Sunday, January 10, 2016

Trying to Train!

    All I am trying to do is "train up a child in the way she should go". But that is not always easy! This video clip is exactly what happened yesterday. I was feeling frustrated so I decided to video it exactly the way it was two minutes previously...and the phone even rang without prompting...which is part of our normal life too! Ugh. So many distractions. 

    Honestly, I started singing because it was either sing or let out an exasperated sigh. So, I just made up a song to get their attention. Do you ever feel frustrated with your children when all you are trying to do it is the right thing?! I am sure this is the case for mothers everywhere!  Don't give up friends! Keep teaching even when it's tough! I am preaching this to myself too!
    I am reminded of the verse in Galations 6:9-10 (MSG) "So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." Totally for us, friends.

     We must not give up with planting the seeds in the hearts of our children so we can gather a harvest. I can remember a friend of mine who has raised eight children sharing with me that I am in the years of plowing the fields. (I am picturing myself completely digging with a shovel, sweating profusely in the blazing sun with no water as a comparison to what I feel at times emotionally, physically, mentally as a mama!). But she went on to say that I will in time see the growth coming up and will be richly blessed with a lifelong harvest which would be my children loving the Lord! I have never forgotten those words. And so I plow. And you must too.

     No matter what distractions or frustrations we may feel when leading our children, we must keep going. Even better is that our strength, patience, and perhaps at times a fun-loving response will come from the Lord who created our children and chose us to mother them.

     After the song we did move on with still and quiet children ready to actually learn. Little seeds are already sprouting from my little crop!


Friday, January 1, 2016

Communicating Our Healthy Choices

Have you ever felt like teaching your children how to handle healthy food choices can be difficult? For us, we had to learn the hard way! Just because our girls were eating healthy didn't mean they had healthy communication to others about it...

     “Stop! Don’t eat that!” warned my 4 year old Allison. Our family friend paused with the pizza right at his lips. “It has pepperoni which is a brain killer!” We all laughed and moved on with the night. Then another day arose when my dad offered my children some candy. “No thanks, they contain high fructose corn syrup.” We didn’t laugh as much on this one but there was more of a silent pause in the family as everyone thought about it. And then the awkward moment arrived at a family party when the cake was being handed out and one of my girls asked loudly, “Does this icing have dyes in it?! I can’t eat dyes!” This health thing wasn’t helping our relationships with those we loved. We needed to have a family talk.

     Our healthy lifestyle was obvious to those around us but it wasn’t being communicated with ease. Furthermore, I knew our kids felt the tension as they would strive to obey only to have others roll their eyes, to sit at events with nothing to share in the social world, or to feel rude to those who tried to share a treat with them. So we had to decide to give up on being healthy and let the kids do whatever they wanted, or we needed some basic understandings that put everyone at ease. We decided to stay healthy and do what is fitting for all.

  1. Role play how to appropriately handle your family’s health decisions without making others feel inferior. We spent a few talks on this because it took time for the children to understand health manners. We determined we would ask questions about the food privately to one adult rather than announce it to the whole table. We would not tell other people what and how to eat nor make a scene on what our family has decided to eat. We would be sensitive to the giver of the food and accept it if the person’s feelings were on the line but not necessarily eat it.  
  2. Decide what truly is not allowed. If the lines are gray it can be difficult for the child to know when to say no and when to say yes. For us, we choose to avoid MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and dyes completely. These are three things the children don’t even have to ask about when deciding. And yes, that means most candy. But don’t feel too sorry for the kids. We can still do select cookies, cupcakes, chocolates, popsicles and frozen yogurt but something such as candy is just always a “nope.” This will cut out the pleas and sad faces of “can I mom?!” in moments when it’s hard. My kids just know, don’t even ask! In addition, we decided we would only do one treat a day (or none!) but would allow for two treats at parties and holidays. If they want more they can save something for the next day. This causes them to be aware and carefully select their items.
  3. Teach the children the reason behind eating healthy so they understand it is to help them. My younger kids are still learning this but my older three ages 8, 10, and 11 are at a place they don’t want the junk because they understand what it does and what it can lead to in life.  Their taste buds have adapted and if they do eat unhealthy they don’t feel well and know why. This has helped them make their own wise choices when we aren’t there to guide. Once a child has their own convictions it takes quite the burden off of the parents because they trust the child knows and will do what is right.
  4. Keep healthy treats readily available as an option. This has worked wonders in our family. We take a trip to the local health food store and let the children pick out several fun and tasty treats! It may even include the “candy” stuff just without the dyes and high fructose. These items are something they really like and when school, church, friends or extra activities offers treats there is a back-up plan to be able the moment. I have items in the car, in my purse, in the pantry at home, and in their backpacks ready for any switch off!
  5. Be consistent in the decisions but not obsessive. “Mom, at the sleepover there was a game that used Skittles that we had to catch in our mouths and if I didn’t play then we wouldn’t have had equal players so I decided to go ahead and do the game but I wondered if I made the right decision?!” In this situation, we let it go and assured our daughter that we were proud she was aware and that it isn’t a habit she gives in to often but that we understood the predicament. There are times something will come up and you may have to let it go. Just look at the overall pattern of the decisions made and whether or not there is a direction of consistency.

     Yes, we have come a long way since our kids would correct others in what they were eating or announce to parties what wasn’t allowed. This generation most likely knows more about health than what my friends and I were aware of growing up but I want it to be communicated and understood in wholesome expression for all involved. Although, I will say having my four year old yell out “brain killer” to people who eat pepperoni is a favorite memory!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Teaching People Skills

     My oldest daughter Candice and I watched as two of my younger girls got out of the car and walked into the church. While holding the door, one of the pastors greeted them enthusiastically, "Hey Girls!" Much to my dismay, my girls didn't stop, make eye contact, speak up, or even thank him for holding the door. They simply mumbled, "Hi" and kept moving. AHHHHH! Mothering moment of hight blood pressure! That is when Candice (then age 9) expressed my exact thought, "People skills, people!" So when we came home, we went over how to interact with people once again.

     Your children may do the same thing...actually, I know they do the same thing because it is typical of most all children at some point. Even those that are well-trained have to be reminded from time to time. My biggest comfort was that at least one of my children noticed the lack of skills which proves they do know better. So how do we go about teaching interaction with people? For this first entry on this topic, lets start with the basics.

     1. Show them the value in others. If your children understand that each person is created by God then they will have respect to treat others as such. Have them think of every person as a handcrafted gift from God so that no matter what the person looks like or acts like or seems like, they are valued. 

Remind them of Ps. 139: 13-14 "For God created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Or as Judy "The Manners Lady" states, "Pretend each person is wearing a star that says 'Make me feel special!' " It is not about how we feel but about how the other person needs to feel.

     2. Show them the value in themselves. When children know the above about themselves then they will also see the value in using their gift of life in response to others. For those children that claim its because they are shy, its actually more about having manners than about becoming a type-A person. I

t only takes a moment to smile, speak up, look at someone, and show respect. I have two girls that aren't outgoing, but we do build in them the confidence from the Lord to move beyond their hinderences. They can respond to others because they are strong in themselves.

     3. Show them how to do it. Practice!Practice! Practice! It will take years of consistent work. But you will see progress! We start the practice by talking through scenarios with the girls, then we see how they do in public. When they are younger than age 7, we may train them in front of people if they haven't had good manners in the moment. 

However, as they get older, we don't address them on the spot (unless we know the person extremely well) so as not to humiliate them, but we do address it first chance we are able for a better response next time.

     One of the ways we practice with the girls is by training at home in role-play. For instance, I may say, "Let's pretend you are about to meet an adult for the first time. Smile. Look at them. Extend a hand if necessary. Answer questions so people can hear you."

Another time we train, is in the car by going over what is expected before they go somewhere. "Alright, girls, what are some things to remember before you go into the store (or the church, school, bday party etc)?" Last, we train as watch others and evaluate the good and the bad. "Did anyone notice how the family you met today had a child that was rude by not answering when greeted? How did that look to you? How do you think the other person felt?"

     So if you have ever watched in dismay as your children don't respond respectfully with others, just start with some basics and practice! Before you know it, your child will see others and say, "PEOPLE SKILLS, PEOPLE!"

Sunday, November 15, 2015

How to Not go Crazy with Everyone Else's Problems

     Being a pastor's wife, mom of five daughters and working with teen girls means one thing: DRAMA. Well, it means more than that (miraculously amazing things) but it certainly includes other people's dramatic life experiences. I think every woman can relate to hearing someone else's problems. At times, it just gets to be too much. We hear it at home, at work, at church, in social media, in the neighborhood and on the news. People's issues and burdens are everywhere we turn! 

     So how should we handle all the things we hear without going crazy? My personality carries every. single. thing. people share with me. It could be so remote from my life, yet because I know of their situation, I am now carrying it emotionally. This is honorable according to Galations 6:2 which says to "Carry each other's burdens...". However, I often fail to remember WHERE and to WHO I am carrying the burden. In fact, sometimes I forget completely to carry it at all so I just stand there in place becoming more weighed down by the minute. But God hasn't asked us to do that.
     As stated in Ps. 55:22, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you." We are to take our burdens to the Lord.  We are called to let them go to Him and then He sustains us with His power and strength. WHAT RELIEF! No longer do I have to keep all the emotions and mental weight driving me crazy from the situations others share with me! I can give them to the Lord and leave them there.

     So here is what you have to do when someone decides to trust you enough to share their problems with you: Listen then Leave It. I don't mean listen then walk away but to listen sincerely then leave their problems with the Lord.

     1. Listen to them in love. Go there emotionally. Take time to understand. Give your undivided attention. Let their situation be as if it were yours.

     2. Leave it all with the Lord. Go there spiritually. Take time to explain to the Lord. Give your prayer undivided attention. Pray as if it were your situation.

     After countless desperate, tragic, horrific situations we have encountered hearing through the years, the "listen and leave it plan" has kept us grounded and sound. So, when you experience first row tickets to the next drama of someone, all you have to do is love them and then go pray.

     P.S. And if there is something tangible God calls you to do after that then do that too. For example, if you encounter a poor college students needing finances and you are a millionaire, listen and pray...then cut them a check! 

(Re-posted from 2014)


Thursday, November 12, 2015

How to Lead a Cousins (or Friends) Camp!

This is a previous spring but I wanted to share it so you have time to think and plan if this is something you decide to do this summer! This is an at-home camp for kids from any connections you may have in life. It could be for neighbors, friends, church kids or cousins! You can divide up ages or do everyone together depending on the amount and the ages. And all you Pinterest savvy people can spruce it up even more. We even threw in a bday party during one of the lunch times since we had everyone there anyway. We added cake, did presents and set out a theme on the table then went back into the camp saved time and money on the bday party and the bday girl loved it! Make it whatever works for you and have a blast impacting young hearts! Enjoy...

(2014 re-post) Woo-hoo! We just recently completed our 5th Annual Cousin's Camp! Hard to believe its been going for FIVE YEARS! SO WORTH IT! I gathered all first cousins who are 4 and older to make some major life-time memories. From the first-class greetings, to opening ceremonies, games and prizes, mini-group, and water fun we lived it up for yet another successful year of bonding. Here is a highlight video from this past month at Cousins Camp:

     After some thought, I decided that anything to lead and love children is worth sharing. Perhaps this will offer you some creative ideas to build relationships with the children in your world whether biological, extended, adopted, friends, neighbors, little ones you mentor etc. The main reasons we get together is to make an extra effort beyond birthdays and holidays (those are so busy) to grow in God, to have both sides of the family making memories, and for them to know their Aunt Casey loves them! Here is the schedule we use but adapt for your own interest and needs:

We keep the activities to two days and each day goes from 10-3:00. This is just enough time to do everything and yet not too much when things would get a little crazy.

10:00 WELCOME Greet outside with lots of energy and random instruments while cheering their name and making a tunnel. We do this until all arrive. Then we let the kids choose if they want to get their face painted which is done by a big kid or one of the helpers. Helpers are someone like an adult friend, relative, or teen. This year I had three helpers bc I am pregnant and also had 14 kids at the house…in addition, I decided I better have two camps next time bc the age gaps between the 4 yr olds and the 10-11 yr olds as well as the amount of kids! But it was fun!

10:15 OPENING CEREMONIES We gather around for the pledge to the American flag, then we circle up for a Cousins Camp Cheer (“We’re cousins! We’re cousins! We always stick together! I am with you, you are with me, its Cousins Camp Forever!”) then we put on some dance music and do a dance together (Electric Slide or something similar that is fun and easy).

10:30 BIBLE CHAT TIME There is a theme each year and we talk about a concept such as trusting the Lord, prayer, living a pure life, and learning what truth is in life. I lead the lesson and pass a balla round for each child to hold when it’s their turn to talk. We act out the lesson or use props to prove the point. It is the most valuable time of the whole camp as the children share their hearts and insights. Then we close with prayer requests and I remind them about being wise and choosing God no matter what life brings their way.

11:00 CRAFT TIME Anything from decorating t-shirts to stuffing panty hose with cotton and drawing faces to make long snakes, this is just a fun activity.

11:30 GAMES These games are easy and fun. We have two teams with equal ages on each if possible so older can help the younger. These games have included through the years tossing balls into buckets, throwing popcorn into mouths, playing Pictionary, guessing what items are missing from a tray or wrapping up in toilet paper races etc. The final game leads up one big game on day two such as a scavenger hunt for a treasure box with real coins or an obstacle course.


12:30 FREE TIME outdoors with sprinklers or set up pools, bikes, chalk, swingset etc.

2:00 SNACK TIME and AWARDS and sometimes we combine one of our girls bday celebrations during this part if the camp falls during a bday. We eat and open presents on Day 1. For Day 2, we do snack then give out awards for each child with a certificate or medal or trophy to acknowledge something special about each one. This year, due to rain, we had to move Freetime and snack to an indoor community swim area so I sent a picture with awards on it in the mail later.

2:45 PACK UP All kids gather their items and do a cleanup so the house isn’t too messy and moms don’t have to wait at pickup.

These years of effort have been worth every minute and I hope it inspires you to connect with the children in your life before they grow up and go their own ways. It truly is a gift to have influence and time with the heart of a child. ENJOY!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Liking the Daughter You Love


     Raising a girl can be a blessing and a challenge all at once. Girls can be enjoyable and yet so difficult at times. As I think about raising daughters, lines from the song “Maria” in the classic movie The Sound of Music come to mind. “…She is gentle! She is wild! She's a riddle! She's a child! She's a headache! She's an angel! She's a GIRL!” Girls are so lovable and yet not always likable. 

     As a mother of five daughters, I certainly love them all deeply and unconditionally. But it didn’t take long to realize I didn’t necessarily always like them. For instance, one of my girls talks excessively. This little one reminds me of the continued “Maria” lyrics, “When I'm with her I'm confused, out of focus and bemused and I never know exactly where I am…” while another daughter is highly emotional and “Unpredictable as weather, she's as flighty as a feather…” The other three deal with everything from hyperactivity, “how do you make her stay, and listen to all you say…” to overly opinionated, “many a thing you know you ought to tell her…” to stubbornness “…many a think she ought to understand.
    So, assuming there may be another mother out there that has admitted she doesn’t always like her daughter, here are a couple of things that are helping me on this journey of liking my lovables. First off, choose to like her. The story of old “Mr. Jones” comes to mind. After his wife passed away, Mr. Jones needed to move into a nursing facility. Upon arrival, the nurse walked him down the hall on his way to his room. She said, “Mr. Jones, we have prepared the room for you and we will see how things are when you get there.” He answered, “I already like it!” “But you haven’t seen it.” “No, but I have decided that I will like it!” And we can do the same as mothers. We can decide to have the attitude of accepting our children no matter what. This resolve can drive us steadily forward through the challenges that may lie ahead. I am determined to like my girls.
     Secondly, remind yourself how undesirable you have been. I can think of dozens of my behaviors that weren’t what they should have been. I don’t even know how my dear mother made it through all my questions in elementary school, my emotions in junior high, and my dominating attitude in high school. Furthermore, as an adult, I still have moments of less-than-admirable actions. None of us are completely likeable at all times. This very thought causes me to give grace to my daughters. And just as most of us know when we are being unacceptable, our children may be in tune with their own awareness of their behaviors yet may not be mature enough to know how to handle it or stop.     This leads to a third step of taking time to communicate in order to work through issues. While it is necessary to decide to like our girls and beneficial to remind our self of our own shortcomings, this doesn’t mean we just move on and let things go as they are. In fact, this is a prime time to face the issues at hand in order to gain understanding. Listen. Ask questions. Engage with her emotions. Then, share your feelings and thoughts so that she can see how her actions are affecting others and how she can improve. Sometimes we need to confront the unlikeable as we lead our girls. It may take time and several attempts but they are listening and most girls do want to know how they can be the best they can be.
  In fact, my mom and I had a talk like this just a few years. She and I were frustrated with each other. So, we talked it out. It took three hours and many tears to work through how she thought I was controlling and I thought she was careless but it worked. We both ended it feeling understood. And we also knew we both had things to work to improve.
     Finally, when all has been done, think outside your own personality. Sometimes we just don’t like our daughter because she has a different personality. There are some things about girls that are a part of who they are! I am amazed at how my five girls can all be born within seven years and each can be so unique! I have had to accept that while some things need to be changed, there are other things that are just personality.
    For example, one night I burned the rice at dinner but served it anyway to see if anyone noticed. Well, they did. And each one had a comment. My oldest said logically, “Mom, the rice is burnt because you got distracted with laundry.” My second girl responded, “Yes, but its okay because we all make mistakes, mom, and I still love you.” The next one wasted no time and spit out the food while saying, “Yuck! That is terrible!” Her younger sister took note and said, “Thanks for making it mom but I am NOT even going to taste it!” And of course, my toddler just played with the rice happily. It was just a matter of their personalities. Sometimes, it’s just easy and fun celebrating who they are and how they see life!
     Overall, learning to like the daughter you love may feel like the ending words of the “Maria” song that ask, “How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?” but I believe we can. We can like them as we do all we know to do then simply embrace the fact that, like us, “She’s a GIRL!”

Published in Paradise Valley Lifestyle Magazine. Picture of girls from 2011. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Laundry Logistics

      It's intriguing to me how dirty clothes can have such control over my life. As the laundry needs build, the piles have a looming, creepy voice that calls out in eery tones..."wash me...dry me...fold me...put me in the closet..." over and over in my head! The voices are enough to drive a girl crazy! So here are some logistics I have learned that silences the call of laundry:

1. Certain loads go on certain days. Choose which family member gets which day. This can depend on who they are and what their needs. For example, I don't mind doing baby laundry because the clothes are easier, a smaller load, and sooooo cute. Therefore, the baby load is done on Saturday when we might be out more. I do my older two girls laundry (at times they do their own from start to finish but not always...yet) on Wednesday because that is a day that they can put it all away for their afternoon work before a busy church night. This relieves me from doing it. Friday is our family day off so towels and sheets go then because they are easy to put away and the girls can fold them with me as the day is more relaxed.

      Having a system gives me a the freedom to not think about what is waiting on me. If it isn't the day for that load, then it can wait. Even if it is falling out on the floor overflowing from the bin, it can wait. The only exception to this is if someone truly needs an item or two before their day then I may be a merciful mother and allow them to throw it in with another load. But it better be truly needed! ha. Below is my write up for what we do:

Sunday - off

Monday - off

Tuesday - Bria and Allison's laundry

Wednesday - Candice and Kelly Grace's laundry

Thursday - Scotty and my laundry

Friday - Towels, sheets etc

Saturday - Angel's laundry

2. Start as early as possible. Before I even make breakfast I throw a load in for the day. This is so that all laundry is completely done before I start dinner at night. That way all I have to focus on is dinner and kitchen and baths and phone calls and emails and time with my husband and yeah. Laundry has to be done before dinner or I start to get a little tense.

3. Take days off. Days off will be like a lullaby to your mind. Sunday and Monday I don't do any laundry (unless someone has thrown up). This takes pressure off on a busy ministry day and the day we go to a school group that takes all day. Having a couple of days break is a relief.

      Those three steps will change your life. Well, maybe not your life but they will keep your mind from hearing creepy voices all day and wondering when to do everything. A little laundry logistics can set things in order. Your clothes will be quiet and your mind will be at peace!

(Re-posted from 2013)