My Children’s Story!!!

For Christmas 2014, Matt and I worked hard to give gifts that were simple, thoughtful, few, and aligned with loving others.  This resulted in quite a few handmade gifts and only one toy per Olson Tiny!

I had hoped to write a book for the Tinies.  I wanted to capture some of the concepts that we are constantly trying to instill into them in a children’s book format so that reading it would reinforce the truths they hear from Matt and me.  My goal was to include concepts like community, teamwork, personal value, generosity, courage, trusting yourself, and people’s ability to change to name a few.  It was a lofty goal!

Plus, how do you write a children’s book???  How do you choose the characters and setting and make it cohesive and sensible?  I didn’t know.  So their book didn’t get done in time for Christmas.

While out shopping, I discovered a sheet of forest animal stickers on clearance.  I thought, “Ooo, these are characters I can work with!”  If I limited myself to only sticker illustrations… and used only characters from the clearance sticker sheet… and supplemented with stickers I already have at home, I had enough parameters that the project seemed doable.

I pondered this book over several months, but the actual results came together in a weekend because I was finally ready to download my brain into a tangible form!  I love the result, my kids love the result, and I hope you will too!  I have copyrighted the book, but please feel free to read it to your kids (or your friends, or your pets, or whomever :)).

All components of this book are copyrighted in 2015 by Jaime Olson.  Except as provided by the Copyright Act 2014, no part of this publication may be reproduced, store in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, Jaime Olson.

2015 Owl and Friends, inside front cover 2015 Owl and Friends, title page

2015 Owl and Friends, page 1 2015 Owl and Friends, page 2

2015 Owl and Friends, page 3 2015 Owl and Friends, page 4

2015 Owl and Friends, page 5 2015 Owl and Friends, page 6

2015 Owl and Friends, page 7 2015 Owl and Friends, page 8

2015 Owl and Friends, page 9 2015 Owl and Friends, page 10

2015 Owl and Friends, page 11 2015 Owl and Friends, last page

The THING(s)

Wow.  It has been five and a half MONTHS since I have been here.  I couldn’t even remember my password as blog owner!  Hi there.

I need to write because I am LOSING MY MIND.

Matt and I have been squeezed through a wheat-sifter.  Our marriage, specifically.  It has been excruciating and we are a bloody mess emotionally.  I describe our current state as “we’re cleaning out all of the yuck in our wounds so that they can heal well.”  Delicious, no?

As it turns out, we are both overachievers at selfishness.  We are in counseling, we are in shred-apart-this-crap-and-find-the-valuable-hidden-parts mode, and we have decided to deal with some serious cracks in our relational foundation.  It is horrible.  I don’t want to describe how horrible… I’m going to let your imagination do that work for me.

But we are on a journey here.  There are things, amazing things, looming beyond us.  There is a something for the Olson Five to do, and we have to get these foundational cracks repaired (even if we have to dig up the entire structure and rebuild it, which it kind of seems like we are doing, but we’re so covered with sludge and the air is so thick with demolition dust that we don’t really see what we’re doing… we’re just DOING IT).  And we don’t know what the amazing things are that we headed toward, but we are committed to realistically dealing with our crap and moving in that direction.

We’re never going to get there.

It isn’t just a half-glass-empty doubt that punches me in the face in my weak moments.  We really are NEVER GOING TO GET THERE.  We’ll never have it together.  I thought we would by now.  I thought we’d be 10+ years into this marriage thing and have our issues all ironed out so that we can be available for everyone else’s issues.  Yeah, that’s not ever going to be true.  Our issues are immense.  We still CAN be available to others with their issues, but only because we know the deep and painful brokenness of ourselves.  We get you.  We hear what you’re saying.  We are piles of shards and we may never feel put together.  We should probably just snuggle in, razor edges and all, and let Jesus start building a beautiful picture out of our shared mosaic, because pulling back until we are smooth and soft is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.  We can’t get there.  We’re a broken mess, and we are painfully aware of it.  And we are healing and being restored, but we’ll never be all set.  We’ll always be a mess.  And there’s a beauty in that, although I have difficulty finding it most days.

So this thing… or things… or whatever God has for us.  It has cost us our blinders, our masks, and our pretty patina that we paint on over our crumbles and cracks.  It has cost us our self-satisfaction and our arrogance.  It has been crazy expensive already, because it is ripping out solid chunks of us that we preferred to keep, thank you very much!

We don’t know what it is.  But allow me to walk you through the insanity that is my dream world these days.

“God knows our hearts for vulnerable children… if He is preparing us for THIS thing, then we’ll need this many beds donated, we’ll need to rearrange these rooms… no these ones… you know, it might work best if we left the master bedroom and switched to the guest roo… WHAT???  This can’t cost us our ROOM!  That’s our room!  I need a break.  <generous mental break>  Okay, so we have OPTIONS for room rearrangements… We aren’t in a position yet to go after any specifics because we have plans this summer that require just the 5 of us, okay… so we have some time.  And then what?”  I can tell you what vehicle switches we’d have to beg a car dealership for, I can tell you what laundry changes will need to take place, I can detail for you exactly how much more cooking I will have to do.  Oh, you should know this – I do not like cooking.  I don’t HATE it… but it seems so pointless.  We eat, then we eat again.  I have trouble finding the glamour in working on something that disappears.  It’s part of my “everything I do needs to COUNT and be BIG!” personal issues.  Meals?  Ehh.  So THAT attitude would need to shift, among every other detail of my life!

I get stuck in places like, “Could I keep my job?  We’d need the money, but if the thing God wants us to do is THIS, then He’d need my time devoted to that…” and anytime the room rearrangements in my head circle back toward booting Matt and me from our own bedroom.

I don’t like not knowing where we are going, but I promise you:  I canNOT handle knowing where we are going.  I really cannot.  I’m going mad just imagining things… can you even fathom how insufferable I’d be if I actually had to make the plans and carry them out?

So we’re in this “we need to heal because we let ourselves get damaged/damage one another and that needs to STOP” phase of life.  And we’re approaching this “if we could be honest with ourselves and open with God about what we’re willing to do in His Kingdom, He might ask this or this or THIS!!!” phase of life that is totally exhilarating and murderously dangerous at the same time.  I think God’s goal is to kill our overinflated senses of self so that whenever we get to the THING(s), He just has to remind us to leave that corpse dead instead of kill it then.  But we experience it this way:  He is killing US.  My arrogance IS me.  It’s part of me!  I can’t be me without it!  Augh!!!  I’m dying.  It hurts and I whine at God incessantly.  For unknown reasons, He still calls me His child and is pleased with me despite my brattiness.  And Matt too.  Our self-importance is the worst kind of zombie; you think it’s finally dead and can’t hurt us anymore, and then it’s BACK!  And creepier than ever!

So… I took a lengthy break from blogging and then popped in to tell you all of this, and that’s literally all I have to say.  I’m a jerk.  But I think we’re all well-acquainted with THAT factoid!  If you want to pray for us, pray that the horrible parts of both Matt and I will just DIE and that we’ll leave them dead and stop trying to resurrect our own ridiculousness.  And you could pray for our marriage.  It sucks, but in the same way as climbing Mount Everest sucks.  “Why are we doing this?  What were we thinking?  This is the worst thing ever!  We’ll never survive!” and then”Whoa.  Look at all of THAT.  Worth it!”  And you could pray for whatever the THING(s) is/are that God intends for us/is preparing us to do.  Because it’s likely going to be so big and epic that we’ll die again.  And I have a pre-recorded whining session for what to say when that happens.  And it will be a place of brokenness and beauty, which is exactly how life is meant to be.  I think we’ll feel fully alive then more than we ever have… but only because we know the deep frailty of ourselves.  We’re in the process of learning that lesson now.

Hi!  I’ve missed you!  I’ve gone crazy without you, dear reader!  Sorry I left and sorry that I don’t know when I’ll be back.


Asking Important Questions

Zach thinks internally for extended periods of time.  He ponders deeply and teases out all of the options and works through all of that information inside his mind.  He doesn’t often share his thoughts directly, but he asks a LOT of questions.  If you are willing to put in the time and effort to read between the lines, you can catch glimpses of what he’s thinking about.

This morning he asked two very important questions.

1.  Mom, is it a rule that we HAVE to go to church?

We were getting ready to leave for church and everyone was in various stages of getting dressed or eating breakfast or finding shoes.  Important questions from my kids are rarely timed to those few moments that I am available to think clearly and share from my heart. 🙂  I could have said, “Yep, in this house, it’s the rule!” or some other version of the My House/My Rules parenting practice.  But he wasn’t asking if I expect him to go to church.  Zach wanted to know if God expected him to go to church.  And that’s an entirely different question!

I have learned to pause when I’m having an important conversation and think before I speak.  (I have NOT yet learned to pause when I’m angry and think before I speak… I’m still working on that life skill).  But I took that moment to think, and then I answered my inquisitive son.

“No, honey.  It’s not a rule.  You don’t HAVE to go to church.”

Cue the ominous music!  Just kidding.

I followed up with, “We don’t go to church because we HAVE to.  We don’t HAVE to!  God doesn’t make us go to church – He wants us there because our hearts want to be with Him.  We go to church because He loves us and we love Him and we are in His family, so we want to spend time together with Him and His other kids, just like in any family.”

Zach proceeded to announce that he didn’t want to go to church today.  He explained that he didn’t want to go, that he would rather stay home, and that he just didn’t feel like going to church.

Again, I could have pulled rank and said, “Tough tooties, Buddy, you’re going to church!”  You know, the whole My House/My Rules bit.

But Matt and I work hard to let our kids have a voice and we value their real thoughts and feelings.  If I shut down Zach’s real thoughts and feelings when he shares them, I can kiss his willingness to talk to me goodbye!  It’s already a rarity to hear from him; I want him to experience my delight in his willingness to share himself.

I thanked him for telling me how he felt and just barely managed to avoid saying, “You’re still going, but good job sharing!  Now get in the car!”  Something made me pause and wait, and I think that something was actually a Someone.  I needed to listen to my son, and God was nudging my heart to wait it out.

Zach said that he knew we go to church to learn about God, but that he wanted to stay home and read his Bible.  That way, he would still get the results but not have to go.  He has carefully thought this through, hasn’t he?

I agreed with him that we DO go to church to learn about God.  But a big part of learning about God is being with Him in community with the rest of His family.  So we need to go be with God at church, but we also need to be with the other people there, because they love Him too.  And we need to take care of each other – how will we love them if we don’t get to see them?  And how will they love us and take care of us if they don’t get to see us?

Zach nodded and didn’t have anything further to say.  He went and got his shoes on and seemed ready to leave whenever we all managed to get ourselves out to the van.

I called him back over because I wanted to summarize for him.  “Zach, you are right.  We can read the Bible to learn about God.  And I LOVE that you read your Bible and learn all the time!  That is definitely something that we can do by ourselves and it is important to do.  But that’s just one of the important things that we can do at church.  If we are in God’s family, He is with us wherever we are.  But we also need to go be together with other people who love Him and learn together.”  My sweet son smiled his standard “Got it, Mom, let’s move on!” smile and said, “Okay, Mom.”  And that was that.

I am so grateful for his question!  I love having a glimpse into his thought process.  I also know that many, many people who love God ask that same question:  Do I really need to be IN church?  Because I can get the same thing on my own as I get at a church.  These conversations need to happen in the safety and openness of our home throughout our kids’ lives so that a) they know it is important to ask those hard questions, and b) we can gauge their hearts and determine what we need to say in that moment to answer their questions.  “You’re going to church!” is not an answer.  That’s a rule.  I’ve fought a long time to escape the slavery of the rules that have been associated with Christianity!  I do NOT want to pass that along to my children!  So no, we don’t HAVE to.  But we love to go to church.  We love to be with Him wherever we are, and we love to be with Him in a pile of other broken people who love Him too.  And seriously, if you are looking for a pile of broken people, the Church is the FIRST place to look!  We are all a mess!  But Jesus knows that.  And we know it too.  And we are trusting Him to take our broken shards of disaster and restore us into the breathtaking beauty of a mosaic in His Master Artist hands.  Each piece of glass needs to be there or the picture isn’t complete.  Your sharp edges belong right next to mine… and Zach’s sharp edges belong there with us too.

Zach’s second important question happened in the car on the way to church.  The twins get an allowance every week (Nathaniel will start getting one when he begins kindergarten, just like they did) and they divvy it into “for God,” “for savings,” and “for spending” piles.  The “for God” pile has been accumulating for about a month because we keep forgetting to have them bring it with them to church!  We finally remembered this morning, and the twins had a handful of quarters and a few dollar bills that they have been saving.  And then Zach said the following:

2.  Mom, how do we give this money to God?  Like, does someone at our church go up in a spaceship to take it to Him?  How do we know if He gets the money when we give it at church?

Seriously, people!  I need a break between these brilliant questions!  He was just firing off big ones today!

I laughed and agreed that it would be SUPER COOL if we got to take it in a spaceship up to God, wouldn’t it?  Then I explained that when we give money to a church, we are trusting them to use it for things that God would want.  Rissa said, “Yeah, if they took it home and spent it on toys or something, we couldn’t trust them!”  And Zach said, “Yeah, the managers at the church would have to be responsible because that’s God’s money!”  I told them that I’m sure that those bad things happen at some places and that is NOT okay.  I also explained that we would not give money somewhere that wasn’t using it for things that God cares about.

Then we talked about the things that God cares about.  Loving people, telling people that God wants to know them and for them to know Him, taking care of people who need things that we can give them.  We are trusting the people at our church to do good things with God’s money.

On the way home, I had the chance to thank Zach for asking such an important question!  We ALL need to ask that question, and I’m so proud of him for wanting to make sure that the money he was giving to God was actually going to a good place.

Matt reminded the kids that all of everything belongs to God – God doesn’t need our money to come up to Him in a spaceship because He already has everything everywhere!  And God doesn’t need our money down here either!  It all already belongs to Him.  But when we remember that it is His and we make sure that the first part of our money goes to God and the things He cares about, it helps us live our lives in a way that is focused on caring about important things.  Mommy and Daddy do that too – we give God the first part of our money to help us remember that it is already His!

The kids and I heard a song on the radio this week that we had never heard before.  They often ask me what a song means or what the musicians are singing about.  I had to stop and listen because I didn’t know since I hadn’t heard this one before.  Here are the first few lyrics:

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

This morning as we talked on the way home, I reminded the Tinies that we heard that song – that God DID do something!  He sent Jesus to be our connection to God so that we can be restored to His family, even though our sins separate us.  And He made us and put His heart into ours so that we can love and care like He does!  He doesn’t need our money for Him – He needs us to share ourselves (including our money) to meet the needs that others have!  So instead of asking why doesn’t God fix that, we can go help and know that this is something that God cares about.  And for whatever reason, God chooses to people as His hands and feet.  More lyrics:

I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still

The kids said, “Yeah!  God did do something!  He made US!”

The Olson Tinies rock my world every single day.  I have no doubt that God will rock the whole world with them and people like them – by placing His heart into their hearts!  And isn’t that what God does with all of us as He transforms us?  He takes our hardened hearts of stone and gives us a live, beating heart that looks like His.  I love Zach’s two important questions.  I love our family that God made.  And we are altogether incapable of standing still. 🙂

One of our Fights

In this post, I’m going to give you an insider’s glimpse into the dysfunction of my marriage and family.  You’d never discover this information unless we chose to share it, and most people would choose not to reveal these things about themselves.  But I think honesty (KIND honesty) is likely to be helpful!  And you’ll see the beauty of our marriage and family too.  And even if this does nothing for those who read it now, I want to document it for my kids.  Because this blog is for them… even though I hardly find time to write here anymore!


Olson Tinies, someday, when you read this and are no longer tiny, you will be reminded that your parents fought when you were little.  We aren’t there yet, but I’m guessing it is a pretty sure bet that your parents fought when you were big too.  And of course you remember – you lived here while it happened!  When you remember that we fought/still fight, I hope you also remember that we came to find you afterward so we could talk to you about it.  Because the fears you imagine and the unknowns you cannot name are far more terrifying than whatever is really happening, and we know that.  So we told you what was going on, and even  more so as you got bigger and could understand.  You might also remember that you were welcome to weigh in, never during, but always after the fight once we told you about it.  And you did weigh in – you bravely pointed out how we both contributed to the problem, whatever it was.  And we talked about it.  If nothing else in this family, we TALK about things, don’t we?  That’s because we love each other.

The other day, Mommy and Daddy had a fight about vacuuming the van, or so it would appear.  But we never actually fight about things, issues, topics…  I can’t imagine that many people do.  If we look closely, we notice that we fight about people, specifically, we fight for people.  And most often, we fight for ourselves.  Some facet of our personhood is being questioned or damaged, and our feathers get ruffled, and we step up to fight!  Defend!  Set things right!  When we do this on behalf of someone else, it is a good thing.  When we fight for someone who cannot or will not fight for themselves, we are laying ourselves down and instead picking up the cause of someone because they matter.  They have value and we see it in them, even if they don’t see it in themselves.  We are so proud every time each of you has done that!  But when we fight on behalf of ourselves, our selfishness gets in the way and muddles things up.  Are we doing good?  Or just defending our pride?  It’s often hard to tell.

I called Daddy and told him that we were going to clean out the van after lunch.  It took a long time!  We emptied out all of the trash.  We collected all of the toys and artwork and random items that were worth keeping but had been forgotten in our van.  We took out the booster seats and CLEANED.  We used Clorox Wipes and worked on the windows and the cup holders and all the nooks that collect junk.  We even vacuumed with the wet/dry vac!  It took a long time, we did it in the hot sun, and we worked as a team.

I called Daddy again to tell him about our hard work.  The wet/dry vac hadn’t really done a thorough job, so I told him that we were going to take the van to a detailing place.  He immediately responded to a secret fear that cropped up – he didn’t want to spend money unnecessarily.  He didn’t know how hard we had worked and that the wet/dry vac wasn’t sufficient.  But without realizing it, he believed I was asking him to be flippant with money, and his feathers ruffled and he was not going to let that happen!  Instead of directly telling me that he was concerned about the money so that we could talk about it further, he started making various excuses about why we couldn’t and wouldn’t be taking our van to get vacuumed.  These excuses included questioning my credibility to make this decision, whether we had done good enough work in the first place and were just being lazy and passing it off to a professional instead of working hard ourselves, questions about cost, questions about whether their equipment was any better than what we had at home, and other things I don’t remember now.

That triggered two of my secret fears – I was being treated unfairly and someone considered me inferior when compared to them.  My feathers were ruffled and I set out to prove that of COURSE I knew what I was talking about and we WERE going to do this because I said so.  I systematically found the flaw in each random excuse Daddy listed, readily proved that this was doable, practical, and definitely going to happen, and even researched our community for places to take the van.  I found one, and they closed in 40 minutes.  This was a problem because I couldn’t drive the van over myself and leave you all at home (the booster seats were out and staying out until the vacuuming was finished) and Daddy would have to hurry home to switch vehicles, then hurry across town to get the van there before the business closed.  He didn’t think it could be done, and I decided that it had to be done and Daddy had to do it.

And I was making excuses too for why Daddy had to do it.  It did make more sense since I had all 3 of you home and no good way to get you there without reinstalling carseats that are time-consuming to install safely.  But those were excuses, because my real reason was that if Daddy didn’t take it there himself, he would question me again and I was tired of defending my intelligence and ability.  So he drove home, switched vehicles, made it in time, and got the van taken care of, all for a very reasonable price.

Since his real concern was spending money unnecessarily and that had been avoided AND the van was now beautifully vacuumed, he felt that resolution had been met when he got home.  However, since my real concern was that I was treated as an inferior, I was hurt and angry when he got home.  He wanted to know why I had been so crabby on the phone; I wanted to know why he thought it was okay to talk to me like I’m a moron who can’t think anything through for myself and needs to be told what to do.  I was crushed by his perception of me.

I did a lot of yelling.  To his credit, Daddy had already grown immensely in actually acknowledging the places that he was at fault, and he saw what really happened.  He saw that his fear about wasting money was more important to him than treating me respectfully and approaching this and every situation as partners.  He saw that his lack of trust in my ability to manage the details of our life was irrational and also damaging to me.  He saw that he makes up random crap to constitute excuses for why he doesn’t want to do something rather than just tell me his actual concerns.

Before Daddy got home and I yelled, I actually handled everything really well.  I showed myself to be a good household manager, I did the majority of the hard work with the help of my awesome kids, and I planned and executed the final piece.  But then I yelled.  And everything I said was true and applicable and I shared my feelings, but I was sinfully angry and more than willing to stomp on Daddy while trying to tell him that he is not allowed to stomp on me!  And no one should be stomping on anyone in this family.  I felt justified in my anger and I was defending my personhood and I was making sure Daddy knew he wouldn’t get away with treating me so badly, so I told myself that yelling was okay.  I believed that I could yell however much was “necessary” to make myself heard.  That’s a lie, and I believed it.

When we sat down to eat dinner (late, because you guys had to wait for us while we worked through all of that), we talked to you about it.  We explained that Daddy said some really mean things about us not doing good enough work on cleaning the van.  All 3 of you were rightfully offended, and you said various versions of, “Daddy!  That is not nice to say!  We did a GREAT job!  The vacuum couldn’t get everything, but we still tried really hard!”  And Daddy apologized and you said it was okay and Daddy said, “It’s not okay, but I’m really glad that you forgive me.”  When we prayed before we ate, one of you asked God to help you not be so mad at Daddy for saying something rude.  And I was struck by how I should have prayed that exact thing back before I started yelling!  We learn so many things from our amazing kids.

We also explained that I had been yelling a lot at Daddy about what he said, which you knew, so you all nodded and agreed that my yelling was a bad choice and not okay either.  And Daddy said that he is working on being a partner and not trying to be in charge of everything and take over and tell other people that they can’t do good work unless he does it for them.  And I said that I am working on talking about things without yelling, because that makes things much worse instead of better.  You nodded your support of us and our need to work on the areas where we sinned.

And then the most amazing thing happened.  You listened and understood the situation first, and then you graciously joined us.  One of you kids pointed out that you were working on whining.  One of you was working on being okay with not being perfect and accepting your mistakes.  And one of you was working on obeying.  After we had all shared because you were willing to be vulnerable too, Rissa said, “See!  We ALL have things that we are working on!”  And that was that.  We’re a mess, we’re working on it, it’s hard, but we’re in this together.

And that’s why we come and explain things to you kids.  Yes, it is important for you to know that our family has a real marriage where Mommy and Daddy make real mistakes.  And we need to admit those to each other and to you, because you have to live with the consequences of our bad choices too.  But you also have incredible insight into your own hearts as well as the workings of our family.  And you model partnering to us by being vulnerable and joining us when we admit our wrongs.  And we model partnering to you by coming to you as your parents and acknowledging our wrongs.  And then we all grow.

The very next day, someone prayed at dinner, “Thank you, God, that we have such a nice family.”  I don’t always think of us a nice family.  We are fun… we are real… we are loving and snugglebugs… we are a disaster in many ways… we are a mess… we are constantly working on it… but nice?  That sounds like a distant future version of us when we have all of these problems handled and are better able to deal with our life!  And I worry that we’ll never actually get there, wherever there is.

But hearing one of you pray that and knowing that you experience us as a nice family, despite the fight that happened only 24 hours prior and the rest of the craziness that goes on around here – that floored me.  I realized that God HAS given us a nice family because He has given us one another and Himself too!  We are so very blessed to have a Mommy, a Daddy, a Zach, a Rissa, and a Nathaniel!  We are exactly what each other needs and also what each other has always wanted.

Yes, there will be more fights.  But we’ll keep talking about it and working on it.  And there will always be love here.  We’ll learn and grow, and we’ll do it together.  That’s Mommy and Daddy’s promise to one another and to each of you.

Ear Piercing

I got my nose pierced for my 35th birthday.  We called it my “midlife crisis” and celebrated that I had come of age to legitimately have a midlife crisis!  My poor mom did not find out about this until she saw me a good 7 months later!  (Oops, forgot to blog about it until now!  This is partially because I am crazy busy and also because loading pictures onto this blog has become massively difficult and even more time-consuming than it already was!  Rawr!)  I had been wanting to pierce my nose since my 32nd birthday, but what if it was just a phase?  I opted to get my nose pierced when I turned 35 if I still wanted to do it.  It was NOT a phase, and I now happily sport a super-cute sparkle over my right nostril!  My piercings now total 4 – both ears pierced at age 13, a second hole in my left ear at age 17, and a nose piercing at age 35.  It was crazy to figure out that there were EIGHTEEN years between my last 2 piercings… I had doubled my life-length in between!

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Ever since her tiny days, Rissa has been very interested in that store in the mall that has a giant teddy bear sitting in a chair right near the entrance… next to the ear-piercing station.  One time when she was 2 or 3, we were walking past Claire’s on our way to the mall playground, and a family was about to have the second ear of their newborn daughter’s ears pierced.  Both Zach and Rissa were extremely concerned about what was happening, so I explained that the baby was going to get earrings and was scared because it is like getting a shot in your ear.  Zach announced that he was NEVER getting his ears pierced!  Rissa strongly objected to ear piercing because she was so concerned for that baby!  I showed them my earrings and explained the process, and my tiny daughter actually thanked me for not piercing her ears when she was a baby.  Making choices has always been a theme in our home, and she and Zach were both adamant that they should get to make their own choice about piercings!  Rissa said she didn’t want to do that until she decided she was ready.  And just like that, it was settled – Rissa would get her ears pierced when she was ready!  I was thrilled with this, because I wanted my ears pierced for a good 5 years before my mom finally caved when I was 13, and I had no intention of making my daughter wait so long.

Fast forward through the next few years when Rissa eyed that teddy bear in the chair every time we walked past Claire’s on our way to the playground.  She regularly told me that shots were ouchy and she did not want to get shots in her ears!  And that was fine.

Right around her 5th birthday, Rissa told me that she was thinking about getting her ears pierced.  Matt felt that she was too young… I was committed to allowing her to make the decision.  I reviewed the process with her and she said that she was very interested, but not yet ready “in case it was too ouchy.”  Perfect; we are happy to wait!  When she turned 6, I got my nose pierced and all members of our household were profoundly aware of how painful it is to wipe your face with a towel after you get out of the shower and catch your nose ring and yoink it out of your face… and then have to get it back in!  I think watching my healing process put her consideration on hold.  Around Christmas last year, Rissa said, “Mom, why don’t you ever let me get my ears pierced???”  I was flabbergasted!  We talked about it and I told her that Daddy and I knew she would know when she was ready to do it.  She could tell us it was time, and then we would talk about it.  I reminded her that if she didn’t tell us she was ready, then we were happy to wait until she was.  “Oh,” she said.  And then she didn’t mention it for 6 months.

A few weeks ago, despite all of our efforts to hold off until she was ready, I brought up the topic.  I had purchased some really cute, little-girl-appropriate earrings for her at a sale at Christmas because I assumed we’d be doing this soon.  I hoped to give them to her for her 7th birthday, but that would be pointless if she didn’t already have her ears pierced!  So I asked if she was still thinking about it, and she said she was.  A few days later, she talked to me about it and said that she was ready to get her ears pierced and could we go right now?  I told her that we would talk about it some more and that I was sure that Daddy would want to be there.  She smiled and nodded and said we should definitely wait for him.  And then the topic disappeared again.

Today, we all went to the mall to eat lunch before we ran some errands as a family.  As we wandered toward the food court, Rissa casually asked, “Can I get my ears pierced while we are here?  Because, you know, we are HERE…”  Matt and I agreed to talk about it with her and with one another while we ate lunch.  We chatted extensively – I reminded her about the process and that it would hurt for a little bit and then stop hurting.  We also asked her why she wanted to get her ears pierced and reviewed what counted as a good reason and what counted as a bad reason.  (Wanting to wear jewelry in your ears and being responsible enough to keep track of tiny possessions like earrings without losing them are good reasons; doing it because your friends have done it is a bad reason).  She assured us of what we already knew – that she had been thinking about this for a long time and had finally decided she was ready.

We considered having a waiting period where she demonstrated her ability to keep her belongings in their designated places to prove that she can be trusted with small possessions and not leave them around the house or lose them.  Rissa pulled out her excellent negotiation skills and suggested that since she had to wear the first earrings for 6-8 weeks, she could get her ears pierced today and then spend those weeks proving that she was ready to be responsible with more pairs of earrings.  She also stated that if there was a line at the piercing chair or if they did not have a teddy bear for her to hold, she was NOT doing this today.  “I would say, ‘no way!’ and wait until I was 13 if I didn’t get to hold the teddy bear!”  Well, that sounds ridiculously reasonable… how did she even come up with something so agreeable to us???  Matt and I knew that if she could think this through so carefully for all of this time and then come up with her own plan to show how responsible she was, then she was obviously ready!

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Rissa was a SUPERSTAR of courage!  She hardly flinched and was all smiles.  “It hurts, but it’s not too bad.”  She was so brave!

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Nathaniel has now decided that when he grows up, he is going to get HIS ears pierced so that he can have a lollipop!  Zach continues to remain adamant that he will never pierce his ears.  We assured them that there are plenty of opportunities to get lollipops – after haircuts, sometimes after dance class, at parades… no piercings required!  We also talked about how Pastor Allen has an earring (just one), and that some boys get their ear pierced.

“Cool!  But that’s not my thing,” says Zach.
“Me neither,” says Matt.
“Cool, Dad!  That’s another thing that we are the same about!”  Zach is quite proud to be Matt’s mini-me!
“I’m gonna do that when I get big.  I’m gonna go see Raya… I wike her name… and have her do my ears and give me a wowwipop!” says Nathaniel.

I guess we’ll see how many more piercings are in the Olson Five’s future!