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To The Foundations

(Today’s blog entry is by a guest blogger: my brother-in-law, Dan Smith of Marshall, MN.  They just bought a house and are beginning to blend a new household.  I’ll be officiating at his wedding to Denise in August.  Dan’s a high school English teacher, baseball enthusiast, and all around theatre nerd.  Enjoy.)

We had a really great weekend with the kids working on the house.  We ripped out all the carpet, and as we expected,Getting to the bottom of things found some odd surprises along the way.  In the kitchen, there were 2 layers of carpet on top of 2 layers of old linoleum that were glued to the old hardwood.  The hardwood itself only covered 1/2 of the kitchen and was ruined from the glue, so we ripped that out too.  Then we took out a little shoulder-height wall that divided the kitchen and dining spaces–it opened up the kitchen WONDERFULLY and created a great space for a dish-washer.  Then we got back to the floor.  We ripped everything out so that we’re back to the original base layer of wood.  Then we reinforced the boards with new decking screws to take away all of the squeaks and today we’ll put in new sub-floor and then new vinyl. 

 A floor upgrade was at first a difficult decision to make.  There is very little glamour in a floor.  Instead, we wanted to get rid of the old yellow countertop, golden fridge and stove, and the kitchen sink that looks worn-out.   We had enough money to make one big repair and really wanted to do the countertop and sink.  However, we decided that the yellow counter replacement was 90% aesthetic, while the floor is foundational work. New appliances and countertop would look pretty and maybe even impressive to early visitors, but the basic floor problem would only have been covered, rather than fixed. 

 So we went to work…and we needed all of the hands we could get.  Besides being a gifted carpenter, Denise’s dad is an amazing grandfather who got the kids ultra-involved in the project.  Ariel was a little bummed that she didn’t get to hang out with friends as much as she’d like, but Dale kept saying to her (not negatively)-“this is a family project and you’re part of the family, so here’s your hammer, my darling little blondie!”

 Then last night a really cool thing happened.  Ariel had gone to a friend’s house after we ate supper at Dale and Flo’s.  She had been there for an hour when I told her that we were going home.  She begged for more time there, but I made her come home with us.  She was (of course) pissed and hung her head low in a classic teen-ager belly-aching pout.  She slammed stuff around as she put away clothes that I had folded and then slammed the door of the computer room to emphasize the fact that she was going to spend some time on facebook…away from us.  Denise and I showered (individually) and then went to bed around 10:00, both tired and sore. 

 A few minutes later, our door creaks open and Ariel walks into the bedroom and sits on the end of our bed and we start talking.  Then Danny gets done watching “The Sandlot” and he shows up on the end of the bed and joins the conversation.  Then Danny invites Beatrice (the dog) up onto the bed and there the 5 of us sit, talking, laughing, telling stories, etc, until 11:00 when I finally say that I need to get to sleep since I have to work in the morning.  But then Danny reminded me that he had wanted to read the story about Samson, because he’s been watching the Veggie Tales episode based on the Samson story.  I started with my Bible, but Danny was a little confused, so I grabbed a copy of “The Message’ and we read the whole story out of Judges.  It was funny because Danny kept interjecting details from the Veggie Tales version–he seemed delighted and even a bit surprised that they lined up!  Then he started asking theological questions.  He says to me…”so, the stories in the Bible, like the one about Passover in the Andrew Peterson song, and the story about Samson…how do we know that they happened?”  That lead to a little conversation (way over his head) about faith and the importance of thinking about what the stories show us about God and our relationship with him instead of worrying about whether they happened exactly like they’re told.  Both kids kept asking really interesting and insightful questions…some of which were designed to postpone bedtime…but others were their minds working to make sense of some of this stuff.  In the end, I told Danny that the most important thing was that he was asking good questions and encouraged him to keep thinking about those questions and keep asking more.  It was really cool. 

 The entire experience reminded me how important it is to invest in the stuff that counts in the long run, even if there isn’t instant gratification.  That’s not easy as a parent in a traditional household and (without complaining), I’ve realized how much more difficult it is to do in a broken home where the kids bounce back and forth.  I live in constant fear that our home will become the anti-fun prison zone.  A couple weeks ago, Ariel said to Denise…”you guys expect so much more out of me and you have so many more rules than mom does.”  Often, I see Ariel’s mind running through this thought process:  “At mom’s we get to watch TV and movies, hang out with friends, play video games, and buy stuff at Wal-Mart whenever we want; at dad’s we have to do chores, go to bed early, and both our computer and TV time are limited.”

I watch this in fear that the former will be much more attractive than the latter and in a couple years, she’ll want to stay out all night at frat parties with her mom (at some point, I know that this will happen–I just hope that Ariel isn’t hurt too badly in the process), but what I experienced yesterday convinced me again that eventually the stuff built on a solid foundation stands.  And even though it might not have amusement park-style attraction, I believe that the kids see that a weekend such as the one we just experienced is authentically good stuff.  Even though Ariel complained “Dad, it’s summer!  Would you relax a little!?!?!” when I made her leave her friend’s house last night, something led her to closedown facebook and walk into the bedroom to talk.  Even she seems to understand the value of those times.

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