Consider the Snapping Turtles in My Road…

… how your heavenly Father provides for them!

We saw a snapping turtle crawling up our street this morning. We’d seen deer and turkeys in the yard (e.g., the turkey who was trying to make a nest in our raised bed tomato plants earlier this week), but this oversized turtle was a first.

Turtle Power
Turtle Power

After marveling at the creature with our kids and taking some family/turtle photos, my wife and I realized we had three options:

1. Leave it.
2. Call Animal Control to come rescue it.
3. Pick it up, put it into our wheelbarrow, and take it back into swampy, woodsy safety.

We ruled out Option 1. The backside of our house connects to a huge construction site, and even a large snapping turtle wouldn’t have stood a chance against a Link-Belt excavator.

Option 2 was easy—we called and left a message, but then realized a snapper was probably not super-high on the city’s priority list of things with which to be concerned.

So we were left with Option 3.

There’s a fine line between wise caution and being a chicken, and I had planted myself squarely between the two. It took me five minutes (maybe more?) before I could finally psych myself up enough to pick up the turtle to put it in the wheelbarrow. To help me over my caution/fear, my wife graciously offered to put a stick in front of the snapper’s mouth, so that it could be biting the stick while I picked it up, rather than biting me.

She gave him the stick. He bit it. Then I chickened out and lost my chance. (Or was being smart by trying to preserve all 10 fingers?) The stick was out of his mouth now. So my wife gently tapped him on the shell with the stick and… SNAP! All K-J fingers were still in place, but I jumped back. If I was going to do this, it had to be now.

So my fearless spouse tried the stick routine again, got it in the snapper’s mouth, and (with kitchen gloves on) I reached down and started to pick it up from the sides of its shell. SNAP! He missed me, but I knew he was going for me that time. I couldn’t even see his face when he snapped—he was all neck and mouth.

At this point we decided to stick with the aforementioned options 1 and 2. I was especially concerned that if I picked the turtle up and it snapped in/at my hands, I might jump away and drop him on the pavement. We didn’t want to hurt him.

But we had to get on with our morning, so, leaving the snapper where he was, I went to the assistant foreman in his trailer office behind the parsonage and told him about the turtle, so that he could tell his equipment operators to BE SURE NOT TO RUN HIM OVER (please).

His face lit up: “I have a guy who loves reptiles!” (He used a few additional adjectives and adverbs to make that clear.) Then he called across the worksite to someone in one of the new duplex units: “Bird!” A fitting nickname, I suppose.

With cigarettes and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in hand, “Bird” and a couple others came over to where the turtle had now settled itself. Without batting an eye, he gently lifted it up by the tail to see that she (I had had the snapper’s gender wrong) was settling into a leaf pile in our yard to lay eggs. The turtle must have known Bird was a “reptile guy.” There was no snapping this time.

Animal Control still had not come, but Bird said he knew a place where the snapper would be safe. Minutes later, Bird and his co-worker were driving away from the site with the turtle in their pickup truck—taking it now (presumably… hopefully!) to safety.

This all began between 8:30 and 8:45. I don’t know what mornings are like in your house, O reader, but that tends to be crunch time for the K-Js. We have to make sure everyone is dressed, fed, and pottied, and we have to make our eldest son a lunch and drive him to the bus stop. Then my wife and I each have various responsibilities and places to get to. So the morning routine can be stress-filled, try as we might to make it not be so.

This morning wasn’t too bad, but I was already thinking about all that I had to get done this morning… and then we saw the snapper in the road. As we finally got into the car with the kids to drive to our different destinations, it was 9:45, a full hour later.

But I can tell you—whatever had been concerning us at 8:45 was far from our minds at 9:45!

It hasn’t been that long since I read through, studied, and preached on the passage from Matthew 6 where Jesus tells his disciples to “consider the birds of the air.” If God feeds them and cares for them—animals that presumably have no souls and have not the spiritual and emotional capacity that we have to experience God’s love—how much more will he care for us!

And if God can somehow be overseeing a process whereby a snapping turtle is brought to safety by our new construction working “friend,” how much more can he make sure we have all we need?

Or, as a college friend used to say: “Everything is going to be alright forever.”

A Frog as Big as a Dog

Photo by Eli Greenbaum
Photo by Eli Greenbaum

When my wife was reading to the kids tonight (from Ranger Rick, Jr.), she read, “A cane toad can be as big as a small dog.”

My response, from the other room was: “Gross!”

My six-year-old promptly corrected me: “No… that’s awesome!”

I suppose he’s right. The photo above is of a cane toad, which I have not had the privilege of seeing in person. (They’re not around these here parts.)

National Geographic has more here.

First Ice Cream and Lyle the Crocodile

Ice Cream

Yesterday was a momentous occasion: the first all-family ice cream outing of the summer. (Shhh… it’s summer in my mind.) We did the almost-impossible-to-beat triumvirate of

ice cream


used bookstore

At the used bookstore, we got a hardcover edition of four Lyle the Crocodile books bound together (sewn binding, mind you!) for a mere $5.

Tonight we read the first one:

Lyle the Crocodile

In The House on East 88th Street, Mr. Primm, Mrs. Primm, and their son Joshua move into a new house, only to find a crocodile in the bathtub. They’re even more shocked when–as they’re trying to figure out how to get rid of it–it saunters down the stairs and starts doing tricks for them.

It’s a funny and well-written book. We’re looking forward to reading the rest. Highly recommended #kidlit!

What My 3-Year-Old Thought I Was Going to Feed My 1-Year-Old

Apologies in advance for the scatalogical nature of this post. But I’m trying to get back to Family Fridays on this here blog, and nothing says family (at least our family) like this actual conversation that took place in the kitchen yesterday:

3-year-old son: Daddy, can you help me?

Me: Hold on… I’m getting your sister some food.

3-year-old son: Some poop?

Me: <Trying to stifle laughter>

3-year-old son, wanting to be heard and still awaiting my response: POOP???

Me: No… some FOOD.

3-year-old son: OHHH. I thought you said you were going to give her some poop.

Can’t make this stuff up.

A 6-Year-Old (re)Learns Some Hebrew

Hebrew Learning

My now six-year-old has been asking again to learn more Hebrew. We started last spring (see here and especially here), but the Hebrew learning has been largely on hold.

We have some materials from Sarah and David’s Read Hebrew, an interactive program to help children (and others) learn Hebrew.

The other day, as you can see above, we reviewed the alphabet again and did some activities in The Aleph Bet Story Workbook.

Last year The Aleph Bet Story Audio CD was on heavy rotation on the way to school. It accompanies The Aleph Bet Story, which has creative illustrations and mnemonic devices for learning the shapes and sounds of the Hebrew letters. Even quite a few months later, the sweet boy pictured above remembered most of the letters. The system seems to be effective. And he really likes it!

The materials we’ve been using are these ones. As we pick back up again, I hope to post more in-depth about our journeys. See more of what Sarah and David offer here.

Book Notice: How Toddlers Thrive

How Toddlers Thrive

I’ve recently received for review How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success. I haven’t had a chance to read much of it yet, but wanted to note it here. Clicking on the image above or here will take you to its Amazon page (affiliate link). The book’s product page says:

How Toddlers Thrive explains why the toddler years are different from any other period during childhood, what is happening in children’s brains and bodies at this age that makes their behavior so turbulent, and why your reaction to their behavior—the way you speak to, speak about, and act toward your toddler— holds the key to a successful tomorrow and a happier today. This provocative new book will inspire you to be a better parent and give you the tools to help you nurture your child’s full potential. Stop fighting with your child and start enjoying every minute of your time with them… while planting the seeds of happiness and success that will last a lifetime.

It sounds idealistic, but what parent of a toddler isn’t looking for more tools? It’s gotten 4.5 stars on Amazon thus far. I’ll read it as soon as I can and report back here.

Scientifically Unproven But Pragmatically Effective Parenting Bedtime Pro Tip

I don’t remember where we first read this parenting advice, so I can’t guarantee its scientific backing, but here it is anyway.

Keep calm and sleepWhen your (hypothetical) six-year-old child is talking and singing to himself in bed at night–after you’ve put him to bed–as long as he’s not keeping his (hypothetical) siblings up… let him talk and sing.

Why? Because he’s processing his day in the ways he knows how. And if this (hypothetical) six-year-old son is in all-day kindergarten this year and has just moved this summer, that processing time is important to his development and well-being.

So we let our (not hypothetical) six-year-old son talk and sing after we put him to bed, as long as it’s quiet, and as long as it doesn’t go on for more than a half hour.

More times than not, he’s done in about 15-20 minutes and then fast asleep. And we haven’t gotten upset or into a verbal struggle with him. And–most important–he’s had some added processing time before he goes to bed.

The LEGO Movie

A couple weeks ago I took my six-year-old son to his first ever movie at a theater–The LEGO Movie. He loved it.

There were a couple scenes that were maybe a little too intense for a six-year-old, and a wee bit of potty language (he doesn’t need any encouragement), but other than that, it was a movie I could feel good about taking him to. It’s funny, fast-moving, and has incredible animation. There are clearly a lot of creative minds behind the movie.

Here’s the trailer:

You might even like it if you’re a grown-up.

12-Word Lexicon of My Children’s Speech, February 2014

The 1.5-year-old


BAH-yull (bottle): that dispenser of water that also doubles as a cuddle friend in her crib, without which SHE WILL NOT GO TO SLEEP.

KEEEEEE-koo: cracker, anything crunchy, snack, food. Sample use in a sentence: “Mmmmm…. keeeeekoo.”

DAT/THAT: screamed loudly, the ever-shifting direct object of “I want.”

Potty: what she–of her own volition–sat on today to go poop. Way to go, kiddo!

The 3.5-year-old

Guy Gagné
Guy Gagné

Guy Gagné! Guy Gagné! (pronounced “Gee Gah-NYAY”): 5-time winner of the Indy 500 in the movie Turbo. Constant foil in his playtime sessions with cars.

No, I want to find it!: the protestation that ensues after he looks everywhere for something, can’t find it, asks us to help find it, and then we find it.

Butt: much to the dismay of his parents, his filler, go-to, and punchline, dozens of times each day. Sample use in a sent–no, never mind. You get the idea.

Good night! I love you!: his ever-effective method of melting parental hearts at bedtime, no matter how many times he has employed the previous lexicon entry in a day.

The 6-year-old

jokesKnock Knock. (Who’s there?) Why did the chicken cross the road?: initial forays into joke-telling.

Let’s share: preface to his taking his brother’s toy away.

Come here, baby! sweet invitation to his sister to come play with him, which she adores.

“Tonight’s dinner: tacos… or if you want, chili… later, kisses”: one of many detailed signs he puts up around the house for various occasions.

Three kids six and under can be exhausting, but I cherish these little ones and their speech patterns.

Now I’m off to rummage the pantry for some keeeekoo.

A six-year-old and three-year-old bake a cake for Martin Luther King

Happy Birthday, MLK!
Happy Birthday, MLK!

My six-year-old suggested over the weekend that we make a birthday cake for Martin Luther King, Jr.

So today, while our 1.5-year-old slept, my wife and I and two sons all went into the kitchen together. We made a carrot cake. (The part of the cake that is not frosted is because of the lactose intolerance of our littlest one.)

MLK bookWe’ve also been reading a short biography of King to our six-year-old, which is geared toward children. You can find it here. In that story, Martin was also six years old when he knocked on the door of some neighbor friends (where he had gone many times), only to hear the mom say:

It was all right for you to play together when you were younger. But now you’re all in school. So it’s best that you go your own different ways.

Martin quietly asked, “Why?” “Because you’re colored and we’re white,” the mom said, after which she shut the door.

It’s been interesting talking with our oldest son about MLK (and he learned about him in his kindergarten class at school, too). It can be hard to gauge how much a child is absorbing in such conversations, but I’m encouraged that his primary response to learning about Dr. King’s life has been a desire to celebrate him. We even sang “Happy Birthday” tonight.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King! We’ll bake you another cake next year.