19 Year Anniversary

Jeremy and I just celebrated our 19 year anniversary. I truly cannot believe that it has been that long. It’s so cliche, but seriously, where did the time go?

Feeling nostalgic I went through a bunch of old photos and this one is one of my favorites

 

I know it is a terrible picture, but I love the memories that it holds. This was on our honeymoon 19 years ago. We took a selfie (before they were called that) on a disposable camera. Then when we got home we dropped the camera off at a photo lab and patiently waited to see how it turned out, which in this case was pretty bad. I wish I had more photos from my younger years. For example, there are no photos of the day we got engaged and that makes me sad. On the other hand, I wouldn’t trade the late 90s early 2000s for anything! I love that we didn’t have digital cameras and smartphones. I appreciate those things now and use them every single day but I am SO grateful that I got to experience life without them too. Life was simpler then and there was something so sweet about just enjoying the moment without the extra radio waves connecting everyone all the time.

Anyway, I pulled together some of my favorite photos of the two of us and turned into an anniversary slideshow yesterday.

We have watched it several times together. The song is “Still the One” which was played live at our wedding and sang by our best man and maid of honor. Even though we aren’t big country music fans and the original song was by Shania Twain, we knew we had to have this song because of the lyrics.

“Glad we didn’t listen. Look at what we would’ve been missing. They said, I bet, they’ll never make it but just look at us holding on. Still together. Still going strong…”

Of course, getting married so young and with no money, there was a lot of skepticism and rightfully so. We knew God had put us together though and He is definitely what has kept us together through the good and the bad. So this song totally fits us, now more than on our wedding day. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and we still do dumb stuff, but by the grace of God we’ve done some stuff well and our marriage and our children our a testimony of that.

So in honor of our first bad selfie 19 years ago here are some more selfie outtakes that were NOT shown in the slideshow.

 

 

 

 

 

By | November 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Sweet Spot

Money has been really tight these days and I wasn’t planning on doing any fall road trips. They aren’t all that extravagant but it still adds up. So when the opportunity to do a photo shoot in Ann Arbor Michigan came up I jumped on it! We loaded the van up with kids, blankets, and camping supplies and we headed to Pontiac Lake for the weekend.

This was a trip I will never forget. I literally cried on the way back reminiscing the memories made and counting the years left of vacations while our kids are still kids.

For me, this is the sweet spot of motherhood. I believe every stage is beautiful, complex, difficult, messy, and wonderful at the same time. This season though is something that I have looked forward to for so long. Everyone is potty trained, no one is napping, and almost all of them actually contribute in some way to make mine and Jeremy’s jobs easier.

We officially have four kids (not babies or teens, just kids) and it such a joy.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I am afraid we are going to have a Cain and Abel situation with the amount of sibling rivalry that goes on. The struggle is very very real, but I still love that I can plan activities and they actually appreciate them.

I mentioned being on a budget, so the whole trip we went to parks and apple orchards which are all free activities. Simple as it may be, the kids loved it!

They didn’t want the camping to end (unlike me who felt I had reached my limit).

Everyday I would ask them their favorite part of the day and the answers would keep rolling in.

None of the kids feel like they are too old or too young to join in on the fun; that is why I consider it the sweet spot.  It’s also cool that at this age they are probably going to remember this.

I look back at my childhood road trip memories fondly. For example I loved the license plate game so it thrills me that my kids enjoy it just as much as I did.

I also love that they spent hours in the woods working on their “HQ”. They came up with secret hand shakes to get in. They made booby traps and went on elaborate missions.

To me it’s everything that childhood should be and my little momma heart just soars when they play like this.

It’s funny that I have all these mushy nostalgic feelings about road trips and camping because it is a lot like childbirth. In the middle of it you swear you’ll never do it again, but when the painful memories subside you decide that it was in fact worth it.

 

 

I will always treasure those precious baby days when the kids were so tiny and cute. I also look forward to seeing my kids grow up into teens and adults that I can connect with on a whole new level. This though.

 

This space in between.

These years of adventure and collective discovery while they are kids, that is something I will never take for granted.

 

By | October 28th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

The Lighthouse Church

The first time I visited The Lighthouse Church in Midlothian Texas I was in high school. It’s a really embarrassing story but the truth is I was dating a drummer in a rock band at the time and he wasn’t saved. I had a plan though!

I talked to this individual (who will remain unnamed) about Jesus. I also invited him to go to church with me, but instead of taking him to my church I thought I would bring him to a church that was more his flavor. This church was considered the “skater church”.

It was the late nineties so imagine punk rock, baggy jeans, vans shoes (the first time around) hair parted down the middle landing at the cheekbones

I have no pictures easily accessible because this was before digital photography and phones with cameras. I am that old.

These photos are from a few years later, but they are the closest I have to that era.

The people at the Lighthouse were really welcoming and down to earth. I liked going there. Nothing ever came of that boyfriend by the way.

Fast forward several years and I started going to their college and career group and bringing my new boyfriend with me, only this one was saved (It’s Jeremy. Spoiler alert he’s my husband). After getting married in 2000 Jeremy and  I decided to go to the Lighthouse fulltime and not long after that he was on the worship team and eventually the full time worship pastor.

 

That was how we got connected at the Lighthouse and the beginning of our story is just a tiny drop in a giant bucket full of memories.

Yesterday morning when I read the news on Facebook that the Lighthouse church was hit by a tornado and severely damaged to the point of being condemned I was in shock.

The church sign broke through this 2nd story window of the church’s coffee shop and got stuck there.

Some of the damage the night of the disaster.

It was like I could see all of my memories swirling around in their own violent wind funnel and getting carried off.

 

This was where we started ministry as a couple.

It’s where we learned to go deeper in our relationship with Christ. I like to say we cut our teeth there, to which our pastor replies ‘I was wondering what those teeth marks on the bench were from’.

Seeing the photos of the rubble in the fellowship hall/venue was devastating.

I truly cannot count all of the special times (and a variety of hairstyles, YIKES) that we shared in that place.

 

We celebrated my college graduation and J’s 30th birthday there.

We had family meals there every Wednesday for a long time and when I found out SJ was a girl I brought cupcakes with pink sprinkles concealed with aluminum foil.

After we ate I ripped off the foil to reveal IT’S A GIRL and Z was going to have a little sister. Everyone erupted with cheers and applause. I will never forget that moment.

Months later the baby shower was in that same room and I remember knowing this baby and my family is so loved and that God is good.

I really could go on and on about how heartbroken I was when I heard of the devastation that happened this week.

Of course leave it to me to ramble about myself when I am not even in Texas anymore. What I was really in tears about was my church family that still is there. It’s many of my closest friends that are the ones that are really affected. They are in this building nearly every day for all kinds of ministries and they are the ones that are directly impacted.

I know the church is not a building and I know God has a plan and he’s going to restore everything and bless them abundantly. It’s still a tough thing to walk through though so I am praying and grieving with them.

The latest update I saw was that the church building has been declared a safety hazard and will need to be demolished. The total insurance deductible to cover the cost of repairs and such is $10,000.

They also shared this link where you can make a tax-deductible donation: dfwlighthouse.churchcenter.com/giving

 

I am praying that everything that has been stolen from there will be restored over and above what they had before. For 20 years the Lighthouse and Pastor Dan have poured into countless individuals. The Lord has used them to be a light not only in their community but also around the world through all of the missions work that they do.

As I look back I cherish the memories of the past and the foundation that was laid here and that foundation is still there, but it’s a new day. The next generation will be able to experience God in a whole new way and like we used to sing back in the day- “greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city.” Be blessed Lighthouse.

By | October 22nd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

I-75 Road Trip (from Ohio to Michigan)

We just returned from our 2nd Fall Break road trip and it was such a perfect escape for a family fall fanatics like us.

We live just north of Cincinnati and the destination was Pontiac Lake Michigan which means we spend most of our time on I-75.

I have had a lot of people ask me about the parks that we have visited and how I happened upon these little pit stops. So I finally decided to map it all out here on the blog for anyone that might be looking for some 1-75 destinations in the Ohio or Michigan area.

Almost all of these activities are free or very budget-friendly. So if you are traveling with a big family like we are it is easy on the wallet.

Without further ado here are the stops we make in order from Lebanon, Ohio to Waterford Township, Michigan.

The first stop (coming from the Cincinnati area) is Lebanon Ohio.

This is a great place to stop for a bite to eat at the many local restaurants or in our case just a morning coffee and pastry at the Lot No. 1 coffee shop.

Lebanon has the cutest shops and historic downtown area.

There is a train station and plenty of sidewalks to take in the gorgeous fall foliage if you are there at that time of year.

We then travel an hour and a half north to the village of New Bremen. I can’t recommend this stop enough even if it is about 15 minutes off of the highway.

My favorite part about the village is The Bicycle Museum of America.

Our whole family was able to go for under $10!

This museum was the coolest thing! They had some of the earliest bicycles all the way up to modern ones. They even have an original Pee Wee Herman bike.

Most of it was off limits to touch, but there were enough interactive displays to keep our 8 little hands happy.

The kids loved this museum and I enjoyed all the history behind it as well. If you like bikes at all this place is a must-see.

From there you can walk to the Komminsk Legacy park which is not only gorgeous but a lot of fun as well.

It considered an “interactive art park” and I’ve never seen anything like it.

This little park is sure to impress your family.

Along with the museum and the park, there is The Miami and Erie Trail, which is a 2-mile path that runs alongside the historic canal in the village. It’s easy to fall in love with New Bremen, Ohio.

From there we hop back in the car for another hour before stopping off in Findlay, Ohio.

This little University town is home to one of our favorite coffee shops, George House Coffee Co.  It’s eclectic menu includes some food, loads of drink combinations, and lots of rows of reading material.

Not far from there is Fort Findlay, an old wooden playground that my kids absolutely love!

After getting those wiggles out we drive another hour and a half to end up in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor is a day trip of its own so there are way too many attractions and experiences to fit in at one little stop but here are a few recommendations that we have experienced.

Barton Nature Area

Beautiful scenery with plenty of trails, a fascinating dam, and lots of water activity if you have a kayak or canoe!

Maize and Blue Delicatessen

If you are a Wolverines fan this little deli near the campus needs to be on your bucket list. Be ready for a mouthful though.

County Farm park

Not only was this an amazing playground, but this park also has lovely trails and beautiful community garden.

Gallup Park

Along the banks of the Huron river this park has it all: wild life, water activities, gorgeous hiking trails, and a playground that your kids will want to spend hours at.

 

Our destination of  Pontiac Lake Recreation Area is only 45 minutes away from Ann Arbor so that is our final stop.

To be clear, these photos are not all from the same trip! That would be too much in one day. We do try to stop at each city. Sometimes it’s a quick stop, others are a longer visit. This last time we saved Findlay for the ride home.  Either way it makes a really fun adventure out of a  5.5 hour drive!

If there is something else along that route that I am missing out on please let me know. I would love to add more attractions to our i-75 fall road trip.

 

By | October 21st, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Misty Pearson

When Misty Pearson became a mom a photo of her newborn daughter was displayed in the International Space Station window with the distant planet earth visible in the background. That’s one of the cool perks of working for NASA, your astronaut friends celebrate milestones in a way that is literally out of this world.

Misty has had a long time fascination with space. When she was 12 years old she watched a shuttle mission with John Glenn who was one of the original astronauts and was going up again. It was then that Misty proclaimed to her parents that she wanted to be an astronaut and they both encouraged her dreams. Even at a young age they looked for opportunities to allow her to pursue this passion.

This photo is of Misty while on a work trip to another NASA site in Huntsville Alabama, which is where she went to space camp more than a decade before.

Her dad was especially instrumental in helping Misty because he has also had a love for space exploration. He acted as a guide directing to Misty to hone in what it was she really loved about space and what she wanted to pursue. After graduating High School Misty went to LeTourneau University where she decided to pursue mechanical engineering. A lot of her journey involved just eliminating what she knew she didn’t want to do. She knew the military was one route to NASA and she didn’t feel called to that. Math wasn’t really something that she got excited about either. There were a lot of classes and aspects of space travel that Misty couldn’t see herself committing to.

It wasn’t until an internship in Houston in the summer of 2008 that Misty truly found her calling. She had a friend who connected her with a woman that worked at NASA in operations. Their motto in this department is “Plan Train Fly”, meaning they plan the mission, train the crew, and fly the mission. That was the moment Misty realized this was it! This was what she wanted to do! Getting to that point was not easy. There were times Misty wanted to quit but she knew this was her God given destiny and she had a support system around her to cheer her on and give her the drive to stick it out.

Looking back at that time Misty says “I was where I was supposed to be and I just had to get through it! When it was hard and I was worried, my parents always encouraged me and reminded me of WHY I was doing this. I knew that all of the struggle was going to be worth it.”

Misty testifies of the goodness of God that divinely placed each stepping stone for her to get to where she is today. Even her first job as an Inventory and Stowage Officer was the perfect place for her to be and she only had to do ONE interview. She worked that Crew Support position full time for 6 1/2 years and she loved it.

Now she is working a slightly higher level of operation integration working through problems and finding solutions. She still loves her job and the fact that it’s not all data and engineering, but that she also gets to work very closely with the astronauts and actually have interaction with them.

PHOTO DATE: November 14, 2017
LOCATION: Bldg. 30 – FCR-1
SUBJECT: Expedition 53 flight controllers on console at JSC in FCR-1 during grapple and berthing of the Orbital ATK Cygnus CRS-8 cargo craft to the nadir port of the Unity Module on ISS.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Josh Valcarcel

 

When Misty became a mom it was a big transition. She had been working at NASA for nine years at this point and now she had to navigate being a mom and an employee. She wasn’t sure how it was all going to blend together but as it turns out Misty says being a mom made her a BETTER employee.

“It has forced me to prioritize and become more efficient with time management,” Misty said. It helps that NASA and her team have been extremely supportive. “Working for NASA in flight operations there are high expectations. For some positions, there are details that could kill the crew. You have to know your stuff. You have to be on your game. You can’t make mistakes. So because of that high pressure enviroment there actually is a good balance of work and home. There is an expectation that you are taking time off and getting the rest that you need to be healthy. They support you getting family time in. There are even rules in place to ensure that you don’t work too many hours.” Misty has seen this in action first hand. “When I became a mom breastfeeding was very important to me. I was having trouble with my milk supply when it occurred to me that I am going to be working in mission control and I am going to have to pump two to three times a day!” She panicked, but decided to simply send an email to the flight director in charge of mission control for that shift and she said “Here is the deal… I am a breastfeeding mom and I am going to have to step out for 30 minutes a couple times a day and here is how we are going to do this.” She stated it very assertively because she knew it was a priority and that she had to stand her ground for her baby. “The amazing thing was I got so much support. These were male flight directors I had emailed and several of them wrote back saying: your family is the most important and that is totally fine. I appreciate you planning in advance…”

Misty says “Being a mom has taught me to speak out and stand up on behalf of my child, which has made me more willing to stand up for myself and it is empowering.”

Misty admits that she is still trying to figure out how to be a good mom and homemaker while being a good employee, wife, and woman of God all combined.

 

There is no superhuman woman out there absolutely crushing it in all areas, but Misty says in the past two years of pregnancy and motherhood she has learned so much about priorities.  “There are a lot of things that we do (that I did) that aren’t on the priority list. So it’s this realization that our time needs to be spent on those things that are most important. That’s my time with God, that’s my time with my family, keeping our home cozy, investing in myself. Having a list of top priorities helps. Sometimes the right thing to do is leave work early so that I can spend time with my child.”

 

What woman doesn’t struggle with feeling like they have to juggle it all? Misty was clear that she does not have it all together and in her words is still “a work in progress but God’s helping me figure things out.” Even then Misty is such a wonderful example of how you can devote yourself to a career and pursue dreams that are outside of the home without sacrificing your family or your faith.

I can’t wait to see what happens next for Misty and her family. I love that she has a baby girl with such a strong and gifted mother to look up to. It gives a whole new meaning to reaching for the stars.

By | October 9th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

A Pizza Party With No Pizza

I have thrown a lot of parties over the years, everything from Green Eggs & Ham to Batman, to Tea Party, Bumblebee, Candy Land, Butterfly and Nerf. Usually when I have a theme I am pretty thorough about having all of the details come together. This year I knew I wanted to have a big theme party for Ezie because we have a schedule and his last big party was three years ago.

The theme was going to be pizza because there is a book called the Hug Machine that is about a boy who loves to hug everybody and his hugs make everyone feel better.

This is just like Ezie!

In the book the boy refuels by eating pizza. This is also just like Ezie, so much so that when I read the book to the kids they asked if it was written about him.

Anyway, I made a pizza themed Evite, a pizza pinata, a fruit pizza, and the kids even made pizza party signs.

The thing is, the number of people coming to the party kept increasing. This happened mostly because not only is Ezie a big hugger, he’s also super friendly. In my facebook status update last year I called him the “Friendliest kid in the world” so I shouldn’t be surprised that he invited everyone he bumped into, which is super sweet. Also, it was a record breaking 90 degrees that day. So the idea of a few kids eating pizza on a cool fall day turned into a big ole cookout on a hot day (hot dogs and burgers are WAY cheaper for large groups).

In the end it was the biggest party we’ve ever had with a total of 48 people if you include our family of 6.

These are just some of the kids.

Although the party went a very different direction than I originally planned it’s okay because it was so fun to celebrate Ezie. What better way to have a party for my super friendly little guy than with 47 friends!

 

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By | October 1st, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Is Sex a Bad Word?

I was driving my 8 year old home from school one day when he asked me a question I will never forget. He said, Mom, is sex a bad word?

My heart started racing but my brain slowed down. I had prepared for questions like this. I am a confident modern mom who believes we should use honesty, scientific facts, and openness when discussing these delicate topics. Yet there I was fumbling for words when approached without warning.

“Well, sweetie” I began trying to fake a super calm tone. “It’s not bad, but it’s something for married grown-ups. Remember we had this talk and your dad went over some stuff with you? It’s a beautiful thing that God created but I don’t think you should be talking about it at school… ” I rambled on for what felt like an eternity trying to appropriately explain what I meant and concluded with “No. Sex is not a bad word”. This was followed by him correcting me with “I said, is SUCKS a bad word?”. There was definitely a brief awkward moment before I spat out “Yes. Sucks is a bad word. Don’t say it.”

No matter how cool or knowledgable we are, for most of us, talking about sex to our children is still somewhat uncomfortable. It’s important to get over it though. I am the first in line to want to blame our hypersexualized society for everything, and it has increased the need for these discussions and lowered the age at which we have them. Let’s be honest though, the human sex drive has been around since Adam and Eve. Even if there was no Ariana Grande or Victoria’s Secret we would still need to talk about it. There is no escaping the fact that your child will encounter things that will make them curious. It’s natural. The question is, what do we say?

I am no sexpert (proof, right there with my cheesy mom joke) so I have turned to those that are, specifically ones that share my values and faith. I have three main resources for discussing and teaching your children about physical intimacy and the human body. We have all three of these books and I highly recommend them, some I have mentioned before.

  1. The Talk

This book includes 7 biblically based lessons that you can go through with your child about sexuality. It is all scripturally based and includes diagrams and illustrations as well as web URLs for some additional material such as videos. The Talk is recommended for ages 6-10. You read that right. This book is for elementary age children. I personally never introduced the book to any of our children at age 6, but we definitely did it before age 10. If your kids are in school, sports, a neighborhood, or have any communication to the outside world (Rapunzel you can sit this one out) then they probably need this information sooner rather than later. You don’t have to share everything, but even pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can get questions from the baby’s older siblings that are sex related. So it makes sense to give truthful, factual answers that are age appropriate as they grow rather than all at once when their hormones and pubescent changes have already taken over their bodies.

 

2. Wild Things The Art of Nurturing Boys 

I love this book about parenting boys. I refer to it over and over. It has been a lifesaver for us. Even though it is about boys some of it applies to boys and girls alike. I’ll give some excerpts from the section that is titled “Talking with boys about sex” where it gives 5 tips for parents. If you have a daughter just swap out the gender in the information below. It will still apply in these scenarios.

  1. Take the initiative. Give a loving consistent, steady flow of information that should begin as early as possible.
  2. Explore your own attitude. If you are very uncomfortable with the subject read some books and discuss your feelings with a trusted friend, relative, physician, pastor, or counselor. The more you examine the subject the more confident you’ll feel discussing it.
  3. Offer Accurate Age Appropriate information. Talk about sex in a way that fits your boy’s age and stage of development.
  4. Cover more than sex. In addition to telling a boy about the biological specifics of puberty, parents need to discuss dating with him as well and how relationships with girls can be very emotionally powerful.
  5. Talk with boys specifically about girls. Boys need to be as informed about female sexual development as they are about their own sexual development. If they only hear about themselves, they only have half the equation.

3. Good Pictures Bad Pictures

Last but not least, this is a small picture book that teaches children the dangers of pornography. This isn’t exactly the birds and the bees chat, but it is such an important conversation to have in the world we live in. Unlike the other two books I mentioned, this one does not have scripture in it, but it does fit in with the principals that are in the Bible. It uses analogies and science to explain a complicated subject to young children. It gives them an action plan so that they are empowered with knowledge and a strategy when and if they find themselves in a compromising situation.

 

Those are the three books that have been helpful to us at this point. I’ve only been a mom for 12 years so I am still in the thick of all this trying to figure it out as I go. Even though that first book I mentioned is titled “The Talk” it isn’t about this one time thing. The best way to communicate with our children is through openness and honesty and it’s ONGOING. Your child is going to learn about sex, do them a favor and let it be from a safe and loving caregiver rather than the world.

 

By | September 19th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Raising Articulate Kids

BRAG ALERT!  On the way home from school recently my oldest son was telling me about his day. He was describing a situation with one of the teachers at his school and said:

“She’s different than all of the other teachers. She’s not mean. I wouldn’t call it mean because she is fair, but she is… well… intimidating”.

I was so proud of him for taking the time to articulate his thoughts and observations. So many times it’s easier to throw out the word “mean” because even a toddler knows that word, but to really process whether it was simply being mean or something more complex takes a lot of maturity and I commended him on that. I am proud of how my kids can speak out and express themselves. Every single one of them at some point was labeled as “strong-willed” by someone with an opinion, to which I eventually just rolled my eyes (at least internally). It’s easy to be frustrated with a child that isn’t super compliant when you want them to be, but there are so many benefits to raising a strong-willed child and I believe one of them is that they are more inclined to articulate their thoughts and needs. The key is teaching the appropriate and most effective ways to do this. So in this article I would like to explore 10 ways to help your child become more articulate.

 

  1. Don’t Dumb Down Their Vocabulary

It’s okay to use big words with young children, just make sure you are explaining those words and that they have an understanding of what you are saying. There are so many great resources for how to implement this, such as the picture book “Big Words for Little People” or the books or show “Fancy Nancy“. I also give an example in number four on this list.

2. Early Intervention therapy is a blessing

Please hear me out, when I write about raising articulate kids this isn’t coming from the queen of high tea. I’m the messy mom, so let’s keep it real. THREE of my four children have had speech therapy/early intervention. As someone who had to fight hard for my deaf daughter to be able to communicate, I understand the value of intervention and giving kids the tools they need to advocate for themselves and articulate their thoughts ideas, and feelings.  There is absolutely no shame in reaching out for help if your child needs. It is also important to recognize that effective self expression can present itself in many different ways.

3. Give opportunity for the child to speak

I just wrote a blog post about intentional pausing to allow children the opportunity to process, ponder, and respond. Even with my husband I will literally look at the clock and make sure I wait at least a minute to let him finish his sentence before I jump in. Sometimes he pauses for so long I think he is finished but he isn’t. He is an introvert and his brain takes longer to process things  (this is not a slam against intoverts, it can definitely be a benefit).

Whether introverted or not it is important that we allow a space/break in conversation for our children to articulate their thoughts.

4. READ

Research continues to show that the more children are exposed to reading, the richer their vocabulary becomes.  I like what scholastic says about using books for vocabulary boosters

“Put as much expression as possible into your reading. When you come to a word that is sophisticated, draw it out. Take the word “scrumptious,” for example. Say it slowly as part of the sentence and then add a comment like, “Scrumptious. Hmm, that means really, really good. Look at that apple pie. It sure looks scrumptious to me.”

 

5. Get them in front of a crowd

I am a believer in using public speaking as a way to build a child’s confidence. It teaches a child important life skills such as how to speak with clarity, conviction, and confidence! Whether it is at school, church, a play, or some other creative method, find ways to give your child an opportunity to speak in front of a crowd.

6.  Narrate

Talking out loud and narrating what you are looking at or doing is especially important for babies. You might be at the grocery store with a baby in the shopping cart and you start explaining everything that is happening. “Let’s go over to the bananas. I am going to pick out a big bunch of bananas. This one looks nice and yellow. These bananas are going in the cart!

It doesn’t stop with babies though, it just changes a little. You may not be narrating anymore, but it is still important that our kids hear us express ourselves and observe how we interact with our spouses, their teachers, or even when we are going through difficulties.

7. Congratulate and encourage

I used the example of my son describing his intimidating teacher. I was able to commend him for choosing his words carefully. Another example was at a Doctor’s visit. The pediatrician made sure they directed the questions at my child and allowed him to answer. After describing his feelings the Doctor said “You speak well for yourself. That’s important.” That happened years ago but the value of it has always stuck with me.

8. Ask open ended questions

It’s so easy to ask yes or no questions and allow our kids to keep it short and sweet, but if we really want to know how they are feeling it’s better to prompt a discussion. Here is a list of examples.

9. Limit screentime

I think it’s even more difficult to raise articulate children these days than in years past because teenagers and kids are spending so much time online or texting. Meanwhile, their communication skills are plummeting! A way to combat this is by having boundaries and limitations on their screen time. I know some kids get phones for emergency situations and such, but I think we need to take a great deal consideration in how early we introduce the use of digital interaction (texting, DMs, or social media).

10. Teach Them the Power of Words

For our family, as Christians, we are teaching our kids what the Bible has to say about the words we choose. For example:

Proverbs 20:15 Wise words are more valuable than much gold and many rubies.

Proverbs 18:21 Your tongue has the power of life and death. Those who love to talk will eat the fruit of their words.

 

Those are just some of the ways that we can help our children to clearly and appropriately express their thoughts. Even with all of those tips though I think the most important way is leading by example and then having listening ears when our children are trying to tell us something.

By | September 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Intentional Pauses

The book Hamlet’sBlackberry: A practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age by William Powers is an all-time favorite of mine. Even though no one has Blackberry phones anymore the information in the book still applies! It’s all about finding balance in a world of hyper-connectivity. Powers is not against technology at all, but he says what makes it work for and not against us is when we have some spaces in between the screen time. Powers says the trouble comes when “We don’t have any gaps, any breaks in which to make sense of it; do something new, creative with it; enjoy it,” The same notion applies to how we interact with our children. We have to leave gaps or space to let things sink in.

Some space comes in the form of subtle pauses. Let me give an example by sharing a very personal video from 7 years ago.

The video has actually been shared in professional circles for use in conferences and teachings for people that work with the deaf and cochlear implant recipients. After my daughter had her first cochlear implant surgery I was prompting her to speak. Keep in mind she had never said anything before so to see her respond to any auditory stimuli was a huge breakthrough.

What her therapist and Otolaryngoly team loved about this video was the connection that took place in the pauses where she was given the opportunity to respond. If for some reason you can’t see the video it’s very simple. I show her a Woody cowboy doll and say Boot, b-b-b and then after about 5 seconds she says Buh. I am not trying to brag about how awesome I am at speech therapy, because they just happened to catch a glimpse of a very touching moment. The point is if you go through speech therapy with your child you will learn that as important as it is to narrate everything, and give them tons of modeling, prompting, and auditory training. What is equally as important is that you pause. It’s in that space that they can chew on it, process it, and have a chance to respond to it.

It’s not just about what you say, but also the spaces where you don’t say anything at all. These pauses give children a chance to really think and evaluate.

Sometimes the pauses are for our benefit. I’m pretty sure every parent struggles with anger or outburst when a situation with a child escalates past the breaking point. I know that for me I have reacted and implemented discipline in the moment that I later regretted. For example, one child hit another in the backseat and I was so mad that I told them they couldn’t go to the birthday party they were looking forward to. The truth was we were all going to the party and it wasn’t a consequence I could follow through with. Rather than just reacting I should have remembered this advice from the book Love and Logic:

 Don’t feel like you have to hurry into an immediate reaction. Give yourself time when coming up with a consequence and just let the child know that it’s sad and you are going to care of it later.

The kicker is you still have to follow through. Sometimes this hard because life keeps going and forgetting the offense can happen. Still, I feel better when I pause and take a moment rather than just react.

There are so many benefits of intentional pausing. It’s the little things like just enjoying a moment in silence together, or watching as your disgruntled child soften ups and decides to ask for forgiveness. So much can happen when we pause for a moment.

I know we live in a very fast paced world where we aren’t used to slowing down and taking a breath, but we need to. We need to with God (Proverbs 46:10 Be still) and we need to with our children. It’s amazing what can happen if you make some space for it.

 

This post was originally featured in a series called “Teachable Parenting” For more articles like this check out the contents page here.

By | September 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Inspiring Mom Anna Slayton

For this Inspiring mom interview, Anna and I sat down in front of our computers. She lives in Texas and I am in Ohio. I wanted to interview her as an Inspiring mom because I have watched her story from a distance. I knew she was a young mom who tragically lost a child and then made a difference in the community and in the lives of others as an activist bringing awareness to drowning prevention. 

When we started the video chat the first thing Anna said was “Are you sure you want to hear this? Are you sure this is something you want me to share because I have been through some really, really dark stuff. It’s ugly. I’m serious.” I could detect the years of pain and struggle in her voice as she spoke. I told her that I believed God ordained this interview. I know that the truth and light of her story absolutely has to be shared, even if some of it is difficult to hear. This is real life pain that Anna went through and it could be you or me or any of us. So please read this with grace and compassion knowing that God had a plan for Anna and she is using her heartbreak to show the work of the redeemer at hand. 

Anna got married and became pregnant when she was only 19 years old. Then she dove right into nursing school when her first baby was 5 months old. Shortly after graduating with her nursing degree she became pregnant with her second baby. She loved both her children, but it wasn’t until the third baby (Gavin) who came when she was 25 years old, that it felt like motherhood was really beginning to click. From the time she was pregnant she felt different about this bond.

 

She was finally ready to start acting like a mom and do all the mom things like cuddle and spend time gazing at him in awe. Even though Gavin had a cleft pallet she nurtured him throughout the surgery and was even able to breastfeed him despite this obstacle. Motherhood was becoming second nature to Anna and it felt like their family was complete. 

Just as Anna began to feel comfortable in this role the image of family shattered when she discovered that her husband was battling a serious drug addiction. The two of them separated and he was admitted to rehab. When he got out Anna explained “Things seemed better. He had found the Lord and was himself again. I just wanted my family back and was tired of living as a single mom.” 

So that summer they gave it another shot. They went on a cruise together and all the broken pieces seemed to come back together. Anna then got the exciting news that she was moving into a management position at the ER. This led to the decision to invest in a house! When Anna’s husband wanted to go back to school she thought, Why not?. Everything else was moving forward and the future looked bright so Anna took out all of her retirement to support his dream. It was as if they had been given a fresh start, a second chance at love, and the hope of a happy home. 

Unfortunately, as is the case with many addicts, it wasn’t that simple. Her husband had relapsed and Anna found herself alone and hurting just as she was before, except this time she humbly admits to making some poor decisions in that season. Rather than looking to God and allowing Him to be her savior and rescuer she turned to another man, one who was not her husband. It wasn’t that she went out looking to have an affair. Anna says that she didn’t have healthy boundaries in place and in the midst of the anger and pain she allowed things to go too far. It was as if by retaliating against her husband she would be able to gain control. She was tired of being the victim. 

That December the truth came out about Anna’s affair and she and her husband got into a huge fight, one that actually ended up getting violent. They decided they needed to separate. The holidays that year were hard, but they were trying to handle the whole divorce in a mature manner. They wanted to do what was best for their three young children and they were finding a rhythm that worked for them. 

Then on New Year’s Day 2017, Anna got a call while at work. It was the most devastating call any mother could receive.

Anna was informed that her precious 2 year old baby boy had drowned in a pool. She raced out of the hospital she was working at straight to the hospital where her son Gavin was. As an ER nurse, she had faced situations like this but this time was different. This time as she stood under the dim hospital lights in her scrubs looking down at the child on life support listening to the machine steadily beeping she wasn’t the nurse, she was the mom. It was by far the most difficult experience she has ever had to go through.

It’s been almost three years since Gavin passed away. The Lord has been covering Anna every step of the way. He has given her the hope and the courage to keep going even when she felt like giving up. Anna has done a tremendous amount of work with the Texas Drowning Prevention Alliance. You can read more of hers and Gavin’s story here.

So much healing and restoration has taken place since the loss of her marriage and her son. A miracle that only God could do. 

Anna has since remarried and her husband is an amazing christian man who supports her and loves her unconditionally.

He also introduced her to a program called Celebrate Recovery which she has been an active participant for 18 months now. She will actually be sharing her testimony at her local celebrate Recovery this coming week and Anna informed me that September is national recovery month! 

Here is what Anna has to say about what she has learned through Celebrate Recovery

“I have been able to identify where my struggles truly lie and what I continue to pick up. I have to stop looking at the past. It is damaging to my spirit and my soul to keep analyzing all the reasons why my life is ‘not what I expected’. There are things that I have no choice but to accept. I cannot change what others do with their life despite when I wish they would choose differently. I have absolutely no choice but to accept that my youngest son died, and there wasn’t a thing I could have done to change it. I have to accept that because of what happened and choices that I made, I am now in a new phase of my life. Instead of clinging to the past or trying to figure out how I got here, it is time to embrace where I am. Accept the life that God has blessed me with, and continue to find the best version of myself that I can BECAUSE of my story.

As hard as this journey has been, Anna has taken all of her pain and used it to help others. That is her passion and her calling. She is currently going back to school to continue her education as a nurse. She said this would be the year Gavin would have started school so she has started school too. “My path is my memory of him. I am trying to be proactive in his honor.” Anna says. 

Anna encourages anyone dealing with hurt, pain, or addiction to find a local Celebrate Recovery to be a part of. 

On Anna’s shoulder she has a tattoo with the scripture reference Isaiah 40:31 and I will end with that verse because it’s so perfect for Anna, and for you, and for me, and all of us. 

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 

If you would like to connect with Anna or see more of her journey you can follow her on Instagram at @AnnaSlaytonRN

By | September 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments