Category Archives for Family

Happy Birthday Baker!

Back then, Pikachu and Charizard were still on the drawing board; “Wifi” and “Google” were nonsense words; and Netflix was about to start a mail order movie rental business, competing with the industry giant, Blockbuster Video. Households might have had one desktop computer for use by the entire family, and long distance rates varied based on the time of day. Also in 1996, mobile phones were roughly the size of today’s mobile tiny houses. Give or take an antennae or two.

But the most memorable thing about 1996, at least to the Lawrimore family, was the birth of Baker Powell Lawrimore. How that cuddly little noise maker is now a grown man, I’ll never be able to explain.

Here on the blog, you’ll find lots of posts about Baker, my absolute favorite son. (I’ve linked a few below.) And he actually has a few guest posts himself. (You can find these by using the search tool on the blog, keyword, “Baker.”)

So in honor of his birthday, you are invited to read a little bit about my son. He’s kind of a nice fella, if I do say so myself.

  1. The one when I tell about my postpartum elation. Gratitude Week 4: My Boy
  2. The one about Baker and homework. Parenting: High Maintenance, High Praise
  3. The one where Baker is suddenly taller than his mother. Baker and Bone Mass
  4. The one in which Baker becomes a theologian. Light in the Darkness: Baker’s Firefly
  5. The one that tells about Baker not getting shot. And Justice for All
  6. The one that lists a few things Baker has said over the years that illustrate just how fabulous he is. My Fabulous Baker Boy

 

lizzy mccall margaret

Being loved.

 Published originally in March 2013 when Margaret was in the 9th grade and I was teaching at a local community college.

I'd just finished teaching last night when my youngest child arrived. We had an errand to run so her brother dropped her off at the college to save us time. I introduced Margaret to one of my students who was still hanging around in the hall.

"Margaret, this is Zach*, a student in my class."

Margaret responded as she always does to new people: blushing, she gave a quick nonsmile as she began her escape.

"Hi Margaret, I'm Zach." The student spoke to her back. We were already walking away when the student added, "You have an amazing mom!"

"Thank you!" I responded to Zach, then linked my arm with Margaret's and joked, "Don't you wish you had a nickel for every time you've heard that!"

"I'd have a nickel," she said (smarty pants), "No wait, I'd have a bunch more than that. My grade** loves you. Even Ethan likes you. I don't know why he likes you."

(Evidently getting Ethan's approval is an accomplishment.)

So yesterday, as I lay down at the end of my day having forgotten to blog, I felt grateful to be loved. It is so very nice to be loved.

*Students name and identifying details have been changed.
**"Grade" refers to the 15 or so students in her grade at church, not the 400 or so in her grade at school (something to work towards I suppose).
Depression and medication

Depression: Taking Antidepressant Medication

Though I was in my early 30’s when I was diagnosed with chronic depression, I had gone to counselors from time to time since my teens. And listen, I’m a big believer in therapy. Frankly, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t go to see a counselor.* I mean if you can afford it, for heaven’s sakes get into therapy. Actually, even if you can’t afford it, check into some options for inexpensive or even free services. Really.

Anyway, counseling was familiar and comfortable and not at all scary. Antidepressant pharmaceuticals? Pills that chemically alter my brain? Yikes!

Plus, at the time of my diagnosis, I was nursing my youngest child; I was wary of anything that might affect her nourishment. So, I did my research, using a new resource called the world wide web, and asked my medical doctor and counselor lots of questions.

(An aside: I learned how to do efficient and thorough research thanks to my undergrad degree in history from Campbell University. History majors—and other liberal arts grads—learn how to collect and process information, and to draw conclusions from that data: helpful skills in any career. Hire a liberal arts major. We are good deciders.)

After weighing the benefits and risks, I decided to give Prosac a try. The initial dose was ineffective, so the doctor increased my prescription to the next level.

Now remember, pre-antidepressants, I cried a lot. Everything made me sad. I had to be careful watching movies or reading books, listening to the news, whatever. Crying was the norm. It was as if I put my whole self into the story—true or fiction—and experienced the same reality as those in the story.

  • Flooding in the Midwest? Like everyone else, I would think of the loss of loved ones and pets, and the pain of losing things like heirlooms and family photographs. Yet, not only did I grieve with these strangers, I could almost feel the despair of sorting through soggy belongings, hoping to find any tangible shred of family memories.
  • Character kidnapped in the novel? What must the family of the missing one be experiencing? And how did the kidnapper become this way in the first place? Was this person a victim of child abuse or neglect? What makes someone do this to another human? I truly ached for the real people the characters represented. Agony.
  • And the TV show Roots, based on Alex Haley’s biographical novel of the same name? I may never recover from that one.

I upped the dose of Prosac. Soon, I realized I wasn’t constantly on the verge of tears. In fact, I felt almost nothing at all. It was glorious (in the beginning). Freeing. I flat did not care! My mantra may actually have been the original “sorry, not sorry.” Then came the night when I was watching 60 Minutes or 20/20 (one of those human interest/news shows). The story that night told of a man and his wife, their beautiful love story that began in grade school and continued into their golden years, and her agonizingly pointless battle with pancreatic cancer. Her dear husband cared for her tenderly until she passed away; now, according to the show, he grieved so profoundly that he struggled each day to achieve basic function. It was a gut-wrenching TRUE tale of love and loss, pain and death.

And yet, as I watched the weeping widower on the screen, I thought, “Dude. People die. Get over it. What? You didn’t think she was going to die? We’re all dying. You, me, all of us. Geez, get a grip.”

I talked to the doctor the next day about considering another medication.

Eventually I tried Effexor and did really well with few side effects. I did so well, in fact, that after just a few months (never mind I’d struggled with depression for the better part of three decades) I decided I probably didn’t need medication at all (raise your hand if you’ve been there). I contacted a local psychiatrist and scheduled the next available appointment; my visit with him lasted an hour. It started with me telling him I thought I could come off the medication, continued with me giving him a detailed history of my depression, and ended with him giving me a prescription for double the dose. True story.

There’s been a time or two over the years that I’ve tried something new on the market, wanting to see if I had fewer breakthrough episodes and if the newer med suited me better. Not a good idea for me: I've just never done a great job of transitioning off one and onto the other. I always ended up under my covers, curled in the fetal position, overwhelmed by such things as poverty, oppression, and world hunger (which I think we can all agree are, in fact, overwhelming in nature).

So now it has been about 20 years since I started taking antidepressant medication and I no longer try to rationalize myself off of it. Here’s why:

  1. The medication does not conceal my true self. Instead, it removes the barriers that block me from feeling like me.
  2. Chronic conditions of many types require medication for relief. Diabetes. High blood pressure. Migraines. Think about it. No one says, “Don’t you think that insulin is covering up your true self? Being in a diabetic coma is just part of who you are.” They also don’t say things like, “You know, if you had prayed more, you’d never have gotten high blood pressure.” Instead, they say such things as, “Wow! You must have gotten your migraines under control! You seem like your old self again!” Depression is like these other chronic medical conditions: when you treat it, you feel better.
  3. The medication is one part of a three-part treatment plan I follow. I exercise regularly and attempt to consume healthful foods. Additionally, I take an antidepressant. When the three of these are in place, I can manage the depression. Without one of those parts, I don’t feel my best. Simple as that.

Bottom line? If you’re on the fence about taking antidepressants, keep researching, keep talking to your doctor, and keep considering your options. But remember that taking a medication is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of wisdom. And it is okay.

What about you? What are your thoughts on antidepressants?

 

 

*One thing about counseling: it’s hard; exhausting at least, grueling at worst, but in any case, seriously hard. And it often takes a while to find the right counselor. I have the world’s best therapist now, but it took many attempts. If you need a break from the effort, I get it. But don’t give up. Finding the right counselor is like finding true love: totally worth kissing a bunch of toads to get there.

dementia

My Mother and Hers: Caregiving and Dementia

 

My grandmother was born January 24, 1905; it's hard to say when the dementia began, but by the mid 80's it was full blown. I always said that as the dementia advanced Grandmama got sweeter and sweeter to the point that she was just pure sugar by the time she passed away in 1994. For the last five years of her life, Grandmama lived with her youngest daughter, my mother. In this post from 2009, I recall some snippets from those last few years.

“I know someone who will take care of me,” my grandmother told us from the shelter of my mother’s arms. We’d been picking on her—trying to awaken the feisty grandmama we used to have before dementia kidnapped her. She had had about enough of our shenanigans when my mother walked through the room. Grandmama pushed herself up from her chair, walked straight to Mother, tucked her head into Mother’s shoulder, and looked back at us, triumphant.

She was right. My mother, her daughter, took care of her, loving her through the fog of memory loss. Mother loved Grandmama enough to keep her busy, despite the obvious limitations. She kept a jar of coins handy and would pour it out on the kitchen table for Grandmama. “Could you count these for me, Mother,” my mother would say to hers, “It would sure be a big help to me.” And Grandmama would set about sorting and stacking, making sure her towers of coinage were just so. Mother had Grandmama count those coins, water plants, or fold clothes because everyone needs to feel needed. Everyone needs something to do.

Mother loved Grandmama enough to bless her with beauty. On the screened-in porch where Grandmama loved to sit in her rocking chair, Mother kept flowering plants in Grandmama’s favorite colors. “Look Grandmama! Isn’t that beautiful?” we’d say, pointing to a plant she had already seen a dozen times. She would turn to look, her eyes brightening at the sight that was brand new to her. “Ewwweee! What a pretty flower! Look at those purple blooms. You know, I’ve always loved purple.” We knew.

Mother loved Grandmama enough to keep telling her story to her. “Mother, how many children did you and Daddy have?” Mother would prompt her. “Well, now, let me see. . .” Grandmama would begin, searching the faces in her memory. She loved thinking about her children, even though she didn’t really recognize their adult versions any more.

Watching Mother care for Grandmama back then, I wanted to put into words somehow my appreciation for the sacrifices she was making. (Grandmama and Granddaddy had moved in with my parents shortly before my Granddaddy died in 1989.) I wrote this poem in the early 90’s in honor of Mother, in memory of Grandmama.

TO MY GRANDMOTHER’S KEEPER

In the darkness of her mind,
children blend with siblings;
reality slips into the forgotten past.
Words,
Having
wandered
aimlessly
from
brain
to mouth, tumble out in jumbled speech.

Alone, but not,
She searches her audience
for a sign
of understanding.

Longing,
her foggy eyes
find your focus;
her life-worn frame
folds into your
familiar embrace;
the gray cloud of her mind releases showers of tears.

With firm assurance
you
call her in
from her private storm.

Knowing it is her greatest fear, you tell her,
(again):“You will never be alone. Never.”

And fleeting comfort shelters her.
And that is all you need.

Happy Birthday Grandmama!

new years resolutions

5 types of resolutions for a Happy New Year

When my kids were younger, around the first of each January we'd sit at our kitchen table together and make our New Year's Resolutions. We've gotten out of the habit, but what we did back then was shoot for five resolutions, one in each of five categories.

  1. Spiritual. This goal that has to do with spiritual formation. Maybe "Join a Bible study," "Read through the Bible," "Start a prayer journal." Make your goal reasonable but challenging. Consider enlisting a friend to join in this resolution. Having a partner makes goals so much more attainable.
  2. Social. Set a goal that has to do with relationships. "Call my grandparents weekly," or "Set a weekly date night with my spouse/significant other." Maybe "Join a group where I can meet peers (mommy & me, book club, senior center, whatever)." You'll want to schedule this one, put it on your calendar. Things on my calendar tend to get a higher priority. True for you?
  3. Intellectual. Do something for your brain this year. Have you read War & Peace? This is your year. Or you could take a class. There are classes at community colleges, universities, even at your local craft or home repair store. Too daunting? Then learn a new kind of puzzle or game. Sudoku, acrostics, crossword puzzles: all of these boost brain power. Make your goal specific, though. "Finish War & Peace by April 15," or "Work five crossword puzzles a week." If your goal isn't specific, you'll have a hard time knowing when you've achieved it.
  4. Physical. What can you do for your health this year? Resolve to "Join a fitness club," "Start a walking club," or "Try one new healthful food each week." Remember though, sometimes we fall short of our goals. If this happens, cut your self some slack. No one's perfect. Just pick yourself up again and get back on track.
  5. Financial. Set a goal that has to do with your finances. "Start a Christmas Club savings account" or "Meet with a financial advisor." Even better, link your financial goal to your spiritual goal and resolve to "Increase charitable giving."

After making these initial five resolutions, break each one down into little goals, small steps, that will help you achieve your resolutions. For example, if the physical goal is to run a marathon, then running shoes might be in order. (Or in my case, a lobotomy.) These short term goals help measure success and help us stay motivated to keep our resolutions. Try to come up with at least three mini-goals for each resolution. Maybe you can break it down even smaller--setting micro-mini goals for each mini-goal. Each time you achieve any of these goals, make sure to reward yourself with at least a pat on the back and maybe even a latte.

In my opinion, goal setting is always good. Even if we fall short of our own expectations, I suspect we accomplish more than if we didn't aim for anything at all. So gather up your kids, family, or friends and plan now for a successful year.

Do you have tips for making resolutions? Share in the comment section. Already made yours? Tell us about them!

8 tips tense conversations

8 Tips for handling tense conversations

Worried about holiday togetherness and the uncomfortable conversations that may arise? Here are a few tips to help you make it through.

  1. Fact Check everything. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.: memes, news stories (also known as “news” stories), website articles, even youtube videos. Check it on snopes.com first. Seriously. For example, remember the video of cell phones popping popcorn? Totally not true. Just a prank. But so believable as to prevent folks from fact checking. (Also, John Wayne did not make a deathbed profession of faith prompted by a child’s appeal. And PBS’s Barney is not based on a 1930’s serial killer either. Just sayin’.)
  2. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Want to be heard? Listen. Want to be spoken to with respect? Speak that way to others. Want to be understood? Seek first to understand. This is generally a good life rule. Just ask Jesus. It worked for him.
  3. Remember your medicine! Especially if it’s high blood pressure medication. Or an anti-anxiety pill. Go medicated or stay home. Seriously. Even if you are planning on going, faking an emergency, and excusing yourself early. Don’t take the chance. Take your pills! It’s better for all of us that way.
  4. Avoid saying what’s already been said way too many times. You know what I mean, right? Like, everyone knows Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Saying it again will not make it more true. We’ve heard it all: about his bankruptcies and her speaking fees; about his philandering and Bill’s; about his Twitter feed and her emails. It’s all been said. Over and over again. Got something new? Save it until after the family gathering. You’ll be glad you did.
  5. Repeat after me: I will not change anyone’s opinion. Not through social media. And not through rants. (You might need to repeat this frequently. I know I do . . . .)
  6. Find some common ground. No really, you can do it! Even on hot button topics. Like this:
    • Say you want Obamacare completely repealed, but your cousin has health insurance for the first time because of this legislation. You can both agree that health care is important. You can agree that medical bills can be overwhelming. See?
    • How about if you are pro-life and your aunt is pro-choice? Well, neither of you thinks that it is ideal for a baby to come into the world unwanted, do you? You also both know that unplanned pregnancy is scary and life-altering. You can also agree that the mother’s health matters. And I think you can probably agree that there are no little girls out there who are hoping that they will grow up and have an abortion. Right?
    • Are you against capital punishment even though your parents have lobbied for the death penalty? I bet none of you is pro-murder, and I bet that all of you would prefer that the crime was never committed. Additionally, I bet you both agree that murder should not be legal. Poof: common ground!*
  7. Remember you are probably irritating to the person who is irritating you. I know. I prefer to think that I’m never the annoying one. Not true though. My kids can attest to this fact and will do so gladly. The thing is, when you allow yourself to consider that maybe, just maybe, you are part of the problem, you can start to become part of the solution.
  8. If none of this works? Have yourself another piece of pie. Pie always helps.

What else might soothe the tension at the table? Tell us your tips in the comments.

*This TED talk by David R. Dow introduced this concept to me of finding commonality despite what appear to be insurmountable differences. It's well worth the 18 minutes it takes to view it.

Election Results 2016

To my Beloveds on the Day After Election 2016

To my sweet babies. You: who I held in your earliest days, whose preschool programs I applauded, whose elementary school presentations I attended, whose milestones I’ve celebrated. You:  who have cried in my arms, on my couch, and on my shoulder. You: who I have counseled, advised, guided. You who I have loved and who have loved me in return: Hear me.

This US election is not the solution to the world’s problems or the creation of them. This is neither the beginning, nor the end. This is a moment. An historic moment, a game-changing moment, a moment for rejoicing or weeping depending on your perspective. But beloveds, this is one out of many such moments in the history of our nation and of our world.

Are you listening? This is important.

Some of you are delighted with the results of last night’s election. Okay, that’s fine. But don’t be a braggart. Be gentle and be kind. It is not okay, no matter what the world tells you, to call people names, to boast in victory, to bully others with no regard for their feelings, interests, or even opinions.

Watch your language. (You know how I feel about this!) Despite what your government’s leaders may model, it is not right or good to use filthy language. Rise above it. If you feel like a winner today, use language becoming of royalty, not trash.

Finally, if you are claiming this victory as a victory for Christ, please remember that there are people who share your faith, but not your political beliefs. You can be happy about who won or about whom you defeated. This is one of the wonderful things about this nation: you have the unalienable right to your opinion. But this right comes from your citizenship in the United States; as a citizen of the Kingdom of God, you are called to adhere to the message of Christ who said it is the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers who are blessed, not the boastful, the prideful, and the rude.

Are you devastated this morning? I’m so sorry. I wish I could make your pain go away by swaddling you tighter, by finding your lost lovey, or by binging on Ben & Jerry’s with you. I long for the days when your pain could be wiped off with a cool cloth and soothed by a band-aid. I know this is not one of those days.

I also know this: though you may grieve, you do not have to grieve as those who have no hope. If you feel this is a loss for the Kingdom of God, remember that God’s greatest strength was found on the cross; yet to the world, it looked like an irredeemable loss. This is not a defeat for God. It does look to many of us like a loss for our country, but no election can defeat God. Shoot, even death didn’t.

Now. Things will change because of this election. In all likelihood, you and I will need to become more involved as volunteers and as activists. We will need to take the initiative to protect our environment and to build bridges into relationships with people who are different from us. We need to listen, not just to people who share our opinions, but especially to those who do not. We must take steps to fight injustice and oppression wherever they are found. We must reach out to the strangers in our midst and we must care for the people on the fringes of society.

Here's what I think. I think that you can change this. Your innovative ideas, your unique way of thinking, your particular gifts, your awareness of others; all of these qualities empower you to bring about good and lasting change. Oft quoted American minister and reformer Theodore Parker (1810-1860) said

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”*

No doubt, Theodore Parker was frustrated by the inequity of the moral universe; his participation in reform movements led him to fight for women’s rights, public education, and most fervently for the abolition of slavery. His efforts frequently came to little avail. Yet he had hope.

And so do you.

Rest in that hope. Rest in the confidence that love always, always wins. And when your strength is restored, move forward. Create beauty. Encourage conversation. Seek innovative solutions. Reach across boundaries into new relationships. In so doing, even if you didn’t see the results you wanted last night, you will most certainly get a glimpse of God’s Kingdom tomorrow.

*According to his Wikipedia bio, Parker lent words to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and most certainly to Martin Luther King Jr’s “Where Do we Go from Here” speech when King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Giggles lost, Hope found.

Published originally on March 15, 2009

Margaret, our animal whisperer (the one of our three who knows the daily schedule of Animal Planet™ far too well), has loved animals since she began identifying them in her picture books. So, considering her gift for persuasion, along with her blond curls and blue eyes, it’s to our credit that Jay and I held out until her 11th birthday to get her a pet of her own.

Giggles the guinea pig joined our family five weeks ago. And five weeks ago, our Margaret fell in love.

She cooed to Giggles snuggling under her chin, “You are just the cutest; yes you are.” Giggles talked back in guinea pigese, proving she had been aptly named. Margaret giggled back. “I love you, Giggles!”

Yesterday morning, Margaret mentioned to me that Giggles was acting unusual. But it was Jay who became concerned around 3:00 when he found her unwilling to eat and lethargic. We realized that her cage was spotless—meaning that she had not pottied in 24 hours (not a good thing for a rodent who usually potties every 15 minutes or so. . .). She was making a bizarre squeaking sound, didn’t want to be held, and was struggling to breathe.

Margaret and I rushed her to the vet, Margaret—holding the box that held her beloved and covering her ears so she wouldn’t hear the sound that told us something was terribly wrong. At the office, the pet nurse tried to get her temperature but needed some help so she stepped out of the room to call for help. While we were alone in the room, Giggles revived a bit and Margaret took her. “That’s my girl, you’re going to be okay, aren’t you?”

At that moment, Giggles fell over limp. I took Giggles immediately and dashed to call in the vet. Margaret ran out of the room. The vet—an amazing woman—began working to save our little guinea. After about 15 mins of trying, the doc told me she was gone. Then, it was my job to tell Margaret.

Margaret was looking at books right outside the office (it’s located in PetSmart™). I touched her shoulder. She turned to look at me. Walking away from me as fast as she could, she said, “No, no, no, no, no. . .” I caught her. She crumpled in my arms. “No, no, no, no.”

On the way home, she was inconsolable, “I’ll never get another guinea pig. I don’t want anything that’s going to die.” She wept, nearly hyperventilating from sobbing. “I should have known, Mommy, I should have known.”

“You can’t know everything, baby.”

Tears still streamed down her cheeks as she hiccupped out her words. “But she was my daughter. I should have known.”

“It surely feels that way, doesn’t it?" I longed to help her feel better but knew I couldn't. I said, instead, what she already knew, "Nothing in the world hurts as bad as losing someone you love. Nothing.”

“I’m never getting another guinea pig.”

“You don’t have to decide that now.”

“Can we read when we get home?” (Margaret and I still read together like we did when she was a preschooler. It’s an indulgence we both enjoy.)

“We can do whatever you want.”

“Then can we read on your bed?”

“You bet.”

We came home, cuddled up with her lovies and our book. Margaret’s sobbed on. “Just read, Mommy, I need to get my mind off it.” I read.

Meanwhile, Jay had been out running errands—he left to go when we left for the vet. I had called him to tell him the sad news, but he had not gotten back by the time we arrived. About a chapter into our book, Jay came home.

“Hey Noodle-bug,” he said softly, using our pet name for her.

She turned her sad, weepy face to him. He held his cupped hands out to her. Instantly she scrambled up from the bed, brightening back into our Margaret. From the palms of her Daddy’s hands popped a furry little face. She reached for her new guinea, smiling, cuddling it to her. “Her name is Lemon Square,” she told us, shrugging the tears from her cheeks, “And I’m going to take such good care of her.”

A little girl, transformed from heartbroken to hope-filled, because a Daddy who loved her more than she can understand gave her the gift of new life: That’s grace. That’s love. That’s Good News.

Parenting tips

4 Tools to Improve Your Relationships with Children

As Minister with Children and Youth and as a parent of three children ages 18-22, I hear a lot of parent frustrations. Here are a few of my best recommendations for aggravated parents (and Sunday school teachers, for that matter).

1) Stop before you are finished.

As parents, we tend to keep talking with the expectation that our child will say, “You know Parent, you are so right! I mean, I’m so lucky to have you. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me. You have shown me the error of my ways. Please forgive me and allow me to make proper restitutions.” The truth: your offspring will likely NEVER admit this to you.

We grown-ups need to learn to stop before we’ve said everything we have to say. We need to leave space for our child to think through what we’ve said. Let them draw some of their own conclusions. Decide which key points we want to deliver (three or fewer), say those things as succinctly as possible, and stop talking, even if you feel like you aren’t finished. Remember, there’s never been a kid who said, “You know Parent, I would have gotten the message if you had just lectured me a while longer.”

2)Keep your End Result in Mind

Too many times, we start out in a direction that will lead to one end result when what we want is an entirely different one. For example, let’s say what you want is for your child to do her homework, but you start by reminding her how many times she’s waited to the last minute and not gotten it finished. Pretty soon you are yelling and you two get into an argument that ends in a double melt down. The end result? You got to vent about an ongoing frustration for you (and sometimes, that may be exactly what you need). If you really want homework done, you’ll need to approach it from a different direction.

I suggest starting from a place of compassion. Offer empowering options; recommend creative study methods; check back in with your child, supporting and encouraging rather than nagging and berating. Take this route, and the end result is much more likely to be homework completion.

There are all kinds of examples of the end result problem. You want to encourage your child, so you point out areas in which he could improve. You want a family dinner, so you demand that each child be home, rather than considering their schedules from the outset. You want your child to make more healthful food choices, so you explain the dangers of childhood obesity and require her to keep a food journal.

We mean well, bless our hearts, but we’re going backwards. Know what you want to accomplish, and don’t get derailed by emotions and reactions.

3)It’s Okay to Offer an External Reward.

Seriously. Think about it. Losing excess weight has long term health benefits; that is reason enough to eat right and exercise for the rest of our lives. But since we can’t really measure the long term, we give ourselves short term rewards: new clothes, new exercise shoes, mani/pedi days.

I used to pay my son to take oral prednisone. He had to take it for six days, as I recall, and I paid him a dollar a dose. Thus, for swallowing something that tasted like raspberry flavored motor oil, my son got the chance to buy six Hot Wheels. I saw it as a fair trade. For me, the benefit was not having a screaming battle and not having to take him back to the doctor, or even worse, have him admitted to the hospital. (It saved me a lot of money to pay him a dollar a dose.) Now here’s the thing, eventually, I didn’t pay him anymore because he learned that the medication he took for his asthma was self-rewarding: nasty medicine = breathing. You won’t have to add external rewards forever. But it’s okay to keep it as one of the tools in your parenting toolbox.

4)Communicate Closer & Softer

When you make requests or offer correction to your children, how often to you shout from another room, out of their sight? Communication is greatly improved if we reduce the area over which the message has to travel. Makes sense, right? I mean, you’re more likely to have greater success in mailing a letter to an office downtown than to the Land Down Under, right?

Also, who among us enjoys hearing someone yell at us? So, when you want to offer direction or instruction, move closer to the person you are addressing; then, you can use your inside voice, and not your out-on-the-playground voice. I know, I know, you’re thinking that when you are in the middle of housework and you need your child to pick up her toys, it’s frustrating to have to stop and go to where she is. It feels like a waste of time. I get it. But really, you are investing time, not consuming it.

You stop, just for a minute, go to the room where your child is, and say in your speaking voice, “Hey, could you come pick up your toys please?” (And yes, do say “please.” Model good manners and you’ll see them come back to you.) Can you see how this approach would be so much more productive in the long run than, “Come pick up your toys!” screeched from the next room?


Remember, nothing works every single time. You need to have lots of tools in your toolbox. Sometimes you’ll need to get closer and softer. Another time, the same problem will require an external reward. Switch it up a bit. Stay ahead by creating your own tools, your own strategies. And remember: when you mess up, it’s right and good to apologize. By doing so, you’ll teach your children that being wrong is a part of life; truly, there are few things as valuable as teaching your child to accept responsibility for mistakes and then to move forward.

What are your best practices? Comment below with one of your most effective parenting tools.

Holy Ground Sans Sis

Holy Ground, sans Sis.

Another of my earlier posts from back in 2008, written about my trip to the Holy Land.

I've said over and over today: Ooooh! I wish my sister could see this. Or, "I wish my sister were here to translate that." You see, my sister Dawn is a Latin teacher extraordinaire and there are few things she likes better than Roman ruins and a good line of Latin text. So when I was standing in the hippodrome in Caesaerea where chariot races entertained 11,000 onlookers, I couldn't help but think about how much my sister would love to see it all. This hippodrome (which bordered the Mediterranean Sea--so blue today that you wouldn't believe me if I could describe it) is only one of the well preserved ruins of this Roman town mentioned in the book of Acts. In Acts, Peter goes there on account of the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 10). But more importantly, Paul is there, defending himself and his faith. (You'll find this story in Acts 25:23-26:32.) Today, we stood in the theater where Paul probably pleaded his case. We saw the box seat (there is only one in this theater) where his accusers set. We listened as our professor spoke from the theater floor, his voice carried up to us on the winds of the Mediterranean. And I thought, I wish my sister could be here to see this.

We drove just down the rode to a Roman aqueduct. Now if you've not heard of such a thing, open another window and do a quick wikipedia search. Basically, Romans created a massive plumbing system that would enable them to build cities in little remote places like, I dunno, Israel. The aqueduct that we saw stretched more than seven miles. I climbed atop it and walked in the trough where the water would have flowed. I sat under the arches and smiled pretty for a picture. I walked in the Mediterranean and looked back at it thinking, my goodness, I surely wish my sister could see this.

After that, we went to a chapel near a shepherd's field--a field like the one where shepherd's would have been abiding their flocks by night. . .The chapel is tiny, and is domed. The dome creates beautiful acoustics. One of our group, Dr. Cal Robertson who was one of my profs last semester, is a gifted and talented tenor. While we were in the chapel, he sang O Holy Night. Around the dome of the chapel were the words from Luke 2:14--in Latin. This would have been a great day to share with my sister.