Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Break Wednesday--Easter Ideas

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may remember when I posted about becoming a Christian in 1983. Since that time, the wonder of Easter has been so important to me. As a child, I always knew there was a God... always had a sense of Him, even before He was known to me. I think that's how we are made and knowing that means I want to be really careful to teach my children about the truth of Easter. Today, we start to get ready.

If you are new to this, or are looking for new ideas to help your family understand the truth, there are many things you can use to help you out. Here are some things that work well for us:

-Passion Week Devotional Set for Families: Several years ago, I wrote a devotional set for my family to use each day between Palm Sunday and Easter. It is easy to use and contains all that you need to prepare your family for Easter, no matter how familiar you are with the story itself. Children as young as two can begin to understand the wonder of this holiday and the set is designed to grow with your child.

-Resurrection Eggs: This set created by Family Life is available at your local Christian bookstore and looks like a carton of eggs. Inside, you will find twelve plastic Easter eggs, each holding a small item. The items represent important parts of the Easter story. Indluded is a devotional booklet to help you along.

-Easter Story Cookies: We make these on Good Friday or on Saturday night. The cookies themselves help to teach the story of Easter. Want the recipe? : )

Easter Story Cookies

1 cup pecan halves
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
3 egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 cup white sugar


1.Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
2.Place pecans in a resealable plastic baggie. Crush the pecans into small bits. Read John 19:1-3
3.Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into a medium bowl. Read John 19:28-30
4.Add egg whites to the vinegar. Read John 10:10-11
5.Sprinkle salt into the egg whites. Read Luke 23:27
6.So far, the mixture isn't very appetizing. Add 1cup sugar. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16. Beat with mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.
7.Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto parchment paper lined baking sheet. Read Matthew 27:57-60.
8.Place cookies in the oven close the door and turn the oven off. Read Matthew 27:65-66.
9.Go to bed. Read John 16:20 and 22.
10.In the morning open the oven and take out the cookies. Read Matthew 28:1-9.
11. Bite into one of the cookies. What do you find inside?

-Hot Cross Buns: I am starting to add this to our Easter celebration this year. Tomorrow, I will make them and we will eat them on Good Friday. The cross on the top is a reminder of the crucifixion of Christ. The history of these bread rolls is varied but I like the added opportunity to teach my children about Good Friday so we will bake them this year. Here is the recipe I will use:

Hot Cross Buns


1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold water
1 large egg
1-1/2 tablespoons instant or bread machine yeast
3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried currants
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons milk


1. In a glass 2-cup measuring cup or a small bowl, combine the milk, butter, and sugar and microwave on high until the butter has melted and the milk is just bubbling, about 1 1/2 minutes. Whisk in the water and set the mixture aside until it's lukewarm, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the egg until well blended and set the mixture aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix the yeast, flour, salt, cinnamon, and currants. Add the milk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or dough whisk until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass.

3. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead the dough until it's smooth and elastic, about 3 to 4 minutes (see Kneading Know-how). If the dough is too sticky, you can add more flour as you go. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature until it has doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

4. Punch down the dough in the bowl, then transfer it to a floured surface. Cover the dough and let it rest 10 minutes more.

5. Line a small cookie sheet with parchment paper. To form rolls, divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Place the balls about 1 inch apart on the pan. Cover the rolls with a tea towel and let them rise at room temperature until they have doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Twenty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 375°.

6. Make the egg wash by whisking together the egg and water in a small bowl. Brush the top of each roll with the wash.

7. Bake the rolls until brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

8. In a small bowl, make the icing by whisking together the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth. Spoon the icing into a Ziploc bag. Snip a corner from the bag and squeeze an icing cross onto each bun. Makes 12 buns.

(From Family Fun Magazine)

You might wonder if we will do Easter baskets or talk about the Easter Bunny. We actually do make Easter baskets, though we keep that pretty minimal. We don't talk much about the Bunny himself... but have let that story float around our house without much discussion. No one has ever asked where the baskets come from, nor do we tell. : ) But we have enjoyed having that fun part of the Easter celebration included in our family time. We also do an Easter Egg Hunt in our backyard and eat a fabulous ham dinner together after church. In our house, church comes before all of it... the baskets will be out, the festivities prepared, but all of it will be dealt with after the service itself.

Last year, my friend Julie encouraged a Salvation Cake recipe that we tried as well. We liked that cake... it was layers of white cake with food coloring added. When you cut into it, you could see the many colors and each one stood for a part of the story. I would love to include the recipe but, honest to goodness, I just can't find it. If you have it or know where it is, put a link in the comments for those who would like to try it.

Today is Wednesday. In two days, we have the opportunity to mark together Jesus' amazing sacrifice. I can tell you that because of His great LOVE, my whole life is different. The path I have taken since 1983 is completely different than the one I had been on before. It is not about giving up things I used to think were important or about keeping myself from things I used to enjoy. Instead, it is about learning about what LOVE looks like... allowing myself to see that even when I feel I am worth little, I have been loved large. When I allowed myself to know that... to feel it... to accept it... the change that came in me was born, not of self-sacrifice, but of gratitude.

This weekend, let's allow ourselves see that this holiday is about far more than coloring eggs or gathering with family. It is about remembering. It is about wonder. It is about being loved when we deserve nothing at all. What amazing lessons to offer our families... life changing, to say the least. For me, it has been life-giving.

Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook--Spring Break Version

If you blog, you can do this, too. C'mon, you can do it! Join in the fun!

Outside my window... it is sunny but chilly. By day after tomorrow, we are expecting to hit the high 70s! I cannot wait!

I am thinking... about She Speaks... I will hear about the scholarship opportunities from last week by the end of this week. Amazingly, I have been given an opportunity to ride to She Speaks with a friend. (Transportation was to be my next stumbling block.) Now, if I can just win the scholarship!

I am thankful for... Spring break with my kids! We are enjoying a relaxing week together and I am so glad for the extra time with them. By the time they go back to school, we will be thrown into the craziness of baseball and spring soccer schedules. This week is our reprieve.

From the kitchen...made bread yesterday and plan to try that again this morning. Still thinking about dinner... working from my pantry and freezer this week, no shopping except for fresh veggies and such. I think I would be amazed at how long I could feed my family without another big grocery trip.

I am wearing... my jammies! Again. No rush to get ready on a relaxing week.

I am creating... a good day. With the kids home, there is little time for writing this week. So, instead we will work on things of greater importance. Time together, good meals, relaxing moments...

I am be home today. We may take a walk at a local nature center later on but for the most part, I want there to be room and time for my children to play outside with the sun on their faces. I want them to walk the dog and throw a ball. I want to be careful to not over schedule.

I am reading... The Marriage Project. You will hear more about it here soon.

I am hoping... for a beautiful Easter. We spend this week preparing for that day and I like to have everything ready so that we can enjoy it together. We do Easter baskets, go to church, eat an amazing dinner and hunt for eggs. More than anything else, we focus on the miracle of it. That we are so loved that Jesus came to make a way for us. That we are so loved by Someone that spoke the impossible and lived it out. The whole of it is about Hope... for today and for tomorrow and every day after that.

I am hearing... Josiah typing a report about Shakespeare, Noah breathing as he watches me type, Lexie jumping on the back door, trying to come back in.

Around the house... I see our new Wii Fit Plus, many lone socks thrown about on the way to play the Wii Fit Plus, and random other bits of messes. See how I can breathe right through it? :)

One of my favorite things... unscheduled time. No rushing, no flying out the door. Time to relax and rest and play. It is rare here and feels like a gift.

A few plans for the rest of the week... Prepare for Easter, go downtown on one Spring Break day, encourage the kids to walk the dog more, keep up with blogging even with everyone home, complete soccer and baseball schedules to keep us organized for April and May, and relax.

Want to read what others are writing on this topic? Click here:

Blessings on your day!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Break Monday: Structure and Sustenance

It is Monday morning and I am not yet dressed. My children are on spring break and we are choosing to start the day slowly... a blessing after last week's craziness. For the next 8 days, we will relax and play and work together. For our family, there is no excursion to a warmer place, no hanging out with life-like cartoon characters at a Disney destination. For our family, there is a chance to catch our breath, spend time together and find a few interesting activities to fill in the gaps.

Baseball begins today and with two of our four "double-sporting" this season, we know the pace will be a bit busy. It is a gift to have this time to rest up and prepare for the rush of busyness that will continue through the end of June. All our kids will be on baseball teams and Noah and Benjamin will play soccer as well. The end of the school year holds special activities as well and both Noah and Benjamin will take part in plays and musicals there. But for today, we will relax and plan a break that allows us to enjoy the days and prepare for what's ahead.

The kids have plans of their own. As I sit here typing, all four kids are upstairs in the boy's room with a ball of string and more palm branches than you could shake a stick at. Their idea? To create a fort (of sorts) by tying together yesterday's palm branches with bits of string. Even more amazing, they hope to create a "home" that will allow room for all of them to sit inside, at the same time! This architectural feat began with its fair share of fussing but after the third tattle trip down the stairs, all have been warned that cross words overheard could lead to momma removing a palm branch for each infraction. Ahh... no one wants this. So, back up they went to work it out themselves.

I wonder sometimes if there is something wrong with my children using such an important Easter symbol as another simple play thing. It seems a little sacrilege somehow. And yet, there is also something interesting about my children using an instrument of honor to build a structure for themselves. I know they don't think of it this way but I like the image of the same palms we raised in praise yesterday becoming a home for them... a place to be together. How amazing it would be to build our homes and our families on such exuberant worship! How deeply our lives would be changed if the cries of "Hosanna!" from Palm Sunday somehow found their voice in Monday, too.

So on they build and I cannot wait to see what comes of their work together. It's asking a lot... four kids, one project and a variety of ages together. So, we will see what comes but for now I am glad that even in their work, the palm is waved and praise surrounds. It makes me smile.

I am off to make some bread now. With baseball practices starting tonight, planning ahead and using the crock pot is the only way we stay out of the drive-thru. :) So I will knead while my children build and at the end of the day, we will have structure and sustenance to show for it all. Not a bad start to spring break!

Blessings on your day!

Friday, March 26, 2010

She Speaks: Impossible No More

Have you ever had the feeling that there is something you really have to do? An urging, a sense of direction, a Divine Leading? In my whole life I have had such a feeling only a handful of times.

The first time it happened was soon after I graduated from college. I was torn about where and what to teach. It was then that I deeply felt that I was being led to teach first grade, in a Christian school. As a student who attended public schools, and who had no experience with Christian schools at all, this seemed an impossible and unlikely goal. God likes those impossibles, I think. They make Him smile. Throughout my whole teaching career, I taught in two schools. Both Christian. Both first grade. Not really impossible, at all.

Another clear leading happened at a church service when we were asked to pray about our calling. I knew my calling at that time. To teach. Easy prayer. As I sat quietly, I talked with God about how confident I was about what I was here to do. Instantly, I was humbled as I felt God telling me that teaching was for now, but what I was called to do was parent the children He would give me. I was called to open my door and embrace the children who would become mine. I could not have known then, as a young, single teacher, that I would raise a family full of children... some biological and one born in China. Sitting there, having not yet met my future husband, the whole of it seemed impossible. The dream of family, unattainable. And yet this morning, I helped our four sweet children get ready for their day at school. Not really impossible, at all.

I remember another calling... one I have not yet been able to fulfill. It happened in a classroom on the campus of Illinois State University. I was attending Hearts at Home for the very first time. I had been invited for years prior but had found one excuse or another to decline. But, after the opening keynote, given by Lysa Terkeurst, I knew that Hearts was going to be significant for me. At that time, I had already begun my speaking ministry and loved watching so many people, who do what I do, encouraging moms all over the world. Even more importantly, I could sense that the weekend would have a significant impact on my life with my family. I knew I was supposed to be there... but that was not about calling at all.

One of my sectionals was going to be given by Marybeth Whalen. I walked into the assigned classroom and chose a seat in the back. The day had been long and I was tired but I took out a pen and my notebook and prepared to take notes. Marybeth began to speak and then said, as an aside, that there was an upcoming conference being offered by Proverbs 31 called She Speaks. The conference is designed to train women who feel called to speak or write. She passed out a little piece of paper with all the information on it and I have to tell you, I heard little else. At that very moment, I felt like God was telling me, "Nadia, THIS is why you are here. Go to this conference."

For five years, this has weighed heavily on me. For five years, I have wanted to go. My speaking ministry has grown. I became a Hearts at Home speaker. I have worked on writing books and began book proposals. I know that this is next. And yet, in so many ways, it seems impossible.

Each year, there has been a stumbling block. For the first two years, the She Speaks weekend was booked the same weekend as our adoption reunion. Since my daughter has a deep connection to eight other girls with whom she spent that first year of her life, I knew I had to attend that reunion. Then, the She Speaks weekend was changed. It was at this time that we found ourselves squashed by the fall of the housing market, with our finances and choices greatly impacted. Each year, the registration has opened and then closed again, full. And my name was not on the list. For way too long I have wallowed in the world of impossible.

Not this year. This year, I will answer that Divine Direction and find a way. There are scholarships available and knowing this, I have registered already for the event this summer. I have taken a leap of faith and know that my effort will be blessed. This conference is what is next for me and it is time for me to look away from the impossible and focus on the smile of God. My whole life shows me that what seems to be just beyond my reach is never outside of His.

Over the years, I have done what I felt I needed to do. I ran a MOMs Group for over 10 years and learned about speaking by listening well. I have found myself drawn into this work though I never knew it would be the plan. I have grown my speaking ministry from instinct and guesswork, with a heart for the women who come to hear. Now is the time for training. Now is the time to build on what has begun and improve the direction of my speaking and my writing. This work has become a deep passion of mine but even passion needs training to become what it needs to be. Now is the time to learn what I don't know, to discover how to do more with what God has given me, to find my way in the world of publication and to connect and network with other women, just like me. This is my summer and I will do what I was called to do, so very long ago. The time has come to set the impossible aside and respond in faith. I will go.

Pray with me, will you? Pray that the way is found for the registration fee to be met. Having been stuck in this economy for three and a half years, the fee is completely out of reach for us. Yet, with scholarships available, I can see a way! Pray that I will finally be able to attend this conference and incorporate all it has to offer into the work that I now do. It is a lot to ask but the timing is right and I know it is what's next for me.

One more thing... If there is something before you today, something that is stopping you from doing what you know you need to do.... If there is an impossible standing between you and your next thing, turn your gaze, dear friend. I know it's hard and I know it can be discouraging but there is a God who loves you, who smiles over you and who can make all things possible today. Trust. Then act. I am doing it, too.

Blessings on your day!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Momma is sick. What do you need?

There are dishes in the sink and supplies for tonight's dinner on the counter. The laundry room floor has gone missing and piles of partially folded clothes adorn the family room. My long locks have been pulled into a pile on top and a headband is holding my bangs back. I am tired and frustrated and have been sick, really sick, for two days.

Last week, I worked out every day, kept up with the blog, made plans for applying for a SheSpeaks scholarship and played with my kids. I ended the week feeling, well... pretty good about what I had done. This week,I broke a toe, have had one kid stay home sick and one go in late feeling ill, and I am generally crabby.

Working out is really not my thing. But, I was honestly starting to like it. Next week is spring break for my kids which means no daytime trips to the club. It seems like I am meant, for whatever reason, to be home this week. Home and sick. Sick and tired.

It's easy to get discouraged. It's easy to fall behind. And it sure doesn't seem like there is room in a day or a week for momma to be the one to get sick. Unlike my teaching days, there is just no way to call in and spend the day in bed.

When I was a young teacher, I got sick many times. One day, the principal came in and told me that I would need to stay home the following day.

"Take a sick day," he said. "Rest up and relax and soon you'll be on the mend."

"I can't," I replied helplessly. "This is my class, my lessons, my responsibility. I have work that I have to do. We are in the middle of a lesson on penguins and I am ready to teach it tomorrow."

"Guess what," he continued. "You are not irreplaceable. Someone else will come in and do what you planned to do."

I was offended, to be honest. They were my students and his words stung. Someone else could do it??? Not irreplaceable? Ouch.

Things have changed a lot. Now, when I get sick, on I go. Dinner to make, house to clean, kids to get ready for school. I never sleep in and can't get caught up and it seems like everyone needs me. What do I have left to give?

This morning, one of my kids climbed into bed with me and picked up my relaxed hand. Not one part of me was yet awake and already there was a need. Slowly, he stroked my arm, rubbed my fingers and then placed my palm on the very top of his head.

"I love you, momma. I love you." he said.

I rolled over and faced him eye to eye.

"I love you too, buddy." I whispered.

The need for him was great. The cost for me was nil. He needed to be touched, to be seen, to be loved. And even with a cold, I could provide all that.

This week has been very frustrating to me. I look for lesson I am supposed to learn as I find myself stuck in a body that feels bad. Why must I lay low? Why must I fall behind? And then it becomes a little bit clear... there are things I need to see.

It is easy to feel like we must do it all... like all of it is needful in this one day. The house must be clean, the dishes done, the laundry folded, our hair brushed. And yet, it seems to me that the thing that is needful most is most easily overlooked.

My hand on his head.

My eyes on his face.

Love offered up and returned.

The rest really matters not.

Blessings on your day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Noah Turned 13--Reflections on His Young Life

Feels like a long time ago... and yet not long ago at all. I can call it all to mind and find myself, 29 years old, and wrapped up in all the feelings that washed over me when Noah lived inside. How I had wanted to be a mom! Mark and I were both excited and scared and thrilled and lost in the wonder only a first born can bring. We were going to have a baby. We were going to have a baby.

Seeing him on the ultrasound was the most amazing thing. For me, the whole of the pregnancy had been deeply real. I could feel him move and kick and turn and roll and from the very first time I felt him wiggle inside, he was real. He was ours. He was Noah. But for Mark, seeing his baby boy moving on a grainy screen was what it took to pull all the pieces together and really understand that a son was coming. We had several ultrasounds and knew from early on that our little one was a boy. It helped me to know him, somehow. It helped me to picture him... not just as an infant but as a toddler, a preschooler, a child. My son.

He was late... really late. Born 11 days after his due date, after 19 and a half hours of labor. I labored at home for 12 hours and went into the hospital dilated to a fingertip! A long, long day. But honestly, I just kept telling myself that at the end of all this work, my empty arms would be full. We would become family.

Just after he was born, Mark was talking to him quietly under the warming lights while the docs and nurses checked him over. I wanted desperately to hold my baby, to connect to him, to comfort him after all he had been through. Being on the other side of the room while they tended to me felt like being on the other side of the world from my boy. I called to him.

"Noah. Noah. You're okay, buddy. Noah. Momma's here."

I swear to you, and I have witnesses, that my minutes old, perfect baby boy completely turned his head right then. He stretched to look in the direction of my voice. And he stopped fussing altogether. He knew me. My baby knew his momma's voice and even in the midst of all that craziness in the room, turned to find me.

My life changed right then. Some people might be put off by such a change but I was so lost in the wonder of it all that it felt perfectly... well... perfect to me. Mark and I were in awe of every single thing that baby did. We video-taped him for hours, sitting in his bouncy seat, just in case he might smile or move his hand. We cried when he cried, we hurt when he hurt, we laughed out loud when he first giggled and then were moved to tears by the beauty of it.

When Noah was born, we were residence directors at Trinity Christian College. The whole campus had waited for his birth and then waited for him to come home. On the night we brought Noah home from the hospital, the Oscars were on TV. At Trinity, they often have a huge event on that night and the students are all dressed to the nines for the festivities. It still brings tears to my eyes to remember coming into our tiny, dorm apartment and sitting down in my rocking chair with Noah in my arms. Students lined up at the front door to come in and see him and stood dressed in their finest clothes, staring at my boy. They quietly left then through the back door and Mark and I both commented on how amazing it was to have a baby be born into such intimate community. How blessed we were to share this with all these well-loved students!

He grew into a sweet little boy, a lover of books, a cautious little fellow who waited forever to learn to walk. He slept well, ate well, played peacefully and listened intently. At his baptism, the pastor stopped midway through the carefully worded liturgy because our infant son was looking at him so deeply that it almost seemed like he understood the words being said over his sweet self. He was always lost in thought... a look on his face like he was trying to solve all the problems of the world.

Other memories of Noah:

-He has two cowlicks on the top of his head that go in opposite directions. Without lots of gel, his hair never laid down. When he wakes up in the morning, even now, I can see them still.

-When Noah was a baby, he cried from 6PM til 10PM for months. If we carried him in the sling, he did better... well... sometimes.

-Noah screamed his head off while learning to ride a bike. We honestly felt like the worst parents on the block, torturing our child by making him pedal.

-We taught Noah to sleep through the night at the same time as this was covered on Mad About You. Paul and Jamie Buchman stood outside Mabel's door and cried while their baby cried. And so did we. And then we watched him sleep. I did the same thing last night. He is much bigger now, but I promise you, to me he still looks just like this:

-Noah stopped talking after school in Kindergarten. He was shy and scared and would come home overwhelmed. We switched schools.

-Once Noah started to read, he never stopped. Keeping him in books has been a wonderful challenge all these years.

-We enrolled Noah in soccer when he was 6. He had never played nor seen the game before that time. He was, by far, the smallest and meekest and least competitive kid out there. If you saw him play today, you would never believe that could be true. He will fight anyone for the ball and plays well. I am so glad we kept him in.

-Last summer, Noah led a group of VBS students at church and they followed him everywhere he went. It was amazing to see how much he had grown, how mature he was becoming.

It has been 13 years. Today, he will not come home until almost 5PM because he is learning to run track at school. Tomorrow, he will try out for the play. He plays soccer and baseball and basketball and loves to be over-involved. All of that tells you something about what Noah does but not a lot about who Noah is.

Noah is my son. He is loving and funny and brave. He is respectful and I love the person he is becoming. He holds such a special place in my heart because I learned to be the momma I am with him. He had to be patient while we figured it out. And he is the only one of my kids who knows what it is like to be an only child. And I know it sounds impossible, but I swear to you that when I look at him today, lanky and changing, the face I still see is the one I saw when I first called to him from across that delivery room. He turns to me today and looks and I am a new momma all over again and he is new, too. Same face. Same wonder. I am lost in it still because the truth is that finding my son has turned 13 is no less miraculous to me than finding he had just been born. This journey we take together as mom and son has been the most incredible walk and I cannot honestly believe how blessed I am to be mom to this boy.

So, now it begins. The teen years are before us. I thought I would be scared. But you know what I found? Noah at 12 is the same Noah at 13. He is still thoughtful and respectful. He is still a great kid to know. He is just a little older.

When Noah was little, I made a promise to myself that whenever Noah heard me talking about him, the words he heard would be positive. I would not get on the phone and complain about being home with a baby or about his crying or about his diaper rash or tantrums or separation anxiety. He heard me tell others that he was good. He heard me talk about what he was doing well... even when that thing was hard to find. And he rose to that occasion. The teen years are upon us and the worry inside me today has more to do with hoping I have what it takes to do this next part well. But, my promise to myself holds true today. My son is not perfect, far from it, but he is perfect for me. And as we walk through these next interesting years, I will choose to focus on that which is good. I will choose to allow my son to overhear what I love about him, what I respect about him, what makes me smile. I have no idea if he will rise to that occasion again... but it seems to me that the road is right.

My heart is full and I have so much more to say... but you have listened to me enough. So, let me end with this. I love my son. He is 13 and I love him still. Getting up today and tomorrow to continue to walk with him is an amazing privilege that I hope I never forget to honor. It feels like 5 minutes have gone by since that first ultrasound picture... and yet... look at my boy today.

Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook

If you blog, you can do this, too. C'mon, you can do it! Join in the fun!

Outside my window... it is chilly but the birds are still singing. Seems like something I should pay attention to... their little lives aren't perfect but they sing nonetheless.

I am thinking... about She Speaks... Will be trying for scholarships and am so eager to be there. This will show up on the blog again. : )

I am thankful for... Yesterday. Noah's 13th birthday. So very grateful to be mom to him... he honestly just makes me smile.

From the kitchen...Planning to cook for supper swap tomorrow. Means I have to get everything ready today.

I am wearing... my jammies! It's early here.... not yet 7AM. But this will be a full day and I wanted to post before it gets away from me.

I am creating... Supper swap meals. A good day for my kids. Regular moments that add up to a pretty good day.

I am going... to go bowling with Josiah and Elizabeth's classes today. A school field trip for their gym lesson. Yesterday, I went with Benjamin's class. Friday? Noah's. That is a LOT of bowling. : )

I am reading... The Marriage Project. You will hear more about it here soon.

I am hoping... for the week to go well. For Noah to get a part in the school play. For good weather next week during Spring Break.

I am hearing... birds singing, a plane overhead, the fridge running. Can you tell my kids are still asleep? : )

Around the house... there are remnants of Noah's birthday... boxes from gifts, birthday cards, cake boxed up.

One of my favorite things... family. Mine isn't perfect, but I love them deeply and wouldn't want to be anywhere else, doing anything else right now. Even when it's hard, even when I am tired, even when the teen years scare me a bit, I CHOOSE this.

A few plans for the rest of the week... need to make 8 supper swap meals, do a lot of dropping off or picking up driving for my kids, work on the She Speaks scholarship stuff, chip away at the laundry and go visit my friend Emily and her new sweet baby.

Want to read what others are writing on this topic? Click here:

Blessings on your day!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Living with Less so Your Family Has More: An Interview with Jill and Mark Savage

Today I'd like to welcome Jill and Mark Savage. Jill and Mark's newest book Living with Less so your Family has More just released and I've invited them to share a little bit about this great resource!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

We have been married for 27 years…17 of them happily. After finding ourselves in a marriage counselor’s office around year 8 or so, we realized that we really didn’t know how to be married. We worked hard to turn things around and now we like to share that hope with other couples.

We have five children ranging from 13 to 25. Our oldest three are married. Anne (25) and her husband, Matt, live in Zion, IL, and are expecting our first grandchild in April. (We are very excited!) Evan (22) and his wife, Julie, have been married a year and a half and they live just a few miles from us. Erica (19) married her husband Kendall last September. They live in Augusta, GA, and wherever else the Army takes them.

We have two teenagers still at home. Kolya just turned 16. He’s learning to drive and we’ve nearly worn a hole in the carpet on the floor in the passenger seat trying to find that non-existent brake pedal. Kolya is the newest member of the Savage family. We adopted him at the age of nine from Russia.

Austin is 13 and in the 8th grade. He wants us to make sure and tell the world that this “living with less” life is a real bummer because he’s the ONLY kid in 8th grade who doesn’t have a cell phone.

Tell us about your newest book Living With Less So Your Family Has More?

The world screams the message that bigger is always better, but we have found that is not often true. When it comes to raising a family, less materially can actually result in more relationally. Children don’t need the best houses, the best lessons, the best cars, or the best clothes. What they really need is the best home life and the best family relationships we can give them.

Why did you want to write this book?

We didn’t start out with the “less is more” mindset. We started as a double income family wanting to have the “best” of everything. Then Mark decided to pursue ministry. We went from the “high life” to the “frugal life” very quickly as we moved to another state for him to go to Bible College full-time.

That experience introduced us to the concept that less is more. We definitely had less money, but we had more time. We had less stress and more peace. We had less activities and more fun.

Since that experience, we’ve continued to live primarily on one income for the past twenty years. We’ve had to battle cultural peer pressure and make different decisions for our family than many other families in our neighborhood have made. But we’ve never felt that we were materially depriving ourselves or our kids…instead we’ve focused on what we’ve actually been able to provide for them emotionally and relationally.

What do you hope your readers will gain from this book?

We hope the reader is encouraged to evaluate how they are living their life, spending their money, and thinking about family matters. Our goal is to introduce families to the “less is more” concept and then equip them with the attitudes and actions to actually make that happen.

For families that are already committed to less is more, we hope to bolster their resolve and help them stay focused on the long-term goal of providing relationally for their kids.

In today’s economy, there are many families being forced to live with less. We want to help them see the opportunity they have with this unexpected downsizing they’ve been forced to do.

And for those who have just been a little discontent with their life and saying things like, “I’m tired of the rat race of life,” or “Is there more to life than drive-thru meals for dinner?” we hope to help them see other choices they have and how they can lead their family in a different direction.

What unique elements will the reader find in Living With Less So Your Family Has More?

For couples who want to read the book together, we’ve included discussion questions at the end of every chapter. This helps move the readers to discussion and eventually actions. Even a single parent can use the discussion questions for personal evaluation.

Readers will find this book a practical guide to changing your attitude and your actions to live a successful “less is more” life. They’ll find our writing style to be a warm, casual, honest discussion where we not only share our victories but our mistakes along the way. We are an average couple living successfully on an average income who want to help others to see the possibilities before them.

This is a Hearts at Home book. What is Hearts at Home?

Hearts at Home is an organization that encourages, educates, and equips women in the profession of motherhood. Hearts at Home encourages moms through annual conferences, our extensive website (, a free electronic newsletter, a radio program, and an entire line of books designed to meet the needs of moms all over the world!

Any closing thoughts?

It’s healthy for parents to occasionally pause and evaluate their vision for their family and the choices they are making. We hope this resource will help them do that together and that it will lead them to live a life of little regret.

Friday, March 19, 2010

It Doesn't Have to Be This Way...

Some days are hard. When I start my day surrounded by crabby, tired children, it wears on me. When I listen to them fuss at each other, speak disrespectfully to one another and argue with me, I wonder how it got this way.

Some days are hard. When homework is "forgotten" and chores are undone, when beds are mussed and rooms are messed, when the dog hasn't been fed and the garbage is still full, I wonder how it got this way.

It's been a long week here. Way too much belly-gazing, and not enough work accomplished. It has been one of those weeks that feels like it runs me, instead of the other way around, and I am weary. There were things I wanted to get done... things I wanted to take care of... Now, it's Friday and my laundry room floor has gone missing, the kitchen is a mess, leaves blew in the backdoor and are covering the carpet and the dog needs a bath. My chapters are not done and I am left wondering what happened to all the time that this week held. Does that ever happen to you?

And yet... when I think about it... there may be another way to look at it.

The weather warmed up this week. My crocuses and daffodils bloomed and the kids played outside. We left the back door open to allow for a breeze and the leaves came in on the happy feet of my barefoot children.

Yes, chores went undone... because the wonder of warmth called to my kids and they ran in the sunshine with smiles on their faces. Noah shot baskets til the sun went down and Benjamin threw a ball to the dog for hours on end. Elizabeth rode the swings for ages, her hair flying back and forth on the breeze. Josiah challenged himself, again and again to figure out how to balance on a bike with only two, wobbly wheels.

The whole of the week was different. But, we laughed a lot. And they played a lot. And while backpacks were thrown haphazardly inside the front door, it was because they were in hurry to get themselves back outside.

And, I loved watching them. I love when they are outside and no one is telling them what to do. I love when they run for the sake of running and yell just to hear their own sound. I love when they come together to create a game or walk the dog or shoot some hoops.

It's supposed to snow tomorrow. And the next day. Totally normal for mid-March in Illinois. And when it does, we will make the beds and vacuum the leaves and take care of all that was set aside this week. Because warm or not, it still needs to be done... But, the truth is it didn't have to be done right then.

I started the week wondering why it has to be this way... the mess, the noise, the things left behind. I am ending the week grateful for what it was. It may not have been what I expected... but what we were given was better... richer... and a lot more fun to watch.

Blessings on your day!

::A huge thank you to those who commented on yesterday's post. Your words helped more than you know. Thank you!::

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What's the Point?

I just spent two hours working on a blog post that processes through a lot of things. After thinking and praying about the post, I have decided to hold it back. For now.

Part of what I am thinking through has to do with the point of blogging. My friend, Shannon, talked with me about this a while ago. She wondered why anyone would read someone else's blog, why any of it mattered at all.

When I talked with her, I told her I think we are looking to connect to others and maybe clarify our thoughts and beliefs. We are holding out a hand, offering and reaching for help. But, the truth is, I really don't know. I believe these things are part of it but really not nearly the whole.

I have been blogging 5 times a week for almost 3 months. Prior to January, I found myself blogging here and there and then made a New Year's resolution to do a better job of being consistent. I wanted to blog more regularly because I am working on the discipline of writing. Also, and primarily,I wanted to blog more often because it helps you to know that there will be something here to read. No more bopping in to find the same old post as a week ago... But instead there is something new that, I hope, offers some encouragement or help or even just a smile.

Maybe I have it all wrong. Can you take a minute to give me a hand? It would mean the world to me if you would jot a sentence or two in the comment section to tell me why you come. What are you looking for here? What do you hope to find? Why do you read any one's blog, not just mine? Is it entertainment? Community? Encouragement?

It has been my prayer all along that this place would offer something up. Help me know what you are looking for when you wonder in here or anywhere else. Your opinion and insight mean the world to me.

Blessings on your day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Recipes and Josiah's Story

This morning, I asked my kids if they were ready to eat Irish food today. Noah came alongside me, put his arm around me and smiling said, "How did I get the mom who takes every holiday or tragedy as an opportunity to make me eat food from somewhere else?"

(He is most recently referring to a day of Haitian food--recipes available on the blog--and Canadian food on the night of the opening ceremonies!)

He gave me a squeeze and I hugged him back.

"Look at it this way, buddy... at least you don't have a chance to be B-O-R-E-D."

"You don't have to spell it, Mom." he replied. "That word is not ACTUALLY a swear."

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you likely already know that the "B" word is not allowed in our house. : ) But, I do love keeping my family on their toes by offering a new meal, every now and then. St. Patrick's Day is the perfect opportunity to expose them to Irish food, something we rarely have in our home.

Last year, I made shepherds pie... and died the mashed potatoes green. We ate cabbage and drank green lemonade and all of it was really fun. This year, we are trying something new. For dinner, we are having Irish stew with colcannon and soda bread. For dessert, we are making homemade shamrock shakes. Want the recipes?

Braised Beef Irish Stew and Colcannon:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (3 pound) beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle dark beer
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 slices bacon
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1/4 cup milk, warmed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley


1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2.Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot, and brown the meat in 2 batches, stirring to brown the cubes on all sides. Return all the meat to the Dutch oven, sprinkle with flour, and stir lightly to coat the meat with flour. Stir in onion, carrots, dark beer, bay leaves, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cover.
3.Place the Dutch oven into the preheated oven, and cook for 45 minutes; uncover, stir the stew, and cook until the beef is very tender and the liquid is reduced by half, about 45 more minutes.
4.Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on a paper towel-lined plate. Crumble the bacon and set aside.
5.About 30 minutes before the stew is ready, make the colcannon: Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry for a minute or two.
6.Place the cabbage into a microwave-safe bowl, and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on High for about 2 1/2 minutes; uncover (watch out for steam) and stir the cabbage. Cover and microwave for about 2 1/2 more minutes, until the cabbage is slightly tender but not mushy. Drain excess liquid, and set the cabbage aside, covered.
7.Place the potatoes into a large bowl, and add milk, butter, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Beat the potatoes with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Stir in the cabbage, crumbled bacon, and parsley until well combined.
8.To serve, place a scoop of colcannon onto a plate, make a hollow, and fill with braised beef stew.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup buttermilk


1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
2.In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an 'X' into the top of the loaf.
3.Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 30 to 50 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

Copycat McDonald’s Shamrock Shake


•2 cups vanilla ice cream or soy ice cream
•1 1/4 cups 2% low-fat milk or soy milk
•1/4 teaspoon mint extract
•8 drops green food coloring


1.Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth.
2.Stop blender to stir with a spoon if necessary to help blend ice cream.
3.Pour into 12-ounce cups and serve each with a straw.

I have a quick story to share with you about the year that Josiah first learned about St. Patrick's Day. He was just 3 years old and attending a local preschool. On March 17th that year, I picked up my sweet boy from school and we started driving toward home. As we drove, 'Siah started talking about how good St. Patrick was.

He said, "Did you know that St. Patrick was a bishop in his church? He was a missionary, too."

"'Siah, that's awesome that you learned so much about St. Patrick today. Sounds like he did some good things." I replied.

'Siah nods his head emphatically and then adds.... "I think he was a leprechaun." :)

Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook

If you blog, you can do this, too. C'mon, you can do it! Join in the fun!

Outside my window... there are fuzzy little blooms on one of my maples in the front yard.

I am thinking... about She Speaks... Can I make it happen? I so want to go.

I am thankful for... hints of spring... my children's voices as they counted robins on the way to school...

From the kitchen...So, I have some cooked, cut chicken. What should I make for dinner?

I am wearing... grey yoga pants and a black "Mom to the fourth power" t-shirt from Hearts last year. I just got home from the gym. : )

I am creating... a book. Today... just a chapter.

I am going... to check out a gymnastics studio today for Elizabeth.

I am reading... Fearless by Max Lucado and The Time Traveler's Wife. Yeah, I have four kids, I cannot read anything quickly! : )

I am hoping... to hear from a possible publisher for my devotional materials. It is a long shot, but OH MY would I be thrilled!

I am hearing... praise music from my ipod and wishing we hadn't lost Rich Mullins so soon.

Around the house... Some windows are open and a fresh breeze is blowing in....

One of my favorite things... HOPE. I need it, even just a little bit, to get through any given day. When the hope can help me to focus on things that may be to come, it's all the better.

A few plans for the rest of the week... help the kids get caught up on sleep, follow up on a few conversations had at Hearts at Home, work out every morning, start building the summer calendar.

Looking for other writers on this topic?

Blessings on your day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

An Interview With Susie Larson: Growing Grateful Kids

Today I'd like to welcome author and speaker Susie Larson. Susie's new book Growing Grateful Kids has just released and I've invited her to share a little bit about this great resource.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

My husband and I have been married 25 years and have three grown sons (all in their early twenties). Our oldest son Jake works on the business side of the Christian music industry. Our middle son Luke is married to his beautiful wife Kristen; he works full time at a bank and part time as a worship pastor. Our youngest son Jordan is studying to become a surgical nurse. My husband Kevin is a commercial construction manager by day and manages my ministry by night (and weekends). Bless his heart.  I am an author, speaker, and an on-call radio host for Christian talk radio. Together, Kevin and I serve as advocates for justice on behalf of modern day slaves and human trafficking victims.

Tell us about your new book, Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Places.

Even when economic times are tight, our children enjoy an abundance of material possessions. Yet, amidst all this wealth, discontentment and competition seem to be on the rise. Instead of teaching children virtues such as gratefulness and patience, many parents are bending over backwards to get their children the latest and greatest item - or feeling guilty when they can't. In spite of the currents of materialism and entitlement that flow so strong, it is possible to raise children who are simply grateful. Though teaching perspective and gratitude to our children is critical, it is not difficult.

Why did you want to write this book?

To be completely honest, I never wanted to write a book on parenting. I wanted to protect my kids’ privacy and give them time and space to become the men God wants them to be. But in the last few years, I have been especially burdened with the level of selfishness, entitlement and disrespect I see among children today. Furthermore, moms seem more stressed than ever. When I asked my sons their thoughts on writing this book, without pausing they all said, “Do it, mom; that book needs to be written!” I think I wrote a book that not only equips young moms to raise humble, grateful world-changers, but also one that nourishes the soul of the reader and encourages her personally.

Throughout the book you remind the reader that we cannot impart what we do not possess. Can you explain?

If we never deal with our own fears, insecurities, and hang ups, but we try to teach our children to believe in their divine value, over time, our words will not ring true to them. First God wants to do His work in us before He does it through us. They say that lessons are more often caught than taught. If we parent from a place of conviction and real freedom, our children will be affected by what we teach them.

One of your chapters is titled, “Take Time to Play.” How does taking time to play teach our kids to be grateful?

To me, taking time to play says a lot about the level of faith we possess.

If our children hear us confess that we love and serve a BIG God and yet they see us striving and straining through life, they will come to believe that more is on our shoulders than on God’s. If we can trust God enough to step away from our busy-important lives, to make a fort in the basement, or play a game with our children – even in the most desperate of economic situations – we will give our children a sense of much needed security and that all is well in their world.

What do you want readers to take away from this book?

To answer this question (I hope you don’t mind), I would like to share an endorsement from one of my sample readers. She expressed my deepest desire for my reader:

“Growing Grateful Kids is such a great source of conviction, encouragement, and inspiration to spur me on to finishing this parenting race well and not sputter out along the way. This book compels me to submit my own character to the refining of the Holy Spirit that I may be equipped to impart those lessons onto my children. Thank you, Susie, for taking the time, for submitting in obedience, and writing this down for a generation in desperate need of this kind of parenting book!” –Gail Miller

This is a Hearts at Home book. What is Hearts at Home?

Hearts at Home is an organization that encourages, educates, and equips women in the profession of motherhood. Hearts at Home encourages moms through annual conferences, our extensive website (, a free bi-weekly electronic newsletter, a radio program, and an entire line of books designed to meet the needs of moms all over the world!

Any closing thoughts?

I am very excited about the message in this book. It is my prayer that every one who reads it will be nourished, encouraged, and equipped to parent from a place of fullness, conviction, and confidence. Raising grateful, confident kids will be one of the most heroic, important things you do in your lifetime. God’s blessings to you!

Friday, March 12, 2010


As we head into the weekend, let's find room to enter into the world of wonder in which our children live. Sometime over these next two days, let's all engage our children in play for the sake of play. And let's remember how wonder-full the world can be.

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he
needs the companionship of at least one adult who can
share it, rediscovering with him the mystery of the world
we live in." ~ Rachel Carson

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hearts at Home and Room for Me

For those who read this blog yesterday, thank you. I know the post was long and we all have limited time but I want you to know that I appreciate the time you spend here. I was conflicted about whether or not to post it but the topic is so important. In the end, I hoped you would hear the spirit with which it was written and that somewhere along the way, it might be helpful to you.

Today is a scattered day for me. Many things to do and little time in which to work. I spoke this morning to a fabulous group in Clarendon Hills, IL. I have been there before several times and now the faces are familiar. I was blessed to be with them.

On my way home, I stopped at the printer to pick up cards with mouths and ears printed on them for my Sticks presentation. (Not sure what I am talking about? Click on "Sticks" in the label listing below.) I headed home to catch my breath.

Now, I am preparing for my speaking engagement tomorrow morning and then a weekend away at Hearts at Home. Have you gone? I am so eager to be there with my dear friends, learning and laughing and listening. I feel like my head is being pulled in many directions... but my heart in only one.

Do you ever feel that way? Once, when I was working as a residence director at Trinity Christian College, my colleague Suz and I were talking about the job. At the time, we both felt weary and in need of a break.

"The problem with this job," Suz said, "is that it takes too much space in your brain."

It was true of RD-ing and is also sometimes true of parenting. As I sit here today, I am wondering how one of my boys is doing on his field trip, I am praying for another who has his first crush on a girl, another one of my kids has been a little spacey, another seems to be struggling to understand. My head is full. Add to that, the laundry room mountain that I must climb, the endless cooking that must be done, the dust bunnies hiding beneath the couch, the octogenarian dog wandering lost through the living room, a husband who is evaluating his work... it is overflowing.

And yet, that whole list of things that is banging around my brain is fully about tending to others. And that is okay... until I get tired. I don't know about you but finding myself weary can be a difficult thing. All of sudden, my wick is short, anger flares and patience runs very thin. This is not the mom I want to be... but what am I to do?

Very soon, I will get in my car and drive south for about an hour or so. Registration in hand, I will walk in to Hearts at Home tomorrow and spend two days washing that weary away. I will eat with friends, listen to speakers, laugh out loud and probably shed a tear (or two?). I will have time and space for me. And when I come home, my perspective will be adjusted and even though my head will still be full, I will be able to embrace it anew.

The sun just came out. My crocuses have bloomed. The birds are singing and the weekend is upon us. Soon, I will make room for me. I hope you will do the same.

Blessings on your day!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Death of Corey Haim: A Time to Act

If you wandered in today looking for a sweet story about parenting or children, you may want to wander out. I am upset. I don't honestly know if blogging with my head so full is really a wise idea. Consider yourself forewarned. Sometimes, parenting is fun or funny or warm and fuzzy. Sometimes it is gritty and hard and leaves us wishing we could shirk some of the responsibilities set before us. Today is a day to prepare for the gritty.

A long time ago in the mid-eighties, a group of amazing cheerleaders from my high school were chosen to be in a movie. This teen flick was to be directed by David Seltzer and would star people like Winona Ryder, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Charlie Sheen and Jeremy Piven. What an amazing opportunity. Our cheerleaders played... well... cheerleaders in the movie and going to see it was the coolest thing to me! Sitting in the darkened theater, I saw people I knew well cheering at football games and serving as a normal, American backdrop in this fictional high school. The movie? Lucas. The star? Corey Haim.

Corey Haim died today at 38. I didn't know him at all but have always felt some strange connection to him because of our high school's connection to the the film. Over the years, I have seen his drug and alcohol use completely overtake his young life. And today, I am not only sad to hear about his death, but I am angry. I am angry because this happens too much. I am angry because it is totally needless. I am angry because this man, this boy, needed help and for whatever reason, didn't get it or couldn't take it. And now, he is dead. At 38.

So what? He is famous, had money, is totally different from us, right? This death has nothing to do with us as we sit safely in our little homes with our babies at our feet. Right? Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I contacted a friend of mine this morning who worked with Corey on the movie. I asked her what she knew of him then, when they were both teenagers. I will tell you that I already knew I would blog on this and honestly thought I would get a response that spoke to his young, adorable self, to the tragic nature of this loss. What my friend said was much more important and much more revealing. She said that, from her perspective, he had few limits. She said, from her perspective, that he needed attention. Does it have anything to do with us yet?

Here is some of what Corey Haim said about his own drug use:

"I was working on Lost Boys when I smoked my first joint."

"I did cocaine for about a year and a half, then it led to crack," he said.

Haim said he went into rehabilitation and was put on prescription drugs. He took both stimulants and sedatives such as Valium.

"I started on the downers which were a hell of a lot better than the uppers because I was a nervous wreck," he said. "But one led to two, two led to four, four led to eight, until at the end it was about 85 a day."

I want to ask Corey a simple question today. I wish he could answer. All I want to know is who intervened on that very first day? Who saw this boy, having smoked his first joint, and pulled him aside and said, "No. Don't do this."

Maybe there was someone... maybe there wasn't. But there should have been. And in the lives of our children, THERE MUST BE.

A bit of disclosure here. I know too much about this. I have come way too close to the reality of addiction in way too many ways. And, I have worked in prevention for a very long time. I have listened to people talk about how it is a right of passage and that it is inevitable that all kids will drink and experiment with drugs. And I have seen those children go in to rehab... or worse, never find it. I have loved addicts and struggled with their pain. And I know it's real. But, do you know what else I know? It is preventable. Hear me please, if you are still reading at all. This does not have to happen. Your child does not have to try it out and you do not have to allow it. We are parents! It is our job to hold the big picture for our children and it is our job to raise the bar high. We do not have to give in to what common culture says is normal and we do not have stand back and watch our children get caught up in things they may or may not be able to get out of.

My friend Beth sent me an article last week about a very recent study of teen drug and alcohol use. The whole study can be found here but some important highlights are:

"After a decade of consistent declines in teen drug abuse, in which methamphetamine use dropped by over 60 percent, and past-month alcohol and marijuana use were reduced by 30 percent, the 2009 study points to marked upswings in use of drugs that teens are likely to encounter at parties and in other social situations.

The number of teens in grades 9-12 that used alcohol in the past month has grown by 11 percent, (from 35 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2009),

Past year Ecstasy use shows a 67 percent increase (from 6 percent in 2008 to 10 percent in 2009),

Past year marijuana use shows a 19 percent increase (from 32 percent in 2008 to 38 percent in 2009)."

Do you see it? For 10 years, teen drug use has declined. But, in the past 11 months, alcohol use, ecstasy use and marijuana use have all increased between 11 and 67%! This is insane. We know how to help kids make wise choices about their lives. We know how important education is in the field of prevention. What is going on that suddenly use is rising?

When Mark and I were engaged, we heard about a couple getting a divorce. This was especially difficult for me, having gone through my parent's divorce many years earlier. Mark leaned in and sought to comfort me, saying, "Isn't it great that this will never been us? This will never happen to us."

I turned around and looked at my fiance (who comes for a long line of stable marriages) and said, "That is exactly how it happens. No one ever thinks it will happen to them. You have to PLAN for it to NOT happen... you have know that it could."

My friends, the same is true for drug and alcohol use in our children. No one ever thinks their child will be an addict. No one ever thinks it will happen to them. And that is how it happens. As parents, we have to assume that it could and then work to make it unlikely. You can do that. You have that much power. And please, if you are sitting with a two year old on your lap, do not excuse yourself from this topic. Prevention takes a long time and it starts young.

So, what do we do?? How do we effect change in those dismal statistics? Here are some hands-on ideas to consider.

1. What messages do we send our children about substance use or abuse with our actions, not our words? Do you talk about needing to unwind and and then reach for a bottle of wine? Do you seek to solve every medical issue with a medication? Are wine and medication bad? Not at all. This is not about a parental guilt trip. It is about intentionality. We must examine our messages because they are being interpreted by children who do not process this information, only accept it.

2. With very young children, we need to purposefully talk about medications doctors give. Try saying, "The doctor gave you this medicine for a very special job. It will help your cough. Only you can take it and only as much as the doctor says." This lays a groundwork for understanding the healthy use of medication in our lives. It also clearly explains that medication given to one person is only for that person.

3. With early school-age children, we need to talk about caring for our bodies. We need to help them understand that their bodies are a gift and that the gift is to be treasured. We do not want to do anything that can hurt our bodies or anyone else's bodies in any way. This is why we eat well, take vitamins and exercise.

4. Later elementary-aged children need to begin to be educated, in generalities, about what drugs and alcohol do and why we need to be careful. They need to understand that drinking, as a child, is illegal. Most school-aged children hold law enforcement in high regard. They want to do the right thing. We also need to help our children begin to understand what peer pressure is and why it is important. If you can explain to your child that sometimes friends will ask them to do something that they feel uncomfortable with and may tease them if they decline, before they are caught in it, they will be able to stand stronger when faced with that temptation. They will identify peer pressure as something to steer clear of... unless of course it is positive peer pressure. Did you know such a thing existed? It does and it is powerful!

5. Middle school students need to be educated about drugs and alcohol. They must know what they are, what they look like and why they should steer clear. This information needs to be specific so they can identify risks when they present themselves. If you tie this information in with the lessons above, you will find that children understand the helpful side of medicine, want to protect their bodies, seek to be healthy and can stand against negative peer pressure. Do you see how this can lead to success in helping our kids steer away from the misuse of substances?

6. You MUST tell your children that drug and alcohol use is not allowed. I know that many people fear that this will drive their children right to the use itself. But, statistically this is just not true. Even when your teen children are at their most difficult, it is your voice that plays in their heads. What should that voice say?

7. Be the parent. Please. Be the parent. Say no when it looks like trouble. Hold your child accountable. Raise the bar. Do not, for one second, assume there is no way around this. There is. I swear to you, there is. When your child says he is going to a party, call the parents. A sleep over? Call the parents. Hold your child accountable and be serious. And if they don't like you or are embarrassed, so what? This is not the time to be a friend. This is the time to hold the vision for your child's long and happy life and gently, lovingly, continue to direct them toward it. We need to be hands-on when our babies are 2 and we need to be hands-on when our babies are 12. Our teen-agers need us and they want limits, regardless of what they say. We cannot be naive about what is happening in the world and what dangers our kids can encounter.

8. Contact your child's school and ask them what they are doing in terms of prevention. Please understand that there needs to be great accountability between home and school, no matter where your child attends. Ask them what they are doing to help raise healthy children. There should be a plan for prevention at every elementary, middle and high school in America. And if there isn't? Tell them it matters to you. Follow up. If you are unfamiliar with prevention programs, do a little research. Operation Snowball is the perfect place to start. The amazing thing about having a prevention program at school is that the teachers are telling your child the same information you are telling them. Your child hears the message in two respected adult voices. It "sticks" in more places in your child's brain. And that is important. What if you home school? As you plan your health curriculum, be sure that the points mentioned above are included. Help your children to understand the issues at hand and be sure to teach this. It may seem unlikely that your child will come in contact with drugs and alcohol, but most first exposures happen in very unlikely places.

9. Educate yourself. Feeling out of the loop? Fight your way back in. If you are reading this, you have access to the internet. Do you know what drugs are what? Have you heard the media reference Pharm Parties? Wonder what it means or whether any of it is true? Poke around and soak it up and be the one who knows what is happening in the world of teen substance abuse before your child knows. Staying a step ahead of our kids is a very important thing.

10. Believe. Believe you can effect change. Believe that embracing your child and your role as parent can lead to a better path. There are no guarantees in life and sometimes good kids make some pretty risky choices. And if or when that happens, we need to pick up again from there and keep on going. But, believe it can be different. Believe that kids naturally want to be healthy... because they do. They want to feel good. And when we help them to feel good because they are talented or smart or kind or compassionate, they may not seek to feel good from artificial means. Believe. And then begin.

This is not a time to be afraid and not a time to act like we are safe. Parenting is gritty and hard and full of conversations we wish we didn't have to have. But, your place in the life of your child is VITAL. You can offer them the direction they need to make good and healthy decisions. You really can. It starts today. Right now. With a litany of healthy information that they will tuck into their memories to call on down the road.

Someone I know once told me that teens are naturally selfish and will experiment with drugs and alcohol no matter what we do. I disagree on both counts. This way of thinking is defeatist and absolves parents from the responsibility they hold to expect more from their kids. When I see selfishness in my children, I will root it out and help them find a better way. And when I see behavior or warning signs that could hint at substances being misused, I will stand up and say, "NO more!". But today and everyday, I will teach my babies what they need to know and I will hold them close and build in them a strong sense of self so that when they are faced with this issue, they will be prepared to make a choice. A good choice.

My friends, it is not about ignoring the issue. It is not about creating boundaries of steel. It is not about distrusting our kids or helicopter parenting or fearing the world around us. No. It is, instead, about raising children in a purposeful manner who will make wise, healthy decisions for their lives. And it is important. Like Corey, our children are in need of our attention and our limits and we have a job to do that will make all the difference in the world.

Rest in peace, Corey Haim.

Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook

If you blog, you can do this, too. When you get to the bottom, leave your information so others can find your thoughts on the Simple Woman's Daybook, too! C'mon, you can do it! Join in the fun!

Outside my window... the sun! It is shining and gorgeous and I am so happy to see it.

I am thinking... my speaking engagements this week and Hearts at Home this weekend.

I am thankful for... quiet. I can hear the clock ticking on the wall. With four kiddos, this is pretty unusual!

From the kitchen...Made pumpkin spice muffins for breakfast... still thinking about dinner.

I am wearing... black yoga pants and a Trinity Christian College t-shirt... AND FLIP FLOPS. Happy feet. : )

I am creating... a book. I am still seeking accountability. Email or message me!

I am going... to get a haircut in about 3 hours. If you know me, you know this is a big deal for me. I have always (almost) had long hair and I don't take any haircuts lightly. : )

I am reading... Fearless by Max Lucado and The Time Traveler's Wife.

I am hoping... to get my Easter Devotional materials to the printer today. Need some?

I am hearing... The clock, the fridge, the ice maker. This is the first place we have lived with an ice maker and I LOVE the sound.

Around the house... There is far more mess than I am comfortable with...

One of my favorite things... Is a cup of hot coffee and time and space to breathe.

A few plans for the rest of the week... Get Easter devotional materials to the printer, put in an order for more business cards, make one super couponing trip, prepare for my speaking engagements and then get ready for an amazing time with friends at Hearts at Home.

A few pictures for today:

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Helicopter Parenting and Landing Pads

"Mom, can I please talk to you upstairs?"

In our family, this has become code for, "I am having a problem and I want to talk with you about it in private.". So, up we go to Mark and my bedroom. We close the door and sit on the bed and then it begins.

"I am confused about why girls _____."

"It really hurt my feelings."

"I need you and dad to see that I'm growing up."

"I don't understand the teacher."

"My brother is driving me nuts."

"School is really getting to me and I think I need a break."

"I feel left out."

Sometimes there is frustration, sometimes anger, sometimes tears. But every time, there is me wondering how to make it right. What part do I play in helping my children to navigate the endless twists and turns of childhood? How involved should I become? How distant should I be? When I am sitting on my bed with my baby in my arms, all I want to do is make it right. But is that my job?

I live in fear of Helicopter Parenting. The term was coined to describe parents who hover over their children in an effort to make their lives smooth, to fight their fights and win their wars. It is just not who I want to be. And yet, when I see one of my kids lost in some struggle and unable to negotiate the way... what should I do?

Most of the time, I really don't know. But I can tell you what we try.

1. Listen. Listen past the words to the feelings underneath. As parents, we know that this too shall pass, but for children the situation at hand is all encompassing. I need to affirm the feelings.

2. Ask. Ask questions and seek to understand. What I love about my kids talking to me alone in my room is that I am face to face, without distraction and can really try to comprehend the problem at hand. It is not my job to fix it, but it IS my job to understand.

3. Teach. What does my child need to know how to do to better handle the situation themselves? The problem with helicopter parenting is that children are left without the skills needed to manage problems in real life. When an issue arises, we have an opportunity to teach our children to communicate, to be compassionate, to advocate in more effective ways.

4. Pray. Whether it is kindergarten girl cattiness or middle school mayhem, we need to sit with our little ones and talk to God in a way that real and honest and true. Every time we do this WITH our kids, we are teaching them that the Creator of All Things cares about the details. That The One who sustains all that there is wants to sustain us, too. It's a powerful lesson for children...

But what do we do when we have done all that and problems persist for our kids? How do we help without hovering? Is it possible to do so, at all?

Here is what I know. These children are mine... entrusted to me by a God who loves them more than I can understand. And sometimes, when I have done everything I can to help them through, the time comes to intervene. And, here is what I know. Sometimes, intervening does nothing at all because what my child needs, more than anything else, is for me to look him in the eye and love him. What my child needs, more than anything else, is to be pulled in close and fully embraced and be given time and space to cry or laugh or yell or rage and still be loved all the same. Because the truth is, I can't always make it right. But, I can always be the place my babies come home to... to regroup, to heal, to celebrate, to breathe. And that has nothing to do with hovering... and everything to do with being the place to land.

Blessings on your day.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Birthdays and Aging and Thinking it Through

I don't like getting older. There. I said it. There are a million reason why it bothers me. The one that stands out most clearly for me is the fact that in my head, I am still 17.

When I was growing up, I remember my parents being this age. (You will note that I am omitting the number itself.) I remember that they were GROWN UPS. I remember that this number was... well... not young. But, when I wake up in the morning and the me in my head is still the same me that I knew when I was 17, it stuns me. How can I be this... well... not young?

For many years, Mark and I lived with college students. We LOVED that work and to be honest, living and working with 18-22 year olds has a way of keeping you young. You think about things things that are current and you are fully immersed in common culture. While we were there, we found ourselves up (very) late and laughing out-loud and loving the fast pace of college life.

When we left that job, we found ourselves surrounded by the very young. When we brought Elizabeth home from China, we had a 7 year old, a 6 year old, a 2 year old and a 1 year old. We were tired but very much felt like we were in the young-parent-kind-of stage. It was full and it was good and it felt like a time of beginnings.

But now? Now, I celebrate birthdays and am left with a strange feeling. It's not about wanting to stay young, you see. I don't fear aging and do not feel any pull to trying to pretend I am 25. The thing that throws me off is that, in my head, I am not this... well... not young. In my head, I am still 17. The voice that was me, the thoughts that were me, the ME that was me then is the me that stretches and yawns at the break of a new day now. I didn't know it would be that way. I think I always figured that the child you once were sort of faded away and you became an adult who was... hmmm... grown up? I guess I never thought that my parents and grandparents likely felt very much like I do now. Like the people that they were are still in there... but the number doesn't always match who they find themselves as today.

Mark once asked his dad about this and was told that even at 80+ years old, the man in his head was still a boy. Having heard this, we think of him differently now... with more respect, I hope. Because he carries with him a lifetime of experiences and the person he always was is in there, even within a body that has lived so long. The man who laughed out-loud and told interesting stories and felt passionately about God's kingdom here on earth is still that man.

And maybe it's good, this strange feeling I have. Maybe it's good to remember 17 so clearly today. Maybe, just maybe, there's a gift in that... not for me but for my kids. Because when I was 17, I felt misunderstood. And there was this boy. And I wondered about my place in the world. I was trying new things... good and bad. And I was learning to choose what in life should stay and what should go. I felt deeply and thought long and made mistakes and chose paths and all of it happened then. So, maybe the gift in keeping that me is that when my kids feel alone... I get it. And when they fall and when they love and when the here and now feels like the most important thing... I can understand. Because, when you are a child, the here and now IS the most important thing. And the child I was is still the girl I am. As momma to these four children, I want to remember it all and in doing so find ways to embrace their current experiences and not minimize one little part. Because the feelings I felt then were real. The experiences I had then were formative. And it mattered. Just like it does to my kids.

I had a birthday this week. And yes, I am older. But, the number doesn't matter at all. Because this me, at this age, is still just me. And inside this earthly shell I carry all of who I am and always have been. All those tiny pieces, all those memories have a point. To help me understand those I love the most. So, 17 or 43, it's all okay with me.

Blessings on your day.
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