Why I Ditched the Dishwasher and Why I’m Not Going Back

photo credit: Dead Maytag via photopin (license)
photo credit: Dead Maytag via photopin (license)
A few months ago, our dishwasher gave up the ghost. It had been making some awful noises for several months, and then just quit working. It was out of warranty and as we had recently updated some of our other appliances, we went ahead and got a new dishwasher.

Per usual, I spent a good bit of time researching online to find the right matrix of quality, brand, appearance and price and found a great deal on a very nice dishwasher. We had it installed a few days later and it’s been great – washes the dishes quietly and looks great.

But recently, I decided I wanted to try something different.

It always seemed like we couldn’t get on the right cycle of loading, washing, and unloading the thing. We always needed more forks or kids cups or whatever and someone was always asking, “Is the dishwasher clean?” I reasoned that by the time we rinsed and loaded the dishwasher, they were 90% clean anyway, why not just finish the job and move on?

So, I stopped using the thing. Instead I started rotating the kids through a cycle as my helper and washing the dishes after each meal. It was great. No stacked up dishes waiting to be loaded. Everything put away after washing. No wondering if the dishes in the dishwasher were clean. Everything was just clean.

So, hooray for productivity, but that’s not why I’m not going back to the dishwasher.

As I stood there and washed and my kids took turns drying, I found that I had their absolute attention. Drying and putting away dishes is boring work. They were dying to talk just to get past the boredom of it. And I started to find out new things about them – what they like about our homeschool co-op, who they’re best friend is, where they would like to live someday, goofy jokes they’ve heard or made up – all of this information. Not all of it is transformative or life changing, but it’s all part of their story. It’s like a little snapshot of where they are right now. And the funny thing is, they enjoy it, too. They’ll hem and haw a bit when it’s time to get started, but every time we wash the dishes, they end it by telling me how much they liked it. Who knew?

This parenting thing is difficult. Truth be told, I’m not all that great at it much of the time. But every once in a while I stumble into something good and this was one of those.

Have you stumbled onto something helpful as a parent recently? If so, leave a comment.

Jesus Wept

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s I wrote in my previous post, we’ve been struggling lately. I’d like to use the Watermark vernacular – “struggling well” – but I’m not sure that’s true for me right now. Struggling no doubt. Well? Maybe not. At least not always. I’ve been angry. I’ve treated people poorly. I’ve stopped following up with people. And I’ve cursed like a sailor lately. Not always out loud, but definitely in my mind. So, struggling, but not well.

Today I read a tweet in which the writer suggested that “no matter what you’re going through right now, God is doing it for his glory.” Similarly, about 15 minutes or so after I first found out about this difficult thing we’re going through, a friend reminded me that “God is sovereign.” I know that both of these things are true. I’m counting on them. These two concepts – God’s glory and his sovereignty – are keeping our heads above the waterline right now. But reading them and hearing them didn’t help one bit. The fact is, when you’re struggling with a difficult situation – statements like “this is all for God’s glory” don’t help. Even though they’re true and they are absolutely life sustaining in times like this, they just don’t help. Why? You want to know why, right?

I do to. I’ve been thinking about this today and it’s been a struggle. I know that people want statements like these to be helpful. I know that their intentions are great. I think the problem is this – these statements land hard on a hurting heart. I know that they aren’t meant to, but they do. I can’t help but think about John 11. Jesus gets word that his friend Lazarus is ill. He states very clearly to those around that this will not end in death but that it is happening for Jesus’ glory to be revealed. This is true of course, but note that he didn’t say that to Mary or Martha. So, Jesus waited around two days, presumably giving Lazarus time to die, and then he left for Bethany. When he got there, four days after Lazarus’ death, Martha ran out, “Lord, if you’d been here my brother wouldn’t have died.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” And Martha believed him. Then he met Mary. She said the same thing Martha did, “Lord, if you had been here sooner, he wouldn’t have died.” And Jesus saw her weeping and it says that he was “deeply moved in his spirt and greatly troubled.” And he asked them where they had lain Lazarus’ body, and they showed him. And then we get to verse 35. Every Sunday School kid’s favorite memory verse. The verse I’m clinging to in all of this.

Jesus wept. John 11:35.

When Jesus saw Mary weeping, he was moved with compassion. He knew what he was about to do. He’d already told Martha. He’d told his followers that this was going to be for his glory. He was so worried about Lazarus that he stayed an extra couple of days just to make sure. But when he saw Mary and her friends weeping, he wept with her. He wept with them. Here’s the point – when everything is falling apart and people’s hearts are crushed, they don’t need to hear about God’s sovereignty. They don’t need to hear about his glory. They need the hands and feet of Christ to see them weeping and to weep with them.

I’ll be completely honest. I’m a fixer. I’m so ready to fix people who are hurting. I want to get in there and help them. I don’t want to cry with them. It’s just too hard. I don’t want to join them in their pain. But God does. May I never forget that. May I never forget to sit and weep with my friends when they are hurting. May I never try to fix them.

I’m so thankful for our friends who’ve rallied around us in the past week. Nobody had this on their todo list for this week. But our friends, especially our community group, have sat in this with us. When we’ve asked for advice or help, they’ve given it. But they’ve also just sat with us, in difficult meetings and sad quiet places. One sweet saintly friend came to our house unannounced, dropped off groceries, picked up all our kids laundry and quietly left. She returned it all neatly folded the next day. She didn’t have to do that. We could have made it through without it, but that act blessed us, especially Desi, in ways that we won’t soon forget.

So, don’t think that we haven’t had people with us in this. We most definitely have. They’ve helped make this bearable. Not through their words, but through their presence, their kindness, and their tears. I’ll never forget that.

[share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true” reddit=”true” email=”true”]

What the Toad Whisperer Taught Me

This post originally appeared on my personal blog . I’ve made a few revisions and updates and posted it here because I think it fits the purpose of Big Family Dad well.


[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y daughter is 8 years old. It’s hard for me to believe, but that precious girl is already 8. As the oldest, she learns a lot of lessons first, which isn’t easy. She also gets to teach Mom and Dad a few things as well. Also not easy.

After returning from Pine Cove family camp a few weeks ago, she popped into the kitchen one day and asked if we had any frog food. Knowing that we had some somewhere from a failed attempt to raise tadpoles last year, I tried to brush her off.

“I think so, but I don’t know where. Why?”

“No reason.”

And she skipped off to her room. I thought I’d dodged a bullet for sure. No way did I want another pet to take care of. Superwife and I have plenty to do already and the thought of getting another cage, aquarium, tank, etc. to clean or another mouth to feed made me crazy. “No More Pets!” has been my mantra for a while now and the Incredikids know it.

A couple of days later, our eldest, quite casually asked, “Whatever happened to our little aquarium?” Not connecting the dots or even noticing that there were dots around to connect, I responded, “I’m not sure baby. Probably in the garage. Why?”

“No reason.”

I’m so off of my game. “No reason,” should stick out like a Las Vegas casino marquis on fire. There’s always a reason. Always.

And of course there was a reason. SweetGirl came clean a few days later. She told her mom first. Smart. She had found two frogs (toads actually) at Pine Cove and kept them in a water bottle in our cabin. She poked holes in the bottle and put water and food (bugs) inside. She managed to smuggle them home in her stuff and then secreted them away to her room. We had absolutely no clue. She took care of them in her room for at least a week before telling us.

When Superwife told me, I had one thought and one thought only – punishment. What is the correct punishment for this? We don’t have a specific rule about this, but it is a deception. No doubt about it. She has tricked us. She has DECEIVED us. And we can not stand for that. My internal punishment rolodex was spinning out of control when SW stopped me.

“She did come clean about it. I didn’t have to ask her. And she has taken really great care of them. I don’t want to punish her when she comes to us and confesses.”

Good point.

Now, you can quibble with us over the choice to let her keep the frogs toads. And I’d be willing to hear the argument, but that’s not the point of this post. Here’s the point…

The toads are actually kind of awesome. The kids are loving it. A neighbor friend gave them an old tank she wasn’t going to use anymore. They’ve been reading up on toad care. There’s now some organic soil in the tank along with a little bowl of water and some rocks. The toads are happily burrowing into the dirt and eating pill bugs like crazy. And the Incredikids are learning a ton. Eldest is taking responsibility for these things in a way that I haven’t seen her before with anything else. It’s really great. And there’s no way I would have ever said “yes” if she’d asked me. She knew that. And that’s the point. She shouldn’t have done this without asking. Especially if she knew what my response would be. We’ve had that conversation and we’ll have it again. But I need to learn something in this process, too. My little girl is growing up. She needs the benefit of learning from taking responsibility for things. I need to say “yes” more. Even when I’m pretty sure that I will be the one taking care of the toads at some point, I still need to say “yes” more. She needs these opportunities. All of them do. They won’t ever get them if the answer is always “no.”

[share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true” reddit=”true” email=”true”]

4 Great Reasons To Take a Kid-Free Trip With Your Wife

SuperWife and I Kayaking in Costa Rica - photo by Jeff Ward
SuperWife and I Kayaking in Costa Rica – photo by Jeff Ward

Let’s face it, parenting a bunch of kids isn’t easy. There’s simply no rest for the weary. Taking some time away with your bride will benefit your marriage, and though it may be tough on the kiddos for you to be away, it will benefit them in the long run.

I’ve been married to SuperWife a little over 10 years now. In that time we’ve had two cross-country moves, six kids, countless soccer games, church events, and other meetings. We’ve kept the ball moving down the field, we’ve even managed to squeeze in some regular date nights for the last couple of years. But in all that time, we’ve never gotten away together without the kids for more than one night until this week. As we fly back from our chance-in-a-lifetime trip, I can’t help but think there’s one huge take away from our time together – we have to do this more often. Maybe annually. Why? Here’s a few reasons.

Eight years into this parenting gig, it’s easy to forget how much work it is. When someone is depending on you for food, education, clean clothes, etc. every day, you don’t have a ton of time to think about all that you’re doing. Add in the constant interruptions of sleep from babies and sick older kids and you’ve got a recipe for exhaustion. If you’re not getting away from time to time there’s almost no way to get the rest you both need.

Hit enough potholes in the minivan and sooner or later you will knock your front end out of alignment. No big deal if you’re going slow – but at highway speeds it can be a little uncomfortable. The same thing applies in marriage. There’s going to be bumps along the way – that’s normal. And much of the time you can work through those things without much trouble. But some things can’t be figured out in the time between the kids’ bedtime and yours. For some issues you need a lot more time. And if you don’t take care of it, when life really gets going at highway speed, you’re going to know you’ve got a problem. Spending some time away together gives you the time to talk about some of the bigger issues you may be facing and getting aligned in your approach.

Great families are fueled by joy. Being able to have fun together and simply enjoy each other makes life great for your whole crew. But it’s easy for the ole joy tank to get low when you’re running from work to home to practice and back home just in time for bed over and over again. There’s nothing like spending a few days with high fun and low responsibility to recharge your joy tank.

I know you’ve been here – the kids are in bed, you’ve had a good day, all is right in the world, you and your bride settle in for a nice evening enjoying each other…and there’s a knock on your bedroom door. Kid number whatever just puked all over his bed. He wants to sleep with you now. And the poor kids looks so pitiful… Not exactly the recipe for romance. And the more kiddos you have the higher the odds of these interruptions you can expect. You don’t even need to go to an especially romantic spot. Almost anywhere you go without the kiddos will be great to get the romance train back on the tracks.

Like all the other areas above, it isn’t easy to stay healthy and active spiritually when you’re on the clock 24/7/365. Even if you’re spending daily time with God, reading the Bible and working other spiritual disciplines, spending some time in a beautiful place and getting some extended time with God can add back some missing vitality from your spiritual life as well.

To sum up, spending some time alone with your bride is a great move for your marriage, but you may be thinking, “That’s great. How can I possibly do that?” I’ll write about that in another post. In the meantime, what are some lessons you’ve learned by spending some time away from the kids with your bride?

Welcome to Big Family Dad

IMG_0893fWelcome to Big Family Dad

Hey, my name is Les Brown and I’m the author of Big Family Dad. I’m a regular guy who married an amazing woman (aka SuperWife, aka @desibrown) and with her produced six IncrediKids. We’ve been on this journey together for 10 years and I must say these have been the most rewarding and most difficult years of my life. Nothing else has pushed my growth curve like marriage and parenting has. The mountain tops have been higher and the valleys lower in this season of life than any other, but through it all, God has faithfully chipped away at broken areas of my life and made me a better man.

As our family has grown, it’s become important to me to connect with other guys in a similar life stage – a big family with younger kids – for community and mutual learning. I’ve had some success in doing so and now have a great group of guys around me, but in the process I’ve realized that it isnt’ always easy to find the community I was looking for. A few months ago, I began to wonder if there were other guys like me out there who wanted to find that same type of community, but who hadn’t been able to put it together yet, and Big Family Dad was born.

At this point Big Family Dad is in the ideation phase, but in the next few months, I will be rolling out some great tools to help other Big Family Dad’s like me to connect, learn, and lead in ways that will bless their families. For now, I’ll be writing blog posts and articles, but other tools will come online in the future. So stay tuned. To make things easy, you can subscribe to my newsletter and stay on top of everything going on with Big Family Dad via email. If that works for you, take a moment and sign up in the box on the right of this page. And, as you see content that resonates with you, please get the word out. Let’s make this a great community hub for Big Family Dads everywhere!

First Day of School 2011

There was a lot of excitement around BrownTown this morning as Sweet AbbieGirl had her first day of school. Yep. I know. I can’t believe it either. I feel like she’s still way too little to be doing something like that, but she’s not. She’s a big school-going girl now. Crazy.

We did a few fun things this morning to celebrate – starting off with donuts for Breakfast. Joshua really appreciated that surprise.

Paul liked them a little bit, too.

Desi made Abbie a special crown to wear today, and she did – all day long. Really cute.

We took the obligatory First Day of School, standing on the front porch pic.

And then a few with the boys. Paul got into the spirit of things.

Luke did not.

Mommy did really great. No tears or anything. This was one of my favorite pics of the whole morning.

All in all, it was a really special morning. I think Abbie felt celebrated, and the boys, especially Paul, did a great job of encouraging her and allowing her to have the limelight. Not an easy thing for a four year old boy to do.

Desi and I are still having a hard time believing that she’s really old enough to be starting kindergarten. It’s an amazing thing really. Seems like only yesterday that she arrived and made BrownTown such a special place to be. We’re thankful for our AbbieGirl, and wishing we could slow down time just a little.

Quiver Full

I stumbled across a friend’s blog today. She had a guest poster asking the question, “Are Children a Blessing from God?.” As this comes up with us quite a bit and we have some fairly definite views on the subject, I added this comment to the mix:

There’s no question. Desi, my wife, and I have been so incredibly blessed by our kids and are so thankful that God substituted his plan for our own. We have four and one on the way. Often we are jokingly asked if we know how this happens or how to prevent it. I get the humor, but immediately think, “Why would I want to prevent God’s blessing on my life?” Selfish being that I am, I want any blessing God will give me. I think most folks do. In fact, I find it strange that people will ask God to bless them in so many other ways – good health, finances, relationships, etc., but in this one area, they will attempt to actively prevent God’s blessing from occurring. Personally, I don’t want to do anything to block God’s blessing from any part of my life, or my marriage. If he’ll bless us with more kids, bring them on. I’ll take a quiver full.

Run by Merritt’s blog and post your own comments.

A Trip to the Spray Park

A few weeks ago we spent the afternoon at the local spray park. Here’s some pics.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157627278206176″]

Trip to Amarillo

We went to Amarillo to see family up there for a few days recently. Here’s some pics from our journey.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157627279604328″]