Posts Tagged 'children'

The Language Behind Lent

Here’s a post I wrote 2 years ago about Lent – reading it now I have to laugh. James was 5 at the time. He is now 7. We haven’t talked about what we’re giving up for Lent – it’s been a crazy season of life. This weekend will be a time of talking, praying and hearing from our boys and what God is going in their hearts.

How do you talk to your kids about lent?

Are your kids or family giving up something in particular?

I’d love to hear your thoughts – please leave a comment below :o)

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday – the beginning of the Lent. Last year was the first time we took our children to an Ash Wednesday service. It was a wonderful experience I documented in my post Discovering Lent. This year I had to work, Matt was sick and we didn’t make it to any services at church, which was a bummer. But we are still talking to our kids about what these 40 days mean to us and how it helps us prepare for Easter. My favorite part of this Smarter Moms community is knowing I’m not alone in this journey…

    Some of you have commented on Facebook, sent a Tweet or sent us emails asking about how and when children should be involved in this tradition and how to explain Lent to them. I’m so glad you asked because I was struggling with the same issues just yesterday!

    I picked up our son, James, from preschool and saw a paper laying on the table outside their classroom door. The teachers had obviously explained Lent and asked children what they would give up during these 40 days of remembering Jesus. I was shocked to see James’ answer – he was going to give up wrestling with his Dad!?!?!  That’s his most favorite thing in the world to do!

     I smiled as I read the other children’s responses and began praying for wisdom. Did James truly understand Lent? How would I help him be aware without creating a feeling of guilt or pressure? I was still praying silently as we walked to the car and our conversation at lunch was eye-opening for both of us. I hope you can take some of this script and use it if the need arises, but I want to point out that each child is different and you know them best. Pray and trust the Holy Spirit to lead you through these sometimes complicated topics. We’ll also look at some main points to cover when discussing Lent and resources for you to user. For now, here’s my conversation with my sweet baby James:

M: Did you guys talk about Lent today with Ms. Kristen and Ms. Lynn?

J: Yep. 

M: Well, what did you learn?

J: We were suppose to pick something to give up and I said I’d stop wrestling with Dad for the next 40 years because I usually get hurt when we wrestle with the other boys anyway, so I thought that’d be a good thing to give up.

M: Do you know why you are giving up wrestling with Dad?

J: (silence)

M: How about I tell you more about Lent and how Daddy and I observe it and then maybe we can talk more about what you want to do – would that be okay?

J: Sure.

M: What do we celebrate at Christmas time?

J: Jesus’ birthday!

M: That’s right! Jesus made a choice to leave His home, Heaven, and all his angel friends and even His Father – God. He gave it all up so He could come here to earth and save you and me. That’s a pretty awesome sacrifice don’t you think?

J: Yeah – I wouldn’t want to leave you guys and go anywhere! I’d miss all my toys and my bike.

M: I know, that would be so tough! You don’t have to leave us or your bike. But Lent is a time when we think of something “extra”. Think of something in your life that you really enjoy eating or drinking or doing – but remember it needs to be something extra…can you think of anything?

J: (silence)

M: Something extra in my life would be sweet treats, coke zero, even watching certain TV shows….I really enjoy all those things but if they weren’t in my life I’d still be okay wouldn’t I?

J: Yeah.

M:  So, during Lent we choose something extra, something we enjoy, and we give it up for 40 days. Then every time we want to drink a coke or watch a show or eat a sweet treat we remember what Jesus gave up. He gave up Heaven for you and me! Giving something up is simply a way to help us remember and help us keep a thankful spirit. You don’t HAVE to give anything up, but it’s kind of a cool challenge.  Whatever you give up gets to come back in your life on Easter morning – just like Jesus was able to go back home to Heaven on Easter morning!

J: Ohhhh Okay, I think I got it. You know what I really like? Sprite. I think I want to give up Sprite instead of wrestling with Dad.

M: Babe, I think that’s a great idea – do you want to give up drinking anything that has those bubbles in it and only drink milk, juice and water? Or you could just give up Sprite – whatever you want to do.

J: I think I want to give up everything with the bubbles in it (pause) and Mom, I think you should give up drinking Coke too. We can do it together!

M: (with a slightly false, begrudging tone) I think that’s a great idea! We’ll do it together. So every time we want to order a Sprite or Coke at McDonald’s or want to drink it at home we’ll remind ourselves that Jesus gave up Heaven and we’re giving up that drink.

    We were eating lunch during this conversation and BOTH of us had a carbonated beverage as our drink.  James suddenly had a look of horror on his face like he’d broken a rule or messed up already. I assured him that today we could drink as much coke and sprite as we wanted – Lent didn’t start until tomorrow.  And now that He had me committed to no Coke I educated him concerning the Western Church’s view of Sundays during Lent.

   He was very excited to hear we could have Coke and Sprite on Sundays because they represent the resurrection. In fact, if you count from Feb. 22 (Ash Wednesday) through April 8 (Easter) there are 46 days. Lent is a forty-day period because we don’t count the Sundays. I know for some people it’s more about a complete surrender and removal of a task so perhaps skipping Sundays isn’t something you would like to observe and that’s fine – each person needs to observe Lent in their own way.

   When it comes to children and this season I don’t think they should feel pressure to sacrifice anything beyond their ability. If a child doesn’t truly understand the crucifixion and resurrection they won’t grasp this time of sacrifice and remembrance.  Start small and let your child choose something on their own or talk with your family and pick something that ALL of you will sacrifice during these forty days. Some ideas might include:

* Instead of going out to eat, save the money and buy groceries for a local food pantry

* Instead of watching television or playing video games in the evening, decide to read sections of scripture that describe Jesus’ ministry and life. Following His journey to the cross makes the week before Easter and Easter morning even more amazing.

* Perhaps your child gives up a favorite toy or activity for a day. During that day, help them remember WHY they are giving up that particular thing.

* Instead of buying new clothes, commit to getting rid of clothing that isn’t being used or doesn’t fit and give it to a local charity.

* Instead of watching TV, sit down and write letters to missionaries (your church will have a list of names and addresses) and thank them for helping others know about Jesus and how much He loves them.

   The whole point of Lent isn’t to be like the Pharisees and brag about what we’re giving up. That would be selfish and boastful. The point of Lent is to remember that sacrifice matters, discipline counts and in order to be an effective Christian we need these reminders each year so we don’t forget.

   Sometimes when our children watch us observe these traditions they learn as much or more than if they had participated. Never force a child to receive communion, to have ash on their forehead or give up something during Lent. To force them takes away the fundamental component to the Christian life: free will.

   Here are some great websites with other ideas for celebrating this season with children. Don’t worry that the “actual day” has passed. This isn’t about strict observance of particular dates and times. This is about helping our children remember how much Jesus loves them and how we respond to that love in our own life. We won’t love the things of this world so much that we can’t give them up – even if it’s for a season. We will love God and Jesus more than anything else!

   Have a great Lent season and please, share your stories with us in the comment box – how do you celebrate with your kids and how did they respond to the whole idea of Lent?  We need to hear from you!


How do you spell love?

th[9]Quick, think back to all the goofy, puppy-love feelings you experienced the first time you fell in “love”. Whether you were 5 or 15 we all know the fluttering feeling in our stomach that happened when that someone special brushed our hand or looked our way.

Love can change form as we age. It feels, sounds, looks and even impacts us differently.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone but I hope we never stop thinking about how to show love to the people in our life.

We can read books about types of Love Languages and we know what it feels like to be loved, but sometimes it can be difficult to show love to the people we’re around the most.

One day I was truly fed up with my toddler and called my mom in desperation. I remember saying, “Mom, I don’t even LIKE him right now – he’s driving me crazy!” In her wisdom my mother reminded me that my son is around me more than he’s around anyone else in his life. He knew me better than I might know myself. My toddler could read my body language and understood when I was tired, hungry and at my wit’s end. He was so much smarter than I was giving him credit.

So I decided to focus on how I could love my boy even on days when I really didn’t like him.

No matter the age of our children or the size of our family our love can be communicated in an intentional and powerful way. To help us show love in a fresh, new way let’s spell it with words instead of just letters.

L is for LISTEN

Love truly listens. It listens first, speaks last. When love listens we are able to put technology away and focus on the people in front of us. When we listen we be become compassionate, patient and willing to accept the people in our family. When I listen I find out my kids see the world differently and have a perspective all their own. Listening keeps us from judging or making assumptions. It takes energy to listen, but it’s an investment that brings a return in relationships built on trust and respect.


Optimism doesn’t mean I’m clueless. If I’m optimistic I have hope. I’m hopeful that new information, trying new things and the situation I’m facing will bring positive results. Sometimes it’s really hard to be optimistic in the light of trying to love the people in our life.  Is there a family member, child, coworker causing you grief? Try being optimistic about who they are and how things could work out. It’s the whole “glass half full” mindset and when optimism (hope) is present we are able to truly love instead of just tolerate people.

V is for VARIETY

Here in Kansas, we enjoy changing weather, seasons and landscapes. Variety is obvious in nature and it should also be obvious in how and when we love. We don’t need to wait for Valentine’s Day or a special occasion. We need to show love when no one expects it and in fresh new ways! Need some ideas for the man in your life? Check out Kathy Lipp’s 4 Day Love Challenge.

E is for ENDURE

This is the toughest one for me. I can become impatient and short with people because I just don’t see why the solution to the problem hasn’t been discovered and implemented. The Lord is working on me. I’m learning to be compassionate and willing to endure with my children. The only condition to enduring is this – when we endure with people we cannot begin to enable them. If we promote the problem instead of helping people find the solution we’re creating victims and we’re securing their need for us to be in their life. Love never gives up, it endures – even if we don’t see the results until heaven.


Do you have a strategy or scripture that helps you truly listen to the people you love?

Have you tried something new and held hope that it would work? When things get tough, how do you remain optimistic?

What cool, different way do you show love to your family? Share your variety with us so we can try your ideas!

Has someone in your life endured with you or have you endured with someone else and seen love conquer all?

I can’t wait to read your stories – thank you for taking time to share!


Christmas Break – Naughty or Nice?

After posting a status update on facebook one of our Smarter Moms, Shanta, suggested that I list things out a bit more…so here goes:

When it comes to winter break we have a choice.  We can see our children as naughty irritations or as nice people with the potential to make our day fantastic.  We just have to change our mindset a little bit because now we have all our normal, daily responsibilities plus all the extra things that come with holiday and family events.  The most important thing to remember is that our kids have gone from fairly consistent routines to a ton of free-time.  This is NOT an easy transition for their minds, bodies or spirits – we have to help them! 

We have to resist the desire to sit the kids in front of the TV or leave them to their own devices.  We have to interact with them BEFORE they start fussing at each other – giving them structure helps them feel relaxed and joyful instead of anxious and bored.

For each day during break try to plan a goal and a game.  Don’t reinvent the wheel, just look around the house and use the resources you already have.  A couple of weeks ago (BEFORE the boys were out of school) – I went through the house and took quick inventory of games, craft supplies and activities we already owned.  Many of these haven’t been touched since summer so they seem new to my guys.   I took out my calendar and wrote down a goal and a game for each day.  If we don’t finish things I’ll move it to the next day, but this flexible plan keeps me from feeling overwhelmed or exhausted from keeping people entertained.

DISCLAIMER: Having a plan doesn’t mean that everything will run perfectly all the time – you know your kids and their ability to tolerate free play versus structured activities – make plans that will HELP your day, not hurt it.  Some of the activities listed under games for each day rely heavily on the fact that we are members at an amazing gym.  This is an extra expense that tends to pay for itself during these winter days.  I get to stay healthy and I can get the boys out of the house and keep them active.  If you don’t have a gym just make up your own active games like obstacle courses around the house, relay races or anything that gets everyone moving!

Here are some quick notes I pulled out of my planner to share with you.  I’ve left out the details and notes I write for myself.  These are the days, goals and games I have planned for the next week…hopefully it will make sense 😮  I took some pictures over the last couple days too – I don’t just talk about this stuff – I live it – because without this sort of planning and preparation I would go crazy! 😮

MONDAY: goal = go through all our toys and put them into keep, give away and trash piles (hint: I tell the boys that all toys in the give away pile will remain in the pile for a day or two so they can play with all of the toys, if someone decides they really want to keep a toy and take it out of the give away pile that is fine.  By telling them the toys will be around for another day my guys are more willing to put things in that pile)  game = go swimming at the gym

TUESDAY: goal = take toys to donation center, game = board game of their choice, make puppets and puppet stage

WEDNESDAY: goal = make Christmas treats for family that is coming, game = play racquetball at gym, practice puppet show

THURSDAY: goal = wrap gifts for grandparents and family members (the boys picked out these gifts so I like for them to be the ones to wrap them), game = balloon fun (I have lots of games I play with balloons because balloons can break things and I can have lots off balloons in a little bit of time without a whole lot of effort – plus I can pop them and throw them away when we are done and no one cares) To see some other ideas see the post entitled “Rainy Day Play”

FRIDAY: goal and game = Enjoy grandparents, show them our puppet show, play games with Daddy and grandparents, try to keep real food (not just candy) in their bellies and get ready for the Christmas Eve service!!

 Here we are working on the puppet stage, some puppets we made and the boys trying their hand at putting on their show:




I Can’t Even Imagine!

There is NOTHING in the world that can compare to losing a child – I don’t care how old they are.  I think the sting of a miscarriage, the loss of a toddler or the loss of an adult child can be one of the most difficult things to get through.  You never get over it, you never forget – so how do people go on?

The children in this picture were featured on Oprah a couple of weeks ago.  Beautiful, innocent children – taken to Heaven in an instant when an 18-wheeler smashed into their minivan.  Their mother and grandmother survived, but her life would never be the same.  I was impressed by the parents of these children.  They were unified in their desire to heal and move forward as a couple (to read the full story click here).  They are truly amazing.

Their story was tough to watch.  Matt and I were both in tears as we listened to this precious mom and dad remember their children.  These kind of stories are hard to hear but Matt and I were glad we kept watching.  The end of this story is truly amazing.  You see, because this couple decided to keep living, even with the grief of burying 3 children; they were able to experience a true miracle in the birth of their triplets – two girls and a boy.  These newborns will never replace the children they lost, but I think their presence will help this sweet couple find comfort and joy as they move through the future together.

So the first thing I thought of after hearing this story was all the little things that I FREAKED out about during the day when it came to things my kids did.  Things like dumping out the entire container of stuffed animals and leaving them there – things that do NOT matter.  I don’t think it’s okay to run around making a mess of things and not cleaning up, but did I really need to get upset about it?  NO! I have my kids – I can hug and kiss them any time I want – my life is SO blessed.

So my perspective has been adjusted, once again, and it’s a good thing.  I’m so sad for that sweet family – but I’m so thankful that they were brave enough to share their journey and let me learn from it.  Too often I find myself needing to listen to my own advice.  When we are in the daily struggles that come from kids, schedules and responsibilities it can be really easy to overlook the blessings in our life.

So today, at some point, stop what you are doing and just watch your kids play. Turn the radio off and listen to their imagination take flight. And most importantly – give them a HUGE hug and tell them how special they are.  We might not know how many days we have here on earth, but I know what to do with each one and I’m going to work really hard to stay focused on the blessings in my life and let them know how much I love them!

You are a blessing to me – thanks for giving me a reason to write, for encouraging me when I get to meet so many of you and for leaving comments here on the blog.  Have a fantastic day!


Serious About Being Silly

My kids aren’t HUGE fans of the show Yo Gabba Gabba – but I find myself unable to look away if it happens to be playing.  What is it about plastic, brightly colored characters that grabs my attention?  Why can’t I turn away when the host with large, white teeth, gross glasses and an annoying orange hat says simple sentences?

Someone help me here – what makes it acceptable to write 6-note songs that don’t rhyme and have characters whose mouths don’t even move while they sing!?!  I know I shouldn’t care – but it’s obvious the creators of this show are doing SOMETHING right…look at the following they have!

Heck – they’ve hooked ME! I guess I shouldn’t be ashamed – I just have to wonder if this show would still create a tinge of curiosity and amazement in my mind if I didn’t have children.  I’m curious more than irritated – but sometimes I start to feel completely detached from my past life – before kids.

I love my life right now and I know this won’t last forever – so I’m choosing to enjoy the moment.  However – let me say this: if you find me eating fruit snacks while singing “Don’t bite your friends” and I’m sitting in front of the TV in my pajamas – please get me up, throw me in a cold shower and save me from myself!!!!

As mothers I hope we can enjoy ridiculous songs, spend some time REALLY playing with our kids (even if it means we look silly) and appreciate the goofy nature God has put into our little angels.  Even when we are silly we know who we are as women.  In those fun moments I think our kids find an easy way to connect with us. 

So whether you are singing songs about the party in their tummy or that they can’t always get what they want; being silly pays off.  Putting aside all the household chores, phone calls and emails for a moment of silliness is not easy.  In fact, it goes against the reality we face each day.

So, here’s a challenge – for just a moment today take some time to stop and be silly! Dance, sing, be goofy and enjoy your children.  They really are fun – and you are too!

Share your silly stories with all of us by leaving a comment – I can’t wait to laugh with you 😮

You are amazing!


Why Thunder?

So I’ve had a couple of friends ask why I chose thunder to describe the 3rd year of a child’s life.  I quickly realized that while writing my last post I got so deep into comparing 2 and 3 year olds I forgot to talk about the analogy that truly makes these sweet little people members of the “Thunderous Three” club.

You know, you can’t have thunder without lightning.  When lightning strikes it heats the air at such a high rate that when it cools it actually contracts and makes a BOOM.  Even when you don’t hear thunder you know it’s there – just too far away for our ears to hear.  Sometimes we don’t see the lightning, but there’s no way to escape the wall-shaking, rumble-creating presence of thunder.

My James can sometimes erupt in thunder and I NEVER saw the lightning.  I’m learning how to see the lightning.  I’m remembering how to help a sweet little boy name his emotions instead of letting them overtake him. 

So yes – thunder. It’s loud, but usually short-lived.  We can’t stop it, but we can keep it from shaking everything around us and scaring us…

Each day our “storms” are lessening in their intensity and regularity – so that’s a wonderful praise!  I’m just trying to remember that when the thunder hits I can’t let that moment define the potential that my little boy holds.  He’s still learning, I’m still learning – and together we are going to enjoy this journey – come rain or shine!

Thanks for taking time to read, to leave comments and to be a part of this crazy thing called motherhood with me!  You guys are wonderful!


A Quiet House

You know how they say that life is an adventure and change is good and blah, blah, blah…

Well today I was not in a really adventurous spirit, nor was I thinking change was GOOD.  In fact, I really was wanting everything back to the way it has been for the last two months – I wanted the noise, the chaos, the physical presence of my kids in the house.

James and I took Matthew (2nd grade) and Tyler (1st grade) to their first day of school.  I had my video camera in one hand and my digital camera in the other – following my precious boys down the hallway to their room.  As we walked I had to focus on pushing the tears away.

I kept telling myself that this is a happy day, a good day! They are excited, they are ready – it’s all good! But the words sounded hollow when it came to how my heart really felt.  My brain knows that this is right and good, but my tiny pieces of my heart keep breaking off with each milestone my boys experience.

I don’t know if this gets easier with time, but for now – in this moment – I’m savoring each memory I get to share with them.  Sometimes I think God puts these opportunities in front of us so that we remember what it feels like to let go and how precious are kids areally are. It’s like my father-in-law, Junior, says when someone has overstayed their welcome: “We can’t miss ya if you don’t leave”.

I’m not saying kids have to go away to be appreciated, but sometimes I need this reminder of what my life would be like without them.  That day is coming sooner than I realize.  James and I both agreed that the house was too quiet today, so we spent the day OUT of the house doing lots off extra things and having a wonderful time together.

When his brothers came home from school James couldn’t get close enough to them.  James wanted to play and all they wanted to do was sit down, be quiet and unwind from a long day of school.  I explained why James was being “annoying” and soon the boys were smiling and playing with him – I think they liked the fact that someone missed them and that they were valued.

Tomorrow will be easier, but I hope I stay sensitive to the fact that whether my kids are home everyday, or away at college – they need to know how much I value and appreciate them.  So if you are taking your kids to school tomorrow, just know that I’m praying for you too – praying that God brings new insight, peace and joy to your heart as you learn what it means to be a mom before, after and during our kids’ school days. 

So whether your house is quiet or chaotic I hope you can continue to appreciate each moment you have with your kids and enjoy the new adventures that life brings to all of us!  I’m so proud of all my friends.  We’ve endured a week of challenges and changes.  We’ve said good-bye and we’ve waited anxiously for our kids to come home.  It’s been a great time to let go and lean on the fact that our children will always own pieces of our heart and that’s okay.

Scripture says that “God is greater than our hearts” and that “He knows everything”(1 John 3:20).  Isn’t that great!  He knows EVERYTHING!

The Creator of the Universe knows my heart and knows everything.  He knows what it’s like to let His Son go.  God watched His Son leave home (literally) and come to earth to save each of us.  He wants us to feel His love, share it with our children and in turn be healed by it.

Let God come in, put the pieces of your heart back together and no matter what is happening right now, what happened yesterday, or what will happen tomorrow – God knows your heart AND He knows everything.  We can lean on Him and trust His strength to be enough.

So let the school year begin – I’m ready!

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