Part II – “Not As Much Success”

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Yes, I’ve been super busy in my little world – so much that I’ve spent the first part of this week just catching up on reading my friends’ blogs.  I’m always thankful that many of you haven’t posted in several weeks like me!

What have I been up to?  We have been up to our eyeballs in paint, ceiling scraping, and general home improvements in an effort to sell our house soon. Anyone interested in a wonderful 3 bedroom , 1.5 bath house that is full of great memories? In one month’s time, we have completed some huge tasks as well as finished up about 5 or more projects that were 90% done, but still needed that last coat of paint, or a few more knobs put on, a little touch-up here or there. 

I’ve come away from this improvement adventure with two things:                                                                                                                                   1. Why do I wait so long to do these things? I procrastinate terribly thinking the projects will take forever, but the reality is that each project took so little time (well beside scraping ceiling and repainting livingroom, hall, and kitchen) that I should not have put them off for so long. I keep saying: I want this to develop a new mindset to just get things done.

   2. Why do I get 90% done and never seem to finish up? Of course, with 4 kids, life has to keep moving so the finish-up sometimes comes a while after the initial start, but now I hope to have adopted another mindset which is to finish one project fully BEFORE starting a new one. We’ll see if these new ways of thinking stick!

Okay, so on to Part II  – the “Not So Much Success” part of the story, well in a minute. This story has to do with my Brooklyn.  I thought since, I focused on Jocelin in the last post, I would do a post focusing on each child and give you a little insight into the sweet people who make up our family. So join me on a side-bar about my third-born. Keep reading, I’ll get to the story, I promise!

My little Brooklyn: she is the most unique combination of personalities. I’d need a book to explain just how complex she is, but I’ll try to give a hint of what she’s like.

I was smitten with her from the first time I saw her. Baby 3 was so fabulous for me; I didn’t have all the apprehensions that come with Baby 1, mainly, how in the world do I raise a child. Or the apprehensions that come with Baby 2: how do I raise another child, I hope they like each other, etc. So Baby 3 was pure enjoyment for me. I knew what to expect with late nights, nursing, sleeping, etc. Brooklyn’s first months were such a blessing to me; I drank her in. Looking back, I can see how the Lord was knitting my heart to hers then, because I was going to need it for her toddler years!!

To sum it up: Brooklyn is very strong-willed (it’s a mystery where that came from!). Most of the tricks to deal with toddlers and the developmental quirks that come at that age do not work with this gal. I knew this before she was even 1-year-old. For example, all my kids got to a point where they would fuss when I was changing their diaper and getting them dressed.  Thanks to my Mom’s elaborate tool-belt, I knew that singing always helps; you know, “One foot in and then the other,” … “This is the way we put on our clothes”… “It’s time to change a diapey” (to the tune of Veggie Tales, “Oh Where Is My Hairbrush,” a Bradley original!).

Well before most kids even know how to throw a fit, Brooklyn would start fussing on the changing table, I’d start singing and she would arch her back, stiffen that body and scream, scream, scream. The more I sang, the louder she got. It was like she was saying, “Listen lady, that distraction biz will not work on me. Too bad, so sad.” Honestly, I eventually began to sing, usually the first worship song I could think of (or just the name of Jesus), just to keep my sanity. I was no longer singing for her, instead it was just for me so the screaming wouldn’t get to me as bad!

If I give Brooklyn the choice of A or B (a great tool for helping a toddler with their need for independence) she will always choose C – even if she really wants B; she’ll choose C because she will not fall for any of my pansy-parenting tricks. She requires the Big-Guns Tool Belt!

Can I be honest here for a minute – just keepin’ it real – I literally didn’t like to be around Brooklyn for most of a year (or more). My Mom would have her for a few days and tell me how sweet, adorable, and fabulous she was.

This is the version Nana always sees!

Really, I couldn’t believe it; we had to be talking about two different people. Then two Christmas’s ago – I saw it. My family was with us for several days in my home and Brooklyn was an angel: super sweet and a total cutie pie. I could not believe my eyes. At that point, I thought that side of her personality was a myth. Now I realize I’m being funny about it now, but that’s really how I felt then.

This is more like the Brooklyn I was with!

That experience was so helpful to me. No, she didn’t stop exhibiting her will all over me, but I knew she wasn’t broken – that I hadn’t screwed her up, ruined her for life to be destined to tell everyone off, only have things her way, etc. (Note: all those who know me well can see the irony in the previous statement. Yes I do like things my way and I don’t mind expressing my mind, but hopefully I’ve learned a little tact and balance over the years!?)

I say all these things to encourage those of you with an uuber-strong-willed babe! If you don’t have a strong-willed child, you will probably be rolling your eyes and not believing that a mom would actually admit these things about her own child. If you have one of these challengers in your brood, you totally get what I’m saying. Take heart, they can be parented, they don’t stay like this forever, and they really will make great adults.

Now, just because Brooklyn is challenging, doesn’t mean she isn’t the greatest thing ever. The way I began to make it through was to count the blessings of her uniqueness:

So this little gal, who wants things her way or the highway, will, at random, do things like put herself down for nap. Literally, she will potty, get a book or two and her blankie, hop up on sister’s bed, read for a few minutes, and be asleep before I know it. Now this is not the norm, but on a Sunday afternoon when we are all vegged out on the couch, she’ll go back and do her own nap time. It is awesome.  None of my other kids ever did this.

She loves to clean – and is good at it. Usually anytime she asks to help, I’ll let her because she actually helps – you know instead of making even more mess to clean up. 

She has the softest skin in the whole wide world (that’s what I always say to her). I guess the way my genes combine with Bradley’s, we produced 3 out of 4 kids that have bumps on their arms, legs, and cheeks: the kind many people have on their upper arms that are harmless but make the skin feel bumpy. Well, Brooklyn is the exception to this inherited feature and her arms, cheeks and legs are like velvet! 

She has the cutest laugh where she breathes out and sucks in, giving her laugh a donkey-like flavor. I tell Bradley often that I hope she laughs this way all her life; it is awesome and always makes us laugh too!

She is beautiful. The Lord has gifted her with gorgeous eyes, the longest eyelashes, silky blonde hair, and a twinkly smile.  We will have to teach her to use her beauty for His glory and not her own, and get Bradley a very large bat for her teen years to keep her admires at bay!

She already has a great sense of style and can put together a cute outfit that matches.

She has some great words: Rabinoli (ravioli), Stawberry Cortcake, Santha, ABCDEFGHIKK, eleventeen

She answers to the following nick-names: Brook-a-look, Br-br, Brookn Danielle, Sister, and Sissy – per Emerson, Pip-em-Squeek-ems (she was our smallest baby at birth, so little and dainty, so I immediately called her a pip-squeek, Bradley has since adapted the name to its current status).

Okay, so now onto the story when my parenting missed the mark – you still with me?

Let me set this up … We had been really working with Emerson (the 18 month-old at the time) not to say, “Oh my gosh” because it is so close to “Oh my God”. I can remember that phrase as a child was one of the ultimate no-no’s for my Mom, the other being the word, “fart”- ick. My mom hated that word, and now I do too! So, we have passed these teachings along to our babes.

The other thing we work on, all the time, is to not tattle. Well a few months ago, Brooklyn ran to me while I was in the garage changing laundry and said, 

“Mom, Emerson said that word she’s not supposed to say.”

To which, I replied, “Brooklyn, it is not your job to tell on her. If she is not in danger, you don’t need to tell me.”

“But Mom, she’s not supposed to say that.”

“I know Brooklyn, I’ll correct her when I hear her say it, you don’t have to come tell me when she says it.  The thing you can do is to not repeat it.” Good job Shawn, excellent explanation: you told her what not to do and since she wants to be involved, you told her what she could do to help. Nice work.

So, as I head back into the house, laundry in tow, I see Brooklyn whispering in Emerson’s ear and get close enough to hear that she’s saying, “Emerson, say, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

Now let’s take a moment here to acknowledge how absolutely clever this is. Her thought process might have been: Okay I’m not supposed to tell Mom when she says this word, Mom just told me that she will get onto Emerson only when Mom hears Emerson saying it, I love justice and don’t like for other people to get away with breaking the rules either, so, if I can get Emerson to say “those words” in front of Mom, then it will be a victory for everyone. Great idea, let’s put this into action.

Pretty brilliant if it weren’t so cunning.

Immediately, I firmly said, “Brooklyn!” That was enough for us to lock eyes and for her to actually realize what she just did. She was heart-broken, and crying instantly – all the way back to her bed for her own correction.

. . . Well, Shawn, looks like that wasn’t the parenting victory you thought it was, back to the drawing board. . .

Last thing: Brooklyn just got a hair cut and donated her hair to Locks-of-Love





Parenting Success and Not-as-Much Success

I have a couple of stories to share: one about a parenting victory that is worth celebrating; an occasion where I feel like my child got it right. The other story: an occasion where I see that I’ve missed the mark and my child did not get it right.

Let me first begin with the success:

My 8-year-old, Jocelin, came home from school the other day and told me that a nice boy she has become friends with asked her if she would marry him when they grew up.

(Note: I wanted to include some pictures of Jocelin. Turns-out, the only pictures I have of her by herself are ones she has taken while holding the camera – and therefore are close ups!!)

Now, some explanation is required for you to fully appreciate the end of this story. We have talked about the issue of girls and boys many times in our household. The subject of boyfriends and girlfriends is probably one area that I’m prone to over-parenting, because of how I was as a child/teen…

I can remember chasing boys on the playground in Kindergarten and trying to kiss them, they would, in turn, do the same to us girls and we would giggle and wave good-bye at the end of recess feeling like we had the best time ever. I can still see Craig Schwartensky (yes, that was his name) acting all silly as the pack of girls would blow kisses as he lined up to go back inside the school.

For me, my desire to have a boy of interest in my life began then – in Kindergarten!! Throughout my childhood years adult relatives and family friends would ask me if I had a boyfriend, of course in a harmless and cutsie kind of way, but I began to feel like I was always supposed to have a crush on someone and should indeed always be looking for a boyfriend.

Turns out, that became the story of my life. I have several friends that can attest to my boy-crazy personality from the time I was a child and especially in my middle school, high school, and college years.

Since I can trace many undesirable qualities and actions to my early misplaced affections on boys, I’ve really worked at addressing this topic with my kids.

Before they start school, we discuss how they can have friends that are boys/girls but there is no need to call them a boyfriend/girlfriend since the reason to have a boyfriend/girlfriend is in preparation to find a spouse and I don’t believe they are going to get married any time soon. Now, I realize the subject of dating is a whole other can of worms, one I am not going to open in this post!

So, I’ve taught my kids to have some tools in response to a child who asks, “Will you be my girlfriend/boyfriend.” Or more importantly, to respond to other kids who say, “Oooh, is that your boyfriend/girlfriend?”

The response is simple, “No, but I’ll be your friend,” or “No, we’re just friends.” I also suggest they can say, “I’m not old enough to have a boyfriend/girlfriend,” but I’m not sure if they actually say that.

I realize many people feel these type of interactions with grade-school kids are harmless, but I found, for myself  as a young child, that I began to feel like an outsider if I wasn’t always liking some boy. And, for me, this “harmless” desire did not die off once I was old enough to actually start dating; instead it was a match to a big fire and I got burned

Okay, now that you have some understanding of the back-story, let’s return to what Jocelin did when her schoolmate asked if she would marry him.

“Will you marry me when we get older?” “No,” she said, “If you ask me to marry you when I’m 8, my Dad will get you.” (This made Bradley so proud he can hardly stand it).

For further explanation, she said, “And it’s God’s choice for a husband, not mine.” Woo, hoo! That’s my girl, you tell him! I could not have said it better. You are listening and confidently standing up for yourself! I’m so proud of you.

One victory down, umpteen thousand more to go.

Well, since this post is plenty long, I’ll write about my sweet Brooklyn and her not-as-successful story in my next post! Tune-in…

Reading Schedule

The following is the break down of the weekly reading for Loving Our Kids On Purpose, as mentioned in my previous post.

January 27 – 15 pages total. Preface, Introduction: p.25-30; Chapter 1, “The Heart of the Matter”: p.31-40 (stop at “From the Inside Out”)

February 3 – 27 pages total. Chapter 1, “The Heart of the Matter”: p.40-67 (start at “From the Inside Out”)

February 10 – 17 pages total. Chapter 2, “Changing Our Truth Filters”: p.69-86

February 17 – 24 pages total. Chapter 3, “Protecting Your Garden”: p.89-113

February 24 – 30 pages total. Chapter 4, “Choices”: p.115-145

March 3 – 27 pages total. Chapter 5, “Protecting and Building Heart Connections”: p.147-184

If you will be reading along with me weekly, please let me know. You can email me or post a comment by clicking on the “comment” tab at the upper-left-hand side of this post. Before I do weekly posts discussing the book, I wanted to know if anyone will be reading along at this point. If there is not any weekly readers, I will make a post or two concerning this book, but not a continual weekly blog.

Thanks for your input.

Read With Me?

Starting Thursday, January 20th, I’ll be leading a group of women from our church through the book  Loving Our Kids on Purpose, by Danny Silk. I thought some of you might want to join us and read along.

I finished the book over the holidays and found it to be a useful tool to add to my parenting tool belt (I actually stole that analogy from the author).

I thought you might like some information about the author and book: Danny Silk is a Family Pastor at Bethel Church in California, where Bill Johnson preaches. Our church gleans much from Bethel, from music to teachings.

Danny Silk’s whole concept is to parent your children through choices, rather than force or punishment, in a way that teaches your children to manage the freedom they will encounter in life and to learn that the only person they can control is themselves. He also emphasizes the concern for a person’s heart in that he wants to instill why we make good choices over making good choices for fear of punishment.

I really like his overall concept but do feel that this book is missing some key strategies to make his approach feasible; these are strategies I think he must use but just did not include them in this book.  I will discuss these strategies in the Bible Study and on the blog. But overall, I think there is so much to gain from reading this book.

My goal is to have a weekly post concerning the pages read for that week. I’m telling you right now that I may be biting off more than I can chew with leading a study on this book and blogging about it. Even if I’m only able to do an occasional post about the book, I still think the book is worth reading for anyone interested.

I’ll tell you upfront, if you read the book, you will be challenged personally. There is a part about why we lecture our children that hit me so hard, I just had to turn the page and keep reading – too much to deal with in one sitting!! Also, if you read the book, you are not likely to agree with every thing he says. That’s okay. You should gain way more than you disagree with.

I know Mardel stores carry the book, but our store had only 5 copies left in the warehouse so you might want to order online. I paid $17 for mine at Mardel; has them for $6.80 + shipping, clearly the better bargain. The link is below.


You should have time to order it and get it before we start reading. The group at my church will discuss the Introduction and first part of Chapter 1 (pages 25-40) on Thursday, January 27th. I’ll post the specifics of our reading timetable later so you can follow along with us if you like.

So come read with me!

Christmas Discoveries

In reference to my last post, I’m glad to report back that my Christmas time was more stress-free and more intentional than many years before. Of course, since I said that my goal was  not to get overwhelmed and overloaded, that was my temptation. I felt the stress building several times, but since I had set my mind to it, I would pause, reset, and not give into the situation. Wow, novel concept: I have control of my emotions. Huh. I seem to not want to ponder too long on the reality that I have control of them all the time, not just during the Christmas break. So, I’ll move on…

Now I realize Christmas has come and gone and it may be too late to write a post about things I discovered over the break, but I’m gonna anyway in hopes that you might find some useful bits, even if they are just note for next year.

Put your kids’ ornaments in their own, personalized tub. I got this idea from my friend, Amy Wright. She blogged/showed pictures of her kids sitting with each of their ornament boxes, waiting to begin the decorating. Until then, I had never thought of this idea. Brilliant!

The main benefit I can see is this will eliminate all the disappointed looks that children #2, 3, and 4 have as they unwrap another ornament and realize it is just another one for child #1. It’s a bummer, but the first child always has more – it’s simple math: they have been alive more years so they will have more ornaments; my 3-year-old and 6-year-old just could not get this reasoning this year!

Now they will have their own box for next year and know that once it is empty, they have no more ornaments to put on the tree.

Freeze icing for Santa’s cookies. Our tradition is to make sugar cookies and decorate them for Santa (and us!!). We usually do these on the 23rd or 24th as a family but between making the cookies, cutting them out, baking, making the icing, and decorating, I am in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning for the majority of the day, trying not to let the stress build. But this year I happened upon this new discovery: I made several different colors of icing for Jocelin’s birthday cake in November and had so much left over that I decided to just throw them in the freezer – in the icing bags with the tips still on. I pulled them out on our decorating day and voila: time saved, stress lessened, more fun had. So I added that note to my calendar for next year to make the icing ahead and freeze it. I will consider doing the cookies early and freezing them too.

Do a total house cleaning a few days before Christmas. This year, I did a thorough house cleaning, you know – all the dusting, moping, every little trinket, toy and piece of trash in its place type of cleaning – because our dear friends, the Kelley family, were able to come over (There are zero pictures from our sweet time together because I can’t remember to use a camera). After such a great time with our friends, I was further rewarded with a super clean house. Then, for the next several days, we were able to do minimal straightening and keep a sparkly house for the holidays.

Now, after Christmas day, the explosion hit and I’m still working on finding homes for all the new things. But for like 4 full days, my house was really clean and it went a long way to make my time with my kids even more enjoyable. There is a note on my calendar to do this again next year!

Let traditions be created over the years. As a first-time mom, I can remember the pressure I felt to have wonderful Christmas traditions in place. I felt like I was supposed to begin the things that we would do, for the next 30 years, on Jocelin’s first Christmas. Well, time has taught me that this idea is not feasible and not what a tradition is about. A tradition should be born from something fun that happens that you want to do again and again. So I’m learning to not stress over creating fun family times – a funny statement in and of itself!

Also, I’ve learned that it’s ok to tinker with the things that will become traditions. I kind of felt like if we did something a certain way one year, then we had to do it just like that forever. Again,  not the purpose of traditions – to force things to be a certain way in the name of fun and memories.

The thing I keep reminding myself is that the memories I have of growing up, the things I remember with such fondness that compel me to create great memories with my own family, are actually from my later years at home. I have a few memories of traditions we had when I was grade-school age and younger, but most of the things I can recall started when I was middle-school aged and older. Well that just brings me such relief: I have a few years here to find the things that my kids will remember with fondness.

This year, we did a new thing that we loved: we watched The Nativity Story movie on Christmas Eve after our church service. It was so sweet to watch Mary and Joseph’s story play out on-screen. I loved talking, in depth, about all the details of Jesus’s birth with my kids. As we watched it, I thought, this would be a fun tradition to have. We’ll see if it becomes a recurring event.

I also made a note on my calendar, in November 2011, to start preparing for the Jesse Tree: a simple advent to do with children. I had several friend do it this year and hope to make it a tradition in my family too.

I hope my discoveries can bring some help to you too. I have so many topics to post about; I hope to crank out a few new posts in the next several days. I’m trying to extend the day to 25 hours to find some extra time!!

Around Our House

I was at Home Group last night and two of my friends mentioned that they were waiting for my next post. This is probably the last free chance I will have for a couple of weeks so I thought I’d post a few random thoughts concerning Christmas time around our house.

Let me first begin with a tip. (This tip also goes along well with many of the comments from my previous post.) I was with my friend Ana as our three children oohed and aahed over all the pretty ornaments on her tree. She told her sweet Jude, “touch with one finger.” He put his little pointer finger out and gently (and then not so gently) touched the ornaments.

It was one of those moments for me that I was in awe of such a brilliant concept. I mean, how have I raised four kids without knowing this rule? It is just the thing we all need right now as our little ones are desperate to poke and prod every Christmasy thing around. Touching with one finger allows them the ability to touch but not break or pull off or whatever. Emerson and Brooklyn have this down pat now. May your world be revolutionized too! THANK YOU ANA!!!

My Kid-Tree has benefited most greatly from this tip!

Second, as this Christmas rolls around, I have yet another reason to be thankful that I am finished with the birthing/nursing phase of my life.  The last couple of Christmases were pretty intense being super pregnant and then having my 4th baby around. I am really looking forward to actually visiting with family this year, not just parenting my children in someone else’s home. For those of you who are fully immersed in the birthing/nursing/repeat stage, take heart – it won’t be like this forever. My youngest is 22 months and man it just keeps getting easier!

Another noticeable difference, since we are no longer adding to the family, is that this is the first year I am not sewing on a stocking. When Jocelin was born, a sweet lady from my hometown made Jocelin a most fantastic stocking.

It is intricate, cute, and so impressive. Well, along comes Mason and the sweet lady was no longer making stockings for my children, clearly a store-bought just couldn’t compete, so the gigantic task was passed to me.

Now, let me elaborate here because I want you to be impressed, very impressed. I am writing this just to show-off; consider yourself warned!

To make a stocking like this, you have to purchase a kit – for at least $25. Now that $25 does not get you a stocking put together. Instead, it gets you a bag with felt pieces, that you must cut out individually, embroider thread, sequins and beads, and a series of super detailed instructions. Really, with each stocking, I would have to study the directions (because each one was laid out differently) for a good 30 minutes before I could even begin step one.  Each stocking had 60-70 steps and took who knows how many hours – somewhere around 30-50 per stocking – r e a l l y.

But in the end, it is so worth it.

They turn out so sparkly

And detailed

And elaborately fantastic

Yep, I sewed every sequin, pieced together each mitten, ear, hat, buckle, and a jillion other teeny pieces. Countless hours of TV watching and many a hand-cramp and I am proud of these babies. I hope my kids like them, they will use them as long as I am around, even if they are 60! Some day I’ll make one for Bradley and me and then eventually for many grandbabies.

The next random Christmas nugget I have to share with you concern the things I have been pondering over the past few days. My goal over the next 2 weeks: have fun. It’s plain and simple, yet hard for me to accomplish on most days. I used to be a lot of fun and somehow life and its craziness took over. So with the exception of the required laundry and occasional meal, I plan to play whatever my kids want me to, even if I don’t want to play it or I’m not good at it, watch movies, be silly, veg out, enjoy time with extended family and keep my woe-is-me attitude in check!

Since I will be enveloped in all the great times, I will not have time to blog for the next 2 weeks. My heart’s desire is to report back in a few weeks and actually be able to say that I kept my stress level under control and did all the fun things I have set before me.

Lastly, a random Christmas blog would not be complete without me sharing one of my most favorite traditions. I love Christmas music and one of my all-time favorites is Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Once Upon a Christmas. Now many old roommates (shout out to Jana, Tamra, Brea, Emily, and Misty) and my husband would say that the continual listening of this CD is most embarrassing (and annoying) tradition I have. What can I say, I just love it. It has every bit of my childhood memories wrapped up in every song. I grew up country and I’m proud of it.

So in the Christmas spirit, I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on you.  Let’s hear it, what’s your favorite (and slightly embarrassing) thing you really enjoy at Christmas-time?

I can’t wait to hear about your silly traditions, have a great Christmas!

Kids and Christmas Decorations

Each year of my life, before I had children, I eagerly anticipated busting out the Christmas decorations. I was raised on it!

My Mom would seemingly (and maybe actually!) take every decoration in our home and replace it with something red and green and merry.  As a teenager, I just loved the onslaught. We would bring in like umpteen boxes, open them all up, crank on the Christmas music, and we would dance, be silly, and Christmas would explode all over our house. It was awesome and I loved it.

Now, as a mother, Christmas is still so sweet and full of my own family’s traditions and fun memories, but the decorating has slid into the category, along with activities that were so much fun as a child, like going to the swimming pool and taking vacations. The category of, as a grown-up, activities that are a lot of work.

What I have discovered about things like vacationing, swimming, and Christmas decorating is that these are the things where memories are made. I can’t remember all the day in/day out happenings of my childhood, but I can recall so many great memories of Christmases, vacations, and trips to the pool.

As a mom, I have to remind myself over and over that all the hard work is worth it. So over the past 8 years of Christmases with children, I have found some things that have helped in getting the decorations done while maintaining some level of sanity! I thought I would share them in hopes that they might bring you some relief to your decorating – or maybe just some smiles at my anal tendencies.

1. I learned this tip from the dear Suzy Lea, the woman who, with the exception of my mother, influenced me most as a mother and wife. She has 5 boys and a less than tidy husband and yet Suzy loves things beautifully decorated. So at Christmas time, she would have one tree for her – pretty and all coordinating. Cliff, her husband, and the boys would have another tree that was theirs to decorate as they saw fit. I saw it one year where all the beads and ornaments were sloppily placed all on one side of the tree. I thought it was so cute.

I quickly discovered I would need to do a kid tree also. I would get a bit stressed about not having all the ornaments evenly spread out, or having all the kids’ super cute (and non-coordinating) handmade ornaments dispersed with my sparkly red, green, and white ornaments.  So, we got a little tree for my kids ornaments.  As I hovered over them this year, while they may or may not have evenly spaced their ornaments, I kept reminding myself, “This is their tree. Let them do it how they want.”

2. Over the years I have also learned that I like to be in my own decorating zone when I am putting up the tree. I get overwhelmed when the kids want to help me decorate the pretty tree.

[side note here: I feel a bit embarrassed that I am admitting all these things to so many people, but I am certain that there are others out there who find all this “fun stuff” a bit stress-inducing. I realize it seems like I just need to take a chill-pill. But fight it as I may, this is how I’m built. My household is much happier if I work with me instead of against myself. I’m just keepin’ it real!]

So I make sure to put up the kid’s tree first so they can get all their ornaments out and do their decorating and memory making without me getting all frustrated.

3. I also recommend starting with the kids’ toys. They can be playing with all the “new” bounty while you escape to your decorating zone.

4. Another helpful hint: if you have Christmas toys for your kids, remember the whole purpose of the toys is to be played with.

We have a super-cute assortment of kid-friendly nativity scenes.

Fisher Price

Nesting Nativity


Precious Moments

I get caught up in placing them all so sweetly, with Precious Moment’s Mary holding baby Jesus and each Wise Man set-up by his matching camel, etc.

Then when one of my children tries to come play with it and I find myself blurting out, “Don’t touch that.” Oh wait – they are made to be played with. Good-job Shawn.

So each time I’m cleaning up the living room, I don’t spend 15 minutes arranging the nativity scenes just as they should be because they are just going to get messed-up, I mean played-with. I just place them all on the shelf they go on and leave it at that. That way, when the kids are playing with them and little pieces are going all over the place, I don’t struggle internally (as much)!

Another side note: it always helps me gain perspective to listen to Junior Asparagus’s song “Was He A Boy Like Me?” from Veggie Tales The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree. It’s about a boy playing with his nativity scene which makes him wonder if Jesus was a boy like him. Seriously I’m almost crying just typing it here!

Take a listen and grab a kleenex:

5. Something I have done over the last few years is to write myself notes for the year to follow. So on my calendar or in the Christmas boxes, I’ll have a note that says – “Start with the kids tree and toys first.” “Decorate the cookies before Christmas Eve, it was too much for you to do last year.” etc. I mean, if you’ve learned something that benefits you and your family, don’t make yourself relearn it again the next year.

6. Also, cut yourself some slack. I did not do much decorating in the years I either had a newborn, was sick at the beginning of a pregnancy, or just in maxed-out-status from caring for so many little people!

You do not have to have decorations to celebrate Christmas. If putting up a tree brings too much stress into your household, then it’s not worth it. Save the tree for next year – they are young, they won’t remember not having a tree on their first (or 2nd or 3rd) Christmases. By the time they are old enough to remember, you will have enough energy to do it – and many wonderful memories will be made.

I say often, I don’t want my kids Christmas memories to be of me getting stressed and raising my voice! Since that seems to be my tendency, I have to access some tools to make it a more pleasant experience for us all!

So I hope this helps some of you! We’d all benefit from any other tips you have discovered for kids and Christmas decorations, so please share! Happy Decorating.

My Girl is Growing Up

This past weekend was full of milestones for my sweet Jocelin.  On Sunday, she turned 8 years old. With the oldest, each birthday seems like a big deal and always plunges me into reflection:

  • I’ve been parenting for 8 years now
  • 8 years ago, our family looked so different – just Bradley and I, my how this family has changed and grown
  • 8 years old – that means it is time to start studying up on “Tween” life and prepare for the fact that Jocelin will begin moving from little girl stage to pre-puberty stage – holy crow (as my husband would say)

I’ve heard a parenting teacher call the first child, “Learning-child #1” which is certainly true. The first child is the one you learn how to parent with. Each child after that gives you room to tweak your parenting-skill and not just say, “if I had a chance to do it again” but to actually do it again. The first child bears the brunt of the learning curve into parenting.

They are a special, chosen race – the First Borns. My Jocelin handles this role with such grace. She leads the way in this family and God continually confirms to me that He put her first for a reason.

On her birthday weekend, she paved the way of “first in the family” again. On Saturday morning, for her birthday, Jocelin took the plunge and got her ears pierced.  Around here, waiting until you are 8 is pretty late to get your ears pierced, but I’m so thankful she waited: it made it much more of a special right-of-passage as a girl.

The whole concept freaked her out until a few months ago, and then all of a sudden, she wanted to do and that was that. She bravely walked in, chose her light purple cubic-zirconium studs, and sat so still while the sweet Merle Norman lady pierced each ear.  No crying, no complaining (well not until the next day when the soreness set in), just a sweet, proud girl.

Then, Saturday night, she made another huge right-of-passage: Jocelin got baptized!!! A little over a week ago, Jocelin gave her life to Jesus on a Wednesday night at church. She said she felt like she heard God tell her it was time to ask Him to be the Lord of her life, so she talked to one of her teachers and didn’t want to wait any longer. She prayed right then and there!

So this Saturday, Bradley baptized her! Some one asked her at the beginning of church if she was nervous, “No, just excited,” she said. She has been growing in her own personal walk with God and it is so sweet to see her confidence with matters of the Lord.  She has been worshiping Him in our services, hearing Him speak to her, waving a flag in church, and starting the process from God being someone she follows because we do, to learning to love Him on her own. Of course, as a parent, nothing is more beautiful to watch.

So Jocelin boldly walked in the water with her Daddy, told the congregation all about how God called her to Him, and walked out of the water with her Dad and brother!

Our camera is so, so, so lame that all we have is this grainy picture, but it is still worth showing. (we will be buying a new camera soon!)

Dad talking

the baptizing

the wet celebrating!

On a final note, my friend Tamra has a daughter one year older than Jocelin and when Tamra got pregnant with Kailee, I knew I would want to have a child close to her age, and then not too long after, we began our family.  As I watched Tamra with Kailee, I followed in her footsteps in so many ways from the products I bought to the things I did with Jocelin. So I thought it was especially sweet that on Kailee’s birthday a month ago, she was baptized, and now Jocelin did the same thing on her birthday weekend. Tamra, I promise I didn’t put her up to it!

Halloween Fun

My kids have been looking forward to Halloween for many weeks. They planned and prepped for their costumes, choose pumpkins for carving, and waited anxiously for all that CANDY. The day was packed with lots of cuteness and fun.

We almost forgot about carving pumpkins but Jocelin remembered it yesterday. Now, I think you are supposed to plan ahead and not try to carve pumpkins the hour before you have to get costumed up – but we like to live on the wild side around here.

Honestly, I really wanted to skip the carving – I always think of the mess it will make and the time it will involve and it just seems like a lot of work. Thankfully, my sister called about the time we needed to get started on the pumpkins (she had carved 6 fantastic pumpkins the day before) and reminded me how much fun it would be. I know, I know – these activities are where memories are made and tradition is birthed – I know. So I sucked it up and had some fun, by golly.

At one point, I heard Mason  say, “This is such a fun Halloween.” Just because we were carving pumpkins. Note to self – don’t be the fun-sucker!

So in an hour’s time, we carved up two pumpkins. Daddy cut them open and Jocelin and I cleaned them out because the boys thought it was too gross. Jocelin and I discussed how strange it was that they can shoot rabbits and birds and deal with all that grossness, but pumpkin seeds and slimy pulp are too much for them.  They both watched us with the funniest “eew” faces!

Jocelin and Mason drew their designs




Daddy did the carving while I toasted the pumpkin seeds, that burned, sadly – 30 minutes of time well spent!

The super-cute finished Jack-o-lanterns

And now, introducing the Graham Fam Trick-or-Treaters

Jocelin – a lovely mermaid (Thank you Nana for making a great costume)

She wanted to pose

and she was very happy that it was “legal” to wear make-up in public

Mason – a fierce Ninja (Thank you Nana for buying the Karate costume)

The complete costume which only lasted for pictures (note the HI-YA motion):

Brooklyn – an adorable Tinkerbell

(Provided by Nana also. I promise, I didn’t ask her for any of these. She offered them from her personal dress-up selection and told Jocelin she would make hers. We are so grateful for Nana!!!)

Did I mention how adorable she is?

Brooklyn’s experience with Halloween was so cute. We had already received treats from Nana (again – thanks to Nana-extraordinaire), and Brooklyn thought that going trick-or-treating meant that she had to take the candy she already had and give it to her friends. She was a little reluctant to that concept, but actually would have done it!

Brooklyn trick-or-treated right alongside the big kids – she was about a house behind, but she climbed many a step to fill her bucket.

After trick-or-treating, we were at a friends house so the kids were a little more unsupervised then they would have been at home with their buckets of candy. I first ran into Brooklyn with a big tootsie-pop in her mouth which she quickly explained, “I accidentally ate this.”

Later, I found her again, with another tootsie-pop and said that sucker had to be her last. As we were gathering up to head home, she came to me again – this time with a dum-dum in her mouth and another sucker in hand. Wow Brooklyn, you must love suckers.  I later realized that the suckers were probably the only candy she could open herself!!

Emerson – a sweet Bunny

I made this costume when Jocelin was a baby and all three girls have worn it now!

(our cute friend in the background)

Emerson was especially clingly last night so I couldn’t get one picture of her where she wasn’t frowning.

These pictures are probably cuter than if she was smiling!

Happy Halloween Emerson

I even tried to take one this morning – just to get a smiling picture for her picture album

Well, I’ll have to wash it and give it another try with the smile. At least I got a picture of the cute tail:

Even though Emerson doesn’t show it, we have a wonderful evening – lots of fun and candy!



A Frightened Child

As I sat down to continue working on this post this morning, I realized that my post about being scared coincides with Halloween. That was not planned – I’m not that mindful or that cheezy. Well I guess I can be that cheezy, but I was not meaning to be in this case!

This post is in reference to a comment from my new friend Danielle: Okay, what do you do with a child that has a tendency to develop fears or phobias. The first one we noticed was the deathly fear of stick horses, screamed every time she saw one. Next she hates her sister’s infant bath. Cries during her bath time “Move Jessie’s bath”. She doesn’t like her bath-time anymore, stays in long enough to get washed. We have tried moving it, hiding it, ignoring the problem, reasoning with her, singing songs hoping they would distract. She still cries. Also it’s the dogs when they bark and the cows when they moo and oh we can’t forget thunder. Hates them all and cries. I am pretty sure she cries more than my two month old. She finally got over the stick horses when her friends started playing with them. Any input?

First of all, it is important to note that this is super normal for Audrey’s age (18 months – 2ish). Everything is new to them and so they can get scared of things easily – especially if they became scared once before by the specific thing or something similar. So even though it doesn’t seem rational to have a fear of a stick-horse or an infant bath (both of which are too cute to me but probably not as cute to you anymore!), your sweet girl probably has a rational reason for being scared.

It seems like you are doing the right things.  If you aren’t already, I suggest  talking about the “scary” thing before it happens.  For instance, before you head into the bathroom for bath-time, you can talk to her about it. Say something like: “Audrey, we are going to go take a bath, I’ve put Jessie’s bath away and so you don’t need to cry, you’ll be just fine and Mommy’s here with you.”

My next thought on what you can do when your child gets scared: watch your reaction. I had a friend over to my house the other day with her sweet boy and a baby that she watches. In the time they were visiting, both the toddler and the baby fell down and got a bump and her reaction to them was fantastic.

I saw/listened to her go to both of them calmly, not rush quickly to them as I usually do, and with a super-chipper tone, just simply said, “You’re okay.” And that was it. She didn’t say, “oh did you fall” (which is what I usually do), she didn’t rush to them panicy, she just calmly tended to them and they were okay in mere seconds.

It was in watching these children calm down so quickly that revealed to me that she was doing something right, and I was not doing that thing since my girls will literally cry for a full minute if they get a scratch that is so small I can’t even find it!! So I assessed myself for a few day and realized that I tend to:

  • focus on the boo-boo and say “what did you hurt” or “oh what happened”
  • run quickly in to swoop them up
  • make a bigger deal out of it than I should – So now, my girls do the same: they overreact to any minor ouchie.

What my friend did right was to:

  • reassure the child that she was there
  • offer comfort but not over-do it (even just rubbing their back put not picking them up)
  • keep herself upbeat and calm so the child knew they were okay by her reaction

The other thing I realized, a few years ago,  was that I used the words “scared” or “afraid” when I was directing my kids to do something: “Sit down, I’m afraid you’ll fall.” “Don’t touch that, I’m scared it will break.” etc. Now, this may seem trivial, but what I noticed was that I was using these words out of context.  I was not fearful they would fall/break something, I just didn’t want them to do what they were doing; but I was teaching them that I was scared quite a bit instead of communicating what I meant in reality.  So I changed my phrasing: “Please sit down, I don’t want you to fall.” And I took “scared” and “afraid” out of my vocabulary as much as possible.

I know changing your words can seem very minor, but I do fully believe that the tongue has the power of life and death. I just didn’t want to go on speaking fear into so many situations of my kids lives.

On a different note, Danielle, in your specific case, it seems like Audrey is sensitive to sounds. Watch her reaction to loud noises to see if this holds true. So maybe the sound of the bath filling up is too loud for her and that is what she doesn’t like – easy fix: fill it up before you take her in there. Now, you can’t fix each loud-noise situation, but if you are aware of her tendency, then you may more understand why she cries or gets scared.

When Mason was around this age, we were at a stoplight when an ambulance came through and honked their horn SUPER loud. We all jumped but he started scream/crying instantly.  We live close to a fire station and every time he would hear the fire trucks, he would scream/cry – even if he was asleep.  He probably did this for a year and it finally donned on me that it stemmed from the initial encounter with the ambulance.

Brooklyn, as she entered this age, also became scared of the sirens, so I started telling her, “That’s just the fire truck, it’s ok.” But then I realized that I never said anything else, so to her, a fire truck only meant something loud that came by our house a lot and scared her. So then I started telling her, “That’s the fire truck, they are on their way to help some one and they are telling everyone to move over so they can go help quicker.” Once she realized they were going to help someone, not just drive by our house and make loud noises, she didn’t seem scared any more.

So, you might see if there is a way to add some explanation to the scary situations so that she might more understand what they are actually for – not just to frighten her.  Good luck with the explanation on the mooing!!

Now, Danielle, I have no idea if these suggestions will be useful in helping Audrey. Whether it applies to this specific situation or not, I thought these things were worth mentioning for all the parents reading. Just watching my friend with her two little ones certainly changed they way I react to the everyday bumps and frights that my little babes encounter. I can’t wait to hear more about cute Audrey and her freedom from phobias!

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