11 Habits Every New Dad needs to learn

I’m not a new dad. I guess I’m what you’d call a “new again” dad. It’s been 5 years since I had a newborn at the house, and in that time I forgot a thing or two.

There are a few things that I learned the first time around that I naturally, intuitively, do this time. Things that I think would’ve made life a lot easier the first time. Things that I had to learn the hard way on round one.

Now that round two’s here, things are a little more smooth-sailing.

Because here’s the honest truth: in the first few month’s of a baby’s life, dads aren’t essential. We don’t produce milk, which is essential for life. And that could cause us to disengage, and leave everything up to mom.

But there’s a better way. A way to be fully engaged, fully present, and fully helpful during this first season.

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11 Habits Every New Dad Needs to Learn

1. Learn how to change a diaper.

Come on, fellas. Plug your nose. Resist your gag reflex. And dive in. It’s not that difficult, and in the process, there’s a good bit of bonding that takes place. Talk to your baby, and look at this as another moment you can steal with them.

2. Learn to be full of grace.

Moms are operating on a lack of sleep. They’re emotionally frazzled. They’re giving of themselves in a more physical, spiritual, and emotional way than they ever have. As a dad, be full of grace. Overflowing with it. She’ll love you for it.

3. Learn to do your honey-do list. Now.

You’re living in a fog of little-to-no sleep. Of life being out of the normal flow. And you feel like life couldn’t get any more chaotic. But hear me when I say this: life doesn’t get less busy or less complicated. Plow through your check-list of chores now. Don’t put it off.

4. Learn how to make a great cup of coffee.

Use a chemex. Or a French Press. Or a v60 Hario. Just learn to make a good cup of coffee. It’s essential.

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5. Learn how to curb your tongue.

You can start a fire more quickly with your tongue than you can with a match. When emotions are high, sleep is low, and our physical bodies are out of their normal rhythm, our words are even more powerful.

Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. – James 3:3-6

6. Learn how to capture tiny moments.

Like going on a lunch date when your mother-in-law is in town. Or going to a movie in-between feedings. Or letting your spouse leave the house for a while as you watch the baby.

7. Learn how to do the dishes.

Performing menial-seeming tasks like washing the dishes, washing the clothes, and vacuuming the floor are huge helps to a mom that’s giving of herself to feed, nurture, and grow another human being.

8. Learn how to function on very little sleep.

…because you’re not going to get much. My secret? See #4, above.

9. Learn how to be on full-alert in a moment’s notice.

Even when you’re relaxed, even when you’d rather sit on the couch, even when you’d rather finish reading that page, even when you’d rather keep your eyes closed because you’re (not half-, but fully) asleep…hop up. Put your self-serving needs aside. And change that diaper. Put that pacifier in. Rock your baby. Talk to him/her. Clean the spit-up. Burp them. Do whatever it takes. In a split-second.

10. Learn how to talk with a baby that won’t talk back to you.

This one’s tough. And to be honest, it feels kinda weird. But I’ve found that a baby will listen no matter what you say. So talk about your day at work. Talk about what’s frustrating you. Talk about what you love. Talk about football. Baseball. Or your favorite band. Sing a song to them. They just want to hear your voice.

11. Learn to be at your wife’s beckon call.

She is growing a human being. With her body! Your problems are minor right now. Your convenience doesn’t matter. Your frustrations are miniscule. Your headaches are bushleague. Suck it up and love your wife with all you’ve got. Pour your heart and soul into serving her. And even after your child grows up…don’t stop this one.

To sum it up, at the end of the day, learn how to apply this verse in the context of your family:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Paul, Philippians 2:4

 

 

 

A whole new level of gross

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image credit: www.gimmesomeoven.com/

When we sat down for dinner, I assumed it was going to be a dinner just alike any other. Turns out it would be a dinner like no other.

Rex isn’t a particularly picky eater. He tends to eat whatever we put in front of him. Partly because of his taste buds. And partly because he knows that if he doesn’t eat the dinner my wife and I made, we’re not making him anything else.

This particular night, we were having sweet potato fries as a side. We’d sliced fresh sweet potatoes, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and roasted them in the oven. The sweet aroma weaved its way through the house.

When we sat down to eat, Rex ate his meat, but didn’t want to eat the fries. I told him that he needed to eat at least a few of them. So he pushed them around on his plate, wrongly thinking I’d believe he’d eaten them. “I don’t like orange fries,” he said.

The battle began.

“Rex, you just have to eat 4.”

The battle continued.

Then I saw it happening, but I didn’t believe it. I thought he was faking it, because he’d done it before, trying one more time to get out of eating the sweet potato fries. He started retching a little, talking between heaves: “I really don’t like orange fries.”

“Buddy, you’re going to eat 4 before you leave this table.”

Retch.

Retch.

Then it happened. At the exact moment I’d decided to get on his level and remind him that he’s not getting anything else for dinner…no dessert…no…and I never finished that last sentence before I saw his supper again. He cried. And I wanted to.

I gently wiped his face and hands, and helped him change out of his clothes. I took his plate to the sink, and told him we’d probably had enough dinner tonight. Me, included.

Then I wiped my face off. My mouth out. My hands off. And I put on a fresh change of clothes, too.

Jesus’ Turn

That moment reminded how much Jesus loves me. He loves me enough to take on the mess of my sin. To bear it for me. Because even my best is like a “filthy rag.” (Isaiah 64:6)

He loves me enough to take on the shame of my sin. To look foolish so I don’t eternally have to. (Tweet that)

Every time I’m short with my son I’m reminded again of my stench.

Every time my pride rears it’s ugly head I’m given another glimpse into the dense layers of grace God offers us in Jesus. (Tweet that)

Every time I just care about myself, ignoring the needs of others, I see my stink one more time. Because Jesus doesn’t ignore me. (Tweet that)

Even when I commit the same stupid sin. Again.

Even when I’m less than the husband I should be. Again.

Every time I wallow in my guilt and shame, Jesus comes along and gently wipes my face off. Takes my plate to the sink. And gets me a new change of clothes. He sends me to the living room and says, “It’s ok. That’s enough for tonight. You’re all clean now.”

Once again He affirms His love for me. His love never fails. (Psalm 136:1)

Even when he wears your supper. (Tweet that)

 

8 Ways to Ensure Your Kids Won’t Hate Church

My son gets to hang out in my office quite often. I love that he loves it. Maybe his love is rooted in the toys and candy I keep in the bottom drawer, just for him. But maybe it’s because he just genuinely loves me. I’m banking solely on #1 at this point in his life.

This week, though, my wife was out of town, and Rex had to go to work with me all day.

I had to jump on a conference call, and the movie he was watching was a little loud. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind putting some headphones on. Then he gave me this look.

He’s got the sass of his mama. :)

 

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One of my goals of fatherhood is to raise a son that doesn’t hate church. It’s not a given reality that my son will grow up loving the Church. As a pastor’s kid, he’s got an uphill battle ahead, especially considering the pastor’s kids I knew growing up. Right now, he’s loving Longhollow, where I’m on staff. But we’ve got a lot of years ahead of us, and I’ve got a lot of work to do to keep us on this path.

My child loving the church his whole life isn’t a given…and neither is it for yours.

Should you ‘force’ your kids to go to church? Or let them choose?

Should you let them go to the main worship service with you when they want? Or put them in the kids area?

Let them wear what they want? Or dress them to the nines?

Here are some intentional actions I’m taking to keep my son from growing up to hate the Church.

8 Ways to Ensure Your Kids Won’t Hate Church

1. Make small group a priority in your life.

Every week, my wife and I go to small group. We help Rex understand how important it is for mommy and daddy to do this, and that through it, we become better parents.

2. Go to churches with amazing children’s ministries.

Check (Grace Community Church) and check (Long Hollow). Without ministries intentionally investing truth, and fun, into my child’s life, why would I expect him to want to come back?

3. Give your family your best time, not just your leftover time.

I don’t want to always come home tired and frustrated and burned out. It’s easy in the church world to give others your best consistently, and forget that your family is your priority. Whether you’re a volunteer or on staff, giving others your best is easy to give your best to others, because they “need” you and constantly affirm you. When you give others your best, you create resentment in your family.

4. Don’t make church attendance an option for your kids.

Our son never has the option of ‘bargaining’ his way out of going to church. Just like he never bargains his way out of going to bed at night or buckling up in his car seat. It’s not that we ‘force’ anything. We just never give him another option. “How dare you force your kids to go to church?!?” Really? Don’t you ‘force’ your kids to go to school? To go to bed? To eat dinner? To go to the doctor?

5. When I’m home, I’m home.

I don’t want him to think that daddy has to “work” all of the time. I want him to know that when I’m home, I’m really home, not just distracted by work. If you don’t work in a church, it might be different for you, but the principle is the same. Don’t be so distracted by ministry that you neglect the ministry right in front of you.

6. Live out your faith at home and at church.

I’m nowhere near perfect in my life, but my faith is real and active at home and at church. We talk about spiritual things at home, read our Bibles, and pray together consistently.

7. Make prayer a regular part of your public, and private, life.

We don’t just pray at church, or when other people are watching us. We pray together as a family even when it’s not what we ‘have’ to do. When all you do is pray at church, and for others to see, you create an unhealthy, hypocritical dynamic for your children.

8. Don’t rip your pastor in front of your kids.

I don’t try to hold our local church, or any, on a pedestal of perfection…but I also guard my words carefully so that my son doesn’t grow up with a jaded view of the bride for whom Christ died. I don’t want him thinking everybody is perfect, but I also don’t want him growing up not trusting anyone.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Do your kids enjoy church? What about you? What did your parents do to help you not hate church?

 

 

 

 

Helping our children learn obedience

When I was a kid, my parents gave me an allowance. A huge, mind-blowing amount of money that left me spoiled rotten.

$2.50.

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image credit: CreationSwap user Flip Ologenau

Even when I was a kid, that wasn’t much money. I remember my friends getting $5 per week. And other friends getting $10 or $20 for every ‘A’ they got on their report card. That made my $2.50 look puny.

But I loved getting it, nonetheless. I’d have my eye on a new video game, or a Reds cap, or a GI Joe, and I’d stash my money away in my top drawer and watch it grow. Ever. So. Slowly.

Every week, my dad would give me two $1 bills and 2 quarters. “Son, do what you want with this. But this (he’d say, holding up a quarter) is to give back to God.”

See, tithing is difficult enough. So my parents made it a bit easier by giving me money in denominations that were easily broken into percentages.

10% of $2.50 is $.25. Boom.

I’d take my $.25 and stuff it in the offering envelope, seal that thing up, and away we’d go. It became a habit, a regular part of my life. I grew to have a healthy understanding of money, and living generously. It was easier to give because:

  1. The money didn’t feel like it was “mine” that I’d earned or deserved…it had come straight from my dad’s hands.
  2. It went straight from my hand to the offering envelope.

Because giving became a part of my life from such an early age, even when I was older, and making money “of my own,” giving to my church was an expectation I had of myself. It wasn’t, and isn’t, easy (in fact, I’ve found in my life that making more money doesn’t guarantee that generosity is easier). But it’s much easier than if it hadn’t been built into my life from an early age.

I’m convinced that one of the major roles of parenting is teaching our children to learn to obey God. Not in an overbearing, exasperating, constantly hard-nosed kind of way. But in a way that is full of grace, mercy, and truth.

Obedience is hard you too, right? Whether it comes to obeying God in your finances, in your marriage, in your job, with the amount of food you eat or the kind of media you consume, obedience at nearly every level is difficult. We’ve got an enemy that prowls around like a lion, ready to devour us. (1 Peter 5:8) The same is true for our children. So let’s make it as easy as we possibly can for our children to obey us (and, by proxy, God).

Obedience isn’t easy, so don’t make it harder than it has to be. When it comes to tithing, our greed and proclivity to covet makes obedience especially difficult. Let your children see how easy it can be to give, helping them develop good, God-honoring habits early on in their life.

It is true:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. – Ephesians 6:1

But parents, let’s do our part to make that as easy as possible. Don’t stop with financial obedience! Remove barriers, crack strongholds, and clear pathways in more and more areas of their lives.

Our children will thank us later.

 

 

9 Parenting Tips to Avoid

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Let me list my parenting resume

  • I’ve been a parent now for over 4 years.
  • I’ve read a lot of parenting books.
  • I’ve listened to a lot of parenting sermons.
  • I’ve preached about parenting issues.
  • I’ve blogged about being a parent.

Which means I have it all figured out.

Come on, you know that once you’ve written a blog about parenting, you’ve got it all figured out.

In my vast years of experience, I’ve noticed a lot of parenting nuggets being thrown around. And I’ve noticed a lot of things that aren’t shared as nuggets as much as they’re just lived out in the moment.

Things get out of hand, and go sideways in a restaurant, and you default to a certain behavior, whether in the moment you believe that’s what’s best for your child or not. Right?

You don’t really think that yelling back at your child in Wal Mart is what’s best for him, you, or the rest of Wal Mart, do you? You don’t really think that giving in to your child’s temper tantrum is what’s best, do you? But in order to save face, and just “get through” the moment, we make decisions and base our actions on more immediate gratification.

I’ve seen some pretty bad decisions that have been made in the heat of the moment. I’ve committed lots of these. And I’ve noticed a few things that you and I should avoid.

9 Parenting Tips to Avoid

1. Count to 3.

“Timmy, listen to daddy. I’m going to count to 3, and you have to _____. 1…2…2.5…2.75…2.85…2.94…” Don’t expect obedience the first time you ask for it. Give your child a chance to disobey you for a little while longer.

Delayed obedience is disobedience.

2. Always let them decide.

They’re a child. They decide what’s best for themselves. Eating a candy bar before bed? Yes! Oh, you don’t want to go eat there for dinner, like mommy and daddy do? Ok! You want to stay up late because you just don’t want to go to bed? Sure! Thanks for letting me know, you little ball of wisdom!

Children need your wisdom. And they need to know you’re the parent, not them. As a parent, God’s called you to be an authority in your child’s life.

3. Let your world revolve around them.

Get in as many “activities” as possible, because that’s what’s best for your children and your family. Always be doing something. And during the “off” seasons, find something to fill your time. Because “resting” (the Bible calls this “Sabbath”) is something we do when we die.

If you let them, children will make your world completely circle theirs. This isn’t healthy. Good parents help their family find balance between doing and being.

4. Don’t have a discipline plan.

Don’t plan for discipline…because that’s no fun! Just try to figure out in the moment what you’ll do. That way, if you’re really angry, you’ll do something stupid always do the right thing.

Plan out how you’ll discipline. Don’t make it an “in the moment” thing, or you’ll end up disciplining in a way that you regret. Godly discipline is loving, and for our good. (Hebrews 12:5-11)

5. Don’t make them go to church.

What kind of parent would you be if you forced your child to do what you know is best for them? You haven’t been called to shape the way your children grow and mature. Come on…do you even love your child?

Set corporate worship, and healthy relationships, as a weekly standard for your family, because you know you need it…not necessarily because you always wake up every Sunday eager to go. Do what’s best, not just what “feels” right at the time.

6. Always be firm.

Don’t ever let up on your kids. Because if you do, they’ll get out of hand. No grace. No mercy.

Model for your children what the grace of God looks like. Sometimes, when they’ve disobeyed, show them grace, and explain the radical grace of God to them. Don’t exasperate your children. (Ephesians 6:4)

7. Don’t ever play.

You’re the parent. They’re the child. They need to understand that distinction. Don’t ever get on the ground and play with them. Don’t show them your weaknesses. And for goodness sake, don’t ever have fun.

If you don’t play with your child, you rob them of a beautiful gift. And you paint a picture of a boring God to them.

8. When you don’t know what to do, let Google be your guide.

Not sure what to do in this parenting situation? Google it! There’s so much great advice that will always point your children to Jesus, and help your family grow. Use Google, and Google alone.

Always be wary of what you read on the internet. Find a parent (or two or three) and ask them to speak in to your life as a parent. Surround yourself with people wiser than you, and bounce ideas off of them, growing from their wisdom and experience. 

9. As long as they’re not bothering me…

They’re watching something that may be a bit inappropriate for their age? Playing with something they shouldn’t? Spending too long on Facebook? Well, at least they’re out of your hair for a couple of hours.

Do. Not. Disengage. Know what is influencing your child. Set boundaries, and stick to them. Media shapes your children’s minds in powerful ways.

Anything you’d add?

 

 

 

10 Things I Guarantee You’ll Never Say

I have said a lot of stupid things in my life. Many of which I’ve said right here on this blog. Things that have gotten me in hot water, cold water, and dry with no water.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the trajectory of my life, how I’m spending my time, and where I want to point. As I’ve thought back over the years, there are things I realize I’ve never said that have significantly shaped who I am. God’s changed me through generosity, community, laughter, my son, my church(es), and my own leadership journey.

Sometimes what’s not said is more important than what is said. And there are things you’ll never say, either.

I’m not a gambling man, but I’d put good money on the line that you’ll never say any of these things. And if you find yourself saying them, stop it.

10 things you’ll never say

I wish I hadn’t been so generous.

Nobody regrets being generous. Even when your generosity isn’t well received, isn’t thanked, or isn’t noticed, the act of generosity changes you as much as it changes others.

Truth: You’ll never regret generosity.

Life would’ve been better if I hadn’t joined that small group.

You will have less “free” time in your life, more heartache, more burdens to bear, more mess to wade through, and more people to pray for. Life will be tougher. But you won’t regret joining a small group, because you’ll have people to journey through life with.

Truth: You’ll never regret investing in people’s lives.

My best friends? They’re the ones I never laugh with.

Get off the boring train, and start recognizing that laughter is a gift from God. You’ll grow more spiritually with a group of people that you enjoy being around than ones you dread meeting with.

Truth: If you don’t enjoy being around you, neither will others.

I wish I had spent less time with my kids.

And your kids will never say they wish that you’d spent less time with them, either.

Truth: Time with your kids is not time wasted.

I love to drink mediocre coffee.

No you don’t. Nobody does. Which is why when I have people over to my house, I serve the best stuff that I’ve got. Or I go get my hands on the best stuff I can find. All coffee is not created equal.

Truth: 1 cup of my coffee just might change your life. :)

I wish I had been less regular at church.

Your church isn’t perfect. Neither is mine. But being where God’s people gather to worship and celebrate the work of God is healing and life-giving.

Truth: Getting plugged into a local church will change the trajectory of your life.

“Leadership” doesn’t really have any relevance in my life.

No matter where you find yourself, leadership is playing a significant role. Sometimes it’s affecting you positively. Other times, negatively. Sometimes by its presence. Other times by its absence.

Truth: Focusing on your own leadership development isn’t a waste of time.

My life is much more lovely because of my cat.

Nope. It’s not.

Truth: I hate cats. So do you.

I wish I had not gone on that mission trip.

I wrote about it here, but my life was shifted when I traveled to Costa Rica. Others’ lives were shifted because I was sick for part of the week, too. Whether you go on a trip out of your country or across state lines, you won’t regret the time away from work or the money it cost you to get there.

Truth: Going on a mission trip will mess you up in the best way possible.

Children’s ministry? That’s a waste of time.

If you say this, expect to not be a pastor very long. Or expect your church numbers to dwindle quickly.

Truth: When you invest in children, you are investing in the life of the Church. For today and tomorrow.

Anything you’d add? 

 

Encouraging boys to be boys

Boys will be boys, so “they” say to the chagrin of moms everywhere.

Let me be honest: my wife struggles sometimes. Her natural instinct is to protect and nurture. And while that’s needed…a lot…sometimes it’s not needed. (FYI, my wife is amazing, and she’s learned how to encourage our son in great ways to be “all boy.”) Sometimes boys need to be allowed to be boys. Sometimes boys need to take stupid risks. Break things. Jump off of couches and counters. Skin their knees.

It’s what makes boys boys. And it’s part of what helps boys transition to becoming men.

The transition to manhood doesn’t begin at puberty. That transition begins lots earlier. It begins on the playground. The monkey bars call young boys out of their fear. The slide that ends in a pile of rocks woos the boy right out and engages him in a way that they’ll be facing in the world as adults. “Take risks now” is what we should be telling boys. “Do things that makes others cower in fear…and don’t wait.”

If you don’t let boys take risks, they’ll always play it safe. Then when God calls them to something huge, something bigger than themselves, something with great risk of failure if God himself doesn’t show up, they’ll cower in fear. They’ll snap under the pressure…just like the boy in the swimming pool who wouldn’t jump off of the high dive.

How you respond to fear as an adult is often reflective of how you were taught to respond as a child.

If you have boys, let them do dangerous things. Let them go outside and get dirty, rip a hole in their jeans, and bust their lip. Let them climb trees, stub their toes, and splash in muddy puddles. It will feel counterintuitive to your protective, nurturing nature as a parent but in the long run, it’ll pay off.

My wife and I are trying to do this with our son. And he’s turned in to quite the frog catcher. He just hadn’t had one do this on him yet.

 

Rex & the frog from Ben Reed on Vimeo.

Raise boys to be men. Not boys.

Question:

Do you have children? How do you think raising boys is different than raising girls?

 

Quantity time, Quality Time, & a Clingy son

Recently, I had a bit of traveling to do for work. Nearly 2 weeks worth, to be exact.

Confession: Though I see great value in getting out of your normal environment to dream, plan, and stretch, I hate being away from my family. I hate it.

My son is at the age where he definitely understands that I’m gone. But he doesn’t understand when I’ll be back. Every morning I was gone, he expected I was still going to be there to play with him.

"Show me your 'mean' face!"

Every night before he went to bed, he expected I’d be there to tuck him in.

My wife told him that I’d be home next Friday, but that meant nothing to him. Next Friday is just like tomorrow…or next year. He has no concept of time.

So when I returned home, he didn’t want me out of his sight. Everywhere I went, everything I did, every time took a sip of coffee, he was right by my side. He didn’t want to take the chance that I’d get on another plane without him. That I’d go somewhere and leave him back home. If I grabbed my keys, he heard them jangling together from across the house and came running.

It reminded me that in raising children, neglecting “quantity” time is a big deal. (I know that there are people that travel much more than I do, the demands of their job pulling them away. I interact lots with military families…I get it.) And when I neglect quality time, my son feels it.

Quality Not Guaranteed

You can’t avoid “quantity” time together and be guaranteed “quality” time.

Culture would lead us to believe that it’s the “quality” of your time with your family that is most important. That “quantity” time is a waste, and just isn’t feasible. With the demands of work, hobbies, church, etc., “quantity” family time is a thing of the past.

Truth: you can tell what you value by what fills up your calendar.

“Quality” time is found when you spend “quantity” time. In other words, “quality” time isn’t truly “quality” without a bit of “quantity” to go with it.

Oftentimes, I hear families say they focus more on the quality of their time together rather than the how much time they truly spend. Which is code, every time, for, “We’re too busy to spend much time together.”

Life takes on a different pace for most people through the summer months. A slower, more relaxed pace.

This summer, uncover quality through quantity.

Put your phone down. Don’t “Facebook” the moment. Instagram can wait. Instead of watching life unfold before you on your 3-inch LCD screen, watch it unfold in all its beauty.

Check voicemail later. Respond to emails after bedtime. Your Twitter feed can wait.

And take advantage of every moment.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart(K) and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, emphasis mine)

 

 

Creating art with my son

image credit: Creation Swap user http://creationswap.com/joshyates

We created art today,

my son & I crafting a masterpiece.

Weaving figure 8s, sweeping our brushes across,

we dominated the back yard.

 

We created art today.

He used the green, I the orange.

No blade stood a chance

as we blanketed every square inch of our canvas.

 

We created art today

amidst a stifling heat.

We left, covered in green bits of canvas

from which we had crafted.

 

We created art today,

art of the best kind.

Art that gives you hope

and makes you laugh.

 

We created art today,

art that displays real life.

And spotlights the best this life can offer.

Art that beckons others’ enjoyment.

 

We created art today

and we’ll do it again next week.

When the long blades call out

for a father and son to create a masterpiece.