Category Archives: family

the parenting pendulum

throughout history, children have been variously treated, by their societies (and, at a level more close to home, by their parents) as either miniature adults, or large babies. of course, those are extremes, and often the pendulum swing is somewhere at a more moderated place.

for much of the last couple centuries, parents, and culture at large, have mostly been viewing teenagers as junior-sized adults. they were given freedoms and responsibilities by the bushel-full. they were provided ample opportunities to exercise their fledgling sense of self and their sporadicly effective abstract thinking ability. the freedoms given them by parents, combined with the limitations of their own brain development (particularly in the areas of decision making, prioritization, risk analysis, and impulse control) caused them to quickly and effectively learn boundaries, particularly as they were granted the freedom to fail, to learn from stepping over the line (as opposed to merely be “protected” from the line, or told about the line).

i started noticing that pendulum swinging the other way more than a decade ago. but — holy cow — that swing has picked up insane inertia. we seem to be living in a period of time when culture, media, parents, schools, the legal system, and all sorts of other leverage providers are encouraging each other on (unknowingly — acting as each others’ accelerators) toward pushing the pendulum to a wild extreme.

bottom line: today’s teenagers (and young adults) are being treated like children more than they have been for hundreds of years; maybe more than they ever have been in any era.

this shift is increasing in speed. i see it all over the place (you will also, if you start looking for it):

  • articles and tv shows and news reports that refer to 16 – 19 year-olds as “children”
  • the same sources referring to young adults, clearly well into their 20s, as “teenagers” (how can a 21 or 22 year old be called a “teenager” by any definition of the word, even if extended adolescence has them in a post-teenage, not-yet-adult pergatorial state of developmental limbo?).
  • parents removing all meaningful responsibility from the lives of their teenaged children, in an effort to “protect” them, allowing them to stay “innocent” and “care-free” longer (i’m putting quotes around all these words because they’re so unfulfilled and misguided).
  • parents removing consequences of poor choices, with the subtle logic that “children are innocent, and shouldn’t be help responsible for actions they don’t fully understand.” by the way, this logic has caused gradual upward movement in the age of responsibility we enforce on children — what used to be an accountability that came after 7 years old (really), then 12 years old, was — for many years — at the 18 year-old mark. but that’s going away now also. ask an HR director or supervisor of young 20somethings if they’ve had parents call in to explain why their 24 year-old will be late to work.

i’m not sure it’s fair to blame parents. i’m a parent of two teenagers. or, i should say: i’m the parent of one teenager (max, 14), and one young adult (liesl, 18), or aspiring adult, or apprentice adult. if liesl is really a child, i probably shouldn’t be letting her trudge around the uk at this moment, as she is. in fact, later this week she and a friend start a 14 day coast-to-coast hike across england with nary an adult in site, unless you count the two of them.

but i digress. i don’t want to blame parents, though i wish they would stand up more against the cultural pressure that tells them they’re bad parents if they don’t smother, over-protect, remove responsibility and consequences. i wish they would stand up more to the cultural pressure jump on that danged swinging pendulum and treat their teenagers like children, their young adults as teenagers.

i’m going to do what i can to slow the currently increasing momentum of that pendulum. i’m going to gently instruct parents about this stuff (i’m amazed how quickly they agree with me and suddenly feel empowered, when i’m asked to lead parent seminars). i’m going to continue ranting about it here, in direct and non-direct ways. heck, i think i really need to write a book about this at some point (i had a full-blown proposal that barna considered co-authoring with me; but, alas, he passed).

so, it’s another title i’m going to take: parenting pendulum preventer. yup, i like it. triple-p, baby — that’s me! i might not be able to stop that thing; but i’m going to point it out, and get a handful of parents to jump off. maybe with that weight gone, the inertia will, even a tiny bit, decelerate.

99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents

with my daughter, liesl, starting her 9-month gap year experience in europe and india, and with my son, max, starting high school last week, my kids have been on my mind quite a bit. so, it’s funny that i forgot to announce here on my blog that the three of us — me, liesl and max — wrote a book that recently released!

it was a blast writing a book with my kids. we went on a 3-day retreat to my silent place in the california desert and framed the whole thing, getting some of it written. then we came back to it a month or so later on a vacation and spent a few more days. they really did write a big chunk of it, and we all spoke into each other’s writing, tweaking and plussing.

anyhow: it’s a book for teenagers, in simply youth ministry’s “99 thoughts” line. it’s available anywhere you buy books, but we’re selling it on The Youth Cartel store, of course. parents, order one for your teenager! youth workers, pick up a case!

here’s the back cover copy:

99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents: Living the Sweet Life at Home

Liesl and Max Oestreicher aren’t perfect teenagers, and they’re the first to admit it. They get in trouble, they fight with their parents (and each other), and they frustrate their teachers from time to time.

But they do have something that a lot of teenagers really wish they had: a better than average relationship with their parents.

99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents is filled with ideas from this sister-and-brother duo on having fun as a family, appreciating why moms and dads do what they do, and finding the best ways to handle arguments and disagreements with your parents. (They’ll also divulge a few secrets about rules, independence, and getting permission!)

Even though the teenage years aren’t easy, you’ll find that a little bit of patience, understanding, and communication will go a long way toward experiencing a more solid relationship with your parents, and Liesl and Max are ready to be your guides along the way!

there she goes

the next seven days feel like the most significant change in my family life in a very, very long time. in fact, i can’t remember what would have trumped this, all the way back to one of the kids being born.

tomorrow (wednesday), max starts high school.
next week, jeannie starts the practicum for her MA in counseling. she’ll be returning to the work force (even though she won’t be paid) for the first time since she was pregnant with liesl, more than 18 years ago.
in the next 10 days, i’ll be in san antonio, phoenix, and winston-salem; but there’s nothing really new about that.
but the biggie is that liesl leaves tomorrow for 9 months abroad (england, scotland and india).

last night, our house was packed with liesl’s friends (and a few of ours) for a going away party. we played “pin liesl on the country” (pin the tail on the donkey, but with liesl’s face attached to a pin, and a world map with the countries she’ll be in highlighted), musical chairs (with music from the countries she’s going to), and busted a piñata in the shape of a ship. plus: a pasta bar, dessert bar (under a sign that said “Liesl is desserting us”), a slide show of liesl pics, and a ton of hugs

i’m still not sure what i’m feeling about liesl heading out. it’s such a complex jumble of emotions. i’m excited for her, of course. i strongly believe it’s going to be a substantially formative year. she and a friend are traveling together. they’ll spend a week or so being tourists in london before heading north to walk the 14-day coast-to-coast hike. october through december will have them in scotland, working in an after school program being started by a local church of scotland. january through march, they’ll be 90 minutes south of chennai, india, working on a reforestation and water conservation project. then, april and may of next year, they’ll be back in england, working on an organic farm during the week, and exploring the UK on weekends.

of course, there’s plenty for a dad to be nervous about. they are two 18 girls heading off on their own. they know some of their plans; but there are tons of bits that are open-ended (example: they have a hostel booked for the first two nights in london, but don’t have plans beyond that). there plenty to be nervous about in terms of harm that could come their way — but there’s also plenty to be nervous about in terms of poor choices they could make. but i have to let liesl be a young adult; i have to let her use that developing frontal lobe decision-making ability, or how could i expect she’ll ever grow.

part of me hopes i don’t have to know about the “well, that was a bad choice and a good lesson” experiences.
part of me will want to rush over and rescue her when she’s in a pinch (like i was tempted to do last night, when, on her last day of auto insurance coverage, and two days before leaving the country, she got in a car accident).
part of me wants her to make perfect choices at every single moment, and experience 9 months that could be filmed and edited into a case study shown to high school seniors.
part of me wants her to get stuck, and make some bad choices, and have a few “oh, crap” moments, because i know those will (or at least could) shape and form her.

mostly, i’m just going to miss her. god, please, protect her. let her mess up; but protect her.

a few pics from our colorado trip

we had a wonderful and relaxing trip to colorado. jeannie and i drove both ways (2 days each way), and listened to audio books while we drove. it’s been a long time since just the two of us had a long drive together like that — really nice. liesl flew into denver for the weekend, and we went to my cousin’s wedding. we had a blast, since my mom’s whole side of the family were there (almost all of them, from all over the country). then, jeannie and i got a secluded little cabin 15 minutes outside of estes park for another 4 days before heading home. my parents joined us for the first 24 hours, then we just hung out, read books, went on a hike in the rocky mountain national park, and chillaxed.

jeannie, liesl and me at my cousin’s wedding

my dad and me at bald pate inn in estes park

some beauty on our hike

more beauty on our hike

the little fox who visited our cabin regularly

how i spent much of the time at our cabin

launching my daughter (the goal of parenting a teenager)

ok, youthworker.
ok, parent.

riddle me this: what’s the goal of parenting a teenager?

my own answer to this has morphed a bit over the years, particularly in the years since my own children have been teenagers.

i was never in these camps, however:

  • the goal of parenting teenagers is to create contributing members of society.
  • the goal of parenting teenagers is to create nice, compliant, church members.
  • the goal of parenting teenagers is that they would be adults who earn lots of money.

i wasn’t even in this camp:

  • the goal of parenting teenagers is that they would be adults who are happy.

that one, however, is more seductive than the prior three, since i do want my kids to be happy (it’s just not my ultimate goal).

for a bunch of years, i held to this one:

  • the goal of parenting teenagers is to create radical followers of jesus.

or something like that. to a youth worker’s ear, that sounds pretty good, huh? but to be honest, i think that was more about me than it was about my kids — i wanted to be that dad whose kids changed the world, man. yeah!

as if i could “create” that! pul-eeze. who did i think i was? (hint: rhymes with “freeze us”)

but today, my “goal of parenting teenagers” could be summed up with this little video:

in other words:

  • the goal of parenting teenagers is to effectively launch them into adulthood!

my thinking is: our pervasive cultural “failure to launch” has very little to do with what teenagers and young adults want, or are capable of. most would prefer to be adults, if we (“we” both refers to our culture at large, and our dominant fear-based approach to parenting) would release them from the dry-docks.

liesl, my oldest, the apple of my eye, my baby, the daughter i love more than just about anything or anyone else in the entire known or unknown universe, has launched. a few weeks ago, she graduated from high school. the next day, she headed off to a camp where she’ll be full-time staff for the entire summer. she’ll be home for a few weeks at the end of the summer; then she and a friend head off to england, scotland, and india, for 9 months of volunteering, adventure, growing up, and risk-taking. yup: risk-taking. i know this next year will be a 12-month version of those boat-sideways/almost-tipping-over/first few seconds of ship-launching. i know she’ll try things i’d rather not know about. i know she’ll stub her toe (certainly metaphorically). she’ll make great choices and lousy choices and reap the rewards and consequences of them all.

am i nervous about my little girl launching? am i nervous about what might happen on the other side of the world? absolutely. 100 percent. i’m sure i’ll have some nights over the next year when it’ll be tough to get to sleep, when my fears get the best of me.

but she’s ready. she’s certainly not perfect — just like her parents on that one. but she’s aware of the connection between consequences and choices; and — for an 18-year old — she has a fairly clear understanding of who she is and what she values. i don’t always agree with her choices, to be sure. but they’re her choices.

it’s very strange, knowing that my job as a dad is basically done. sure, i’m going to help pay for college over the years to come. and i hope to be both a support and a sounding board. but these days, most of that is via ship-to-shore radio, rather than tinkering in the shipyard.

i love you, liesl, and i’m really proud of you. travel well, be yourself, and bring grace to those around you.

random order life and cartel update

back in the day, i did these ‘monday morning update’ posts every single week. they included a little update on the past week and what was ahead, what book i was reading, what music i was digging. stuff like that. it gave me a chance to update stuff that didn’t deserve a whole post. i kinda miss that, even though i have no intention of bringing it back. but, at least today, i’ll try a “random order life and cartel update.” maybe it will become a semi-regular blog feature; maybe not.

adam and i are having a blast with The Youth Cartel. we work fairly autonomously, but touch base pretty much every day via text, email and phone. we use online software (like google docs and dropbox) for all kinds of collaborative work. i totally trust him, and am stoked by how “he completes me.” yes, i wrote that.

– that said: we’re growing so quickly, i’m concerned about our sustainability. we don’t have any margin right now, and we’re going to have to make some tough choices this year about risk.

– i’m planning on launching the 2012 plans for the youth ministry coaching program in the next week or two. the four cohorts (of 10 youth workers each) i’m currently leading are the highlights of my working life. plans are set for new cohorts starting this fall in san diego and nashville, plus the possibility of cohorts i would co-lead (i’d be at 2 of the 6 meetings) in either atlanta or denver, plus one in greenwich/NYC, and one in vancouver/calgary. i’m also in discussion with 3 denominational groups (1 national, 2 regional) about closed cohorts for their tribe (2 of my current cohorts are this model).

– i’m so over-the-top excited about an announcement i’m going to make in the next couple weeks about who’s coming to the middle school ministry campference. sorry to tease.

– a couple weeks ago, in response to someone’s silly suggestion, my beard got it’s own twitter feed and facebook page. so far, the twitter feed is beating the facebook page in likes/follows, 47 to 33.

– an old photo of jeannie and i somehow made it onto the fail blog this week. so random. it was from the 2006 ys staff christmas party. we had a prom theme, and costume competition. jeannie and i came as protestors, based on the protestors we’d had at the nywc that fall. but — hey — getting on the fail blog is, like, bucket list stuff for me!

– adam and i have made some “it’s time, let’s do this” decisions in the last few weeks about The Youth Cartel publishing. we want to provide resources that others wouldn’t provide, by authors others wouldn’t consider, in ways that others wouldn’t provide them. the Extended Adolescence Symposium Ebook was us dipping our toes in the water, and adam and jon huckins’ Good News In the Neighborhood is a more serious swing of the bat. but the other day i sent out contracts to 6 authors for books i hope you’ll see from us in the next 6 months. this doesn’t mean i’m not going to write for other publishers. The Youth Cartel is passionate about being very open-handed and non-exclusive. i have my first book coming out with SYM in less than 2 months, and 6 more (2 of which are written, 4 of which aren’t) over the next 9 or 10 months. i’m stoked about The Way bible i developed with tyndale (seriously, have you seen it!?), and about my last book with zondervan, Understanding Your Young Teen.

– my family and i leave today on a 9 day vacation. we’re heading up to washington state (3 cheers for airline miles!), where we’ll hang with family friends for half our time, and just our family the rest of the time. we’ll be in a timeshare condo on lake chelan, in the middle of the state. it’s a bit of a bittersweet vacation in this way: family vacations have been a really, really big deal to us, and this might our last one. liesl graduates in june, and heads off to her job at a summer camp the next day. she’ll be home for a couple weeks at the end of the summer before heading to england, scotland, and india, for a 9 month gap year (volunteering in various capacities). when she returns next year, she’ll be heading to university of redlands. so, this is it! this vacation must rock!

– i had a blast yesterday with my fellow middle school ministry volunteer (at journey community church) dan coronado (i’ve always thought his name sounded like a fake hollywood name; like, the name of a cop from a 70s tv show). dan is a brilliant professional photographer and videographer. i asked dan if we could have lunch to get caught up, and if he would shoot a new headshot for me. i was starting to find that people were constantly commenting about how i didn’t look anything like my current promo shots. dan took a ton of ’em (he’s so good, it’s fascinating to watch him at work), but here are two of the early samples he sent me:

The Importance of Storytelling in Families

My kids with my parents! (I feel a story about to break out.)
when my two teenage children are with my parents – their grandparents – in my home state, they consistently ask for stories about me as a child or teenager. they ask for stories to be told and retold. when they stumble onto one they haven’t heard before, they come to me and ask me to retell it also.

there’s more to this than the obvious surface stuff of finding out dirt on their dad. hearing these stories helps my kids gain more of a sense of identity, connecting them to the lineage of their origin. the stories become part of who they are. the stories become their stories.

throughout history, our current culture stands unique in our affinity to facts. families, throughout time, have been more interested in stories. in fact, education in jewish households was more about storytelling than anything else. before anyone had a copy of the bible or torah in their homes, oral histories (not even printed stories, let alone printed propositions) were the primary means of remembering who we are, of remembering where we came from.

case in point: the passover seder dinner is all about storytelling. each element of a passover dinner is meant to call up another important element of God’s great rescue, reminding the teller and listeners who they are as god’s chosen, as god’s beloved.

of course, jesus is a fantastic example for us in this: he was an amazing storyteller, often preferring a story (real or imaginary) over other forms of communication. jesus knew that stories capture imagination. stories allow listeners to find themselves in the characters. stories – especially the right stories – encourage us, as the lion king’s mufasa reminded his son simba, to “remember who you are.”

i love what paul (in a fatherly voice) writes to young timothy in 2 timothy 1:5 — i am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother lois and in your mother eunice and, i am persuaded, now lives in you also. paul doesn’t unpack the stories here, but he reminds timothy of stories tim knows well, and has heard over and over again his entire life, stories that tell him, “remember who you are.”

we parents tended to be pretty good about storytelling with our kids when they were little. we bought all those cardboard covered picture books and read them out loud until we wanted to do imaginary harm to the imaginary characters. we sat with our kids watching veggietales or other cute story videos. stories that were cute until about their seventh viewing (and not so much at their seven hundredth viewing). we sat on the edge of their beds at night, making up wild and wonderful tales, full of humor and pathos and wonderful morality and lessons of courage. try that with your 17 year-old son! (no, really, don’t.)

so when did we stop telling stories with our kids? and, more importantly, why did we stop telling stories with our kids?

sure, our stories have to evolve a bit, if we’re going to continue them with teenagers. storytelling with teenagers is less about snuggling and unicorns, and more about the real stuff of life. remember, normal teenagers view their parents as permanently middle-aged. they don’t have much imagination about what you were like as a child or teenager, unless you tell them.

if lines of communication are already open and strong in your family, storytelling is a great way to keep them that way. and you’ll be amazed at the other stuff that will come up before, during, and after stories.

but if lines of communication are already strained, i’d like you to hear a few things. first, don’t panic. you’re normal. yes, this is difficult; but it’s normal. in fact, your goal as a parent of teenager is to wean them from the dependence on you that was normal when they were children. relationships and independence and communication all – necessarily – shift during these years. to try to keep them from shifting actually does damage to your teenager’s development. but consider using stories to create a safe DMZ of communication.

even though it will feel forced at times (that’s ok – some level of uncomfortability is ok), structure some sharing times that are built around stories, not check lists of “what did you do?” that feel more like a gestapo interview than loving parental involvement. my friend, who now has a great relationship with his young adult son, used to tell his distant and moody then-16 year-old son, “you don’t have to like this, and you don’t have to make eye contact with me, and you don’t even have to say anything other than the bare minimum; but you will be going out to breakfast with me once a week until you’re 18, and you will listen to me tell you stories, and you will tell me one story about your week.”

storytelling, by the way, isn’t only important for younger generations. storytelling is beneficial for older generations also! in our culture of disposability and instant-everything, stories provide an anchoring, a macro-level picture of the values most important to us, values like obedience to god, courage, faith, hope, and love. 16 or 75, we all need to be re-anchored to those values.

one of the practices we have embraced in my family is storytelling around the dinner table. we have a no cell phones policy (which, these days, is less about taking phone calls than it is about texting or mobile facebooking or other interruptions that take place just below the edge of the dinner table). sometimes we take turns telling low points and high points of our day. with each of these comes a story. we all learn about each others’ values, each others’ needs, each others’ spiritual and emotional states. often, a story of the day will bring out a “that reminds me of the story of that time…,” with a request or one family member or another to retell one of our arsenal of favorites.

here are some ideas for you to try:

    host intergenerational storytelling dinners. instead of everyone bringing a dish to share, each person has to bring a story (or a few stories!) to share – real stories, not made-up stories. give the categories ahead of time, just like you would for a potluck, and have them choose stories in 2 or 3 categories. make sure you clear the date first with your teenager, because they’re who you really want there! shoot for at least one person or couple from every generation. allow for q&a after each story.
    highs and lows. described above as a practice my family uses, have each family member, over a meal, share a story of a high point and a low point of their day. if your family is open to it, you can add an ancient prayer element to this practice by together noticing where God was present in both the high and low moments.
    letter writing. yes, in these postmodern days, the art of writing snail mail seems almost ancient (especially to teenagers). but, particularly if you older relatives aren’t local to you, asking them to write out stories from their youth and young adult years can become family keepsakes.
    oral history recordings. many teenagers are skilled at simple video editing. challenge your teenager to interview grandparents and other older relatives (or, older people in your church) about what life was like when they were younger. video the interview, and edit it into a short piece you can keep. store them on youtube and share them with other family members (or church members), inviting them to add more.

the difficult shift from control to facilitation

about 18 months ago, i was sitting in dr. robert epstein’s living room with a group of youth workers from my youth ministry coaching program, talking about his ideas about the cultural construct of adolescence. at one point, his children came home from school and trotted through the house — elementary-aged kids. he had previously mentioned to us that he had two older son (about 28 and 30) from his first marriage, and how a grip of young kids from his second marriage. trying to understand some of what he was talking about, i asked him, “how has your parenting changed from when you parented your older sons to how you parent the children in your home now?”

i remember his response verbatim, because it has impacted my parenting (and other thinking) in significant ways. he said, “i’ve shifted from parenting by control to parenting by facilitation. and by ‘facilitation’, i mean identifying and nurturing competencies.”

he unpacked that thought a bit more, but the damage was done. i instantly saw the truth in what he was saying. and i could see that, while not a super-high control parent, i hadn’t thought of it in these terms before. since then, jeannie and i have tried over and over again to remember this idea when faced with parenting issues.

an illustration:

my amazing 14 year-old son max recently said to me something like, “i want to do something!”
i think he’d said something prior to that, but i hadn’t been paying enough attention. i didn’t know what he meant.
“what do you mean?”
“i want to do something to make a difference. and i’ve tried a few times to start something, but it hasn’t worked”
(i started to realize he was talking about doing something to make a difference in the world, and his “it hasn’t worked” was an attempt to explain the combination of his own lack of follow-through and others.)
he continued, “so, i want to get rubber bracelets made to raise money for haiti, and i want to sell them.”

i was at a control or facilitation junction, baby. i love my son, and i want him to impact the world, and i want him to succeed. and the best way i know to ensure this is to exert my control, to take over the details and tell him what to do, overseeing and prescribing each step. i knew, in that moment, that if i encouraged him and served him, helping only when he asked, it would be a more fruitful growth opportunity for him (get this:) even if he failed.

i said, “that’s great, max! tell me if you need anything from me.”
he said, “well, is there anyone i should talk to?”
i suggested he talk to the guy at our church who oversees our church partnership with haiti. that was it.

max found that adult’s phone number and called him. he also called the pastor on staff who oversees that ministry area. he gathered info all on his own. he found a website that makes rubber bracelets and priced the whole thing out. he asked me for input on what to have inscribed on the bracelets, and i suggested something like “remember haiti” might be cool.

a few days later, max asked me if he could use my credit card to place the online order. i asked, “are you asking for me to pay for the bracelets?” “no, i’ll pay you right now, i just need your credit card to order them.” i had absolutely nothing to do with him placing the order, choosing the quantity, color, shipping method, or anything else. he covered the cost out of his own bank account; and a week later, i paid him $5 for one of his bracelets.

max still has a bag full of bracelets, sometimes remembering to bring them to school and church to sell them, and sometimes forgetting. it’s still unclear whether or not he will make back his investment and raise enough to make a nice donation to our church’s haiti ministry. but this is clear: whether he “succeeds” or “fails”, the experience will be better for him than if i had controlled it.

and here’s where my thinking goes on this…

replace “parenting” with “youth ministry” in that epstein line:
we need a shift from youth ministry by control to youth ministry by facilitation, where facilitation means identifying and nurturing competencies.

heck, replace “parenting” with “leadership”:
we need a shift from leadership by control to leadership by facilitation, where facilitation means identifying and nurturing competencies.

these aren’t easy shifts (especially if you’re steeped in parenting, or youth ministry, or leadership by control). but the implications are massive.

oestreicher family christmas plans

today, thursday, december 22, is christmas for my family. yup.

every year, we head to detroit for the holidays (all of my family and my wife’s family are there). this year, the frequent flier seats we could get have us leaving saturday — christmas eve. yesterday was my kids’ last day of school, so we have these two free days. that means today is christmas, and tomorrow is packing.

the plan for today:

9am — everybody up. coffee is ready. open stockings.

10am — head to a big brunch at hash house a go go (one of the best breakfasts in san diego)

noon-ish — christmas gift opening, followed by family christmas carol singing (bring out the instruments!)

early afternoon — deliver gifts to neighbors, take a trip to the dollar store to get white elephant gifts from each of us for my extended family’s christmas on monday the 26th

late afternoon — see the new sherlock holmes movie together

dinner somewhere. kids free by 7pm to hang with friends (one’s having a friend spend the night, the other is spending the night elsewhere).

should be a fantastic day.

owning up to the oestreicher family nativities

i have to admit, even though i mocked all those nativities on my blog, i’ve slowly grown fond of many of them. i still get a scratchy feeling in my throat when i look at the cat nativity. and the hummel-like little kids freak me out a bit. but some of the latter additions just make me smile. yes, some of it is laughter. but it’s more than that.

anyhow, the other day i was thinking about this, and realized that for all my snarkiness, we have a fairly high number of wide-ranging nativities in our own home every christmas. time to come out of the closet and show them all to you:

this quilted nativity advent calendar has been a favorite of my kids (now 14 and 17) for years. every morning, they take turns moving the character of the day up to the scene.

technically not a nativity, this is the only one of the bunch that stays out year ’round. i’m qualifying it as a nativity, since, while it’s a group of saints, it includes mary with jesus, and joseph. it’s also the most expensive of our nativities. i bought these hand-painted stacking dolls in prague.

this one requires a little explanation. for years, my sisters’ kids and my kids put on a nativity story play as a part of our family christmas at my parents house. the roles changed from year to year, as did the dialogue (sometimes straight out of scripture; other times scripted in other ways). as a christmas gift to my parents one year, we took photos of the kids in their costumes, and took them to one of those places that makes die-cut stands out of photos. we bought an empty creche, and gave my parents the set. as you can imagine, it’s a fairly treasured family thing. we loved it so much, my sisters and i each got one for our own homes also.

little liesl was the sheep that year…

and max, who was only one month old, expertly played the part of baby jesus…

this one qualifies as our oddest (well, until the gift from adam, below). it was a gift from my parents years ago. i call it the siamese holy family. if you look close, you’ll see that joe and mary have one body from the waist down, but split into two above the waist. i bet that made childbirth extremely awkward.

anyone who has been to bethlehem has seen version of this nativity at every roadside tourist stand. but i love this one, mostly because i bought it there.

my kids each have this set, given by my parents years ago. this one sits on the back of the toilet in their bathroom (christmas invades every room in our house)!

adorning a wall in our living room each year are copies of two christmas cards we made years ago, each with a nativity drawn by one of my kids. the first was liesl’s creation, and the second was drawn by max.

and, finally, our newest addition… my partner in the youth cartel, adam mclane, gave me this zombie nativity set as an early christmas gift a few days ago, in honor of the blitzkrieg we both experienced trying to keep my blog alive during the onslaught of almost 400,000 visitors. he bought it from the etsy craftswoman whose zombie nativity i’d highlighted in that memorable blog post.

yup. emmanuel. god with us. maybe the single most amazing and creative reality in all of history.