January 29, 2015

A 30 Day Connected Kid Challenge (30 Connection Building Activities)

Sometimes I lose my mom mojo.  I usually find that this happens when one of my relationships with my kids is struggling. I know I'm not the only one riding the struggle bus in infinite circles right now.

I love moms.  I talk to moms constantly.  I find that a lot of moms just get cooked- smoked all the way down to the filter.  We have a million things on our plates.  There's work and laundry and endless meals to make and homework to do and committees and blah blah blah. Throw in a child who's having a hard time and sometimes we get so bogged down we miss those little things that are supposed to make motherhood joyous- those little moments of meaningful connection with our children.

I'm going through a really difficult season with one of my kids right now.  I've been brainstorming how to help my relationship with this child grow and flourish.  Often this relationship feels like a one way street.  Instead of getting upset about it and continuing down the rabbit hole, I've made up my mind that instead of letting the relationship woes fester, I'm going to keep doing my part.  My nature when things get hard is to pull back.  If one of my kids is single handedly trying to drive me crazy, then my instinct is to pull back from them, when usually what that child needs is for me to draw near.  It's counter intuitive to everything I want to do.

Thus, this list was born. I needed a plan to help me reconnect to this child in a positive way.  I know a drastic overhaul is too shocking to the system so I'm taking small, daily, baby steps with this one.  I've created a 30 day challenge.  A love list ,if you will, designed to get my relationship back on track with my child 5-ish minutes at a time.  Each day there's a small activity designed to build connection. Here's the thing.  None of these have a single thing to do with my child reciprocating.  And that's okay.  If the child wants to stay angsty, it's okay.  If they don't want to participate, that's okay.  The offer was made.  If I'm focusing on putting in the effort and doing my part in repairing and rebuilding, then that's all I can do.  I'm sharing this list in case anyone else might happen to need some help with a launching off point.    

So, hey mama, this is for you (and me!). You:  the mama who gets into bed at night and thinks that she's not the fun mom she thought she'd be.  The mom who has a child who is really struggling and your relationship with that child is suffering as a result.  This is for the mom parenting an angry kid, a sad kid, a stubborn kid, an attachment challenged kid, a kid who has tons more energy than you can deal with, a great kid who's just having a bad month.  Just any kid.  All of our kids can benefit from some intentionally designed time.  (And spouses and significant others and friends!  How good does it feel when someone really plans out how they can best love us!?!)

I'm starting this month long challenge today. I'm going to choose one activity per day and work through the entire 30 days. I'm hoping it's going to be just what I need to help me get out of a rut in our home.  I'm excited to see how this creates changes in my own heart and breaks the cycle of negativity currently running through my own brain. I truly believe that miracles can happen when we pour positivity in our relationships.  If you'd like to participate, feel free to let me know and I'll try to encourage you in any way I can.  (And by all means, make suggestions.  This is not an exhaustive list.) Who's with me?


Write a note listing three things you love about your child and put it in their lunch box or backpack so they find it later.

Watch a YouTube video and learn a card trick together.  Then do the trick for someone else in the house.  (You get to be in on something TOGETHER!)

Hide a picture of the two of you together somewhere in the house and give them a clue to follow to find the hidden picture.  Write a little note about why you love that picture of the two of you.

Make her favorite thing for dinner and mention that you made this meal with her in mind.

Say nothing negative to or about the other person for an entire day.

Choose a book or magazine you know the child will love and read it aloud to them (or just in the same room as them)

Randomly fist bump/hug/whatever's comfortable and say, "Hey!  You're a great kid!"

Offer to play the child's favorite game.  During the time it takes to play the game ask what the best part of their week has been and really listen.

Say something nice to another person about your child so that your child can overhear you talking positively about them.

Learn a riddle together and then try to stump someone else in your house with the riddle.

Do one of the child's regular chores for them.  If they have to make their bed every day leave a little note on the bed (or wherever the chore is) that says, "I wanted you to have 5 extra minutes of play time today so I made your bed up for you today!"

Plan a movie night and let your child pick the movie and the snack.

Remind your child of a big achievement they've had and tell them how you are always proud of them. (Remember when you worked hard and xyz happened?)  (Remember when you were really angry and instead of yelling you took a deep breath?  I was really proud!)

Whatever it is that your child is into, learn some cool facts about that thing today and share them with your child so they can see that you care about what they are interested in.

Make a mess together.  Paint, play with shaving cream, do an experiment- just something you wouldn't normally let the child do and don't worry about the mess.  Focus on getting to do the activity together.

Make a list just for you of the top five qualities your child possesses.  Put this note somewhere that you can revisit it on a day when you need to be reminded about your child's positive qualities.

Remind your child of one of your favorite memories together.  "Remember that day that we did xyz and it was so much fun?  I love seeing you be happy!"

Say yes to things you'd normally say no to (within reason).  Bubbles in the bath tonight?  Sure.  Five extra minutes of TV before bed?  Okay.

Crank up the music loud and throw an impromptu dance party.

Play a game together like Jenga or Kerplunk that requires strategizing and working together.

Whatever your child likes to do, do it with them for 15 uninterrupted minutes.  Crafting, video games, jumping on the trampoline- all those things we send them to do when we need a break- do it with your child this time.

Spend a little while in prayer specifically over or your relationship.  If you aren't a praying person, spend some time reflecting about your relationship and it's strengths.  Give yourself a pep talk.

Take the time to learn a new joke and tell it to your child.

Make your child's favorite treat.  Even better if you let them help you make it.

Think about the day you first met your child and tell them how you felt about it.  If it was at birth tell them how you felt getting to hold them for the first time.  If they were older, tell them how you felt the first time you laid eyes on them.

Build a fort and spend some time in it together.

Let something go.  If there's a minor infraction show your child more grace than normal. And say something like, "You know what?  Today, I'm going to let that slide."  And then really let it slide. Don't allow it to fester.  Show grace and mean it. Sometimes we can show our kids unconditional love by cutting them a bit of slack.

Say one positive thing to your child at every meal throughout the day.

Tackle a small project together.  Clean out the garage or organize a closet or put a photo album together- anything that creates a sense of accomplishment when it's finished.

Leave various motivational sticky notes around places in your child's room to help pump them up.


My friend David once said something that so profoundly affected me as a parent.  He said, "Your permanent relationship with your child can not be based on your child's temporary behavior." Chew on that one for a bit.  It's good stuff!

January 22, 2015


He bounds down the stairs every morning the minute he hears the coffee maker come on and leaps right into my arms.  His little cheeks are soft on my cheeks and his sweaty little hands wrapped around my neck hold as tight as they can.  "I love you so so much, Mommy."  And then I melt.  Every single morning.

Noah is my my morning person.  Sadie could sleep all day long if I'd let her and has always been that way- even as a tiny baby.  Miles and Scarlett wake up early but they aren't always happy about it and can't seem to understand that it's okay to sleep a little later if it makes them feel better.  They are always afraid of missing out on something. But Noah?  He pops up at 6:20 every day, gets dressed and waits.  His room is directly on top of the kitchen and as soon as he hears the first sputters of the coffee maker he knows it's his cue for "Noah time".  

This little tradition started at the beginning of this school year.  Noah just needs a little extra time in the mornings with mom before the chaos of the day starts.  It quickly became the favorite part of my day.  He eats his breakfast at the counter while I pack the school lunches.  He talks to me about what he read the night before.  We contemplate the really hard questions of life like what would happen if humans had as many eyeballs as flies or what if the Earth jumped it's orbit and it suddenly got very hot or cold.  My normally quiet kid is all chatter in the mornings.  In a house full of loudness, I think sometimes it hard for him to find his voice so it's such a gift to hear all his words.

Sometimes he helps me with the lunches.  Sometimes we hurry up and get them packed so there's time for him to just sit in my lap before we have to wake the others up for school.  In those moments, I'm more aware of time passing than any other time.  I wonder how many more days/weeks/years I have where my little one wants to be with me so intentionally.  I'm so conscious of time passing and I tell myself daily to hold him just a bit closer because what if? 

I love that he carves out that time for me.  While I'm waking the other kids up, he brushes his teeth and puts his shoes on.  Then he wraps himself up tightly in a blanket like a burrito and crawls up in a corner with his kindle and the blanket over his head until it's time to go to school.  It's a sensory thing- but he's figured out that's what he needs.  During the endless, "Eat your breakfast!  Brush your teeth!  Put your lunch in your backpack!" stream of orders that go out once all the kids are awake, he knows he needs to retreat and he's figured out his own way to handle it.  I used to wonder if Noah would ever be able to handle loud and chaos and just life in general- and he's doing it.  He's blazing his own path and meeting his own needs and it's so gratifying to watch him figure out how to navigate. 

When it's time to get in the car for school, I hug them all before Daddy loads them up.  The rest of the kids just want a quick hug and a "have a good day" as they head out. They run to the car with excitement because they love school so much. But Noah always wants to walk out the door last.  He hugs longer and tighter and he tells me that he'll miss me while he's at school.  He flashes me his huge toothless grin and grabs his backpack and walks out the door ready to conquer the world.

And conquer it he will. 

From the other night: "Mom, we've been studying about so many things at school, like the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman and slavery. And it's got me thinking. Can you help me find all our books about it? And while we're looking for books, can you also order me some on women's rights?"  And then I died happy. 

December 05, 2014

My Elf Is Creepier Than Your Elf

The year we got married, my husband came home one day from his grandmother's with a box of Christmas stuff.  It was the kind of box that you wish would magically fly out the backseat and get run over by a semi on it's way home.  Alas, that box made us the proud owners of ONE kid's rubber boot (not sure the significance or what happened to it's mate), a teeny tiny stocking that had my husband's name embroidered on it with the date 1982 (he was born is 1978 so not sure about this one either) and THIS:

Hello.  I will kill you while you sleep.

I should have issued a trigger warning before making you look at that.  It's easily the most creepy looking thing that's ever been created.  My husband looks at it longly and says, "Awwww, this reminds me of my childhood!"  I look at it and wonder if I need to cleanse the house with sage to get rid of this thing's voodoo.

Creepy elf went into a box shortly after moving in with us and "got lost".  We made it almost ten years without him turning up and I was certain that we'd reached the statute of limitations on his return.  Until last year when he reappeared.  Sonofabiscuiteatingbulldog. The kids came running out of the basement holding it up with reverence like they'd just discovered The Ark of the Covenant.

"OH MY GOSH!  WE HAVE AN ELF ON THE SHELF!"  they exclaimed.

We are not an elf on the shelf family.  I think we are the last holdouts in America.  I've got nothing against the dear old elf- I just don't want to add in another thing to do every day.  Getting the kids fed 3 billion times a day is a lot of work and being responsible for one. more. thing. threatens to put me over the edge.  The only elves I'm down with are Keebler.

However, everyone my kids know, has an elf.  And they talk about it constantly.  When the elves come out every year my kids are all, "OMG.  GRACE'S ELF WAS CUDDLING IN THE DOLLHOUSE BATHTUB WITH BARBIE!!!!"  and "MY FRIEND'S ELF CLIMBED ALL THE WAY UP ON THE ROOF AND PARACHUTED OFF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND BROKE HIS LEG AND NOW IT'S IN A CAST!"  Every one of them has an elf that visits their classroom. For the love, y'all, I'm just not that creative.  Major kudos to the parents who pull off this amazing elf feat every single night.

The year they resurrected the elf from his basement tomb, they laid him out on the counter and prayed for a miracle.  It sat there for days.  "He's trying to get strong!"  the kids declared.  Whatever kids.  They started to lose hope.  Finally, I cleaned the counter and flung that thing across the room so I could clean under him.

My kids came home from school and freaked the freak out.  "HE MOVED!!!  HE WENT TO SANTA!!!!  THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!"

Again it sat there for days.  And days.  With his little creepy crocheted legs sprawled precariously from his being flung and his Satanic face all askew and half buried in the carpet.  Until I vacuumed.  Then I flung it again.  AGAIN the children were all like "IT'S MAGIC!  SURELY JESUS AND SANTA HAVE SENT THIS STRANGE CREATURE TO BE PRECARIOUSLY POSED IN WEIRD POSITIONS ALL OVER OUR HOUSE!  WHAT A GIFT!"

So every few days, I flung it.  Then Christmas was over and we tossed him back in the box and I prayed the box would mysteriously corrode and melt beyond all recognition.

Unfortunately, I did not get so lucky.  Last week we carried up all the Christmas decorations and as we were pulling things out, there was that stupid elf.  The kids voted to give it a name.  He is hereby known as Steve. My husband has always wanted a dog named Steve and we've always vetoed it.  He finally gets a Steve in our home.  Congratulations, Kamron.  It's a boy and he is fugly.

Steve sat on the shelf for many days.  I have flat out lied to my children and told them that he must sit there for many many days because he is a very old elf dating all the way back to the prehistoric 1970's and it takes old elves much longer to stretch and get psyched for Christmas.  Elf years = dog years on crack.  He's the Methuselah of elves.

Last night, darling husband took pity on his children and moved the elf.  8 whole feet.  From one ledge to another.  The children were amazed.  It was again declared THE BEST DAY EVER.  Low expectations people.  Winning Christmas since 2002 with that philosophy.

Merry Freaking Christmas.  Love, Steve.

November 27, 2014

Little Gratitudes

Last night, I sat down with our little people while they wrote out what we are thankful for.  It's so fun to see what's important to them during this slice of time...

We settled in for a little list making.

Translation:  Miles' Thanksgiving List:  Mom and Dad and Noah and Scarlett and Sadie
Television   Football
Turkey and my Grandpa
and my grandparents

Translation:  Scarlett's List:  
Mom and Dad thank you for my bed and my kindle and just for love and kindness
Happy Thanksgiving.

Counting these four turkeys as some of my greatest blessings.

November 16, 2014

Sadie Is ELEVEN!

Dear Sadie,

Today, you turn eleven.  Sometimes I feel like saying, "Only 11?" because you act like you are older than me most of the time.  I was the same way growing up so I get it.  Baby- let me tell you something... RELAX!

You've had a huge year.  You finished fourth grade and you kept your all A's streak alive.  You started 5th grade.  Love, I think that was the biggest challenge you've ever faced.  It's really hard when you are a little shy to start a new school year.  It really overwhelmed you (and you've spent the better part of the school year with no eyelashes or brows to prove it!) BUT- you kept doing it (despite BEGGING me to homeschool you) and now you LOVE your 5th grade class.  Not only are you loving it, but I heard through the grapevine that you are busting out of your shell at school and even did a grand pageant wave when you got called up during an assembly last week.  WHAT?  My kiddo who tries to blend into the wall waved?  It's like I don't even know who you are anymore!?!?!
Not a fan of those standardized tests- but you brought home a lot of hardware for your scores.

You went to summer camp this year and learned how to ride horses.  You love horses like, well, like a preteen girl loves horses.  You've got that cliche down pat.  You got beside yourself excited when the neighbors moved some horses to the field next door.

Lovie, two of my favorite things happened this year.  One- you got a later bedtime than all the other kids.  That one hour of the day where daddy and I get you all to ourselves is the best thing ever.  We talk, we snuggle, you tell us all about the happenings at school.  I soak it in because I know that in the not too distant future, you might want to just be in your room all alone without us.  On Tuesday nights, we watch 19 Kids and Counting together in my bed- just us girls.  You gush over how nice the siblings are to one another and I provide the cautionary dialogue about how one shouldn't kiss too many boys but waiting for one's wedding day is a bit extreme and how permed hair deserves no place in modern society.  You just giggle at me because kissing boys and perming hair isn't on your radar but I'm glad for ways to get in these conversations now.  You are just so much fun to hang out with.

The other favorite thing this year was that we did a mother/daughter Bible study with a group of my nearest and dearest and their lovely girls.  Each session morphed into the moms talking to you girls about grown up girl friendships and vulnerability and relationships and life.  It was incredible to watch the whole thing unfold.  More than anything, I think it was awesome for you girls to watch us grown up moms connecting in deep and meaningful ways- you'll need that later in life.  You might go through a period in your life where you think you can do life on your own.  I hope that you will look back and see how rewarding and life giving friendships are and remember that life is so much better with great people in it.

The Bible Study Gals

You and Noah have gotten so close this year.  You two are just clones of each other- you love all the same things and have such similar personalities.  He looks up to you so much and you wear the big sister role so well.  He doesn't really know what to do when you go to a friend's house or when you aren't home.  He kind of just wanders around aimlessly and says, "When will Sadie be home?" over and over.

You donated your hair in the spring.  You took about 9 inches off and totally rocked a bob for most of the year.  Then you had to have a little conformity moment and dyed the tips of your hair bright red like all the rest of your friends.  You got glasses and you look adorable in them.  You wanted glasses so badly and I was sure that your repeated "I can't see" was less about your vision and more about fashion- but alas, you really couldn't see!

You have your best buddy, Lucy, in your class.  I can't tell you how much I love watching this friendship of yours grow and change over the years.  You guys met in preschool and it's darling to see you all remain besties year after year.

I learn so much from you.  You love Jesus with all your heart and you talk to people about him all the time.  You don't hold back.  I pray that I would have even a fraction of your courage about sharing Jesus with people.  You have the biggest heart of anyone I know.  You are precious beyond measure and everyone who meets you just loves you.

Keep being awesome, darling.  You are about to enter a strange time soon... middle school.  Keep your good head on your shoulders and you will do amazing!  It's such a pleasure to watch you light the world on fire!  I'm so lucky to get to be your mom.

I love you so much,

**** The tradition in our home is for me to "interview" the kids each year on their birthday.  You can see Sadie's other interviews by clicking on 2013,  2012201120102009.)  I love watching how their answers change over the years but how the fundamental aspects of their personalities stay the same. ****

Me: If a genie would grant you only one wish, what would it be?
Sadie: This one is always my least favorite question!  I guess it would be that I have a good year being 11.

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Sadie:  I wanna be either a nurse or an elementary school teacher or a chef.

Me: Do you want to get married when you grow up?
Sadie: Maybe.  Probably.  Yes.
Me: Do you want to have children?
Sadie:  Yes.
Me:  How many?
Sadie:  No clue.  Somewhere between one and Duggar size.

Me: Do you feel different now that you are eleven?
Sadie: Nope.  I feel ten.

Me: What is your favorite color and why?
Sadie:  Orange.  Not like Effie's hair in the Hunger Games- orange like in the sunset.

Me: Who is your best friend and why do you like them?
Sadie:  Noah is my best friend because we get along so well.

Me: What is your favorite TV show?
Sadie:  19 Kids and Counting

Me: What do you like most about school?
Sadie: Writing.

Me: What is your favorite thing about yourself?
Sadie:  I like that I'm kind.

Me: What do you think is the most exciting thing that's happened to you this year?
Sadie:  I started fifth grade.
Me:  That was kind of a hard thing.
Sadie:  Yeah- that was a hard adjustment.

Me: What is your favorite song?
Sadie: I'm into gospel music right now.

Me: If you could have any super power what would it be?
Sadie:  To fly!  It just sounds fun.

Me: What is your very favorite thing to do?
Sadie:  I like to play outside, be with my friends, and play on my Kindle.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Noah?
Sadie:  He loves me.

Me? What is your favorite thing about Miles?
Sadie:  When Miles is around that means there's always someone fun to play with.

Me:  What's you favorite thing about Scarlett?
Sadie:  We both enjoy... ummmm... we don't really have a lot in common.
Me:  What's your favorite part of her personality?
Sadie:  She's upbeat.

Me:  Tell me what your perfect day would look like.
Sadie:  I would get to wake up late, go eat Cracker Barrel, then go hiking in the woods, then have a picnic, hike some more, go fishing and then go out for dinner at Moe's then stay up late watching TV.

Me:  Tell me what you think your life will look like in 10 years.
Sadie:  I'll be in college and that will be my last year!  I'll be learning as much as I can before I graduate.

Me:  What do you want your mark on the world to be?
Sadie:  I want people to think of me as a kind and enjoyable person to be with.

Food: lasagna
Book: Taking Flight, The Divergent Series, Wonderstruck and Maniac Magee
Movie:  I love Disney and Hallmark movies
Activity to do on one on one time with a parent:  with Daddy I like to go to the music store and with mom I like to go shopping
Activity to do with friends:  TALK!  I love to talk.
Sport:  swimming

Sadie's Last Year in Pictures

November 15, 2014

Vacation 2014

It's no secret we love to travel.  We get to travel a lot for my husband's work, but when we travel on our own we do some budget traveling.  Our kids have a week long fall break every year and it is the perfect time to catch some great off season deals.  This year, we decided to go to Destin, Florida and found a gem of a place on VRBO.  We always use this website when we book travel because it is so much cheaper and we find that the owners of the rentals are almost always willing to negotiate- especially when it's not peak season.

Speaking of seasons... some of our kiddos have been stuck in a weird season.  It was starting to feel a little tense and I was kind of nervous about traveling (especially 13 hours in the car all together).  However, it was FANTASTIC!  Aside from a three hour time span one day of the week where we thought the children may take each other out hunger games style, it was such a lovely week.  The kids rolled with it.  They all played TOGETHER on the beach and in the pool and there was none of the typical "I feel left out" type of thing we deal with at home.

And that's why we travel.  To make precious memories.  To do something different.  To be different people.  To connect.  My vacation self is a lot nicer, a lot more patient and a lot slower to anger.  I've decided it's all the fried food we eat on vacation.  Fried food makes me a kinder gentler version of myself.

It was so good to go and relax.  Our typical day was: go to the beach, go to the pool, go to dinner, go to bed.  Those are just the most perfect kind of days there are!  Our kids are usually pool people.  This trip they were beach people all the way.  No one had a fear of the ocean and they spent hours in the water looking for fish with their little goggles on and their heads bobbing up and down on the surface.

Here's a peek at our vacation album.

 First minutes on the beach... excitement was high, y'all.

Miles threw and insane amount of football on the beach.  Like for HOURS.  We finally starting walking up and down the beach finding teenage boys we could coerce into coming to play with him.  Teenage boy moms were happy to get their boys off their phones and we were happy because exhausting. 

Little heads bobbing about.  They found two stingrays and were THRILLED.  That kind of stuff sends me running for the hills.  

This boy and his sweet gap toothed smile.  Sigh. 

We went out on the Destin fishing pier one morning and saw an entire school of manta rays.  It was such a beautiful thing to get to see!

I'm calling this next series of photos "The Day Scarlett Got Overwhelmed With Vacation And Fell Asleep Everywhere We Went All Day Long"  It was almost like "Weekend at Bernie's"

 Still snoozing.

Car snoozing.

 Beach snoozing.

Pool snoozing. 

 Still asleep- standing up this time.  It's her superpower. 

Vacations are for reading all. the. books. 

"Mom!  I'm ready to go to the beach now!"

Muscles don't take vacations. 

We spent one morning at the Gulfarium.  It was so much fun!  They had dolphins and sea lions and all kinds of other fish. 

The Gulfarium is this future marine biologists happy place.

Oh mom. 

Mr. Cool himself.

I can not for the life of me figure out how this kid got this old.

Shark goggles are not just for kids, in case you were wondering. 

This one is not afraid of anything.   Just ignore the hair.  Vacation hair is just whatever.

Our boys got tired one night so the girls gave them a lift.  We have strong girls in this family!

Dads and daughters.  Love. 

When you eat goldfish on the beach, prepare to be in the middle of a bird stampede. 

 Birds are kinda scary!

Bird photobomb. 

Heading home!  Did I mention we took our dog on vacation?  She was not a fan.  She missed our living room rug too much.  It was so nice to come home refreshed and relaxed!  For a minute... until real life set in again.  Wouldn't it be awesome to be able to bottle our vacation selves?  I'm ready to go back!

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