Monthly Archives: May 2011

Note To Self…

A year or two ago I was in Chuck E. Cheese’s and had a moment.

My kids are way past the target age-range for Chuck E. Cheese, but on this day, we were entertaining someone else’s little one who was exactly the target age.

(May I say that I am not a natural babysitter?  Even as a teenager, I didn’t like it.  I did it, but even then, felt out of my element.  If you ask me to watch your kids, I’ll probably do it…but we’ll most likely end up at a place like Chuck E. Cheese where there’s lots to entertain the little people.)

At the “moment” moment, the child we were watching was off with one of my kids climbing through tunnels or riding a mini carousel, and I was sitting at one of their booths doing some prep work for school.

It wasn’t long before I was distracted by a sweet little toddler and her mama walking through the maze of video games.  I could see on this mama’s face a large measure of angst and stress.  I have no idea what was presently causing that, or even if everyone else could see it.  It might’ve just been the spiritual eyes I had at that moment to see past her countenance and into her heart.

At any rate, within moments of recognizing the weight that this mama was carrying, I was taken back in time about 15 years when I was that lady, chasing my toddler through the light and sounds of the entertainment zone.  I was the one following my gorgeous little girl as she explored and played.  And I was the one who, in the midst of a relaxed, playful moment, had worry and angst on my face.

There have been very few moments in my life where the past has played back to me like a movie, but this was one of those times.

There I was, present 40 year old me, watching my 20 year old self follow my little one around.  I saw the strain of the future on my face.  I could read the insecurities, the pressure, the doubt, and fretting, right alongside of the joy and amazement that I was carrying.

I wanted to take my 20 year old self by the shoulders, get her to look me straight in the eyes, and tell myself that no amount of worry, strain, or fretting was going to change the outcome of my little girl’s life.  In fact, releasing those things would allow both she and I to enjoy the moment in a much richer fashion.

I wanted to point out to her that the little one she was following was across the room as a beautiful grown lady, full of great character, love and grace. I wanted to tell her what a great job she was doing.   I wanted to tell her that the lovely young lady that we were talking about didn’t evolve because she, as a parent, had done everything perfectly or had disciplined just the right way, or had read enough to her, or had her memorize enough scripture, or got her in the right dance classes or Spanish classes, etc.  That little toddler grew into a godly young woman because of God’s grace, and because her dad and I had loved her well.

I wanted to tell my 20 year old self to relax.  To stop and enjoy, thoroughly roll in, stretch out in, and live in each moment.  I wanted to tell her to pray more, and off-load her worries on Him.  I wanted to tell her to play more – to be spontaneous and quick to laugh.  I wanted to tell her that the little phases of disobedience, forgetfulness, disrespectfulness, etc that her kids would go through were healthy, normal and temporary, and not to spend so much energy fighting to maintain control of the situation.

In short, I wanted to share all of my experience, perspective and lessons learned of the past 20 years with her so that her path may be a little easier, but for sure, more enjoyable.  I think there is a book in that moment for me to write at some time.

But for now, I want to pass on the gift of perspective.  Whatever stage you’re in right now, there will be a 20 year older self from the future wanting to send some messages to you.  Messages of calming, messages of warning, messages of help.  See if you can tap into those today.


Filed under Family and faith, Parenting

Serene Saturdays #17

This last weekend was my girls’ spring dance performance.  They both did such a lovely job.

For my eldest, it was her last performance to be danced with her studio.  I recognize that I’ll see her dance again (she’s going to be a dance major in college), but not as a little girl living in my home dancing in my city.

While the performance was amazing, it was hard not to sit through the whole thing crying.  It was such an emotional moment for me, considering that I’ve spent the greater part of my life as a parent investing in her dancing – endless drives to and from classes, countless pairs of ballet shoes and pointe shoes, so many drives to and from rehearsals, many leotards and tights purchased, never-ending transports to dress rehearsals, and always anticipated performances.  Not to mention a culture of dance that she created in our home, both by dancing everywhere she goes and by introducing dance videos and dance shows to all of us.

It is only with great effort that I’m able to partition off the emotional places in my heart to be able to emote with her on her level, shut it off when I need to be strong, and at other times give in to the honesty of what I’m feeling.

Gratitude has been the backbone of this process.  I am a stronger and more honest person when I begin from a place of gratitude.  Therefore, this week I am thankful for:

*  Being able to attend an amazing dance performance.

*  My husband being able to attend a much-needed retreat.

*  Having a backyard full of containers of vegetable plants.

*  Getting to go to a Chicago concert!!!


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A Violent City

I learned yesterday that the city in which I live ranks in the top 5 cities in the nation for the most violent.  Not a distinction that was actively pursued, nor one that will be heralded in the promotional materials for the city.  However, also not a surprise.  We live here and are accustomed to the violence.

Well, that’s not exactly true.  Since we are used to the violence, we tend to forget that every place isn’t like this.  So the ranking did come as a surprise simply because, for all of the places that you might imagine are the most violent, odds are, we surpassed them.  That is shocking.

Growing up in rural Nebraska, never did I imagine that I would ever live in a city with this distinction.  However, I also didn’t imagine myself being married to such an adventurer, a visionary, a man committed to social justice, and a man in love with the urban setting.   We moved here 6 years ago to use this urban setting as a backdrop to experiment with unique ways of bringing people together, and to see how much more can be accomplished with collaboration as opposed to isolation.

So how do you alleviate social injustices and calm the violence in a city?  I can only tell you what we are attempting to accomplish.  We own (using the word “own” very loosely, because we are in partnership with another great guy, and the business tends to own us sometimes…) a business that brings entrepreneurs and non-profit directors together in a co-working environment, with the vision that collaboration will occur as people work in close proximity to each other.

In our little microcosm of the city, it is doing just that.  It astounds me that people who are used to working by themselves, and in an American culture that tends to hold their ideas and products close to their chests, these innovators willingly share their inspirations and enthusiastically collaborate with others on their ideas.  Daily, people who are the tops in their field sit down with others in completely unrelated ventures to brainstorm, dream, problem-solve, and contribute into each other’s interests.

It is kind of like how church should be.  And my husband, who was a pastor for 15+ years, is completely in his element.

Anyway, our joy is to see that these visionaries, with passion for social change and great innovations to implement these changes, are landing their ideas in the city and are making movement towards social transformation.

Obviously, it is a slow process, but I truly believe that we are doing our little part in influencing those who will eventually influence the city that we love.

And for those of you who were considering coming to visit us, don’t let this news deter you!  With God’s protection and grace, we are completely safe and are making great headway towards peace and reconciliation!   🙂


Filed under General thoughts

OK – But What About Socialization?

I have been homeschooling my kids for 13 years.  As each child has come along and reached school age, I have added them to my classroom.  I have four children that I educate, and I am about to graduate my first (sigh…).

Having sited those statistics, I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked about socialization.  The conversation typically goes something like this:

“Where do your kids go to school?”
“I homeschool them.”
– insert various responses, such as:
* I wish I had the education/time/patience to do that.
* Are you with a religious organization?
* Do you have a degree in education?
* What resources do you use?

Regardless of what direction the conversation takes, it inevitably leads to the next question –
* “OK.  But what about socialization?”

At this point, I want to express that I certainly don’t believe that I have all the answers, or that I believe that my choice to homeschool is going to make my children moral or more socially superior than someone else’s kids.   Simply being homeschooled doesn’t scrape all of the sin off of my family – only our trust in Jesus can do that.  But I do feel very comfortable both with my philosophy about homeschooling and socialization and I felt it would be worthwhile to share some of my thoughts on this topic.

First of all, I do want my kids socialized; however, my definition of what socialization is might be different from others.  To me, socialization of a child is not merely having a social life.  Socialization is developing social skills that will enable the child to interact appropriately in different real life situations.

I believe that life is much more like the grocery store than school.  What I mean is that the situation set up by a typical public school is that kids are only with others of their same age.   And yet in society, school is the only place that this scenario plays out. Life is much more like the grocery store, where people from all ages mingle and interact. Regardless of what they chose to do in life, kids will have to interact with a wide variety of ages.

I want my kids to be able to relate to someone of their peer group, someone 50 years older than themselves, and someone 10 years younger than themselves with equal grace, dignity, articulation, and respect.

Second of all, I want my kids to learn how to socialize from someone other than their peers.  Why would I want a 5 year old to learn how to be 5 from other 5 year olds?  Why would I want a 15 year old to learn how to be his/her age from other 15 year olds?  I want my kids to learn how to be human, social, and good citizens from others with more experience and perspective.  I want my kids to have deeper character than the stereotypical teenager, and I want them to have more varied interests than simply what pop culture suggests.

While there is plenty of pop culture in our home (we all sing with gusto the top 10 music songs and can converse fluently in Survivor, American Idol, and The Mentalist), I also hope that my kids are getting a heavier amount of influence from their father and me than from the latest The Apprentice cast-off.   I hope that they learn more about how to handle themselves in diverse situations from me than from the Disney Channel TV stars, from Lady Gaga, or from the kids in the innercity neighborhood in which we live.

Thirdly, there are numerous activities in which my kids participate that provide them interaction with their non-homeschooled counterparts.  They participate in them for reasons other than socialization, but spending time observing and interacting with their peers is a side benefit.  Both of my daughters are heavily involved in dance, and my sons are avid Boy Scouters.  They all also go to youth groups at a local church, and some volunteer with various non-profits in town (WyldLife and Love 146).

I believe that school is a socially artificial environment, and that I am able, as a homeschool parent, to provide real life experiences for my kids.

I believe that, if we want our children to learn how to interact with others, we have to train them.

They must be taught that they should sometimes take the lead and sometimes give others the opportunity.  They have to be exposed to all different kinds of personalities and learn how to gracefully work with each.

And I believe that I have the greatest opportunity to educate my kids in these issues  – right alongside History, English, Math, etc.

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Serene Saturdays #16

This morning was my favorite non-holiday day of the year:  the Common Ground Seedling Sale!  For those of you out-of-towners, Common Ground is a local high school that specializes in all things rural.  Besides animals/weather/outdoor activity training that they do, they grow heirloom/hybrid plants from seed.  Once a year they open their acreage to sell them to the public.  It is always my fall-back plan after planting my own heirloom seeds (that haven’t ever taken off).  I plan what produce I would like, and then go there to stock my garden.

This year, for whatever miracle befell my plants, I went to the sale needing much less.  I have more than enough tomato, leek and pepper plants that I have grown from seed; however, I was able to purchase several cherry tomato plants, a few cucumber plants, cilantro and mint plants, and a couple specialty tomato plants.  I can’t wait to get them in their containers and see what reaping we will do in the summer!

I think the reason I love this process so much is the potential is brings.  Potential for variety of foods.  Potential for fresh vegetables.  Potential for saving a lot of money from our food budget in a few months.  Potential for watching things grow and change.

This week I am thankful for:

*  A new computer (a Mac) that amazing friends of mine from college bought me.  Thanks so much, guys!

* My son’s 16th birthday.  I love, love being his mom.

* Getting to celebrate this week that my husband and I have remained in love for 22 years.

*  Getting together with a dear friend to process our eldest daughters going off to college in the fall.

* New seedling plants waiting to bring life to our family.

I pray that your weekend fills you with anticipation for your coming week, and that you can see the potential in what is around the bend.

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Our Family Ways (4)

(This is where I was sitting when I wrote this post.  Beautiful weather in a beautiful surrounding.  Have I said that I love New England in the spring?)

We listen to correction and accept discipline with a submissive spirit.

Hebrews 12:11  “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

A couple of weeks ago, my kids had a really tough week.  Something got in their britches and caused them to move in their weaknesses instead of their strengths.  What that meant was that they were at each other’s throats.  I don’t mean occasionally – I mean for the whole day, for several days.

Finally, when I came to the end of my patience and creativity, I sat them all down.  We had a heart-to-heart talk about what they thought was the cause of their strife.  For each of them it was something different:  tired, nothing to look forward to, agitated by the strife around them, etc.

For each of these excuses, I totally understand.  I heard someone say once that there are no bad kids or husbands – they’re just tired or hungry.  No one is at their best when they’re bored, tired, or hungry.   I get that.  However, to take a personal issue and allow it, with no filters, to give you an excuse to hurt those around you is not OK.  I don’t care how bored, tired, or hungry you are.

So we continued our talk around the subject of obedience.  I read to them from a book that one of my kids is using as her character book, because there is a great chapter in there on obedience.  The subject was defined very clearly, given scriptural references to back it up, and specifically and yet gently talked about the consequences for not establishing a habit of obedience in your life.

In short, I corrected them.  I redirected their hearts and actions.  I called for them to make course changes in their behavior.

And you know what?  They did it!  They listened to my correction submissively, yet actively participating, and made corrections.  Immediately, my eldest called a “kid meeting”.  They convened together upstairs while I made lunch for us, and they agreed to participate in a book study/Bible study daily, led by themselves.  They picked a topic, agreed upon it (when they hadn’t agreed upon anything in over a week!) and committed to work on their responses to me and to each other.

The next day, they got up before school, and I found them on the couch reading from a book, praying together, and having an honest discussion.


From the Clarkson’s book, 24 Family Ways, there are many suggestions for how to teach this.  We asked several of the listed questions to get conversation around the topic started:

Why should an athlete follow his coach’s instructions and advice?  What would happen if he/she didn’t?

How would you train a new puppy to follow your commands?

What are some things you really don’t like to do, but when you make yourself do them, you like what you are able to do?

What would your life be like if you never received instruction from your parents?

This family way has been invaluable to us.  It is a constant reminder that we will always have obedience to deal with and correction to submit to.

(My view while writing this post – a lovely New England church. )

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Another 16 Year Old in this World

Yesterday was my elder son’s birthday.  He turned 16.  It is the age that most parents of little ones dread, and the age that makes parents of teenagers moan. The middle of the teen years.  On the cusp of getting his driver’s license…

But my son is spectacular.  Words couldn’t do justice to how much I respect and love this kid.  He is truly a beautiful person.

There are few people on this earth that I’d rather be with than him.  He knows how to make everyone feel comfortable, and part of that will probably include making those around him laugh.  He is hilarious, spontaneous, and genuinely entertaining.  Nothing about him is forced – he just is naturally funny.

But he also is warm, kind, and creative.  He is the one in our family that always has no money, but only because he is so, so generous.  If money gets in his hand, his only thought is of to whom it should go.

And he loves to celebrate others.  He is the one who can be found standing on top of a chair creatively and intricately hanging streamers to celebrate someone else’s accomplishment or birthday.  When my eldest daughter took the SATs – just took them, not having received her scores yet – he orchestrated a family party for her because he knew how nervous she had been.  He always seems to notice those who need or deserve celebrating.

He volunteers with a nonprofit organization called WyldLife, the middle school version of Young Life.  Through this volunteer work, he connects with middle school kids from our innercity neighborhood, modeling and expressing God’s love.   He facilitates play/relational time, listens to their stories, and tries to create a safe place for them to be understood.   All on his own.  We didn’t make this connection for him, nor do we attend or participate in the organization.  He does it out of a love for the kids and a belief that he has something to offer – which he does.

He is detail oriented, logically thinking of the steps it will take to get from point A to point B, and he has the patience to get there.  He breathes math like it is oxygen, and can solve most equations, without effort – often times not knowing how he got the correct answer.

However, he also is amazingly creative.   He is an artist who loves photography and computer graphics.

(Taking his sister’s senior picture.)

I love being able to say that I’m his mom.  For all of the mistakes that I’ve made and for all of the quirks that I have as a parent and as a human being, I sit back in awe and recognize that he turned out beautiful in spite of me.   I can’t WAIT to see where his life takes him.  I just hope that, wherever it does, it keeps him near to me.  I am a better person because of his influence in my life.

Happy birthday, buddy!


Filed under Family and faith, General thoughts

Serene Saturdays #15

What a crazy day this has been!  We have two different house guests (one is from England and the other is my daughter’s friend), and we invested a huge amount of time and sweat-energy in my husband’s business expansion.  My husband, the boys and I spent the entire morning and early afternoon painting and carrying away construction debris, while my girls spent the entire day at a dance rehearsal for an upcoming performance.  The evening is just settling on us, and we all have sore bodies.

One delight is, and has been, my growing garden.  This week, I transplanted my leeks, strawberries and zucchini plants.  My tomatoes and peppers are ready to be transplanted, but the weather isn’t cooperating for them to be outdoors just yet.

My sweet neighbor girl just asked me why I’m taking pictures of my plants.
“After all,” she said, “they’re just plants!

What she doesn’t realize and appreciate is the fact that  I’ve NEVER been able to grow plants from seed!  These have developed so beautifully, and because I was able to begin with seed, I was able to pick out just the right kind of variety to experiment with.  I can’t WAIT to see what these produce for our family!

And then, of course, there are the lilacs.  They are in full bloom and are sharing their amazing scent with our backyard.  I  find myself out there often just sniffing – knowing that their life is short-lived and will soon be in the past.

This week I am thankful for:

– The smell of freshly cut grass.

– Walls newly coated with paint.

– The potential in healthy vegetable plants.

– Being able to completely rely on our new business accountant, and knowing that she overwhelmingly has our back.  (And she is volunteering her time for our business!)

– Lilacs, lilacs, lilacs, lilacs…

Have a great weekend!


Filed under Weekends

Senior Pictures

This last week, my elder son and daughter and I spent some time taking some senior pictures of my daughter.  They weren’t professional, or even really creative, but we can’t afford to have them done as they should be done at this point in time.  And while we might get some professionally done later, I wanted to capture who she is during this season with a backdrop of some of the remaining spring flowers.

What was really funny is that my elder son brought his camera, too, and we fought for “the great shot”!  Even for all of my protesting that we didn’t need to get the same pose/backdrop on two different cameras, he is 6′ 2″, and he simply stood over me and snapped the same shot that I was taking, the whole time with a sweet and silly grin on his face.

We laughed and laughed the whole time.  We laughed at the blooper pictures.  We laughed at the backdrop blunders.  We laughed at the creative, silly poses that they chose.  It was such a memory spontaneously captured.  And we had a blast coming home and looking at all of the silliness that we created.

Here are some of the outtakes – the shots the captured the fun that we had.

And for a little disturbing one…

And lest you think we took absolutely no serious shots…

I’ll post more “serious” shots later.  I just thought I’d use this as a back drop to display some of our photo fun.  Hope you enjoyed jumping into our world for a moment.


Filed under Family and faith

Our Family Ways (3)

Our 24 Family Ways is a book that my family uses to chart a path for our thoughts and behavior toward authorities, relationships, possessions, work, attitudes, and choices.  It has served as a guide for me as I attempt to develop good character in them.

We are on the third family way.  It is:

We honor and obey our parents with a respectful attitude.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  ‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘that is may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'”
Ephesians 6:1-3 (NIV)

This passage in Ephesians is quoting the 5th Commandment, found in Exodus 20:12.

To honor parents means to esteem and value them highly.  The first way to accomplish this, as the above passage begins, is to obey them.   It is both an external action and an internal attitude if it is truly  “…in the Lord.”

“Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.”
Colossians 3:20

Children honor their parents by listening to their advice and obeying their instruction.

“My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they wil be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains around your neck.”  Proverbs 1:8 – 9

When we review this instruction in regards to authorities in our family, I ask a few of the following questions to start discussions:

*What things do others do that honor you?
*If you were a daddy, what advice would you give your son about growing up?
*What traits do you see in your mom/dad that you respect?
*If you are told to clean your room today, what are the different ways you could respond that are obedient?
*What would our family be like if everyone was equal in authority?
*Which authorities do you submit to regularly in your life?  Why?

While it may feel a little self-serving to remind your kids to honor you, it is really for their benefit.  If they learn to honor you, they will be more likely to honor others in authority, such as bosses, policemen, professors, the elderly, etc.

And this commandment’s teaching should begin with relationship with your kids, compassion towards what they’re going through, and a commitment to obedience from the very beginning.  Parents who try to beat their rebellious children into submission by quoting this scripture to them will be as successful as they would be trying to steer their car by honking their horns.

In Biblical times, honor was only given to people – not to things.  Not to paintings, buildings, ideas, theater, beauty, etc.

As you raise your kids to honor you, remember to model this precept by giving honor to others around you.

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