Keep on Keeping On

Mothering can be the best, and the hardest work you may ever do, but it’s easy to make it even harder than it should be. I’m concerned that in the midst of the daily grind that it’s easy to forget some of the foundational pieces.

It can almost be like a Jenga tower, you know, the game where you remove small blocks from a tower, trying to leave the foundational blocks in place. As you remove the blocks the tower looses more and more integrity, until finally someone takes out a key block that just shouldn’t be removed and the whole thing collapses. Following are a few of the mothering foundation blocks that I think can be easy for us to pull out of our tower without even knowing it.

  1. We get caught up in moving task to task, crisis to crisis and don’t look at the larger picture. Regularly take a minute  to step back and think through what’s going on. What are your parenting goals for this phase of life? Are you stuck on just trying to keep everyone from killing themselves and each other or do you have the larger picture in mind? Spend some time thinking through parenting goals (as a couple if possible). Pick no more than five. Ours would have looked like this; that our children would recognize their need for God and love Him, that they would be respectful of authority, that they would be kind, that they would be honest, and that we would work to help them become creative individuals. With your goals in mind look at your day with new eyes, what are you actively doing to help you and your children meet your goals.
  2. Be careful not to abdicate your parental authority. Are your children disrespectful? Do they refuse to do what you say when they are first asked, requiring you to escalate the situation? Do they shout at you and call you names? These can all be symptoms of a problem with your children not understanding authority. I’ve seen several incidents lately like this and I’m concerned that parents either don’t seem to understand that their authority, welded properly, can be a great blessing to their families or they seem to think that it is better to be their child’s buddy than their parent. No matter how much children test authority, or how upset they seem to be by having restrictions and rules enforced, they need you to be their parent and not their buddy. You do not lose their love and respect by loving discipline, you lose it by fearing to discipline, being inconsistent, being unduly harsh, or by frequently waiting until you are angry to discipline.
  3. For the last fifty or sixty years there has been a lie circulating that mothering is a mindless activity that anyone can do. It’s true that you don’t need a high IQ to mother effectively, but I do believe that by careful engaging your intellect and using it to study your children, your marriage and your life you can be a better mother. “Why” shouldn’t only be a question that your two year old repeatedly asks, it should be a question you frequently ask too. Why is your three year old suddenly afraid of the dark, why are you feeding your children the same three or four foods over and over, why are your older children at each other throats? I’m not promising you’ll easily find the answers, but by asking the questions and also asking if your problem has a spiritual component, you’ve made a good beginning. Do you need wisdom? Pray about it. God says in James 1:5 that “If you need wisdom ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. NLT” Why not try this out, ask God to give you wisdom in an area of your parenting and then wait on Him to answer. Keep your eyes open, He doesn’t always answer in a way that we expect, it could be that you fall into conversation with a friend and she just happens to have a resource you need or you open a new parenting book and see a chapter on just the question you’ve been asking. It could even be answered when one of the parenting blogs you read just happens to have a new post dealing with your exact challenge.
  4. I’ve left what I consider the most important foundational block to good mothering for last. The most important building block, in my opinion, is the state of your own spirit and soul. What are you doing to feed yourself? Your mothering will only be as healthy as you are (and I don’t mean physically – lots of women who are hugely challenged physically are great moms). We can be challenged by hard life circumstances, but through choosing to have thankful hearts (Phil. 4:6), seeking God (Matthew 6:33), and choosing forgiveness over bitterness (Hebrews 12:15) we can still be at peace in our souls. Another factor in our spiritual and soul health is finding good positive support and mentoring. We were never meant to do mothering alone. It really is a group sport. Find a good “team” to be on and get the support you need to flourish and keep on keeping on.

Summer Daze

Have you gotten there yet? The day you wake up with absolutely no plan for the day. You’ve visited the kids favorite museum, gone to the pool enough to keep your favorite sun screen brand’s stock climbing from repeat sales and learned which bench at your favorite park is in the shade no matter what time you visit. It’s almost the middle of summer and you’ve already heard the dreaded “I’m bored” more than once – yup summer daze.1981 May, Kristin and Jonathan

I have some suggestions; a few for activities and some for using summer for character training. Today’s post is on activities. But, before I list them I want to explain something. Most fun activities with small children involve what we adults would call mess potential. I’ve rated my activities on a one to five star rating for mess potential. I know that some of you dread the possibility of mess, but if you will either create work arounds by doing messy activities outside or by keeping cheap plastic sheeting to protect tables and floors you will find that there is something freeing for your children (and dare I say for ourselves too) in being able to create, discover or experience without the restraint of having to keep clean. I also keep old adult t-shirts to pull over clothing if there is an activity that might possibly stain clothing. If you don’t have any “paint” shirts thrift stores typically sell their t-shirts for about a dollar.

1.**** Finger painting. Finger painting is a great way to break through to a child’s (or your own) creativity. When we draw or paint with small brushes or pen and pencils we can get caught up in details. Finger painting is about feeling and experiencing, playing with color and paint.  It’s also a great way to introduce color mixing and making shapes or letters to preschoolers. You can buy finger paints of make your own. For small children, I like to use instant pudding or yogurt on cookie sheets because they will try to taste it. Another thing kids like to do is “print” with finger paint as the ink. collect old toilet paper tubes, small blocks, anything that will take paint and make an interesting shape. Have the kids spread paint on the edges of the shapes and press them on paper. If you’re looking for safe edible homemade paints try

2.* Collages. Bring out the stacks of old magazines (or ask friends for some) and teach your older preschool children how to better use scissors or let your littles tear out pieces. Let them pick their theme – colors, animals, children, etc. Older kids might even like to look through home magazines to pick out furnishings, etc. for an imaginary room.

3.* Scissor play is important for preschoolers. buy your littles some nice blunt safety scissors. If you have a left handed child make sure to give them a pair of lefty scissors. One magazine/scissor activity is to have your child make a chain from strips cut from old magazines or colored paper with one chain for each day until school starts back and let them remove a chain each day. Use a paper cutter or help your child out with cutting if cutting strips becomes too tedious. Glue sticks are great for gluing collages or chains and they are better formulated than they were a few years ago. I like to buy the colored ones that dry clear for little ones so they can see where they’ve applied the glue better.

4. ***Homemade goop (slime) is so much fun and making it just adds to that fun. Goop is just cornstarch and water with food coloring added (if you desire). All you need is a small bowl, a spoon, a cup of corn starch and 1/3 cup water for each child. If you’re going to keep the goop for play later have each child use a different food color to dye their goop – just a few drops will do. Place in a zip top baggie to store. For littles; measure the cornstarch into their bowl, pour in the water and let them mix it with their fingers.

5. ** Making refrigerator pickles. Both boys and girls enjoy learning how to cut safely by the time they are 6-8 and learning to cut something like cucumbers is a good first cutting activity. You can start knife training by using play dough and disposable knives to teach techniques, but when your kids are ready for real knives a cucumber and a serrated knife is a good place to start. Have your kids cut their cucumber into pickle sized slices (don’t expect uniform slices). place in a bowl or jar. In another bowl mix 3/4 cups vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. Pour over cucumber slices. Add water to cover cucumbers if vinegar alone doesn’t. You can also add fresh or dried dill or a teaspoon of pickling spice. Refrigerate for a few hours to “pickle”.

6. ***** Making mud pies in the dirt. This summer activity is dirt cheap (forgive the pun) and now that scientists know that playing in the dirt actually enhances your child’s immune system by exposing them to helpful microbes, what is there not to like about it? Well, I guess just getting over our 21st century distrust and disgust of dirt?! You can even “sanitize” it a bit by either digging some dirt out of your yard and placing it in old plastic dishpans or by buying garden top soil (make sure it is bags with dirt only and not a mix of compost – which contains bits of sticks, leaves and dirt) from Lowes or Home Depot and putting it in the dish pans. fill a watering can with water, put you children in their oldest clothing or swim suits and let them at it. Providing small plastic containers to hold their dirt creations may help. Help them learn to moisten the dirt with the watering can. My kids loved to wet the ground and pat it with their feet or hands to make the moisture come up to the top. When they’re through making their mud cookies and pies hose them off or let them run through a sprinkler. Cover the dishpans by slipping trash bags over them and stacking them in a garage or out of the way place on a deck if you want to keep your dirt in the pans. Cover exposed dirt in your yard with an old trash can lids, the dish pans turned upside down or even a white plastic kitchen trash bag weighed down with rocks if you have neighborhood outdoor cats and you plan to make dirt play a repeat activity at your house.

7. Photography skills. Teach your child how to take digital photos using an older camera or phone. Go on photo taking or even movie making expeditions. Get your kids to take pictures of their summer activities and put together a slide show to send to their grandparents. No mess at all, but you may need to think about getting a Groupon at a photo development service.

Crazy Thankful

I plagiarized the title of this blog post. For Mothers Day, two of my daughters gave me a gift certificate to Magnolia Market. Magnolia Market is the shop that Joanna Gaines from the HGTV show Fixer Upper has in Waco, TX. I’m usually the last last person in any crowd to be a “fan”, but I enjoy watching Chip and Joanna Gaines fix up homes and I guess I have crossed the line into full blown fandom because last August when I was in Dallas visiting my daughter Kristin I talked her into a short road trip down to Waco to try to find Joanna’s shop. We did and I bought a large metal sign at Magnolia Market that says; grow old with me the best is yet to come. A week or so ago, as I perused the site, gift certificate in hand, I was struck by a simple wooden plaque that says “crazy thankful”. That’s what I’m trying to be. It’s what I believe God has been asking me to choose. And it’s what I believe has kept me from being fearful and worried as we’ve faced some pretty big challenges in our family this last year.

Why does being thankful make any difference? Because it immediately changes my heart to agree with and obey with what God has said in His Word. It takes me from a place of doubt and fear to a place of faith and peace. We are told over and over in the Bible to be thankful (or your version may say give thanks) no matter what the circumstances surrounding us are (Col. 3:15, Col. 4:2, 1 Th. 5:18, Heb. 12:28 are examples in the New Testament and I counted 37 times the phrase give thanks is mentioned in the Psalms alone in the Old Testament).

So practically, how does being thankful make a difference in our mothering and marriages? Could it help us deal with a lot of the fear that can crowd into our hearts as we deal with trying to make good decisions about our children and our spouses? I’ve noticed that the more fearful we are about a situation the more controlling we can become. When fear enters our hearts it can make us automatically search for a way to control and sometimes we can’t control one area so we hyper control another just to try and make ourselves feel better. Being thankful can defuse the panic that leads to a need to control.

How? Because a thankful heart allows you to think clearly and make wiser decisions and to chose not to listen to the spirit of fear, but instead to walk in the power, love and self-control that putting our faith in God provides for us (2 Tim. 1:7). I’ll take having that power, love and self control over fear any day. I’ve tested this out under some severe conditions (including my Dad’s death and my husband’s major open heart surgery) this year. It works. The benefit to being thankful is more than just in the moment, it means my memories of these events are not of being panicked or overcome with worry. I was present in the moment for myself and others and felt the supernatural peace that is available to us when our eyes are on Jesus and not on our circumstances (Is. 26:3).

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I feel like I have this concept down. It’s a daily, hourly and moment by moment decision. I know though that the fruit is good and I’ve figured out that I need to be careful to recognize when I am choosing to entertain fear or wallow in self pity. That’s why last week I was excited to get my package from Magnolia Market. Every time I walk into my kitchen (maybe 30 times a day?) I’ll be reminded that I’m “crazy thankful”.


Ten things I learned from Having Ten Children

This is a picture taken a year ago of my family – Ten children, six with spouses and 15 grandchildren. Yup, I’ve learned a thing or two and at the same time realized that there is even far more to learn…View More:

In no particular order.

1. That it is usually in the mundane and “between” times where some of the most important parenting is done. It’s in the questions asked in the car on the way somewhere or the time taken to pay attention to a child when you’re in the middle of loading a dishwasher or cleaning a bathroom. Maybe it’s in the hug that a teenaged son (don’t be the one to pull away first if you can help it) gives you when you’re on the way in or out of the door with a list of things to do that is a mile long. It’s in discussing their day and your day, current events and a Biblical response to the issues while you eat a meal together – as often as you possibly can. It’s also in being consistently firm about your rules even in the line at the grocery store.

2. Self pity is poison and the antidote is a thankful heart. Feeling sorry for myself never lessened my workload, helped me to be a better mom, wife or got me anything but miserable. Thankfulness on the other hand can bring joy into hard situations and peace to a home during a trying day.

3. it’s really true that working on your marriage and prioritizing it as the most important relationship in you life will affect your parenting. When you and your husband are pulling together as a team your kids know it. When you are enjoying your relationship with your husband it sets the whole tone of the home.

4. Parenting is not a competitive sport. One of the most persistent lies that I see against God’s character is that we can’t trust Him to bring about His best in our lives and in the lives of our children. A jealous, overly competitive person is a person that doesn’t understand that our Father’s resources are not finite and that if another family/child is blessed it doesn’t mean that all of the blessings are handed out and that our family/child won’t be able to walk in God’s best for them too. It also means understanding that the kingdom of God is about learning how to be a servant and that kingdom lessons are many times to help us understand the value of others and not to shore up our pride and power.

5. There is a reason why they say “boys will be boys”. As mommas we need to be careful not to feminize our sons. They need to be allowed to get dirty and challenge themselves physically and “act like a boy”. Sometimes that means over looking a burping contest or a pocket full dirt and rocks.

6. There is a command in Philippians 4 verse 6 where Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing ,but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Also, in Matthew 6:34 Jesus himself says “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” In other words; stop worrying, trust God! We can live in fear and anxiety over our children’s safety, health and future successes or we can take our anxious concerns to God and walk with a thankful heart. This is a lesson that I still have to come back to over and over, but if I can walk in it, the peace is incredible. If you still need to be convinced; try to think of any time when being worried or anxious has actually made a difference in what you’re worried about. It never has and never will, yet we somehow have a tendency to forget that each time we are faced with a new challenge.

7. Trusting God and not being anxious doesn’t mean that I believe that life is going to be painless or easy. Instead it’s knowing that God loves my husband, children, extended family and community even more than I do and that no matter what life brings we are held in His hands.  None of us will ever have to walk through the dark hours of our life without the comfort and love that God wraps us in when we lean into Him.

8. If you want your children to be creative and imaginative you have to foster it in them. The greatest hindrance I see to children developing creativity and imagination is the proliferation and reliance on tech gadgets to occupy them coupled with parents who don’t want to deal with the mess that creative play can bring.  If you want to have creative, imaginative kids let them paint, work with play dough, build with blocks and Legos and play with toys that don’t talk and make up story lines for them. Read them books with real life and imaginary adventures and let them get dirty outside in a sandbox making mud pies. Ask them questions and let them ask you questions without trivializing or dismissing their observations.

9. Learn to major on the eternal and minor on the temporal. I was an art major in college. At one time I was very close to changing my major to interior design. I have spent hours remodeling and redecorating each and every house we’ve lived in, in my head. Sometimes I even get to move my ideas from my head to my house. Along the way I’ve found that I can make something out of almost nothing. But in raising ten children one of the things I’ve had to learn is how to be content with what I have and not to be upset that my house is not ever decorator perfect. This is just one area that I’ve had to bend my will in – there are lots of others, but what I’m saying is that I’ve had to learn to value what is eternal – my children, my family and the lives of others over my desire to be surrounded by a perfectly decorated house, a totally put together wardrobe and other material and temporal things.

10. I’ve think the most important thing I’ve learned in 38 years of mothering is that the more my heart is hungry for and turned to God the better I am at mothering. It’s then that I respond best to the gentle corrections in my own heart and am the most in tune with the needs of those around me. Being obedient to God’s Word myself helps me to think about the struggle it might be for my children to be obedient to me and how ultimately my goal is not to have children that follow rules but rather to have children that desire to follow after their heavenly Father. In seeing my own need for a redemptive savior I can better see their need and communicate the hope and joy of living a life close to God.

Preparing for Thanksgiving; One Day at a Time

I haven’t posted since June. Life has been a bit crazy and I’ve had trouble getting back to writing regularly, but when I sat down this week to think through and plan what I was going to do for Thanksgiving next week I realized that one of the practical things I’ve figured out through all of these years of cooking for a crowd, that is worth sharing is how to plan out and serve large meals without going totally bonkers – maybe slightly, but not totally.

The key to less stress during holiday celebrations is twofold; planning ahead and setting you heart to enjoy the process – or at least endure it with grace. It’s still not too late to come up with a plan and start working towards a great Thanksgiving meal for next Thursday.

The first thing I do is sit down and write out my menu. If lots of family is coming I usually work with them to come up with this list. Keep it as simple as possible.

When I know what I’m responsible for (everything this year) I make up a shopping list and plan my shopping. I like to use fresh turkey if possible because I have a rotten record of figuring out just how many days a turkey has to take up space in a fridge to thaw before being roasted and I invariably ended up with a sink full of cold water and a 24 pound turkey that was only half thawed just when I was supposed to be putting the bird in the oven – don’t let this happen to you. I’ve talked to several people recently that have stopped buying a whole bird and have just purchased a turkey breast and maybe legs to shorten their prep and roasting time. I enjoy dark meat too much to do that, but if you are a white meat fan and aren’t planning on leftovers and soups it’s a great alternative.

Every family has their own traditions around food and holidays. Our family traditions are a blend of my New York born parents traditions and my husband’s deep Texas roots. We serve turkey, cornbread dressing, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, roasted brussel sprouts, cranberry relish, turkey gravy, apple crisp, pumpkin and pecan pies and Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider – all of this homemade, wheat free due to allergies.

I start by baking cornbread for the dressing on Monday, letting it cool completely and then crumbling it and putting it in a gallon size plastic bag so it can be stored flat on the shelf in my refrigerator. I also like to make the relish a few days ahead so the flavors will mix so I might make that on Monday too.

Tuesday is pie day. Pumpkin and pecan pies are both good pies to make ahead and store, well wrapped, in the refrigerator. I wait to do the apple crisp because we like it served warm, but it can be made ahead too and just be reheated while dinner is being eaten.

Wednesday is possibly a brine the turkey day although I have found that making a “paste” of butter and herbs and slathering the bird with that along with placing a lemon and an onion in the cavity makes a well seasoned bird too with less time and mess than brining. I also bake (I like the flavor of roasted sweet potatoes more than boiling them) the sweet potatoes for my sweet potato casserole and get it all ready to slide in the oven the next day. The potatoes could also be cooked and stored unmashed in plastic bags. Then all you would need to do is heat them with a bit of your favorite mashing liquid (milk, broth,) and mash.

Thursday I pull my turkey roaster out of the attic and get it set up on the counter. I really like my turkey roaster. It was inexpensive (they run between 29.99 and 50.00 on Amazon) , does a great job roasting a turkey and frees my oven to be doing all the other jobs I need it for on a busy holiday. With the turkey roasting all I have left to do is bake the apple crisp, warm up the sweet potato casserole, mash the potatoes and roast the green beans and brussel sprouts. A bonus is that I usually have extra hands in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day so I can find someone to help with the small bit of food prep left.

So divide and conquer – especially if you have a crowd coming. And even if you have everything planned out to the last little detail be willing to handle flubs with grace. I’ve tossed fully baked cheesecakes on the floor when transferring them from my garage refrigerator, had errant turkeys slip off the plate while carving, forgotten to put out the cheese logs (made several days ahead) and crackers that are our traditional pre holiday meal bites and several times have realized last minute that the butter I just knew I had is no where to be found, but none of those mishaps has prevented us from having a great time gathering as a family to share our thanks giving with each other.

5 Things a Mom Can do to Train her Child Up in the Lord

Recently I was asked to speak to a small group of moms on specific things they could do as moms to train their children up in the Lord. As I sat down to pray and write about what I was going to say, I realized that I could think of five principles that made up the foundation of mothering in my life. If I knew only these five things I think I could mother well and train my children up in the Lord wisely because so much is built on these principles.

1. I need to love God and constantly be seeking Him, His wisdom and His path. Deu. 6:5, Matt 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27, Psalms 23:3

2. I need to respect my children’s father and demonstrate that respect before my children. Does this mean I agree with everything he does? No, but I understand that being disrespectful and undercutting him can lead to future problems and pain in our marriage and for my children, so I try not to be disrespectful and when I inadvertently am, I want to know it. Now, before I get comments on this I am not advocating for a false type of respect that is really just being a door mat. We are to mutually respect each other and it is a wife’s duty speak her mind, especially if she believes there is danger in the path. Respecting someone really is about their position and disagreeing can be done respectfully. Eph. 5:33, Romans 13:7

3. I want to walk in gratefulness with a thankful heart. Can you be self centered, grumpy and bitter with a grateful and thankful heart? I don’t think so. Words that are defined as “to give thanks” or “to be grateful for” are used over 200 times in the Bible. One word eucharisteo (Greek meaning  be grateful, be thankful) is used over 39 times in the New Testament. I can’t think of any other command that is repeated more often. Attitudes are caught not taught. An attitude that is only taught will just be good manners, an external behavior. We’re after their hearts which means we constantly need to be examining our own.

4. I try to live transparently. This is not living with everything hanging out and no discretion, I’m not into inappropriate sharing. To me this means living as a flawed human, humbly in front of my family and friends. We all make mistakes, we all need grace, we all need to walk through repentance at times and allowing our children to watch us do that is powerful.  I’m not saying that you should share all of your failings with your children, but if you have a bad attitude, yell at them, or act out of anger in front of them then it is totally appropriate to confess your sin and ask for their forgiveness. James 5:16

5. Tell your children about God, how much he means to you and what he has done in your life, share your life story, your mistakes and your family’s legends. Over and over in the Old Testament the people are told to tell their children about what God has done, to tell them stories of His goodness and His faithfulness. These stories gave children an identity and an idea of what is right and wrong. I call these stories in my own life my stones of remembrance after the way the people would make pile of stones at a special place to show it’s significance in the Old Testament. Those stones of remembrance remind me of how God has has been faithful to me in the past.  If I, or one of my children need to remember that God provides, I pull out the story of how when my husband and I were first married and in college God always provided the money we needed for rent, food and bills as we needed it and sometimes in unusual ways. I share my testimony and stories of my early growth as a Christian with my children. Your personal testimony is powerful and even your failings can be used as a cautionary tale as your children mature and face temptations themselves. Stories also live on sometime long after the first teller is gone, they are part of your legacy if you share them. Ps. 145:4, Exodus 13:14 & 10:2, Deu.11:1

Those are my five, my foundation. What would your top five be?


Tweens to Teens – Knowing when to Hold Them and When to Let Go

Our twins turned 18 a few months ago. Since we have ten children that means that for the past 37.5 years we have had children in the house and for the past 24.5 years we’ve been parents to teens. We’ve learned a lot. Most of which can be condensed down to 10 points that I believe to be important (but in no particular order).

1. Establish boundaries with consistent  loving discipline early in your child’s life. If you haven’t it’s never to late to start. Proverbs 19:18, 22:6, 29:17061

2. Live honestly in front of your children and apologize when you make a mistake. Teach forgiveness by modeling it. Eph. 6:4

3. Share your faith and live it out on a daily basis in front of them. Tell them about your faith journey. Testimonies are powerful. Let them see you praying and studying the Bible. Talk to them about the things you’re learning about God. Deut. 4:9, 6:7, 11:19, Ps. 78:4

4. As they start through the tween phase assess your rules and adjust for maturity and their proven character (good or bad). Don’t give them too much freedom too fast, but don’t frustrate them by treating them like a smaller child. Find ways to give them freedom in few areas – maybe over how they spend money they’ve earned or picking out clothes, but continue to hold them close. Tweens are not usually good at making logical, reasoned decisions consistently, but that should start to change as they journey through the teen years.

5. As they become teens reassess. What areas can you allow them to start taking control of? The next five years or so are all about slowly letting go. If you’re having a hard time starting the process look at your own life. Are you reacting out of fear, and because of fear are you being too controlling? As parents do you agree on the areas where you should hold them versus where they should start taking responsibility (and consequences) for themselves?

6. Have you considered dating, courtship and friendship with the opposite sex. It’s far better to think these things through in advance and after research and prayer come up with a family policy.

7.We found it very effective to have our tweens and teens participate with us in setting consequences for breaking the rules. Ours were way tougher on themselves than we would have been on them. This was actually a continuation of a consequences chart that we used with our children from elementary age on up.

8. Call them out on attitudes and give them a chance to reflect and repent. If you see an attitude trying to take a foothold in your child tell them what you’re seeing. Show concern and give them time to consider what you’ve said. Ask later what they think about what you said and give them a chance to speak their mind. Don’t harp on behavior, instead If they continue  consequences should be discussed.

9. Have fun with your teens! Find something, anything you all enjoy doing together and do it.

10. Reinforce the idea of the family as a team through requiring your teens to carry some responsibility without pay. This could be unloading a dishwasher, yard work, cooking a meal, doing their own laundry, etc. Families work better when each member considers themselves a valued member of the team.

The teen years can sometimes be a roller coaster of emotion and hormones for both sexes. It’s hard for us to see them as anything but children and it’s too easy to default to treating them like we did when they were younger which can set us up because they do nothing better than chafe at our discomfort. I do like to try to focus on the positive parts of  watching children slip and slide through the teen years on their way to become adults. Their ability to grasp concepts and logic issues out, the energy they have for things they are enthusiastic about and the heart for causes they are developing as they become aware of the world can be inspiring. Take heart it may not happen while they’re teens but eventually somewhere in their early to mid twenties they will visit and tell you thanks for holding the lines and not folding under pressure – for loving them through the drama and the trauma. Blessings on your journey.

Help I’m a Parent Video and a Bonus

A month ago I was pretty sure I’d be back to blogging more regularly in a few weeks, but as usual things don’t happen as I have them planned out and instead I have agreed to take on another six months of work for Freedom Firm US and our guest room is again full of jewelry made by girls in India who have been rescued from sex trafficking while they were minors. It’s taken awhile to get everything moved back in, organized and set up, but I think I have just about reached the point where the bed could actually be used as a bed again so I’m getting there. Now let the parties begin (literally)! What we do here is encourage individuals, groups and churches all over the US to host parties and events where the stories of rescue, restoration and justice for the girls of Freedom Firm are told and the jewelry is offered on a by donation basis. If you’re interested you can learn more by visiting

About a week ago our pastor preached a sermon on parenting that I thought was a great overview of the stages and goal of parenting. The sermon was introduced by a wonderful piece of wackiness (the bonus mentioned in the title) produced by two talented guys at our church. Watch the intro vimeo first and enjoy.

A New Season

I have been taking a break from blogging for the last 6 weeks or so. We had so much going on; one of our daughters got married December 14th, the whole family was coming in for the wedding (33 of us plus my siblings and their children), Christmas and also the busiest season and the end of a one year commitment I made to Freedom Firm  to do their jewelry distribution in the US for 2013.

The wedding was so much fun. The whole family gathered by Thursday for the Saturday wedding and enjoyed time together before the craziness. I wanted to include a few picture of the wedding here. Rachel is our 5th child and 4th daughter to get married (one more to go).  We are delighted with adding her new husband Daniel to our family.

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If you’re not familiar with Freedom Firm, Freedom Firm India works at rescuing, restoring and bringing justice to minor girls trapped in sex trafficking in India. In the US we work in awareness and in raising donations through jewelry parties,events and other venues that have jewelry made by the girls available by donation.  In 2012 I had the privilege of being asked to serve on Freedom Firm’s US board and in November 2012 made a trip to Freedom Firm’s headquarters in Ooty India to get “boots on the ground” knowledge of how the ministry works. Jewelry distribution meant contacting people who had show interest in helping Freedom Firm by holding a party or event and then choosing and packaging the jewelry for them and getting it shipped off as well as receiving boxes back from the hosts when the event was finished. As of this next week I will have my guest room returned to being a guest room and no longer being a stock room half filled with muslin wrapped and hand stitched up boxes shipped from India and stacks of plastic drawers filled with earrings, bracelets and necklaces waiting to be shipped out to the next party or event.

Without wedding planning and having finished my commitment to Freedom Firm I find myself truly in a new season of possibilities. My twins, my babies turned 18 a few weeks ago and are in a dual enrollment program at our local junior college for the rest of their senior year so I’m also finished with my homeschooling journey too. I’ve never been one who bulked at change, in fact I may crave adventure and change just a bit too much sometimes, but I’ve never been in a place like this before where there was so many things coming to an end and so many directions to either continue in (like this blog) or pick up. It’s an interesting place to be in. I am looking forward to the paths that open up before me over the next year of so. Phil. 3:13,14

The Santa Question Revisited Again

This is a post I wrote 2 years ago and have added a bit last year. I thought it apropos since I’ve had several conversations on the subject in the last week or so.  1961  Christmas

“What did you tell your children about Santa?”

We told our children that Santa Claus was a game that some parents chose to play with their kids. We also told them that their friend’s parents enjoyed playing the game with their children and that it was not our place to ruin the game by saying anything about Santa not being the one who brings Christmas presents, neither were they to announce that Santa cannot fly through the sky in his sleigh. We also explained that there once was a man named Nicholas who lived a very long time ago (the 4th century AD) and loved giving gifts in Jesus’ name to poor children. When Nicholas died, he was so well loved that he was remembered as a saint. Over time the story of St. Nicholas has been added to and twisted a bit so that many different cultures give gifts to their children and say that they are from St. Nick, Sinterklaas, or Father Christmas.

Our thinking on being very up front with our children about Santa was that we wanted our children to always know that they could trust that we would only tell them the truth and we also wanted to emphasize Christmas as a celebration of Jesus’ birth. Our children enjoyed  Christmas presents and stockings – they just always knew that it was mom and dad who filled the stockings and bought the presents.

By the way, I love stockings! We fill them after the kids go to bed and put them on the ends of their beds when we are sure they are asleep. Even as teens and young adults the kids tend to get up very early, look in their stockings and then fall asleep again. When they do wake up they spend some time going through the stocking more carefully and showing them to each other before trouping downstairs to wake us up.

If you’d like to read more on the subject, I recently read an opinion piece Mark Driscoll wrote for the Washington Post that I thought was good.