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{SFTH}   *The Best Things in Life*  3/28/01


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We have another wondeful story by Jennifer Oliver today.  Her story
reminded me of a parenting quote that says:  "Your children know you
love them by your presence, not your presents."
May you enjoy the following story as much as I did!


The Best Things in Life

By Jennifer Oliver

"Steve, what am I going to do?" Mike bemoaned.

Our friend, Mike, was going to finally see his boys.  Separated from his
wife, who lived on an entirely different continent, it had been over a year
since he'd seen his boys.  They were flying in to spend one week with him.

The fear on his face was real.  He was apparently not used to having them
to himself.  Especially for one whole week.

"I don't have the money to take them anywhere," he said.  "I was hoping to
go on down to that water park in New Braunfels."

"That place is expensive, Mike!" Stephen retorted.  "You don't need to spend
a lot of money to have fun!  Take them to the springs.  Fill up your gas tank
and go find some historic sites.  You can borrow my tent and go camping."

Judging from the distaste on our friend's face, none of those suggestions
were worthy of consideration.  Stubbornly ingrained in him was the idea
that the amount of money splurged on his children equaled the amount
of love he'd get in return.

"What do your boys like to do?" I ventured.

He shrugged, "I don't know."

"No, I mean, what are their hobbies?"

"I'm not sure."

My heart filled with compassion for his boys.  And for their clueless father.
They connected mainly through sporadic, expensive phone calls and through
infrequent exchanges of snail mail.  Mike wanted to make an impression on
his boys.  That he was successful here in the United States and could afford
to take them anywhere they wanted.

He just didn't get it.

I remember as a child the things my family did that cost practically nothing at
all.  A spontaneous picnic under a generous oak, pulling off the beaten path to
pursue a trail of signs that led us to a barn filled with dusty treasures.  Taking
walks around the block with my parents after dinner.

One Christmas stood out when, at a loss as to what to give his girls, my Dad
presented each of us with a wrapped shoe box inside of which was a slip of
paper that simply said, "I love you."

I can't even remember what else I opened that Christmas morning.

One Sunday afternoon, while on the freeway, Stephen veered off to revisit a
small town we hadn't seen in a while and stopped at an empty city park.
There, the boys gleefully sampled monkey bars and listless swings.  We
brushed a layer of leaves off the concrete picnic table and ate sandwiches
we had brought from home.  Afterwards, they strayed to the edge of a creek,
pocketing unusual stones, and swirling patterns in the shallow water with sticks.

I remember with fondness the time when Stephen, an Eagle Scout, was
anxious to instill a love for camping to the older boys, ages three and four
at the time.

Across the street from our home, under a cluster of gnarled oak trees,
Stephen spread out fake grass turf, erected a tent on it, and stuffed it with
sleeping bags and blankets and pillows.  He even placed a potty chair at
the entrance of the tent.

It was unusual spring weather--chilly with light, misting rain.  The boys each
carried a battery-powered lantern with them to light their way to the tent.

In lawn chairs around a small campfire that Stephen had prepared, the
boys roasted marshmallows for the first time on antique extendable forks
we had collected over the years in anticipation of that very moment.
Stephen pointed out constellations and identified a variety of nighttime
sounds.  We told stories and sang to an audience of trees.  And for a
while there, with the boys in our laps, we quietly gazed at the campfire's
hypnotic dance, the crackling and smoke filling the silence.

Afterwards, we directed the boys to a small picnic table Stephen had
fashioned out of tree stumps.  They brushed their teeth there by
lantern-light, removed their shoes, and squealed loudly when they
entered the tent, jumping up and down.  Stephen wasted no time
joining their merrymaking.

It's a sight that will burn brightly in my memory for a long, long time.

Stephen liked to earn a little pocket change on occasion by delivering
antiques for a dealer friend to various parts of Texas.  He'd pack up all
four kids and treat them to these road trips.  Someone asked him why
he didn't just stick the kids in daycare during those times.

His answer?

"Where else can a father spend quality time with his children and get
paid for it?"

It's true what they say.  Enjoy them while they're young.  The years will
zip by, and before you can say "knee replacement surgery," they're
picking out a retirement home for you.

Our son, Cody, overheard Stephen make a comment about someone who
"just needed to go out and get a life."

"What's a life, Dad?"

"It's when you take each day and make the most of it."

"Oh, I see!"

We don't know if he really saw.  But we do know that time is the most
important thing one can spend on a child.

Just don't spend it all in one place.

Jennifer Oliver

E-mail Jennifer and let her know what you thought of her story!

Copyright 2001 by Jennifer Oliver, All rights reserved
Other real-life vignettes by Heartwarmers Gem Jennifer Oliver, 37, are waiting
for you at  Jennifer resides in the heart of Texas and
has three full-time jobs as a computer specialist for the government, wife to
awesome househubby, Stephen, and mother to four beautiful kidwarmers,
ages 6 months to 6 years.  One of her stories, "Anthony's Wish" will be
published in an upcoming Heartwarmers book due out this spring.

From the E-Mail Box!

(Author's of yesterday's stories -- if you missed them, check it out on our archives at:

Dear Michael,
We wanted you and your readers to know that the love and support that we have received after Morgan's stories ran has filled our hearts to the brim.
We will answer every letter, Jamie and Roger Jr. will be answering some of them also. They were overwhelmed by the out pouring of love from the caring strangers from SFTH members. Michael it is such a comfort to know, in this age of abortion and such, that there are still some of us left that put a high value on a babies life, and still believe that God is in charge. Thank you and all of your readers for letting us share Morgan's short life with you.
The Kiser family (Judy Kiser) (Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.)

I enjoy very much your stories and the stories of the others that you have on your site.  It is very heart warming in the midst of all the confusion and strife of this world to get lost in the good of human kindness.  Your site really touches my heart and I just wanted you to know that.  I will recommend your site to all my contacts.

Thank you,
Val   (
I really enjoy your e-zine and look forward to reading it everyday. It gives me a boost to start my morning whenever I am feeling down or just tired.  It always lifts me up and most of the time I get teary-eyed. I also share stories with my friends and they always call me and say, "I want to cry, could you send me a story?" I have a special file and I print it and put it in a binder so when my son is old enough to read I will give it to him.  Thank you very much for feeding our souls.
Thank you so much for your daily e-mails! They are a little bit of sunlight in my days. I look foward to getting them every morning. Thank you for sharing your heart with others.
Michelle Zinn (

Thought For The Day:

"No worldly success can compensate for failure in the home."

Verse for the Day:

"And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up
in the training and admonition of the Lord." -- Ephesians 6:4

Kid's Thought For The Day:

"When you want something expensive, ask your grandparents."

Parent's Thought For The Day:

"You can't do much about your ancestors but you can influence your
descendants enormously."

Coach's Thought For The Day:

"Adversity cause some men to break; others to break records." --William A. Ward

Deep Thought For The Day:

"A Boeing 747's wingspan is longer than the Wright brothers' first flight."

\_\  /  
/_/  \    "For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but
\_\/\ \   Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body I live for the Son
   \_\/   of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20 

The copyrights to the stories that appear in SFTH are owned by the
authors and are used with their permission.  We refuse to run stories
without the author's permission and contact info and will not publish
stories listed as "author unknown." (All of which violates Copyright law
and the rights of the authors.) This email may be forwarded in its entirety,
but please do not cut and paste the stories to be used elsewhere unless
you have contacted and been given permission by the individual writer.
Video Imagery (Michael's Video Production Business.)

"I thought of you first after my family sat down to watch the video we gave
them. They loved it, to say the least!  Within thirty seconds my mom was
crying and my dad did too.  They said it was the best Christmas gift we could
have given them!!  You did such a beautiful job!  They were so surprised and so
touched---they really, really, really loved it.  Thanks for helping to make it so
special to us all.  My mom mentioned how the songs were perfect for the
video too!  Thanks again!"
Kelli-- College Station, TX

Let me make you a video from your pictures or home movies!
Check out the web page for Michael's video production business!

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