Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kate!

Dear Kate,

Happy birthday, my sweet girl! Since we're not together today, I thought I'd send you a little note via my blog.

You're 18 today--does that make you a real adult? I mean, I know you can vote and all (we've certainly talked a bit about that lately), but are you ready for the rest?

College? (I know you're ready for that!)

Jobs? (You already have one.)

Marriage? (Now, hold on there.)

Kids? (Alright, stop it now!)

You may not be ready for all of it, but I know you're ready for your next big step. I have watched you grow from the curious little girl into the still-curious young adult you are today. I have seen your many haircuts over the years (you do a much better job at choosing a hairstyle for yourself than I did) and your many experiments with fashion.

Most of all I have seen you grow into the beautiful woman you are today. Your bright smile, your cheerful hello, your wise words, and the way you encourage everyone around you all point to the true beauty that is inside of you.

Kate, my dear, I love you more than you will ever know. And even though we are not together on your birthday today, I hope you know I will be thinking of you every minute.

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised." Proverbs 31:30



Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Daughter's Heart

It was about 8:15 one night last week. Cold. Dark. Dreary.

I remember because I was irritated that the doorbell should ring at that hour, frustrated by the interruption into my quiet evening.

The little boy who stood there didn't say anything at first, a lost, confused look spread across his face when I answered the door.

"Can I help you?" I asked.

"Ahhhh. . . . This isn't it," he quietly answered more to himself than to me; his big, brown eyes peering up at me, needing some reassurance.

"What isn't it?" I replied.

"AJ's. This isn't AJ's house," and he looked around to see if perhaps my neighbor's house looked familiar. It didn't seem to bring the relief he was looking for.

Not more than nine or ten years old, the little boy wore a jacket that seemed much too thin for a cold night like that. He had no hat. No gloves.

"AJ?" I must have looked puzzled. "There isn't an AJ in this neighborhood," I quietly told him. "Where do you live, honey? It's really cold out here."

Those big, brown eyes darted up the street and his little hand pointed toward some apartments a few blocks away. I suppose that was where he lived, but I couldn't be sure because he quickly said, "AJ told me this was where he lived. . . . Huh." And he shrugged and turned away.

I called to him, "Do you need some help?" but he just walked toward the sidewalk where his bike was lying on its side; he picked it up and rode away.

Maggie stood back, away from the conversation at the doorway, but observing all the same. A few minutes later, after I was snuggled back on the couch underneath the blanket I had been wrapped up in, but still not comfortable in my soul, Maggie came to me with tears in her eyes.

"Mom," was all she said before she melted into my arms, crying for the little boy lost.

"I know," was all I could say. And then, "Maggie, there's nothing we can do for that boy right now except pray for him. Let's pray for him." She nodded and cried and clung to me.

And so we prayed for that nameless little boy. We prayed he'd be safe. We prayed he'd be warm. We prayed that he'd find his way home, wherever home was for him. We prayed that he had two parents who loved him. We prayed he'd find Jesus.

As my daughter held me tightly and cried for the lost, I caught a glimpse into her heart. And I loved it even more.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Intentional Parenting - An Introduction

I'm out of town this week, so for those of you who might be new to my blog, I thought I'd re-run the introduction to this parenting series I'm currently running. I'd love to read your thoughts about it in the comments section.

**Word of warning: this post is long. I hope you'll think it worth your time.**

A few years ago a friend told me, “You are the most intentional parent I know.” At the time it knocked me off me feet. It was a true compliment, and I was honored to receive it, yet it humbled me somehow.

What did she mean by intentional? How did my parenting style differ from hers or that of our friends?

I have spent a lot of time thinking about that comment over the years and thought it might be helpful, both for me and for you, to explore what it means to be an intentional parent. As a result, I am going to do a series of posts called “Intentional Parenting” that I’ll put up here every-other Monday for a few weeks. I think this will help me clarify my thinking about this topic, and maybe you’ll catch a parenting idea or two that will be helpful for you.

Let me say right off the bat that for me to write about parenting is kind of like Sarah Palin calling herself an expert on Russia. Sure, she lives near Russia—rumor has it she can see Russia from her house—and as governor of Alaska she probably had some interaction with the country. But does she have a Ph.D. in Russian history or U.S./Russian relations? I don’t think so.

Same with me. I live with kids. I’ve been a parent for 18 years or so, so I’ve had a little experience. But an expert I am not. My degrees are in English, not Child Psychology. So please don’t think that I have all the answers.

Let me also say that I don’t have perfect kids. I used to think people who wrote about parenting must really have it all together and, more than that, they must especially have kids who never misbehave, who never talk back, and who never harbor bad attitudes. Their families probably have devotions every morning before school and then again every night at dinner.

That is so not us. I’ll just leave it at that.

All I have done is a lot of observing and a lot of thinking about parenting over the years, and I guess I’m just as qualified as anyone to have some opinions on the matter. To me, the issue of parenting is so important that it’s critical to never stop working at it and to never stop striving to get better and better.

So here we go.

What is intentional parenting? That’s the question I’ve asked myself so many times since my friend complimented me. What does that mean? I think I’ve come up with a few ideas.

Have a plan.

Intentional parents think about the results they’d like to see in their kids and then think about how to accomplish those results. Really, the “how” piece will look different for everyone. God has given us all different personalities and children with different personalities, so why would we assume that parenting by a formula would work the same for everyone?

Over the years, B and I have done a lot of thinking about what kind of people we’d like to see our children turn out to be and what we need to do, as parents, to help our kids become those people. For instance, we really thought it was important to develop a global perspective in our kids so that they would understand God’s love for all the people of the world. Along with that, we wanted them to be aware of what missionaries do and how they live. So when our girls were very young, we decided that travel would be an important part of our family life. And we made it a goal to visit missionaries around the world whenever we could.

We started saving Frequent Flier miles when our girls were very young, hoping that some day we would have enough miles to visit our friends who are missionaries in Brazil. Finally, in 2004, we had accumulated enough miles for three tickets and we had saved enough money to purchase the other two. We obtained passports for everyone in the family, and we finally realized our long-held goal to take our kids to visit some missionaries.

That trip changed us all. It gave us a different perspective of the world, and it gave us a much greater understanding of what missionaries do and how they live. It was, simply put, amazing, and we still talk about it today.

Intentional parenting means that we focus on why we do what we do rather than how we do what we do.

Why did B and I think it was important to take our girls to Brazil? It wasn’t just a “let’s see the world” trip for fun. We wanted them to see people who were different from them, people who lived in much different circumstances from us, so that they could see that God loves all of His children and that the people of Brazil need a Savior just as much as the people of Chicago.

We also wanted them to see the greater needs of the world so that they would begin to develop a heart for the poor. In Brazil, our friends took us to visit a family who lived in a favela, which is basically a slum area. The homes are made of cinder block, stacked one on top of another up the side of a mountain. These people have no heat, no running water, no indoor plumbing. The conditions are deplorable, yet the family we met was so happy to welcome us to their home. They smiled broadly as we sat on the sides of their bed (the only place to sit in the home), learning more about them and their culture.

It might be difficult to take your children into such a situation to see people living in such awful conditions unless you first talked about why you were doing this. How you get there is easy—it’s the “why” piece that is important.

Intentional parents are proactive, not reactive.

By this, I mean that intentional parents look ahead at what’s coming. They think about how a situation might affect their child and develop a response before it comes up.

Not that I’d know anything about this, but curfew might be a problem in some families with teenagers. Once a kid gets her driver’s license she might want to stay out later with her friends, pushing her parents’ resolve to get their daughter home safely at a decent hour.

Intentional parents decide long before the “curfew talk” comes up what time they want their child home and . . . here’s the important part . . . why. In our house, our daughter’s curfew is a little earlier than her friends’ curfew. We simply shrug our shoulders and tell her that nothing good happens after midnight and because we want her home safely she needs to be home when we tell her. It’s for her safety.

Could things escalate into a huge argument? Sure. But the chances of that happening are much greater if a kid senses his parent waffling, unsure of what they should do. Intentional parents have thought through the issue and are proactive, not reactive when stuff like this comes up.

Over the next several weeks I’m going to share some of the areas that B and I have thought it important to be intentional about. Some of these might really resonate with you; others might not. As parents, you have to decide for your family and for your children what you deem important enough to be intentional about. Just as personalities are different, families are too, so what might be important to my family might be entirely different to yours.

Whatever the case, I’d encourage you to start thinking through some of the areas you think are important enough for you to be intentional about as a parent. And if you’d share these in the comments I’d be especially grateful. I’d love to know what you’re thinking!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

If you give a college kid a trip to England . . .

. . . she'll fall in love with the country.

She'll leave a piece of her heart there and feel a profound need to go search for it every couple of years.

She'll probably want to take her husband there someday, hauling around backpacks and staying in Youth Hostels as a way to save money before they have children.

She'll read books that take place there.

She'll peruse travel websites regularly, just to get a feel for what's going on there.

She'll bore her friends to death with her talk of her beloved country.

She'll take her husband a second time, not staying in Youth Hostels, but castles instead.

And then she'll have children and want them to experience this place she loves so much, so she'll concoct a plan--a very special plan to brainwash her children into loving England too. (Good thing she has a really wonderful husband who goes along with this plan.)

And if she's really lucky, her kids will get to study in England someday too.

In just a couple of hours my dear friend, Amy, will pull into my driveway. I will lug a big suitcase to her car. Amy will drive Abby and me to the airport for what I know will be a very special week together.

Since I won't be around next week, I'll post a few of my old favorites for your reading pleasure. And if you're new to my blog, maybe you'll get a sense for this wild life that I lead.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Intentional Travel continued

O.K., I realize that some of you, after reading yesterday’s post, probably rolled your eyes and thought, “Yeah, but travel is expensive!”

I agree. And I disagree.

See, when you make travel a priority, you begin to realize that there are lots and lots of ways to make it happen. No, it’s not as cheap as staying home, but it’s also a whole lot more fun. Staying home can be fun—if you like cleaning out closets (and if you like cleaning out closets, could you please come to my house? I have a whole bunch of closets that need some attention.). But travel is more fun.

And travel is definitely do-able if you remember these three things: Plan, Research, and Go.

Do you have a dream? Do you envision taking your kids somewhere really great? Maybe it’s to visit some missionaries like we did or maybe it’s to take them to Australia to experience the Great Barrier Reef. Whatever your dream is, don’t give it up. Just plan for it.

When we caught a vision to take our kids to Brazil we knew it was a huge endeavor. And we knew that the plane tickets alone would cost way more than we could afford to spend at that time, so we began to figure out a way to make it happen. We got ourselves a Visa card that was connected to a Frequent Flier program and we used that card for everything, including groceries.

Of course, using a Visa card for everything may not be in the best interest of some people, especially if you have a hard time budgeting. So I’m not saying to necessarily go out and spend up the Visa card—no way! But we had a budget and knew how much we could spend on stuff, and we paid off the Visa at the end of every month.

Believe me, it took years to rack up enough miles to get three free tickets. YEARS! But in those years we continued to save (we finally saved enough to pay for the other two tickets)and to plan for our trip. We didn’t give up.

After purchasing the tickets we knew we’d need to save for food expenses, passport fees, and other miscellaneous expenses while we were there. We didn’t need to pay for lodging because we stayed with our friends.

Before we knew it, our little dream became a reality and we were on our way to Brazil. And truly, that trip was so worth it (even if I did get sick and have to take massive doses of the strongest antibiotic available when I got home). Our girls got so much out of seeing that part of the world and participating in the work our friends did—they still talk about it today. None of us regret taking that trip for a second.

Now, if you’re a luxury traveler, you can just shut your laptop and stop reading right here because you won’t get anything of value out of what I’m about to say. But if you’re still not convinced that you can afford to travel with your kids, read on. With careful research, you can afford to take your kids out of town, even overseas.

I’ve already talked about using those all-important Frequent Flier miles, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to be in at least one, if not two, FF programs. But it’s also important to research your program—find out other ways besides flying that you can earn miles. Sometimes just going out to dinner can earn you extra miles. Or staying in a hotel. Do a little research to find out how you can get the most out of your FF program.

Lodging can also be done cheaply if you’re willing to plan ahead and be flexible.

London is probably one of the most expensive cities in the world for lodging. It’s outrageous! But there are many deals to be found if you use hotel websites such as Priceline or Hotwire. You will have to pay for the room up front (which, to me, is a bonus because you won’t have that expense to deal with once you get home), and they usually have a no-refund policy. Once you’ve paid, you’d better go use the room because you won’t be able to get your money back.

Again, this doesn’t bother me. Other than catastrophic illness or death, I can’t imagine a reason why I wouldn’t want to go to the greatest city in the world.

For my upcoming trip to London, I got my hotels through Priceline and Hotwire. The first place we’re staying cost us only $89 a night through Priceline (I’ve stayed there before so I know the neighborhood and I know that the hotel is just fine). That same room, if booked through the hotel, would cost about $140 a night and that's even with a special they have running right now.

Travel websites often offer forums where seasoned travelers give tips to not-so-seasoned travelers. I have learned about 2-for-1 deals in London on many attractions through these forums. I’ve also learned about which museums and attractions are free. I’ve learned the best time to book train tickets when they are at their least expensive. And I’ve learned about how to find coupons for restaurants. So take some time to read a few travel forums—it will definitely be worth it for you.

Just a little research will cut down the cost of your trip substantially, helping you find some great deals. They’re out there, they really are—you just have to find them.

Now that you’ve done your planning and research, all that’s left is for you to go. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be worried that your house will burn down while you’re gone. In fact, don’t even think about your house while you’re gone.

Just go and make it a great experience for yourself and for your family.

So tell me, if you could go anywhere, where would you go?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Intentional Parenting - Part 8; Intentional Travel

The first time I traveled internationally—I mean, really traveled, not just stuck my toe over our northern or southern border—was in 1984. I went to England to study for the summer and came back changed completely. My world had opened up, and I saw everything through a new lens.

Travel became an important passion for me.

I began to understand why my grandparents, in their retirement, made travel a priority. Grandpa Earl was always planning another trip, telling “Toots,” my grandma, to get up off the couch because it was time to go on another trip. They traveled well into their 80s, until Grandpa’s kidneys failed and it became too hard to go anywhere.

When I married B, I made it very clear that travel would be an important part of our lives together. (Nothing like setting those expectations early, huh?) Honestly, I didn’t care what kind of house we lived in or what kind of car we drove as long as we had a little extra money to take a trip now and then. Thankfully, he has accommodated my whim, and over the past 25 years we’ve been to lots of great places together, and we’ve made some wonderful memories.

When we had kids we began to think intentionally about travel with them. We knew that we wanted them to see a good portion of America, but we also wanted them to experience other cultures. We had friends who were missionaries in Brazil, so when the girls were young we started saving our Frequent Flier miles, hoping to be able to take them to visit our friends. In 2004, that dream became a reality and we packed up all three girls and headed to Brazil.

To say that that trip and others we’ve taken have changed us and our kids would be an understatement for sure. Each time we go somewhere we are reminded again and again of the importance of travel in our lives.

The Benefits of Travel
One of the greatest benefits of travel, of course, would be making memories as a family. We still laugh about “Ted” the bison who made friends with our car—with us trapped inside it—during a trip to Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. Or, on that same trip, we marveled at the grandeur of the Teton Mountains and remember wading in the Snake River near Jenny Lake one very hot day. We can’t drive through Tennessee without remembering the time Abby ate too much Easter candy in the back seat of the car, and we had to quickly find a rest area for . . . well . . . you know.

Every trip we’ve taken brings back fun and happy memories of times together as a family. We can laugh about times we’ve lost our temper with each other, knowing that those times also bind us.

Another great benefit of travel, I’ve found, is that it puts history into perspective. The first time I went to England I got a real sense that America is just a baby country compared to these great European countries. Sitting in churches that were 800 years old sure makes you realize that our 150 year old church, while pretty old by American standards, is nothing compared to the great cathedrals of Europe.

Walking where Henry VIII walked, seeing where he beheaded his wives, makes everything I’ve read come to life. And standing near the graves of some of my favorite poets and authors makes me sense that these were real people with real lives and real relationships and real emotions.

Finally, one of the main benefits of travel, to me, is that it helps me see God’s hand in the world. I distinctly remember being in England that summer of 1984, watching the faces of the people walking past me, and realizing that so many of them were lost, without hope, without God. Not that people here in America aren’t lost too—many are—but for some reason it really hit me as I was overseas how many people did not know Christ.

At the same time I also came to have a more global sense of God’s grace—He loves all of His children, all over the world. For me, it took seeing these different people to realize in a new way that He sent His son for the entire world.

What does Intentional Travel look like?
For us, like I said, we’ve made sure that we’ve traveled with our kids. We’ve taken missions trips as well as trips to Disney World (not every trip has to be educational!). We’ve traveled extensively within the U.S. and a little bit internationally (there are so many places we still want to go!).

And we found one place that we love so much we keep going back to it—Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Finding that special place wasn’t necessarily intentional, but going back to it five times sure has been. The memories we’ve created there could fill an entire book. Just this week Kate said, “I really hope that we’ll still be going to Kiawah when we’re all married and have kids of our own.”

Finally, intentional travel looks like this week, when Abby and I will pack our bags and head to England together—just the two of us. When our girls were very young we decided that when each of them turned 16 I would take them on a mother/daughter trip. Really, the trip could have been to anywhere—I just happen to have fallen in love with England, and I want my girls to experience this place I love. So two years ago I took Kate (we had an absolute blast!), and this year it’s Abby’s turn. I am so looking forward to spending some good one-on-one time with her. Plus, she had to plan a bit of the trip, so I’m looking forward to seeing the part of the country she chose to see.

I feel so passionately about travel that I think I’ll have more to say about it tomorrow. A Travel Tuesday post again!

Until then, tell me one of your favorite travel memories in the comments section. I’d love to hear about it!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


A huge THANK YOU to the women of Water's Edge Bible Church in West Chicago for welcoming me so warmly yesterday. I had a great time getting to know you all.

Now go put those purses to good use!


Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Favorites - Honey Whole Wheat Bread

To kind of go along with the book review I did yesterday, I thought I'd share a recipe with you for something my family loves.

I don't just mean we love it with all small letters. We L-O-V-E with all caps this recipe.

For some reason this winter I started making bread. To be honest, Jo-Lynn was my inspiration--she's the one who introduced me to Michael Pollan and is really into healthy eating. And she bakes her own bread. Imagine.

But I got to thinking that my family would probably enjoy a slice of homemade bread every now and then, plus it's so much better for them, so I bought a bag of whole wheat flour and went to town.

Not literally--I already live in town. You know what I mean.

Anyway, the recipe I'm going to share with you came from and is really not that hard. You can do it. I know you can. I've made this about five times and it has turned out perfectly every time. (And thank goodness it cooperated this time since I was taking pictures and blogging about it and all.)

First, you mix together 3 cups of warm water with 2 packages yeast, 1/3 cup honey, and 5 cups white flour (or "bread flour" whatever that is).

Let those ingredients get happy for a while, as Emeril would say. Oh, about 30 minutes, until it's ooey and gooey.

Mix in some melted butter, another 1/3 cup honey and some salt. Here's where you need some whole wheat flour--about 3 or 4 cups.

Stir it into the rest of the dough and then knead it, adding whole wheat flour as you go until it's still slightly sticky.

(The recipe says to knead it with your hands, but this is where I pull out the trusty Kitchen Aid mixer. Even though mine is a smaller model and the dough spills up over the dough hook, it's worth it.)

Let all this mess rise for about an hour or so until it's doubled. Like this.

Shape it into three loaves and let them rise in the pans for about another hour.

Bake them. When they are done, you'll have three gorgeous loaves of whole wheat bread that your family will L-O-V-E.

Now, I hear the weather around these parts is going to be on the nasty side this weekend (don't tell anyone I said this, but the weatherman said something about little white flakes falling from the sky again. I just can't bear it, can you?), so I think it would be a very good time to practice your bread making skills. Seriously. Get the pans out and have fun.

Your family will L-O-V-E you!

Here's the recipe in case you couldn't follow what I was saying up there.

Simple Whole Wheat Bread (from

3 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/3 C honey
5 C bread flour
3 T butter, melted
1/3 C honey
1 T salt
3 1/2 C whole wheat flour
2 T butter, melted

1. In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 C honey. Add 5 C white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.

2. Mix in 3 T. melted butter, 1/3 C honey, and salt. Stir in 2 C whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky--just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 C of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

3. Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9x5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes; do not over bake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 T. melted butter when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely (unless you live in my house and the bread does not even make it to the cooled stage).

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

Hey, I'm linking up to Hillary's Friday Favorites today. Hop on over there for some more favorite ideas.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Review - Food Rules

I grew up on a farm, so naturally I grew up with lots of good food around me. My mom was a fantastic cook, and she usually used fresh ingredients, making really good, simple meals.

My grandfather, who lived about a half mile down the road from me, had a huge garden in which he grew everything from broccoli to brussels sprouts, radishes to rhubarb. The colors in Grandpa's garden were glorious, and it always made me think of Mr. McGregor's garden from "Peter Rabbit." I still remember wandering up and down the rows of vegetables when I was a little girl.

So I guess you could call it my heritage or instinct or maybe just good, common sense that I call upon when I make food choices today. I've never been interested in pre-packaged food (too expensive for one thing), and I've never liked the idea of diet pop (hey, I'm a Midwesterner!). I like to cook, and I like to cook good food with top-notch ingredients. That just feels right to me.

Don't get me wrong--I am no earth-hugging, granola-chewing (although I do like granola), Birkenstock-wearing food nut. That is not and never will be me. It just makes me laugh to think that anyone would think I'm a health-food type of person. I'm SO not.

I don't like the idea of chemicals in my foods, though, and I do like the idea of buying my food at a farmer's market. So I guess if I need to go buy myself a pair of Birkies, so be it.

So when I came across this little book a couple of weeks ago while perusing the aisles of Borders for a while, I just knew I had to have it. It seemed to confirm a lot of what I had always thought about food, and yet it challenged me further.

Food Rules by Michael Pollan is a quick, easy read. You can get through it in one sitting. (Are you sensing a trend here?) *wink, wink*

In the book, Pollan talks about what we should eat ("Eat food"), what kind of food we should eat ("Mostly plants"), and how we should eat ("Not too much"). Common sense, right? These topics make up the three sections of the book, and each section reveals several "rules" that go along with it.

Here are some of my favorites.

Rule #2: "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." He uses Go-gurt as an example of this.

Rule #9: "Avoid food products with the wordoid 'lite' or the terms 'low-fat' or 'nonfat' in their names." He says that when the food manufacturers remove the fat they add carbohydrates to make the food taste better. You're just exchanging one for the other and probably eating more because of the false claim of the food being "lite."

Rule #20: "It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car." *gulp*

Rule #23: "Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food." I like this one a lot because I think we probably eat too much meat. But I also like the Pollon doesn't say, "Become a vegetarian." Ain't happenin', folks. But if I can think of meat as a flavoring, rather than as THE main course, I might not eat quite as much.

And I think this one is probably my MOST favorite (I sound like a little kid). Rule #39: "Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself." Again, he's not saying you can't have fun every now and then. He's just saying that when you make cookies, brownies, or even french fries yourself at home you probably won't make them as often because they take so much time to make. Interesting point.

I think you get the idea. Food Rules gave me a lot to think about--stuff I'm still thinking about and will probably think about for a while. And the cool thing is that Kate read the book, too, and is thinking through the whole issue of "good" food versus "not-so-good" food, which is especially helpful since she'll be going to college soon and will be making her own choices about what to eat.

I really liked this book. You should get it.

The end.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Last week Kate, who is a senior in high school, begged me for a day off, claiming she needed a “mental health day.” Is that a 21st century term, or what?

But I get it. It’s been gray and cloudy for what feels like months now. She’s tired of school—she says they do nothing all day long. In fact, on Friday her gym teacher told the class to get a yoga mat out of the closet and then to lie down and take a nap. Kate claims that every Friday is now going to be “nap day” in gym class.

(Her dad would argue that if she gets a nap every Friday that is a mental health day. But I digress.)

Knowing that her dad was going to be out of town for a few days and her mom would probably be tired, Kate seized the opportunity and asked me for a day off. I must have been in a weakened state of mind because I did something I rarely do—I asked for the opinions of others. I’m usually pretty decisive, but that day I decided to throw Kate’s question out to my Facebook friends.

“Taking a poll. Should I let my daughter with senioritis have a mental health day? Comment below.”

And 28 of my most opinionated friends came back with various forms of “yes!” . . . except for Kate’s dad who came back with an adamant, “No!”

Also, some of my friends were concerned about the lying issue--would I lie to get my child out of school? Let me be clear (that usually gets the nation's attention, doesn't it?) . . . I will not lie to get my child out of school. Enough said.

Since Kate's dad was out of town, I was left to make the decision.

So I did.

Here’s the way I see it. Kate has already been accepted into her first-choice college. She’s pretty much a straight-A student. She holds down a part-time job. She tutors kids in the city once a week. She’s active in her youth group. The girl is busy. She works hard. And she’s a good . . . no, a great . . . kid.

Mentally, she’s checked out of high school. I’m not sure if they’re really doing nothing until the end of the year (I’d like a tax refund if that’s the case)—especially since a few of her classes are AP classes and they should be getting ready for the tests that are coming up in May—but I’m sure things are probably winding down somewhat. And after Spring Break it will only get worse.

Does all that mean she deserves a mental health day? Probably not. Does anyone deserve such an indulgence?

But does it also mean that she doesn’t deserve it? Also, no.

So what’s a mom to do? What did this mom do?

I thought about it long and hard last week and came up with a compromise. I told her that I would allow her to choose one day—and one day ONLY—between now and the end of the school year as her “mental health day.” She can take it now if she wants, knowing that in two weeks she’ll have five mental health days in a row (Spring Break), or she can wait until the weather gets warmer and do something more fun on her day off.

She didn’t love my answer (I think a senior in high school would just like to call the shots herself, thankyouverymuch), but she accepted it graciously. I think she’s going to try to gut it out until Spring Break and then wait for a warmer, sunnier kind of day to take a mental health day. She’s already asked me if I’d take her into the city, and we all know that I can’t say no to my daughter.

I guess I’ll get a mental health day too.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Intentional Parenting – Part 7; Intentional Kindness

Maybe I was a bully, but I remember fighting with my sisters a lot as a kid. In fact, I remember feeling sick to my stomach when my parents would go out, leaving us home alone, because I knew the evening would end badly. Call me the sensitive middle child, but the fighting really bothered me.

I wouldn’t say I became “friends” with my sisters until I reached adulthood which, I know, is the way it is with many siblings. But I think part of the reason for that is because we just plain weren’t nice to each other when we were kids. (Feel free to chime in here anytime, girls.) It could have been so much better.

Now, I have to tell you that I feel like the world’s biggest hypocrite writing a post about kindness. I mean, my kids don’t exactly thwack each other on the head calling each other “Punk” on a regular basis, but they do have their moments. I sure don’t want you to think I’m raising perfect kids here. There is some bickering going on in this house—it’s inevitable with three teenagers hanging around.

And I certainly forget to act with kindness when my child has lost an important paper or she didn’t leave enough time to walk to school in the morning or when they interrupt my writing time. No, sometimes kindness goes out the window with patience and I’m left without two of the most basic tools I need to raise my kids. So frustrating.

The point of this blog series, though, is to think intentionally about things we do as parents—to be proactive about the behaviors we’d like to instill in our kids so that we don’t have to react later. And one of the behaviors I really want my kids to show is kindness to one another.

It may be one that we’re working on, but it’s a goal, and I think it’s a good one.

Why Kindness?
Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Do I need another reason?

Well, I do have another reason--the world is watching. When your kids have friends over, and those friends see your child interacting with her siblings, it says something about what you believe and who you are as a family. It shows what you value.

Do you value peace in your home? Then expect kindness.

Do you value self-sacrifice over selfishness? Then demand kindness.

Do you value forgiveness? Then practice kindness.

Maggie had a friend over one day, and after her friend left she told me that her friend was so surprised by the way Maggie’s older sister had treated her. She said, “Your sister is so nice to you. All my sister ever does is tell me to go away.”

Remember that old song, “They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love”? That’s the idea here. The world is watching our families, checking us out to see if there is anything different about us. Believe me, if your kids are kind to one another the difference will show. Big time.

What does this look like?
Oh boy, on some days I honestly couldn’t tell you what kindness looks like. But on those good days, the days when our family seems to be clicking on all cylinders, the days when everything seems right with the world and within these four walls . . . on those days it looks like this:

“How was your day?”

“Can I help you with that?”

“Come on in.” (That’s me, practicing kindness when I’m sitting in my writing chair and someone interrupts me.)

“I love you.” (Yes, my girls say that to each other. Without my prompting anymore, either!)

“I forgive you.”

Kindness melts your heart. Kindness breaks down walls. Kindness heals wounds.

And there just isn’t enough of it in this world, so why not start now by intentionally making your home a haven of kindness for your kids?

I’d love to hear about how you instill kindness in your home. Leave me a comment about that. Pretty please?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I Should Just Put Myself in Time Out

I have been a bad blogger this week. A very bad blogger indeed.

I could share all sorts of excuses with you. Like, "My husband was out of town and I had to do the work of two parents last week," but that would be lame because my girls are pretty self-sufficient and yes, although they do need their mom around, they manage to carry on pretty well by themselves.

Or, let's try this one: "My dog has epilepsy and she's been banging into doors and walls and falling down stairs all week." Nope, that doesn't work either because actually the meds haven't made her one bit loopy. We were kind of hoping for some silly loopiness from the dog, but no such luck. The only thing she is is whiney. I don't know if it's because B was gone and she had nobody to throw Monkey for her or if she just feels weird on her meds, but it's like she cries ALL. THE. TIME. I'd feel sorry for her if it just weren't so darned annoying.

How 'bout this one? "I'm acting as travel agent and tour guide for two pretty big trips coming up and I've spent all my time on TripAdvisor this week." Well, that wouldn't be too far from the truth, except that I didn't spend all my time on TripAdvisor. Some of it was spent on Frommers.

I know! Here's a good excuse: "I'm speaking at a women's retreat next weekend and I've spent a ton of time in the library writing the two talks I'm giving." Well, that one's only partially true because I didn't just spend a ton of time in the library last week. I spent time the week before last and the week before that. Thankfully, though, I did get my talks finished and this week is just practice and polishing.

I could tell you that I have been reading a lot, which would be true, but not a valid excuse for ignoring you all. Or shoe shopping with Abby, which is also true (and you have no idea what a challenge that is). Or grocery shopping for the first time in well over a week (true). Or starting a new workout routine that includes something other than walking the dog (which would not be true at all).

Honestly, I don't have a good excuse for not being around much last week. So let me just say I'm sorry and I'll try to do better this week (but no promises).


Friday, March 12, 2010

And the winner is . . .

With Maggie's help (she chose her favorite number), the winner of the "Lift" giveaway is . . .


I'll get the book to you soon, Amy. Congratulations!!

On another note . . . sorry I haven't been around much this week. I have no excuses other than my kids being stressed, my husband being gone, and my work piling up. So it's really all our faults. (Just kidding--you should know by now that I don't operate that way.)

I'll try to get something of value posted tomorrow (any ideas?) and I already have an Intentional Parenting post ready for Monday.

So don't give up! I shall return. I guess I just needed a couple of days off this week.

Love you bunches!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Review - Lift

I realized today that I yammered on and on yesterday about how stupid I'd feel if I ever met Kelly Corrigan, but I never really told you much about her book, Lift.

Let me just tell you that this little book (only 82 pages) will make you weep. Not because it's sad--it is, just a little--but because every page is filled with love. Kelly freely shares her love for her two daughters, Georgia and Claire. She shares her heart, which is beautiful.

There were so many parts of this book that resonated with me. Sadly, sometimes. Kelly talks openly about losing control with her girls at times. Boy, could I relate. Seriously, I'd like to meet that parent who has never yelled, really yelled, at her kids. And that same parent who didn't regret it the moment it was over.

"Almost every day I yell at one of you so loudly that my throat hurts afterward. That's why I keep lozenges in practically every drawer in the house. I hold it together and hold it together and then, when the bickering picks up again, I just detonate. Like yesterday, Claire, when I listened to you whine through two rounds of some card game called Egyptian War. Finally, it was Georgia's turn to go first, and you said you couldn't play anymore because your armpits were sore. 'That's stupid,' Georgia said, and you cried, 'Stupid is a mean word!' and smacked Georgia with your open palm as I watched. 'GO TO YOUR ROOM RIGHT NOW, MISSY!' I hollered. 'It was an accident; I fell into her on accident!' You both froze and I got to my feet and I leaned down into your faces and ranted at you through set teeth, like the heartless tyrannical caretakers in a movies about orphans. I was so disgusted with both of you, your impatient overreactions, your loss of self-control--then I turned right around and disgusted myself."

And another section, just a few pages later to which I could totally relate:

"This tug-of-war often obscures what's also happening between us. I am your mother, the first mile of your road. Me and all my obvious and hidden limitations. That means that in addition to possibly wrecking you, I have the chance to give to you what was given to me: a decent childhood, more good memories than bad, some values, a sense of a tribe, a run at happiness. You can't imagine how seriously I take that--even as I fail you. Mothering you is the first thing of consequence that I have ever done."

Yes. That. What she said.

So, anyway, I'm giving away a copy of Kelly's book, Lift. You can still join in until Friday, so hop on over to yesterday's post and leave a comment to enter in the giveaway.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oh yes, I'll wear the mantle proudly {giveaway}

Last night I did one of those things I do that may seem, well, kind of geeky and weird to you. I don't do it often because it's a little geeky and weird to me too, but I enjoy geeky and weird sometimes.

Last night I went to a book reading. At Talbots. (Geeky) Alone. (Weird)

But the author who was reading her work was one of my favorites--Kelly Corrigan. For a long time I've listed her memoir, The Middle Place
over on my sidebar. This is a book that has impacted me so much, not because I could relate to her story, but because the way it's written makes me relate to her story.

She is an amazing writer. The kind of writer I'd like to be when I grow up. Real. Honest. Vulnerable.

And a couple of weeks ago, when I found out she had a second book coming out I preordered it that day, received it a week ago, and read it in one sitting. So when I found out that Kelly was going to be in my neck of the woods I announced to my family, "I am going to see Kelly Corrigan!" And for the next week or so I continued to announce, "I am going to see Kelly Corrigan!"

Thank goodness my family understands my propensity for geeky and weird.

Last night was the big night and I almost chickened out. I mean, it takes a certain amount of guts to walk into a store all by yourself to possibly meet a writer you admire more than just about anyone. (We'll get to the meeting part in a second.) But Maggie pushed me to it when I expressed some doubt.

"Mom, you've been looking forward to this for a long time now. And besides, you like these things. You should go."

So I went.

I'm so glad I did because the event was really nice . . . fun even. I mean, how often do you walk in Talbots and someone immediately puts a glass of wine in your hand? Like, never. So it started out great. And then got even greater when they announced that everything in the store--everything, girls--was 20% off just for that night. Hello? Twenty percent off is my new best friend.

But the best part was seeing Kelly and hearing her read. I did not meet her, although our eyes met at one point and we smiled at each other, but I just could not go up and meet her. Here's why.

Remember the scene in "Notting Hill" where Honey, the crazy red-headed sister of William (Hugh Grant's character) meets Anna (Julia Roberts) for the first time and she gawks and gapes and then says, "I absolutely and totally and utterly adore you and I think you're the most beautiful woman in the world and more importantly I genuinely believe and have believed for some time now that we can be best friends"?

Yeah, well, I was totally afraid that would have been me last night if I had actually met Kelly Corrigan.

So I kept to myself.

I may regret that someday, but for today I'm O.K. with it. I just don't trust my blabbering mouth sometimes.

Alright, you've patiently read through this post, and now I'm going to give you the opportunity to get your very own copy of Kelly Corrigan's book, Lift. Remember the 20% off discount that Talbots was offering last night? Yeah, well, I just couldn't resist. But what I haven't told you yet was that they were also giving away a copy of Kelly's book with any purchase over $100.

What I won't do for my readers.

Since I already had a copy of the book, I'm offering my free copy to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me either a) what book you're reading right now or b) what author would you make a complete fool of yourself in front of. I'll announce the winner on Friday.

(Make sure I have an email address for you so I can contact you if you win.)

Now, go make it a good day!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Intentional Parenting - Part 6; Intentional Worship

Most of the time I love worship. Most of the time I love going to church and spending time with our church body and worshipping with the people there.

Most of the time.

But there are days when my selfish self would just love to stay home on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket, sipping tea and reading a book during that time. Sometimes it feels like such a hassle to get showered and dressed on a Sunday morning, especially one as cold and rainy as yesterday’s was.

(Sorry if this is an assault to your sense of right and wrong. I’m just trying to keep it real here.)

But on those days when Jane Austen is calling my name, trying to lure me away from the cold, hard pews of our church, I have to go back to what I really want to teach my kids about worship.

Worship is not about me.

There is not one thing about worship that is about me. Not one.

Worship is about the One who came to earth for me, who took the burden of my sin and died for me. And why would I want to trade worshipping Jesus for Jane?

B and I have intentionally emphasized the importance of worship as our kids have grown. That’s not to say we’re legalistic about worship—believe me, we are not. But we do have some ideas about worship that we’d really like our daughters to catch, and so we’ve tried hard to model these principles into their lives.

Why Worship?
1. God commands our worship. And if God has commanded it, it’s our parental responsibility to teach our children the importance of worship. You can find hundreds of verses in Scripture to back this up—God demands that we worship Him and Him alone.

2. It’s important to worship alongside other believers. We cannot isolate ourselves from the Body of Christ. So many places in Scripture, God points out that we need each other, and one of the best ways to connect with one another is in a worship setting.

3. Worship is a discipline for life. Like I said, sometimes it’s hard to get going on a Sunday, especially if you have young children. You may just want to throw in the towel and wait until they’re older to start in the habit of worship. But, as I wrote in an earlier post, discipline is also important in our lives, so why not start early by instilling the good habit of worship in your kids.

I know, I know, there are so many reasons to forgo the time of worship. I’ve heard them all.

“My kids are too young. They won’t sit still for that long.”

“My kids think worship is boring.”

I think worship is boring.”

Remember, worship isn’t about us. It’s about giving praise and honor and glory to the King of Kings. And my hope is that by instilling the discipline of worship into our kids’ lives they will continue this pattern when they are older.

How does this look in our family?
Over the years, B and I have had to intentionally think through this area of worship and make some decisions for our family. Here are a couple of thoughts we’ve had and how they impact our family.

First, Sunday School is not the same as corporate worship. Sure, worship may happen during Sunday School, but it is different, and we don’t want our kids to be confused about that. B and I have decided that Sunday School is important for our kids, but so is “big church” (I don’t know why, but that term just makes me laugh).

Which brings me to point number two. We have intentionally decided that our family will attend corporate worship together every week. Yes, our kids go to Sunday School, but they also attend the worship service. With us. In a pew. Together.

Here is where I may step on some toes, so please forgive me in advance, but I can’t think about the importance of worship without addressing it. Your kids can and should learn to sit through a one-hour worship service. From the time they were very young, our kids have sat through at least a portion of the worship service with us. Thankfully our church offers a Children’s Church for younger kids—they leave halfway through the service—but I love that they can at least sing a hymn and participate in a portion of the service with us.

Finally, worshipping together as a family breaks down barriers between us that shouldn’t be there in the first place. I’ll be honest. There may have been a Sunday or two when I’ve come to church a little . . . oh . . . mad at my husband. Or I may be frustrated at the way my girls have treated each other throughout the week. It’s there, in the pew with us, that frustration. Just sitting between us. But something happens as we focus on God. That frustration melts away, and I begin to see my husband, or my children, as the gifts that God has placed in my life. And by the end of the service I am ready to serve both God and my family with renewed strength.

This is a great and happy mystery to me.

Worship is THE big event of our week, and our kids need to understand that. As parents, we need to show them its importance by making worship together as a family a priority.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


photo credit: Simon Howden

Four weeks ago I wrote this post about doing the "thing" I'm supposed to be doing. Which, I think, might be writing.

And in that same post I asked you to pray for me that I would have the discipline to write for two hours a day, five days a week for four weeks.

Several of you wrote to me to tell me that you were doing just that--praying. For me. Can I just tell you how humbling that is? And how accountable to you I have felt over the past weeks?

So now I'm here to report back. To give you an update on how I did and the progress, if any, I made.

I'll be honest. This was hard. Some days I did well, tackling my work with gusto, feeling really good about the progress I was making.

But that was in the beginning. And very shortly after that first week I started to feel like I was getting way, way behind on everything in my life. I had other work to do for an upcoming women's retreat that I'm doing in a couple of weeks, and I was really getting overwhelmed with it all.

So I had a long talk with B (who always sees things so rationally), and he helped me see that two hours a day of writing was two hours a day of writing that I wasn't doing before. It didn't matter if I was writing a book or a speech as long as I was writing.

From that point on, I started to feel a little better. I had to put the book project down for a while so that I could focus on the retreat stuff, but at least I felt like I was devoting myself to two hours of writing every day.

I won't lie to you--this has been hard. I have three kids still living at home. Three kids with active lives. And a husband with a demanding schedule. So someone has to hold things together, and that someone is me. I like my role; I'm not complaining. I'm just pointing out that two extra hours each day--ten hours a week--is not easy to find in my life.

But it's doable. And I have done it.

I've learned a lot over these past four weeks, which is maybe why God had me throw out that challenge to myself. It hasn't all been pretty, but here is some of what I've learned through this little experiment.

1. Time is a gift, use it wisely. Like I said, my time is not my own these days, so when I have time I need to use it the best that I can. These weeks have challenged me to not waste a minute, and when I have a minute I need to sit down and write.

2. My family is awesome. Well, O.K., I knew this before, but throughout this past month they have been amazingly supportive. "Mom, did you write today?" seemed to be the mantra around our house. Funny thing is, that never became a bother to me--it just spurred me on to be even more accountable because I knew my kids were paying attention.

3. It doesn't matter what I work on as long as I write. I felt so bogged down by working on one project at the beginning, but then felt much less burdened when I allowed myself to just work on the speeches. Besides, those were my top priority anyway.

4. When you're doing what you're supposed to be doing and people are praying for you, satan (little "s"--remember?) will try every trick in the book to divert your attention.

The end of last week is the best example I can think of. I rarely get headaches, but last week I think I had a headache every single day. I got grumpy and fidgety and fussy, and I didn't think I could get the work done. On Thursday I had carved out a couple of hours to work at the college library nearby, but as soon as I got started I got a crashing headache. After 30 minutes I just had to stop working because I couldn't look at my computer screen anymore.

I was bummed. It felt like an attack.

On Friday I got up and prayed that I would be able to really dig deep and get some work done. After having breakfast with one of my most encouraging friends, I came home and set myself into my best working spot in the house. I only had two hours until I had to get to the next thing on my list. Just two hours. And in those two hours I cranked out so much writing that I kept looking at the clock. Every five minutes seemed like an hour--I was putting so much down on paper (on screen?). It was surreal how much I got done in those two hours.

And Friday was my last day of my formal commitment to my praying friends. So weird. So much like God.

Finally, I want to say thank you to each one of you who committed to pray for me. Whatever that looked like for you--whether a one-time prayer or an every-day thing--it made a difference for me.

The biggest thing I got out of this little challenge? Maybe just a smidge more discipline than I had before. And that is probably the thing I needed the most.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Favorites

Welcome to the first edition of Friday Favorites hosted by The Other Mama. Hilary wrote to me to say that she wanted to run this blog carnival every week for a while. She's leaving it kind of open-ended, so you can post about anything you want, pretty much, as long as it's a favorite.

In an effort to keep things positive (and, believe me, it feels like a Herculean effort this week), I'm posting some of my favorite finds from around the blog world this week.

For some reason, they all seem to have something to do with parenting. Hmmmmm.

Favorite quote
This comes from Kay, a mom who's in a similar stage of life as me, who wrote a great post about her son. Toward the end of her post she says this (which I needed to hear this week too):

"Young parents [and you old ones too], hang in there. Keep doing what you're doing. It matters. Your child is not a greedy vacuum for your time and energy and money. He or she is a worthy, God-sent investment."

Favorite devotional
I get the Encouragement for Today devotionals in my email every morning, and yesterday's post was just what I needed to read. Didn't hurt that it was written by Lysa, another favorite of mine.

Favorite post
As much as I talk about being intentional with my kids, this post, written by Amy Beth (who doesn't even have children of her own yet), says so much better what I'm trying to say with my series. Please read it. It's beautiful.

Favorite New Blog
I had lunch this week with my friend, Ellen, who is an accomplished author and musician and now, a blogger. Ellen wanted to pick my brain about blogging since she's brand new to this little corner of the cyber world. Go visit her (and leave a comment while you're there!)--I know it would be a huge encouragement to her.

So those are some of my favorites for this week. I think Hilary's Friday Favorites is going to be lots of fun. Head on over there to join in and to read more favorites.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Today I actually love the U.S. Postal Service

Normally I hate the mail. It's usually either bills or worthless junk, so none of it pertains to me.

But yesterday was a different matter. As I sifted through the college brochures and the pizza flyers, I found a little salmon-colored piece of paper that told me that our postman had tried to deliver a little package that I had been waiting for. Unfortunately I wasn't home to sign for it, so I went to the post office FIRST THING this morning to get it.

I brought home my little white envelope, carefully slit it open, and found a blue envelope inside.

And inside the beautiful, blue envelope were these.

(Sorry about the blurry photo--I was so excited my hands were shaking.)

Still, doesn't that look so much better than this?

We're on our way!!!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Put a Human Name on it and We All (well, most of us anyway) Feel Sorry

See that face? That face that we all love so much?

(O.K. . . . In the interest of full disclosure, there may be one member of this family who doesn't love that face so much.)

The one who loves to stick her head out the window when she's riding in the car?

The one who lies around like a slug but then pops up like a Jack-in-the-Box the minute you use the word "w-a-l-k"? (I couldn't even bear to say it out loud on the blog for fear she would hear me.)

Seriously. We've had to come up with all sorts of code words for the "w" word in our house. Our favorite is "klaw" which is "walk" spelled backwards. For some reason, she has never been able to figure out what "klaw" means, but the minute we say "want to go for a . . ." she springs into action, dancing and jumping her way around the house.

Needless to say, we don't use the "w" word much.

This dog takes a fair amount of grief from our family. Like I said, one member would not lose sleep if she expired today. Others like to torment her by chasing her around the kitchen island. Others like to make her wait over her food dish when it's full of food until she's given the O.K. (Labs are so great at that--they won't move until you tell them to eat, even though they act like they haven't eaten all day.)

Anyway, even though we like to give her grief, we're all feeling a little bad for the Wonder Dog this week. I told you a while back that she had "issues." This week those issues got a name--epilepsy.

Who knew that a dog could have a human condition? But she does.

On Sunday she started having seizures around 3:00 p.m. that lasted until roughly 5:00 p.m. B thinks she may have had as many as four seizures during that time. Four seizures is not good.

So I took her to the vet yesterday who told me that it's finally time to put her on some medication. Apparently seizures cause her body temperature to go up, and if her fever got too high she could experience some brain damage. Can't have that now, can we?

So Thunder the epileptic Wonder Dog is now taking a daily dose of medication to help reduce the seizures. It's supposed to also make her a little less . . . active . . . so actually, that could be a good thing.

Maybe we'll even begin to start using the "w" word out loud one of these days.