Saturday, November 28, 2009

the governor of cereal

dear emily,

i have been thinking about the fun Christmas traditions we enjoyed with our kids.   the first craft was to make red and green  paper chains with 25 links. each day the kids would take turns cutting off one link to show how close we were to Christmas day.  we decorated yummy Christmas cookies and gingerbread men and assembled gingerbread houses that were loaded with every kind of candy imaginable.

my aunt fern started me a collection of Christmas books that we treasure. some of the loveliest tales ever written are Christmas stories.  i especially love one about a lonely young bride who makes a Christmas dinner for her family and the farm hands.  it paints a moving picture of selfless love, simplicity,  and gratitude.

as an act of rebellion, i play Christmas music on halloween and throughout the season.  it makes me happy that at Christmas i can hear Jesus' name lifted up in all the places He is no longer allowed!  i have stood in endless grocery store lines humming along to "do you hear what i hear? and o holy night." that only happens at Christmas.  my kids think i am nutty about Christmas music.

when the children were really little, they enacted the Christmas story. isaac was joseph, shelby played mary, max was the donkey,  sunday and hailey traded between being sheep, shepherds, angels, or the inn keeper.  we also memorized luke 2 and recited it each year.  the little ones inevitably said, "when quirinius was the governor of cereal."  i didn't have the heart to correct them, because it was just so sweet.

merry Christmas,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

psalms 100

dear emily,

'make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.'

nobody does this better than children.  while your hands are greasy from stuffing the turkey, you can bet
there will be a very loud noise erupt from the farthest corner of your house.

'serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.'

in assigning chores for the thanksgiving feast, remind the little noisemakers that servants are the heroes in the Kingdom.

'know ye that the Lord He is God:  it is He that has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of his pasture.
enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him and bless His name.'

we used to share what we were thankful for before eating the thanksgiving meal.  if someone was a little nervous speaking in front of our huge extended family, i would read it for him.  i think someone said,
'halloween candy' one year.

'for the Lord is good: His mercy is everlasting: and His truth endureth to all generations.'


happy thanksgiving,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

dear emily,

i awoke in the middle of the night, thinking, "i really need to alert emily about teenagers!"  even though you still have six or seven years until that time, it will help you to keep this in your cap until then.

many of our friends parented with the goal of helping their kids to make only good decisions, which is a fine aspiration. unfortunately, it is like wishing for an ocean and beach to miraculously appear in your backyard!

it is inherent for teens to make foolish and dangerous choices, because they think they are indestructible.

if you can accept this now, you will parent it better then.  when they slip up, try to encourage yourself with the truth that they rarely do it to hurt you.  we know this is true, because, honestly they don't think about their parents often. :)

another comforting reality is that while they are still at home, they have you to pull them up by their bootstraps, love them, forgive them, and correct them.   every poor choice and consequence will hopefully inoculate them from repetition after they leave home.

your gracious yet firm response will, more importantly, rebuild their fragile egos with your unconditional love.

pray psalm 91 over them each day and trust that the One who holds them in the palm of His hand
will keep them from serious harm.


peanut gallery comments, please!

dear emily,

hans said that i should open this up for other moms to post advice, and i think that is a great idea! i was a little worried about 'weird' postings, but after reviewing some of mine think they would fit right in...

then my friend, yleana, told me that she wasn't able to comment on my letters. after checking, i discovered that i had inadvertently pushed a button to not allow comments! this is basically how i raised my kids..."no comments from children, please." :)

so, if you or your friends remember wonderful...or terrible things your moms did, just push the comment button and enlighten us!


ps. happy thanksgiving to your little turkeys!


"my mom made us verbalize the bad stuff we did or said and also tell her our motivation. sorry was not good enough. lesson: own what you have done before moving on." -jordania

"independent moms can sure create dependent children...we tend to jump in faster...and what does
this child learn? to keep coming to me...and to question her own judgment!" -lael

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


i recruited some help from wise women:

"take their door off the hinges to show them who the house belongs to!" -becky and tamra

"don't always bail them out of every fix." -laura

Friday, November 13, 2009

nine lives

dear emily,

i bet you miss your biology classes some days when you spend your time, instead, changing diapers and wiping runny noses.  let not your heart be troubled, because you will have many adventures after your sweet babies have left the nest.

let me encourage you with some stories about my grandmother.  if the proverbial cat has nine lives, then she had at least that many!

in her first life, her family came to oklahoma in a covered wagon to be missionaries to the indians.

her second life brought marriage and her third, eight children!

her fourth life brought her widowhood, as her husband and oldest child were murdered in her kitchen...
a devastating heartbreak still.

was her life over? absolutely not!

instead, she had a fifth life in raising those seven children not only to keep up the family farm, but also to excel in school.

her sixth life took her to the campus of northwestern university, where she was the dorm mom (my dad had to live his senior year in a tiny dorm room with her.)  this provided the tuition waiver for her oldest kids to attend college. after all seven children graduated from college, three attended medical school and one, law school.

the impoverished med and law students passed her '57 chevy between them until it journeyed to my cousin lane.  she painted it pink, named it 'talulah', and then sent it to me for my 16th birthday!

are you keeping up?

ok, now grandma was in her fifties and retiring to the rocking way!  in her seventh life SHE went to college and became the best first grade teacher ever! i was old enough by then to visit her class.

her eighth life took her to seminary and ordination as a methodist minister at the young age of  65.  she had a little church in manter, kansas for many years, which i was happy to attend.

in her late seventies, she did finally become the secretary to the ORU chaplain and to disciple young ORU married students in her tiny cottage.  one of my best friends, anna mae, was in that blessed group.  that makes nine!

in her tenth life, she traveled all around the world, taking me to israel when she was 84!!!

take that, kitty kitty!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


dear emily,

my children heard me say "be a blessing!" every time they walked out the door.

i wanted them to be cheerful, kind, obedient, peaceful, and helpful.  they understood that all these actions were necessary to be a blessing, and we practiced them every day at home.  

this required me to conform to the same standard, and i can assure you, they would let me know when i was grumpy or impatient.  all of us continuously fell below the benchmark,  but we asked forgiveness and then tried harder.

i used to dread teachers' conferences for fear of what i might hear.  there were comments like, "hailey is just the sweetest thing, but she falls asleep during history every day."  that teacher eventually had the other students color while she took her nap!

another teacher remarked, "shelby is easily the brightest and most helpful child in the class, but would you remind her that i am the teacher?"

on several occasions, teachers would burst into tears and say, "your child has been the biggest blessing in my classroom.  i have never had a more caring or obedient student!"  then i would burst into tears.

that didn't happen often in high school...


galatians 5:24
'the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.'

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

snakes on a plane!

ha ha!  shelby just told me that it is "snakes on a plane!"  oh well...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

snakes on the plane

dear emily,

i keep seeing commercials for this silly movie called 'snakes on the plane.' anyone who fears snakes on a plane has never been on one with a baby!

the terror rises while you stumble down the entry ramp towards the cabin door. the lovely and skinny young flight attendant is not happy to see you carrying your 15 pound baby, his 25 pound diaper bag, balancing your ticket and his pacifier between your first and second fingers, and dragging the stroller behind.

you are praying that your seatmate is an understanding and helpful mommy, maybe even your own mommy! 6 A B, 7 A B, 8 A smile nervously at the intimidating business man in his very expensive pinstripe suit and reptile shoes.

he does not smile back.

your sweet baby, who is vibing on your stress, is already getting a little fussy.

the thought of nursing your baby, with an uptight executive next to you, makes you want to wean him. then, horrors, your precious baby throws up all over mr. pinstripe, who hisses with displeasure.

your baby, however, is now content and sleepy, and you no longer care about a snake on the plane.


hey emily,

thank you for your sweet note and the darling drawings by the kiddos!

i have been thinking about our friends. we know how important it is for our children to choose their friends wisely. "show me your friends, and i will show you your future!" it is just as worthwhile that we, also, select our friends carefully.

when hans and i returned to our hometown after college, we decided that we wouldn't run with the affluent crowd. to be perfectly honest, i was afraid that i would get caught up in trivial things that i knew i had a weakness for.  so, instead, we knit our lives with those who were following the Lord, just like you are.

those dear friends prayed all night when we almost lost our first baby and later took our kids to the emergency room when we were out of town. we have cheered on each other's children in every sporting event imaginable, prayed for their success in all they do, and cried over their heartbreaks.

we have recently spent time with some of our oldest and dearest friends, and it melted our hearts to hear how devoted they are to our children. we love their beautiful daughters and are becoming friends, now, with their grandchildren!

thank you for being a devoted friend to shelby and hailey.

someday, your kids will befriend their kids...and on and on and on...

proverbs 17:17
'a friend loves at all times...'

Thursday, November 5, 2009

strong-willed children

dear emily,

james dobson saved my life with our strong willed daughter, shelby.  he encouraged me to not look at her nature as a trial but as a life with a strong purpose.  truthfully, though there were difficult aspects in raising such a strong will, the benefits dramatically outweighed the obstacles.

who would you rather have on your team, the person who doesn't really care or the one who knows the best way to win?

she really had the most brilliant ideas and constantly implored me to do better. i wish i had discovered earlier that her opposition to many things stemmed from her ability to improve ...almost everything i did. unfortunately, it never dawned on me that a three year old had a finer sense of schedules, clothing, cooking, cleaning, etc. than her mother!

no children's expert ever said, "some of you have children that can help you be a better mother." they all said, "whatever you do, make sure your strong willed child knows that you are the boss!"  so, one time i asked her in exasperation, "who do you think is the boss around here?"

she calmly replied, "me."

i wish i had just given her the car keys right then.

so, here is the balance.   she needed to know not only that mom and dad were the ultimate bosses but also that her opinions were valued and occasionally implemented.

a wise person once told us to never ask a child to do something or not to do something unless we were prepared to back it up.   this forced hans and i to think before we said things.   if we asked shelby to pick up her room, and she didn't do it, she had a consequence.  if she ran into the street after we told her not to, there was another consequence.

in spite of my many mistakes, shelby is now a precious young woman of God.  your little samara will be, too!


1 timothy 4:12
'don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.'

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

saved by the blanket

dear emily,

i performed many crazy experiments on my children. they suffered through my extreme health craze, no TV phase (for three or four years), and fanatical 'no santa' syndrome. i feel embarrassed about some of them, but am the most mystified by the blanket trick, because i only know of one other person who ever taught this to their toddlers.

there were many older women who gave me excellent child-rearing advice, but one surpassed them all. she taught me that you can spend all your time running around cleaning up messes and saving your kids from dangerous situations. but it is wiser to put that time to good use by training them to do little german shepherds! jk

she said that if i were to train my little puppies to sit on a blanket with special toys and books for a couple of minutes a day, they would become accustomed to it. then i would be able to take them anywhere, and they would feel safe with their blanket and not be so fidgety.

basically they could learn 'to stay' on the blanket.

yeah, right.

being the maniacal mother that i was, i tried it. i bought the most colorful,
soft blanket i could find and four or five new toys. then, i sat down beside
my toddler and said that we could only play with those special toys while
we sat on that blanket. after two or three minutes, i picked up the toys
and blanket and told him we could play with them again the next day.

that was the hard part, because he really liked those new toys! but
toddlers, like puppies, are easily distracted. i re-enacted this little
routine everyday, increasing the time to about fifteen minutes, until he
even sat by himself. if he got up off the blanket, i simply withdrew the
toys for the next day.  (pavlov's bell) :)

i kid you not, in a week's time, i would say, "max, play on the blanket with
your toys," and he did it! hans and i could take any of our five kiddos
anywhere, with that blanket, and they were happy as clams....for ten or
fifteen minutes. honestly, ten or fifteen minutes of peace was worth the
hours of training! when the children were older, three or four, i did not
subject them to the indignity of blanket sitting. this was just a toddler tool.

i would wait until the 'witching hour', fifteen minutes before hans came
home when the children were bored to tears with me, to pull out the
blanket. then i could breathe a big sigh of relief, because i knew the
ultimate 'blanket' was about to walk in the door.

can't think of a single scripture for this...umm, gideon, i think, put out a
blanket as a fleece before the Lord about a battle...judges 6:36-39

Monday, November 2, 2009

little boys

dear emily,

don't you just adore little boys? there is something about their carefree, ornery zest for life that just slays me. i love that you let asa and phin get just as dirty as they need to play as hard as they should. nothing is more winsome than a dirt-smudged smile and an excited high-pitched voice saying, "mommy, look what i found for you!" it's also a little scary...a flower from your garden or a snake from the creek?
it is pretty adorable, too, how much they revere their daddies. my boys used to watch out the front window for hans to return home and then tackle him at the door. no matter how tired he was, he would throw them over his shoulder and hurl them onto the couch. this was the signal for 'chinese team!' the shrieks of laughter would increase and someone would inevitably get hurt, but what fun they had playing this mysterious game.

their natures are wired to hunt, gather, and protect. i'm not sure if 'chinese team' taught them much more than that they had to be a little tough to play and that their daddy loved them a lot. when isaac was three, he used to pretend to be samson between a column and the couch. he would close his eyes and say, "let me die with the philistines!", imagining that he was bringing the whole house down.

we don't know what the Lord has specifically planned for our sons, but we can prepare them for most anything by teaching them that He loves them even more than their daddies do and that He will equip them for any task. we can pray that they will be valiant and courageous, with hearts turned toward the Lord and wills bent to obey.

ezekiel 22:30
'i looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap...'


dear emily,

i was a plain, introverted little girl, completely content to be left alone to read 'black beauty' and 'little women.'...until the fateful day i discovered make-up! before the annual church choir banquet, my gorgeous mother applied the tiniest bit of mascara to my pale, lifeless, puny lashes.

it was the most amazing thing to watch a skinny, homely girl turn into a choir queen! i actually did win that title at the church banquet (what kind of a church has a choir queen?) it was heartbreaking to wash off my beauty that night before i went to bed, and the next day at school, i kept wanting to tell all the kids, "you don't understand, i really AM beautiful!"

the good news was that i still had 'black beauty.'

hans and i decided, before we even had girls, that we would never speak to them about their looks. we wanted them to be confident in who God made them to be and not in how He made them to appear. we worried that if we extolled their 'outside', they might neglect their 'inside'.

1 peter 3:3,4 'your beauty should not come from outward adornment...instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.'

i have a dear friend whose mother wouldn't allow her to fast in high school, because she worried about the health risk. so my intrepid friend barbie fasted makeup one day a HIGH SCHOOL! needless to say, she is a mighty woman of God.

even with our good intentions, when the girls hit high school and saw us as the ignorant, annoying people we were, we threw out our principles and shouted desperately, 'we think you're beautiful!'