Solving These Skills

I did it. I memorized the algorithms to solve a Rubik's Cube.

My best time is shown to the right: 1 minute 37 seconds. But I think that was a little bit of a fluke. I can usually solve it in 2 - 2.5 minutes.

I'm pretty happy with this, and I don't expect to put too much additional effort into improving this. I've put enough time in this over the past 8 weeks, and it's not really a skill that will continue to help me down the road (especially compared to my ukulele and Spanish lessons).

My son Elijah, however, is much better than me. He has memorized some more advanced patterns and algorithms, which allow him to solve it in a minute or less. And he is working on more. I wouldn't be surprised if he could do it in 30 seconds by the end of the year.

Now, some of my friends (ahem . . .) claim that I peeled the stickers off, or in some other way cheated. So, here's a video of me solving it (in about 2:28)

Next Month: Taking a Break

July will be a busy month for us. We will be moving (at least, we are planning on it, since we don't have a house to move to, yet), and you know how much is involved in that.

So I will spend a few hours each week with my uke and my Rosetta Stone lessons, and maybe pick up the Rubik's Cube a little. And I'll be back in August with another new skill that I'm excited to learn.

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Divided Son: Sender's Half-Birthday

New Lego sets!
Sender, our youngest child, was born two days before Christmas, and we didn't want his birthday to get lost in the mix of that crazy time of year. Therefore, we celebrate Sender's birthday on his "half-birthday." So on June 23, we celebrated this boy turning seven-and-a-half.

It's fitting that we celebrate his half-birthday, since he is a divided young man.

He can go full speed all day. The other leaders at last week's STEAM Camp noticed this, as Sender would run around the gym (usually by himself) during any possible moment of free time.

But as much as he goes in 5th gear during the day, he loves to sleep. There have been times where we were watching a movie at night, and he'd ask, "Is it almost over yet?" And he is the only one of our three who would (and still does) fall asleep during long road trips.

Sender is also a mix of sweet (the biggest snuggler and complementer in our family) and stubborn (not sure where he gets that from . . .).

And he's a mix of serious and funny. During our family meal times, he can go from a serious discussion of explaining what he read about in the Bible that morning, to doing a 1-man skit and song. This "Sender-tainment" usually includes something from Julian Smith.

He keeps us on our toes, and he cracks us up.

But one thing that is not divided -- our love for him.

Happy half-birthday, Sender!

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Are Your Kids BORED?

This has been going around. I don't even know the original source. 


In case you can't see the image, here's how you can direct your children if they come to you for the zillionth time complaining that they are bored.

Have you . . .
  • Been creative? 
  • Outside play? 
  • Read a book? 
  • Exercised 20 minutes?
  • Done something helpful?

I love it, and plan to use it. Will you?

Gospel-Centered Parenting Articles

 Here are a few great articles that I've read over the past few weeks. Some of them I shared on social media, but I thought they'd be worth collecting into one single place.

I hope you enjoy them, and that they help you learn and grow as much as they are helping me in my parenting.

I Miss the Absurdity (Tim Challies)
Challies explains that the parenting journey moves from being physically exhausting (when children are very young), to mentally and emotionally taxing (as they go through teen years). And he encourages us to make the most of the current season. Today is the best time of your relationship with your children.
"Life is good. Parenting is a joy (when it’s not agony). God is sovereign. . . . Suddenly that most mundane of routines seems like it may be the most important thing I do today."

I Will Tell Her a Million Times (Angela Suh)
"We speak the Truth to our children – not because we believe our words are powerful to change them – but because we believe the Spirit of God may choose today to use our words to powerfully change them. 

So I will keep telling my daughter . . .  that Jesus his better. And while I speak, I will pray that He would make her heart believe."

Parents - We Can't Save Our Kids (Jamie Ivey)
Do you ever find yourself trying to scare (or otherwise emotionally manipulating) your children into following Jesus? Or do you worry that they might not follow Him? This is a great article for you.

Raising Teens in the Shadows (Lindsay Fooshee)
Discipleship is a life-long process, not just getting our children to the point of praying a prayer and being baptized. As I am about to have a teenager, this article was a powerful reminder to me that discipling my child is not about making me look good as a parent. It's about glorifying God and blessing my child.

Stop Parenting Within Your Rights (Julie Masson)
Along the same lines as the previous article.
"God has really shown me that I often respond out of anger or impatience to my children simply because they are an inconvenience and infringing upon the rights I think I have."
 "Give up your rights and embrace a life of grace with your children."

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Why My Son Plays Little League Baseball

Most of the team, and we're mostly organized.

The car is barely at a full stop when I hear the back door open. He grabs his glove, and water bottle and runs across the parking lot towards the play ground.

(I wonder, Did he look for cars before taking off? But it doesn't matter. Even though it's 5:28 PM, and practice is supposed to begin at 5:30, we are only the second family to arrive at the ballfield.)

At the same time, a five-year-old boy looks up from the playground. By the time Sender gets off the parking lot and onto the grass, the other boy is already sprinting towards him. They meet halfway, exchange high-fives, and have already headed back to the playground.

Seeing Sender (age 7) make friends like this is the biggest reason why I'm glad he's played little league baseball (through the Recreation Department in Allendale) for the past three years.

Engaging the Culture Through Sports 

Here are reasons how Sender has benefited playing this year:
  1. He builds on relationships he already had (Malachi, Eulyssa, Janelle, etc) and makes new friends (at his first practice: "This is JaQuan. He's my friend.")
  2. He gets to encourage others, especially when they complain when it's hot. (Disclaimer: The first year he played, he complained 89% of the time during practice and games.)
  3. He is a physical young man, and his overall behavior and attitudes are better when he gets to use up some of his energy. 
  4. He is probably the best athlete in our family, including yours truly.

And here is why I'm glad I got to be a part:
  1. I get to help coach. I don't know much about baseball, but for about two weeks, I was the only dad who was coaching. 
  2. I have fun getting to know the other coaches -- the ones on our team, and the ones from the other team (whom I coached with last year).
  3. It serves as another way for me to connect with families in Allendale.

For someone who played football for 10 seasons, you'd think I'd be more competitive. But my main focus (and that of the other coaches) is just for the kids to have fun and learn how to play a little bit of baseball. It's not about winning.

And I got to see that good sportsmanship in Sender, as I see him cheer and clap for players for his teammates and players from the other team.

And that sportsmanship is reciprocated. One game, Sender got a friend out twice on the same type of hit (hard grounders to first base, where Sender was playing). After the game, they were sitting on the bleachers next to each other, enjoying their post-game snack while talking.

Love these kids!

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My Thoughts on the Upcoming Elections

You're not supposed to talk about religion and politics with your friends, right? Well, I've already violated the former. And the latter. So we'll just keep going.

(Or maybe you're not my friends. That's OK, too.)

A few local and statewide elections interest me this year, and we will vote on June 10 for:
  • Republican Primary for US Senate seat 
  • Allendale County Probate Judge 
  • Superintendent of Education for South Carolina  

I am thankful for the opportunity to vote, and I think we all have the right, privilege, and duty to do so.

My Checklist  

Here's a disclaimer: in my life, I have mostly supported Republican candidates, but I have voted for Democrats, Independents, and an occasional "minor" party candidate. I have never voted for anyone whom I agreed with 100%. I doubt if any of us have.

So over the years, I have compiled a two basic principles that help me rule out some of the field:
  1. I will not vote for a candidate who is unrepentant in major morally-bankrupt behavior which has hurt or defrauded others. Now, I realize that this can be subjective. After all, we are all sinners and no one is even close to perfect. And some may say that one's personal life is separate from one's professional life. However, if someone hurts or lies to those who are close to him (or her), how can I trust him (or her) to be honest with people that he isn't close to? 
  2. I will not vote for a candidate who is unwilling to compromise and work with his political opponents. If we draw hard lines, how can we expect to move forward. How many organizations succeed with a bunch of my-way-or-no-way mentalities?

Of course, I look at other qualifications such as experience, the ability to communicate well, how they prioritize issues, and their proven accomplishments. But look at these on a spectrum to help me narrow down whom I will support.

The State of Politics and Education   

Of all the upcoming elections, the one that interests me the most is for the Superintendent of Education. Through our work in Allendale, we have become more knowledgeable and passionate about the education of children (beyond those in our own home).

And because of this knowledge (however miniscule it may be) and passion (however annoying it may be), friends have asked me about who I like, and I have gotten their insight, too.

If you don't know (for shame!) who the candidates are, you can see a quick rundown from The State Newspaper or Public Education Partners. And because I care about education, and because you should, too, I want to start (continue) the dialogue to helping us all figure out who is the best candidate.

After I give my thoughts, I hope you'll share your input and insight.

My Picks for the SC Superintendent of Education

I have talked to some friends. I have sent emails to candidates (and received only 1 reply). I have watched the debates of the Democratic and Republican candidates. And here's where I've landed.

My Favorites

I have two favorites, one from either party:
  • Montrio Belton (Democrat).  I heard him speak in Allendale a couple of years ago, when he lead the Department of Education Office of Transformation. I liked his upfront and honest assessment, telling the leaders here that if they didn't better steward their finances, the state would cut off part of their funding. (Which began the process of Allendale consolidating school buildings.) Also, he comes from a background of poverty, so understands the challenges there. Furthermore he is a supporter of school choice. 
  • Molly Spearman (Republican).  She has great experience, and the support of many teachers I know and respect. She is very pro-public schools. My biggest concern is her idea that the state needs to keep more strict tabs on homeschoolers, including keeps a record of social security numbers. However, I'm not sure that she could get that passed in this state. Still a concern, though.

That's right. My top two picks are from opposite political parties. The Democrat has some conservative leanings, and the Republican has some liberal leanings.

That's perfect, since what's in the best interest of children does not fall along political lines.

The Second Tier

Besides Belton and Spearman, I like a lot about the following candidates:
  • Gary Burgess (Republican).  Seems solid. But I'm not sure how he would fulfill his promise to "close the achievement gap within 100 days of attaining office." He was the only candidate to respond to my email. Score!
  • Meka Childs (Republican).  A supporter of school choice. But she wants to continue many of the policies of the current Superintendent, of whom I disapprove strongly.
  • Don Jordan (Republican).  Very smart. But seems to be more focused on college than on K-12.
  • Tom Thompson (Democrat).  Also seems pretty solid. But I don't like that he disapproves of school choice.

What the What?!

I can't believe these two are even considered:
  • Sheri Few (Republican).  Her platform has one issue: Common Core. She has no background in education whatsoever. In fact, she has no degree beyond high school. With so little experience, is this the type of person we want to run the state education system?  Also, I find it distasteful (and arrogant) that she blames the school system for her son "walking away from faith."
    • PS: I will write again on Common Core at some point. But I'll say this for now. . . . The fact that half of the Republican candidates make this their primary platform allows me to write them off immediately.
    • PPS: Here is the post I promised, Common Core Is NOT the Common Problem.   
  • Sheila Gallagher (Democrat).  She wants to legalize marijuana to help pay for education in South Carolina. Already Colorado has been seeing some unexpected consequences of legalizing this drug. But a better argument was provided by one of the other Democratic candidates (Belton, I think) in the debate:
"So you're telling me that my grown son smokes three joints, and the schools get money for that. And then the next year, he decides to cut back to just one joint, that the schools should lose money?"

So there you have it, my completely unsolicited (and very strong) opinions. I hope we can still be friends.

But I'd love to hear from you, too.Help me and others be a better-informed voter. Who do you like in this race, and why?

Share your thoughts in the comments, or send me a message another way. (I know the comment system on Blogspot isn't great.)

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**image courtesy of OpenClips via pixabay

Cannery Row

Surprisingly (to me), I've read a number of fiction books over the past six months. Most of these were inspired by the Art of Manliness Book Clubs, including A Christmas Carol, Frankenstein, and Cannery Row. That's the same number of fiction books as I would normally read over three years.

While I still prefer non-fiction, these books (plus others like The In-Between, by Jeff Goins) have helped me appreciate stories, just for the sake of enjoyment. 

Here is an excerpt from "Cannery Row" (by John Steinbeck). Since I was a teenager, I have enjoyed Steinbeck's writings, but have never read this book.

In this scene, we find an interaction of two boys, who appear nowhere else in the book. As people all over Cannery Row (in Monterrey, California) are preparing a party for Doc, Joey and Willard have a conversation outside of his home and lab.

Enjoy! (That is, IF you are able to enjoy the dark, sad stories of Steinbeck).

Cannery Row: Chapter 26

Joey said, "You know, this guy in here got babies in bottles."

"What kind of babies?" Willard asked.

"Regular babies, only before they're borned."

"I don't believe it," said, Willard.

"Well, it's true. The Sprague kid seen them and he says they ain't no bigger than this and they got little hands an feet and eyes."

"And hair?" Willard demanded.

"Well, the Sprague kid didn't say about hair."

"You should of asked him. I think he's a liar."

"You better not let him hear you say that," said Joey.

"Well, you can tell him I said it. I ain't afraid of him and I ain't afraid of you. I ain't afraid of anybody. You want to make something of it?" Joey didn't answer. "Well, do you?"

"No," said Joey. "I was thinkin', why don't we just go up and ask the guy if he's got babies in bottles? Maybe he'd show them to us, that is if he's got any."

"He ain't here," said Willard. "When he's here, his car's here. He's away some place. I think it's a lie. I think the Sprague kid is a liar. I think you're a liar. You want to make something of that?"

It was a lazy day. Willard was going to have to work hard and get up any excitement. "I think you're a coward, too. You want to make something of that?" Joey didn't answer. Willard changed his tactics. "Where's your old man now?" he asked in a conversational tone.

"He's dead," said Joey.

"Oh yeah? I didn't hear. What'd he die of?"

For a moment Joey was silent. He knew Willard knew but he couldn't let on he knew, not without fighting Willard, and Joey was afraid of Willard.

"He committed -- he killed himself."

"Yeah?" Willard put on a long face. "How'd he do it?"

"He took rat poison."

Willard's voice shrieked with laughter. "What'd he think -- he was a rat?"

Joey chuckled a little at the joke, just enough, that is.

"He must of thought he was a rat," Willard cried. "Did he go crawling around like this -- look, Joey -- like this? Did he wrinkle up his nose like this? Did he have a big old long tail?" Willard was helpless with laughter. "Why'n't he just get a rat trap and put his head in it?" They laughed themselves out on that one, Willard really wore it out. Then he probed for another joke. "What'd he look like when he took it -- like this?" He crossed his eyes and opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue.

"He was sick all day," said Joey. "He didn't die 'til the middle of the night. It hurt him."

Willard said, "What'd he do it for?"

"He couldn't get a job," said Joey. "Nearly a year he couldn't get a job. And you know a funny thing? The next morning a guy come around to give him a job."

Willard tried to recapture his joke. "I guess he just figured he was a rat," he said, but it fell through even for Willard.

Joey stood up and put his hands in his pockets. He saw a coppery shine in the gutter and walked toward it but just as he reached it Willard shoved him aside and picked up the penny.

"I saw it first," Joey cried. "It's mine."

"You want to try and make something of it?" said Willard. "Why'n't you go take some rat poison?"