Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

When our big kids were little, I remember thinking that they were trying to control me. Their job was to obey, my job was to enforce obedience. When they didn’t do what I said right away, I felt worried that they were going to become difficult. Ceasing to obey me on demand would give them a pattern of disobedience if I didn’t strongly intercede.

I remember asking them to get out of the car, or to come with me upstairs to get on pajamas or brush teeth for bedtime. When they stubbornly resisted, I felt a tightening in my chest. I needed to remain in control and they needed to do what I said!

Sometimes, I spoke with a stern, angry voice, “You need to get out of the car, NOW!”

Other times, I would grab an arm and physically pull the child out of the car, with a scowl on my face and a desire to show I was boss.

Have you been there? Can you think of times when you didn’t know what else to do?

Believe me when I tell you, there is SOMETHING else you can do!

God DOES call my children to obey. It is my job to HELP them do so. In the past, when they didn’t listen and I felt the pressure rise in me, I gave into it, lacking self-control. When I matched their level of stubbornness, I created a power struggle where everyone felt as if they lost. This was the opposite of helping them obey, it created hardened hearts toward me.

When I repented of my need to be in control, it transformed my relationships with my children.

Today, Cupcake wouldn’t get out of the van. I asked her to come inside. She flatly refused. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I calmed my entire body and took a deep breath. Then, sweetly, gently, I walked over to the car. I extended my hand toward her in gentleness. I sweetly touched her arm and smiled as I said, “Come on in with Mommy, honey.” She simply reached for my hand and walked inside.

transforming anger to peace

This kind of interaction between us didn’t happen over night. In the beginning when I began walking in freedom with my children, I would have to stop, count, pray, breathe, ask God for wisdom. My children didn’t always respond right away to my smiles or gentle gestures. Sometimes they dug in even further. I needed to find wise, kind responses. Over time, they began to understand that my heart was changing and they could trust me.

In the beginning, I messed up a lot. During those times of messing up, there were days when it felt hopeless. Sometimes I feared I would never change. I lost hope that this grace-filled way of relating would have a positive impact. Humbling myself and committing to a do-over was an hourly part of my existence.

As days have turned into years, muscle memory has kicked in. My body doesn’t immediately get tense when kids resist what I have to say. I’m able to stay calm, listen to their view point, give them options, and I have power to turn from the temptation of forcing obedience. As I have changed, my kid’s hearts have opened to me. They resist me less and trust me more. This has taken years! And we are still working on it! Am I perfect at it now? No! But we are all TRANSFORMED.

Moms, Dads, if you find your parenting paradigm is causing you distress, pain, anguish…try another way. If you feel defeated, lay awake at night regretting your parenting interactions…you can change! Start small. Smile when you want to give a disapproving look. Speak softly when you want to yell. Ask God for a calm heart and wisdom.

When we as parents obey our commands in our relationship to our children, our children are better able to obey their command to obey us.

Reach out if we can pray for you or help you take the first steps toward a grace-filled home. We are here to help.

First Day of School

First Day of School

There’s very little that’s authentic about our family’s First Day of School posts. It’s really not our “first day.” We have a very fluid homeschool and we are always learning. We don’t put a high emphasis on what “grade” our kids are in. Mainly, this helps us know where to categorize them in events outside of our homeschool.

But we love doing “first day” pictures when the rest of our area goes back to school. It breaks my heart whenever I see pictures of children looking downcast as their mom celebrates her children going back to school. As a homeschool mom who feels grateful for every day home with her kids, it’s very difficult to understand.

We are having a party over here at our house today… a party that celebrates our freedom and gratitude to homeschool.

Happy First Day of School everyone! We pray you have a blessed school year, with hearts turned toward God and turned toward home.

Malachi 4:6 y’all!

 

Ten Ways to Invest in Your Small Children During the Homeschool Day

Ten Ways to Invest in Your Small Children During the Homeschool Day

One question I hear all.the.time: What do you do with your little kids when you are trying to homeschool?  Homeschool moms love to plan, purchase curriculum, and dream about crossing off all our check lists.

But…babies, toddlers, preschoolers! They are a reality in many of our homes. I’ve found that pre-school aged children don’t care about our carefully laid plans.

Here are ten ideas for investing in your pre-school aged children during the homeschool day:

1. Buy a good baby carrier:

When your hands are free, you can nurse that baby, while teaching a math lesson. You can keep your little crawler out of dangerous cupboards as you listen to narrations and dictate spelling lists. With a toddler on your back, you can stay engaged and sing and talk together as you make pb&j in the kitchen.

2. Use play-dough during concentrated school time only:

Toddlers and preschoolers LOVE play dough, magic sand, and all things messy. Keep it for special occasions when you want them to stay engaged for just a few minutes longer. Let them make letters in salt or shaving cream. If messy makes you anxious when you already have so much to deal with as far as clean up, get some trays! Teach your toddler to keep materials on the tray as they play. It won’t be perfect, but I’ve found trays to help minimize the mess.

preschool

3. Give the older kids “assignments” to play with the little one for a short while:

Little siblings usually adore older brothers and sisters. Special one-on-one time where older siblings read books or play puppets or build towers with blocks is not only helpful, but so good for their relationships. When Cupcake was a small infant, Jules used to bring the baby and her science textbook to a rocking chair. She would use a British accent (for fun) and read her science assignments aloud to the baby. It made a boring subject more fun for Jules and was a blessing to everyone.

preschool

4. Make sensory bins:

Grab an empty bin or tray, fill it with rice/perler beads/popcorn/rocks/water/beans and top it off with small toys. If you want, get “fancy,” make themed bins (I was able to do that this year and it was so fun! I included one of my big kids and he had a blast finding little toys to put in the bins). Little hands love to pour items from cup to cup and to make discoveries under the layers. (Notice the tray under the bin? I use those trays all the time!) *Supervise your little ones to keep them safe and your house from becoming a rice field.

preschool

5. Make a light table:

I took a white trofast storage bin, put left over lights underneath it and gave my preschooler opaque toys: letters, window clings, reusable ice cubes, neon letter templates, dollar tree plastic shot glasses. She loves to build on the light table. It has a calming effect. Bonus, you can turn the bin over and fill it with all the toys and the lights…easy clean-up.

preschool

6. Dramatic play:

Dramatic play is our FAVORITE around here. We have a closet right outside our school room. It was nearly empty, so I made it into a cute little nook where my little girls have home-base for dramatic play during school time. I hang up dress-up clothes and rotate them out. The dramatic play toys are small and fit on the top shelf of the closet. No one can reach them but mommy and they only come out when I’m doing concentrated school time with big kids. We have a camping set, specialty food items, a tiny kitchen, doctor kits, and a cash register. I set up the rug outside of the closet with a “theme” and give them different props on different days and set them free with their imagination.

preschool

7. Do school together:

My little Cupcake takes her “school” so seriously. One of her frequent prayer requests is that she can “get her school done.” My favorite “school” ideas for littles over the years have been:

~”Before Five in a Row.” The book list from this gentle curriculum is precious. Even if you don’t purchase the teacher’s guide, your preschooler will enjoy sweet time on your lap with classic books that teach many beautiful concepts.

~Chocolate Chip School: We do have Counting Bears…but, nothing made my Cupcake happier last year then when I announced it was, “Chocolate Chip School time.” We got out chocolate chips and counted them. Simple addition and subtraction is fun when you get to eat your manipulative. Siblings came running when they heard us subtracting and everyone enjoyed a little chocolate break in the day.

~Ziggy school: All About Reading has a sweet way of introducing letters to your preschooler with their pre-reader program. Make sure you purchase the activity sheets. They are darling. All of my littles have LOVED Ziggy the Zebra. He says such silly things. Sometimes he helped Cupcake listen to instructions that have nothing to do with the “AAR” program. Taking instruction from a puppet is more exciting than following mommy some days.

preschool

~Letter Search: Cupcake and I got some squishy bath-toy letters. After Ziggy introduces a letter to us, we take out the bath-toy letter and put it in our “hunting box.” Then we go around the house and try to find things in the house that start with our letter to put in the box. THIS IS SO FUN. Do it!

preschool

~Include them in the “big kids” school projects: Whenever my kids are assigned an active, hands on, messy, or fun project, we make sure the little ones are front and center. Does it sometimes lengthen the project? Yes. Have there been times when it frustrated the situation? Certainly! We just look at those as character building moments for all of us and move on.

preschool

8. Make a “can-do” list:

Sometimes it’s overwhelming for everybody to think of all the things preschoolers “can’t do.” I used to have a “Catty Can” list. I laminated little cards and hung them on an o-ring. Each card had something “Catty Can” do; sing the alphabet, roll a ball, color a picture, read books, play dolls, blow bubbles,” The list can be as long and creative as you want it to be. When Catty was a tiny little thing and she felt frustrated with being told “no,” we got out our “Catty Can” list and picked an activity.

9. Don’t forget your baby:

Homeschool moms…you have so much to do. I get it! Math, handwriting, history, read alouds, science labs, spelling, grammar, art, breakfast, lunch, clean up, dinner, Bible, memory, character issues. Being a teacher to our big kids is important. If God has blessed us with little ones who aren’t in school, they need us, just as much as our big kids did when they were pre-schoolers. Make sure you are hugging, laughing, tickling, reading to, coloring with, pushing on the swing, chasing, being goofy, dancing, singing silly songs and spending time with your little ones. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of hard play to help them feel remembered, loved, and valued.

10. Hold your plans loosely:

You know I love a well thought out plan. Please remember, that plans should not trump people. Our little ones will be fussy, sick, and overwhelmingly needy at times. It will be tempting to feel like they are getting in the way of our plans. Sometimes, God has a curriculum for us that doesn’t match our beautiful planners. Pay attention when He puts something in our path that pulls us away from what we thought was the “perfect day.” Especially if that “something” is one of our little ones. Don’t look back on the preschool years of your children with regret because you pushed them away to check off a list. Gently guide, love, embrace, and include them as much as you can!

Oh…and one more tip:

Don’t do school when they nap! Really. Don’t do it. Use that time for all of you bigger people to refresh and rest. You can thank me in January for that one.

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 2, Weekly and Daily Plans

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 2, Weekly and Daily Plans

After planning the Big Picture of your homeschool year, it’s time to begin focusing on specific plans.

I’m using The Simple Plan, by Mardel for my planner. But any planner will have daily pages that should work for your homeschool.

Steps to a Detailed Plan:

On Sunday evening, I sit down and look at my family weekly view calendar and I fill in appointments and anything that may compete with “at home” time for our school days.

detailed plan

Every afternoon, when the kids finish their school work, I correct their work and assign the next day’s assignment. I section my planner by subjects and each kid gets a line on that subject (in birth order).

detailed plans

I go through Jule’s work first, checking off what she has done and writing down the next day’s tasks in her planner. This pattern continues for each kid until I’m done; correct assignments, check off that they are complete in my planner, add next day’s assignment. All turned in assignments are returned to the kid’s desk and I start with the next kid.
Jules and Peebs have The Simple Plan student planners, by Mardel. I make sections for each subject and give more detailed assignments than what I actually record in my own planner. It guides them through the day. I tell them what they need to do on their own and what they need to do with me.
The beauty of giving daily assignments is I can adjust what we do from day to day to keep us flexible. This way the kids don’t ever feel “behind” or “ahead” and frankly it is giving them much less stress than when they used to have an entire guide in their hands. I simply need to look at my “year-at-a-glance plan” for each subject to make sure we are making good progress through each subject area.

detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

Odes and Catty didn’t get fancy planners. It really wasn’t necessary as most of their work is done directly with me. I write down their plans in a plain notebook: I love adding little love notes and words of encouragement in their books. This may look slightly overwhelming, but it honestly only takes a few minutes each afternoon.

detailed plansdetailed plans

As the kids go through their school day and complete their work, they turn in completed assignments in this dish-drying rack (placed inside of an Ikea Raskog). If the book doesn’t fit the drying-rack, they place it on the next shelf down. When their day’s work is complete, they add their planners to the completed work bin and I begin my work of correcting and assigning:

detailed plans

I pull out each finished piece of work and put on a sticker or write a note. I keep stickers in the front of the dish-drying rack. If appropriate, I write directly in the book. If I don’t want my handwriting to be permanent, I add it to a sticky note. The kids LOVE getting these notes from me. It makes them feel their work is important. I’ve noticed they do their work more carefully as a result. I also take this time to look at any errors or things that need attention. Words that are consistently mis-spelled are placed on a sticky note outside the notebook they turn in. We work on those errors throughout the week.

detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

The method of handing in assignments for me to look at during the day has cut down on a lot of interruptions. Before implementing this method, kids were nearly constantly bombarding me with questions while I was doing lessons with siblings. That has almost completely come to a stop.

Each kid has color-coded folders where they turn in assignments done on loose leaf paper. Finished work is placed on the right side of the folder. I send it back with a note and sticker on the left side of the folder for them to see. The next time the folder comes back to me, I either throw away the paper on the left, or put it in a color-coded three ring “better binder.” Guess what this means? No crazy paper work at the end of the year! And a portfolio of work is at my finger tips to store away for posterity (or a burning party when they graduate, if so desired). detailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plansdetailed plans

So right now, you are likely thinking one of two things: “That girl is CRAZY!” Or “Get me to Staples for better binders, now!” Either way, I’d love to hear if any of these ideas are a help for you. What do you do to plan the details of your days?

 

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 1…Big Picture

Planning Your Homeschool Year, Part 1…Big Picture

I recently shared our homeschool year plan for 2017-2018, and promised I would share some of my planning process. Planning a season of homeschool can seem daunting. It does take some time and thought. I’m going to break this down into different posts and show how I’ve done this step by step in my home. I hope it is helpful.

Steps for Big Picture Planning:

1. Pray:Big Picture Planning

Take time to pray alone, with your kids, with your spouse. Ask God to give you wisdom on what will be the best fit for your particular life season. Trust Him to lead you.

2. Evaluate:

What is going on in the life of your family? Are you pregnant? Will you be giving birth soon? Do you have a newborn or toddler who will require significant attention this school year? Is there a move in your future? Are you, your children, or loved ones struggling with on-going or significant illness? Will you be traveling? Do your children have any learning disabilities or challenges that need to be addressed? Be realistic about all you can accomplish within different life seasons.

3. Think about your kids:

What are their interests right now? What do you like doing together? Ask your kids for input. Is there an area of growth you would like to explore? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Is there a character quality or spiritual discipline that are important to your children’s development? What books have you been wanting to read? How old are your kids and what is reasonable to expect from them? How do you want your days to look? What is your educational philosophy? Do you want your home to look like school-at-home? Are you taking a relaxed approach? Will you use textbooks and workbooks? Do you enjoy reading aloud and lap books?

4. Research:

Ask your friends and more experienced moms things that have and haven’t worked for them. Look at various box curriculum to see suggestions for areas of study for different age groups. (I get ideas for history and book lists based on suggestions from box curriculum such as Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, My Father’s World, etc. Go to a homeschool conference and look at material. Contact different publishers to discuss what might be best for your situation. Go to a seminar. In our area, there is a homeschool bookstore that services homeschoolers and offers feedback to fit your situation.

Big Picture Planning Carol Joy Seid offers seminars all over the country or you can buy her DVDs. Diana Waring gives incredible suggestions. Books such as, “Teaching from Rest,” by Sarah MacKenzie, “Educating the WholeHearted Child,” by Clay and Sally Clarkson, “The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling,” by Karen Allen Campbell, offer encouragement and ideas (there are LOTS of good, encouraging homeschool books). Visit co-ops and see if that is a fit for your family.

 

(Note: It’s OK not to do a Co-op, but could be a great thing for your family.)

Consider how you can get a full education from the library. Will you combine all or some of your children on some subjects? Which subjects will need to be one-on-one? What can they do independently? (Note: Most children are not ready for independence until around age 10, though even then, it’s not automatic. Realize that if you are going to do heavy school work with young children, you are responsible to sit with them and give instruction.)

As I go through the research step, I make notes in an empty Word document for each child. I keep websites I want to re-visit in those notes. As I go along, I delete items and ideas that aren’t a fit and by the end I have a good working list of what I’ll be using.

5. Research a planner:

This could keep you busy for several long nights of youtubing. I can’t give any advice about online planners. My expertise lies in pen-to-paper planners. I will link a few here, starting with the one I’m using this year:

Big Picture Planning

A Simple Plan (the planner I used last school year and am using again. I like it because it is dated, gives space for long term planning, monthly goals, a place to record purchases, two pockets (where I keep receipts) and individual planning spaces for up to six kids. The guts are all gray and white, which I don’t care for, but I can fix with a little bit of washi. I’m in love with colorful fun planners. However, keeping this design simpler does cut down the cost.)

Well Planned Day

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Erin Condren Teacher Planner: (this is not a homeschool planner, but I’ve adapted it to use it as such in the past. It is over-the-top expensive…but, Oh.So.Beautiful.)

Limelife Homeschool Planner: (this is also spendy, beautiful, and it is a homeschool planner to boot!)

Happy Planner Teacher Planner: (Not specific to homeschool, but…Happy Planner! I LOVE this line. They are SO adorbs! You can adapt them beautifully to your needs. Plus, Michael’s regularly has 50 and even 60% off coupons!)
If you don’t like any of these suggestions there are billions of planners on Etsy. Start with Plum Paper and after that you will get plenty of suggestions.

*You will spend a good amount of your days/years as a homeschool mom researching. You will make changes and often. Try not to get stuck in the research mode for too long. At some point you will have to make decisions.

6. Decide:

I advise discussing your decisions with your spouse. Once you have decided the route you want to take, entrust those decisions to Jesus and move forward. If you need to make some purchases, now is the time. This is fun! It’s mom’s Christmas when those packages get dropped off:

7. Sort and plan an overview of your year:

I divide my kid’s books onto their own personal shelves. I have a mom shelf where I keep all of the teacher manuals I will use during the year.
Next, I open my planner and plan the Big Picture: I look at each subject and divide it into a year’s worth of general lessons. Then I plot out an ideal “routine” day for each day of the week. This took me about six hours to pull together. It’s a lot of time up-front, however having the big picture mapped out, makes weekly and daily lesson planning extremely easy. It’s worth the up-front effort.

Here are some picture examples of Big Picture planning I did for one of my older kids:

Big Picture Planning
This is NOT a schedule, but a rough idea of how we can structure our days to fit things in. I don’t give this plan to my kids. It’s simply an idea of flow and routine for my own planning.

I left space at the end of the year as I’m not sure how we will space out these subjects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is an example of plans for my preschooler. (I didn’t make plans for the rest of the kids when they were three years old. It certainly isn’t necessary! I simply recorded ideas so little Cupcake will not feel cast aside when everyone else hits the books. If I keep her engaged, we will ALL have better days.)

Big Picture Planning

Big Picture Planning

Stay tuned for Part 2 and how I turn the Big Picture into a daily plan!

 

Curriculum for 2017-2018 School Year

Time for the ultimate Homeschool mom blog post. How geeky are we? But I know I love reading other mom’s plans for curricula, so I decided to share mine.

After much prayer and contemplation, we’ve decided to move away from Heart of Dakota this year. HOD has been an amazing blessing, giving us structure during Cupcake’s first few years of life. I feel it has made us even better equipped to structure our school days on our own. I’m so grateful for our four years with this program!

We have done several “test-run” days of school this summer and we are LOVING our new set up. We are finding enough rigor to keep our synapses connecting, and enough time to do the other things we love. I present to you our carefully crafted school plans for the 2017-2018 school year:

Swannie Mom: 
H.S. Planner: A Simple Plan, by Mardel
Life Planner: The Happy Planner (until January where I am switching to, “Mom On the Go”)

Jules, Grade 8:
Math: Algebra Teaching Textbooks
History: Modern History with Mystery of History , Volume IV
What In the World
Geography: MapTrek and various games
Science: A variety of books on Human Anatomy and Chemistry
simple home labs
Language Arts: Analytical Grammar
Beyond the Book Report
Vocab, home-made mom program
The Missions to Modern Marvels book list
Bible/Faith studies: Faith at Work from Explorer’s Quest
Apologia Worldview
Hero Tale’s
Scripture Memory, Charlotte Mason style
Art: See the Light
Piano
Music Theory
Spanish 2: with Dad
Typing: Typing Club

Peebs, Grade 6:
Math: Math 7 Teaching Textbooks
History: The Renaissance and Reformation, with
Mystery of History
What In the World
Geography: MapTrek and various games
Science: Apologia, Astronomy
Language Arts: Grammar Basics, home-made mom program
Vocab, home-made mom program

Reading assignments and Book reports, home-made mom program
The Resurrection to Reformation book list 
Bible: Hidden Treasures in Philippians
Hero Tales
Scripture memory: Philippians chapter 1
Art: See the Light
Piano
Music Theory
Typing: Typing Club

Odes, Grade 4:
Math: Math 5 Teaching Textbooks
History: Beautiful Feet, Early American History
Geography: Little Passports, USA
Science: Apologia; Zoology, Birds of the Air
Language Arts: A Reason for Handwriting (level D)
Phonetic Zoo (spelling)
Reading leveled readers and various book report assignments
Read alouds include:
Trumpet of the Swan
Betsy, Tacy, Tib
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Caddie Woodlawn
Prince Caspian
The Green Ember
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Bible: Jesus, My Shepherd, Explorer Quest
Art: See the Light
Piano
Music Theory

Catty, Grade 2:
Math: Math 4 Teaching Textbooks
History: Beautiful Feet, Early American History
Geography: Little Passports, USA
Science: Apologia, Zoology, Birds of the Air
Language Arts: A Reason for Handwriting (level T)
All About Spelling (level 3)
Reading leveled readers and various book report assignments
Read alouds include:
Trumpet of the Swan
Betsy, Tacy, Tib
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Caddie Woodlawn
Prince Caspian
The Green Ember
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Bible: Jesus, My Shepherd, Explorer Quest
Art: See the Light
Piano
Music Theory

Cupcake, pre-school:
Math: Counting and Subtracting M&M’s/Counting Bears, etc.
Language: Before Five in A Row
All About Reading, level pre-reading
Variety of learning tools: sensory bins and light table, special dramatic play area (school only toys), magic sand and play dough, puzzles, coloring and painting, washi tape, etc.

Phy-Ed and health: We will continue to train for different events and keep active. Jules and I will be doing some special stretching and resistance band training. I’m also covering various health topics at age appropriate levels this year. We won’t be using any formal curricula for these subjects, but they will be covered.

Odes, Catty, and Cupcake, will still be doing Calendar Time with Mommy. We will learn the date and weather, hymns and prayer time, read devotions and have a sweet time of connection together.

I will explain in a future post how I’m implementing all our plans and planning out an eclectic school day such as this. I will also share how I hold the kid’s accountable and different ways I will connect with them over their school work.

That’s all for now!

p.s. one more thing: do you realize how many books I will be reading aloud this year? It is always stunning to me when I see it all written down! So. Fun.

When You Lose Your Baby and Your Fertility At the Same Time

Two years ago, I was pregnant. We found a creative way to announce it to the kids. All of us were thrilled. Our house was already buzzing with five sweet kids and we knew that many people in our life wouldn’t understand. But, we still felt there was one more little Swannie missing from our table.

loss

Morning sickness had kicked in. Around 7 weeks I couldn’t hide my growing bump. The weeks were going by quickly. It was an exciting and scary time, thinking of what it would be to transition to a family of eight.

One night at dinner, we decided to discuss baby names with the kids. After lots and lots of suggestions, our little Cupcake suggested we call the baby “Happy.” We decided we would go with the name Happy, until we were able to find out if we were Team Pink or Team Blue.

Team Happy

The very next day my doctor could not find a heartbeat. I drove home devastated. We gathered the kids and told them their baby Happy was gone. I remember the pathetic little huddle we made on the basement floor. Tears streaming down each of our faces, we told God how hurt we were, entrusting our pain to His care. And then, I don’t remember who it was, maybe it was me, it may have been one of the boys, but we started thanking God. We know that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Each of us thanked Him for knowing better than we did. It wasn’t an easy prayer. It was a prayer of faith. That prayer of faith turned into a time of sorrow filled worship on that cement floor.

A week or so later, on October 1, David and I walked into a hospital, knowing our baby’s body would leave mine. We faced it bravely. We cried when it was over. My doctor held me and cried at my bed side. We went home that night with empty arms. And for me, an empty womb.

loss

We ached for our baby, but life went forward.

As the days slipped into weeks and then months, I started noticing my body doing strange things. My doctors didn’t seem very worried. But six months after our loss I began to bleed, profusely. And it didn’t stop. For an entire month, I just bled and bled. I was sick and miserable. I either called or went to the doctor nearly every single day. The doctors told me it was “normal” for a woman my age and tried to manage the bleeding with medication.

When I began to hemorrhage, we sat down and prayed. As we prayed, both David and I were convinced God was leading us to do something we thought was outrageous. At 6:00 AM, we drove to a closed doctor’s office, 50 minutes from our house, where I was not an established patient. Miraculously, the doctor came in early that morning and though the clinic was closed, he saw me anyway. After an exam, he scheduled emergency surgery. He asked us about our marriage, wrote down each of our kid’s names, and asked about our faith life. Our appointment wrapped up as he prayed for each one of us by name, prayed for my healing, for wisdom for himself as my surgeon, and off to the hospital we went.

After surgery, the next six months followed with the total absence of bleeding…and the presence of one gigantic cyst. Almost a year since we lost our baby, I was back in the hospital, this time having surgery on my remaining ovary. The cyst removed easily, but other complications kept me in the hospital for several days.

Instead of having a baby, we had a year of suffering

The year we thought would end in a full term pregnancy and the care of a newborn looked quite different. We took on over a year of physical suffering. And in the midst of it, lost our fertility. We were going to end our years of reproduction with loss.

In other loses, I always thought, “We can try again soon!” This time it was, “It’s over. My baby is gone and our family is now complete.”

It’s hard for some to understand that losing your fertility after having five kids is a struggle. For me, it was. It was appropriate to mourn both losses for a season. And then there was a time for my grief to come to a close. Here are some things that helped me move toward peace when I had to say goodbye to my baby and my dreams for my family size:

  1. Choosing a thankful heart. I thanked God for the eight pregnancies He has given me. The five children I am blessed to raise are an amazing blessing and gift. There are three children I will get to meet in heaven, who I didn’t get to meet on earth. What a joy it will be to see precious Anna, Sam, and Happy!
  2. Examining my heart. Were pregnancy and childbirth becoming idols in my life? Was I lacking faith that God’s ways were best? It helped to ask some probing questions to come to a place of acceptance of God’s will for my life and our family. Asking God to cleanse me from any sin and give me faith was helpful and good.
  3. If I felt something was missing in our lives, was there something else God wanted to birth in our family? What new focus could I have with my kids that I couldn’t have had our other baby lived, or our fertility had been restored? What new ministry might God want to give us to use our gifts for His glory? How could I move into this new stage of life as a family with joy and purpose?

I sometimes still look at the empty spot at our table. While I no longer envision a baby there…I do see it as symbolic for our family. That empty chair is there to remind us that Christ is always welcome in our home. Our door is open in hospitality to those who need to be loved. It’s a symbol of work to be done. There are plans laid out for us that God has already prepared in advance. When I think of the one who I thought would sit with my little girls, I’m reminded of the future glory which awaits me; where I will worship Jesus with my three little ones who got to rest in His presence before me. Finally, it’s a reminder that God’s ways are not like my ways; but I can trust His ways, for they are best.

Loss is a difficult part of life. If you’ve suffered miscarriage or infant loss, my heart goes out to you. If you are struggling with infertility or the loss of fertility, I’m so sorry. So many questions go unanswered. I do know however, God is good, you can trust Him, and you are loved.

When We Exasperate and Create False Repentance in Our Kids and What to Do About It

When We Exasperate and Create False Repentance in Our Kids and What to Do About It

During a recent car ride, nearly all of my kids were fighting and one girl in particular was displaying extremely unkind behavior to some others. We had been going strong for several days with lots of late nights and we were all tired. Another late night was ahead of us and I was irritated that we were dealing with sibling fighting only three minutes out of the drive way.

Upon my request, David pulled over and so I could give full effect to the guilt trip I was about to deliver. I told the biggest offender that I had no problem turning the car around and sending the rest of the family on the fun outing. She and I would stay home. I watched her eyes fill with tears and heard apologies begin to fly around the van.

You would think I would have felt satisfaction. I didn’t. I slumped over in my seat, disappointed with myself. I’ve been walking the path of freedom and grace in parenting for eight years now and STILL there it was:

exasperate

 

Fast forward to a different day. One of my sons decided to engage in a power play with one of his sisters. I stuck myself in the middle of their controversy. Acting as both judge and jury, I swiftly decided my son was guilty and wanted to make sure he knew it. Not only did I want him to know how displeased I was with his unkindness, I wanted to bring him to sorrowful repentance by using harsh words and a displeased face. There it was again:

exasperate

In the first scenario, I created false repentance from my daughter. She wanted to go to the activity, so she apologized. She wasn’t turning from her sin, she was avoiding consequence. In the second scenario, I disobeyed God and exasperated my son. He hardened his heart toward me. I wasn’t even a part of the original conflict, but now it was all about me! His body language showed me that he was DONE with any instruction from me.

The tragic thing in both of these stories is that I not only sinned against my children, I sinned against my Lord. Ephesians 6:4 clearly spells out my part in the parent~child relationship and I failed.

Do you find yourself failing in this way as well? Do you find yourself controlling your children instead of building godly wisdom? Are you building a culture of true repentance in their hearts? Or demanding a false repentance that bears no lasting fruit? Are you intensely irritating children when their sin makes you feel annoyed or angry? If so, please hear me:

There is hope.

I was angry with my son. However, when I saw I was losing his heart, I became concerned. My need to be right was going to drive him away from any wisdom I might have. A lifetime of these interactions would drive him away from not only me, but God. And then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and told me to take the plank out of my own eye. I was mad at my son for trying to control his sister, while I attempted to control him! Such hypocrisy! I cried out to God for help, a softened heart, and I removed the plank in my eye by humbling myself.

“I need to confess something to you Pal. The way I was talking to you earlier was totally out of line. It’s not the kind of Mom I want to be. It’s not the kind of mom God wants for you. I’m sorry for sinning against you.” He forgave me and I watched his heart soften. We were then able to  discuss his behavior. He apologized to me and told me he had already gone to his sister in repentance.

I went on, “I’m thankful you forgave me. My sin wasn’t against you alone. I sinned against God as well. He has told me in his word not to exasperate you, and I did. Will you pray with me while I confess my sin?”

Moments later, we sat down in a public restaurant with the other kids who had gone in before us. My son silently bowed his head in thanks for his food. After the meal, he stood next to me and tenderly placed his head on mine. Our hearts had come back together. We were restored to each other and to God. And he was able to again receive instruction in the Lord from me.

The BEST of parents mess up from time to time. YOU will sin against our children as I did, but in your own way. We are so, SO fleshly and still being sanctified.

So what do you do about it?

When you fall, turn your hearts to God and admit it! Confess your sin and walk in humility. If you are in need of God’s intervention in your parenting as I am, (and I suspect you are) you will need to do this kind of work, over and over and over and over and over again. But do it! Walk with God! Keep your kid’s hearts!

exasperate

Over time, your do-overs will decrease and your victories will increase!

My sons were in a major battle. One of them slammed a door on the other. David and I heard the kind of yelp that causes panicked middle-aged parents to run as if they are in 5th grade again. As the details unraveled, we saw pride and deceit in the son who slammed the door and caused an injury on the other. My Mama-Bear instinct was strong. I was enraged to see a child of mine had been hurt by another individual’s temper. I was livid to discover I had been lied to on top of it. My instinct was to spew shame filled messages to the perpetrator of the crime.

Thankfully, my muscle-memory kicked in and I knew that I could help my child in his sin without sinning against him. Quickly, I offered up a silent plea for God to give me love, grace, and forbearance. After tending to my hurt son, I walked over to my other son and gently rubbed his back. David and I asked gentle, but pointed questions as to what was going on in his heart. Without excusing his behavior, we were able to communicate: “It’s OK to admit you have done something wrong. Bringing your sin to the light is necessary for healing. You need forgiveness. Our love for you hasn’t changed because of the temper, the pride, or deceit you displayed. And God’s love for you hasn’t changed. In fact, God’s love was demonstrated while you were yet sinning, by giving His son as a sacrifice for you.”

His heart didn’t soften right away.

The boys requested time alone to discuss things with one another. After they talked, they went back to life. Forty-five minutes passed when the son who had hurt the other, came inside, with a sorrowful and contrite spirit. He apologized to his brother for hurting him. The Holy Spirit was able to work in our son’s heart because we hadn’t exasperated him. There was no effort to control him or force a change of heart. True repentance brought forth beautiful fruit from a heart that had been softened by grace.

Let the gospel of grace transform your hearts as you parent. You won’t do this perfectly. But if you humble your hearts and let the God of love and truth guide you, you will be transformed. And his power will begin to change you-and your kids; slowly, beautifully, over time.

 

 

 

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

It’s hard to write a post like the one I’m about to share without including a few stipulations. Yes, there are crazy people in the world who treat women and girls like property. It’s true that many women are called into important, wage earning, professions. Certainly, some women are called to single life. Let’s operate under the assumption that I’m NOT functioning as a voice for the dogmatic stay at home daughter movement. And many, if not most of our daughters will one day marry and have children. Fair enough?

I grew up watching Laura Ingalls, of Little House on the Prairie, dissatisfaction with “just” being at home as a wife and mother. Maggie Seaver of Growing Pains, grabbed her brief case and coffee while kissing her children goodbye as they got themselves ready for school. Claire Huxtable practiced law and brought her skills home to navigate the waters of a large family. I was told repeatedly I could be anything I wanted to be. My list of possibilities was long; teacher, broadcast journalist, advertisement, musician, pastor, missionary, writer, etc.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother. I have no memory discussing this as an option. I remember dreaming of success and goals achieved. Of course marriage and having children was part of the plan, but almost like a side bonus, not, THE DREAM.

What kind of messages have you received about motherhood? Recently, talking to older teens and young adults about their dreams I often hear, “I want to be a teacher, a nurse, a missionary, etc.”

I’ve been gently asking, “Have you ever considered becoming a homemaker?” These young ladies don’t know how to answer a question which has never been posed to them before.

Have the young ladies in your life considered homemaking as a career?

I love the idea of my daughters receiving a solid education, a foundation on which to support themselves, and general development and growth as human beings. There is something I know however, which they do not. I know what it feels like to hold your very own baby in your arms for the first time. I’ve experienced what it is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would give your life’s breath for that baby the instant you lock eyes. I’ve wept the tears of a woman who nursed her baby, not wanting to hand her over to a childcare provider at 12 weeks of age. And I’ve walked the path with numerous women, shedding tears over wanting to stay home with their babies, but set up their lives in such a way that it was financially impossible.

What messages are we giving our sons and daughters about homemaking?

homemaker

Why don’t our girls dream about the passionate pursuit of raising children as a profession? Do we not present it as a glorious option? Is the pull on the world, requiring two incomes to live like those around us, so strong? Do we send our children (boys and girls) into higher education, accumulating unthinkable debt so that staying at home with children is an impossibility? Do those of us who live out the roles of homemaker do so joylessly, making the job unattractive? Is the church building up and valuing the glorious job of mothers raising their babies and children at home?

Sisters in Christ, if you have been called to marriage, motherhood, and homemaking, you have received a high and holy call.

We receive no paycheck or glory and few accolades from the world. Managing our homes however, brings us to a glorious place of storing up treasures in heaven. As we change diapers, scrub toilets, instruct toddlers in the kindness and gentleness of the Lord, organize our cupboards and prepare meals; we have the ability to perform every task as worship unto the Lord. When we creatively prepare a menu on a budget and joyfully serve our family, we are serving Jesus himself.

Teaching our little ones the gospel in our day-to-day interactions, growing them in godliness and discipline is a certain way of doing our part in fulfilling the Great Commission we’ve received from the Lord Jesus. Impossible questions need to be answered, world-views need to be shaped. Boo-boo’s need to be tended to with great wisdom. And our husbands need our love and attention as well. All of this takes great skill, devotion, and selflessness.

I don’t know that we will turn the tide, making the High Call of Motherhood and Homemaking, into a longed for profession in our culture. But we can do an amazing job of showing the beauty of it in our homes. We can do our job with excellence. Join me in challenging our daughters with our devotion to the home and the Lord.

Let’s challenge them with our words as well.

We can speak highly of our job as homemaker. When we talk about our daughter’s futures, when we talk about Jesus command to “store up treasure in heaven,” include the career of motherhood as a path for them to consider as a worthy call. I don’t have my daughter’s lives mapped out for them. That is between my daughters and the Lord. I do desire, when they think of the future, to realize that jobs with titles, advancement, and paychecks aren’t the only career paths to consider. Homemaking doesn’t need to be an after thought. It’s a worthy, lovely, worthwhile career they can be proud in wanting to pursue. Let’s give our girls the dream of raising a family for Jesus.

My Three Year Old Lied to Me…And I Taught Her a Lesson

My Three Year Old Lied to Me…And I Taught Her a Lesson

We sat reading books, when I looked over at Cupcake’s shelf and saw a Lego sitting by her clay doll figures. It was a cute teddy bear looking Lego I had never seen before. Curious, I asked, “Is that a Lego?”

Her face scrunched up with guilt, she broke eye contact and said, “No. It’s just a cute thing I found.” I knew she was lying. “Connected family” thoughts immediately raced through my head. I knew her lying was creativity gone awry. I knew I didn’t want any further interactions to continue to lead her down a path of dishonesty. But I also suspected there was another purpose for this interaction.

I simply said, “I’ve never seen that little Lego before.”

three year old lied

 

Her face was racked with guilt as she quickly replied, “I saw it in Ode’s room when he was sick. His eyes were closed, so it was OK I took it. I’ll give it back.”

It was at that moment the Holy Spirit brought to mind several small conversations little Cupcake and I have had over the past 15 months. When Cupcake was two, we brought her to a vividly descriptive Good Friday service. Ever since, the cross, Jesus, and sin have often been on her mind. Last week at bed time, she articulated that she loved Jesus because he died on the cross for her sin. I asked her what sin.

“Lots of sins. Hitting, scratching, pinching. Plus, He rose from the grass.” Laughingly she asked,  “Is it funny I said, rose from the grass? Wanna hear me toot?” Despite the jokes and the flatulence, I knew God was at work. Recently, while shopping, she picked out a cross wall-hanging from a store and said, “Let’s buy this Mommy, because Jesus died on the cross for my sin and yours.”

I glanced back at the little teddy bear Lego. There were some choices to make. I could let this go. She’s little after all. And she had already mentioned she should give the bear back. On the other hand, maybe I should make a big deal out of how she lied to me. She needs to learn lying is awful!

A still, small, quiet voice was telling me there was something more for her.

I gently held Cupcake’s sweet face in my hands and: “Sweetie, when I asked you if that bear was a Lego and you said no, do you know what you were doing?” She shook her head no. “It’s called lying. Lying is a sin baby. When you told me you took that Lego from your brother’s room without him knowing, do you know what you did?”

Smilingly she answered, “Yeah. I just played with it.”

I gently responded, “No sweetie. You stole it. Stealing is sin. What does the Bible say about sin?”

She grinned and in a sing-song voice replied, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

“That’s right,” I agreed. So you lied and you stole and that was sin. Her laughing eyes sobered. “The Bible also tells us, “The wages of sin is death. Did you know that? Do you understand when you tell me that Jesus died for your sins, He died for sins like stealing and lying about little Lego bears?” Her eyes were serious and sad. I went on…

“We also know that God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. This means that even though you’ve sinned against Him, God loved you enough to give you His son. Jesus never sinned. He was total perfection. And His death means that when you believe in Him, trust Him and not your own goodness, you will be forgiven.”

Then I asked her the golden question, “If you stop lying and stealing, will that make God love you more?” Grinning and smiling she said, “YES!”

I quickly and quietly said, “No. It doesn’t. God doesn’t love you based on what you’ve done. His love for you is based on what Jesus did for you on the cross. You can’t ever be good enough to earn God’s love.”

You can’t ever be good enough to earn God’s love.

At this point she snuggled in and said, “Let’s read a Little People book.” I hugged her and we picked out a great big one with lots of lift the flaps. As we counted monkeys in the Little People Zoo and laughed at the purple hippopotamus with a red bird on his teeth, I silently prayed. I thanked God for the opportunity to share the truth of the gospel with this child of mine, and that we don’t have to clean up before Him to gain his approval. I thanked Him for the cross and prayed Cupcake would submit to His final work on it, and soon.

There are gospel opportunities at every point in our days moms and dads. Don’t miss them. I don’t want “good kids.” I want kids who know they aren’t good on their own. I want surrendered kids. Kids whose hearts are fully submitted to the cross are kids with changed hearts. Don’t for a minute think the gospel isn’t for little ones. Let your little ones come onto Him and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.