Thursday, May 31, 2012

What YOU loved: Top Ten Posts May 2012

"Mama, can that wait?" Thoughts on technology,..
I gave my daughter permission to ask me "Mama, can that wait?" when I am on the phone or the computer. I mostly don't regret it. The boundary struggle continues, and I'll be writing more on this topic later this month.

A day that started out with a bad attitude (mine) ended with gratitude and grace, after God pried my eyes open.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Writing & Fear Part One: 10 reasons I pause before I publish

I can tell by her emails to me that she’s a writer at heart.  I asked her to write for me. She was shocked, honored, and afraid. She protested:  “I’d be so exposed. Someone might find me out.”

I know that fear.
It is pretty scary out here on display. 
But tell me, friend, what exactly are you afraid of?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Messy Mommy Jobs #3: LINK UP and share your pictures!

Another week of messes has come and gone. How did you fare, friends?  
You will like these pictures, and I have to admit, I like taking them. Looking at these pictures all in a row makes me feel incredibly accomplished.  I mean, LOOK, mothers! LOOK at all of these ugly things that we deal with! 

(I'd love to know which picture is your favorite!)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

more sermon notes!

Happy Sunday! :)

She doesn't know "blah blah blah" or "etc etc etc" 
so she writes "more daddy things! :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kindness week: Inspired by Scripture and Pinterest

"Kids! It's not polite to beg for three cookies when someone gives you two!"
"Don't hit him with the shovel! Take turns!"
"I understand that you like that bike too, but what is the KIND thing do right now? Will you share with your brother? Wait, no, don't hit him! SHARE!"

They fight like these guys:


It's hard to teach kids to be kind to each other, isn't it?  We teach, we discipline, we tell them all about starving children in Africa, and still, they refuse to get their fat, greedy hand out of the cracker box so little brother can have some.

Why is this so hard?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Interview your child at the end of the school year *UPDATED

It seems like only yesterday...

first day of school, 2009

At the end of my daughter's first year of kindergarten, I was ready to celebrate. I was proud of her, and I was proud of me for making it through my baby's first year of school. I was excited to have her home. 

I greeted her that last day of school with special treats, made by her brothers and sisters. I had saved some of her special artwork and papers, and I put together in a scrapbook for her. We looked through it together on the couch and talked about the year.  It was wonderful.

I have three kids coming home from their last day of school tomorrow. (Finishing kindergarten, first grade, and third grade.)

Would you like to see my scrapbooks this year?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Messy Monday: Don't get mad, grab your camera!

Thanks, friends, for helping me feel like I'm not the only one surrounded by messes!  When I clean up the cheerios this morning, I will think of all you others out there who are doing the same thing!

Here are my favorite pictures from last week...

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Mama, can that wait?" Thoughts on technology, boundaries, love, and a handsfree morning

Hand on the mouse, eyes on the computer, I asked the child standing closest to me,
"Honey, would you get me my hairbrush please?"
She brought and said, "I'll give it to you in exchange for a hug."
Again, that article came to mind.

Slow down, focus on your kids! They want you, they need YOU! 

In other words,
A child cannot kiss a moving target!

Yep, it's time to make some changes.

Let me just say first technology is a gift and a blessing. However, a person can love it too much.
It is a gift, meant to serve those around me.
It is a gift, meant to serve those who read my blog and my book, and my future books, if there are any.

But sometimes, I use it to neglect those around me, and simply to entertain myself.
Seriously, self, do you really need to check facebook at the park?

Right now, I have very few boundaries around my own technology use. 
And what has been the result?
I'm constantly connected.
I'm constantly entertained, if not by my children, by my connections.
I check the easy things off my list, and I ignore the harder things.
I do the "urgent" things, and quickly, to get back to the fun things.
Quite often, I completely forget the important things.

No, I am not going to stop writing or blogging. It would be impossible for me not to write- I am simply built this way. However, I am reassessing the time I spend with and away from my children (mentally,) and even more than that, I am trying to pay attention to the time I spend both with AND away- "multi-tasking," but really just scattered, and distracted.

I am slowly coming to realize, that when I do not deliberately focus on loving and serving the people around me, I simply give my attention to whatever is most interesting or entertaining at the moment.

That, friends, is not love.

(Father, forgive me for sacrificing what is important to do what is fun. Forgive me for misusing the gift of technology, for being distracted and selfish. Forgive me for Jesus' sake. Focus my heart for me Lord. Teach me to love You and love others.  By your grace, give me strength and wisdom as I seek to make changes according to Your will. Amen.)

Baby step: A disconnected morning

I started the day with a talk with my girls.

"Girls, you know how we've been talking about how important it is to fill buckets? (ie, love people) Well, I have to ask you something, and you can answer just how you feel, I won't be mad. Do you think mama spends too much time on the computer instead of filling your buckets?"

The girl on my right nodded emphatically. She said nothing though, her eyes were wide. I think she was wondering how I would react.  She's the one who asks me to jump on the trampoline with her at night when the boys are in bed. She's the one who hates it when I sit at my computer and say "Not this time, honey."

The girl on my left said she didn't think so. "Mama, you fill people's buckets when you write, too. So it's OK if you are on the computer."
Wow. I really didn't expect that.
I agree with her, actually. This is why I am not cutting out all technology or anything crazy like that. It's important for me to write, and connect, and email. I do see it as a ministry.
"Girls, did you know my family is my number one job? Number ONE. So that other stuff, while it is good, I don't want it to come before family unless it absolutely has to. So as much as I like doing that other stuff, I'm going to try to start doing it a little less, especially when I'm also trying to spend time with you. Does that sound good?"
They both smiled. Huge.
"See, sometimes it's easy for mommy to have my hands full of things that aren't really that important, and then I can't use my hands to hug you and tickle you and stuff like that. And I don't want it to be that way, OK?"
I tickled them, and they giggled.
"Here's the deal. I'm going to let you try to help me with this. It's going to be hard for me. I'm going to give you permission to remind me that we had this talk."
Their eyes danced. I immediately felt the need to reign them in. I could tell they were making plans for me. Too many plans.
"Now, that doesn't mean you can nag me. It doesn't mean I'm never going to use my phone or send an email.  And I'm not going to say yes to a bounce on the trampoline EVERY night. I will still get tired."
One girl snorted, "Yeah, you have to deal with those boys all day. Of course you will get tired!"
It is so nice to be understood. I love my daughters.

Life In Bloom"So, if you see me on my phone or emailing when we are spending time together, like at the park or something, I want you to ask me one question: Mama, can that wait?"

"Sometimes it can't wait. Sometimes I'll say no, and I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. But lots of times, it can wait, and I want you to help me make those other things wait so I can spend more time with my eyes and hands and heart focused on you."
I squeezed their hands, and they squeezed back, tight.

I sent my accountability buddies off to school, and then I told my stay-at-home boys a little less. "Mommy wants to spend time with you boys today. What do you want to do? Let's make a list."
In my head, I resolved: No computer until naptime.
I am an addict.  It was hard, but I did it. And I noticed how often I almost went to the computer, or the phone, just out of habit.  I do hope this will get easier.

But I am inspired to keep on trying, especially when I consider,

If my hands had been full of junk, I would have missed...

  • the girls' joy, when I asked them to hide with me on the front porch so we could talk
  • their inside info, about who used to fall asleep in kindergarten, and who fell asleep in math class
  • the little bumps on her nose, reminding me that she is growing so fast, and I'd best teach her to wash her face at night. Sigh, she probably has my bad skin.
  • the way they are happy to give me running hugs, even in front of their friends
  • the three year old spilled, for the second time in five minutes, but he cleaned it up quietly, all by himself.
  • the baby, climbing on my back and playing with my hair while I read the Bible
  • the big boy, capable of being the record-keeper, the list writer for the day
  • the ridiculousness of my angry words, "It is NOT polite to play the harmonica when someone is giving you a lecture!" His suppressed smirk, and then my laugh, and we all laugh. 
  • One asked me if I had a pair of "garden mittens" for him. The other joked, "what are you, a Tom Girl?"
  • Breathing in the sweet smell of honeysuckle, and realizing he calls it "Honey- snuckle!" 
  • I had to untie a tight knot so I sent a child to get me a fork to help. He returned with a fork and a butter knife. "Mommy, can I be coyote? I promise I won't hurt anyone with the knife!"
It wasn't all cute and fun, don't get me wrong.
For instance, there was a major mess:

And I was out of paper towels. And it was spaghetti-sauce mixed with glass. I was "fully present" for the cleaning up of the mess, but it wasn't fully fun. The little culprit watched me, quietly, and finally said in a small voice, "Me not do that again."

Also, the wrestling match was a short one. I was chasing a boy, running full-speed, and I slipped on a transformer costume.  I landed flat on my back on the concrete floor. It probably looked hilarious, but not one of them laughed.
"Are you OK mama?"
"I'm... not sure. Just let me sit here for a minute."
They only gave me about a minute and a half before the littlest ones climbed on me again.
(I'm mostly OK.)
While I laid there, I wondered,
Would the kids know how to call for help if you are unconscious on the floor? 
Later, the pain in my back reminded me to teach my little boys emergency procedures. It turns out, my oldest boy knows his daddy's phone number and 911, but he didn't know how to turn on my phone. I'm glad he knows now.

They watched the bread machine work. 
"The bread is dancing!" 
"Why can't we hear the yeast burping?"

One morning, cut off from technology. What did I observe?
I noticed many precious moments I would have missed.
I also noticed a few hard things I wold have gotten to skip (like the crash on the floor and the messy kitchen help.)
I won't say my day was easier. 
But it was more focused. Less scattered.
And I was more available to my children.
I prayed more.
Read more.
Breathed more.

Try it, won't you?

Think. Pray.

Ask yourself: Can it wait?

If you struggle with this, I'd love to hear from you.
If you've conquered this, I'd love to hear from you, too.
If you have blogged about it, please leave your link below.
(You don't have to link back to me, but it's always appreciated!)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday's Mess- Link Up and share your pictures!

I wake up and the house is messy, but livable.  Not a disaster (usually,) but not quite company-ready, either.  I work all day long, sweeping, organizing, moving this here and that there... and by the end of the day, the house is .. about the same.
Messy, but livable.
What is it that I do all day long?! 

Well, I pick up stuff, like this:

and they "help."
And... repeat.

One of the hardest things about motherhood (for me,) is the lack of TANGIBLE progress. I can work on something all day, like laundry, and it is never fully DONE (not for long,) but I can't not work on it, either. 

So I've started taking pictures of some of the messes, before I clean them. It is a little bit satisfying to imagine what this house would look like if I didn't do my job for a day, or even an hour. It makes me feel a little less like a hamster running on a treadmill. 

Some of the pictures make me laugh. Like this: 

Somebody colored on the basement stairs. Then, he left the marker sticking out of a hole in the stairs for me. Perhaps he wanted to make sure I didn't miss his artwork?

This chaotic life is exhausting, but t's funny, too.
Especially after the fact.

Join me!
I want to see your pictures, friends!
What messes have you cleaned up? Messy kids? Gross stuff in your fridge? Did they use sidewalk chalk on your car or makers on your window?

Perhaps if we compile our pictures, we will stand back in awe... we will see some of our work, DONE, and we will realize that we really DO make the world more beautiful by our constant efforts!

That, or we will just become overwhelmed at the chaos that awaits us today, and tomorrow. But even so, we will find company in our battle against all that is out of place in this world!
Join me, fellow soldier!

I will share some of my favorites next Monday.

How to share your pictures
Send me an email
Post pictures to my facebook page
(Please note- if you post to facebook or email me, you are giving me permission to use your picture on my blog! If you want credit, put your name on the picture itself.  I use picmonkey for this and other edits. It's free and you don't even have to register!)

If you have a blog, link up with me below! (Be sure to grab my button!)
(your post can be anything at all mess- related; cleaning tips, organizing tips, thoughts on a messy life, or just fun pictures of your kids doing something messy!)

1. Simply post your messy post on your blog (or grab the link to an older one)
2. Enter your title and link below
3. Copy the html code (in the box below the picture) and put it on your post - this will point your readers back here so they can see the other posts and join the fun!

Weak and Loved

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

water play

"you are dancing around in your iridescent little downpour, whooping and stomping as sane people ought to do when they encounter a thing so miraculous as water.”  
Gilead by Marylinne Robinson

Friday, May 11, 2012

More advice from the Successful Slacker (AKA My Awesome Dad)

Pick your battles wisely. 

Pastor's Kid
 As you struggle as a parent to hold your ground, remember that you while you may overpower him with your will, you don't want to totally break his spirit, and you may add fuel to the inevitable rebellion.

And don't ever give up on him. 
You will have your dark hours. 

But one day, like magic, he will turn into a reasonable, responsible and caring person. 

Pastor Cook, before he wore the pastor clothes

You will be amazed. 
You will think that your parenting skills are finally paying off. I tend to think it's more physiological, and the brain is finally, completely wired. 

But go ahead and take some credit! 
I'm sure it's a little of both. 

As a parent, you'll learn just how well  you can stick with a task, because it's going to take at least 18 years, maybe more.

Who else has a question for my dad?
Advice for me and other parents of difficult children?
I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
 a holy nation, a people for his own possession, 
that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 
(1 Peter 2: 9-10 )

When you wonder where your life is going, 
remember this simple picture. 
With the light shining on you and around you, 
you know you are not consigned to walk in darkness 
like so many. 

You may not know exactly where you are going, 
but you see the wrong and you can avoid it; 
you see your Savior, 
and his grace and power go with you; 

..and in the distance you see 
the light of eternal life shining at the end of your path. 

Gospel Motivation by Robert J Koester

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Impossible Mother Job: Being the FAIR Queen

They want things to be fair, and I understand that.

But it is so hard for me to keep track of who did what last, and whose turn it is for this or that.

It would be nice if I had one of these:
(photo credit)

Except, it would have to be more complicated.

Something like this:

(Yes, I do have six children. But the chart was overwhelming enough with three.)

But I don't have a big complicated chart of switchboard.
And my brain is not capable of this kind of record-keeping.

Until someone invents something like that, I guess I'll have to keep with my current strategy.


Parents, have you found something for this problem?
Is there a middle road,
somewhere in between the huge, complicated Fairness Tracker
and random arbitrary rulings?

I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 7, 2012


I had this conversation with my son one day after church. It is a conversation as predictable as the daily “be kind to your siblings” lecture, and so each child knows the rhythm of it by heart.

“Is that Jesus mommy? Jesus died?” (serious face)
“Yes, Honey, He died on the cross. Do you know why? “
“For our sins?” (sad face)
“That's right, but did He stay dead?”
“No Jesus rose!” (happy face!)
“Yes, He rose three days later. He's in heaven and someday when we die we will get to go to heaven to be with Him!”
The child smiles, and moves on to another subject.

And so to the children, death means little. They hear about it often, but death is defined for them not by the cemetery, or by grief, or by their own personal losses. The word death, for them, is always connected to Jesus' death and resurrection.

Before their hearts are broken by death, they hear of Him who was broken to destroy it.  Before they taste great suffering, they taste and see that the Lord is good.  Before they are bowed down by death’s reality, their feet are anchored into the reality of God’s love for us in Christ.

The life of the church teaches the children, and teaches me.  The rhythm of faith, the change of seasons: this is the dance of the Christian. The darkness of sin, death, and Lent, is dark indeed.  We do not deny or ignore that.  But for the Christian, darkness does not overcome. Even in the depths of sorrow, we have been trained to look forward.  We know what comes next: forgiveness, life, and the brightness of Easter.

As years pass the changes are steeper, and more dramatic.  Yet, with hearts trained by the Word of God, we fix our eyes on Him, the source of our hope and our help:

Our Risen Lord Jesus.

 Lo, on those who dwelt
in darkness,
dark as night and deep as death,
broke the light of thy salvation,
breathed thine own
live-giving breath:
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise to thee who light dost send!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia without end!
Verse 2
Thy Strong Word LSB #578

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lovely Lunch Bags

We made these for my mother for her birthday. She uses them for her lunch at work. From what I have heard, the other grandmas are quite jealous.

This is my kind of craft. 
The creativity comes from the kids, not the mom.

Lovely Lunch Bags

Lunch bags
Stickers, etc optional!

Hand kids bags, markers, and embellishments. 
Let them create. 

Classic: trace the hand

Add some girly stuff:

lovely words:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Just add water (and gratitude)

After a hectic morning, the big kids were off to school, and I sat down with my remaining 5 children (2 borrowed.)

Five kids, 4 and under, and we planned to be home all. day. long.
I often love these kinds of days, but I was not feeling like I would be loving this one.
All the little people were so.... needy! and LOUD!
and, why did they all need to keep TOUCHING me?

I tried to drink my coffee, but two babies insisted on sitting on me.
The boys fight. Again.
Hey guys, look! Cartoons! Everyone, can't you just watch a cartoon for one minute while I catch my breath?

Breakfast explosion remained on the dining room table.
There wasn't even a big kid around to put the milk away.
I sat under the babies. I slowly moved them aside. I inched off the couch.

I snuck away to go to the bathroom, and came out 30 seconds later to 3 kids screaming, one boy injured, one spill, and one child smirking.

I'm not terribly happy about the situation, either.

It's only 8:00. How, Lord, are we going to make it through this day?

I resort to my three most common coping strategies:
Coffee, Outside, and List Making.

The coffee was gross because it had been sitting there for an hour, but I didn't dare sneak away to microwave it. I was not allowed out of the room for thirty seconds. They had just reminded me of that. I guzzled it down, gross and cold, and hoped it would at least give me some energy.

Going outside always improves my mood when the weather is nice. I could only hope it would do the same for the kids.  My four year old pushed one stroller, while I pushed three kids in another. (Our road is narrow, and I didn't want anyone running around loose!)  We visited the neighborhood cows.

While we walked, I began to make my list. First, I prayed:  Lord, help me see these kids as something other than squawking bundles of NEED. I need you to open my eyes again!

The List
Marcus wants to make a list of things we are going to do today.
I give in, just to make him stop pestering. Maybe he will come up with something good.
We make our to-do list, (we put the cows on the list first,) and that reminded me of a gratitude list.
Fine, I'll try.

Though I feel no gratitude, I write. I fake it.
Beautiful morning, birds singing, fat baby thighs, and so forth.  Blah blah, blah.
God, change my attitude!

I decide I'm grateful for Marcus's help with the stroller, and the fact that she thinks it is funny when they almost crash. I'm grateful that there's only been "almost" crashes.

It's too wet for the playground. They hop in puddles, and I'm hot from our walk, so I don't mind.
I'm grateful that I get to count my morning as exercise.
They argue about what to do next.
We go back home.
But I can't bring myself to bring them back in the house, where we are all on top of each other and nobody wants to do anything.

It's hot. I have an idea. Maybe it will be good enough to earn me a second cup of coffee.

Then, water.
Towels and Cheeze-Its.
More water.

My list grows, and suddenly, I mean it.
Thank you, God.

I see them again: the blessings.
They're everywhere, and all over me, like children.



My list has turned incredibly long. What follows, I post for my own enjoyment. It is a bit sappy, and I could be accused of gushing. Proceed at your own risk.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Self-Soothing and the Stomach Flu

As we seek to understand the various temperaments of our dear children, it is helpful to put them in different situations and observe their behavior. Nature did this for me last month, when it provided the nasty virus.  Read more experiments on children, with variables including a sibling looking for a debate, a box for goodwill, and a fit-throwing adult.  (with analysis)

Six sick children. One stomach bug.
multiplicity of coping measures.

Self soothing measures 
(children may exhibit more than one.)

Denial (or, the puke and run): Child’s childishness stays strong despite the virus. He simply incorporates the need to throw up into his daily schedule, gets the messy business done, and returns to his play.

Regressing: Child becomes a helpless puddle of need. He cannot hold his own drink or get his own blanket.  Sympathy, snuggles, and maybe even a lullaby are in order. (Just don't tell any of his friends at school.)

Hollerin’: Each time a child moves, he wails in misery, “I WAAAAAAAAAANT YOU MOMMY!!!”

Resolve: Child does his best to wear a brave face through the ordeal. Mom gives extra sympathy to this one.

Hoarding: Child climbs on the couch under blankets, and when asked to share, says in a pathetic voice, “I really just don’t want to get you sick, like me.”

Clinging: Child is absolutely UN-happy unless he is sitting on top of the mother. He simple must be on her lap or her hip at all times. If mother puts him down for one moment, he screams as if he’s sitting in him boiling lava.

Philosophizing: The child’s weak body gives him time to reflect on important matters. “Why do we have to get sick?” “Why are there germs?” “Why can’t we just go to heaven right now?”

Velma Virus by Lorraine
Collecting his own data: Child realizes that mom allows more TV watching for sick kids. He says, “My tummy hurts! It needs to watch Scooby Doo!” He keeps this game going for as long as he can.

Medicating: Child needs medicine when he is sick. At times, the medicine seems to magically fix the problem the second he swallows. If it doesn’t, then he thinks he needs more. Or perhaps, a trip to the hospital.

Repeating: Last time child was sick, she ate 2 oranges and took an extra nap, and she woke up feeling fine again. She begs for oranges, convinced that this will work every time.

Despairing: After several consecutive minutes of agony, child collapses on his bed as if he is slain. Giving up after a hard-fought battle, he weakly tells mother, “I know I’m just never ever going to get better.” With a sigh, he resigns to sleep.

Tell me, do you see these in your house? 

What other reactions do your children have when they are ill?

Do YOU have any silly self-soothing measures of your own?

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