Monday, September 4, 2017

When You Doubt Your Sons Learn Your Life Lessons

(Inside: One way to build your confidence as a mom.) 

"I don't get it. What does chivalry mean?" My 9-year-old son asked me from the back seat of our van. 

His friend chimed in, "Yeah. Me too. I don't get it either..."


With my hands on the steering wheel, I edged into our garage and answered: “It's when a boy shows kindness by taking care of a girl, even though he knows the girl can do things for herself. For example, it’d be chivalrous if you would carry in my bags or open the door for me as we enter the house.” 

A month passes by… 




That same friend, my 9yo and I are shifting things around my son's bedroom so his friend has a place to sleep. (Bring on the slumber party.) With the blow-up bed tucked under his arm, my husband steps into the room. My eyebrows furrow, 
“I know you need to work late tonight. Let me set up the bed, you get your stuff done.” 

My husband rolls out the thick plastic and centers it uniformly in the room. He smiles at me and says, “No, I don’t mind doing it.” 

And then, like the sweet music of the oldies station (which I just discovered the current oldies station is the music from my youth and I'm slightly disturbed by this
), my 9yo son's friend announces to the entire room...

“See, that’s chivalrous.” 

Look. I know we have to daily reintroduce our kids to a toothbrush, loading the dishwasher and other things they refuse to learn. Yet we all have moments like mine when the Red Sea parts in our own home and our kids (and maybe even their friends) remember an important conversation that happened an entire 31 days ago. 

Moms.

They are hearing our words.

Somewhere between the nerf gun bullets flying around the house and the youngest brother locked under the crook of his older brother's arm, they are paying attention.





Let's leverage this. When we're knee deep in parenting challenges and feeling like maybe we should just get a manicure because at least our nails would look pretty as we go down in the parenting failure flames, we can stop...reach back into our brain and unleash the memories of successes we've experienced over the years. One by one, we let the memories tell the story of all the things our kids are championing because of our guidance that they heard and put into action. 

Then we feel it...

...the confidence washing over us with blessed strength. 

So we keep moving forward. 

Boldly.

Because our little people are watching and listening and learning. After all, they do sometimes carry in our bags or open the door for us. 

We taught them that. 

We do important work.



PS - Bear Gryll's show is a boy mom's dream. I mean, I couldn't get any member of my family to watch Beauty and the Beast with me. And forget Frozen. One son actually thinks Frozen is what the F-Word means. ("All that singing, mom!") So to find a show that entertains both me and my family - golden. When the book To My Sons by Bear Grylls came out, I snatched it up. This is something the whole family will enjoy. Each page has a simple idea or quote that prompts table talk at meal times. I love the family connection it promotes.(But then, of course, we sometimes chew our food silently with glazed-over looks. We can't nail conversation all the time.)

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

One Thing Every Middle School Parent Should Know

(Inside: How to prepare your child for middle school.)

When I was in middle school, my mom came and sat next to me for two class periods to, eh-hem, "encourage" me to behave. I didn't deal well with the big emotions of those transition years so I reached for the obvious best coping strategy - disrespect my teachers and act out in class. (Nailed middle school.)

But, now I’m on the other side: My oldest son is starting these in-between years. 




It’s weird because I’ve always been excited for him to start each grade. Kindergarten – you get to learn to read! Third grade – you finally get to be a “big buddy” to the younger students! Fifth grade – you get to try band!

But, I just can’t get myself excited for my son to start middle school.

Instead, I feel the opposite. 

When I think of these transition years I think of: clich├ęs, bullies, name brand clothing, more intense sports, gossip, hurt feelings, pressure, raging hormones, heightened academic stress and noticing your body and skills compared with others.

Mama, do you feel the same way? Apprehension. (Maybe even dread.)



We don’t want our kids to experience rejection. We don’t want our kid to be the one not invited to the party, left off the team, or have to deal with social media drama. Nor do we want our kid to go through the big emotions: one day life is bliss, then the next day everything and everyone should eat dirt. We don’t want them to struggle with switching classes and teachers and fail because they can’t seem to get the hang of organization. We want to forever wrap them in a bubble where only joy and love and success lives.

I thought maybe we should all warn our kids of the potential dangers of middle school. Because they should be "ready." But, then as I tried to explain cautions to my son, confused eyes looked back at me. He doesn’t see middle school the same way I do. He's looking forward to it. 


So maybe our wisdom and experience aren't needed to prepare our kids for middle school.

Instead...

We need it to prepare us.

Knowing this one thing can get us there: There is power in viewing the challenges of middle school as opportunities.

If our kids experience rejection, we get to teach them about a God who never rejects them, show them a family who always loves them, and help them seek out beautiful authentic friendships. If our kids experience big emotions, we get to help them untangle their thoughts and better understand themselves in the process. If they do poorly in school, we get to teach them to persevere, ask for help and reach for resources. We can take all the middle school challenges and transform them into opportunities to help our children learn to deal with life's inevitable bumps while they are still in the safety of our homes 

Yes, our kids might be nervous...but they're ready.

And you know what – with all the knowledge, life-experiences, and problem-solving skills we've acquired...


We're ready too. 

Besides, there's a solid chance we'll all sail right through. But if not – if it all goes awry – we can always fall back on sitting next to our misbehaving kid in class. After all, that tough love's proven to have worked in the past. (I mean...not that I'd know...)


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Friday, September 1, 2017

One Easy Way to Get to Know Your Kid

Clean socks dwindled, food became scarce, and the house turned into a wretched state – there was so much to accomplish. But I had a blessed day at home to catch up and plow through my to-do list with tornado force. 

Then my quiet son, who holds his feelings close, interrupted me. He plopped down at the counter stool and poured out his thoughts.




"Mom, I've been wondering about..."

(Why now? Why wonder about this now? I have a list. I've got momentum going...)

"And mom, I've been thinking about if..."

(But my list... Momentum... I'll go crazy if I don't get this done...)

"And mom, I don't know how to open my locker... I've been thinking we need to work on that..."

(Oh yeah, middle school is in a few days...)

"Mom, I also wanted to tell you about..."

(He has six summers left in our home.)

Oh.

My.

Gosh.


Six summers.




So, I set down my to do list. Then grabbed a cup of coffee, settled next to him and rested my full attention on his words.

Moms, life is happening right now. These years with kids in our homes are sacred and fleeting. Even though our kids choose to unload their thoughts at the most inconvenient times, we gotta roll with it. Because the easiest way to get to know our kids is to listen when they talk. Six summers left for my oldest. He'll be gone in a heartbeat. 

All of our children will.

So, when they decide they want to chat - especially if they're naturally reserved - seize the moment. We'll never regret getting to know our kids when they were at home. 


And really what's the big deal if we don't have clean socks? That's what flip-flops are for.

----


PS - Do your kids most often answer "fine" when you ask how their day was at school? Need a better selection of questions to ask? I came up with 30 questions to encourage conversation. It's yours for free here. 

PPS - We also sometimes read To My Sons by Bear Grylls around the dinner table. Each page has a simple idea or quote that prompts table talk.(And sometimes we chew our food silently with glazed-over looks. We can't nail family connection all the time.)




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Saturday, August 19, 2017

"Life is Art, Paint Your Dreams" Free Printable

My squeaky shopping cart stopped in its tracks. "Life is art, paint your dreams." That's it. That's the life-giving art I've been dragging my three kids around the store trying to find. 

Someone wrote that just for me. 

I'm sure of it.

What the saying meant to me tumbled into my brain in the half-second I decide the art belonged in my cart.

The last half of the saying, "paint your dreams," urges us to create parts of our story. 
There are infinite dreams to chase; life brims with interesting things and places to use our gifts. Then motherhood reveals to us new sides of ourselves and introduces us to new passions. As we travel life, we unearth the dreams God paints on our hearts. Then we get to go for it. 

It's beautiful and amazing, but then in the midst of enjoying ourselves...hard stuff shows up. Which is annoying and trips us up. When I am in the middle of pain, sometimes I can't see past it. (Can you?)

So, that's why I'm drawn to the first part of the saying, "life is art." It creates perspective. Think about a painting. It's full of paint strokes exhibiting various colors from bright reds, soothing greens, splendid golds, to dark hues of gray. We all like to be in the red/green/gold seasons of our lives - when life sparkles with goodness. But, then there are the dark grays; the parts where struggle reigns and your problems are real. But the gray colors are an important part of the canvas. They accent the other colors in a unique way, and the beauty of the picture wouldn't be same without them.

We all hate that don't we. But the truth is: We don't grow in the same way when things are easy. We transform through pain. Betrayal, feeling disregarded, failure and hurt are all great teachers. They develop empathy, problem-solving skills, creativity, compassion, strength, resilience, and determination like nothing else can.


I see a charge for us to discover our passions and go for it. And I see an encouragement to, when we're lost in the gray hues of the strokes, take a step back and look at the big picture. If we can't see the art clearly yet, we cling to the faith that someday we might.

Y'all I felt compelled to create a free printable for you to enjoy this saying as well. Grab it here.

Or, I saw this inexpensive mug on Amazon, I thought might be a good gift from the boys to me for a holiday. 


Morning coffee and a life-giving saying? A great reminder to you and me that the world awaits - for all of us to paint our dreams!
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why Alone Time For You Is Good For Your Kids

I spent the morning at middle school orientation with my oldest son and I CAN'T EVEN BELIEVE IT. How is middle school upon us already? Yesterday, he slept in a crib, ate baby food, and refused to independently put on his shoes. I need a moment to digest this. So, when we got home, I declared two hours of "quiet time." I'm on a completely different floor than my kids - hidden. 

Mama, do you need space for yourself as well?

Here is the HuffPost Parents article I wrote about why alone time for you is GOOD FOR YOUR KIDS. Head over to THP or read it in its entirety below.

                         

The other day, I did it again.

I took time for myself.

Gasp.

When I rejoined the family, my husband asked me if I enjoyed my alone time.

Me: Yes. (Pause.) But now I feel guilty.

Husband: Why?

Me: I don’t know. It just seems like there’s so much else I really should be doing. Alone time seems like a waste of my time... and kind of selfish.

Husband: (With more passion than I would have anticipated.) So, you really think you should never take time for yourself? No. Everyone needs time to refuel. You should take time for yourself. It’s good for our kids to see you take care of yourself.




Hmm. “Good for our kids.” I didn’t think of it like that. Taking time for myself is a mental battlefield. I suspect it is for many moms. We know we need it. We know it’s good for us. But life is demanding — so it is sometimes hard to give ourselves permission to take time away. Or when we do sneak away to refuel, we might feel guilty, which makes it hard to fully enjoy our break.

But my husband is right: rejuvenating time for mothers (and fathers) is good — no, even great — for our kids. Here are eight reasons why:

1. Your kids learn to also take care of themselves.
What if your children grew up and never took time to do something they loved, like hiking, photography, gardening or reading? If my kids never saw me take time to refuel and rest, often through pursuing my hobbies and passions, would they grow up thinking they always have to be working, serving and doing?

2. Your kids learn coping strategies.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, at some point, everyone needs a time out. One of the best coping strategies we can teach our kids is to step out of a situation, breathe deep, refuel (often through doing something they enjoy) and gain a healthy perspective before they jump back into life. Let’s show our kids through our actions that a time out for adults is OK, too.

3. Your kids learn ways to unselfishly love their future spouses.

One of the biggest ways my husband loves me is by declaring it a “boys only” evening and giving me a little time off. My boys love their special time with dad and are always excited to see me when I return. My kids watch my husband consider my needs and treat me with kindness. He is teaching our children to someday do the same thing for their future spouses.

4. Your kids learn that community is important.
In order to have alone time, we sometimes need someone’s help: grandparents, an aunt, a spouse, a friend or a babysitter. When we build a community of friends and family who are willing to support each other, sometimes by taking each other’s kids, we teach our children that we all need each other.

5. Your kids learn to ask for help.
There are moments in life that can be stressful and maybe even dangerous if we do not ask for help. Our kids should grow up seeing us ask for help, so when they need to, they will also have the confidence to reach out for support.

6. Your kids learn to be brave and dream.
Sometimes, what we pursue in our alone time teaches our kids courage. For example, my favorite way to refuel is through writing and photography. It takes courage for me to let others read what I write or to look at my pictures. My kids see me being brave as I pursue my dreams. Teach your kids to be brave and dream big. They will learn if mom could do it, so can they.

7. Your kids learn a little bit about who you are.
What we choose to do in the limited time we get to ourselves often lets our children peer into our hearts and see a different side of us. They learn a little more about what interests us and what we enjoy doing. (And maybe, if we’re lucky, one of our interests might someday also interest them. At some point, it could be a place for us to connect.)

8. It gives you more quality time with your kids.
What? How is this so? If I haven’t had time alone, then during the time I spend with my kids I will sometimes be thinking of other stuff I want to do or should be doing. When I schedule my time a little better and include space for my kids and space for me, I can better focus fully on my kids when I am with them.

Mama who is reading this, are you like me? Do you need convincing to value your own needs? Know that your family works best when you are healthy. Spending time doing things you love is good for your soul. What is good for your soul is good for the whole family. I hope this helps. And I hope the next time you get a chance for some alone time you enjoy it, 100% guilt-free.


I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and noticing the everyday sacred. Want to join me on Facebook or Pinterest? Or sign up for my once-a-month inspirational newsletter and I'll send you this free printable.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Your Unique Sacred Gesture - Did You See It Today?

My normal cooking strategy is to bang pots and pans around in the kitchen until my actual-good-cook husband enters the space and says, "I'll do the main meal. You just cut the strawberries." 

"Oh, that'd be awesome. Thanks."(I'd like to cook - if it wasn't so boring.)


So I was not at all surprised when, with a living room full of lovely guests, I pulled my homemade strawberry rhubarb pie out of the oven to see it looking...well...sad. It's like the kitchen knew my husband wasn't home and in protest to this amateur trying to run the show, spit out a runny pie with an unevenly cooked crust.

I thought: I can't serve this mess!

So I secretly threw the pie away and pulled out some pre-made cookies.

Just kidding.

I was all: "Help me! Someone who knows how to cook - salvage this pie!" (Determination is my strong suit.)

So a friend granted my request (or demand?) and with much grace, fixed it all. But then she put her hand on my arm, lowered her voice and said, "The pie I'm sure will taste great, but I can't eat it."

"Why?" (I assumed she was on a health kick, so her explanation surprised me.) 



"I don't know – I always get in a funk when my kids move up a grade. It bugs me how fast time moves. It's crazy how close my kids are to launching. I hate it. It puts me in a slump. But I've found, if I avoid sugar and take lots of walks, that helps me move past this annual bout of depression." 

And there it was – my Sacred Gesture for the day. See, I think our Creator daily extends each one of us a Sacred Gesture. This just-for-us, unique gesture reminds us of both His presence and His gifts to us.

A friend with the courage to be vulnerable was that gift to me today.

Because vulnerability makes us feel SANE. When the wonderful women we know share real life and pain and struggles, it releases the grip of the illusion of perfectionism. It reminds us people have depth and want to share their heart and hear what's really on ours. Vulnerability reminds us even in our times of not being okay, we're all still "normal." And if we're not normal, then we're all a little cray-cray together, so the company is rich.

My Sacred Gesture reminded me of the beauty and power of authentic friendships.

But what about you?


Did a moment today remind of the sweet things God gives us? A hug, noticing the rainbow in the bubbles as you scrub dishes, the smell of lilacs outside, a text that made you smile... 

Did you notice your unique Sacred Gesture today? 

If not, pay attention. It'll come. It might even stem from a failed strawberry rhubarb pie. 

Want this free printable to remind you to notice your unique Sacred Gesture? 

Click here and I'll email it to you.

I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and noticing the everyday sacred. Want to join me on Facebook or Pinterest? 

 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Photography

We were praying for a good friend for one of our sons. Because God is good, He brought this mother, daughter and son into our lives. And because God is really good, he didn't just give my son a good friend, but me one as well. This sweet family has quickly become some of our favorite people. So taking their family photos - way fun. I had to share...

I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and noticing the everyday sacred. Want to join me on Facebook or Pinterest? Or sign up for my once-a-month inspirational newsletter and I'll send you a free printable with one of my favorite quotes.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father’s Day to three of my heroes: my husband, dad, and father-in-law. Thank you for loving us all so well! And thank you – from the bottom of my heart – for helping me with the wrestling situation. I appreciate that when I ask you to help me tame them, this is what you do… You're the best. The boys adore you. And so do I! 
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Monday, May 29, 2017

Mama, Are You Beautifully Exhausted?

I could feel the dark circles around my eyes and I hadn't even looked in the mirror yet. I woke up tired because the night before, I’d partied like it was 1999…

Doing laundry.

I executed my brilliant idea of putting the clothes through the machines then mass piling them in a tangled heap on my bed to fold and hang later. The original laundry mountain happened two days before. I’d already moved Mt. Everest to the floor once, deemed it invisible and in complete denial climbed into bed. So last night, I had to face my demons. And truth: Fairy Godmothers are NOT real. They don’t clean your home and magic wand together a pretty dress - that you’ll need to iron yourself. (Also, to be noted: I like to recycle this lesson. More fun not to learn it the first time.) 

So, I overslept and sacrificed my early morning refueling, alone time. I packed my kids’ lunches, addressed boxes to be mailed, dropped my kids off at school only to realize my oldest son was supposed to have arrived early and I forgot. (Ugh.) Then, after working all day, I picked up my three boys from school, ran to the bank, then to the store…and so on. You get it. You’ve been there, too.

At the last errand of my forever day, I waited at the gym for my son to finish basketball. I opened social media and saw a quote posted by a friend:
"There is something so holy in that moment when you fall into bed after serving your family, after working to support your family... just totally spent, poured out for others. What I like to call 'beautifully exhausted.' You have unselfishly fulfilled your God-given role and calling for that day, as your act of worship toward the One who created the uniquely gifted you. In that moment when you close your eyes, 'beautifully exhausted,' know that God sees you as altogether, wonderfully, entirely and only beautiful." (Author Unknown)

Fresh air blew through my mind as I soaked in the encouragement.

Finally, my son emerged his basketball tucked under one arm, swinging his water bottle with the other. We headed home to the bedtime routine. With the last tuck-in, stillness fell over our home

Which meant I finally had a chance to hang out alone with my husband. To unpack my thoughts, watch mindless television or read from the pile of books I’m always half way through. 

What all adults need was so close...

Time to refuel was almost at my fingertips...

...until...

Our kindergartner shakily called for me, “Mom, what do you do when you can’t get bad thoughts out of your head?” My sweet boy was convinced a crocodile was going to crawl into his bed and eat him. “Son, we don’t live near crocodiles.” Fearful eyes looked back at me. We peered out the window at the snowy tundra, but I still couldn’t convince him even if a lone crocodile made it north, it would freeze. So we snapped on the light and pulled out some books. I snuggled him close and read. And read. With each turn of the page, we pushed his scary thoughts further away. Then I kissed his sleepy head, tucked the soft covers around him, and whispered a prayer for fear to leave my precious boy alone.

My evening me-time slipped through my fingers. Finally, I crawled into bed on my very last fumes. Completely exhausted.

But…

…BEAUTIFULLY exhausted.

PS - I wrote this post in the winter, but with all the end-of-the-school-year busyness and two weeks still to go - I'm right back in this spot again.

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