Friday, January 25, 2008

A Man's Hay is his Castle

You've got to give the guy credit for um, ingenuity, maybe? Roanoke City’s Architectural Review Board comes to mind in reading this.

LONDON (Reuters) - A farmer built an entire mock castle behind a screen of hay bales and lived there concealed for four years to evade planning regulations, officials said on Friday -- but it may be torn down anyway.

Robert Fidler hopes to take advantage of a provision of planning law that allows buildings without planning permission to be declared legal if no objections have been made after four years
But Reigate and Banstead Borough Council in Surrey is not impressed.

"It does not count because the property was hidden behind hay bales," said a spokeswoman. "No one knew it was there."

The council wants the building near Redhill some 30 km south of London to be demolished, along with an associated conservatory, marquee structure, wooden bridge, patio, decking and tarmac racecourse.

"It looks like a mock-Tudor house from the front and it's got two turrets at the back," the spokeswoman said. "I understand there is also a cannon."

The couple would have been unlikely to get planning permission as the farm was in "green belt" land where building was restricted, she said. A hearing takes place in February.

Fidler's wife Linda told the Daily Mail newspaper the children grew up looking at straw out of the windows of the house and that they kept their son away from playschool on the day his class were due to do paintings of their houses.

"We couldn't have him drawing a big blue haystack," she said. "People might ask questions."
Planning inspectors had been called to the site by concerned neighbours shortly before Fidler took the hay bales down in summer 2006 but had not seen the house.

"When the inspectors went there, all they saw was hay bales and hay bales on agricultural land are not that unusual," the spokeswoman said.

"I think the neighbours thought there might be something going on but it is difficult to tell, isn't it?"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On the way home

I often look forward to driving Carlos home from Sparks on Wednesday evening because I never know what kind of conversations we’re going to have. It could be about God’s “snow button,” about Opa, or be simple blathering (which he is very good at!). The story in Sparks was about a boy who worked in a store, found some money and was honest in returning it to the rightful owner. Here’s how the conversation progressed:
Carlos: Have you ever worked in a store, Papi?
Me: Yes, I worked at a place called Office Depot while I was in college.
Carlos: Tell me about it
Me: I was the cashier, the person that people gave the money to when they wanted to buy something.
Carlos (evidently expecting an edge-of-your-seat tale): Then what happened?!
Me: I also helped people find things, like pens or paper. Sometimes, they would come in and say “Can you help me find some paper?” and I would show them.
Carlos: Oh……Why don’t you work in a store anymore?
Me: I work in an office now, on a computer and work with numbers.
Carlos: Oh okay. Kind of like this: “Hmm, that’s a zero, I think that should go at the end. That looks like a 7, that should go after the 6.”
Me (trying not to laugh): Yep, that’s about it.

After a (very) short pause, the conversation changed subjects:
Carlos: Where were you born? Were you born in mommy’s tummy?
Me: No, I was born in Nanny’s tummy.
Carlos: Oh, was I born in mommy’s tummy?
Me: No, you were born in Mama [B’s] tummy (his birthmother) just like Jeremiah was.
Carlos: Why isn’t Mama B my mommy?
Me: When Jeremiah was born, Mama B knew that even though she loved you so much, she couldn’t take the best care of you. So Mommy and I got to become your new Mama and Papa, and you will always be our son.
Carlos: Did Mama B really love me?
Me: I’m sure she loved you very much and Jeremiah too.
Carlos: Was Mama B nice?
Me: I don’t know, do you remember if she was nice?
Carlos: Yes, I think so. I remember riding in the front of a truck

And off the conversation went towards Carlos’ favorite topic of whether or not he was breaking the law. It’s times like these drives home that I know help to build our father-son relationship that hopefully will grow and build as he matures. And if nothing else, it breaks up a long drive home.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Two E's in a Man's Life

Mark Kelly, over at youthguy68 has posted a very thought-provoking devotional on the two "E's" of a man's life, based on Col. 3:16. Here's an excerpt, but I would highly recommend clicking your way over to Mark's blog and reading the entire thing, especially if you're a husband or dad.

"I was reading in Colossians 3:16-25 today, and noticed two "E's" that a husband / father ought to pay close attention to:

1. (v.19) - for the Husbands - "...Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them..."
2. (v.21) - for the Dads - "...Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart..."

Embitter & Exasperate. Just by reading these words you know they don't sound good. Let's define them:

  • Embitter - to allow bitter feelings to exist; " excite bitter feelings in..." (Merriam-Webster's dictionary online)
  • Exasperate - to cause to react in such a way that suggests acceptance of a challenge / arouse / provoke
What would cause me to become bitter against my wife? That sounds really harsh! It must be a common thing for husbands to experience, because the Apostle Paul addresses it. I think many times in the marriage relationship, there is frustration in the fact that the wife doesn't "think like" the husband - therefore leading to some real communication issues. Just because our spouse may be "wired differently" doesn't mean she has no valuable input. Differences in opinion may be a cause of excited bitter feelings. [...]

If you have teen-agers you may have experienced this already in your home. But it can happen at younger ages as well. "Provoke to anger" may also be a good translation. When we refuse to parent the child's heart and simply attempt behavior modification for our own ease in life, often we can stir up feelings of anger in our children. We cause them to choose to accept the challenge of authority. We do this as dad's because we have idols in our own heart we refuse to deal with: Comfort, Acceptance, Appreciation, Respect, etc. [...]

Definitely worth the read. Thanks Mark!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Things that go *chink* in the night

3:30 a.m.

Sarah wakes me up, shaking me and whispering, “Stephen, someone’s in our house.” Then I hear a faint *chink* sound, like someone knocking against glass.

Immediately, my eyes pop open and I feel the adrenaline start to pump. I grope around the floor for the bat I keep handy. “Never thought I’d have to use this thing,” I remember thinking as my fingers find toys, socks, a book – everything but the needed bat. “I guess I still won’t use it.” All kinds of thoughts race through my head. “What does this person want? Would they be armed? What if they had already been upstairs where the children are sleeping?” In those few fleeting seconds, I realized that I cared nothing about whether or not anything was stolen – only that my family was safe from harm. And I was prepared to tear into anyone who tried to harm them.

I walk toward the door and immediately stumble over yet another toy. By the time I reach the door, I figure that whoever is in our house has had fair warning of their impending doom – or mine. With that and thinking that the element of surprise is clearly still back in bed where I left it, I yank the door open and step into the hall.

Silence. And then, *chink* again. Then I realize what that sound was and who was making it.

I went around the corner to the kitchen and confirmed my suspicions. Jeremiah, my cooking-inclined, somewhat independent-minded two-year old had decided that it was breakfast time. He had found his way to the counter, pulled over his stool, and was happily munching “cookies,” what he calls the M&M’s that we keep in a glass jar. *chink* - the sound of a little hand probing the depths of the jar for more treasure. He calmly looked up at me and simply said, “Eat cookies.” I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or not, so I simply picked him up, deposited him back in his bed with a stern warning, and returned to bed.

Needless to say, it took me quite awhile to get back to sleep. But my family was safe, even from the “cookie” monster.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Poachings and ponderings

Being a dad often means trying to explain things that are rather difficult to explain, especially when it reveals the more sinful side of human nature and especially to an inquisitive 6-year old. Last night, I put on a movie about polar bears for Carlos and Jeremiah. Well, it was actually about a couple of kids in Alaska, but along the way they befriended an orphan polar bear cub. Plus, since it had a polar bear on the cover, Carlos kept calling it the “polar bear” movie. During one of the beginning scenes, a poacher shoots and kills the mama bear and captures the baby bear. Later on, he and his partner are seen taking the fur of the mama bear out of a helicopter.

I was watching Carlos during these scenes and he had a very worried and confused look on his face. Finally, he asked me why they killed the mama bear and why they kept the baby bear in the cage. He had gotten the impression (rightly so) that the two guys weren’t exactly the most savory of characters. This seemed like a good opportunity for some instruction. I told him that these men were greedy for the money that selling the mama bear’s fur would give them and they wanted to sell the baby’s fur when he got bigger, too. He asked if they were going to eat the mama bear and I said no, they only wanted her fur. “God created everything in the world and we shouldn’t just kill or destroy something because we want to or because it might bring us money,” I said. “We should only kill another animal like a deer or rabbit if we need it to eat. But never just because we might get some money from it.”

I was glad to see that he seemed to understand and hopefully this will sink in little by little. I’m definitely not opposed to hunting, but at the same time I want to instill in my children a respect and kindness for other living things. This also makes me think how important it should be to talk about the movies our kids watch and use them as teaching points. Granted, Bob the Builder probably doesn’t have as many ethical dilemmas as the polar bear movie, but just being aware of the things they watch will I think goes a long way to instructing our kids. Just another teaching opportunity in the life of a dad , courtesy of Hollywood.