Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fair Memories

The Platte County Fair is going on this week and that brings back a lot of fun memories.

When I was "4-H age" (age 8-18 as of January 1st of that year) my sisters and I were very active in 4-H. We sewed, cooked, learned how to garden, and gave demonstrations. I remember trying to find 4 or 5 IDENTICAL beans or beets or tomatoes to take to the fair--they had to be the same size, shape, and color to qualify for a blue or purple ribbon. I remember sewing that last button on my dress (one year my very elaborate dress had about 10 buttons on each cuff, and another 15 or 20 buttons down the front!) on the way to the fair. I remember seeing friends I hadn't seen all summer, and eagerly looking to see how we'd done on our projects.

I remember mom teaching us how to measure ingredients accurately and helping us sew perfect seams and teaching us how to make buttonholes. Looking back, I know that I didn't appreciate her endless patience as she taught us—thanks mom! Through 4-H we learned not only the practical lessons of how to make muffins or sew a hem, but lessons about following directions and working hard to make our entries perfect. We also learned life-lessons of confidence and talking to adults as we modeled our clothes and talked to judges about our other entries.

Until Cody and Morgan were 4-H age and showed at the fair I didn’t realize how much parents looked forward to the too. We share secret smiles with other parents in the early morning hours as we rush between animal pens or back to the truck to get a forgotten item. It's the tears of pride we try to hide (but other parents always understand) when our kids do well...the swelling of our hearts when we see siblings helping each other or other kids when an animal gets loose or someone needs a word of encouragement.

Early morning sheep washing
It's why we put the (seemingly) endless dollars and hours into projects, why we wake our kids up early (even when they're crabby) to take care of an animal or work on a project, why we practice patience as we teach (sometimes over and over!) our kids a new skill.  We know it's not just the ribbons they'll get during the fair, it's the life-long lessons the kids will take with them (like going back into the ring for dog agility after your dog took a detour out of the ring and around the whole building), and hopefully pass on to their kids someday.

This is the first year since the new millennium that neither Cody nor Morgan is showing an animal at the fair. It’s bittersweet for me because there were so many wonderful family moments at the fair.

One of my favorite memories is the year both Cody and Morgan were in the same class of showmanship during the cattle show. After several rounds, they were the only two left, competing against each other for the championship. For more than 20 minutes they were the only ones in the ring, leading and setting up their animals, watching the judge, and doing everything “just right.” Neither of them made a mistake. Finally the judge asked them to switch places in the ring…and Morgan turned her calf counterclockwise instead of clockwise. And that was it; Cody was the champion. But it was a friendly competition and both were happy at how they’d done!

Another great memory is the year my parents and grandfather came to the fair. It was so neat to share the experience with them; although we’d exhibited at many fairs as kids, my sisters and I never showed animals. It was a very hot year, but mom and dad and grandpa sat patiently through the sheep show and the cattle show. Cody and Morgan were so proud and happy to have them there and answered all of their questions about showing.

For two memorable (and very tiring) years in a row, Morgan showed sheep, cattle, and dogs. That meant three days in a row of being to the fair before 6:00 AM and showing for much of the day. Morgan did a great job and won several trophies…but agreed that showing three different species was just too much.

Today and tomorrow Morgan will be cheering on several friends as they show their sheep and pigs for the last time at the county fair. Tomorrow she and Cody will be helping our neighbor’s kids show their cattle for the very first time.

Good luck at your county fair, everyone! Cherish those memories!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bad Company Ruins Good Morals

This article is the first in a series titled “Teach Your Children Well.” As parents, our job is to teach our children, and what better instruction book than the Bible? I’ve tried to teach our children from the Bible since they were little. They are 18 years old and 20 years old now; Cody will be a junior in college and Morgan a freshman. And I’m still teaching them from the Bible. I hope that you’ll get ideas for teaching your children of any age to follow God and do His will through the posts in this series.

Bad Company Ruins Good Morals
By Shelly Burke

“Do not be deceived; “bad company ruins good morals.”” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

(from Google Images)
My study Bible notes say that this quote was taken from a Greek comedy that the people of Corinth would be familiar with, so Paul used these words when he was talking to them.   In this case the “bad company” was the group of people who were teaching that Christ had not risen after His crucifixion. Hanging around these people was likely to ruin the “good morals” of those who did believe in the resurrection.

How can you teach your children about the influence of others?

When our kids are toddlers we have control over who they spend time with. When they enter school we have less influence as they’re out of our care for several hours of each day. As they get older and involved in more activities, there are more and more outside influences that can affect the way they act and think. As our daughter Morgan prepares to go to college—in another state!—I realize that my time as an influence in her every day life is almost over. I pray that Tim and I have taught her well!

When your kids are small, keep it simple. They’re not likely to pick up things that will be against your morals at a young age, but other families who don’t share your values might expose your kids to things that don’t fit in with your morals—R rated DVDs, swearing, and so on. Consider inviting kids from those families to your home, both to guard against bad influences and so that you can influence them in a positive way.

(from Google Images)
As kids get older, be cautious about not allowing them to spend time with certain kids, or criticizing those kids who don’t share your values and morals. Instead of forbidding contact (which is probably impossible if they attend the same school, church, or activities and your forbidding it may make your child want to spend more time with that child) point out behaviors that you see that don’t fit in with your morals. “Did you see those parents yelling and cussing at the ref at the t-ball game? That is not the way to handle the situation.”  or, “I know that Cynthia’s family watches TV shows that I don’t want you to watch. They show things that we don’t do and don’t approve of because they’re not what Jesus would want us to do.”

How can a group influence an individual?

 Start introducing the concept of how groups can affect a person’s actions—both in positive and negative ways. Even if your child wouldn’t normally steal, smoke, or take part in activities that you would frown upon, peer pressure and being in a group in which these activities are accepted and encouraged, can make them seem acceptable.

When your kids are in middle-school and high-school, talk about “real life” events in their own lives and the lives of their classmates and friends in relation to the company they keep and the morals that their actions demonstrate. Unfortunately, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk about the long-term negative effects of unintended pregnancy, drug use, cheating, lying, sneaking out, dropping out of school, and so on, as so many of these negative things are acceptable to so much of the world. Again point out how groups can affect an individual’s behaviors, both positive and negative.

Be sure to make these conversations—not lectures in which you’re the only one talking. Ask your child why he thinks “good” kids sometimes get involved with “bad” groups. Talk about how bad decisions can have very long-term affect on someone’s life.

Provide a way out

(from Google Images)
Talk with your child about how he or she can get out of a situation if necessary; my dad frequently reminded my sisters and I that we needed to have a plan before we got into a bad situation (of course it’s ideal to avoid situations like this, but a group can quickly and unexpectedly decide to do something; it’s best to make sure your child is prepared for this!).

Practice conversations in which you play someone pressuring your child to drink alcohol, cheat on a test, have sex, and so on. When your child has a ready response he is much less likely to get caught up in negative activities. Reassure your child that you will pick him up from any location, at any time, with just a phone call.  

Remember that at some point kids are responsible for their own decisions, and they’ll probably make some that you wouldn’t approve of, regardless of the example you’ve set and the teaching you’ve done. Even kids brought up in a Christian family make bad decisions. Never stop praying for your child to remember what he or she has been taught.

What are you going to do to prepare your child for “bad company”?

I’m also blogging at Nebraska Family Times.
Click to read about my time as the camp nurse at His Kids Camp last week.