Well, I got rather depressing news a couple months ago. Some back story first. When you think of the people in your life – when their image is conjured up by someone mentioning their name – do you have a go-to mental picture for each of them? Let me explain this better. My Grandma Swanson: She’s at her kitchen counter at their old house in Lincoln, bent over something delicious. Maybe homemade bread, possibly rhubarb pie, often heart-shaped sugar cookies, or it could be her own canned jams. Well, she’s either in the kitchen or beating us all in a card game. My sister Caitlin is on a stage being beautiful, singing her heart out and charming everyone within earshot. One Jenna is eating JuJuBees and wearing red sweat pants while the other Jenna dips honey wheat pretzels in oily natural peanut butter – we’re laughing and telling stories. I’m cruising O with Whitney in either her or my station wagon, drinking Lemonberry Slushes – it’s summer and we have not a single care in the world. My mom is sewing or scrapbooking or baking or packaging a gift for someone – she’s doing a lot of different things and none of them require sitting for any length of time! Whether these images have been stamped on my memory due to repetition or due to isolated events that simply made a big impression on me or due to the good feelings that those moments created, they are important because they are lasting.

So, I posed this question to Harper awhile back, “Harper, close your eyes and think of Mama. What am I doing?”

She responded quickly, “You’re working.”

“What kind of work?” (Hoping she’d say gardening or laundry or cleaning – at least something truly productive)

“On your computer.”

Ouch. If you know me and how I feel about technology and social media, this was truly a punch in the gut. And you should know I’m rarely ever doing actual “work” on the computer – I’m typically just making the rounds on Facebook or the blogs. I have a love/hate relationship with screens and have made a conscious effort to limit my time online over the past four months or so. Therefore, I am inclined to defend myself. To tell you about how often we bake or garden or play at the park together. I FEEL like we are constantly logging those quality hours and I FEEL like I’ve drastically cut back on my own screentime. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what I FEEL or even how much quality time I actually spend with them if what they perceive is that I’m hooked to a screen. Perception is reality, yes?

So, to combat my inclination to get lost in scrolling, I moved my entire computer desk to a place where I rarely go during the day – our bedroom. I only recently upgraded to a smartphone a month ago, but I have made myself accountable to my husband to not download apps that devour my precious time without adding any real benefit to my life (for me, no social media at all). I understand that these years are fleeting and I want to be present for them. What’s more, I want to set the precedent in my household of how we hope and expect our daughters to act with technology when they’re old enough to have screens. I’m hoping that, given a few more months of my intentional self-discipline to not be consumed by technology, I will be able to get a different answer from my oldest daughter.

You see, for my children, I desperately don’t want their go-to mental image of me to be hunched over a screen. They deserve my eyes and my undivided attention. I don’t want them to look over and see the top of my head when my smile is how I want them to think of me. When I’m not with them, I want them to remember me and feel happy because my general presence in their lives is inviting and warm, not cold, closed off and consumed by a device. Another thing, I don’t want them to picture me with my phone constantly aimed at their faces, snapping away psychotically until I get a shot worthy of Instagram. If they see me bowing to something, I want to be bowing in prayer and not to a stupid phone. If they think I can’t get enough of something, my unquenchable thirst better be for God’s life-giving Word and not the life-sucking internet.

Harper’s honest answer, although painful and a bit embarrassing, was a challenge. A reminder. A reprimand. A gut-check. But ultimately an opportunity to reroute and start doing things differently. To start creating a mental-image in their memories that I can be proud of and a pattern of behavior that I can live with. If you struggle with this, too, just start with maybe trying to make sure the people around you don’t see the top of your head very often. Eyes are a much better view. If you’re not sure what your people are perceiving about you, then ask them. You are painting your own self-portrait – better make sure your legacy is looking the way you hoped it would.

 

 

Ready to roll

Ready to roll

My prayers in anticipation of Harper starting Kindergarten have been both thorough and terribly incomplete. I’ve prayed for safety, for a smooth transition, for good friends, a patient teacher. I’ve prayed that she’ll be kind to the people around her and I’ve prayed that those people will return the favor. I’ve been anxious for several reasons: she’ll be exposed to certain words, attitudes, and behaviors that aren’t okay with us; she’ll be confronted with beliefs, ideas, and value systems that don’t align with what she’s been taught at home; she will at some point be left out, called out, or picked out in ways that make her uncomfortable or embarrassed. At some point last week, I noticed that when I was praying, I was praying from a place of fear and protectiveness, like I was on my heels or backed up against a wall. Fear is not from God and I didn’t want to remain in that place, nor did I want to pass that fear along to her. I started praying differently and it changed my attitude from mournful and leery to hopeful and eager.

I mean, doesn't she look hopeful and eager? ...uhhh

If that face doesn’t scream hopeful and eager, I don’t know what does…

I hadn’t been seeing this new chapter in Harper’s life for the opportunity that it is. In reality, this is where her Beautiful Journey starts. This is her ministry beginning. What a BIG, WONDERFUL DAY. She’s been safe in the shelter of our home, being nurtured, taught, fiercely loved, and, well, not confronted with serious conflict or challenges. Hers has been a good beginning. A solid foundation that will forever guide her path. We all have come to know Jesus personally in a countless number of ways. That relationship cannot be fabricated and it cannot be forced. If you took a survey of the people around you, I bet you’d find that most people really struggled in their personal journeys to understand and accept Jesus. Wouldn’t it be nice if we might all be able to surrender our lives and fall in love with a Savior without the motivators of tragedy, rock-bottoms, major frustration, helplessness and utter need? The truth is, most of us have to wade through the very worst of ourselves until we’re broken and finally honest in our failure. This slow, steady transition of starting grade school is where Harper steps in to her own faith. What a BIG, WONDERFUL DAY.

I wonder what Peter’s mother might have been praying or saying had she been in the boat during that storm. Surrounded by choppy water and swirling wind in the middle of the night – truly, a chilling scene. And then a ghostly-looking silhouette on the water. It’s our natural inclination as parents to try and shield our children from danger, hurt, and pain. What if she would have demanded or dissuaded Peter from stepping out into the violent storm? We would all say that reaction is entirely reasonable, intelligent even.  He might have stayed safe, but she would have let fear deny him of the moment when he locked eyes with Jesus himself. Pretend you’re Peter for a sec. Did time stop in those few seconds for him? Did he wonder if he was dreaming? Did the experience feel magical? Was it deafeningly loud or completely silent? Did it feel like immense failure when he started to sink? Was it immediate relief for both his body and his soul when Jesus gripped his arms, along with his heart, and he really knew: surely, this is the Son of God.

Hard times, being broken – those are the moments when we let our hearts be truly gripped by Jesus. I can dedicate all my time, energy, and focus on shielding my girls from danger, but then it’s a real possibility that I’m also standing in their way. I refuse to succumb to fear and so deny my children a moment like Peter had, locking eyes with Jesus. Being gripped by him mind, body, and soul. What I have come to accept is that Harper has her own story in which I am a supporting role. Egocentric, yes, but I tend to forget at times that the world still turns when I’m not masterminding all the twists and turns. Jesus found me – he pursued, was relentless, was patient – and he found me. He’s going to do the same with her. He’s pursuing, relentless, patient, and he’ll find her.

Sister love

Sister love

Over the last five and a half years, we have done our best to instill in Harper the values that we hold true: there is one God, one Savior Jesus. She has a lot of story left and, if we’re being realistic, steps along her journey may embarrass us as parents – may shock us, may scare us, may disappoint us, may hurt us. She won’t choose all the things and ways we would have chosen for her. But we’re in it for the long haul with her, as is the Lord. As hard as it is to just let it happen and not try to meddle or mourn, I do realize that Jesus is there with her, writing her story. I trust that she will take the foundation of faith she’s received and I am one of the lucky ones to have a front row seat to her ministry. It’s exciting, beautiful, and I have great expectations of the big things Christ will do in her. A mighty little light who is piercing the darkness.

PS: It’s okay if you shed tears over the first day of school, whether you have a Kindergartener or a Senior in college, because it’s okay to cry over beautiful things. And today was something beautiful.

Sass

Oh, the sass!

 

One of the worst things you can be in America 2015 is someone who judges the actions or decisions or lifestyles of your fellow man. I am a person with conservative beliefs. But I go online and read some articles or blogs, what have you, and second guess myself because our culture hates intolerance more than murder or adultery. In our New Age era where we’re supposed to follow our hearts and accept everything, I am afraid to even own up to my dissenting opinions. And yet, I have this thing inside of me that pushes back and I realize: I have been grossly neglecting and underutilizing my most powerful spiritual weapon: the Holy Spirit living in me. I read comments by LOTR actor John Rhys-Davies yesterday about how we’ve lost our moral compass and what it means for Christianity. I had the bulk of this blog post sitting in my drafts folder, but that interview inspired me to finish collecting my thoughts on the necessity of judging.

In reality, not only do I pass a steady stream of judgments throughout my day, good judgment is essential to my health and safety. I stop at red lights. I look before crossing the street. I don’t eat roadkill squirrels in the gutter. I decide to wear clothes. And beyond myself, I actively instruct our children to make all these same judgments. To consciously weigh the benefits and consequences of the actions, thoughts, and words that fill their days. Of course, whether or not I walk into oncoming traffic is a matter of life and death – not a moral judgment. But if I saw a person walk into oncoming traffic, I would surely say that he is either blind, mentally ill, confused, or suicidal. Can’t the same logic translate over to our spiritual lives? I think it can and should. All around me, people are walking into oncoming traffic in their moral and spiritual lives, not believing – some not knowing – that they have put themselves at serious risk. They may be blind, sick, confused or depraved, but they’re there. In the middle of the road. Consequences manifest themselves physically and emotionally, of course, but the spiritual self is the part of the person most at risk…especially when those who DO know better are not warning about the oncoming traffic.  I get it, though. It’s hard to speak out when you know that your words could cost you. It can cost real money. See: the privately owned businesses who were court ordered to fork over thousands and thousands of dollars after refusing business to gay couples. It can cost real relationships. It can cost real comfort. From Jesus: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” John 15.18. Sometimes when the world hates you, you’re on to something.

There’s a big flipside, though. Scripture is also clear about the dangers of judging each other. Matthew 7: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’ “…and Luke 6: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Then there’s this really interesting little verse in John 7 (v24): “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”  I really like the NLT version: “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” So, apparently there is a right way to judge, but also a wrong way. Instead of rejecting the popular notion that judging is wrong altogether, maybe we need to simply examine the way we use judgment. Are we doing it the correct way or the way that gets us into spiritual trouble?

The difference reminds me of a concept I learned while taking a parenting class called “Growing Kids God’s Way”. The lesson was about kids tattling/telling on each other. Bottom line: where is the heart of the tattler? Is he tattling on his sister because he wants to see her get into trouble? Because he wants to elevate himself as the better child? Because he thinks tattling will earn him some sort of reward? Because he wants her to feel guilty and ashamed? All of those are, of course, wrong reasons and our kids get punished for tattling. The class taught that the only good reason a child would “tell” to his parents was because he feared for the health and safety of his sibling. Example: he saw his sister about to walk into oncoming traffic and ran to his father for help. That’s the good kind of “telling” and comes from a heart of love and genuine concern.

Adult application. Bottom line: where is your heart when you judge? Do you judge someone because you’d like to see them “get what they deserve”? Because you feel better about yourself when you can look down on someone else? Because you think judging will earn you some sort of reward or points? Or maybe because you want someone else to feel guilty and ashamed? All of those are, of course, wrong reasons. Is gossip involved? Is slander involved? If so, wrong kind of judging. Is prayer involved? Is getting to know someone intimately (“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly”) part of it? Do you feel compassion for your brother or sister? Then proceed with caution.

God gave me the Holy Spirit, who is my judgment-helper, to get me through life. All facets of life. Good judgment stops me from licking doorknobs. Good judgment keeps me from over-investing in relationships that drain me. Good judgment grounds me from throwing the towel in on parenting in the middle of super hard days. And if you’re someone who knows the truth and hears the Spirit prodding you, you need to speak up in private, heartfelt conversations with the people who you have love and concern for – the ones who are standing in the middle of the road, somehow thinking it’s safe there.

My kids were being pretty annoying in the car last week. Cortland has figured out Harper’s annoyance triggers, not that Harper hides them super well, but, in no time at all, Cort has become an expert in exploiting her sister’s weaknesses. Here is how it went: We were driving home from gymnastics and Cortland started saying, “I’m five! I’m five!”. Harper, who actually is five, became quickly agitated and started yelling, “You’re not five! You’re TWO! YOU’RE TWO!!” As any other parent can attest, Harper’s tantrum reaction only served to encourage Cortland’s insistence of being five. “MOM! Are you listening to her? She’s saying she’s five! She’s NOT five! She’s NOT! She’s two! She’s saying she’s FIVE!” Tears. Balled up fists. Screaming. Kicking my seat in frustration.

That's right. These angels.   Photo by Brighten Photography

That’s right. These angels.
Photo by Brighten Photography

I could not believe how ridiculous the scene had become. I talked Harper down eventually and somehow was able to reason with her. We talked about how I am the final authority on how old Cortland is. I was there when she started being a person. She wouldn’t be here without me. Just because Cortland says she’s five doesn’t make her five. She is completely, totally, and helplessly obligated to the same system of time and counting and aging that we are all tied to. She doesn’t get to skip ahead or fall behind. Maybe she wants to be five, but she is two. Maybe she says she is five, but she is two. Maybe she even really believes she is five. Know what? She’s still two. I am the final authority on this topic. I know the real truth, despite what anybody says. So, Harper, trust that what is truth will continue to be.

The whole conversation stuck in my thoughts later for quite some time. I noted that her behavior is not far from lots of adults I know, at times even me. We throw (super annoying) adult sized tantrums (typically on social media) when our feathers get ruffled over something another mere man says or decides. We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. He knows the truth. He was there when this all started and we wouldn’t be here without him. A man saying he’s a woman does not make him a woman. Legislation going into effect governs the law of the land; it does not govern the law written on our hearts. We look ridiculous with balled up fists, screaming, red-faced, kicking the back of God’s seat, “Did you hear that?! Do you hear what they’re saying?? It’s not true! It’s NOT TRUE!”

Maybe you’re not a tantrum thrower (and thank you), but you feel anxiety mounting when you hear unsettling news, whether it’s national news or a disagreeable set of views from someone close to you. Don’t stop after the first verse of John 14, but that’s what I’ll include right here. From Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” I have to include verses 16 and 17 because they’re so interesting: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” My takeaway here? If I’m getting all up in arms or letting worry nag at me and trouble my heart, I’m showing a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty and a fundamental distrust that Jesus is who he says he is.

Once more: We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. Not the President. Not the Courts. Not strangers, not friends, not family, not even our emotions with all their twists and turns. If you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, ask the One who is Truth to reveal it to you. You will waste a lot of time finding out the Truth if you’re sifting through talk shows and blogs and articles and newsfeeds. Just go straight to the source. God knows the real truth, despite what anybody else says. So, friends, trust that what has always been truth, is yet truth, and will continue to be.

We all have something, right? A fatal flaw that we can’t seem to shake? I’m telling you mine.

We’ll just rip it off like a bandaid and expose this thing for what it is: my ongoing sin of pride. Pride is so hard to overcome; in fact, it will likely be the battle I fight my whole life rather than something I can rid myself of once and for all. I understand how dangerous and filthy pride is, and I fight it in me. For anyone who passes pride off as “not that bad” a sin, read this short excerpt and, when you have some time, go ahead and read this whole blog by Fabienne Harford:

Pride will kill you. Forever. Pride is the sin most likely to keep you from crying out for a Savior. Those who think they are well will not look for a doctor.

We are all in need of a Savior. There’s no heavenly ranking system for sin. If you’re not crying out for a Savior, then you might be struggling with pride. If you are quick to notice all the other people who are in need of a Savior more than you, then you are definitely struggling with pride.

Anyway, it’s crazy, with as dangerous and blinding a problem as the sin of pride is, I can post this confession and be not at all nervous about the repercussions because America isn’t too bothered by pride – celebrates it even. But what if my Great Sin was something else? What if I asked for help kicking my crack habit? What if I confessed an affair? What if I needed to let my loved ones know I was gay? No way on earth would I freely reveal those things for fear that I would lose friends or at least be treated differently. This double standard is not a God problem. It’s not a Bible problem. It’s a problem we have as people. We’re the ones who have come up with the ranking system. Sidenote: In my heart and in my gut, I’m certainly more disgusted by a child molester than by a Wall Street guy who’s cheating someone out of money. I do think that instinct IS God-given, but meant more for us to protect those who are the most helpless and vulnerable rather than to incite riot against the person committing the crime.

It’s not just believers who adhere to the sin ranking system. I have a non-religious friend who has lived a very difficult life – chronic drug use and relapses, isolation from his now teenaged daughter, a brother who committed suicide. The future feels bleak for him and he was telling me one day how much “better” I am than he is. “What have you ever done?” he asked. “Pride. Pride. Pride. And I have a temper. I yell at my kids when they irritate me.” He rolled his eyes, passing my stuff off as small potatoes. And, I confess, I’d rather have my current set of problems than his. By the standard of the world, I am good. Just fine. My family may even be more functional than average. But as my minister Chris Seidman said recently, “It’s a level playing field at the foot of the cross.” My friend and I are equally in need of the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus offers.

There’s a lot going on right now socially in America. We’ve got tense race issues, gay marriage, gun rights, and illegal immigration. No need to delve into debates over any of those issues, but they’re the reddest, hottest, hot-button discussions people are having. I have my own opinions on these topics, but no ruling or legislation or law has ever disheartened me more than observing the total lack of compassion that spews from the mouths of those (on both side of the issues) who are angrily picking fights in the aftermath. These reactions expose the pride that we are all drowning in.

If we truly understood the gravity of our sin, how could we spend so much emotion and energy pointing fingers at each other?

If we could get a grip on how quickly we’re sinking in our own pits of quicksand, where do we get off berating someone else for the mess they’re in?

Love is what we’re supposed to be doing – letting our understanding of where our own sin has left us lead us to compassion for the people around us who are as wretched, messed up, and pathetic as we are. But that means we first need to GET it. Not many of us feel desperately ashamed and broken over our sin. While we acknowledge that there is a sin rank system in our world and, admittedly, the natural consequences of different sins vary greatly, there is no sin rank system in heaven. We all need Jesus equally and if that’s hard for you to swallow, then you may struggle with pride.

All this to say, it’s this attitude we have about “worse” sins that is keeping people from our churches. I am committed to changing my thinking. To learning to love people who sometimes scare me because of the places they’ve been. To letting the knowledge of my own brokenness lead me to compassion and to serving others who are also struggling with something, be it my same sin tendencies or something very different.

We’re all in this together. We really are. So let’s help each other succeed. And one other thing since this post is kind of a bummer: God takes our jagged, ugly brokenness, carefully and lovingly puts together the pieces with the restoring power of Jesus’ blood, and invites us into his presence to eat with him at his table. He doesn’t look back and he doesn’t keep record of our wrongs. Neither should we once we have received the freedom and joy we have been offered through salvation in Jesus Christ. No matter where we’ve been, we all have been given the same shot at happy endings to our life stories.

I just read Matt Walsh’s latest blog post, in which he writes a letter to his young daughter to tell her that she’s beautiful; and to warn her that culture will try to tell her otherwise so that it can make money off of her. That is all completely true. To be clear, I would NEVER pick a fight with Matt Walsh because A) He would debate me into a hole, and B) Although he can be quite abrasive, I respect his honesty. I don’t disagree with his message (or the TONS of other writers on this subject) about making sure girls know that the Hollywood standard of beauty is skewed, fake, empty and gross. I do tell my girls they’re beautiful and I talk a lot about finding beauty in our differences. They’re too young to have observed much pressure to be “perfect” via magazines, commercials, etc. I imagine it will be a heartbreaking process to watch them go through when they’re older and wiser; I hope Matt (my husband Matt, that is) and I are guided by God’s hand as we walk with them through that.

I get it. Important things for women to know TRUTH about: Real beauty (IE: inner beauty, lovely character, pure hearts), modesty (IE: bikinis, short shorts, cleavage), dangers of vanity (IE: needless plastic surgery, too much makeup, overspending on stuff), and pressure (IE: purity, dating, not being taken advantage of). YES. Teach the truth about these things. They’re real and important and hold value to women and girls.

Let me just ask a serious question, though: Is this ALL we think being a female boils down to?

Because these are the themes I see impressed on girls over and over again. My frustration is this: We say we need to tell girls that they’re bigger and better than the way they look and then we only talk about the way they look. Even if we’re saying “love yourself as you are” when we talk about bodies (which is positive), we are totally neglecting the depth and complexity and wealth of wonderful that comprises a woman (which is a CRYING SHAME).

This is maybe the easiest way for me to express this: I want my girls to know that WHO they are is powerful. They can lead others because of their ideas, their skills, their words, their brains. They can serve others because they are kind, compassionate, empathetic, selfless, joyful, healthy, and hard-working. And they can shine a light on God because they can do all these things FOR HIS GLORY. Their faces and bodies are only the vessel through which they do all of these ACTUALLY IMPORTANT things.

You know the Dove ads and that recent Always commercial? Oh man. So good. So real. I bawl like a baby because I see exactly where the women in our culture have wandered in our perception of who we are as a gender. I LOVE how the young girls in that Always ad are FREE and they’re happy and they’re confident. It’s so sad that, as we grow, we learn that we’re judged for just about everything we are and so we shrink into tiny, intimidated robot people. Confined little boxes that squelch LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY. We aren’t meant to live like that, friends!

You’re BIGGER and BETTER than your body or face. You have more to offer than that. Parents, teachers, ministers: Let’s all stop concentrating solely on the physical and superficial when we talk about girls and start emphasizing the real, complex, magical traits that make us who we are. Stop discussing whether or not wearing makeup makes us “holy” and start talking about the ways we are improving our families, schools, friends, and communities. Please stop harping about clothes and promote bigger ideas about what we should be PURSUING instead of the shorts and swimsuits we should be avoiding. I want my girls to FIRST RUN TOWARD the good things instead of always RUNNING AWAY from bad things. If the only thing I do is warn them that the world is going to judge the way they look, I’m not only minimizing their complete, whole, AMAZING person-hood, I’m pointing them in the wrong direction of where I hope they end up; they’ll forever be running scared instead of running their race of FAITH.

I’m telling you, these two…they’re the BEST! I hope they never grow up. But, when they inevitably do, I hope they understand that they have SO MUCH to share with the world around them and that their flesh is simply their working resource with which to do it.

Harper on the 4th of July

Harper on the 4th of July

Cortland's first lake experience

Cortland’s first lake experience

After having seen my friend Aimee Smith do this to her outdoor, plastic kid gear at least two years ago, I told Matt we needed to remember that trick. Our own playhouse had fallen into disrepair and nature was taking it over. Spiders everywhere inside (along with their cobwebs and egg sacks). Dirt, dust, and leaves coating all surfaces. The Texas sun had been beating down, fading the once bright doors, shutters, and roof.

This picture, taken with my magic camera that makes everything look better, does not do justice to how dirty and faded it had become.

This picture, taken with my magic camera that makes everything look better, does not do justice to how dirty and faded it had become.

 

Scary lair of spiders, wasps, and possibly badgers

Scary lair of spiders, wasps, and possibly bears

It was just not a place I could confidently smile and say to the girls, “Your playhouse? Sure! The odds are slim that you’ll make it out of there without several bites, stings, or rashes. Go for it!” I learned my lesson two weeks ago when poor, defenseless Cortland wandered inside while Harper and I were watering the garden. Shrieking ensued. Swelling commenced. Wasp sting right on her chubby, little, dimpled baby hand.  I did find the wasp nest later when I was scrubbing. The little devils had made a huge home under the fold-down table. That was the last straw. (Side bar: Cortland’s wasp sting was instantly soothed and the swelling stopped when I put Purification essential oil from Young Living  on it).

And now, a picture tour of the process:

Matt giving things a good spray down

Matt giving things a good spray down

Scrubbing the grime away. This was the most tedious part, but so necessary.

Scrubbing the grime away. This was the most tedious part, but so necessary. In fact, we had planned to paint the main body, but the scrub down made such a difference, we left the tan as-is.

Matt built a platform to set the entire structure on so that the inside will hopefully not get SO dirty SO fast.

Matt built a platform (out of trashed wooden fence sections that a neighbor had discarded) to set the entire structure on so that the inside will hopefully not get SO dirty SO fast.

Spray paint. There are two types for outdoor plastics (at least with the brand we bought at WalMart). One has a picture of a playhouse on it and one just says it can be used on plastic. SPEND THE EXTRA BUCK and get the one with the playhouse picture. We got a couple of each and the cheaper one was runny and difficult to use (the cheap one we used on the yellow shutters and it was way more splotchy).

Spray paint. There are two types for outdoor plastics (at least with the brand we bought at WalMart). One has a picture of a playhouse on it and one just says it can be used on plastic. SPEND THE EXTRA BUCK and get the one with the playhouse picture. We got a couple of each and the cheaper one was runny and difficult to use (the cheap one we used on the yellow shutters and it was way more splotchy…you can tell in some of the pictures).

Fancy, schmancy "wood floors"

Fancy, schmancy “wood floors”

Matt made a little planter box, which I stuck some fake flowers inside.

Matt made a little planter box, which I stuck some fake flowers inside.

Finished it off with a flag and some mulch (which always makes everything look better).

Finished it off with a flag and some mulch (which always makes everything look better).

Our playhouse was a hand-me-down, but I looked it up online to see how much it retails for: $500.00. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Do yourself a favor if you’re in the market for one of these. Go find a dirty, faded, garage sale playhouse for $10, spend $25 in spray paint, and make a custom-colored house for your kid. Also, get this: Within 45 minutes of putting the made-over house back together, the wasps showed up again! I’m killing them one-by-one right now, but does anybody have any tips for keeping them at bay without dousing the structure in poison?