A Boy’s Gift of Water

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Water.

A rationed bottle of water for a friend.

It has been five years, and she still talks about Rico – the boy who offered his rationed bottled water to her. It was her first time in an international setting with agriculture, a lifestyle that transcends every language, culture, and country. The Virginia Tech team of which she was a part was working on soil fertility and crop production methods with some of the local farmers.

In the rural area of Guanacaste, (the western side of Costa Rica), tap water is unsafe to drink because of bacterial and sanitation issues. In many third world countries, it is strongly recommended that people drink bottled water because of those issues. Bottled water can be scarce and costly for poor people who live in very rural areas. This is not only because of the price, but also the distance to local stores. Many times the most vulnerable people still resort to using tap water. If there is bottled water, it is often rationed. Family members each have a certain allotment for their personal drinking per month.

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The girl from America

She was nineteen, and he was nine. For an American girl, it was quite the change – several weeks of living in the hot, humid climate, sleeping on a pallet on a dirt floor, and never feeling completely full after a meal. A little over a 100 pounds, it didn’t seem that she needed much food and water to sustain herself. There came a moment when she wasn’t as strong as she thought she was. One day while out in the field, she collapsed. Dehydration.

The boy in Costa Rico

Rico was the first to notice her and ran to his mother. He begged for one of his rationed bottles of water for Miss Rebekah.

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One of the houses in the villages where team members slept.

He asked to accompany the nurse to the clinic where they checked Rebekah and gave her an IV to replenish her system. Rico sat beside the white American Mennonite girl, holding her hand while the IV was infused.

Sometimes the poor are the most giving. They know what it’s like to have little or nothing and are more willing to share instead of hoarding. Just like Rico.

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Different and Alike

Rico is the son of a Costa Rican farmer who works the soil during hot days to mete out a living for his family. Rebekah is the daughter of an American Mennonite construction worker who works in and under houses in hot and cold weather to provide for his family. They met in the fields of Rico’s father, where she spent two weeks.

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Rebekah with one of the farmers in Rico’s village.

That day, sitting in the clinic with his friend, Rico’s eyes beamed with pleasure at being able to stay with her, providing what he could for his friend Miss Rebekah. His heart was happy because he was willing to give in a way that was true giving; for true giving involves sacrifice.

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The Truest Gift of All

He didn’t have much, but he offered the best that he had: his bottle of rationed water. He knew it was what she needed, and it was something he could give.

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a Costa Rican farmer

According to our standards, Rico is poor. He lives and works in poverty. Yet his joy in being able to give was evident – a true proof that, despite what others might think, Rico is very, very rich.

I am Rebekah’s mother and I am grateful for the young lad who noticed that my daughter needed help. I am grateful for his friendship and for his willingness to sacrifice. I’ve never met Rico, but if I do, I will want to thank him.

Not only will I want to express appreciation,  I’ll want to give him honor and blessing for giving from his heart. That is truly the richest form of giving.

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Getting Your Kid Ready for College

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College Parent Six Times Over

I’m not an authority on this subject because I’ve only sent six kids off to college. Every year for the past thirteen years, we have had one, two, or three kids in college. This fall I will have three in grad school (and paying their own way, so don’t feel sorry for us). My kids lived on campus and in apartments. Usually, their college was close enough that they were able to come home on weekends if necessary. I haven’t had my kids gone for an entire school year and we’ve had the opportunity to visit them on campus on occasion.  Most of those years we still had other kids at home and/or had foster kids in our home.

There are some things I know.

  • It’s hard. When you’ve spent eighteen years of your life investing in your child, it’s hard to see him leave. Moms show it more, but it’s hard for the dads, too. There is no way to go through this without the hard.
  • Helicoptering is Over! At this important juncture, if you haven’t stopped being a helicopter parent, this is the time to do it. (Helicoptering isn’t a good idea to start with, but if that’s what you’ve done, then use this juncture to hang up your helicopter.) Your child is an adult. This might be the first time your kid is not living at home and living hours away from you where you can’t see or hug him every day. Even so, helicoptering is O.V.E.R.
  • You need to Pray. Every single day. God is with them, so act like He is really there. Especially from a long distance, this is the single greatest way you can continue to have an impact on your kid.
  • Let them go. Don’t fix things. If she misses a deadline, let her figure out how to fix it. Don’t do it for her. If she fails to study for a test, let it go. On second thought, if you’re paying her tuition, you could withhold your financial support if her grades are not what you want them to be. (We never had that problem because our kids paid their own way – thank you scholarships, grants, and loans.)
  • The raising is done. We want them to become successful adults. We’ve raised them up. Now it’s time to let go and stop trying to raise them.

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There are some Important Things You Can Do.

  • Purchase items ahead of time that they might not be able to find in local stores. We purchased extra-long sheets for the dorm mattresses because finding them in just any store was difficult.
  • Transport only essentials or sentimental things your kid wants to bring to college. You don’t know the layout of the room or how it might be best set up until you get there. Once you arrive and unload the essentials, you can make a Walmart or Target run to get anything else. This saves you from over packing and can simplify the process. There will almost always be something he or she forgets or finds is a necessity after settling in and unpacking. You’ll be making that shopping run anyway.
  • Make a shopping list after visiting the room -Visit the room – apartment, dorm, etc. – where your child will be staying and set up what you brought. Make your list of what you need to get. Wastebasket? Floor lamp? Mattress pad? Cleaning supplies?
  • First Aid Kit. Have a First Aid kit ready to leave with your freshman. For my guys, I used a fish tackle box and supplied it with these items: band-aids, cotton balls, Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, antibiotic ointment and hydrocortisone cream. Make a list of each medication and what it is for. Trust me, most kids will be clueless. If you’d like, include things like a thermometer, a tweezers/needle for removing splinters, Robitussin or Mucinex. When your kid is sick in the middle of the night, he will still call you (ask me how I know), but you can tell him what he needs to take. Your kid will probably hardly touch this First Aid kit until he is sick, but you’ll feel better knowing it’s there if he needs it. My kids ended up sharing their stash with other hallmates.
  • Have access to his information. Especially if you are footing the bill, make certain you are able to view his grades online. He can withhold that from you, but if you’re paying, then you know what to do. If you want to keep up with his grades, there is a way to do it.
  • His schedule and phone numbers. Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’ll roll his eyes on this one. Get a copy of his schedule so you can track him – if it’s that important to you. If he will be living off-campus with several roommates, make sure you have their phone numbers and the numbers of the parents in case there is an emergency with any roommate so you can get in touch with the other parents.

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Coming Home After Goodbyes

  • Returning home is hard. So is saying Goodbye. You must make it a goodbye. In the days and weeks after, don’t tell him constantly how much you miss him and don’t ask him to come home! Instead, ask about his classes, what he is learning, what he’s doing for fun, and what the high and low moments have been so far.  He needs your support and encouragement. He does not need to be guilt-tripped into being away from you. It’s okay to say you miss him, but what he really needs to hear is that you love him and are praying for him.
  • She may be homesick. You will be homesick for her, too.  That’s okay. By encouraging her to get involved, become active in her classes and other organizations and try new things and meet new people – that homesick feeling will ease. For our kids, the college became their second home or home away from home.  Your physical home will never be replaced, nor will your love for them.
  • You are never far away when your prayers are reaching where he is. When you miss your kid, when you’re worried, or when you just wish he’d come home, use that as a catalyst to pray for him.
  • Encourage her to stay at the college for the first three to four weeks. Don’t visit her during that time unless there is a real need or an emergency. Release her to bond with her new surroundings instead of being pulled back. Those first few weeks are key in making her new place her own in this next chapter of her life.
  • You will always be the parent. You’ve done your part. No matter who his new best friends are, you will always be his parent. In the back of his heart and mind, he will know you’re in his corner, forever. You will always be the anchor, the stabilizing person in his life.  Yet, it’s time for you as the parent to remain the parent as your child learns in a new place, further develops, and faces the next chapter of his life without you there. Be in the wings, cheering him on! Being the parent also means speaking Truth when it is needed. While you can no longer dictate some things, you can keep being honest and Truthful about the things that matter most.
  • Trust God to use the college years to challenge him, grow him, and develop him into the person He calls him to be. Trust that the college years can really challenge him, strengthen him, grow him and further develop him. Pray for this to happen. Don’t ever stop praying. When you have prayed, leave the rest to God.

 

 

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The Five Minute Rule (and Twenty Chews Per Bite)

The Five Minute Rule (and Twenty Chews Per Bite)

The Five-Minute Rule

The five-minute rule works great for kids whose eyes are bigger than their stomach.

You know the kid who is still hungry and wants seconds or thirds – and then ends up being too full to finish?  It works for him.

You know the kid who, once he finishes, he’s stuffed?  It works for him.

Miserably uncomfortable is not a fun place to be whether you’re a kid or an adult.

This five-minute rule works for adults as well. It’s a great way to test the stomach and see how hungry we really are.

I used to implement this rule when our half-dozen were at home and some kids kept piling on the food, trying to hurry and get seconds before others could nab it all. It worked well then and helped all of us to stop and think before we piled on seconds. [I am not naming names, but we all know who they are.]

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 The “Twenty Chews” rule.

The twenty chews per bite rule guarantees kids (and adults) will take more time while eating.

When there are only so many pieces of Domino’s pizza in the box, it seems that some kids thought they’d get more if they stuffed the food down the chute quicker than the younger ones.

In those situations, the “20 Chews per Bite” rule was enforced. Take as big a bite of pizza as you want, but you have to chew twenty times before you can take another bite. Oh yes, I watched and I counted. I’m a mom, and I can do that. It takes a while to chew twenty times, even if you chew fast. That helped slow the progress of consumption of a piece of pizza.

Eventually, we got away from those rules because our kids grew up and were (usually) responsible enough to decide if seconds were necessary. They were mature enough to chew their food slowly enough that they no longer fought over the last piece of pizza or who got the last fresh dinner roll.

 

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For this recipe, go to Recipes and search for Easy Dinner Rolls or click here.

Reinstating the Rules

When we started doing foster care, the rule book came out again and was put to good use. Especially was this helpful for kids who, before coming to our house, had to fend for themselves and never knew if there would be food for another meal.

When a child is worried about when they will be able to eat again, there is great comfort in knowing that he can take as many helpings as he wants at a meal. Requiring him to wait five minutes (or ten or fifteen) before taking subsequent helpings helps his stomach have time to begin digesting and settling all that food. This brief respite from devouring food gives time for the brain to receive and process the “full and satisfied” message from the stomach. It helps calm the frenzy of competing for the last piece of bread or pizza.

Good Reason and Good Practice

The rule applies to everyone at the table. We don’t ask anything of our kids that we don’t enforce for ourselves. Our kids loved watching the timer while we waited until our time was up to take seconds.

It’s a good practice – and a good experience – to think a little more about how much we consume. That five-minute rule is bound to make all of us a little healthier in the long run.

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Three Things Children Need Besides Food, Clothing, and Shelter

 

 

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Not a one of us would argue the fact that children need to feel loved. It is a primary need for every one of us.

Yet there are things that spell love to kids other than those four letters: LOVE. Parents and adults who truly love their kids will provide not only food, clothing, and shelter.

They will also provide safety, security, and structure.

Here’s how.

Children need Safety. 

When a child feels unsafe, he will act up. He’ll threaten or defy authority because he has no respect for authority. He also knows he can’t trust the adults in his life to keep him safe. Whether he feels emotional or physical neglect, he will feel unsafe. If he experiences emotional or physical abuse, he will feel doubly unsafe. Like an animal cornered, he will lash out, trying to hurt others before they can hurt him. Like a forlorn kitten who finally trusts its owner, a child who feels safe will be your friend.

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Children need Security.

We provide security by being consistent and by following through with our directions We provide security by having boundaries that a child cannot cross without receiving consequences. Making empty promises or drastic threats that kids know won’t be fulfilled leaves them feeling insecure. Children need to know that the relationship between their parents is solid and sure. When there is hidden discord, kids can still feel that discord. They need to know that the adults in their lives are in their corner and will not lie to them. If they can’t trust the adults in their lives to tell them the truth, to follow through, or to be consistent, then who can they trust? If they can’t trust anybody, then they will feel insecure. Like a baby swaddled in a warm blanket, a child who is secure will exhibit behavior that says he knows who he is and he knows he belongs.

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Children need Structure. 

There’s such security in knowing what to expect and from whom to expect it. When a child’s structure keeps changing, he begins to feel insecure and insignificant. Make it a high priority to provide structure. The structure your home provides might be different than mine and that’s okay. You might even need to change the structure, but if your kids know changes happen to help them, they will be okay.

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Your family’s structure will be different than other families’. You might eat at a different time and your food choices might not be the same as your neighbor’s, but children need to know they can expect things to be the same even if the sameness is different on different days.

Giving your child responsibilities gives him structure. What he does is important; his responsibility is important and he needs to feel trusted and appreciated. This provides structure to his world.

When there is a safety net surrounding your child, when there is security in knowing he can trust the adults in his life, and when there is a calm and settled routine, your child will be secure. When your child is secure, he will know he is truly loved.

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