if we’ll see the next day! Life unfolds before us—good and bad, joy and sorrow—without our permission, and usually without much influence from us at all. January twenty-eight of two thousand eleven was one of those days for us. Some new, good friends—our kids had almost instantly taken to them as adopted grandparents—had their world dramatically altered in a moment by a sudden, unexpected death. The ripples from this sudden absence of one changed our life that day, too. Remember to cherish those you love today, and hopefully also know and enjoy that you are cherished by someone(s), too. We never know what the next moment will bring.

Life Suddenly Changed

January 28th, 2011

pacific-sunsetA friend of ours passed away this morning. It was very unexpected, apparently very sudden (though I do not fully know the details) and… it just feels very final.

I have not known this friend very long. We met his daughter and her family a little more than a year ago when they moved to our town. They home school their children and had met some mutual home schooling friends who introduced us and we pretty quickly became good friends. Her parents moved to town shortly after her dad had a massive heart attack (about one year ago) to live in the apartment attached to their house. It was all very God-arranged.

We met Wayne & his wife shortly after they moved to town and, likely due to our good friendship with their daughter and family, they quickly became our good friends too. They were equally quickly “adopted” by our kids as their third set of grandparents. (Really! There was even a signed certificate created by our kids!) 🙂 They graciously offered an open invitation to us to watch our kids any time Jen and I needed to get out for some no-kids time. (And we have taken them up on that invite several times!)

The first time I met Wayne, I realized we had a shared love of words. Both reading and writing. Wayne has been far more prolific than I in both departments, to be sure. I am currently reading a book he recommended, and I had been talking with him about helping him publish some of his books. I hope to still do that for him.

It’s been a strange day. Death has not touched me much in life. Presently, I can only think of two people who were really close to me who have died. My Mom’s dad died when I was 12 or 13. I remember that, and remember thinking, “Wow… that’s weird.” But I didn’t realize till later that reaction was due (at least in part) to my Mom’s relationship with him—I had only been with him a handful of times. The other person is my wife’s brother, Jeff. My brother-in-law for only about a year. He died just before our first son Ian was born. (I remember it was really hard. Really shocking. Very sad.) That’s the reason that Ian bears his name. (Ian Jeffrey Campbell).

Otherwise, death has always seemed to be a couple relationships away from me.

But I know Wayne. He is my friend. I already miss him.

I was processing all of this with another friend in an online conversation when I said, “Life just changed suddenly.” I didn’t mean it to be profound, but the more I thought of it, the more I realized it was true. Life—my life—is now different, and quite suddenly so.

Now, I’m sure I don’t hurt nearly as much as our friends who lost a dad, a husband, a grandpa … and we will be asking God to fill the large void they now (suddenly) have in their lives. He can and I know he will…

But there is a hole. There is an absence. Life… is different.

Each of us is so much more impactful than we admit. (Or perhaps we really don’t realize, or understand it.) Every person we know, every place we go, everything we do … is part of the “fabric” of the lives of all those around us. So, the closer we are, the more time we spend with people, the more the void is felt. But all of us feel the absence. All of us.

So I will (and already do) miss him.

Although I am not as naive as to think that death would never touch me, it still nearly always comes as a shock. We are such hardy, fragile creatures. One moment it’s incredible what we can come through, and the next moment we can be gone within that moment. We just never know.

What that means—since we know that—is that each moment we have is precious. We can very easily get to thinking otherwise. Life’s daily details overtake (perhaps overwhelm) our conscious thoughts. But we just never know when we won’t have the people we love with us anymore. All we know is that we have them—we are with them—now.

Please take a moment today, after you read this, and remind the people around you how much they mean to you. Take a second to encourage some of the greatness you see in them. Maybe take more than a second. We can’t live everyday worried that we are going to lose those we love, but, we can certainly remember to let them know what they mean to us as often as possible.

I’m glad to have known Wayne Leavitt. I hope to see him again one day.

Until then, while I am still here, I am now reminded to enjoy the moments I have with the people whose lives God has intertwined with mine, and to let them know how glad I am that he has.

I hope you will do the same.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 28th

[ThisDay] First And Second Birthdays

Today’s post was a poignant piece, originally published one year after the death of a family friend. We all celebrate birthdays, but it’s harder to celebrate our second birthdays; at least it’s hard for those left behind here in this mortal existence. I wrote this about one year after our friend died, and one day after my mom’s “first” birthday (Jan 26th). If you’d like to read something lighter, January 27th is an active day for publishing in GregsHead.net history. See the list at the end of the post for the lighter fare. But today’s primary selection is just below. Enjoy.

First And Second Birthdays

January 27th, 2012

Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday. January 26th is a circled day on the calendar, celebrated by our family. Has been for as long as I have memories. All day long, we think of my Mom. We call, we video chat, we send cards… we celebrate the life she began on January 26th, 19xx. 🙂

(I don’t know that my Mom has any real problem with me sharing her age, but… just in case… since she reads this blog … Suffice it to say that this year her two-digit age ends with a zero! So in some ways it was an even more memorable/special year.)

I love my Mom and love celebrating her birthday! (Even if we’re not in the same location on the birthday day.)

At some point during that day I was reminded that the 26th of January is also the birth day of our good friend’s Mom. She, too was born on the twenty-sixth day of the first month of the year. If I recollect correctly, she was even born in the same state, not far from where my Mom was born. She too has children who love her, and many grandkids.

But she has another birthday.

A little over a decade ago, she was born into her eternal life. She is now with Jesus. So her birthday is celebrated at least a little differently than the way we celebrate January 26th here, where we can still show our love and see it received, and given back.

It’s better to be with the Lord. The Bible tells us so. But I’d imagine first birthdays are at least a little harder when the one birthed has had their second birthday already, and you’re left celebrating without them.

This week I’ve also been thinking of our friends who are coming up on the one-year anniversary of a second birthday. Tomorrow will be one year since our friends lost a Dad and a Husband and a Grandpa; and since we lost someone who was becoming a good friend.

Death leaves such an absence. It’s hard to celebrate the second birthdays. Again, it’s better to be with the Lord, but that truth seems distant when the life so suddenly changes, and the void is so clearly known and seen and felt.

I know it’s been rough again lately for our friend who lost her Dad. (And I know for many years our friend who lost her Mom has missed her so dearly on many occasions, more than just first and second birthdays.)

It definitely makes me value the days that I have now with my Mom, who’s still only had her first birthday.

The hope that we have runs deep. I know and trust that once we have both passed the threshold into our eternal life, I won’t have to live or think about living life without my Mom in my life. That is a great hope.

But I’ll say it again: for now, on at least some levels, I’m very glad my Mom is still only one.

I rejoice for the lives of the two parents I know, mentioned above, who are missed yesterday and tomorrow. They loved well and are still well loved. I am praying peace now for the kids who miss their beloved parents on their first and second birthdays respectively. But I already know they have hope. And in that I also rejoice.

This talk of “second birthdays” has a bit of a morbid undertone, but if you know our Jesus, it’s a wonderful thing when you turn two.

It’s just harder for all the one-year-olds who are still waiting for their own second birthday.

It will come. And then others will both mourn and rejoice on our two birthdays. And we will celebrate with all of the ones we loved who went before us.

What a birthday party that will be.


Note: This photo of my Mom is slightly dated, but it’s a good one, with several of our kids loving their Grammy. There are not many photos of my Mom in existence, and I’m nearly certain this is the only one published online! So, I might get in a tiny bit of trouble, but… I know she still loves me. Right, Mom? 🙂

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 27th