A day at the beach

Parenting, Uncategorized

 

She is bold. She’s confident. She’s everything and so much more than I’d dreamed she’d be at her age.

I had big dreams. Dreams for her that she wouldn’t be like me, and that she would be like me.

That she would learn to love. Love herself and keep her heart open.

She laughs without hesitation. She loudly gives her opinions. She’s not a wallflower.

I am happy and I am sad. I’m not losing her but I’m losing her.

This is what she’s supposed to do.

Learn from me, learn from her dad, then spread her wings and fly.

Why, then, do I suddenly feel so sad? The emotion came out of nowhere like a tidal wave.

Like a sunny day at the beach, we are frolicking and laughing, then a thunderstorm came without warning.

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Tears welled up but got stuck and stayed in my throat.

I want to stay playing in the sun forever, enjoying the beautiful day.

But reality beckons me, at the corners of my mind it calls me to the light rain that’s beginning to fall.

It’s all going to be ok, I tell myself, as I open my umbrella and walk into the soft sand.

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Have you ever wanted to freeze a moment in time?

Maybe not just a moment, but a sweet season.

Our youngest is going away to college soon. I found myself declaring today how happy I am for her. A little too emphatically, and I realized that I’m really trying to convince myself that I’m not sad. But I am. I’ll miss her so much.

But today, I am thrilled with helping her with a school project. I happily listen to her voice as she does homework with a friend in the kitchen.

These are the moments life is made of.

 

Christine

 

Mentoring

Uncategorized

You don’t have to be a mom to mentor. You don’t have to be a wise old sage. You can mentor in any phase of life. In fact, I believe it’s crucial to be in mentoring relationships of some sort at all times. These relationships can be give and take, and they can ebb and flow. They can be casual, or intentional. You can ask someone to mentor you and meet with you once a month, or every couple of weeks. May I suggest you don’t do this:

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A casual mentoring relationship can be ongoing, or one-time. A mentor can simply be someone who is further along or more knowledgable than you in an area of expertise. This can be in spiritual matters, work/professionally, parenting, marriage, or a hobby. The sky’s the limit! The point is, it doesn’t have to be weird. Here’s an example of how a casual mentoring relationship could begin:

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Or you call and ask your friend to teach you to apply makeup because she is so good at it, and you’ve always been a granola kind of girl and you have no idea what you’re doing. She’s delighted that you asked, and you make a day of it, including lunch and coffee. Girl time, she shares her expertise, and you look and feel great. Win/win/win!

One of the great things about mentoring is that it is really a two-way street. Although as a mentee, your goal is to learn and glean wisdom from your mentor, they are also learning from you. I meet with a younger friend periodically in a mentoring relationship. Recently as we visited, I was telling her about a struggle. She posed a question as a possible solution that pierced my heart as soon as it left her mouth. Her words ended up being the very thing that catapulted me into freedom from that struggle. You may find, like I did, that if you are in a mentoring relationship, you learn as much (and more) from your “mentee” than you thought you would. Life’s kind of funny like that.

Some of my best mentoring relationships have been covert ones, kind of undercover. Let me explain. My kids are pretty much grown now, but when they were little, I would watch and observe my friends parent their young ones. Many of my friends mentored me in parenting even though they didn’t know it! I learned so much about how to discipline my children, parent them, and creative ways to teach them things I hadn’t thought of- just by observing other families in action.

The same goes for marriage. We have several good friends with thriving and enviable marriages that are fun to watch. I glean so much from watching them do life together. That’s casual mentoring. They probably have no idea that they are mentoring me (unless they are one of my 50 readers, Ha!)  but I have learned more from them than any marriage seminar could ever teach. Why? Because it’s real life. Practical. I learn from that.

What about you? Who is on your Mount Rushmore of mentors?

mount-rushmore-hours

7 minutes with your teenager

Parenting

There is a seven minute time span that I love with my teenager…it’s the car ride to and from school. These are the best power-packed seven minutes of our day! I used to feel as if I were just “taxi mom”, and I used to complain sometimes about driving my teenaged kids around. Let me be brutally honest: There have been times that it’s just been plain exhausting driving to and from activities and I’ve even resented it or dreaded it.

I’m beginning to see it differently. The seven minutes we spend driving together to and from school are times that I now treasure.

Remember when they were little? All kinds of cuddly moments and nap time, tons of car rides, playgroups and crafts abounded. There was no need to look for power-packed moments. In fact, both mom and kiddos got excited about preschool days. Mom ran errands and talked to grownups, and the little ones had fun with their peers.

Since we’ve shifted this school year from home school to public school, I am on the hunt for opportunities to spend with my daughter. Car rides are my favorite!

Strangely, our morning rides are probably good because I’m so groggy that I don’t pepper her with questions. We ride in comfortable silence for a bit, listen to music, and conversation ebbs and flows. She’ll usually tell me about something that’s upcoming that school day. We pray together as she heads to class.

Afternoons are completely different! We’re both awake, and Danielle usually has anecdotes or triumphs or frustrations to tell me. Now I love these driving times. If I can force myself to be quiet and not try to pry information, it can be my favorite seven minutes of the day with my teenager!

Thanksgiving tradition

crafts, gratitude

Here’s one of our favorite family traditions for Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving tablecloth!

We started this tradition over ten years ago. I think it originally came from a magazine. I purchased an off-white cheap tablecloth from Wal-Mart, some acrylic paints, and a leaf stamp.

Every year, whoever is at our house for Thanksgiving signs the tablecloth. We always put our name, the year, and something we’re thankful for. It’s so fun to look at who visited us in years past or what we wrote last year! Some of us write paragraphs, some only a word. For the younger ones, we ask them what they’re grateful for, then write for them until they’re old enough. It’s also sweet to see how our kids handwriting has changed through the years, along with their priorities.

Some write a little, some write a lot. We love to see both.

Honestly, the next two pictures are the cutest ever! You’ll see both of our kids quotes for different years, but close together.

Christian (who is now 20) at 11 years old says he’s thankful for his life and friends. When he was 8, he says “food”. I love it!

Danielle is now 14, but when she was 2, she says she’s thankful for God. At 3 years old, it was her brother. She was too young to write, so I did it for her.

Yes, there are a couple of grease stains here and there, because we actually serve food and eat on this tablecloth each year. Just use stain remover on the wicked stains and overall, it’ll be okay. Nobody cares about the stains, and I know that it’s clean.

Here’s how you can start your own tablecloth:

Mix brown, red, and orange paints on a paper plate and stamp the leaf in paint. Stamp on paper first to make sure you have the desired color combo and amount of paint you like. Then stamp on tablecloth in different directions. Have a couple of Sharpie markers available sometime before or after your meal and ask everyone to write something they are thankful for with their name and the year. Be sure to have some paper for underneath where they are writing so the permanent marker doesn’t transfer to your table!

Yes, I still try to initiate a verbal gratitude moment. I often ask everyone to state out loud something that they’re thankful for. It’s guaranteed eye-rolling, and everyone may or may not participate. But everyone likes the tablecloth.

Seven weeks of community

marriage, Uncategorized

Picture this: the seven loudest people that you know. Four adults, three kids, and a mild-mannered dog. For seven weeks, our good friends, a family of four, lived with us while they were in transition. Their current house sold, but the new house wasn’t available for seven weeks. I’m calling this time in our life: Seven weeks of community.

Besides the fact that all seven of us are extremely loud and talkative, you’ve got to know that we aren’t related to this family. We’ve only known each other for six years. They were some of the first people to be friendly with us when we first moved back to our hometown. We felt like fish out of water after we returned from a tough two years on the mission field in West Africa. We were blind-sighted by the fact that we had reverse culture shock. We joined a new church where we didn’t know tons of people, and felt as if we were starting over in a whole new chapter of life. I distinctly remember the first time I visited with this couple. I was at a roller skating church event for the kids, and I was alone while my 3rd grader went around in circles. I remember trying to strike up conversations with a couple of other moms: Failure! I’m sure I was socially awkward, but didn’t realize it. I just felt so lonely, then this couple struck up conversation with me. They looked so genuinely happy and friendly and I love that they threw me a life-preserver when I felt like I was drowning in social awkwardness.

Fast forward to present. Lots of sleepovers for our teenaged girls, dinners, karaoke, Superbowls, New Year’s Eves, and throw in a couple of crisis situations when they were there to help us with hard decisions. You get the idea.

This fall our son headed to a dorm apartment for college, and the next weekend our friends moved in. It just made sense. Otherwise we’d have two empty bedrooms upstairs, and that seems like such a waste when our friends are in home limbo for a while.

Think about the good, bad, and ugly in your home that occurs on a daily basis. Imagine that you had cameras posted, out of view, to observe your family’s activities for seven weeks. A little scary, huh? Although our friends got to witness a few of our less-than-stellar family moments, it was worth it! I learned so much by having them here.

First of all, I believe that we are made to live in close community with others. American culture does not value community, but fierce independence, even when it’s to our detriment. That’s why so many people asked them (privately, of course) and us: How’s it really going? Isn’t is stressful? Our answer was: It’s surprisingly wonderful! We knew it would work out okay, but it surpassed our expectations. We need to lean on other people, and to learn from them. Sometimes this can only happen in close community. That’s because otherwise, we can fake it. We can act as if we have it all together, then go home and fall apart. If you go home and you’ve got another family there, you have witnesses! It turns out that this was a beautiful thing.

The last couple months have been the worst for me health-wise. If I’m honest I also confess that emotionally it’s been pretty rough, too, because of my health problems. However, the past seven weeks have been some of the richest for me on many different levels: friendship-wise, spiritually I have been challenged and grown, and I’ve been forced to show my vulnerability and need for others. If they hadn’t been here to witness it, I would have put on my brave happy face to the world because I’d be too proud to tell anyone I have been suffering.

Another benefit was that we learned from them while seeing their family interact. It’s amazing what you can learn watching a married couple as they do life, and it helped me to see how they love on their kids and parent them. We certainly didn’t have a spiral notebook out and plan to be creepy watchers, but we gleaned so much during the ups and downs of daily life. It was good!

Maybe you won’t have another family live in close quarters with you for a month or two, but you can intentionally connect closely with a couple of families that you trust. Be real, and show where you are weak and struggling. Celebrate daily joys and victories together. You’ll all be better for it. Plus it’s REALLY fun!

How to conquer worry

Christianity, fear, Parenting

Worried? This morning while reading Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, I had an “A-ha!” moment as I saw the easy process that he lays out.

Here’s the three-step process to conquer worry:

1. Imagine the worst-case scenario. Really. Go there in your mind and pinpoint what you are most afraid of in the scenario that you’re worrying about.

2. Now that you have admitted your worst fear, imagine if that really were to happen. Reject unreasonable fears or accept them as realistic.

3.Accepting that some concerns are realistic, how will you respond in the face of these fears? What will you do? How will you minimize the damage and move forward?

personaldevelopmenttoolbox

My good friend walked me through this process a while back, and it was powerful! I’m not sure if she knew she was following these steps, but it worked. Here’s what happened:

We were planning an overseas mission trip to a city that was experiencing bombings, unrest, and religious fighting with villages being slaughtered.  You can imagine that I had every reason to be afraid, traveling with my husband and our two kids, aged 19 and 13 at the time. On top of that, I had been dealing with excruciating back pain from herniated disks. The idea of a 24-hour overseas flight was causing me such anxiety that the pain and muscle spasms had intensified and I could only experience relief by laying sideways on the ground.

My friend pointedly asked me, “What are you most afraid of?” It’s funny that sometimes when we say our worst fears out loud, we realize that they are ridiculous. I voiced several scenarios that I worried about:

1. What if my back blows out on the plane or over there? It’s a third-world country and I might have to be hospitalized there or flown back in unbearable pain. (Reality: This is very unlikely. However, if it happens, I would take pain medicine and fly home.)

2. What if we were caught up in a riot or religious fighting, or bombing?(Reality: Again, unlikely, since we would be staying outside of the city in a remote village area. However, if this were to happen, I’d be with my husband and kids. This dissolved my intense fear, thinking about the fact that I wasn’t going anywhere without them.)

3. My absolute worst fear: That someone would harm one of my family members. What if someone kidnapped or hurt my children or husband? (Reality: My family probably wouldn’t be targeted for violence. We were not even passing through the crisis area of town so this was a pretty unrealistic fear.)

As I talked through these, I realized that only one of them was a real possibility. If the other things happened, they happened. After going through those scenarios I saw that the mission we were going for was worth the risk. Jesus is worth it even if I was scared to death!

This technique to conquer worry can be used for all kinds of situations that we face: finances, family issues, parenting, health, did I say parenting??? I don’t know about other parents, but the number one thing I struggle not to worry about is my children. That said, worrying is not exclusive to parents.

Jesus commands us not to worry in Matthew 6:25-34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ? (emphasis mine)

This is a helpful tool to think through how unfruitful worry is. Try it out and let me know what you think~

A week of milestones and red velvet cake

food, Parenting

Here’s a sneak peek!

It’s a bittersweet week of milestones in our family. Our fourteen-year-old daughter had her braces removed.

Here she is happy to show her newly smoooooth teeth

This is a sarcastic “I’m smiling, so hurry up and get the camera out of my face” look. Note that she is much happier and not as sarcastic with her braces off in the first photo.

You might be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal?” Well, it’s a milestone. Our baby is entering high school in a few short weeks. She’s too tall at 5’11” to sit on our laps for over five minutes, she doesn’t need her mommy to do ponytails anymore, she makes her own breakfast, does her own laundry, and now has teeth without braces. Which only accentuates to me how beautiful she is. I already knew that, but for some reason when I looked at her without braces the day that we left the orthodontist, I got teary each time. I was suddenly jarred to this reality: She is growing up. Can you tell I’m sad?

It’s a good thing, I know, and I celebrate with her all of the big and little things about growing up. But I’m still a little sad.

Milestone number two: Our son turned twenty years old. How did that happen??? He is passionate and funny. He’s a deep thinking intellectual and philosophical type who loves to debate. He loves people and is very into music. He’s also a good photographer. Unfortunately, because he’s twenty, he isn’t here too much lately. Since our son barely sat still for his birthday pizza lunch today, I only got a picture of the pizza. Again, I’m a little sad!

Christian’s birthday lunch. Sadly, no birthday pic of Christian until we have his celebration dinner in a few weeks when he heads off to college.

However, we took some great pics of the siblings for Father’s Day last month.

Sadique, Christian, and Danielle

Overall, I think having these joyful milestones is cause to celebrate. Knowing that our son is no longer a teenager and going to college soon, coupled with braces removed and high school starting, makes me a little melancholy. I think that’s pretty normal, and I promise to journal all of the really gross sniffly parts in my private journal so you don’t have to see all of that.

Sadique is our son for the summer and holidays. He was classmates with Christian when they were in junior high in Nigeria. He also had a birthday recently, so this week we made a red velvet cake. He was eager to enjoy it because the last time he’d had a cake for his birthday was eleven years ago. (since he’s lived away in boarding schools for the past decade or so)

Happy Birthday Sadique!

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting

Sooooo moist!

I give this recipe 5 stars. It’s very moist, rich, and calorie-laden. Here’s the scoop if you want to try it.

Decadent Red Velvet Cake

Yes, I made up the name. Credit goes to our previous neighbor, Lisa Brown, who originally gave me this recipe. I just swapped out red velvet cake mix for chocolate.

Preheat oven to 350.

1 box red velvet cake mix

1 small chocolate instant pudding mix

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup water

8 oz sour cream

6 oz mini chocolate chip morsels

Blend dry ingredients in large bowl. Add oil and water to dry ingredients and mix well. Add eggs, stir in sour cream & chocolate chips. Pour into greased and floured pan(s), and bake according to times specified on cake mix box. You can use bundt, circle pans, or 9 x 13; use whatever you prefer.

I used 8 inch circular pans & baked for about 35 minutes, then cooled 10 minutes and inverted to remove from pan. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8oz) blocks cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

In medium bowl, cream together butter & cream cheese. Blend in vanilla and gradually add powdered sugar, then frost cake.

Sports moms

Parenting

Do you have a list of things you promise you will never do?  Here’s a sampling of mine. I will never:

1. Own a minivan

2. Be a sports mom

3. Wear Crocs

4. Have a blinged out baseball cap or flip-flops

Currently, I have done 3 out of 4 of my “I will never’s”. I discovered the practicality of a minivan and I learned to love it. I still think Crocs are hideous, but they serve a great use for lots of things. Watering the grass, walking in rain, etc. I still haven’t worn a sparkly baseball cap or flip-flops, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. Yes, they are all shallow. I’m at peace with that.

The end of another kid’s intense sport season has me reflecting on the “I will never _________” list. Are you the type of person who, like me, rolls your eyes at the mention of the sports mom who whines a little about excessive driving or schedule demands of her child’s sport? As if they couldn’t adjust their schedule….I mean, who is the parent here? One of my friends jokes around with me that she hopes our daughter makes it to the Olympics as a result of our insane routine this fall and spring. I chuckle at that, but she’s got a point. What is the purpose of what seems to be a very child-centered lifestyle for a family?

Well, during all of my drive time this sport season, I’ve had time to reflect on this. Another mom from our team asked me once, “Do you think all of this is worthwhile?” I cannot answer for other sports moms. I can only answer to our experience. Our coach for the past year and a half is an amazing woman. There is no other coach I’ve met that I’d want our kid to spend 4 to 10 hours with each week. Wanna know what her motto is for her team? It’s not “Winning is everything” or “Play your hardest”. The thing I’ve heard her repeat over and over is this: “It’s about so much more than volleyball.” She uses the vehicle of sports to teach our girls how to relate to one another, respect and trust their teammates, how to work really hard, and to be disciplined, physically and spiritually.

Coach encourages our girls through sports- last spring

This is an exceptional woman that doesn’t underestimate the influence that an adult can have in a teen’s life. She teaches perseverance when they are discouraged, and she teaches humility when girls get frustrated with each other. It may be impossible to overstate the impact she’s had on our daughter alone. She understands that as adults, our words to a child or teen are very powerful. Do you remember an adult who believed in you and encouraged you as a child? They may have helped change the way you see yourself and helped you to take healthy risks. On the flip side, is there an adult you can remember who spoke destructive words to you that you may still struggle with?

These are just a few reasons that I’m okay with being a sports mom, at least for now. My hat goes off to Coach Brenda Bundrick and her husband Coach Dave. She is a godly and beautiful woman who coaches with her husband. She models love in her marriage, she demonstrates sacrifice, and works hard to disciple and love a group of ten girls every week. I have seen my daughter scribbling notes to her teammates because coach assigned them the responsibility of writing a word of encouragement, or to pray for her teammates on a given week. All that and our kid is exercising and learning physical disciplines? It doesn’t get better.

Coach Brenda and her husband Coach Dave understand and have taught me that any benign activity or discipline can be used to make a lasting impact. Make that a lifelong or eternal impact. Our lives won’t be the same because of them, in a good way.

Why we homeschool

Uncategorized

Because it’s what all the cool people do.  Not really.  I feel like education is a personal choice for each family.  We have done it all with academics: public school, home school, private and international school.  Did I leave any out?  With our oldest starting his sophomore year in college, and youngest going into 8th grade, we’re learning a lot but there’s still several years to go.

Back to answer, “Why we home school”, there are several reasons.  The most important one is because we feel it’s what God wants us to do this year.  I’m not a hard-core “If you’re a real woman, you home school the whole way through” kind of chic.  I prefer to think about the following things as we look at our education choices:  What does this child need right now: in their academics, character, confidence, people skills, and spiritual life?  The other big question is this:  What’s going on in my life as a mom?  Can I commit to homeschooling, or do we need to look at other options right now because of our family situation, finances, or other personal matters?  And of course, we pray.  A lot.  And wait to hear what direction we feel God is taking us.

When people discover that we home school, they’ll often ask me, “Did you home school Christian, your oldest, all the way through?”   It makes me smile when they ask that, because I feel like they’re asking me, “Do you have x-ray vision?” or “Did you make that entire quilt by hand?”  (By the way, the answer is definitely no)  Because I know that many, many days, I feel completely inadequate as a home educator.  I know that in my own self, I could not do it.  But this is where God has us right now.  It’s really fun and really challenging.

A couple of years ago, I really struggled with the question of whether or not we should home school that year.  As I prayed about it often, God spoke to me clearly through a song.  The lyrics repeat over and over again “I don’t wanna gain the whole world and lose my soul”, reminding me of the verse in Mark 8:36- What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  I remembered that years ago I had planned what I would do when my kids reached school age.  I would take tennis lessons, have a lot of cute tennis outfits, and lunch with my girlfriends.  Wow, has it turned out different from what I planned!  I felt like God was asking me if I wanted to “gain the whole world” with those things that I had planned, or give up that for a while and pour life into my child’s soul.  I still think about how fun the tennis thing would be one day…Maybe later!