10 Summer Activities To Do With All Your Kids!

Summer’s upon us and I’m guessing you’ve already heard at least one “I’m bored” already. If so, I’ve got you covered!  No matter the age of your kids–babies all the way through college age–I’ve got some rock solid ideas to keep things fun this summer!

Just click on the graphic that applies to you!

Got more ideas to add to the mix? Share them in the comments so we can learn from each other!

Be a hero or Follow The Hero?

Today’s post is from my friend Patty Maier who was one of four writers who wrote the Hearts at Home Pantagraph newspaper column for many years. She and her family live in Forrest, Illinois where many different organizations benefit from her time and talents.

By the way….it’s not too late to get in on the Hearts at Home Illinois Conference! You can get your tickets–or pick up a Conference To Go–here!

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Do you ever feel like you hear the same message over and over? 

A couple weeks ago, my husband gave a talk to a group of parents during halftime at an Upwards basketball game.  He spoke about Jesus being our ultimate hero and how we should strive to be heroes for our children.

The word hero came up again in a movie I saw with my daughter.  I had given her the choice in what movie we would see together, and she chose “After I Fall.”  She told me the movie was like the movie “Groundhog Day.”  She was right,nalthough Groundhog Day’s comedy was replaced by worldly teen-girl drama.  Thankfully, the movie had some redeeming qualities.

In both movies, the lead actor re-lived a day over and over.  When the lead character thought that what they did didn’t matter, they made poor choices and treated people (including themselves) poorly.  When they realized that their actions made a difference, their choices totally changed.  How they treated people improved drastically.  Both movies showed the characters growing into less selfish, sensitive, caring people.

One line in this recent movie was, “What you do matters in the moment and maybe into infinity.”  I’m sure that wasn’t the first time my daughter heard that message (not the second either!) but I’m hoping she heard it more clearly through the movie.

How we see ourselves in this world matters.  When we realize the impact we can make even on a daily basis, it affects our attitudes.  Our perspective and choices and little things we do along the way do make a difference.  As the characters in these movies learned, we need to be intentional and deliberate each and every day.  We may not get the same kind of do-over in real life as in these movies nor do we get everything all figured out as the movie characters seem to, but we do get a new beginning every day and have access to endless grace.

Sometimes we all need to hear the same message over and over.

The past few weeks, I’ve been feeling less than.  Like I’m not enough.  Things in my life are changing, and I’m struggling.  Decisions made concerning the organizations I volunteer with are changing the opportunities I have to serve.  There goes some of my purpose.  My teens who are days away from turning 17 are both struggling to mature which makes me question my parenting.  And my worth.  I’m definitely not feeling like anyone’s hero.

Sometimes the reason we hear a message over and over again is because we’re not getting it.

I think I got hung up on thinking I had to be some sort of hero.  I certainly don’t fit the dictionary’s definition of hero–a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.  I surely haven’t done anything grand.  But if I go back to the Bible verse my husband shared, his definition of hero is much more obtainable.  John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  When I think of laying down one’s life, I think about sacrifices and about putting myself (my feelings, my wants, my time, my to do list, …) aside and putting the needs of others first.  I can do that!

I finally got the message.  I’m done beating myself up for not being a hero.  Instead, I’m going to keep making a difference by loving those around me and following my ultimate Hero.  If I can do that, I’m giving my kids someone they can look up to. 

What about you? What message are you hearing over and over that you need to get? Where are you chasing an impossible goal that needs a change in perspective?

There’s Another Woman In My Son’s Life

“Mom, will you run up to the mall with me Sunday after church? I’ve narrowed my wedding attire down to two different suits and I’d like to have your thoughts.”

I indicated that I’d be happy to do that, fully aware that he has taken the stand that if he can’t see Larisa’s wedding dress until the wedding, then she can’t see his suit until the day of the wedding either.

This youngest of mine is a senior in college. He attends Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, two hours north of our home in Central Illinois. Mark and I teased him from day one in college that when he came home on the weekends, it wasn’t to see us. His then girlfriend, Larisa, was attending college in our community and, of course, he wanted to see her…a lot! Ahhhhh….young love.

On this particular Sunday, however, I thought that it was logical that my boy and I could catch some lunch either before or after we hit the mall.  I didn’t mention lunch ahead of time…I just assumed it would work. As we pulled out of the church parking lot, I said to him, “So do you want to grab some lunch, too?”

“No, Larisa’s making lunch for me. She likes to do that,” he responded.

That’s when it hit me. There’s another woman in my son’s life now and she’s moving up the priority list the closer they get to their wedding date in December.

It’s what should be happening, but that doesn’t make it any easier on a mama’s heart. Letting go is never easy.

I found myself at a crossroads. I internally considered what I perceived as my three choices in this moment:

  1. Incite guilt with a slightly snarky response that “his mother also likes to have lunch with him” or that he “had already seen her 10 times more than he’d seen his dad and I that weekend.”
  2. Stuff it and say nothing, allowing the pain to sear my heart and a few wall-building bricks to be laid in my heart between my son and I.
  3. Release and accept it, asking God to help me adjust my expectations, accept the reality of letting go, and be grateful for the one-on-one time we would still have for the next hour or so at the mall.

While my head wanted to react almost immediately with option #1, thankfully I held my tongue. In the timespan of just a minute or so, I mulled my options over in my head. He was oblivious to the battle going on inside of me. Landing on Option #3 allowed me to make a quick internal adjustment, focus on gratitude, and enjoy the time we still had together.

Letting go is never easy. It doesn’t matter if you’re leaving a little one for an overnight getaway with your husband, or sending your five-year-old off to school, or driving your pre-teen to their first slumber party, or letting your 16-year-old take their first drive alone, or sending your young adult off to college, or watching your child prepare for marriage.

We can look at each of those situations through the eyes of loss or gain. Sometimes we can process that choice over the weeks and months of a season of time and other times, like my recent Sunday, we have to make a split second decision on how we’re going to let go gracefully.

It’s true that there’s another woman in Austin’s life. I’m naturally moving down the priority list. That’s the reality of them living out Genesis 2:24 calling a couple to “leave and cleave” when they get married.

Yes, there’s some grief in the journey, but today and each day forward I’m choosing to look through the eyes of gain rather than loss.

I’m not losing a son, but gaining a daughter.

What about you? How are you handling the changes in life? What is God teaching you in your journey of parenting? 

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!

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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.

Tab #1: IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS:

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.

Tab #2: FAMILY CONTACTS and PASSWORDS:

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.

Tab #4: FINANCES:

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 outtoseaparentsguide.com.

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

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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?