Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can wait two years to do…

It’s the 30th of the month, and after staring down a to do list throughout October, it didn’t look too promising that the list would be completed. I knew we wouldn’t have the satisfaction of crossing most items off the list way back when I wrote it all down, but seeing it in print sprawled across the giant whiteboard in the kitchen helps all of us know what’s in my head. Some projects were easy, like move crazy piece of furniture that has been sitting near the door for three months (DUH! What takes us so long to get that done?! Why must we all trip over something before just putting it away?!?). Others, like “take out carpet in boys’ bedroom,’ requires a lot more planning and action. (Needless to say, that item will be transferred to the November to do list)

Ah well. Between homeschooling, regular housework, CC work and prep, and extra things like taking certain children for X-rays and a cast, some days don’t have many hours left for extra projects. Frustrating, but reality.

So imagine my surprise when I came back from my walk this evening and one of the kids rushed by me.
“What’s going on?” I inquired.
“Oh, Dad told us to go downstairs and find 20 things to throw away, 20 things to give away, and 20 things to put away where they belong!” he answered brightly and quickly, and continued back downstairs.

Well, OK, then! I didn’t even ask for more information. I simply sat down and for the next two hours, fielded questions about whether toys or other items that the kids found were keep, give away, or throw away. It was fairly painless in that nobody started crying (I was worried I would at some point; I really have to talk myself into the purging process, and this time I had no preparation whosoever), and lots got done. The kids brought up a bunch of different categories, and threw away the garbage that had been scattered here and there. By the end of their time, they had enough to drive over to the donation center with Todd.

Woohoo! That’s not bad! I didn’t even have to motivate anyone and Todd had them all down there knocking out a project.

I’m not going to worry about the roughly 65,227 items that still need to be conquered in our house. Those seem to be quite content to wait for me to get to them. For tonight, I’m thankful that one more job was tackled by willing helpers who took the task on by themselves and worked it out. Progress indeed, and in more areas than I’d listed on my to do chart.

We shall see what tomorrow brings….

Despite what the weathermen are saying, it BETTER NOT BE SNOW…


Speaking to a group of moms has me all in a tizzy

Tomorrow night I’m scheduled to speak to a group of moms and share some wisdom that I’ve learned over my tenure as a parent.  For one thing, I can’t possibly be old enough to have any words of wisdom to share…right? Aren’t I just starting out on this parenting journey?  The calendar (and my oldest child) tell me that I have been a parent, in fact, for 17 years and so therefore I should have some thoughts to offer.   Here’s the list I compiled that may or may not make the talk tomorrow night:

1.  If you have boys, your bathroom will most likely be gross.  And by gross, I mean, in the running for Worst Outhouses of the Year.   I have come to realize that this doesn’t necessarily reflect poor housekeeping skills.   Five minutes after your best cleaning job, one of those little people could have to go and their aim isn’t really great.  Or even a high priority.  I do the best I can, and keep hoping that some day they will too.

2. There will always be errant socks in the strangest places in your house.  Don’t blame the dogs; the kids are the culprits.  I have found socks on top of the mantel, on the island, and one just recently on the deck.  But the day I find TWO socks in any one place is the day I will probably fall over dead.

3.  Kids will pick the best times to get sick.  (Of course, is there *any* good time to be sick? NO.  The answer is always NO)  Beware especially of car trips, large family gatherings, and the night before abdominal surgery.  That’s when stomach bugs are the most vicious and children are especially vulnerable.  Oh, and whenever you are nowhere near a proper–or even improper–receptacle.

4.  Drinks usually spill on and dirty shoes traipse through any floor that was just cleaned.  I think they have radar for such things.

5.  You would not believe how many variations kids can come up with when placing a shirt on a hanger.  I have counted about 27 so far.

6.  Just when you think you’ve lost your mind with the lack of sleep, crazy schedule, and endless to do lists scratched on napkins or the back of your hand, one of those little people spontaneously wraps his or her arms around your neck and exclaims, “You’re the best Mommy there is!”


Then suddenly, of course, it all makes sense.  You don’t do it for the accolades (huh? Is Worst Outhouse of the Year considered an accolade?), and you don’t do it for the money.  You don’t do it so you can fight the urge to compare yourself to the other moms you know who you’re sure are getting this mommy thing down better than you.  You do it because those little people are your little people, and even though they may leave a trail of destruction behind them and make you want to pull out your hair some days, they are a lot like you: works in progress.

And you just love them.


“For at the proper time”

While I was taking my walk this afternoon in the brilliant fall weather,  complete with clear blue skies as a backdrop to the myriad leaf colors, I had an imaginary conversation with my oldest daughter.  It morphed into something completely different, however.

In my imagination, I sat down next to Hannah on the couch, and simply asked, “When you’re married and pregnant with your first child, will you come to me and allow me to teach you about all the options for your birth and how to prepare for it?”  Does that sound strange?  At first, perhaps, but I spent the better part of fifteen years immersing myself in the pregnancy, birth, and baby world: first as an active participant, but also as an educator.  Over 160 couples came through our classes in the ten years that we taught, and I had the privilege of attending just over 30 births.   Although I wasn’t an expert birth professional, it was definitely my passion and I approached it with the vim and vigor necessary to prepare couples for the excitement and hard work ahead of them.  From our personal experience, the births of our children were some of the sweetest times in our lives together as husband and wife and the teamwork we needed brought us quite close together.

I desire to pass that knowledge along to all of my children, but admit that my relationship is probably best suited to most easily share it with my daughters.  I can teach them how to prepare for birth, I can explain the different amazing steps of the birth process and show how to use that knowledge to work through labor towards the goal of a satisfying birth experience and happy and healthy outcome.  It was such a large part of our lives (and my kids’ lives) for so many years that I hope it’s not a strange or awkward subject to broach.  (Although we don’t sit around watching Bradley birth videos, thankfully, I often think that a well-placed viewing of one of the more…”illustrative” births would have repercussions for years to come with the kids! *Past Bradley folks, I know you know what I mean…*)  My sons are better suited to receive the advice on how to be a supportive husband and father during pregnancy and labor, and how to fill their ‘tool belt’ of support to guide and comfort their wives during that time.  But I digress…

And then, as I imagined sitting with Hannah, before she could even  answer in my daydream, I felt like a gentle voice was asking me, “What else could you teach your kids from experience and wisdom? Can you teach them about Me the same way you desire to teach them about birth?”

Woah.  In an instant, the realization washed over me that although the awesomeness of pregnancy and birth cannot be overstated, it is in an entirely different realm than sharing the knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ.  What better conversation to have with each of our kids, not just once while sitting next to each other one day, but daily, constantly, like the verse in Deuteronomy exhorts.  “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  As much as I read my books for classes, how much more could I impart to our kids if I put the same effort and passion into studying the Bible and memorizing the truths therein?  Even beyond quiet time, and beyond prayer (which, with six kids and homeschooling, I feel like I’m constantly praying, but I think that’s missing the point!)… I’m thinking that prompting was to get me thinking about having the truth of Scripture in my own head and at the ready so I can pass it along to my kids at any time.  In the same way that I could list the stages of labor and explain how the process works in greater detail than most people want to hear, I should be able to give an answer in most situations and encouragement to my kids as they grow into adults and mature in their lives.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but with blessing (1 Peter 3:9)

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble. (Proverbs 28:14)

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to do so. (Proverbs 3:27)

Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

And the voice that quietly spoke to me and encouraged me while I walked, “Be excited to ask your kids if you can teach them about Me like you get excited to teach them about anything else.”   It’s a convicting reminder.  Our kids have grown up in church and in the knowledge of God, but that doesn’t guarantee a relationship.  The personal decision to accept that Christ died for each one of them, and develop that relationship with their Creator and Savior, is ultimately their decision alone.  But am I doing everything I can, both by example and by passionate teaching, towards that relationship and the blessings that come from it? Am I sharing the character of God, His goodness, His promises, and His love?

I have so far to go and so much to learn myself, and sometimes I feel that we are wholly inadequate to bear the responsibilities that come with parenting.  But with the grace of God,  we will keep going, and keep trying to share the most important truths of life.  I’m thankful for the gentle reminder today to be enthusiastic and excited about sharing what I’ve learned with the most precious people I know.  We can’t give up now!

 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)


“Learning to Love What Must Be Done:” a guest post

Tonight, as I feverishly try to wrap up the day’s to do list (as the clock mercilessly plods on–and dare I say, seems to be going faster?), I have nothing to say.  But, as I feverishly try to finish my cooking, baking, bed-making, laundry-folding, and grocery-putting-away-ing, this article is all I can think of tonight.  A good friend of mine shared it with me, and I’d like to pass it forward.  It is convicting and encouraging all at once.  How many times have I corrected my kids for complaining about their jobs while groaning about having to cook dinner again?  I wish I had written this article, but I most certainly did not, so I will try to give all the proper credit to the wise one, Christopher Perrin, who did crafting.  For more information about the Circe Institute, please click here.


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Learning to Love What Must Be Done
By: Christopher Perrin
I am sure that most of you, like me, have fought hard to overcome a perpetual desire to relax and procrastinate when important tasks loomed. Those of you who have never battled with procrastination–well, your problems are obviously of another sort. In college, I recall several who transformed the practice of putting things off into art. Do you remember the guy in your dorm hall who wouldn’t begin his term paper till the night before it was due–and somehow still got an A? These types make it tempting for all of us.

The etymology of procrastination is worth examining: the word comes from the Latin pro ( forward, on behalf of) and cras (tomorrow). Therefore, at its root, the word means pro-tomorrow. Remember the maxim of the slacker: Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? In contrast, we find encouragement of a different sort from the German poet Goethe: Cease endlessly striving for what you would like to do and learn to love what must be done.

I can sure do with a little more Goethe; and I am forced to reason that my children must need his advice, too. Many voices call for our attention–and not all of them bad. Sure, there are the typical scoundrels calling for us: hours of mindless TV programs, on-line surfing and chit-chat and other forms of “entertainment” that do little to exalt our minds or souls (no wonder Christopher Wren called TV “chewing gum” for the eyes). There are some good TV programs available too–some unusually good programs on the History Channel (but also some weird ones). We must admit, too, that amidst the ocean of drivel on the internet there are some exceptionally good sites and resources. Rejecting good things for what is best can be sorely difficult–should the family stay home tonight or take off for a church service or activity?

Finding a routine helps–for the routine answers the questions before they come up. Yes, we are going for a walk this afternoon–we always do. Yes, we will start homework after dinner–that is our routine. Crafting the routine, of course, is not necessarily easy. I know many families have great, thoughtful, tested and re-tooled routines (could you send me a copy?). Some families with younger children (or maybe only one young child) are probably still working on crafting a family rhythm and pattern. Establishing a routine that works well is an ongoing enterprise, that keeps answering the question of what must go, stay or be added.

Once we have created a workable routine, another challenges becomes clear. How do we maintain momentum, energy, stability and peace? At least part of the answer comes from Goeth: we should love those things we must do. Once our daily tasks become beloved tasks, the routine become less routine. This, I believe, is something we can pass on to our children, like an attitude, for Goethe is encouraging a mindset not an activity. If they see some measure of joy as we cook, clean, mow and repair, they are apt to find it easier to love (in a manner of speaking) clearing their plates, bathing and doing homework. Strange as it is, they usually grow up to be like us.

Education, after all, is largely a matter of routine. Nothing is mastered without regular visitation, review and study. And education never stops. If we can, we should cast the work our students do as a labor of love, a life-long love, and we should love what they do too. Education will have its high moments, its epiphanies, break-throughs and moments of joy–much like a marriage. But the larger tranquility of a good education comes from the regular labor of worksheets, translations and reading assignments, in the same way a good marriage grows on preparing a meal, raking the lawn and taking a walk.

Once we have created a routine and learned to love it, we can also find yet even further comfort in knowing that a regular part of our routine must be to break from it. We call these breaks of routine by various names, such as “dinner out,” “week-ends” and “vacations.” These can be holy days in their own right, those special routines that are special largely because they are not daily, and because they are a ritual of celebration. And we celebrate with the most poignant joy when our work is done (the hay is in the barn, the homework is all done–let’s go to dinner). Put another way, when we work well, we rest well.

Healing begins…NOW!



As much fun as it can be to relate irritating stories of long waits and frustrations in any area of life (snicker), I’m afraid I do not have one today.  When I initially got word that the first available appointment to cast Andrew’s broken arm wouldn’t be until this Friday, it was all frustration and irritation.  In addition to be a bit upset that his broken bone would be ‘un-fixed’ for about ten days between injury and repair, I knew that we had unchangeable plans to travel to Michigan for a wedding on Friday.  And of course, it was the busiest day of the week for us–our CC day, the worst time to spend hours on the phone pleading my case.  Add to all of that how much I abjectly dislike talking on the phone AND trying to convince someone of my point of view (ask Todd; he has lots to say about the subject), and perhaps it’ll start to make sense as to why I sat in the sanctuary staring at my phone, giving myself a pep talk on how to get what I wanted and not take no for an answer.

But really.  Let’s step back for a moment and have a brief reality check.  His break isn’t that bad.  It’s a buckle fracture, which is common in growing kids when their bones are more cartilaginous than their fully-grown counterparts.   No bone fragments were poking through skin.  He wasn’t howling in pain at all hours of the night (although there were some hours that I complained).  I get that it was a relatively minor break, but it is still a break, and as such, should be repaired as quickly as possible before any weird problematic healing can occur.  (I did a lot of google searches and reading about Salter-Harris type II fractures of the distal radius.)

OK. End of reality check.

After feeling like I had built myself up as best I could, I dialed the number and hoped for the best.  The phone call was not the best, but I managed to plead my case.  We had to leave Friday morning for a trip to the great white north, I explained, and was there any possible way that Andrew could get that cast on before then?

I was met with a long, seemingly interminable silence.  It was so lengthy and so silent, in fact, that I really wondered if she’d hung up on me.  No “I’m checking,” and no “give me a moment.”  Just nothing.  I waited, but almost had to say, “….Are you still there?”

Finally, there was a prolonged (but audible!) sigh, and the confirmation that they could double book an appointment on Wednesday afternoon.  I didn’t care if we were called ‘double booked’ or a ‘work in,’ I was just thankful that we had something before Friday.  After being reminded that we’d probably have to wait a significant amount of time, I thanked her and hung up.

Andrew survived the next two days (ha ha) with his arm wrapped at night and splinted during the day.  To our delight and relief, our trip to Georgetown this afternoon took longer than our actual wait in the office waiting room, but we did have time to parse and diagram a few sentences in the freezing cast room.


The entire experience was fabulous and he was treated so well.  The doctor (who had also treated Patrick earlier this year when he’d rolled his ankle), engaged Andrew in a lively conversation about how he’d fallen and the game he was playing when he tripped.   The doc had already looked over the x-rays, and in no time, the PA got to work at wrapping Andrew’s little arm.  He didn’t like the way the cast felt at first, but he has three weeks to get used to it (and probably sick of it before the end).  By the time we had checked out and made our follow-up appointment, he was grinning from ear to ear once more.



Once we arrived back home, he began the fun task of asking people to sign his black cast with silver marker.  As you can imagine, he’s looking forward to that part of the ordeal.  It’s a far cry from a week ago when he was whimpering and bemoaning, “I wish this had never happened!”

Let the healing begin!


PS One funny note:  when the doctor and the PA walked into our room, the first thing one of them observed was, “WOW, it is COLD in here!” (It was. My nose was chilly by the time they strode in, but thankfully, Andrew seemed blissfully unaware.)  The other comment the doc remarked to the PA was, “Does it smell like a candle in here to you? It smells….sweet or something.”  I sniffed, trying to see if I, too, could smell it, but I detected nothing.  It wasn’t until the ride home that it dawned on me that the “candle” smell was actually the Thieves Oil Andrew and I had doused ourselves with before going inside.  Call me crazy, but strange office waiting room + all sorts of potential germs + Thieves Oil = less potential strange germs coming home with us.  You can call it witchcraft if you’d like, but I’m not going to be caught out there.  Even if it means I’m classified as smelling like a candle.  I can live with that.

Sorry, my son’s windows were open…

I had started another post a few minutes ago when our oldest son sat down with his iPod to show me pictures he’d taken from his camping trip this weekend.  Initially, I selfishly groaned inwardly, thinking that I just wanted to finish my list of tasks for the day so I could call the day DONE and drop into my bed.  But then, my teenager son had voluntarily sat down next to me, ready to share the details of his trip that only a few hours before he’d seemed totally uninterested in talking about.   How could a blog post possibly be better than that?!? It can’t. It simply cannot.

Several years ago, Todd and I took a parenting class (when we had one baby and were pregnant with our second…whew, does that feel like forever ago!) and although much of the class has gone the way of many pieces of information (gone, gone, gone), I clearly remember at least this advice (I’m paraphrasing it, of course, and may even get the details wrong, but bear with me): the thought that our children have windows to their beings.  Many times those windows are closed, but if you pay attention, they will open their “windows” and when they do, it’s when they are at their most open as people and will share so much of what they think, who they are, and other intimate details of their character.  I’m so very thankful for that wisdom because I see it in our children.  Perhaps I’m smart enough to have figured that gem out on my own, but I clearly observe different children in our house ‘allow us into their world’ at different times.

My oldest son has a very regular “window opening” time during the day, and most times it’s not when I would choose to schedule such times.  I know for certain that it is not right after any event, whether it’s CC, sporting events, times out with friends, or camping.  Usually, it’s late in the day, close to bedtime.  He comes to talk to his dad, or me, or both, and offers details into his life that we wouldn’t be able to pump out of him at any other time of the day.  I’m grateful to have learned that it can’t be pumped out of him (or any of the kids), no matter how hard we may try.  They have to come to us when they’re ready, and it’s our job to be watchful for the open windows. How many times have I missed the open windows either because I think I’m too busy getting my own jobs done or because I’m not paying attention?  I am working to be increasingly more intentional about looking for the opportunities that are put before me so that I don’t miss when our kids are ready to share and talk.

As I try to wrap my mind around the fact that Todd and I will have a 17-year-old in a couple days, the reality of the shortness of time weighs on me.  Where did those 17 years go? At the time, in the trenches if you will, the days sometimes felt long and tedious, but now, they were gone in a flash.  It makes me realize that time is short for this unique time in our family.  There will be a time when we all won’t live under the same roof again, but instead of letting sadness grip my heart, I’m trying instead to enjoy every day and every crazy situation we find ourselves in.  Hopefully, we’ll remember the ‘new driver days’ fondly and only laugh about the sit com-worthy conversations between beginner driver and white-knuckled parent(s).  I just did the math, and by my calculations, we’ll have new drivers in our house from now until at least 2023.  Surely it will get better by then…right?

And so it goes…every day an adventure.  I’ll be on the lookout for the open windows, whenever they present themselves.

And yes, I didn’t start writing this until after my son had shown me all of his camping pictures and shared all his exciting stories.  He had a bunch, and I was thankful to hear them.


Canada called, and it wants its weather back!

We woke up today in the Bluegrass to what felt like winter, at least for us.  What happened?  Even though the weatherpeople have been calling for a cold front to drop into Kentucky, it was still a harsh reality to step outside this morning and feel that cold front like a slap to the face.  To go from 86 degrees a day or two ago to whatever nonsense it was this morning is not my idea of fun!  If you’re a parent, this time of year is always such a drag, with “the changing of the seasons” in clothes for your young-ins.  Our family closet has mitigated some of the torture, to be sure (we don’t have to drag buckets and boxes upstairs from storage and somehow find places in dresser drawers for both seasons while the Kentucky weather makes up its mind as to what season it’s in), but even with the clothes all out and hanging,  the job of seeing what clothes still fit and what clothes need to be given away or passed down is a big one.   As with many things, I’ve been putting it off.   We have had cool mornings and evenings, but the days themselves have remained warm and even hot up until now.  But taking kids out into public with their shorts if it’s only going to creep into the 50s probably won’t win me any Mother of the Year awards.  (Based on past performances, though, I may already be banned from the running.)

OK, so the loathsome job o’ the week is definitely to go through the clothes, with a particular focus on pants.  Somehow the magic of growing boys and their legs seems to happen throughout the summer months, usually when it’s under cover (ironically) of shorts.  A young person can grow quite a bit before shorts are too short, I have observed.  Then, without warning, they go to put on jeans that fit just fine only three short months ago and they look like capris!  Oh dear.  I dread the job of having them put on every pair of pants that we have downstairs and showing me while I try to wisely decide if they fit into one of three categories: a) they fit and they can go back down in the closet; b) they’re a tad big, but may need to be put to use before the growing season is through; or c) they are too small, too worn, or just ready to be on their way out.  This job times six makes me tired before we even begin!  And yet somehow, we make it through, year after year.  I believe that this year will be no exception, and I thank God that we have clothes to go through and either bless someone else with or have to keep ourselves warm.  We are fortunate indeed.

We could have used some of those warm clothes earlier today, in fact, when we braved the elements to participate in yet another cross country meet.  To be sure, we are newcomers.  The boys are not experienced runners, but they are putting in the work outside of the meet days to make progress.  AND THEY ARE MOVING, almost daily.  Our goal for encouraging them to run with our CC team this year was twofold: everyone in our home could use more regular exercise (and what better way than to join in with friends with which to run, complain about running, and even, if lucky, barf together after running?); and what if one or three of the boys find that they really, really like to run cross country? Surely they wouldn’t have that revelation sitting in a chair at home.  So far, it’s been hard work.  It’s not exactly easy to just pick up and train to run for 3 and 4K courses, but they’ve all done a fantastic job.  They aren’t the fastest, but who knows if the running bug will catch them? A tutor (and seasoned marathon runner) gave each kid on the team a mileage chart to keep track of their miles when the season began, and the boys have run over 30 miles in less than a month.  They feel better about running around two miles about five days a week.  None of them gushes about how exhilarating the act of running in the neighborhood is just yet, but they are giving it the ole’ college try and honoring their commitment for the season.  That alone is worth commendation.  And many times it’s the toughest things that garner the biggest rewards, so we’ll see how they feel at the end of the season, and maybe, with some encouragement, they’ll continue running even through the winter.

And speaking of winter, that’s what it felt like today at the meet.  Clearly we were newbies and didn’t come prepared with our 732 layers of clothes to keep us warm (especially for those who weren’t running, but even for the runners).  They should have been dressed more warmly.  I could hear my mother and grandmothers chiding me in my ear the entire time with “THOSE BOYS ARE GOING TO CATCH COLD!  THEIR POOR EARS! OH DEAR, DEBBIE, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!?!?”  Truth is, I absentmindedly advised them to grab some warm clothes, but they didn’t exactly heed my half-hearted warning.   As a result, we all suffered for most of the time, except for when the boys were running.  They were plenty warm during that stretch of time!

I guess it’s time to stop procrastinating and get those clothes switched out.  If you see my kids in shorts for the next few days, please know that we are working on it.  Or they decided that they still like their shorts and want to wear them a wee bit longer.  Either way, I’m pretty sure whatever they have on is clean.   Or at least I sure hope so….


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