Tuesday, May 31, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Finale!

Shelly Final

31 days. Four weeks. One month.

I hope, now that our journey is done, that you have gotten something out of my little ramblings every day. It has been fun. It has been challenging. It has been convicting.

Let me tell you why I did this 31 Day series (and many, many thanks to Sandy for including me in this challenge!): I did it for me.

You see, I need to tell myself these things about raising kids. Every day. I need to be reminded that these precious girls are why I do what I do. I need to remember to take time to notice them, to be present, to show up, to laugh.

I am so far from being the mother I want to be to my kids. Just this morning I sat at my computer and read blogs while Julia got ready for school around me. I barely even looked up to see what she packed in her lunch!

See? I need these reminders!

If anything, I need these reminders in order to extend a little grace to myself. There is no perfect parent out there. We do the best we can do, offer it up to God, and keep trying.

The point is in the trying.

I hope that along the way I have encouraged you to practice intentionality with your kids, because I truly believe that by being intentional about our parenting we can have more effective families.

And that’s what I want. A family that honors God by honoring one another. A family that shows Who we belong to by the way we love one another. A family that welcomes the friend and the stranger alike. A family that draws others to Christ.

So, my friends, thank you for hanging in there with me. I’ll be back to the regular monkey business around here tomorrow. And on Friday, we’ll return to Fabulous Friday Food (which a few of you have asked about).

Now, go hug your kids and have a party. I know I will!

* * * * * * * * * *

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home


Monday, May 30, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Making Memories, Part 2

Shelly Final

Well, this series is almost finished. Thank you for hanging in there with me, dear readers, and thank you for your feedback. I have enjoyed every minute of this journey with you. Please come back tomorrow for the wrap-up.

Today I want to tell you about some friends of ours who have done a fantastic job of making memories with their kids. Maybe their story will inspire you to do something similar with your kids. I know it has inspired me.

Last fall, our friends, C and M, realized that their family didn't know much about the big city that sits just 25 miles to the east of us. They knew that Chicago had so much to offer families, but they had never taken much time to really explore the city. They also knew that they wanted to help foster missional hearts in their sons, and the city of Chicago was a close and convenient mission field in which to start.

So they came up with an idea: spend 18 Saturdays simply exploring different areas of Chicago. Seeing new things. Exploring new places. Meeting new people.

But to pull it off, they would need a plan. They would need some money. And they would need time. With three active boys, this would be difficult, but by being intentional, C and M succeeded.

The plan. Eighteen consecutive Saturdays spent in the city of Chicago. This required some pre-planning such as deciding what they would see and where they would go. Sometimes it required making reservations ahead of time or contacting a ministry beforehand.

The money. The family decided to use their vacation budget for that year. Instead of taking a big vacation away somewhere, they did the now-popular "staycation," except over several weeks.

The time. I'm sure they discussed it as a family, and together they all agreed that the boys would not play fall sports that year. Everyone became committed to the idea of spending Saturdays in the city.

How did it work out? I think they would tell you that their Saturdays in the city were a huge success. And I'm pretty sure that it brought their family closer together.

Here are just a few of the wonderful things C and M did with their kids:

- mini-golf in Millennium Park (I didn't even know there was a mini-golf course there!).

- Chinatown.

- lunch at the renowned Pegasus restaurant in Greektown.

- sailing on the tall ship, Windy.

- visited Lawndale, an awesome community ministry in Chicago.

- rode the El (the elevated train, for those of you not from here).

- took a bike tour of the city.

- went to see "Peter and the Wolf" at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

- Untouchables Gangster Tour.

And that's probably not the half of it! I am so impressed by what our friends did last fall because it was an intentional way of bringing their family together, it taught their boys so much about the city, and it was a great way to explore the MOST BEAUTIFUL city in America (if I do say so myself).

It doesn't take much to get me excited about going to the city, but C and M's story has inspired me to spend more time there. There are so many unique and wonderful museums to explore. And the restaurants! Oh my. I love our city, and my friends have made me love it even more.

So tell me, how can you explore the area where you live? What's unique about your part of the country?

* * * * * * * * * *

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home


Saturday, May 28, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Notes

Shelly Final

I'm a note writer. If you look at my desk, you'll see little scribbles of paper all over the place. Reminders, mostly, but sometimes thoughts, quotations, sermon notes.

A couple of years ago--two years ago, to be exact--when Julia finished fifth grade, I was cleaning out her lunch box. She wouldn't be needing that in middle school (not cool!), so I figured I'd clean it out before I threw it away.

I noticed a few pieces of folded paper in one of the pockets of her lunch box. I began unfolding and realized that Julia had saved all of my notes from the year, tucked away in that pocket.

It tickled me to know that these notes meant enough to her to save.

I don't know what happened to them--there were a lot of them. Not one for every day--I'm not that great of a mom--but there was a significant pile.

Today I found a few of those old lunchbox notes in a drawer. I must have tossed a couple in there for safekeeping.

Once again, it made me smile to think of the days I wrote these notes. To think of Julia, sitting at her lunch table, opening each little treasure. And to think of her friends leaning close, asking, "What's it say?"

Writing notes to my kids brings me a lot of joy because it's a quick reminder that I'm thinking about them all day long. And if you think the note-writing stopped after fifth grade, think again. I still occasionally tuck a note in my high schooler's lunch bag (as long as she doesn't see me do it!). She never says a word about it, but I like to think it makes her smile when she finds a note in her bag.

You know what's great? When I find notes that my kids have written.

Here's one I found in the drawer--Julia must have written herself a note of encouragement in fifth grade!

And this is my most favorite note of all, written by my normally not-too-expressive middle daughter when she was just learning how to write. This note must be at lease 12 years old! I keep it hanging on our family bulletin board near the back door, and every time I look at it, it makes me smile.

So there. A quick, simple way to let your kids know that you care.

Do you write notes to your kids?

* * * * * * * * * * *

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home


Friday, May 27, 2011

Five Minute Friday: On Forgetting

Since I've been doing this "31 Days Closer to Your Kids" series, I have not been taking part in Lisa-Jo's Five Minute Friday. But I have missed it so much!

So today I decided to bless you bore you honor you (?) with two posts. This one's more for me than for you, so look away if you want. But I kinda like it.


Some days I wear my anniversary band on my left hand (it’s usually on my right) and my family will ask, “What are you trying to remember?” The switching is my little way of remembering a task: phone calls to make, registrations that need to be filled out, papers turned in.

It’s little. It’s unremarkable. But it’s my way of not forgetting.

Today I think it would take a handful of rings to not forget all that I want to remember.

The way you used to jump on my bed in the mornings, dark hair flying all around you and smiles filling the room.

The way you sang “What Can Wash Away My Sin?” at the top of your lungs with your dad as he shaved in the mornings.

The times you used to hide underneath my covers and I’d say, “Where’s Julia?” while I made you into the bed, hearing you giggle like crazy all the time.

Even more recent memories.

Like dropping you off at the camp bus.

High school graduation.

Concerts, plays, recitals.

A lifetime of memories that I’m so afraid I’m forgetting. Because forgetting is a fear of mine. Forgetting is worrisome. Forgetting is becoming more and more common as my brain is filled with not-so-little girl things.

Oh, give me more rings to switch around on my hand so that I won’t ever forget the happiness of today.


Go check out the other Five Minute Friday posts at The Gypsy Mama. You'll be glad you did!


31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Show Up

Shelly Final

This week I’ve attended an orchestra concert, a junior high small group event, and a chorus concert. On Sunday I will Bike the Drive with two of my girls.

On Monday I will collapse. (Thank goodness for Memorial Day.)

I write this, not to show what a Super-Mom I am. (Oh goodness, if you think I’m Super Mom, you really need to come spend a few minutes with my girls—they’ll set you straight!) I write this to simply share with you something that is important to me and, I think, to my kids.

Show up.

I have to remind myself of this simple truth over and over again, especially when I’m tired and tempted to stay home: my kids are my kids for a very short part of my life. I only have one chance to do this, so I’d better do it well.

Do I always do it well? Absolutely not. Have I been to every single one of my children’s events? No, I have not. I have missed more concerts and plays and sporting events than I’d care to think about because I just can’t be there all the time.

But as much as I can, whenever I can, I show up.

When Kate was entering seventh grade, the grade when kids get to be a part of our junior high youth group at church, I decided that I should commit to being a small group leader. I led a small group of junior high girls for four years while Kate and Caroline were in the group. I took a couple of years off, but came back to it again this year when Julia started going.

Every year I ask the girls if they really want me to be their small group leader. If they had said no, I would not have led, but as long as my girls want me to be a part of this ministry with them, I figured I’d better do it. (Besides, nobody really wants their mom to be too involved when they’re in high school, so I figured junior high was my chance.)

It hasn’t always been easy. Retreats are just not that much fun for me—sleeping on make-shift cots in a stinky sleeping bag for two nights while girls whisper until all hours of the night is not my idea of a good time. And lock-ins? I have to put my foot down at lock-ins. Ugh.

But being there for my girls all these years has been so good for me, and I’d like to think it’s been good for them too. It has cemented our relationship during a time of life when they might think everyone has abandoned them. When insecurities loom very, very large, they know that I’m there for them. And there is nothing like being able to share the love of Christ with junior high girls, modeling service to my own kids.

Listen, I’m getting pretty close to middle-age (*cough, cough*) should I live to be as old as my grandma did (she would have been 100 last week--do the math). Sometimes Wednesday nights wear me out with all the talking, talking, talking and laughing, laughing, laughing and questions, questions, questions. But junior high girls are pretty precious. They are inquisitive and challenging and they are growing into young women who need God. They just need someone to point the way.

So as long as my daughters let me, I’m going to show up.

* * * * * * * * * *

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home


Thursday, May 26, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Be Real

Shelly Final

Wondering how on earth I was going to get through a 31 Day series with enough material, I decided to poll my family one evening over dinner. Many of their ideas have been used in these posts, and I certainly could not have done this without them.

(Duh. Without kids, what would I have to write about?!)

As the girls were throwing out ideas (“Go on dates!” “Take kids on trips!” “Listen!”) I said something about wanting to be real with them. To share the hard stuff, when it’s appropriate. What did they think about that?

The girls nodded in agreement and Julia said this: “Yeah, it’s no fun when parents have hard days and don’t tell you why.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

I’ve had a few hard days this spring. The weather has not been my best friend. I’ve had a few disappointments. My grandmother died. I’ve been burdened for friends who are going through difficult times. Life has been busy, but that has only been a prelude of what’s to come this fall.

And sometimes, life just weighs on you for no particular reason.

Guess what. Your kids know it. They can sense it. They feel it. And deep down inside they want to know if there’s anything they can do about it.

The funny thing about kids, though, is that they won’t tread on your sacred bad-moodiness unless they feel you’re open to talking about it. And the only way you can show that you’re over yourself and your cranky bad-moodiness is to bring it up first.

Try these:

“Hey, guys, I’ve had a hard day today and here’s why . . .”

“You know what? A friend said something hurtful to me today. She didn’t mean to, but it’s really bummed me out.”

“Dad has had a reeeaally long day full of meetings today. I’m sorry I’m not very talkative tonight.”

Our kids already know, just by living with us, that not every day is rosy. That’s really O.K. That’s life. It presses in. It feels hard sometimes.

By opening up and letting our kids know WHY we might be having a hard day, we help them know how to react to their own hard days. We show them that having the occasional hard day is normal. We model the importance of leaning on family for support. And most of all, we let them know that our hard day is not their fault.

Sure, our kids may not be equipped, whether because of their age or maturity or emotional ability, to handle everything we’re going through. We should be careful with the information we share with our kids. But a little opening up and sharing what’s not going so well isn’t always a bad thing.

Your kids just want you to be real with them. Sometimes sharing the hard stuff is a way to start.

* * * * * * * * * * *

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Date Them

Shelly Final

Years ago—a lot of years ago now—my husband was struggling with not feeling close to our daughters. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he felt like he was missing out on the little things in their life. Oh sure, they showed him their report cards and he knew the names of their teachers, but the little things—who’s your best friend right now? What do you like about school? What do you think about ______?—the really important things seemed to be missing.

Those kinds of conversations can’t be forced, but they will come about over time. He just needed that time with them.

Funny thing is, though, that when I’m thrown into the mix, the dynamic is different. I will fill in the blanks rather than letting the girls do it for themselves. I will tell him what’s going on in their lives rather than letting them tell him. I needed to get out of the picture for a while so that the girls could develop their own relationship with their dad.

And that’s how Saturday Breakfasts were born.

That was probably well over five years ago, and still today—last Saturday, in fact—B and the girls go out for breakfast together every Saturday. The girls aren’t forced to go (he understands that occasionally a teenager needs her sleep); he will take whoever is ready at 9:00 a.m. They walk about three blocks to a greasy little diner near our home, no matter the weather. They always walk.

And they always go to the same place. The owner and the waitress know them now. (They probably think these poor girls don’t have a mother!) And from what I’m told, they usually order the same thing every time.

Everyone in our home loves this Saturday morning tradition—even me. I love that my girls are relating to their dad without me there. I love that they will someday look back and remember Saturday morning breakfasts with their dad. And I love having my coffee and a little time alone on Saturday mornings.

It works for us.

So tell me, how do you date your kids? Do you have any traditions that you’ve created over the years that allow you time with your kids?

* * * * * * * * * * *

Don't forget to go visit my friends:

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Travel Together

Shelly Final

Remember when you were a kid and your parents made you take long road trips? Remember the good old days when you could make a bed in the back of your station wagon with a bunch of sleeping bags? Remember when you could stretch out for hours on end and watch the clouds float by as your dad got bleary-eyed just watching the lines on the road?

All’s bliss on the road trip, right?

Um. Remember drawing an imaginary line down the middle of the back seat and just daring, with only the look in your eyes, your sister to cross it? Remember screaming, “Mom! She’s on my side!” a thousand times? Remember pushing your parents to their ever-loving limit by asking, “When will we be there?” in your whiniest voice ever?

Ah yes, there’s nothing like travel to bring a family closer.

You’re probably thinking I’m crazy with this one, but I have to say that some of our happiest family memories are of trips we’ve taken together.

Oh sure, there have been some of those moments. Moments when we parents sitting up front have wanted to just scream bloody murder—or maybe we actually have. Moments when travelling through the Bad Lands when we wanted to open a car door and just heave one or two kids out. Moments so silent that the seething rage permeating the inside of our car could be cut with a knife.

But, honestly, those moments are far outweighed by the fantastic times we’ve had that we now reflect on so happily. The good times definitely overshadow the not-so-good when we travel.

When I was younger, my family didn’t travel much, probably because both money and time were tight. My dad was a farmer, so he was pretty much bound to the farm during the spring, summer, and fall months. In the winter we were in school, so it was hard to get away. My husband’s job is a little more flexible, thought, and over the years we’ve found that we both love to travel. And our kids do too.

Here are just a couple of things we’ve done to foster a close family bond through travel.

We travel with a purpose. We have taken our family on two short-term missions trips—one to Brazil and one to Switzerland. Both trips have shown our girls that there is a big world out there and God is supremely engaged in all of it—not just our little corner of it. I really hope we will have more opportunities like this.

We travel for fun. Seeing Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons was a total blast a few years back. Disney World was great . . . once. And we have created lasting family memories at Kiawah Island, SC (we’ve been there six times). All of these trips, and others, have helped us grow closer together as a family.

We travel with one child at a time. When older two were about 14 years old, B took each one on a business trip with him alone. Kate got to go to Florida where she got the worst farmer’s tan of her life and learned the joys of room service. Caroline got to go to Arizona which they then made into a fun trip to see Grandma and Grandpa (after the business part) and during which B got really sick and spent the entire time at my parent’s house in bed. Go figure. Next year will be Julia’s turn—who knows where they’ll end up?

And then there is the Sixteenth Birthday Bash. When each of our girls turns 16, we do a mother/daughter trip—to England. B and I set this as a goal when our girls were very young, and we’ve followed through twice so far. Let me tell you, it wouldn’t matter if we went to the Holiday Inn down the street (although England is my favorite place in the world); the wonderful memories we have made together have drawn us closer during those teen years than anything I could have ever done with them. Taking a trip with one child alone is truly life-changing . . . for both of you . . . and I highly recommend you make this a priority.

Yes, travel takes money, which might mean sacrificing a little to save for a trip, but it is one of the most important ways we have bonded as a family. It’s something I’m passionate about (and I may have written about it just a few times). If there is any way you can do it, even if you have to wait until next year to take it, plan a trip with your family. You’ll never regret it.

* * * * * * * * * *

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home

Monday, May 23, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Tell Them You're Proud of Them

Shelly Final

I remember it so well . . . standing in the hallway of my high school, fully made up, dressed like a nun. My mom handed me a card or a bunch of flowers or both and said the words that meant the most to me in the world: "We are so proud of you."

I had just finished the final performance of "The Sound of Music" in which I had played Sister Bertha. (You know: How do you solve a problem like Maria? That one.) Not a leading role by any means. Not Maria, the role I so desperately wanted. Not even the Mother Abbess. Just "Big Bertha" as one of my friends insisted on calling me. Great. But I played the role with gusto, even getting a few laughs, and my parents were proud.

Later, during my senior assembly in high school, I was called to the front of the stage to receive an award I had NO idea was coming to me: Best Thespian. You see, I didn't deserve that award. I had never had a leading role in four years of high school. Sister Bertha the previous year was probably the biggest part I ever had in a play. But our school added up points for each production you were in, how many times you helped out with sets or costumes or make-up, and how many lines you had (that one probably knocked me down a point or two). Because I had helped out with every production over four years, even with small parts, I had received the most Thespian points by the end of my senior year.

Thus, Best Thespian. (Side note: my kids think this is absolutely hilarious.)

And there was my mom, sitting across the gym, beaming and telling me with her presence how proud she was.

There were other moments: high school graduation, college graduation, grad school graduation (lots of graduations!), getting that first job, having children. So many moments that I remember my mom telling me, "I am so proud of you." As a "Words of Affirmation" person, those words meant the world to me.

So today, I try to use them often, when I really mean it, because as much as our kids need to know that we love them, they also need to know that we're proud of them.

Over the past few weeks Julia and I have been working our way through the "Couch to 5K" program to prepare for an upcoming race that our church sponsors every year. I'm much more of a "Couch" person, but Julia is becoming a runner. (Case in point: I had to repeat week 2, so we're now training in different weeks of the program. I practically flunked out before I even got started!)

On Saturday I was supposed to run two miles without stopping. What a joke. Julia's training schedule had her running 2 1/4 miles without stopping. I had attempted (attempted being the operative word here) my run earlier in the day, but I sensed that Julia could use some encouragement when she took her run later in the day, so I rode my bike alongside her while she ran.

Oh me of little faith! I honestly thought my little girl would have to stop to walk for at least a block or two. But after one mile she still looked like she had fresh legs. After a mile and a half I started to wonder . . . will she ever stop? The two mile mark was at our house, and I told her that she'd have to run to the stop sign at the end of our street to make up that last 1/4 mile.

She didn't stop. She didn't hesitate. She didn't even slump her shoulders in resignation of the fact that this was HARD. She just kept running.

I was amazed. I was beyond happy for her.

I was so proud.

And I told her so.

Our kids do so many things to make us proud. Just watching them grow into the people God wants them to be makes me proud. And while I don't have to shower them with praise for every little thing they do or make them feel like they are God's gift to mankind, I still want them to know how proud I am of them, so I tell them. Often.

As parents, we have the chance to build up our kids with our words . . . or tear them down. And while it's easy, some days, to point out the disappointments, the frustrations, the little things that have gone wrong, we need to remember that our words will affect our kids, either for the good or for the bad.

So today, find something in your kids that makes you proud. And tell them. They might just remember it forever.

You can start here! Tell me one thing that makes you proud of your children.

* * * * * * * * * *

Check out the other bloggers in the "31 Days Closer . . ." series:

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Good Reads

Oh, the good stuff is just piling up so I thought I'd better share them. 31 Days Closer to Your Kids will resume again tomorrow, but today I'm enjoying having my husband home after a two-week business trip (definitely long enough) and spending time with my kids. It's been a great day!

Kim is an ex-pat living in Hong Kong. She has a beautiful family and a fun little blog, but I love that she shared this story about a homeless man (from Chicago, no less!) with a purpose. It's totally cool.

My pal, Lysa, is bringing the truth about generosity. This one really hit home with me because she sounds like me and her husband sounds like mine. Hmmmm.

It's graduation time, and if you're anything like me and gifts are NOT at the top of your Love Language list, you might be scrambling for some good ideas. Another IRL (that's "in real life," Mom) friend of mine, Robin, created this amazing list of 15 Good and (almost Perfect Gifts for High School Graduates.

Honestly, I can't remember where I got the link to this one, but I loved this Weekly Blog Planner. If you need a little help in the organizational department like me (*ahem*), print one or twenty of these lovelies out.

O.K. Boo Mama? Do you read her? You should. She totally makes me laugh with that sweet, Southern sense of humor. But this week she outdid herself on this post about creating a scrapbook page for her son's teacher. Probably because I could SOOOOO relate to not having the crafty gene either. Go have yourself a laugh.

Finally, I just have to share this post from Jeanne, another IRL friend (there's a little bit of a theme here) whose husband just happens to be our high school pastor at church. (Love them!) Anyway, Jeanne shares more parenting insight here than some parents I know who have been at it for a whole lot longer than six months. Absolutely beautiful. And funny, too! Plus, she's got that cute little baby to boot.

Happy reading!


Friday, May 20, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Pray Together

Shelly Final

“Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
When in the morning light I wake
Help me the path of love to take.”

This was the prayer I grew up saying with my parents. Thank goodness they didn't choose the "If I should die before I wake" version. I always thought that was cruel and unusual. Anyway, I loved this simple little prayer and still, when I think of it, it brings a smile to my face.

For some reason, we didn’t get into the habit of a rote prayer with our kids—they kind of fell into it themselves when they were young. Kate would always pray, “ . . . and please help there not to be a fire or a tornado.” (Those must have been her greatest fears.) To which my husband would reply, “What about a flood?” And the two would laugh and laugh, and Kate would say, “Keep saying that!”

It became a regular part of our days when our girls were young, praying together. Dinnertimes, bedtimes, sometimes even huddled by the door before sending them off to school.

And then there were times of distress. Times when the girls were really sad or struggling or really worried about something. For some reason these feelings usually came out in the car on the way to school, so I would spend the few blocks as we drove together just praying for them.

As our girls got older, somewhere around sixth grade, they were old enough and able to put themselves to bed. And somehow praying together became less and less frequent. One day, though, as one of my girls was struggling her way through middle school, she said to me, “Mom, why don’t you put me to bed anymore?” I took this as a very big “Hello?! I need you!” from my girl, so I asked, “Would you like me to put you to bed?” She nodded, yes.

We spent much of that year cuddling before bed, talking, and praying together. I wondered why I had let this area of my parenting fall by the wayside when my girl obviously still needed that from me. We continued on with a bedtime routine—not every night, but lots of nights—until she was in high school and didn’t need that anymore.

I think praying with our kids has a two-fold purpose.

First, it shows our kids that their needs are legitimate and important to us. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the “important” stuff of life—jobs, finances, our homes—that we forget that our kids have worries too. Let them know that their concerns are your concerns.

Second, it teaches our kids that prayer is not just a once-a-day event that happens before dinner or before bed. We can, and we should, be talking to God all throughout the day. He cares about our needs, and He wants us to come to Him with those needs . . . any time of day.

Today, one of my girls needs prayer. Caroline is having her wisdom teeth removed, and I’m sure she would appreciate any prayers you might be willing to send her way. And me? I’m not so good with medical “issues” so if you’d say a prayer for me, that would be great too.

Tell us . . . how have you incorporated prayer into your kids’ lives?

* * * * * * * * * *

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home


Thursday, May 19, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: How? Pow? Wow?

Shelly Final

I got this idea from my middle daughter, Caroline, who came home from camp with it one summer when she was about 11 years old. Every night before bed, her counselor would gather the girls in the cabin and have a How/Pow/Wow session. She liked it so much that she asked me to do it with her when she got home. That lasted a while, and even now, even though she's very close to being a senior in high school, every so often I'll sit down and ask her How/Pow/Wow.

This is such an easy way to check in with your kids and maybe even start a great conversation.

How. How was your day? Just an overall summary. Was it a good day? Was it a bad day? Was it just a ho-hum average day? Just get your kids thinking through their day and ask how it went.

Pow. What went wrong today? What socked you in the gut and went "Pow!" to you? Not everything in every day goes just peach-keen, so dig this out of your kids and let them spill it. Remember, you're just listening, not fixing.

Wow. What was the best thing that happened to you today? What made you say, "Wow!"? Was it the delicious salted caramel brownie that your sister (or daughter) made for you last night (that was mine from yesterday) or was it the glorious sunset you got to witness over Naples Bay (like I did last weekend)? Find something to praise God for that day.

So there you go. Three simple phrases. Three basic questions: How was your day? What went wrong? What went right?

Why not try it tonight around the dinner table?

So, let me ask YOU . . . . How? Pow? Wow?

* * * * * * * * * *

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Include Them in Decisions

Shelly Final

Five years ago I knew I needed to make a change.

I was working part-time as an adjunct professor, yet I was still a full-time mom.

None of my kids drove a car yet, so, since I had three kids in three different schools I had 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., and 9:00 a.m. drop-offs at their schools. I would then go into my office, prepare for class, grade papers (oh, the never-ending stack of papers!), and teach my class. My class ended at 2:00 p.m., at which time I would rush over to the high school to pick up my oldest and be Mom again.

My days were a whirlwind of driving and cooking and teaching and grading and anything-else-that-comes-up. I was fairly frazzled and starting to border on unhappy.

One day, probably as I was yelling, “Hurry up! I need to get to class!” one of my girls just looked at me and said, “Mom, could you please just not do this anymore?” She wasn’t talking about the yelling.

At that point I knew I had a decision to make. Keep teaching (which would mean a crazy-hectic life for very little money) or stay home and focus on my kids (which would mean better balance and no money at all).

The decision wasn’t a hard one to make.

I really believe that God used my daughter’s voice to speak to me in the midst of chaos, and I’ve never forgotten it. If I had just brushed her off as “just a kid” I would have missed the wisdom that I needed to be spoken into my life at that point.

Listening to my children gave me the help I needed to make a decision.

Just a few weeks ago I was given an amazing opportunity to go back to the job I once loved. But this time it comes with a small title and a little more money. I’m at a completely different place in my life since my kids are older now and growing (too quickly, I might add) toward independence.

I needed to give the opportunity a serious look, so I corralled the troops and asked what they thought. I told my girls that if there was any way this job might make them uncomfortable or hesitant, they should tell me now.

All three were supportive. Each one has expressed to me that they are 100% behind my going back to work. They have sensed that God has paved the way for this. And they have all said I should go for it.

Having that kind of support behind me makes me feel like it’s going to be just fine.

Why did I ask my kids’ opinions? I mean, I am the parent around here (along with their dad), and I could make the decision for myself. And, some might think, asking for input from our kids might give them an unbalanced sense of the authority in our family.

Here’s why I think it’s important to ask for input from our kids when making decisions (note that I said input—there’s a difference between asking for input and letting the kids make the decision):

Certain decisions affect the entire family, so the family should be taken into account when making them. My going back to teaching will have a huge impact on my children. I want them to feel like I respect their place in our family enough to listen to what they have to say.

We can learn from our kids. Shocking, I know, but if we open our ears and our hearts to what our kids have to say, we might just learn a thing or two. We aren’t the only “wise ones” in our household—God just might be speaking to you through your kids.

We can model godly decision-making for our kids. By letting them in as we make decisions, we can show them how prayer, wise counsel, timing, and other factors come into play when we make decisions. Believe me, decision-making isn’t always easy. How else can our kids learn to make wise decisions unless we show them how it’s done?

So, as you’ve probably guessed, there are some big changes coming around here this fall.

You can blame my kids.

* * * * * * * * * *

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Follow a Team Together

Shelly Final

True confessions time. We’re hockey fans.

You can un-follow me now if you want.

We weren’t always hockey fans. A couple of years ago the Chicago Blackhawks, our local team, was doing pretty well. They had a couple of exciting rookies that my husband started to follow. That year I took him to our first NHL hockey game . . . on Valentine’s Day. (Aren’t we the romantic couple?)

We had fun at that game. Lots of fun. In fact, as B explained the game to me and I actually started to understand it, the game became really interesting.

The next year B got offered three tickets by a co-worker who couldn’t use them. We snatched them up and took Julia to the game with us. Her start was a little rocky—not five minutes into our seats, she turned to me and said, “Mom, I’m not sure, but I think I just got beer poured on my head.”

Sure enough. (You gotta watch it with the hockey crowd, I’ll admit.)

We wiped her off and focused on the game. B explained everything to her, while I shouted and jumped and high-fived my neighbor when the Hawks scored a goal. What can I say? Hockey games are fun!

That was October of 2009. Julia’s first Blackhawks game. She was hooked.

Many mornings Julia would come downstairs, grab the Sports section of the newspaper and check to see how her team had done the night before. Many a winter’s evening, Julia and her dad would be found in front of the T.V. watching hockey together.

They even discussed stats!

All while I stood on the sidelines and smiled.

The Blackhawks had an exciting season that year—they ended up winning the Stanley Cup Championship, much to the delight of all the hockey fans in this household. And after they won the cup, we celebrated . . . with two million of our closest friends.

I know that boys and their dads can really share a bond over sports teams, but I’m here to tell you that girls and their dads can too.

Alright, spill it. What teams do you follow?

* * * * * * * * * *

31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season
31 Days Closer to a Cuter You
31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice
31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted
31 Days Closer to a New Home


Monday, May 16, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Read Together

Well hello there! Did you think I had forgotten about my 31 Day promise? I did not. But apparently Blogger forgot about their ability-to-blog promise because Blogger took itself down for two days last week. And then I had to go out of town for the weekend. So, although my posts were finished and ready to go up, I could not follow through because of Blogger. *ahem*

But, hey, let's put that behind us, shall we? And let's carry on. Move ahead. Get going. I'll just pick up where I left off, and I may or may not go a couple days into June. Or maybe this will be a "28 Days" series. Let's just see what happens, shall we?

Shelly Final

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When I started thinking about 31 ways to get closer to your kids, reading together was obviously at the top of my list. I thought back fondly to those moments of snuggling on the couch with my girls in the late afternoons, just before dinnertime, reading through children’s book after children’s book while fluffing their hair and asking, “Another one, dears?”

Except it was the bewitching hour. And there was no hair fluffing involved.

You know, that hour-before-dinner-when-everyone-is-cranky-and-tired-and-hungry-and-bored-and-we-all-need-something-to-do-except-mom-needs-to-make-dinner-and-keep-the-kids-occupied-at-the-same-time? Yeah, that hour. Books seemed to be the best way to pass the time, so we read together, but not always happily.

Of course, there were more enjoyable reading hours in our home as well. Early mornings, still in our pajamas, cuddled underneath the down comforter on my bed. Those were good.

But the best time of all was just before bedtime, right after bath time, when my little girls smelled fresh and clean—just like heaven before a rain storm. Pajamas donned, hair still damp, slightly sleepy, the girls and I would grab a book and a spot on the floor and read. Eventually those damp heads would gravitate to my shoulder; I’d sniff the deliciousness of them, bewitching hour was forgotten, and all seemed right with the world for another day.

Over the years we’ve all grown to love books, especially children’s books. And most especially, The Chronicles of Narnia, which was a tradition between a dad and his daughters. B spent many a happy hour reading through these stories to the girls starting when they were very young.

Every year, rather than the traditional Christmas ornament, I give my daughters a children’s book for Christmas—either a book we enjoyed that year or a book that had something to do with what they had studied in school. Sometimes it was just a book having to do with where they were in their life at that time. Today we have a huge collection of children’s books on our shelf just waiting to be taken away someday and read to more little ones.

Something magical happens when we read with our kids. A connection takes place that we can’t explain. We form a bond that is unbreakable. And we create memories that will last forever.

As I was thinking about this post last week I happened to turn on the news one morning and I saw a story that illustrated my point perfectly. A young woman has just written a book called, “The Reading Promise.” It’s her story about growing up with her single dad who was looking for a way to connect with his daughter after her mother left the family. Her dad promised to read to her every day, and they continued this tradition throughout her life. They have logged over 3,000 hours of reading together, and the bond the two have is truly amazing.

Click here to watch their story. You’ll be amazed at what reading together can do for your relationship with your children.

So tell me, have you bonded over books? What are some of your favorite children's books?

* * * * * * * *

Remember to check out the other posts in the "31 Days Closer . . ." series:

Sandy at The Amazing Adventures of the Fitness Friday Girl - "31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season"
Melanie at Bella~Mella - "31 Days Closer to a Cuter You"
Jen at Finding Heaven - "31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice"
Lisa at Glad Chatter - "31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted"
Missy at It's Almost Naptime - "31 Days Closer to a New Home"


Thursday, May 12, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Work in Their Classroom

Shelly Final

I realize I've been all over the place throughout this series. I've done posts that pertain largely to teenagers; I've done posts that have more to do with younger kids (today's, for example). I guess that's because I've had 20 years of experience as a parent, and I've seen many different phases and stages of this journey. Bear with me, please, and take what you can from each post. Thanks!

I’ll just go ahead and say it: our kids attend public school. We have loved public school for many reasons, but one of the main reasons has been the opportunity I’ve had to work in the classroom.

I’m sure private schools need classroom helpers, too, and that’s great because my point today really isn’t about public school at all—it’s that you’ll connect with your kids if you help out at school. (And if you home school, hopefully you’ve got this one down pat!)

I guess you could say I was the quintessential PTA mom. I’ve helped out in the library; I’ve helped out in the computer lab; I’ve logged many an hour in my children’s classrooms; and I’ve chaperoned more field trips than I’d care to remember. I’ve even served as PTA president.

Being in the classroom has so many benefits:

I get to see my child in action. I can see how she interacts with the other kids in the classroom. I can tell whether she has respect for her teacher. I can get an up-close-and-personal glimpse into her daily life, which helps me get a feel for how she’s really doing at school. I can peek into her desk and see how messy it is (not that I’d ever do such a thing!).

I get to see her friends in action. Our neighborhood elementary school is really small, so chances were good that at least a couple of my daughters’ friends were in their classes. I could get a good idea of whether that friend was a positive influence on my child . . . or not. And I also got to know the cast of characters who made up the drama of their day. Such fun!

I got to see her teacher in action. Every class has its own tone, so being in the classroom allowed me to see whether the teacher had set a positive tone for the year. It also helped build a relationship with the teacher that I would not otherwise have had. This came in handy a few times when I needed to talk to the teacher about an issue with my child.

Best of all, being in the classroom gave me a lot to talk about with my kids. By having this common experience, and by my knowing their friends and their teachers very well, my girls and I shared much more that a superficial “How was your day?” We shared knowledge about the people they interacted with all the time.

When my girls told a story about what happened at school, I could really relate because I knew that characters in that story. I knew about the girl who came in second grade without knowing one word of English (by the end of the year she was fluent). I knew about the boy who thought he was a character in a video game (sad, but true). I could laugh with them about the first graders who sat at the “overflow” table at lunch because they didn’t eat fast enough (my child was one of them).

Want a shared experience with your child? Want something to talk about at dinner? Head into their classroom and see what happens.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Set Expectations

Shelly Final

When my girls started elementary school, they knew my expectation: when they left the house for school their bed should be made and their room should be picked up. This required them to leave a few extra minutes each morning to do a “room check” before they left the house.

Is that a harsh expectation? Some of my friends think so. Should everyone expect the same thing of their children? I don’t know—I don’t have to parent your kids. I only have to parent mine, and part of that job is setting expectations that I think are important for my kids and for our family.

I’m not going to go into why I set that expectation for my girls in this post. The point is, I set the expectation by giving my daughters a responsibility, and I also expected them to obey by following through.

This one might seem a little strange. You’re probably thinking How will I connect better with my kids if I set expectations for them?

Here’s how. By setting expectations, your kids know exactly what you want from them. They can find a place of safety and security in knowing that they are living within the boundaries that you’ve set for them.

(They also should know the consequences of not meeting your expectations—think this one through carefully!).

Setting expectations allows our kids to achieve goals, even small ones like making their bed, which leads to a sense of satisfaction. In the end, you’re doing your child a favor by setting expectations for her. You’re teaching your child how to become an adult . . . a productive citizen. And you’re giving yourself an opportunity to praise your child for a job well done.

So what is one thing you expect of your child? What would you like to see your child follow through on? Talk to him or her about your goals today.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Remember to check out the other posts in the "31 Days Closer . . ." series:

Sandy at The Amazing Adventures of the Fitness Friday Girl - "31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season"
Melanie at Bella~Mella - "31 Days Closer to a Cuter You"
Jen at Finding Heaven - "31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice"
Lisa at Glad Chatter - "31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted"
Missy at It's Almost Naptime - "31 Days Closer to a New Home"


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Praise Them

Shelly Final

I was watching “Access Hollywood” the other day (don’t judge) and a reporter was talking to an actress on a red carpet. The reporter praised the actress up and down—her hair was gorgeous, her nails were flawless (unlike mine), and where on earth did she get those shoes?

Except that wasn’t praise.

That was flattery, and there’s a difference.

I’ve known flattery. Maybe you have too. Flattery is insincere. Flattery is fake. Flattery makes my skin crawl.

But praise. True praise for something I’ve done or, better yet, some quality I might possess will stick with me for hours. Real praise will make me fly. (My love language is words of affirmation, after all.) Tell me what you like, what you reallyreally like about me, and I’ll be your BFF.

Forever, even!

Don’t we all like to be praised for who we are or for something we’ve done? Guess what—your kids like it too. In fact, your kids will really soar if you get into the habit of praising them. They might even want to be your BFF.

What if I praise her too much and she gets a big head? you might be thinking. Don’t worry about that. My guess is that most parents err on the side of too little praise (I know I do) and that our kids could hat sizes could stand a little filling out.

Here’s the thing, though. Our kids know when we’re being insincere. Our kids know when we’re not listening, right? They also know when we say something we don’t mean.

So find something praiseworthy in your child today. It’s there. Even if your child is having one of “those” days--look hard. Find something to praise and sing it out. Shout it from the rooftops if you have to. Tell your child what you reallyreally like about him.

And watch him soar.


Monday, May 9, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Make Memories

Shelly Final

After yesterday’s post, I don’t want you to think that my Mother’s Day was a bummer of a day. It really wasn’t. I had a wonderful time with my kids on Sunday—the weather was beautiful, so we walked to church together; we made fondue and had a great meal on the porch; and my girls gave me the most beautiful, heartfelt cards and gifts.

I LOVED my Mother’s Day.

But I wrote that last post to just show you that we have “real” days just like everyone else. And on most days, parenting well has to be an intentional choice (or even a series of intentional choices) on my part.

One intentional choice I’ve made is to make memories with my kids. Not the scrapbook kind of memories . . . remember? . . . I’m not crafty.

No, the memories we make are family experiences we shared together. Fun times that we can talk about around the dinner table. Inside jokes. Common family memories are wonderful because they can make us laugh and help us get through those “real” kind of days.

How can you make memories as a family?

Find a place that’s “your” place. Is there a park you like to go to regularly? Give it a special name that only your family knows about. Or maybe there is a restaurant you all like to go to for special occasions. Our family always goes out for ice cream after recitals--we go to the same place so it's a tradition.

Write down special family outings. Did you take a day trip to the zoo or into the city? Write it down in a special book or family journal. You might even want to include a picture of your day (alright, this just might border on scrapbooking, but go ahead if you want to).

Create family jokes. Don’t make fun of anyone, but remember funny times together by creating “inside” jokes that only your family will understand. We quote movies a lot, but anyone looking into our family often wouldn’t get why we say some of the lines that we say. It’s just between us.

Make a meal together. One year we had no Fourth of July plans, so rather than sit around and mope about it, we decided to make a family dinner together. We wrote out all of the elements of our meal on slips of paper (appetizer, main course, dessert, drink), put them into a bowl, and had everyone pick out one piece of paper. Whatever part of the meal that was chosen was what that person had to make. Everyone gave me their shopping list a few days ahead of time, I bought the items, and on the Fourth of July we had a feast. It was so much fun that the girls still talk about that day. In fact, they want to do it again this summer.

So tell us, how do you make memories as a family? Want to share a special family memory? Do that in the comments. I’d love to read about it!

* * * * * * * * * * *

Remember to check out the other posts in the "31 Days Closer . . ." series:

Sandy at The Amazing Adventures of the Fitness Friday Girl - "31 Days Closer to Health, Wellness, and Bathing Suit Season"
Melanie at Bella~Mella - "31 Days Closer to a Cuter You"
Jen at Finding Heaven - "31 Days Closer to Hearing God's Voice"
Lisa at Glad Chatter - "31 Days Closer to the Life You Always Wanted"
Missy at It's Almost Naptime - "31 Days Closer to a New Home"


Sunday, May 8, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day. Well, two and a half hours left of it anyway.

I realize I didn't get to a post today, but hey . . . it's Mother's Day.

I wanted to quickly share something that my pastor said in his sermon this morning. He's been going through the Psalms of Ascent and today he talked about Psalm 131. Three little verses that pack a lot of punch.

He said that if there was one gift he would give to the mothers out there it would be the gift of verse 2: "But I have calmed and quieted my soul."

You know what? I needed that gift today. The gift of a calm and quiet soul. Because lest you think that just because I'm spending 31 days writing about parenting means that I have it all together in that area . . . if you even hinted at thinking that . . . today would prove that you are sadly mistaken. Gravely mistaken even.

Because today was a challenging day.

I drove my husband to the airport at 6:30 this morning--he left for a two week business trip.

I nearly lost it with some girls during junior high Sunday School class. Lost it, I tell you. (But I didn't.)

I thought I would tear my hair out during church if one more person asked me where my husband was on Mother's Day.

I ran all over town looking for just the perfect set of sheets for Julia's bedroom makeover only to come home empty-handed with a stressed out kid because she's so afraid that Homegoods might never get another shipment of sheets again.

Another daughter lost a cell phone today. Tears.

There just may have been some harsh words spoken to more than one child today. More tears.

Another is stressed beyond belief about school. Which makes me stressed beyond belief.

A calm and quiet soul? Yeah, I could use one of those.

Do you think Homegoods might get a shipment one of these days?


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Good Reads

I've been collecting blog posts to share for the past couple of weeks, so I thought I'd just link up this afternoon. Hope you enjoy these posts as much as I did.

Oh that Kate Middleton. She's gorgeous. And stylish, as Sarah at Modern Country Style points out.

I thought these printable alphabet letters were really cute from The Handmade Home. If you're crafty, head over there and get printing.

Jo-Lynne made this asparagus frittata this week. I'm sure I'll be making it soon as well. Mmmmmm.

It wouldn't be a "Good Reads" post without a link to Jon Acuff. I so resonated with this one titled "The Miserable God."

Oh-so-beautiful post from Kristin Welch's husband: "How [A Dad] Really Loves a Daughter." Yes! Go read it. Now.

And then there's this one from Ann VosKamp. Not your typical Mother's Day post, but such a great reminder that relationships cost . . . and sometimes they cost a lot.

Happy reading!


31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Meals Together

Shelly Final

Our college girl came home yesterday.

For the summer.

Where, oh where did that year go?? It’s like *poof!* Gone. Into thin air.

Please, God, can’t you just slow down time a little bit?

Alas, this isn’t a post about kids growing up too fast. Even though these teen years are super-fun for us and I hate to even think about college graduation, which is right around the corner, there were plenty of years (*ahem* babyyears *ahem*) that seemed to c r a w l.

Nope. I just wanted to tell you about our night last night because it was so much fun and we really had a great opportunity to connect with our kids.

Since I knew Kate would be officially coming home for the summer, I decided to kick it off with a fabulous meal together. I went to the meat market and bought some beautiful steaks. I made her favorite fruit salad, even splurging on raspberries at $2.99 for a half pint which I usually don’t do because . . . $2.99 for a half pint? Seriously? But College Girl loves raspberries, so I splurged. We also had pasta salad and baked potatoes and some delicious banana bread that a friend made for us. It was an awesome meal.

Caroline had a friend over (the sweet friend who came on Spring Break with us—she’s pretty much like family) so she stayed for dinner too. The girls were headed to a talent show after dinner, and Kate was supposed to go to a party at another friend’s house, so dinner had to be a little early.

This is how we roll with teenagers. Flexibility is the key.

Let me just tell you that dinner with all of our kids around the table (plus one!) was so much fun. We ended up sitting there for a long time just talking and laughing and talking and laughing some more.

Eventually Caroline and E left for the talent show, but Kate said, “You know what? I don’t really feel like going out tonight. I think I’ll go get a movie and stay here if that’s O.K. with you.”

O.K. with us? Of course!

So the four of us who remained at home ended up watching “The King’s Speech” together (awesome movie—don’t let the R rating deter you).

Don’t underestimate the power of a great meal. Yes, it took planning. Yes, it took flexibility. Yes, it took effort. But the results were so worth it.

You know what? You don't have to wait until your kids are coming home from college to plan a special meal. And your meal certainly doesn't have to be steak and too-expensive raspberries to be special. Making family meals a priority is a good start to celebrating your family . . . every day . . . no matter how young (or old) your kids may be.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Be sure to check out the other gals in the "31 Days Closer . . ." series:

Sandy at The Amazing Adventures of the Fitness Friday Girl
Melanie at Bella~Mella
Jen at Finding Heaven
Lisa at Glad Chatter
Missy at It's Almost Naptime


Friday, May 6, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Host Their Friends

Shelly Final

Last Friday, you may recall, there was a little matter of a wedding. A Royal wedding.

Over there . . . in England . . . where I like to be every so often . . . the wedding took place at the same hour that B and I got married: 11:00 a.m. It’s a decent hour to get married.

But over here the hour was not decent at all. All of the pre-wedding coverage started at 3:00 a.m. THREE O’CLOCK IN THE A. M., PEOPLE!! The wedding itself started at 5:00 a.m.

In order to watch the big event live, you had to be pretty committed (get it?!) and get up EARLY. Boy, was I ever committed.

At 4:30 a.m., girls started streaming in my front door. I don’t think I’ve ever welcomed guests to my home at that hour. Ever! By the start of the ceremony there were a dozen college girls in their pajamas sitting in my family room staring at the television.

And I loved every minute of it.

Was I tired that day . . . and the next? You bet I was.

Was it worth it to create a lasting memory for my girls and their friends? Oh yeah.

I feel like I’m a very lucky mom because not only do I really enjoy my own kids, I truly enjoy their friends. And I love hosting their friends here in our home. Which is one way I really think we connect with our own kids—when we connect with their friends too.

Here are a few pointers to hosting kids in your home:

Start when they’re young. Get your kids in the habit of inviting friends over. Over the years they will just know that you want their friends to be around.

Be the place they all want to be. This means, of course, having plenty of food available for kids to eat. When Julia was younger she used to bring a friend home from school every Friday, and on most weeks I made sure I baked cookies before they got here. To this day, her friend still calls our house the “Cookie House” because she knows she’ll get a cookie if she stops by.

Don’t expect them to pay too much attention to you. After all, having kids over isn’t about you, Mom. It’s about them connecting with each other. But in the end, your own kids will appreciate that you were there.

In the end, everyone benefits when you host your kids’ friends. Your kids will feel important because you took the time to do this. You will get to know their friends better (and believe me, this is SUCH a benefit. I love my kids’ friends!). And you might just get to share some love and kindness to someone who really needs it.

* * * * * * * * * *

Be sure to check out the other gals in the "31 Days Closer . . ." series:

Sandy at The Amazing Adventures of the Fitness Friday Girl
Melanie at Bella~Mella
Jen at Finding Heaven
Lisa at Glad Chatter
Missy at It's Almost Naptime


Thursday, May 5, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Laugh

Shelly Final

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”
e e cummings

We like to laugh around here. A lot.

Why wouldn’t we when there’s so much to laugh about?!

I’m kidding, of course. Laughter doesn’t always come easily, especially when life gets hard. When sickness comes. When tests loom. When wisdom teeth need to be extracted in a couple of weeks. (Oh, yes they do!)

But for some reason, my family loves to laugh in the midst of it all. (Last night said soon-to-be-without-wisdom-teeth daughter was looking up You Tube videos of people coming out of anesthesia. Hysterical!)

I grew up in a house of laughter and, believe me, there were plenty of years when we didn’t feel like laughing. When deep losses pressed in, when droughts came, when money was tight. But my parents spent time laughing with us, joking us through our teenage years, cajoling us despite our girly mood swings.

Thankfully, I married a very funny man who makes me laugh every single day. (In fact, as I was writing this post he called me from work and said something that totally made me laugh.) His delicious sense of humor is one of the things I most appreciate about him.

A few reasons to laugh with your kids:

- It shows them that life doesn't need to be taken so desperately seriously all the time.

- God wants us to be filled with joy. Laughter models that kind of joy for our kids.

- It helps us remember that things aren't always as bad as they seem.

- It's FUN! And having fun with our kids is always a good thing.

When I talk to my girls about the type of guy they might marry someday, aside from being someone who loves Jesus more than he loves them, I tell them to marry a man who makes them laugh. Life is stormy enough on its own, but there is also plenty of joy to be found. Laughter is the buried treasure among life’s stormy seas.

Laughter is a gift. So pass that gift on to your children and find something to laugh with them about today.

Question: Do you laugh with your family? What makes you laugh the most?