[ThisDay] Caught In A Snowstorm!

It is a beautiful, snowy day as I write this. Large, puffy snowflakes drift quietly to the ground, piling higher and higher—much to the Campbell children’s delight! Apparently this time of year is a snowy time of year! Two separate posts on January 23rds over the past decade have been about notable amounts of snow. Below is the story some unexpected fun while attempting a walk to the library on one of these snowy occasions. (If you’d prefer a topic on “going to church”, see the links at the bottom!) Enjoy!

snowy

Caught In A Snowstorm!

January 23rd, 2008

Last night I took our four kids up to the library to return some books, and to pick up a few new ones. The library is only half-way around the block, so we bundled up for a nice winter walk. It was even lightly snowing, so it was more fun than usual!

We even sang a song on the way there:

“Going for a walk in the snow to the library,
Going for a walk in the snow
Going for a walk in the snow to the library,
Going for a walk in the snow!”

It was perfect, and the kids did pretty well in the library. We got the books we wanted, and some stamps from the nice librarian. We bundled back up and headed out the door.

What we discovered was astonishing.

Swirling, blowing, blinding SNOW! Where did this come from?!? I just laughed! It was like a joke! What happened to our light flurries??? Well, we had no other way home, so I made sure faces were as covered as they could be and we set out into the storm.

And this was a storm! The wind was a constant 10-15 mph I’d guess, with stronger gusts. And the snow was collecting on the ground – and on us! – at an alarming rate. The worst part was, a third of our trip was heading west, directly into the wind! At one point during that stretch I turned around and pulled Julia in the stroller backwards (which helped a lot I think) and saw poor little Kirstie just closing her eyes and leaning into the wind as she pressed ahead into the blizzard!

It was crazy!!

Once we were able to turn south, and find a bit of shelter behind a giant brick church building, it got a little better. We laughed all the way home through the still rapidly falling snow.

Red cheeks, faces, and other exposed skin greeted Mom when we got home. Mom actually met us in the driveway, as she had seen the fierce winter storm and was coming to get us. But we managed to brave the elements and make it back home safely.

I told the kids as we were fighting the storm that we’d have hot cocoa and hot baths when we got home! And we’d also read a couple of the library books we just worked so hard to get.

And we did. 🙂

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 23rd

  1. This post was also very interesting, and discussion-worthy, if you’ve the time. It refers to a podcast posted in late 2012, or early 2013, regarding the trend toward not attending weekend worship gatherings by many who would definitely align themselves with Jesus. So, if that’s more your cup of tea…

[ThisDay] City Living… Or Not

There were not too many posts published this day in GregsHead history. In fact, there were only four total. That made selecting a favorite a bit easier, but I believe I would have chosen this particular story against most competition, anyway. Please enjoy this little anecdote from a bedtime just a couple years ago. 🙂

City Living… Or Not

January 21st, 2012

we Campbells live in a thriving rural metropolis.

Nestled on the outer eastern edge of the once-vibrant technology town of Rochester, NY—R.I.P. Kodak—our town is home to nearly seven thousand people of various ilk. This is the place to be if you want to experience cultural, ethnic, religious, and economic diversity. We’ve got it all!

But for some reason, Kirstie decided this week that she wants to live in NYC.

“I am going to live in New York City some day,” she proudly announced to her Mom. “I just really want to live up high in the air, overlooking the city,” she explained to her Dad.

Neither Mom nor Dad can even stand the thought of visiting the Big City, so the expressed hopes and dreams of our seven-soon-to-be-eight year old daughter were (more than) somewhat repulsive to us. “New York City, eh?” we slowly pondered a loving response, “Well, that’s a long time from now, so we’ll see what God has in store when that time comes.”

(We were at least partially, and quite deftly, employing the fine art of deflecting/distracting from/deferring the less than desirable, far-off dreams of young children.)

Fast-forward to bed time.

It was a very windy night. This strangely warm winter has seen a few brief cold spells, and each time they’ve come, they were ushered in by a fierce wind. This night’s wind was particularly powerful—and noisy!

As I was hugging and kissing the girls, tucking each under their warm, fuzzy blankets, I could tell that the wind was very much on their minds. The house was creaking and various scraping noises could be heard on the street outside as sundry items were dragged great distances against their will by the forceful gusts.

“God,” I began, “Please protect this room tonight and its inhabitants from anything that might harm them in this wind.” I started to go into detail about what things God could protect us from, but at the first break in my thoughts I was interrupted.

“Do you think there could be a tornado?” Kirsten asked, with a hint of real concern in her voice.

“No, Kirstie,” I reassured her, “There really aren’t any tornadoes here where we live. It’s pretty crazy, but pretty cool, huh?”

The three girls nodded, and verbally affirmed my mostly rhetorical question.

A moment later, after giving some thought to what I had said, Kirsten asked, “Are there tornadoes in New York City?”

Jumping at the chance, I quickly replied, with great conviction in my voice, “Oh yes! There are always tornadoes in New York City. Really bad ones! All the time!!

“Dad!” Kirstie scolded, in the way only Kirstie can do. Her twinkling eyes looked up and met my big, silly-Dad smile.

I was still smiling at my innocent, yet clever, yet loving jab at my oldest daughter’s earlier proclamation, when the brief silence was interrupted by her younger sister, Julia.

“I am never going to live there!” she said in her very tiny, very matter-of-fact tones.

Caught a bit off guard, I enjoyed a deep belly laugh—we all did!—and then I gave Julia a big hug and said, “That’s my girl!”

If you know Julia, you know that this was perfect is so many ways! She knows what she wants, and she just says it!

I love seeing the personalities of our kids shine through, even at the earliest ages. Julia is a very “black-and-white” person; very matter of fact. And she’s incredibly cute! That response was just quintessential Julia, far beyond what I can relay in a few sentences.

I don’t know if we swayed Kirstie any that night, but we all did have a great laugh. She might still be on a mission to live in the big city. Or not. Time will tell.

But one thing’s for sure: Julia is never gonna live there!

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 21st

Thankful [Memory Lane]

Each Thursday in August we’ll be taking a trip down Memory Lane! I will be posting some of my favorite stories ever published here, part of celebrating ten years of blogging—August 2003 to August 2013. Some posts are taken from books, and others (like today’s) have only been published online thus far. You’ll read stories that are funny, stories that are sad, and several heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post to read more. I invite you to enjoy these moments from the journey with me, too.

You’ll probably notice, reading through these Memory Lane posts, that my kids are a very important part of my life. I love being a Dad, despite the challenges, hard moments, hard weeks. As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s pretty amazing how much I learn from the kids (seems like it would be vice versa, no?)

This story was of another hard day that became so beautiful, just by being grateful.

Thankful

July 12th, 2011

There are days that it’s incredibly hard to see the good side. Where you’re so completely overwhelmed by the crushing weight of sadness, or failure, or just plain pain that you can’t see a way out of and seems it will never end.

For whatever reason, we’ve had more than our share of those around here lately.

But last night as I was putting the four youngest kids in bed, for some reason I decided to start (quite randomly) naming things that I was thankful for. “Thank you for Mom… and for (insert sibling name here)…” was how I began. Then I began just literally saying any word that came to mind. Some things I saw around their room, or then any related item or word. It quickly exploded into a fun game of who can think of the most random thing to be thankful for!

And the neat thing was, it worked.

The kids were not that excited to go to bed last night, but that little exercise lightened their hearts, and perhaps enlightened mine.

I found it was easy to rattle off all sorts of “good” things that we can be thankful for. Stars, trees, the sun, the moon, Grandmas & Grandpas, other friends we love, books, paper, paint, carpet, air conditioning, and so on. So I began intentionally thinking of “bad” things. (Or at least, weird things to be thankful for.)

“Thank you for toilets. For bottoms. For toilet paper.” Emma (our three-year old) picked right up on that, “Thank you for pee pee… AND poo poo!” And then I actually made myself say, “Thank you for HOT days.” (Reasoning in my mind that, though I loathe and detest the heat, I do love a good, juicy tomato … and they rather enjoy hot days.)

This seemed to work for all of the kiddos from the youngest (just about 2) who would grunt his approval with a little, “mmm hmm” after every word or phrase I’d say, to the room full of his three sisters all spitting out random words as fast as they were able to fit them in. It really was incredible!

One Thousand Gifts by Ann VoskampIt made me think of a book that Jen asked me to read, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Jen reads her blog, and so decided to purchase her book, and was challenged (in a good way) to try to change her perspective on life, as Ann has tried to do. It’s kind of a “glass half-full vs glass half-empty” idea, but a bit different. Her challenge was just to write down 1,000 things that you are thankful for. A few each day.

I think we may have hit about 400 last night alone! 🙂

There are so many things that we can be thankful for. It really just depends on your perspective. If you can come at life looking for goodness, you’ll often (usually) find it. If you’re expecting bad, you’ll usually end up there.

So maybe try it tonight. Putting kids to bed… after they are in bed… on your way home from work… just let you brain bounce from one thing to the next and speak it out, “Thank you for _____.” Not just things that God directly gave us, necessarily, but think about the things that are part of our everyday lives, and how they help us. We really do take much of life “for granted”, as they say. Doing so lifted my spirits last night, and four other tiny spirits.

Perhaps it can lift yours, tonight, too.

Special Moments [Memory Lane]

Each Thursday in August we’ll be taking a trip down Memory Lane! I will be posting some of my favorite stories ever published here, part of celebrating ten years of blogging—August 2003 to August 2013. Some posts are taken from books, and others (like today’s) have only been published online thus far. You’ll read stories that are funny, stories that are sad, and several heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post to read more. I invite you to enjoy these moments from the journey with me, too.

This recent stop on Memory Lane is a reminder that life is so much more in the moments along the way than most of the other stuff we spend ourselves on, day after day, running into years. And just like last week’s post, Loss, I’m also reminded that the moments don’t even have to be “good”—or, what we’d usually call “good”—to be a special moment; a moment worth enjoying and remembering.

One of the greatest things about parenting is how much your own kids can teach (or remind) you about life.

Special Moments

November 2nd, 2012

Some days just have those moments.

Today has had plenty. (And not all good ones, mind you.)

Jen had a super-frustrating day with (she said) every one of the kids, who just wouldn’t listen to her at all. They only wanted what they wanted when they wanted it. Eventually, she just couldn’t take it anymore and walked away from what she was trying to do, attempting to clear her head.

(It was during this time that Jen decided to make soup, which is something she wouldn’t usually do, and without a recipe, which is something she definitely wouldn’t do! The best part? It turned out great! Was a nice “moment” for Jen to enjoy a great (tasty) bit of success in an otherwise hard day.)

At dinner, we came to another moment where I erupted into a very intense monologue full of very direct, clear reminders of things we’ve taught the kids since they came into this world. Very direct. Pretty loud. And I meant every word of it.

That was a moment.

Then Mom went out for the evening to do some shopping, but mainly to “clear her head”. Much needed, and hopefully she is being refreshed. (I’ll find out when she gets home!)

As the clean-up team took care of the kitchen (and the other two took care of the other rooms) I bathed the youngest two. They really needed it.

(Note: I am quite sick. Nasty head cold, stuffy, bad cough, just keep saying, “My head feels weird…” So… that makes for a more interesting bath time. Oh, and Cam is just as sick as me!)

That was a moment. (But not too bad, actually.)

The girls got their baths, and I got everyone dressed for bed and hair brushed and all that must be done. Then Alex got his quick shower and we were ready for the evening activity.

Tonight, it was singing.

I got my guitar, and a box of chord charts for worship songs, and we just started playing through them. Some the kids knew, most they didn’t. But that didn’t stop them from singing. And dancing. And smiling. And really LOUD singing!

That was a moment. A different sort of moment. (A heart-smile kind of moment.)

I encouraged Ian to get his bass guitar out, and Alex converted a plastic pumpkin trick-or-treat bucket into a percussive instrument, and suddenly we had a band. And even though we didn’t know the song to begin with, by the end of one song Julia had a huge smile on her face… and tears on her cheeks.

“I’m crying!” says little Julia Gayle. “Why are you crying, Julia?” I asked gently. “It’s just because of the singing!” She almost couldn’t believe that music could do that to you, but at the same time, she knew deep within her that it did do that to her.

That was a moment.

Then came bedtime. We usually play with a Dad-animated stuffed friend at some point. Tonight it was the stuffed friend, Baboo. (Cam’s name for his little red-white-and-blue doggie.) We laughed, we had fun, we hugged (Cam wanted two hugs..) and we prayed together for our family.

That was another moment. (After which Cam wanted another hug…)

Days are full of moments. Some are good, some are “eh”, and some are pretty bad (or really bad). I feel like today kinda had all of those for us. Maybe most days do. Sometimes we get tricked into focusing on the bad moments though and we miss the little good ones that are still there, or can be there if and when we look for them.

They’re there. They were for us tonight.

Keep your heart and mind and eyes fixed on Jesus, and he’ll show you the moments. He’s in the moments, actually. All of them.

And if we know that—and live that—that is what makes them special.

Misdiagnoses [Memory Lane]

This week we’ve been taking a trip down Memory Lane! Each day this week I’ve been posting one of five of my favorite stories ever published here. Some are taken from books I’ve published and others (like today’s) have only been published online thus far. These are some funny, some sad, some heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post. I invite you to enjoy them with me, too.

Today’s adventure was one that little Julia would just as soon forget! What started as a routine, Sunday night visit to the Emergency Room at our nearest hospital, unfolded into a full-blown medical catastrophe! Rather than give away too much here in the introduction, I’ll simply give way to the story as originally told, Misdiagnoses.

Misdiagnoses

August 14th, 2012

It’s been an interesting few days here in the Campbell home.

(I know… when isn’t it, right?)

You see, it all began with a phone call from Grandma. (Well, sort of.)

Last Wednesday, Julia and Dad (that’s me) went out for an OK Night. Just Julia and Dad out on the town. McDonald’s for french fries, games, and play place. Then we hit a couple more places before the night was through. It was a blast!

And the best was still to come!

The next afternoon, Mom drove Julia, her two sisters, and their baby brother, Cam, over to meet Grandma who would take all four youngest kiddos back home with her for three days! They were so excited!

The first night was just wonderful. They love being at Grandma and Grandpa’s house! They even enjoyed a big buffet for dinner. Nice!

(We four back home were having good fun of our own, too!)

But then came Friday.

Now, whether it was the food she ate at the buffet… or the PlayPlace the day before that… or just something else entirely, we still don’t know. What we do know is that that afternoon Julia began throwing up.

(Yes, I said “began”.)

It was probably only a few times, but it was quite unexpected (and messy, according to Julia) so it just caught everyone off guard. Grandma even called us asking, “What do I do??”

“Keep her hydrated and plenty of rest,” was our best advice, not ones to jump to the medicine route. So sad, but Julia wanted to stick it out, and Grandma did, too.

Well, a day of rest on Friday seemed to do the trick. Fever had subsided, throwing up had ceased (though she was still battling the “other end”…) and she even perked up a bit, becoming her regular chatty self.

Whew! Glad that’s over…

NOPE! 🙂

Saturday morning they went to a park. Julia played. And played. When they got back, she was completely spent, hurting, tired, and “out for the count”. She slept on the ride over, and looked pretty bad when she got out to come inside our house. Still had a fever, too.

She went right to the couch and laid down.

We ate dinner (she ate something else… I think?) and made it through the rest of the evening till bedtime.

At this point, as I’m getting everyone ready for bed, Jen comes and tells me that she thinks it might be something more serious than just a little bug, so she wanted to call the doctor and see what they thought. I figured they’d probably just tell us to call them Monday, but it couldn’t hurt. Well, to my surprise (maybe Jen’s, too?) they suggested we bring her to the nearest emergency room to have her checked out, based on what Jen had described to them over the phone.

Interesting. But, they were just thinking it might be some sort of infection thing that could need antibiotics. They just wanted to be sure.

Sure would have been a welcome thing in the hours that followed.

(Yes, hours.)

I’m sure that you, the reader, are aware that late at night on weekends, hospital emergency rooms can have long wait times. Well, as Jen tells it, they actually got in pretty quickly. But, once they did a quick once-over of Julia, they decided (thanks to her not having been “immunized”) that they needed to run every possible blood test. Fun!

No. Not fun.

Jen and Julia left our house at around nine o’clock pm. The hospital is 10-15 minutes drive from our home. They got in rather quickly… but then waited HOURS for the follow up tests.

(Meanwhile, back at home… I have put the other five to bed, enjoyed some quiet reading time, and at this point, started to wonder why I hadn’t heard from the hospital-bound duo. It was 11:45pm and I still hadn’t heard anything! I decided to call and get an update… voicemail! By about 12:10, still having heard nothing, I tried the phone again… and again, voicemail! Worried something had gone wrong, I remembered that I can “Find My Phone” thanks to Apple’s clever technology! I just hoped they weren’t in a ditch somewhere, or worse!! I was relieved to see the phone located in the parking lot of the hospital. 🙂 Jen had left the phone in the van … so a quick call to the hospital and the nurse filled me in.)

BUT THEN…

(I know… how does it always go like this? Can’t it ever just be simple, and go exactly according to plan??? Guess not…)

Around 2:00am, they are still waiting for blood tests, filling Julia with an IV, and now there is some concern that perhaps what she has is appendicitis! In fact, it was such a concern that they ordered a CAT scan for her. That meant, in her very tired, very sick condition, she had to down a large cup of bad-tasting liquid, then wait two hours… and then they would scan her to see if the appendix was inflamed/infected, or whatever it might be.

Two HOURS!? That’s 4am, folks. For my poor, sweet, sick, tired six-year-old Julia!!

At this point, I finally grabbed a few fitful naps… only half-sleeping in case I received a call from Jen, updating me on their progress. I awoke every thirty minutes or so, praying each time I did that Julia could rest, and that God would help the doctors find whatever might be causing this.

At seven o’clock, I awoke again, and found no van, no call.

Time to check in, I thought. So I called our cell phone and talked with Jen, who informed me that they were pretty sure it is appendicitis, and they have scheduled an operation for about an hour from now when the surgeon was to arrive.

!!?

SO, we went from a stomach bug, to a possible minor infection requiring anti-biotics to… emergency surgery???!

It seemed that was the consensus, so I jumped to action.

I definitely wanted to be there—before the surgery—but our van was already at the hospital. And, well, I had the other five kids here! They were all sleeping still, of course, but I couldn’t just leave them, even if I did have a ride!

The wheels were quickly turning in my head. I called Grandma & Grandpa to let them know how the adventure that had begun at their place had escalated. Then I talked with our neighbor about getting a ride to the hospital. Then, deciding to leave the kids in the care of our oldest, Ian, I woke up Alex so that he could stay with Mom while I came back to get everyone else (once Julia was in surgery).

All was going mostly according to plan. We were getting pretty close to eight o’clock. I was hoping that they were running later rather than early.

Alex and I got out and thanked our neighbor for her kindness, bringing us to the hospital so early on a Sunday morning. We rushed inside and asked where to find Julia and her Mom. They said she wasn’t on their list, so that probably meant she was already in the operating room. (No!!) But, they weren’t certain of that, and pointed us in the direction we needed to go.

A brief elevator ride later, we were at the Operating Room area. But… where was everyone? The OR was dark, and there was literally no one in sight?

Weird…

We went down a hall that we knew was not the correct direction or location, but we finally found someone who could perhaps get us to where we needed to go. She tried. She really did. But we kept coming up empty. No Julia anywhere!!

I was really sad that I didn’t get to see Julia before they operated on her! But I just wanted to find Jen at this point, and find out what was going on.

Finally we were sent back downstairs to the ER, where another nurse recognized Julia’s name and took us to the room she had been in that night.

To our surprise—good, happy surprise—there sat Mom, with Julia beside her on a hospital bed. (Looking really, really tired, weak, and sick!)

“Well, hi!” said I. “What is the meaning of all this!?”

I didn’t really say that. But it sounded more fun that way, didn’t it?

Jen explained that the surgeon took a look at the CAT scan results, did his own examination, and he said he was pretty sure it wasn’t appendicitis!

While quite confused, I was certainly relieved. No one wants their six year old daughter to go “under the knife” … do they?

As Jen was explaining, the surgeon returned and explained a bit more that, from everything he observed, and after consulting with another pediatrician that morning, he was fairly certain it was not appendicitis, and that Julia would be able to go home, take a little Tylenol for her fever, and just stay hydrated. “She should be fine.”

Stomach bug… infection… appendicitis/emergency surgery… she’ll be fine.

Hmm. 🙂

And so, we went home. Julia (and Mom!) slept nearly all of the day. As the day went on, she perked up more and more. We finished the day with a movie, and all went to bed feeling very, VERY relieved.

This morning, Julia went back to the doctor to make sure things were progressing as the surgeon had hoped. After her Sunday night experience, Julia was very apprehensive. She really didn’t want to go through all that again!! We assured her (as far as we could tell) it wouldn’t be like that again, and thankfully… it wasn’t. The current diagnosis is some sort of bacterial thing in her intestines.

What will it be tomorrow?!

For now, our little girl had a much better day, was smiling and playing through much of it, and is now peacefully sleeping.

Which is where I plan to be soon…

What a wild, crazy series of events! And all thanks to a handful of well-intentioned misdiagnoses.

Growing Up

Campbells long agoWe here at the Campbell home are experiencing the winds of change. I think perhaps we have been for quite a while now, but I’ve been noticing it again lately.

Life moves quickly. In some ways, too quickly.

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
—Ecclesiastes 3:1

Yeah. That’s the other thing that keeps coming up: Seasons.

We live in a climate where the weather reminds us of the benefit of the cycle of seasons. From the snows that bury all of life in a fluffy blanket of white powder, to the beauty of spring in all its colorful splendor, to the heat of summer that produces a bounty of edible sunshine, to the more subdued colorful beauty of fall where we enjoy the harvest, the cooler days, and well… pretty much everything about fall! (Yes, that is my favorite!)

And just like there is beauty in every season of weather and the repeating cycles that are evidence of our never-ending annual circuit around the sun, there is beauty in every season of life in our home.

Campbells nowThe scene above was from another time. Those boys are fourteen and eleven and a half years old now. A decade of life has been lived. I’d have to call it a full decade, though I know that we could not possibly have lived more life than anyone else. But since I am the one who lived it, I have all the memories. I know all that has passed here in those years.

I know of the lives gained. (Do you see all those amazing people in the second picture here?) I know of the losses. I know of the successes and failures. I know of the dreams that were not realized, and the ones that were. (Including ones we didn’t initiate.)

As I pondered the current seasons I saw under our roof, I also thought ahead to the seasons that are now not too far off.

Ian, our oldest, is definitely in a different season—and so, then, are we with him—and in less than two years, he’ll be sixteen years old. He’s already developing his own strengths, and likes, and even goals and dreams for his life. He’s begun the transition toward his own adult life, to be sure. With aspirations of God bringing him a wife, and buying a home, and raising a family… I considered that all of that could quite feasibly occur even in the next decade.

That’s astounding!

I was then time-shifted a decade ahead, pondering that somewhat distant season. Cam, the youngest, would be a teenager. Thirteen years old, and the youngest of four teenagers.

Wait. Let’s let that sink in.

Is it still sinking? Go ahead… I’ll give you a moment. Yes, four teenagers. At one time. Under one roof.

Alright. Moving on …

At the same time, Alex will be about to turn twenty-one years old; a significant age in our culture. (Though we Campbells are not very much bound to any cultural expectations or limitations attached to chronological age. But that’s for another post…)

And Ian? He’ll be twenty-four years old.

When I was twenty-four, I was becoming a father. To Ian. (My dad became a father to me when he was twenty-four.)

So, when Ian has children… that means I will be Grandpa! Wowee!

At this point in my fancying the future, I decided I should slow down and return to the current season. It was getting a little too wacky! Time to return to the present and enjoy the current season!

But that’s just it. That’s the greatest thing about the seasons: we’re not really in one place for too long.

It’s been a (full) short decade since the two tiny boys were the only ones scurrying around our home. (And around the country at that point!) So much life was fit into that short time span. So much more will be lived in the years to come.

And who’s to say what that next decade will bring?

I can dream of what will be, but I can not know it. I don’t know what will happen to us or in us over the next season of life, nor do I even know if we will remain in this world. There’s never any guarantee of that.

So we fondly remember and relive the seasons we’ve come through, and we can even dream of seasons that may be, but with no assurance of what will come, the best place we can be is right here, right now; living fully in the season(s) of life right now.

I feel like this is an ever-present theme in my life, and so on this blog. Don’t you?

Perhaps it’s just the season I am in.

I don’t know what the future will hold, but as I approach the completion of four decades of life on this planet, I do know that it goes fast, and it’s full of really good and also really hard things.

And through it all, Father is with us.

That is our hope, and the one constant we have through all of these seasons.

I actually don’t mind getting older. It’s so amazing to watch life unfold before me. First my own, and all that Jesus wants me to know along my own path. Then in my marriage to Jen, watching him work in her, and in us. And after that to watch the seasons of life develop in our six children. What a privilege to be part of it, and to watch, encourage, train, and cheer on those young and growing lives.

At least, for this season.

And maybe a few more.

Real Stuff

I am not a food or nutrition “nut”. (And I can’t imagine I’d ever be accused of being so.) But I do keep moving more and more toward making sure that I and my family are eating actual food. Both because of health, and because of taste!

However, there are some holiday traditions (and family traditions) that transcend the “eat real food” principle.

Cool Whip would be one of them.

Much of the fluffy white stuff was consumed atop much pumpkin pie over the past two days (and likely more will be today). There was mention of perhaps purchasing real whipped cream, but that idea was quickly chastised, and Cool Whip was the one and only choice.

And I do admit, it does not taste bad. But as I sampled it, I thought, This doesn’t even have any milk in it, does it? To my surprise, it does: Skim milk and a small amount of light cream. Still, when you see the rest of the ingredients—and you know that whipped cream, at least from scratch, is just whipped heavy cream, and maybe vanilla—you do begin to wonder why anyone would put this substance inside their bodies…

Friday was leftover day, and that meant copious amounts of turkey were consumed throughout the day. Well, what is turkey without mashed potatoes, right? Due to other events scheduled for the day (Ian’s playing in a hockey tournament, and he had two games on Friday!) there was not time to properly address the lack of mashed potatoes problem. Being resourceful—and apparently lax in principle—I grabbed the box of instant mashed potatoes we had sitting in our pantry. (I think it may have been a gift from some friends last Thanksgiving!)

As I was making the fake potatoes, I thought of several things. First, Jen and I used to eat these regularly when we were first married. I think that’s because, second, my Mom used to make potatoes from a box when I was a teenager. (Maybe younger, too.) She makes the real stuff for all holiday family gatherings, now, though. I don’t think I made real mashed potatoes until just a few years ago. Now that’s all that I make, exclusively (…except when we have this box, and we’re in a hurry.) 🙂

When they were finished and I whipped up the little flakes into what resembled mashed potatoes (though somewhat plasticky/rubbery) I recounted those thoughts to my kids as we ate them. Again, they didn’t taste bad—in fact, our eight- and six-year olds sang their praises—but all I could think about was what a bad substitute they are. And I wondered, too, if the list of ingredients could be as crazy as Cool Whip?

Well, let’s have a look at the two pseudo foods I’ve mentioned here, shall we?

Cool Whip

Water, hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut & palm kernel oils), high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, skim milk, (<2%...) light cream, sodium caseinate, natural and artificial flavor, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate, sodium polyphosphate, beta carotene (color).

Instant Mashed Potatoes

Idaho® potatoes, with emulsifier (mono and diglycerides from vegetable oil) and preservative (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bisulfite, citric acid, mixed tocopherols).

Note: The potatoes we had were the Aldi brand, Chef’s Cupboard (I think), and not Hungry Jack. But I figured they’re close enough for the representative photo.

After I read those lists of ingredients to the kids, I got out the bag of potatoes and read the “ingredients” on that: Potatoes. (And we had mentioned that whipped cream is just cream, again, one thing, with maybe some flavoring.)

“Which of those sounds more like something you would eat?” I asked with a knowing smile.

“The potatoes,” said a chorus of children in confident unison.

So my final question here is, what is wrong with us? Why do we put that stuff in our bodies? Is it only because it’s cheaper? Easier? Is it really because of the taste? (I can answer for my wife on the whipped topping question: YES, the TASTE!) 🙂

I find it so fascinating that we treat our bodies this way. It’s not really that difficult to make mashed potatoes from real ingredients, nor obviously to make whipped cream (you just, whip… cream?) but our culture makes icons out of the fake stuff. Fascinating.

Well, aside from some family and holiday traditions that just can’t be broken, we will continue towards eating more and more real stuff. (Including things we grow ourselves!)

And I imagine our bodies will thank us for it.