Sunrise Sunset

Last night I had hoped to make a trip to Springfield to be at our granddaughter’s school concert but I just didn’t have the energy for the two hour round trip after my second shoulder surgery on Tuesday (I had developed adhesions after my first rotator cuff repair in December and didn’t have a good range of motion…this surgery took care of that.)

When my son suggested he and I go to a local performance of Fiddler on the Roof that his fiance had choreographed, I took him up on the offer.  I love Fiddler on the Roof.  In high school, I played the role of Hodel and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Austin asked me what it is that I love about the musical and as I thought about it, I concluded that it is it’s timelessness. While the story is set in 1905, the issues that Tevye and Golde deal with are today’s issues: children growing up too fast, cultural changes that affect the family, letting go, watching adult children make choices you don’t agree with, community, marriage, faith, hope, and love.

With my man-boy sitting next to me approaching college graduation and a wedding–both in December–I was drawn into the words of the Sunrise, Sunset song that Tevye and Golde sing, “”When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall? Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?”

So today I’m sentimental. Pensive. And reminded that parents through the ages have faced the same challenges we face today.

Letting go is never easy, but always necessary.

My Secret Weapon When Traveling With Kids

It doesn’t matter if you’re driving across town or taking a long road trip to Grandma’s house, every parent needs a secret weapon for those moments when the little ones are fussy.

When my kids were younger, my secret weapon was bubbles. In the car. Using the air vents.

Now that I’m a Nana, I once again have my car stocked with bubbles.

Here’s a video showing you just what I do!

Four Keys to Guide your Child from Lying to Loving the Truth!

Today’s post is provided by Jim and Lynne Jackson. Jim and Lynne are speakers, authors, and parent coaches, with over fifty years of combined professional experience working with children, teens, and families. In 2002 they founded Connected Families to guide parents toward peace, connection, and authentic faith in their homes. They have co-authored How to Grow a Connected Family and Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart. 

Jim and Lynne will be speaking at the 2017 Hearts at Home conferences! Registration is now open for the April 21-22 conference in Peoria, Illinois! Mark and I will be joining Jim and Lynne and over a dozen other speakers for a powerful conference that will recharge your mom batteries for sure! Register now to get your top workshop choices!


Kids are bound to lie and parents are bound to catch them… and then punish or lecture them. Unfortunately, this can spiral into a contentious cat-and-mouse game, as kids get craftier and parents get angrier.

In our work with parents, we have seen that treating lying with grace AND placing a high value on truth-telling powerfully opens children’s hearts to the Holy Spirit’s conviction about lying and honesty.

Here are four ways to make that practical:

  1. Acknowledge the gift-gone-awry. One thing that helps build bridges of trust if your child struggles with lying, is to acknowledge he just might be using a few good “gifts gone awry” to do it… like creativity, confidence, good memory, and even a desire to keep the peace. Our son Noah struggled for a little while with truth-telling. He was definitely a “get along with everyone” kind of kid that didn’t want to disappoint us. We named that good trait and then asked, “this is not the most helpful way I’ve seen you use it, however. It’s important that we keep a close, trust-based relationship. What are your ideas about that?”
  2. Affirm truth-telling. When you know your child might be tempted to lie, set them up to tell the truth. Instead of firmly asking “Did you brush your teeth?” say, “Let’s quick check your toothbrush before you leave. Do you think I’ll find it wet or dry?” Then, when the child says, “It’s still dry.” You can respond by affirming the true answer. “You could have lied about that but you didn’t. When you tell the truth like this it helps me trust you more. Thanks! I really appreciate that.”

    Parents can also help children learn to value honesty as they “catch them telling the truth” without prompting. Kids tell the truth much more often than they lie. Especially for younger kids, listen to a child tell a story about her day, or ask a child his favorite food or color or vacation. Any time you hear truth you have a chance to affirm, “You’re telling the truth, aren’t you? That feels good, doesn’t it?”
  3. Value honesty in anger. A great opportunity to affirm truth-telling is when kids are angry and spouting off. Parents can affirm the gift of honest expression “gone awry”. “You are really ticked off about this! I think it would be best to talk about it when you’re calmer but I really appreciate how honest you were with me just now. Even if it’s hard to hear, that’s really important to me.” This sends strong messages to the child – Your honesty is more important to me than your delivery; Heart connection is more important than outward behavior.
  4. Teach about God’s conviction. Lying is a valuable opportunity to help your kids learn to tune into that subtle, unsettled feeling of God-given conviction, which truly is the “best consequence” to teach integrity. At a relaxed time, talk with your kids about that “knot in their stomach” they might experience when they lie or do something else that is hurtful. Help them view this as a good thing, a sign of maturity, even a gift. It’s God’s protection of their life and relationships.  The Holy Spirit guides us into truth, and that truth — including the truth about our sin — sets us free (John 16:13, John 8:32). Share an example of a time you lied or were deceitful, how you felt God’s conviction, what you did to make it right, and how you felt afterward.We gently helped our son Noah learn to tune into that “Holy Spirit knot in his stomach.” He began to come to us (sometimes in tears), “Mom, Dad… I lied again.” This gave us a rich opportunity to affirm his tender conscience and honesty, and extend forgiveness. It was the beginning of his growth to the meticulously honest young man he is today.

When we respond to our children in this way, we not only create the closeness that is fertile soil for honesty, but it draws our kids toward the gracious, come-alongside role of the Holy Spirit in their lives. And what can be better than that?!  

What about you? What strategies have you used to help your kids move from lying to telling the truth?

The Gift of Peace of Mind

Last weekend I learned about a gift my friend Jody Antrim had given her grown children at Christmas. I loved the idea of it so much that I asked Jody if she would share about it here on my blog! No matter what season of life you’re in, this gift can inspire you in some way. Maybe you need to create a binder like this or maybe you need to request that your parents create something like this for you! I’ll let Jody fill in the details:

This Christmas my husband and I gave the gift of “peace of mind” to six people and the total cost for all six was under $75!  Our gift was to “put our affairs in order” for our two adult daughters, their spouses, and ourselves.  I just turned 65, and my husband and I are in excellent health.  So why the need to do this when all is well? A better question: Why wait for the stress of a critical diagnosis or unexpected accident?   It’s always the right time to share the gift of peace of mind.  This is what our gift looked like before wrapping it up.


There are so many ways to organize important information.  I could have gone paperless and prepared a digital file for our gifts.  But I’m a 3-ring binder kind of gal, and I needed to touch it and be able to easily see where changes were needed.  It takes some work, so it’s important to choose a method that makes it as easy on yourself as possible.

The key is to start and tweak as you go along.  Our daughters’ notebooks were wrapped and then opened Christmas morning, but they will remain a work in progress, we hope for many years to come.  There will be annual updates and additions as required.

With some ideas from others who have experience with this task, I began. Each notebook had 5 tabs and this is how I divided up the information.


This section contains a copy of our will.  We used an online version from Quicken.  It cost $60.  It guided us through all the questions we needed to answer.  It includes delegating authority over our finances and health decisions.  We printed it out, found 2 witnesses younger than ourselves who live nearby, and then got it notarized.  We have the original in our file cabinet we’ve named “Information Central” and made copies for each of our girls.  We also included in this section of the notebook, copies of our birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, Social Security cards, etc.  All the originals are still in “Information Central” at our house.


I come from a large family spread across the country.  I have a document with each of my siblings’ address, phone, and email address.  I have another “Next Generation” document of my nieces and nephews with the names, birthdates, addresses, phone, email, and their children.  Additionally I may add other important family friends to this section.

We also included a spreadsheet of all our passwords!  There are so many!  Both the family contacts and passwords include information on where to find these documents in our computer.

Tab #3: HEALTH

In this section we included the names and contact information of doctors.  One could also include any major medical diagnosis and treatments.  We have also authorized our doctor to freely share any of our medical information with our daughters at their request.  We are an open book!

We also included Medicare and supplemental insurance information.  Insurance is simplified because we have one agent for our health, auto, and homeowners’ insurance.


This included the name and contact information for our financial advisor and our account numbers.  We also included our bank account numbers and online banking information.  This is also where we include debit and credit card information.

Tab #5: OTHER:

For now this includes information for our post mortem wishes.

Deciding on tabs is all about making it your own.  I have already thought of future tabs.  I want to add “HEIRLOOMS” to the notebook.  There are furniture pieces, jewelry, artwork, and other items passed down that have special meaning.  I will include photos and descriptions so the stories aren’t lost.  I also want one titled, “HOME” and keep track of home improvements.

There are a number of factors that made this gift less challenging to create.  Our life is pretty simple.  We didn’t have complications such as divorce, step children, owning our own business, debt, multiple properties, unresolved conflict in family relationships, etc.  More complications may call for a visit to a lawyer to iron out specifics.  But even with those challenges, you can begin with some simple steps.  One step at a time and you can build order into your life.

One thing we did when we gave the notebooks to our daughters and sons-in-law, was include plans to treat the six of us to dinner at a quiet restaurant.  No children were invited…it was an evening to ask questions, discuss decisions, and mostly just enjoy the peace of knowing we love each enough to do the work required.  That dinner made all the work worth it! All six of us savored the meal, the company, and the peace of mind.

We gave this gift to our daughters for Christmas, but it can be given at any time.  And it’s a gift that will keep on giving as we add to it and update on a regular basis.   If you are the parent of adult children, I encourage you to share this gift with your children.  If you are the adult child, treat your parents to dinner and let them know how much you want to be prepared to honor their wishes.  Show them this blog and help them with the process.

We are beginning 2017 with a load off of our minds…and so are our adult children.  I’m grateful for the assistance I was given, and I want to pay it forward.  Have fun at the office supply store!

Is Your College Student Home For Winter Break?

If you’ve been hanging around here for very long, you know that I’m an advocate for setting realistic expectations. Our unrealistic expectations breed disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment. Today’s guest post helps with expectations for parents of college students.

Kelly Radi is the author of Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage. A mom of two daughters who went from diapers to diplomas in a nano-second, Kelly empowers parents as they prepare to launch their children. You can find her online at

If you don’t have college students, do you know someone who does that could use these wise words?


Winter break is here. It’s the time of year when parents eagerly anticipate their college students returning home. They have visions of sugar plums and expectations of Norman Rockwell-like family moments—gathering around the fireplace, playing games, telling stories and eating popcorn.

They will be disappointed.

Holiday break is often the first time students return home for an extended period of time and parents are often shocked and disappointed when their expectations are not met. Whether your child has been home several prior weekends or if you haven’t seen him or her since move-in day, be prepared for a change. The student you dropped off in August will not be the same one who returns home for the holidays.

Students mature and and develop new habits once they leave home. Winter break will be a more positive experience for all parties involved (including siblings) if parents know what to expect before their students arrive home for holiday break:

  1. Your child will come home tired. Expect him to sleep a lot.
  2. Your child will come home hungry. Expect her to eat a lot.
  3. Your child will come home with piles of dirty laundry. Expect your washing machine to run a lot.
  4. Your child is used to having alone time. Expect his need for space.
  5. Your child is used to having social time. Expect her to want to see her friends.
  6. Your child is self-sufficient and able to manage his own schedule. Expect him to want some autonomy.
  7. Your child will come home eager to let you know how smart, evolved, and worldly she has become. Expect to be challenged a lot.

For some parents, the hardest part about a child being home on break is that he doesn’t seem to be home at all. In fact, this disappearing act is quite common, especially among first-year college students.

It never hurts to remind your child that family living requires mutual respect and some give-and-take. Then, as parents, we must also remember to heed our own advice. Compromise and communication are key to a cohesive winter break with your college student!


What about you? What wisdom do you have for parents navigating winter break with a college student? 

Give the Gift of Holiday Freedom

gettyimages-489349424-1We didn’t spend Thanksgiving with a single one of our five children.  Did it feel odd? Yes. Was it the best for everyone? We think so.

Our oldest daughter and her husband alternate holidays with his family and our family; this year Thanksgiving was with his family. Our oldest son lives in California and coming home for Thanksgiving just wasn’t in the budget. Our middle daughter and her husband and our granddaughter were already expected at two different Thanksgiving gatherings on his side of the family. Child number four was planning to spend the holiday with some friends, and our youngest and his fiancé would have been happy to join us, but we decided to give them the freedom of no expectations and the ability to enjoy the day fully with her family. Instead of gathering our immediate family, Mark and I drove a couple hours to spend time with our parents.

I love the holidays but I don’t love them more than my family. I love traditions but I don’t love them more than the people I share those traditions with.

Too often the biggest “gift” given at the holidays is guilt. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is give our family freedom.

So instead of turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie on Thursday, we had a family gathering of whoever could come for pizza and games last weekend. Instead of ham, sweet potatoes, and persimmon pudding on Christmas Day, we’ll gather everyone who can come together on a day that works best for all either before or after Christmas.

One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to allow change to happen as your kids get older. Their sphere of relationships grows exponentially when they marry and start a new family. These days I’m using phrases like these more often:

“We understand. It’s not the day that’s important. We’ll find another time that works better!”

“Your heart is most important to us. We don’t want to add any additional pressure by piling on expectations. If you can join us, we’ll be thrilled and if you can’t, we understand.”

“I love you. I love you the same no matter what decision you need to make for your sanity and what’s best for your family.”

Want to give a powerful gift this holiday season? Give the gift of freedom. Flexibility. No expectations. Unconditional love. Your loved ones will thank you!

Are You Digging For Gold?

Today’s guest post is provided by popular Hearts at Home author and speaker Dr. Todd Cartmell. Todd is a child psychologist who offered great content as a workshop speaker at our 2016 conferences. He’s also the author of the Hearts at Home book 8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids

If you’re looking for encouragement as a parent, Dr. Todd’s post today is very practical and just what you need!


Be a Gold Digger
By Todd Cartmell

download-1I admit this is a risky title for a blog for primarily moms, but I thought I’d go ahead and live dangerously.  I’ll let you know how it works out.  Needless to say, this blog is not about how to find an old rich guy to marry.

But it is about gold.  Lots of it.

Gold digging is actually a great term, because it carries two ideas with it.  First, there is some gold.  That’s good news.  Second, you have to put a little work in if you want to get it.

Here’s a reminder that every parent needs from time to time.  There is a lot of gold in your kids.  In fact, I like to think of kids as God’s gold nuggets.  Corny, but accurate.

The problem is that they probably don’t see the “gold” that God has hidden within them.  An even bigger problem is when mom and dad don’t see it either.  The writer of Hebrews tells us to, “encourage one another daily.”(Hebrews 3:13).One great way to encourage your kids is to point out the “gold nugget moments” that your kids have on a regular basis.

Your kids need your daily encouragement to remember who they are and who they can become.  Your kids are God’s handiwork and we don’t want them to forget it.  They are imperfect, they make mistakes, and they make their share of sinful choices, as do we all.  But no matter how challenging their behavior may be, God is working in them to develop traits that reflect his character, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And God is counting on your daily encouragement to help make that happen.

God wants you to be a gold digger.

One day, I asked my youngest son, Luke, to bring down his laundry basket so we could get some clothes washed.  He said, “Sure,” and came down with a basket filled to overflowing with dirty towels and workout clothes.  My options:

1) Say nothing.

2) Say, “Thanks.”

3) Say, “Thanks for bringing your clothes down so quickly.”

4) Say, “Thanks for bringing your clothes down so quickly, that was very helpful.”

Option 2 is okay, and option 3 is great, but option 4 will knock the ball out of the ballpark.  If you think about it, there is a positive characteristic or trait that underlies every one of your kids’ positive behaviors, even if it is in the embryonic stage.  And if you want that trait to grow, there is one thing to do:  Point it out.

You are digging for gold.  Your kids display positive “gold nugget” traits each day.  As a child psychologist, I work with extremely challenging kids and they all have gold nugget behaviors and traits that they display.  The question is whether you are looking for them.

Are you a gold digger?

For instance, if Emma spends thirty minutes working on her homework, what positive traits does that behavior display?

Possible answers: Hard working, diligent, responsible, flexibility, perseverance, self-control.

That’s not bad for half-an-hour of homework.

If Daniel lets his sister choose a game for them to play, what positive traits does that behavior display?

Possible answers: Friendly, flexible, considerate, fair, thoughtful, caring, kind.

Do you see what I mean?  Your kids may display more gold nugget behavior and traits than you realize.

When you point out your kids’ positive behaviors and the character traits that lie underneath, you are reminding them of the little ways that they are obeying God in how they treat others and handle situations throughout the day.  You are helping them to see that a good day doesn’t just happen by accident.  It happens as the result of many respectful and friendly choices – gold nugget choices to be exact.  You are reminding them that when they treat others the way they would like to be treated (Luke 6:13) it helps to make your family a fun place to be.

Let your encouraging words show your kids that you see God’s handiwork in them on a daily basis.  Point out at least one positive characteristic each day for each of your kids.  You will see their faces light up as you show them that you see the best in them, not the worst.  Better yet, your steady stream of encouragement will be shaping them from the inside out and helping them experience the joy in becoming all that God wants them to be.

In other words, be a gold digger.


todds-bookThis post is adapted from 8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids and I have good news for you! Right now…for a few more days…Todd’s book is available for $1.99! That’s a great deal that I wanted to make sure you knew about!

Not only that, but Dr. Todd has been featured on the Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast yesterday and today. You can listen to those programs FREE using the Focus on the Family smartphone app or online!


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products, systems, and services I love and use personally so I know you’ll be in good hands! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

6 Ways to Help a Grieving Parent

gettyimages-174686441-1In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan Proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  Today’s post was written by Emily Fawcett who understands the reality of infant loss.  I asked Emily to share how a mom can help another mom who is grieving the loss of a child.  These are her words of wisdom we all need to hear.


dsc_0314On Sept. 6, 2015, our family joyfully welcomed Sawyer Ruth into the world, and seven days later, we grieved our loss and celebrated her gain as she was healed in heaven. Then as quickly as our world exploded, it quieted again, and the stillness laid heavy on us. Not everyone walked away, we were and still are blessed with many people who chose to circle their wagons around our family. Their cards, messages, talks, and prayers cover and carry us still. However, we had others who just couldn’t handle our loss and our deep grief. For reasons I will never understand, they chose distance. And in that distancing, they lost us too. Perhaps if I had known these truths at the beginning, relationships would have lasted; but at that time, I was just trying to breathe.

At a little over a year, I am better able to understand what I need during what I pray is my lowest valley. If you are a mother who has lost a child, perhaps these truths will resonate with you. If you know a grieving mother, please take these truths and support and surround her as she struggles to find her new path.

I need you to walk alongside me. I know you can’t know my loss, nor do I want you to.  One mother described our need for companionship as the fellowship of grief. To have others gather alongside and say this is too much, can I help carry it.  “Bear each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galations 6:2

I need you to be messy with me. Grief is not pretty or neat or quick. Walking away or distancing yourself because it is too much for you hurts. It may be too much for you, but it is unbearable for me. Yet I bear it. I have no other choice.

I need to hear my child’s name. Please say her name to me; include her as part of your story. One of the greatest gifts, my mother has given me is to always tell people she has twelve grandchildren, though only eleven are here.

I need your “how are you?” to be genuine. Small talk is impossible; I just don’t have the energy. But if you really want to know how I am, I would love to tell you. I long to talk about my child.

I need you to remember dates along with me. I was paralyzed every month on the 6th and the 13th. My sisters never missed a date. They remembered every month along with me, which made me feel a little less alone. A card, a text, or just a simple, “I’m thinking of you” is enough.

I need to grieve. Don’t rush me or push me. We may not get to do very much for our children in the time we have with them; however, we all get to grieve. Let me grieve as long or as deep as I need to. Our counselor told us, “that our grief is proportionate to our love.” We love deeply; therefore, we grieve deeply.

For parents walking this lifelong journey of grief, please know that you are not alone. And for those who are watching others grieve, please let them know they are not alone. Let October 26th be a day for you to remember us, the ones who have lost, for not a day goes by where we need a calendar to remind us.