The Family Meeting…or I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!


When you finally accept you’re not superwoman I suggest a family meeting to put your non-superwoman plan into action. The event should be scheduled in advance with every family member invited and expected. This is not in conjunction with dinner time, game time, t.v. time, or any other event. It is an important, set-aside time to do business with your family. I suggest no phones allowed and paper and pencil required. What?! Yes, I believe focus is better in this setting. It’s hard to do Facebook using paper and pencil. Notes can be transferred to phones later.

The list is endless for the purpose of family meetings, but for this blog we’re going to focus on family life maintenance. When our kids were at home we would usually hold meetings when “something had to give”. For me, that meant I was at a breaking point and needed help/support from my family to keep everything together without me falling apart.

Here’s how it worked in our home: I would bring a list of items needing accomplished which were making me feel overwhelmed. I just laid it all out there and said I could no longer do it all and needed some willing participation to keep our family clean, fed, and in motion. I was amazed at my family’s willingness to pitch-in! Usually someone offered to do something that I wouldn’t even have considered asking.

The positive in approaching needs this way is that family members can volunteer as they feel led, willing, and available. During one successful family meeting my (wonderful, amazing) husband offered to buy the groceries. He said he didn’t mind at all. Seriously! I had no idea and would never have thought to ask him. He proceeded to create a grocery list based on the aisles in the store we frequented. I simply had to keep the list printed and mark the items needed as we ran out. That was a priceless gift to me and he didn’t even mind doing it!

At another, or maybe the same, meeting this same wonderful husband offered to vacuum the house and he has done it ever since. He’s bigger and stronger and faster and makes much quicker work of it than me. I never have to think about this job because he owns it and makes it happen. Years ago a friend was visiting when we lived in California and she observed this phenomenon. She looked at me and said, “I can’t believe he just gets the vacuum out and vacuums!”

When you approach tasks in this manner it allows others to help you by serving willingly. This is a great model for your kids to live while in your home. Future roommates and spouses will be glad you practiced this simple life concept. Try it – you’ll like it!

New and Improved Version…of You!


One of my favorite aspects of having adult children is watching them and seeing how they are like me or my husband – but a better version! It’s a great adventure to watch each of our kids navigate their lives and become who they are. As a parent we want nothing more than to see our children grow up to be happy, healthy, successful people who contribute something wonderful to this world with their gifts and God’s plan and purpose for their lives.

Part of our job as parents of young children is modeling what we want them to be as adults. If you don’t want your child to be insecure, don’t be insecure. If you want your child to be healthy, pursue health. If you want your child to live a life of integrity, live a life of integrity. And on and on…

Don’t live through your children; live with who God has made them to be. It’s easy to project qualities or adventures we wish we had or had lived so we can experience it through our children. If you start to venture here, see it as a warning sign and back off! Pray for wisdom to see who they are, not who you “need” them to be.

It’s simple and not rocket science, but in a nutshell: whatever you want to promote in your children’s lives, promote in your own.

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

By Dorothy Law Nolte

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

It’s Tradition!


Holidays…ready or not – here they come! Children enjoy family traditions. I’ve learned that more as our kids have left the nest. I believe children are comforted by traditions and feel loved and cherished through them. My husband and I didn’t necessarily purpose to build holiday traditions – they just kind of happened. If I could go back I would purpose to build even more.

Tradition means different things to different people. For my daughter, Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without the traditional food fare. One year we considered serving a non-traditional meal and she set us straight that for her, Thanksgiving meant turkey and dressing and the fixings. So that was that – end of discussion and Thanksgiving menu was set for life!

I asked our kids what their favorite traditions were and enjoyed hearing their responses. Unanimously sausage balls won top pick! My mother-in-law began the tradition of sausage balls for Christmas breakfast and we have continued it. Just a simple recipe I’ll include, but oh so delicious!

Another mutual favorite and my personal favorite tradition is the Baby Jesus basket. When we decorate the Christmas tree I set out an empty basket filled with muslin and hay or raffia and it remains there, in the prominent spot at the foot of the tree, until Christmas morning. When the kids get up that morning and head to the tree, Baby Jesus is in the basket and we all say, “Baby Jesus is here!” I use a life-size doll that I keep tucked away for just this event. Precious memories.

Many years we made a Happy Birthday Jesus cake as a reminder of what we were celebrating.

Playing games as a family, watching movies while stuffed with food with extended family, playing with new toys Christmas Day all ranked high.

Decorating the house for Christmas as a family team was a favorite mentioned. This was usually an all-day event and brought much joy at the final result. Of course, the taking down was another story…smile.

Our daughter posted the following on social media last year, along with a sweet picture of our family’s (those who were in town) personal candlelight service Christmas Eve night: My favorite tradition…the nativity story read by candlelight. We’ve always taken this tradition to slow it down after all the holiday hub-bub, but this year it brought a whole new level of meaning, because instead of all coming home from a Christmas light show, or a Christmas Eve service together, we came home from 3 different churches across the state after serving in 2 days of Christmas Eve ministries. I couldn’t be more grateful for the reason for this season nor my family who works so hard to help others celebrate Him.

My wonderful daughters-in-law shared some of their families’ favorite holiday traditions:

We used to look up houses in the newspaper that did extravagant lights and decorations and drove to those neighborhoods and enjoyed the lights.

Each year on Christmas day we each got an ornament. We would hang it on the tree and when the tree came down we’d get to put the ornament in a bin with our name on it. When we moved out we got to take the bin with all the ornaments we had been given over the years. It made our first Christmas really special as a couple as I shared about the ornaments and we started our own additions to it!

We had a Christmas Eve tradition that went like this: We would go out after dark, usually right after dinner, and while we were out Santa’s Elves would sneak in and leave us gifts–always Christmas pajamas. We would open them, exclaim over them, change into them, and wear them for Christmas morning!

So I encourage you, and it’s never too late, to create your own holiday traditions for your children to enjoy and carry-on into their lives and inspire fresh, new traditions for their own families.

And the first prize goes to…

Sausage Balls

1 lb. sausage

1 lb. grated cheddar cheese

3 cups Bisquick

Shape into balls and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Can be frozen before cooking. Separate layers with wax paper.


Let Me See Your Eyes

Let Me See Your Eyes

The art of listening is a learned skill; therefore, it has to be taught. The only way to know if someone is truly listening to you is to see their eyes, the lamp of their body. In our family, we made a practice of requiring our children to look at us when we spoke to them. We would simply say, “Let me see your eyes”, when we began talking to them.

Children are busy in their life work of play. Usually they are not interested in stopping an important task to hear what you have to say, especially a talk that requires an adjustment on their part. But children usually respond to a positive, simple command when they know you respect them and have their best interest at heart.

It’s easy for a child to later tell you they “didn’t hear” something important you told them. However, if they were looking at you at the time you can simply remind them they were looking at you and acknowledged the information and therefore you know they heard you. Mirroring is important as well, so consider having them repeat whatever point or requirement you are making when you speak to them… “now what did I say?”

As adults we have to lead out on this by example. We need to look at our children when they speak to us. Eye-to-eye is the best way, so don’t hesitate to kneel down on their level to give that respect which will, in turn, build their self-esteem.

So don’t talk to the top or back of their little heads and don’t give your backside when they speak. This is important and worth the investment. You’ll be glad you engaged in this simple practice. Listening is such an important life skill, especially in our age of consuming electronics. Give it a try!

Matthew 6:22 (NIV)

22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.

James 1:19 (NIV)

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Along for the Ride

An interview with me and by me….

In our empty-nest life, my husband and I enjoy riding our Harley-Davidson motorcycle. I know there are questions about this form of recreation and thought I would share my thoughts in this blog:

Do you know this is a dangerous way to recreate?

Yes, we are aware there are safer ways to have fun.

Do you wear a helmet?

Yes, we wear protective gear, including helmets, every time we ride.

Why do you ride?

I’m so glad you asked!

I ride because it is my husband’s passion and something he enjoys very much. I just sit back and enjoy being “along for the ride”. The number one reason I enjoy riding is to be with him. It’s something we can do together to have fun. I am a country girl and I love to be out and enjoy the countryside. I don’t have to “do anything” while riding. It is peaceful and adventurous as the same time.

Other women I know enjoy riding their own motorcycle, but I personally enjoy the lack of responsibility when I’m “along for the ride”.

Do you always ride with him?

No, he also enjoys riding alone. So far, all of his long-distance trips have been without me, though we are planning one in the future. He frequently rides alone for relaxation.

Do you care what people think about you riding a motorcycle?

I care what God and my husband think of me, other than that I try to hold loosely to what other people think.

Are you suggesting everyone go out and get a motorcycle?

NO! I am not. But I would encourage you to try whatever form of recreation your husband enjoys and see if you could learn to enjoy it, too.

I believe it is important to find a way to connect with your husband that includes a hobby or recreation he enjoys. That can be many things and will vary with seasons of life and personalities.

What are other forms of recreation we could enjoy together?

The list is endless, but here are a few ideas: fishing, hunting, shooting, archery, hiking, boating, kayaking, movies, gaming, chess, golf, cooking, and gardening. Study your husband to see what he enjoys, or better yet – ask him!

What if I don’t think I will like a form of recreation my husband enjoys?

You don’t know unless you try. You could always bring a book!

Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NASB)

Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.

I Have No Greater Joy…

If you ask me to share my greatest life accomplishment, I would say, without hesitation – teaching my children to read. I was blessed to be able to stay home and “do school” with my kids during the early years and beyond.

We ended up homeschooling for 13 years, though that wasn’t our original intent. We began our trial run while living in California to avoid sending our oldest to a kindergarten class of 35 students. We thought, “Surely we can’t mess him up too badly in kindergarten.”  That year was a success so we decided to continue, taking it one year at a time. It was a great learning adventure for our family.

Disclaimer: I don’t believe homeschooling is for every family. A key to successful learning in any setting is parental involvement. You can be just as involved with your child learning to read if they go to school outside the home. Homeschooling worked for us, but it wasn’t easy. They saw all of me – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Many days I just wanted to be Mom, not teacher as well. Overall I’m quite sure I ended up learning more than they did. I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything.

There is no easy answer for schooling your children as every option comes with challenges. Home, public, and private schools are all as successful as you are involved. Problems can be worked through in all school settings. Your role is to be a champion for your children – wherever they sit to do schoolwork.

So teach your children to read, wherever they do school, and read to and with them whenever you can. Make it fun, using character voices and reading with animation. Make it a priority and you’ll be glad you did.

And…don’t compare or judge others – just worry about what’s right for your family.

3 John 4 (NIV)

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Precious Moments

Precious Moments

How many precious moments did I miss, I wonder? Years ago when my children were shorter than me, I had a post-vacation revelation. My husband had planned a fun trip up the coast on Highway 1 in California. We saw the sights and everyone got home alive and in one piece. After we returned I realized and said to myself, “That was a fun trip – I wish I had enjoyed it.” That’s when I saw what I was missing. I was spending too much effort and energy on the details and missing the precious moments.

As moms juggling so many responsibilities it is easy to miss precious moments when our mind is going a mile a minute attempting to make sure everyone in our care stays alive and is fed, dressed, and protected.

It’s also easy to be in the vicinity of those we love, but not “be there”. I cherish this quote by the martyred missionary, Jim Elliot: Wherever you are, be all there. This was a struggle for me…

I’m a detail person while my husband is a big picture person. On a visit to Sea World when our older boys were young, as we entered the park I went straight for the map while my guys went to the bathroom. I poured over the schedule and had our day all planned out when they returned. I began to share my plan when my husband told me if I would throw the map away and just follow him we would have fun. I asked him if I could just hold onto it for reference! I am so thankful for a husband who kept life fun and drew me out of my concern for details.

I can’t say it any better than the following poem I leave you with to ponder and keep in your heart:

“Babies Don’t Keep”

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

 Author: Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

The Interrupt Rule

I remember when I didn’t finish a sentence or complete a thought for years. I didn’t go to the bathroom alone or flush for myself for more years. I could, however, easily recite the lyrics to the song from The Wizard of Oz, “If I only had a brain…”.

I loved being a mother when the kids were little, but something had to give when it came to communicating adult to adult. We learned about and instilled “the interrupt rule”, and it was a sanity saver. A simple concept that was easy to explain and enforce with children. When I was talking to another adult, the child was instructed to not interrupt our conversation verbally. Instead, they were to stand quietly and still beside me and gently place their hand on my arm or leg, indicating they needed to speak to me. I usually acknowledged them with my eyes or even spoke that I would be with them soon. Once I could give them my attention I thanked them for being patient and listened to their need.

As with everything else in life “the interrupt rule” requires practice and wasn’t always a perfect solution. Sometimes the gentle hand turned into more of a push or a pat or a slap if the wait was too long. Sometimes there were multiple hands pressing at the same time. But the concept definitely taught self-control for the little ones and allowed me to enjoy more uninterrupted conversations and somewhat of a return to sanity.

I discovered the majority of the time kids just need clear, simple direction, along with respect, to be manageable and enjoyable. Experience has shown children will do anything for you if you respect them and give appropriate parameters.

Another example was the challenge of keeping them safe while shopping. Two practices helped keep our blessings alive. When in a grocery store they were taught to keep a hand on the shopping cart at all times. That made it a little harder to grab something or to run off. Funny side note: my daughter, an adult, says she STILL puts her hand on the cart when shopping with friends. She says it’s weird, but I think it’s funny. Any time we were in a parking lot and one of the (younger) children were outside the car they were instructed to put their hand on the car while we were loading/unloading. I would simply say, “touch the car”, and they knew what to do and why.

Happy parenting…it’s a great adventure!

Newsflash: You are not Superwoman!


Many days as moms we feel more is expected of us than we have to give. Between children, husbands, jobs, volunteer positions, and housework – there is more to do than the day or our energy holds. Most women don’t have to be coached on how to love our family and nurture our children. Last on our never ending to-do list may be to love and nurture ourselves.

Your family wants you to be healthy and fulfilled. Some days it may feel like they want to drain the life out of you with all their demands and needs, but in reality they want you to be a strong woman who sets boundaries for yourself in order to live out God’s plan and purpose for your life – even through the years of endless diapers and laundry and homework and ballgames.

Think of your life as a bucket. Be aware of what fills and drains your bucket. It’s different for everyone. Enlist your family to help make sure your bucket stays filled so you have enough to give out…with joy. If you settle for a lifestyle of deficit no one benefits. You can’t always be the fountain of life for others.

Begin by listing what fills your bucket. What makes you feel fulfilled and full to overflowing? Meet with your husband and family about changes that can be made to give you margin to pursue health. I am an introvert and a homebody. My bucket is filled by quiet time in my home. When we had kids at home that included being alone. My husband was more of a go-go gadget when the kids were little and he would take them on fun adventures to allow me time at home. He even sent me on several mommy vacations for the ultimate retreat and re-filling.

So consider taking some time to ponder your own bucket. What changes does your family need to make to empower you in a positive direction? What activities and demands do you need to remove and/or add to keep the fill flowing versus draining? You may be surprised by your family’s positive response.

No apologies needed for carving out time to be a better you. Go Girl!

Grieving the Leaving


We enjoy our empty nest, but it wasn’t all happy faces when the baby birdies flew. And it didn’t get easier with each one. I was surprised at the depth of my emotion, especially considering how hard we had worked to get them wherever they were going. If any one of them had come home, I would have sent them back! The timing was right all four times and we were excited for them. I found being supportive didn’t make their leaving any easier.

Moving day was fun and giggles until the drive home when realization settled in that my child wouldn’t be home in bed that night; they wouldn’t wake up at our house the next morning; I wouldn’t know what they were doing or if they were eating or sleeping. That’s when the loss hit me – like a brick wall. It hurt so much.

I want to emphasize even though it was right and I was happy about it, there was a loss to grieve. All loss needs to be worked through or the feelings get stuck in our emotion bank.

I missed them. I missed touching them, talking to them, hearing about their day, cleaning up after them…every little thing. It was too quiet after each one left. The atmosphere and dynamics changed and required adjustment. I don’t like change – I don’t even like to get a haircut! I like each one of them and missed experiencing them and knowing the little things. I love them and my heart felt ripped out without them near me. I needed each one of them and needed them to need me. These intense feelings did change and dissipate with time. We developed a new normal and I quit crying.

And now we love our empty nest. We love when they come and love when they go. Life goes on…

Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 (NIV)
1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

One resource that can be helpful is the knowing 7 Stages of Grief so you can understand the emotions of loss. Though designed to work through the death of a loved one, recognizing and understanding these stages can help with any loss. You don’t necessarily go through the stages in order, but you may jump around and even repeat the stages.

7 Stages of Grief...

You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.

As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.

You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.

Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.

You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (“I will never drink again if you just bring him back”)

Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.

As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.

As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.

During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.