Tag Archives: parenting

20 Things My Kids Should Know About Me (and maybe already do…)

My kids have a friend in CT whose dad just suddenly died of a heart attack – no warning, just gone.  It made me think about what I’d like to have made known to my kids if something happened to me.  I’m not sure I can get through this post without crying, but I think it is important to have thought through the things that are critical to me to have passed on, as well as to leave them with a smile on their face as they remember my silliness, too.  You are welcome to look in on this conversation, but you’ll have to excuse the personal nature of my post today as it will be addressed to my 4 amazing kids.

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1. I am WAY more health conscious than I live in reality.  My self-control doesn’t equal my passion for all things healthy.  I hope that I have passed on the knowledge and the passion for what great nutrition can do for your life in spite of the fact that I have fallen so short of implementing these beliefs.

2. On the flip side, I hate to exercise.  Really hate it.  If I get out and actually do it, it is because of sheer belief in it rather than passion for it.  However, in my mind, I am a marathon runner.  What does that say about me?!?

3. Without the socialization of your father, I would not be the person that I am.  His influence has allowed me to keep pace with his endless relational energy, and to be able to communicate to others that I really care and am approachable.

4. What I hear myself saying all of the time is, “That’s good enough,” and yet I really don’t like that about myself.  I wish that I had higher standards.

5.  I feel really confident in 4 things:  parenting, homeschooling, creating memories, and communicating tough concepts. That doesn’t mean I’m really good at them…I just have done them enough that I feel confident in my role.

6. One of the reasons that I feel confident about parenting is because right after I had my first baby, I attached myself to someone who had raised kids that I respected.  I sucked her dry of all of her wisdom and insight.  One of the best things I’ve ever done, and I highly recommend you to do the same when the time comes.

7. If I had more money, besides being radically generous with you kids and with others, I’d dress a lot differently.  My wardrobe reflects that “…it is good enough…” attitude.  If I knew that everyone’s needs/wishes were met, I imagine that I’d have fun picking out a wardrobe that reflects more of my tastes than it reflects being frugal.

8. I have learned to control my external emotions; however, while you don’t see me cry very often, I am really extremely emotional.  There are dozens of times a week that tears come to the surface, only to have me push them down.  It kind of scares me how deeply I feel.

9. You guys know this…I just think it would make you smile to remember if I wasn’t around: I get completely grossed out by watching someone else brush their teeth.  Truth be told, I get grossed out when I brush my own teeth.  Of course I brush, but I consider it a success if I get through the experience without gagging.  It is so bad that I brush  my teeth while I’m in the shower…with my eyes closed. (I am even getting queasy thinking about it as I write…).

10. I want so desperately for you guys to be great best friends.  I imagine (a lot more than you would think) days in the future when we all get together and completely enjoy being in each other’s company.  It is one of my favorite daydreams.

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11. I’ve decided that I don’t hate cooking – I just would like it more if I had all of the latest gadgets, the best laid-out kitchen, and the most exotic ingredients. I don’t like having to try to make the same old things taste different every evening.  I’m not very good at that.

12. Nature is a gift to me, and I  am always imagining how to craft our day so that we can be outside.  Having lots of open space helps me think, process and breathe easier.

13.  I am a really good typist.  In fact, if you watch closely during conversations, I often type what is being said.  Subtly, so that no one notices…because that would be really weird to type what people were saying, wouldn’t it? I am also a great speller, but my secret is that I have to type the word to know how they’re spelled.  If you ask me how to spell something, watch closely, because my fingers are moving to help me “visualize” how the word is spelled.

14.  My definition of happiness includes a lot, but the highlights are:  a slight breeze on a 75 degree day on the beach of the ocean, having what I need when I need it, a good book and a fire place, and hearing you guys laugh and having fun together.

15.  I am terribly nostalgic, but I don’t get to indulge in that because it makes me emotional.  And we now know how I feel about showing emotions, huh?

16.  One of the things truly puzzles and grieves me is that I have very few clear memories from my past: childhood, high school, or college.  That is one reason why I scrapbook and intentionally create memories with you guys.  I get to capture memories I want to hold on to, and capture memories I hope that you can remember.

17. There are few things more satisfying to me than editing.  I love the order of it, and how things “magically” jump out at me that are grammatically wrong, or that could simply be said better.  I do, however, have to be careful not to be critical of bad editing in public.  I can be so snarky when I see billboards, signs, or publications that have poor grammar or misspellings.

18. Gardening scratches two itches of mine:  being outside and being productive.  I spend time scheming in my mind how I’ll be able to fit in more veggies and containers in the backyard (and the side of the house, and the front yard, and the neighbors’ yards…).  The process of planting and seeing things grow is only eclipsed by preparing meals from food that I’ve grown.

19. I love your dad deeply, and believe that our commitment and enjoyment of each other makes you guys all the stronger and happier.  Loving him is the best way I can love you guys, and I have worked tirelessly to be able to honestly say that I love him with all of my heart and I am so happy that I married him.

20.  I am unbelievably proud of each of you.  I don’t deserve credit for how great you guys are.  I’m not patient enough.  I’m not creative enough.  I’m not godly enough.  I’m not wise enough.  And yet, He loves me enough that He gave me you.  Mind blowing.  My heart is full with gratitude that I get to be your mom.

Me

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Filed under Family and faith, General thoughts, Memory Archiving, Parenting

Strategies for Dealing with Clutter (or How to Live with a Keeper)

I am not a keeper.  I don’t like clutter, and I don’t function well when things are in chaos around me.  For all of the facets of personality and preference in which my husband and I are opposites, this is one upon which we both agree. We aren’t into knick-knacks, pointless decorations, or clutter.  That isn’t to say that those who like things around them are wrong – it just isn’t my preference.

I believe that, for all of the things that are passed on to our children by them simply observing us, this trait isn’t one of them. I think that we naturally come to either enjoy things being around us, or we don’t.  Or, we choose to keep things around us for different reasons other than having seen it modeled.

I can say this because somewhere along the journey of raising my children, I realized that I inadvertently raised a keeper.  I have a child who places value on keeping a memento as a way of keeping a memory.  She collects things while she collects memories. The objects have emotions filed with them – for her, the two go hand in hand.

I also have Goodwilled/thrown away/garage saled (garage sold?) way too many precious items. To this day, my littlest (who is 13) talks about a doll that was sold when she was 5.  Still.  To.  This.  Day.  And each time, I find myself trying to keep my head above a tsunami of guilt.

My struggle as a parent is the balance of giving grace and room for each of my kids to be completely themselves, while teaching them good organizational skills and keeping our home a place of peace for those of us in the family who are not keepers.

My mom is an example in this for me.  She keeps things – maybe not as a memory keeping tool like my daughter, but to always be ready for anything. For years, she and my dad directed high school plays in a rural school that didn’t have a budget for props or costumes.  Being a gifted seamstress, she took the costumes on herself, using any fabric on hand, from toss-away scraps to some of my (and my sister’s) high school clothes.  It became a strategic practice for her to keep anything and everything, because you just never knew when it might be needed to make the perfect prop or costume.

For years, every time I came home to visit, I was driven to purge and organize her stuff.  I got matching cardboard boxes, I got file cabinets, every organizational supply you can imagine, and went to town on her collection.

Over time I began to realize that she really knew where everything was, even in the midst of seeming chaos.  Somehow, the clutter and disorder actually held a specific code that she knew how to decipher.  Eventually I quit trying to “help” her, and relaxed in the comfort of her system.

With that delicate balance in mind, I have a few suggestions on how to help those of you who are raising keepers.

*  Be intentional about having a conversation with your kids about organizational skills.  Don’t assume that just because they live with you, they’re getting your skills.  Teach them how to approach a cleaning job.  Teach them to be systematic (start on one side of the room and work your way around) and how to be detailed.

*  On a regular basis, schedule time with your kids to purge.  Encourage your kids to evaluate their possessions as to whether or not they still hold value.  Teach them how to make decisions as to whether an item is a keep/sell/give away object.  Note of caution:  Be extremely sensitive in this process.  Don’t rush or push, threaten or bribe.  This is a very personal decision.

*  Put a rule in place that nothing can be added until something is removed. Unless you have endless space, just for practicality, something must be removed if an item is being added.

*  Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends to NOT give your kids stuffed animals.  We found that these took up so much room.  It isn’t that we are anti-stuffed animals entirely, but they become the go-to gift when someone is a unsure as to what to give a child, and eventually, their rooms will become overrun with bears, dogs, penguins, zebras, etc.

*  If at all possible, give your child their own space – either their own room, or a drawer, closet, or box, in which they can keep to their heart’s content.

I also recognize that there are some adults who are keepers.  If you have unlimited space, if your roommate or spouse is completely fine with having lots of objects around them, or if your keeping hasn’t gotten out of control, then don’t worry about it.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having stuff.

But, if you feel like your habits are infringing on those with whom you live, or if you feel like your collecting has gotten out of hand, then maybe some of the things I mentioned will help.  I hope so!

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You Are Valuable


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Do we know our value?  Do we know how much people need us?

Often I am so busy trying to be the accomplished one, the one in charge, the self-sustained one.  I think I’m doing it for so many altruistic reasons:  so that I can free up my husband to touch the world, so that I’m not a burden on anyone, so that my family is proud of me, etc.

I recognize that there are so many things wrong with this train of thought, and yet it is the thought process that I knee-jerk back to if I don’t intentionally steer my heart in the right direction.

When the quiet descends, my mind floats back to reality, and I reach the end of myself (which is the place where I truly see clearly), I have to confess that I’m not doing so well and that I have big gaping desires that are going unfulfilled.  And when those desires are silenced, so is my voice.  When my voice is silenced, then people who are waiting for my contribution are left hanging.  I recognize that, while the world doesn’t hinge on my being present, I do have a valuable contribution to make that others are waiting for.  We all do.

I have come to the conclusion that, if I am to accomplish the desires of my heart, I have to reorganize and shift my priorities around.

Since the beginning of the year, I have lost 20 pounds.  It didn’t happen because my body just simply decided to drop some unneeded weight.  The weight dropped off because I shifted my priorities.  It became more important to me to feel better, make myself healthier, and to look better, than to reinforce the habits that I’d been living by.

I figured that if I had let the immediate pressures of the day lie to me about how valuable my contribution was, then maybe those around me might have as well.  I recently wrote a letter to my husband.  Included in the letter were these words:

“What I want you to hear is that your time is highly valued to us.  We are sustained by your creativity, leadership and counsel.  We need you to steward us.  The kids and I have dreams that we can’t accomplish without you.  I’d love to say that we are fine so that you can turn your attention to the development of other things, but we’re not…we need continued development.

Your love, attention and time is so priceless.  It is the most valuable gift that I have.  I see the kids come to life when they receive it.  I see their hearts open wide when the possibility of receiving it is near.  If we’ve ever made you feel that you weren’t an intrigal, necessary, life-giving part of who we are as a family, then I apologize.  Deeply.  As the Lorax spoke for the trees, I speak on behalf of the kids and say that we need you.  Desperately.”

At the beginning of this year, my eldest and I created what I called Vision Boards. We grabbed magazines and began cutting out words, captions, or pictures that represented our hopes and goals for the new year.  When we had a table full of cuttings, we grabbed our glue and attached them to poster board.  What came out of this is a tangible reminder to me of what I am hoping for, what goals I have, and who I want to be this year.  It reminds me that I can’t get lost in the daily pressures and end up forgetting who I want to be.

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I share that with you also to remind you that you, your giftings, your voice, your contribution, are valuable.  Make the changes necessary to prioritize your dreams.  We all need your voice.

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Saying Goodbye

When we left Dallas years ago, one of our last events was to take our family to a spot in the city that overlooked downtown and thank  God for all of the favor He had given us during our time there.  Our children had been born there, we had matured through most of our 20s and 30s there, and had seen an enormous amount of blessing and love come.

When we arrived in the northeast, one of the first things we did was to take our family up to the highest spot in town and ask God to give us the favor and blessing that we’d seen in Dallas.  We knew nothing would be accomplished if He wasn’t guiding and touching our efforts, and we committed ourselves and our adventure in the northeast into His hands.

So as we decided to move from New Haven, we returned to that city-overlook to thank God for all of the amazing favor we had received.

Seriously, this was the sky on that day.

Having been in Dallas now 6 weeks, I see daily how much my time in New Haven changed me and my family.  I am eternally grateful for the years that God allowed us to be there.  They sure weren’t easy, but times of growth and change rarely are…

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Life Transitions

Our lives never stagnate.  We either are going forward or backwards – even if we feel that we’re staying in one place.

Recent milestones:

This morning, I drove my 17 year old to his first SAT test.
I watched while he stood in line outside the building as it sprinkled on him and 100 other test-takers.
I waited in the car to see if the student I.D. that I’d created at 4:30am for him was accepted.  (The instructions were very clear about what forms of I.D. the students needed to provide to be allowed to take the test, and this was brought to my attention the evening before the test.  Of course, none of the accepted forms of I.D. did he have.  On the list of acceptable forms of I.D., one option was  a student I.D. from the school that he attends.  I decided to give it a shot and to create an I.D. for him using the passport photos that we’d taken over a year ago, but never used.  This inspiration hit me around 4:30am.)
I prayed for him as I drove away.

Today is my mom’s birthday, and later this month, she and my dad celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  Huge stuff.  I’ve personally been the recipient of the blessings of their hard work, and many, many others have grown stronger and been encouraged by the years of example they’ve created.

Yesterday, our family recognized the 7th year anniversary of our move from Texas to Connecticut.  We call it “Janke Day”, because the kids – seven years younger than they are now – thought that we ought to have SOMETHING to celebrate as we transitioned from everything they’d ever known to the harsh northeast.  Elections are held for positions within the family (we have a president/vice president, board, mayor, treasurer, etc) and gifts are exchanged via a secret drawing, that never seems to remain very secret.

Anyway, yesterday we celebrated together and remembered how we’ve been sustained, how we’ve grown personally, how we’ve launched a successful business, how we’ve educated our children well (even surviving the first one going off to college), how we’ve re-imagined family life, and how we’ve financially survived while living in the most expensive state in the nation in the middle of a recession.

I have no doubt that this season of our lives has been about going forward.  We’ve made huge steps of progress in so many areas.  We have amazing memories, have lived an adventure, have weathered many, many storms, and have unearthed a lot of gold.

– – – –

By the way, in case you’re wondering, the *fake* I.D. that I created for my son was accepted.  He texted me shortly after getting in the school building and passing their security that they called it “interesting”, but let him in.  🙂

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Curbing the Competition

Today, my home is filled with the unbelievably loud antics of my kids playing with each other.  Most of the time it is goofy wrestling (and believe me, that’s not just the boys).  Sometimes it is the made up family game of “Can We Make Them Laugh Hysterically”, with one of my kids who laughs really easily as the main target.  It could also be playing card or board games, playing on the Wii, or any number of activities.

It wasn’t always this way.  Just a few years ago, the kids were constantly operating in strife, angry with each other, so easily offended, and very competitive.

One of the tactics that we employed to end the sibling strife was to cut down on the competition.  One of the phrases that we heard around the house was, “That’s not fair.”  If you hear that statement floating around your house, that is clue that there might be comparison between your kids, and comparison births competition.

As I analyzed where the competition was coming from, I realized that I was treating my children as a group.  When we went anywhere, we went as a group.  If we went grocery shopping, my goal was to get all 4 into the store, get all 4 to keep their hands to themselves, and to have all 4 not screaming at the same time. Keeping them alive, safe, and quiet was a huge task, and thinking of them as one unit instead of four little individuals allowed me to wrap my brain around my overwhelming goal.

I called them my herd.  My herd went in, my herd went out.  My herd went to bed, my herd got up.  For me it meant that each one had been grouped as a collective to make my job easier.

Recognizing this, I started to change the way that I talked and thought.Instead of giving time to the herd, I started pulling each one aside for individual time.  Instead of planning my days with all of them involved in every activity, I started scheduling outings so that I could take just one or a couple with me.

I also started calling them out individually.  Instead of calling them all to dinner, I started by inviting each individually to come.  Instead of assigning a general clean up time, I started assigning specific chores to specific people, listing them out by name.

What each child wants is to feel individual, unique and special.  When you treat them as individuals and focus on each child alone, you’ll be surprised at how much comparison and competition is limited in your family.

I’m not saying that this simple change of thought – from the herd to individuals – will stop all arguing and fussing in your home, but I am suggesting that it is a good place to start.  After all, we like to be thought of us special and contributing something unique to the family.

In the family of God, He knows us.  He says that He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7), that we’re the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8), and that He will provide for us (Matthew 6:26).   He says that we were wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that He knew us before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5).    I could go on and on – the Bible is full of references to how He special He thinks that we are.

Give it a try!  Make a practice of treating your kids, or kids around you, as unique and special individuals, without trying to treat them all equally or the same. Tell me how it makes a difference!

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What is Parenting Success?

How do I, as a parent, define success?  The question is a really valid one, and one that deserves to be part of a parenting philosophy that guides your actions.

Do you define success by whether or not you’ve been completely consistent throughout the day?  Throughout the child’s life?

Is success defined by kids that bring you honor by their behavior?

Is success defined by kids that make it through adolescence without a major mistake?

Is success defined by kids that are followers of Christ?

Or could it be something completely different?

Let me suggest that successful parenting could be defined not by the product that you produce, but the process of daily parenting.

Because my faith in Jesus guides every aspect of my life and all decisions with my family, I believe that my faith in Jesus should guide my parenting. Therefore, to me, successful parenting has less to do with the outcome of my child’s behavior, and more to do with whether or not my daily parenting brings glory to God.

When it comes down to it, my amazing children all have their own wills and their own stories.  I do believe that I have influence over the choices that they make, but I certainly don’t have control over their lives.  Since that is the case, the definition of success should be based less on whether or not my kids succeed based on a certain standard, and more on whether or not I’ve brought honor to my faith along the way.

Obviously, because I believe so strongly in finding parenting mentors, and because I’ve read and written quite a bit about parenting, I think there is a lot to being well equipped for the job of parenting.  I strongly believe in doing research and studying for this position.  However, a lot of advice and a lot of information in books revolves around the idea that, if you follow specific steps to parent, or if you model your parenting around various philosophies, your children will turn out great.  The implied message is that if your kids don’t turn out as you hoped, or as you were promised in the book, you did something wrong.  You didn’t work the system specifically enough.

I’ve known way too many fantastic parents who did everything “right” but ended up with kids who followed the “wrong” path.  One of the best speakers I’ve ever heard, a pastor whom I highly respect, had a brother who spent his adult life in jail.  The same parents, the same parenting process, a completely different result.

If your instinct is to make yourself feel better by trying to figure out where other parents made their parenting mistakes, what inconsistencies must’ve been in play, what signs they might’ve missed, then you’ve defined parenting success differently than I have.

What I have seen, both in scripture and in life experience, are examples where the right philosophy and methods were used without netting good results, but God was still glorified.

If that is the case, then don’t be so quick to judge yourself (or others) if your kids:

…don’t listen and obey the first time.

….throw temper tantrums repeatedly.

….don’t treat others with kindness even though you’ve given them plenty of opportunities to do so.

…don’t choose the right friends.

…don’t follow the spiritual path you’ve dreamed for them.

Those issues shouldn’t determine whether or not you’ve had success as a parent.

So how do you know if you’re succeeding or not?

I propose that the starting point to answer that question is looking at whether or not your process of parenting glorifies God in each and every parenting opportunity.

If you have to correct your child, did you do it lovingly?
Did you do it with patience?
Were you self controlled?
Did you set the right example?
Did you act out of the spirit instead of the flesh?
Did your behavior point your children to God?

Of course, the above standard is simply a goal – we are not going to be perfect. And the good news is that even our imperfections can point our kids to God if we follow through with humility, ask for forgiveness, and model that though we might fail, we’ll keep on trying through His strength.

Please don’t misunderstand me…I care desperately how my children turn out.  I believe that we should forever be working towards training and leading them.  I find comfort in Proverbs 22:6 where it says that if we train up our children in the way they should go, then when they’re old they’ll not depart from it.

However, when it is all said and done, it is not about me or my kids, it is about God.  If He has been glorified by my actions, whether they be successes or failures, then I have been a success.

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