Twelve-Year-Old Trips

When each of my boys have turned twelve, they have gotten to go on a Twelve Year Old Trip.  This trip is a father/son event that is planned out for months.  It usually involves multiple sporting events, hunting, and driving many miles.  They get to help plan, they decide where to eat, what to do, what to wear.  It is all about them.

My fifth child, Joshua, is about to turn twelve years old.  How is that possible?  He was the baby for 10 years until we adopted Sally, and now Charlie.  So, I guess it is really hard for me to believe that the youngest of my “first batch” is twelve.  Weird.  I remember vividly when I was twelve.

Makes me want to slow it all down.

I want more time, which of course is impossible.

As I look back over the past couple of decades, it seems as if I lived it with a fast-forward button on.  And there is no reverse button.

Gretchen Ruben has written, “The days are long but the years are short” and I tend to agree. When I count the days, it doesn’t seem very fast, but then I look up and years have passed and there is no way to get it all back.  Not that we would want back all of it, but if I really understood this whole fast years thing, I think I would enjoy and savor my days, making them longer and slower.

I would have more moments where I glance out the window and see the blooms and the green grass and remember to tell the Lord thank you.

I would sit outside in my yard more.

I would play cards more with the kids.  A good game of Crazy Eight is really time well spent.

I would read. For pleasure.  And I would read all kinds of books—Bible Study books and novels and biographies and classics.

I would cook more.  Because I wanted to try out a new recipe, not because I needed to throw something on the table to avert my guilty conscience when we have eaten out or eaten sandwiches too many nights in a row.

I would go to lunch with a friend.  I would watch a kid’s movie with my kids, not just get it going for them.

In case you are wondering, I just listed my goals for the summer.

So join me in slowing down and savoring the days a bit more.

And I would love hear your ideas.  Please share your own tips!

Tuesday Tip: Helping Widows and Orphans

tuesday tips logo



                    Helping Orphans and Widows 



Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

                                                                                    James 1:27

Helping orphans and widows is for every Christian.  When I finally realized this truth years ago, I tried to find manageable ways to do that.  I honestly didn’t know any orphans to help. One of the ways I discovered a few years ago, was a website called Rainbow Kids.  Rainbow Kids is an orphan listing that sends email updates on various orphans all over the world who are in need of a loving home and a forever family.  Whenever I receive an email, I pray for the child and then delete the email.  Easy ministry!  Be warned though, both of my adopted children came to us as a result of Rainbow kids!  We all can do things like this.  Prayer is one of the most powerful and most underused tools of ministry.

We have also had great joy in “adopting” children from Compassion International.  I don’t know the percentage of these children that are orphans, but they are in great need, nonetheless.  At one point, we supported the amount of children we had.  At the time, we had five children, two girls and three boys.  So we signed up for two girls and three boys from Compassion.  We let the children help us decide the geographical location we wanted to support.  We chose Latin American countries because we had been on mission trips in those places.  It was a great experience for the children to correspond and pray for their friend in another country.

We have also had great blessing in “helping” widows in our neighborhood, although the truth is they have helped us much more.  I confess that I haven’t done enough in this area.  But a few simple ideas are:

Double your soup recipe and take a portion to a widow.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, but the gesture will be appreciated.

Pick a handful of spring flowers and take them to a widow.  They don’t receive as many flowers as they used to.

Show up to help them put up or take down Christmas decorations.  Those simple pleasures can be great burdens when one is alone.

Send your older children to help rake leaves in the fall.  It will teach your children to serve and work hard, and will be a great blessing to all involved.

I think the main thing is to be willing to serve those who need help.  I know that if my kids or I were in that position, I would hope someone would remember and come to our rescue.  Not everyone is called to adopt.  But if we call ourselves Christians we should keep our faith pure and faultless by helping those in need.  Tell the Lord you are willing and He will send simple opportunities your way.

As for the third part of that verse, keeping ourselves unpolluted by the world,  that can be another post in itself.  This week, ask the Lord how to help widows and orphans.  You will be blessed and so will they.

Tuesday Tip: Rules of Listening

tuesday tips logo



            Rules of Listening



When children are young, they have to be taught listening skills.  Some personalities take to this more quickly than others.  But if we take the time to teach them good listening skills when they are young, we will save them and ourselves a world of difficulty in later years.

So, how do you teach young children to listen?  I break it down to three things:




First, direction.  This is easy.  In what direction are they looking?  If their eyes are on the TV, video game, or coloring book, or even siblings, they are probably not listening.  “Eyes on me” is the first rule of listening.

Next, Attention.  This one can be more difficult for stronger-willed children.  But it is important that children understand that if you do not give your attention to the one speaking, then they are not really able to listen.  So, how do you know if you have their attention?  Well, one simple way is that they will not be talking.  They will not be talking to someone else or even to you.  They will have their mouths closed.  So, the second rule of listening is added to the first, “Mouth closed, eyes on me.”

Lastly, Recollection.  Sometimes a child develops “selective deafness”.  My husband and I both have that same ailment at times.  “Selective deafness”, of course, means that they only hear what they want to hear.  They develop the art of “mouth closed, eyes on me” rules, but they have tuned out whatever you are saying.  That is when the third rule of listening comes into to play.  Can they recall what you said?  Can they repeat it back to you in their own words?  Ask them to do this and you will know if they not only heard, but understood what you said,  By the way, these three rules of listening work great in the reverse.  Make sure you look at  your child (or husband, or friend) when you are speaking to them.  Make sure you keep your mouth closed while they talk.  Make sure you can speak back to them what they said, showing them that you have heard and understand.

Most importantly, we should use these same rules of listening in our relationship with God.  Do we listen to Him speak through His Word and through worship?  Do we keep our eyes on Him throughout  our days, seeking His way and His wisdom?  Do we listen in prayer or do we just talk endlessly to Him, directing Him to do what we want Him to do?  Finally, can we recall what He says to us?  Have we heard, really heard, what He has commanded and are we responsive to what we have heard?  Just a little Food for Thought on this Tuesday morning!  Blessings!

What I Will Miss About Diapers

tuesday tips logoWe have just tackled a momentous life challenge.  Potty Training.  Sally is now three and we have been a bit behind schedule on this event.  Why?  First of all, her mother is old and tired and lazy.  Secondly, we had bigger challenges before us, like making sure she bonded with us, making sure she dealt with her fears, and making sure she sees us as her family.  Check.  Check. Check. (Praise the Lord!)

But the time had come and we are more than conquerors.  I had sorta forgotten how to potty train girls.  Boys are easier—wait until summer and potty train them in the backyard.  Just make sure they know not to go in the front yard.  My poor neighbors.

But it had been 16 years since I potty trained a girl.  I had to think through my strategy.  Stay home for a week.  Make her drink LOTS of water.  Have chocolate ready to reward her.  Girls and chocolate.  Works every time.

Now that we have conquered, I have to ask myself, “What will I miss about diapers?”

  1. I will miss the ease of a diaper during a road trip.  Looking for a gas station, or a nice strip on the side of the road, or a large cup is our new way of life.
  2. I will miss the sweet time between mother and daughter when I had to change those diapers.
  3. I will miss the funny expressions Sally said when her diaper was being changed.  Like, “I must be French, that’s a lot of wee-wee!”  (We can thank her older brother for that one.)
  4. I will miss how she said, “A naked baby is a happy baby.”  (Another nod to the older brothers.)
  5. I will miss how when I pulled her back up she always sand, Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus.  (That one was from me.  I even googled the words so we would sing it right.)
  6. I will miss having a baby.  You can take away the bottle and the baby bed, but when you take away the diapers, you really have a big girl, not a baby.

Though we didn’t get Sally until she was 22 months, I am glad we had over a year to baby her. I am glad to savor those memories, and I am also glad to save all that money spent on diapers.

To Make the Bed or Not Make the Bed, That is the Question

tuesday tips logoFor this Tuesday Tip, I thought we could examine if we should make our kids—or ourselves—make the bed.

My mother was a great household manager. Everything was shipshape.  We had to work hard and do right.  I have vivid memories of hearing those slippers clipping against the hardwood floor, coming toward my room.  With heart pounding and sweat pouring I would jump out of bed and start throwing clothes in my closet in a mad dash to clean up my room in the thirty seconds I had before she arrived.  The sound of slippers still sends shivers down my spine.

My style is a bit more (cough) relaxed (I like to say that rather than say disorganized) but I learned so much from her, which I have applied to my own household.

One of those things I have applied is that I make up my bed everyday.  EVERYday.  It may be three o’clock in the afternoon before I get to it, but by the time I get in bed at night, I want the pleasure of unmaking it.

Why?  First of all, I am a not-very-recovered sheet snob.  I have to have my sheets smooth and clean and soft.  Pure torture to me would be watching someone eat crackers in my bed.  My husband has often lovingly (most of the time) called me Princess and the Pea.  So, if I make up my bed everyday, there is less chance for one of my six children (seven if you count Mont) to get crumbs in my sheets.

Secondly, the voice of my mother comes back to me each day.  I hear her say, “Making up the bed is half the battle of keeping your house clean.”  So true.  Especially for us Southern women who have to have tons of throw pillows and Euro shams and regular shams…

When we spend the 2 minutes it takes to make up the bed, we have overcome half of our messy house problem.  Then we can whittle away at the rest of the mess.

So, do I make all six of my kids make up their beds?  Well, yes and no.  When the kids are young, I am pretty strict about making them make their beds.  The main point is when they leave my household they need to know how to make a bed, wash clothes, wash dishes, and clean the toilet.  It is part of life training.

Of course, I used to go back and remake their beds—until I got caught.   When my oldest daughter, Katie, was about 13, I reminded her to make her bed.  She asked me, “But why, Mom, you just turn around and remake it every day.”  Busted.  So, I decided to reteach her how to do it correctly and then accept the job as is.  Micromanaging really is a bad parenting strategy.