The Sometimes-Spotted African Bear

In case you were feeling that our one and only was becoming a lesser-spotted species of Bear lately, here’s your fix on where you might spot the 20 month old wonder these days.

He was recently seen dancing and testing out musical instruments in Green Market Square in Cape Town. He tried to score a five-finger discount on a FIFA World Cup soccer ball — the special 2010 ones with the South African flag — but his Mom made him put it back.

He also recently did a little bit of a hike atop Table Mountain.* He found the uneven terrain slightly challenging, but preferred to make the journey without any hand-holding whenever possible. His Mom was disappointed that he didn’t find the heights to be good reason for caution.

*He intends to avoid the potties next time.

He was also spotted eating with a fork for the first time on Tuesday. Macaroni and cheese, no less. Shortly afterwards, he climbed stairs without the assistance of an adult or his hands. Sure, there were only three stairs, and they were only four inches tall or so, but who’s counting?

In his spare time, the Bear has also recently been spotted perusing his vast collection of Veggie Tales and Wonder Pets. (Thanks, Amiee, Sarah and Rory!)

He was also spotted on an adventure unlike most the Bear has seen before…

But he felt that he fit right in, and rather enjoyed it.

So, folks, those are the coordinates for spotting the greater-spotted African Bear. If you’re hoping to see him outside captivity, you’ll need to move quickly. He is known to transition from walking to running before you’ve got the lens cap off your camera.

Who says there aren’t bears on this continent? 🙂


P.S. Don’t forget there is a giveaway right here at, tomorrow!!! That’s Friday, April 30th! If you don’t drop in, you can’t win! See you then! Don’t ya love rhymes?

If the Shoe Fits…Make Sure it’s Yours

The Bear tried on Dad’s slippers the other day. It was of course adorable enough for a picture or eight. We’re first time parents… Everything is adorable enough for eight pictures and some video footage!

I was thinking about how likely he was to fall over if he decided to try to walk, but he just kind of stood there, marvelled in the difference in size, smiled and climbed out before he kept on trucking.

I realized as I thought about it afterwards, sometimes I put on the wrong size shoes.

I’m not one of those ladies who’s a size 6, but 7 feels so good I wear 8. But, based on my comparisons with how other people are living, what they are capable of, what they do, maybe even how they dress or how they look, I begin to want to walk in different shoes — ones that aren’t the right size for me. Do you know what I mean?

It was obvious that the Bear would fall over if he tried to keep trucking in Dad’s slippers.  He would’ve been hindered with every step, and it could have even been dangerous for him — his clumsy efforts might’ve landed his front teeth on the corner of the coffee table so that he could have his own fat lip!

When we try to wear other people’s shoes, instead of finding the ones that are right for the feet that God calls each of us to walk in, we are bound to struggle, perhaps even to try to do too much, to the peril of our health and sometimes our ability to hold ourselves together.

Finding the easy yoke, the light burden, the green pastures, the still waters… the right pair of shoes come from following the Lord. Ask Him what your feet should be doing today, and let Him show you what shoes should be on your feet.

We’ll let the Bear stick with these for now…

“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. ‘Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30


Redemption on the Playground OR The God Who’s in Your Corner

This post, and the special picture at the bottom are for my Dad. Thanks for being in my corner!

I was a really puny kid. Almost always the smallest in the class. On picture day, they lined us up according to height, shortest to tallest, and I always went first and held up the little sign with the teacher’s name and the date. Most of the time I liked being little — it made me feel special. But on one particular day, let’s just say it wasn’t to my advantage.

There was a game we used to play on the playground called Four Square. You took turns in one of the four squares, bouncing the ball to a different square and hoping the next person couldn’t return it. You advanced through each square to the first square, the square where you served the ball, and hoped to stay there for as long as possible. The kids who weren’t in one of the four squares usually just stood in a queue/line and waited by the last square for their turn, when someone else “got out.”

On one particular day, I was about ten years old at the time, one of the other girls in the class let’s call her Janet decided I had skipped her in line, and she was upset with me about it. I most certainly had not skipped Janet, but she was upset anyway. It’s important to remember that I was a pipsqueak and easy to pick on. Janet called another girl over to help “solve” the problem. Let’s call her Mary Sue. Now this is to the best of my rememberance what went down. Mind you I was ten…this isn’t an exact play by play.

Janet: “Mary Sue, come on over here! Caroline skipped me in the line.”

Mary Sue came over. She was only a little older, but significantly bigger than me. I was a pipsqueak, remember?!

Janet: “Come hold Caroline’s arms down so I can kick her.”

At this point I am really concerned. I don’t know what to do. I’m about to be backed into a corner by a kid that’s much bigger than me, so that another kid can kick me. And unjustly so!  I start to feel hot and nervous and my heart is racing.

Mary Sue comes over and holds my arms to my sides. I am terrified and by now my heart is pounding out of my chest — I don’t want to be kicked!!

And then something happened even I didn’t expect. In the heat of the moment, backed into a corner, threatened to have the mess kicked out of me, my playground survival instincts kicked in. It’s like I can’t even remember it. But when the dust cleared, and the moment had passed, I had not been kicked. Not even once.

Why not, Caroline? How did you get out of it?

When all the chips were down, my arms held to my sides, and my legs too short to deliver a kick, I bit Mary Sue.

And though I can’t remember it, I have a feeling that when the playground survival instinct kicked in, it wasn’t just a little bite. I mean to tell you I bit her.

I only vaguely remember having the chance to tell my side of the story to the teacher. I know my Mom was informed. Mary Sue’s Mom worked at our school, and she decided to take Mary Sue to the doctor for a shot. It was not my favourite elementary school experience, to say the least.

That evening when I was home from school, I was a little worried. My Mom didn’t say much about it, but I was afraid my Dad was going to be mad at me. We hadn’t really talked about it and I didn’t know if we were going to.

We were watching TV after dinner when the phone rang.  It was Mary Sue’s Mom. Let’s call her Diane. My Dad answered.

I don’t know exactly what Diane said to my Dad. I guess she told him I should be punished. Maybe she told him we should pay for the shot. Maybe she just wanted to make sure he knew what I’d done and that I had been appropriately disciplined.

I sat and listened, a little fearful of what was going to happen when my Dad put down the phone. But then, I heard some of the most beautiful words I can remember out of my Dad’s mouth when I was a kid. He interrupted Diane and said,

“D*** it, Diane! Your kid is twice the size of my kid! If something like this happens again, I would tell her to do it again!”

I am pretty sure the conversation ended shortly after that.

That was the sweet and perfect voice of vindication and redemption. It meant the world to me that my Dad understood, and that he had my back. I was embarassed by what had happened. I was afraid he wouldn’t understand, and I was afraid I was going to be punished when I had only been trying to defend myself.  And I think something a lot of kids really long for, in a world where they are constantly told what to do, to think and to say, is some kind of justice — for things to be fair.

When I knew my Dad understood what had happened, and when I knew he was on my side, it was such a sweet feeling of vindication. I wasn’t afraid of going back to school the next day. I wasn’t going to be embarassed that I was ten years old and I bit someone. My Dad was in my corner, and in that moment, that was what I really needed to know.

Today I think I sometimes forget about the God who’s in my corner. He is the God who showed up on the playground of this earth, in the name of love, in the name of justice, and with the purpose of redemption. I am sometimes afraid that He is a God who cannot understand what I’m walking through, and is therefore disappointed and upset with me when things don’t happen the way they should. But God came near. He can identify with our struggles. He walked through thirty-some years in a world full of unkind and unfair. Even when we do make mistakes, He understands and He forgives.

And He is in your corner. He wants you to know that even if things don’t go the way they should, He still loves you. You’re still acceptable. You don’t have to be embarassed or ashamed of the things that have happened — by your own hand, your own decisions and actions, or by someone else’s. And even when you are completely in the wrong — utterly, and obviously way off base — He extends forgiveness, mercy, grace. And the pardon for those actions, the hall pass to escape the punishment — paid for in full by Jesus on the cross.

The dignity that there is in our free will — the dignity that we get to be on the playground of life and choose fairness, choose justice, choose love and choose the ways of God — in itself is such a beautiful redemption.

What I’ve learned since that day on the playground is that our real fight in this world is not against flesh and blood, or the other people on the playground. You have a very real enemy that does not want to see you walk in the plans and purposes God created you for. His voice will bring discouragement, doubt, and feelings of defeat your way. But God is in your corner. He understands the battles you’re facing. And He has strength for you, so that no matter what comes your way, you can keep fighting the good fight. You can keep moving forward.

Knowing that you are loveable, redeemable, understood and loved — knowing that God is for you and is not waiting in the wings eager to punish you — really knowing that will change the game for you. It’ll change the rules for you. It’ll rock the playground of your life.

“What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 31 – 32, 38-39

We love this little boy so much. And we passionately long to see him walk in the plans he was created for. Do you know — really know — that no matter what you’ve done, the God of the universe feels that way about you?


The Whole Package

It’s one thing to have brains…

And it’s another thing to have looks…

But when you have both, and super-duper strength…

you’re the whole package.

I think the Bear feels pretty good about that.

Many thanks to Amiee for the awesome outfit!!!


What I Learned at Toys R Us this Morning

We had a few errands to run this morning. They included visiting Toys R Us. My Dad watched the Bear put together his ABCs puzzle at ninja speed on skype a couple weeks ago and wanted to buy him some more puzzles. (They’re educational, and he’s competitive like that. 🙂 ) But after our slightly difficult experience in receiving the awesome gift my Mom sent a few weeks ago, he decided it would probably be easier to just put the money into our bank account and let us buy the puzzles here. So we were off to do so at the Toys R Us nearby this morning, and we found a great puzzle that we’re looking forward to the Bear busting into as soon as he wakes up from his nap. I also found something else at the Toy Store this morning, swimming in my own heart.

That’s the backstory. This is the verse:

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (I Timothy 6:6-8)

The Toys R Us just down the road in Somerset West is probably a lot like the one down the road from you. It’s basically the same, except sometimes some of the toys here advertise themselves as having British voices, which is understandable since folks would probably prefer their toddlers to speak the way they do, rather than sound like they’re from a foreign country. Anyway.

We perused the puzzles, and also the train sets, the wagons, the games, and the little bicycles and tricycles, of which they have a nice and pricey selection. I lingered there for a bit because the Bear could probably use a new bike pretty soon, as (sadly) he is outgrowing his adorable little car. And wearing the plastic tires through. As I walked away I realised I felt guilty for not being able to buy him a little bike right now. (Even though he didn’t even notice them!) And as I pondered exactly why I might have that feeling, I realised that something’s not right if we feel guilty for not being able to buy our kids everything they want. But where does that feeling come from?

I think we do it to each other as parents in some ways — we compare what other folks have given their kids and feel like we have to at least do the same. We want our kid to be as fashionable as the next kid, and we try to put them in their best clothes when we take them out.

We are also bombarded with advertising day in and day out — TV, radio, internet, magazines, you name it — almost entirely created with the sole purpose of breeding discontentment in our hearts. Think about it — your eyelashes aren’t long enough. Your abs aren’t tight enough. Your clothes aren’t this-season enough. You want to give your kid the very best, right? Of course you do.

I’ve had lots of folks tell me they only had X number of kids because they felt that was all they’d be able to put though college. But should that really be the plumb line by which we measure our success as parents? When I was at university, the students I knew who were working their own way through school or at least helping fund their education (sorry to be honest, Mom and Dad) took their studies a lot more seriously than I did, and often seemed to be a lot more mature, balanced individuals. Don’t get me wrong — I am very thankful that my Mom and Dad paid for me to go to university — but I don’t think anyone should consider themselves less successful parents if they aren’t able to do so. (And who’s to say the Bear isn’t going to get an academic or athletic scholarship in 15 years or so — he’s on his way to Yale already!)

That was a bit of a digression, but the point I’m trying to make is that I think we can get sidetracked into measuring our success as parents by the wrong set of standards.

I have observed a certain pattern in my encounter with other kids and in my brief stint as a parent so far. I will sum it up with this: The worst thing you can do for your kids is give them everything they’ve ever wanted.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. I would really, really, really rather raise the Bear to be thankful for the things that he has than to be happy because of the things that he has (which will eventually turn into unhappiness for the things he lacks).  I feel like if I can teach him to follow Jesus and to be content with what he has in life, he is on a good start to pursuing a life that matters, rather than a life focused on the pursuit of all the things that he can’t take with him.

Well, that was a headful of thoughts based on a trip to the toy store, hey? But I’d really like to know what you think. Has that sort of guilt ever found its way to your heart? How do you handle it?