food for thought

On a mother’s influence on character:

There are, it is true, innumerable causes incessantly operating in the formation of character. A mother’s influence is by no means the only influence which is exerted. Still it may be the most powerful; for, with God’s ordinary blessing, it may form in the youthful mind the habits, and implant the principles, to which other influences are to give permanency and vigor.

John S.C. Abbott
The Mother at Home

what do you do all day?

Here is a truth:  no one will ever, and I mean ever, accuse Brent and I of over-scheduling our kids.  Ever.  I have heard reports and read many articles about children who are constantly rushed and who have very little free time in their days because they are so scheduled with activities.  And it stresses them out!  No thank you, I think I’ll pass on that.

Last night at dinner, Brent and I were discussing how it might be nice to sign up the kids for a few more activities in the fall, maybe a sport or a class or a club.  That may or may not happen.  We’ll have to wait and see.  As our dinner conversation progressed, we tried to evaluate the big picture when it came to our kids and their “extra curriculars”.  Our kids can read (for pleasure or for information), follow directions, carry on a conversation with a friend or a stranger, problem solve, work hard, and use their imaginations.  Now Brent and I know better than anyone that our kids aren’t perfect.  Believe me!  There are some particular character traits that we continue to try to develop.  But we feel pretty good about our kids’ progress in the skills and traits that matter most.  And we want our schedules to foster and enhance that development, not impede it.

So what does a group of siblings do all day if every minute of the day isn’t scheduled and planned?  Are there really days, especially in the summer, where there is no particular agenda beyond some daily chores and mealtimes?  What happens when they get bored?  These are all good questions.  To be perfectly honest, when boredom comes, and believe me it does come, that’s when the really creative stuff starts to happen.  Eventually, the best games get invented, all the little bugs in the back yard get noticed, the quality books get devoured, the pretend adventures get really interesting.  They usually involve lots of rescuing, and swashbuckling, and all sorts of ways to save the world from imminent disaster.  I mean, what’s the point of playing pretend if you can’t save the world while you’re doing it?  I had so much fun today watching the kids make their way through the day without a parent-led plan.  It just happened.  And it was great!

checking on the bean plants

checking on the bean plants

making her way through an adventure

making her way through an adventure

helping Mom in the kitchen

helping Mom in the kitchen

creating clues for a scavenger hunt.  FYI:  this activity probably accomplishes a whole lot of Common Core standards.

creating clues for a scavenger hunt. FYI: this activity probably accomplishes a whole lot of Common Core standards.

finding a clue on the hunt

finding a clue on the hunt

searching every nook and cranny

searching every nook and cranny


Don’t worry if there are unscheduled parts of your day, especially your child’s day.  When we have a chunk of hours without a plan, I don’t panic, or even try to get really purposeful.  I just think, “Oh goody!  That means something fun is going to develop.  Something good is bound to happen.”  The kids know where the toys are, where the books are, where the school supplies are, and where the boundaries are.  That’s pretty much all they need.  And they know where I am when they’re ready to share and tell me the cool things they’ve been doing.  I can’t wait to hear all about it.



Sometimes we have conversations that crack me up, and then later I’ll wish that I had written it down so I could remember it.  Luckily, I actually did that recently.  It’s not long, or even that deep, but I thought it was kind of funny.  Enjoy!

It all started with siblings (who shall remain nameless for the time being) bothering each other a little too much in the back seat of the family van.  So in response to that, I wanted to say something philosophical about how we should try to be helpful to our family members rather than trying to get on their nerves.  Here is how it went:


Me:    “We are blessings in each other’s lives, not burdens.”

An awkward moment of silence.

A child in the back seat:    “Mom, is that Shakespeare?”

Me chuckling:    “No, it’s just me.”


Maybe after the kids are gone, my next career will be playwright, or maybe author of sonnets.  But first I have to figure out how to keep my kids from bugging each other in the car.

setting goals

Last month we had a rare chance to have a weekend getaway as a family. Don’t get me wrong, we find ways to have family adventures quite often. But they don’t usually happen over a weekend. So we were extremely grateful to take advantage of the opportunity when it came around to us.

So here’s the story: It all started at the beginning of January. Brent and I were discussing the topic of New Year’s resolutions and we decided to set some goals for ourselves. His had to do with getting out of debt. This has been a goal that we have set for ourselves every year for the past several years and Brent has been working diligently behind the scenes to meet this very long term goal. Someday I’ll get to write a blog post about becoming debt free! Oh what a day that will be! My goals had to do my personal health (still working on that one) and decluttering and organizing the house. The kids will tell you that we have seen many boxes of donations go out the door this spring. I’m loving it!

But enough about the parents’ goals. The exciting part for us came on that January day when we turned to Emma and asked her if she wanted to set any goals for the new year. She thought about it for a minute and then declared, “I want to go to regionals in Bible quizzing!” And we said, “That sounds great!” That’s what you’re supposed to say when your child tells you what they’re goal is, but honestly, my mind started quickly running through all of the reasons why she wouldn’t be able to accomplish this goal. Making a regional team would mean being one the top five quizzers in our district, which is about half the state of Oregon, the half that’s really populated. Making the team would mean studying like she had never studied before. Not to mention the fact that 7th graders just don’t usually make it that far.

Well I’m sure you can guess what happened. After months of quiz meets and a whole lot of studying and practice, the district meet finally came on the first weekend of April. Emma and the rest of our Mission Church quizzers traveled to Salem for the event. We had told her that if she made the regional team that she and I would find a way to go to the tournament in Idaho. I really did not expect that to happen, though. Can you just imagine my reaction when Emma called me from Salem to say that she had made the team? As parents, we are proud of our kids when they work hard at a challenge that is before them, whatever that challenge may be. The bonus comes when they sometimes get to enjoy the benefits of meeting that challenge. And we were going to make sure that she enjoyed them.

So now it was time to make some plans for a weekend trip to the quiz meet on the campus of Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, ID. The more we tried to work out the logistics, the more we realized that we could make it an adventure for all five of us, not just Mom and Emma. All the details fell into place, like Brent’s sermon being recorded with Pastor Ryan on video, transportation, lodging (thanks to Uncle Ed and Aunt Nancy), and all the rest.

At the quiz meet, Emma learned a lot by observing and competing with top teams and all-stars from around the northwest. It didn’t take her long to set some new goals for next year. But this shouldn’t surprise us. After all, she has some experience with meeting her goals. Maybe she could teach her mom a thing or two about that!

and now we have a teenager

The month of March brought a major milestone to our home, and to our journey as parents.  We have a teenager!  And this brings some changes, some big and some small and some yet to come.    First, she has braces.  This wasn’t a surprise at all.  She’s pretty diligent about wearing her bands (a lot better than I was), and I think she looks pretty cute with them.  Second, she’s old enough to be left alone at the house.  This has added a level of convenience for us that we haven’t known since before we had kids.  To be able to run an errand or attend a meeting without making special arrangements for your kids is truly a luxury!  No exaggeration!  Third, I can’t look down at her anymore, literally.  We are pretty much the same height.  We can look at each other straight in the eye.  We share shoes all the time now.  I think it’s only a small matter of time before she’s taller than I am.  I’m just waiting for that day to come.

To be perfectly honest, Brent and I are kind of excited about this new stage in Emma’s life.  She’ll be exploring and discovering new things about herself and the world in whole new ways.  We are trying to see the teenage years as a time of adventure and a time of preparation for whatever God has for her in adulthood.  I’m sure we’ll learn a lot, be surprised a lot, humbled a lot.  But we’re not nervous.  We don’t dread the teenage years.  We love being Emma’s parents and we feel privileged to be able to walk through this stage of her life with her.  God has great things planned for her.


Here she’s giving an answer at a Bible Quizzing meet in Salem.

Notice that she has braces now!

Notice that she has braces now!


Some awards from the quiz meet. Woohoo!

mommy-daughter date

Over the last few months, Emma and Blake have had a weekly rehearsal for Central Oregon History Performers.  While they’re rehearsing, Lauren and I usually have a scheduled playdate with some of our friends.  But last week, our friends were sick and had to cancel the playdate.  So we turned our disappointment into something fun: a mommy-daughter date!  Of course, there was a little schoolwork involved, but not too much.  We enjoyed our time at the Redmond library, then Starbucks, and then SuperWalmart.  Extended one-on-one time can sometimes be hard to come by, so I was glad to be able to take advantage of this unplanned opportunity with Lauren.  She always has plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of ideas and opinions to share, so we never ran out of things to talk about.  And any day that involves books, hot chocolate with whipped cream, and shopping is a good day.  Especially when you get to enjoy them with someone that you love so very much.




quotable quotes

Right now I’m reading Jim Trelease’s The Read Aloud Handbook. I’m enjoying this book immensely. It is reinforcing all the good stuff that I know to be true about children and reading, which are two topics I happen to love very much. At the beginning of each chapter, the author begins with a quote. Some of them I’ve heard before. But I wanted to share a few that were new to me.

The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together. -Eric Hoffer

Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way. -Orville Prescott

Just some food for thought. Happy reading – especially of you’re reading to a child!

a late morning

Brent had to leave early this morning for some meetings in the valley (that’s Central Oregon lingo for Willamette Valley).  So the house was pretty quiet and I wondered what the kids were up to.  Were they still sleeping?  Were they getting a jump start on their schoolwork?  Ha!  Just kidding.  Were they bugging the cat?  When I investigated the situation, I found all three of them in Blake’s room giggling their way through a game of Chutes and Ladders.   Everyone was getting along, everyone was content, everyone was having fun.

The game pieces are long gone so they were using a die instead of a spinner, and were using mini lego figurines for the place markers.  There are many others things that I could have made them do at that time, but I’m proud to say that I listened to the voice in my head that said, “Don’t interrupt the sibling fun.  They are making some good memories.  These are the moments that should last longer, not be shortened.  The chores and the schoolwork can wait.”  So what’s a mom to do?  I did the only thing I could do:  I made them a platter of breakfast food and delivered it to the game site so they could keep playing.  And then I thanked God for the flexibility in our schedule to allow for times like this, when there is no agenda except to be together and build memories.  Ah, bliss.

Breakfast anyone?

Breakfast anyone?

simple pleasures make great memories

simple pleasures make great memories


a worthy investment


What do you get when your big sister is away at camp and your big brother is spending time at a friend’s house?  The answer is: a date with Mom!  Lauren and I had an unexpected opportunity today to go to our favorite sweet place, Goody’s, for some yummy yogurt and one-on-one time together.  After that we walked over to the bookshop to do some book browsing.  The time we give to invest in our children, and in our relationship with our children, is always worth it.  I always need the reminder that what our children really need is not more stuff, or even more activities.  What they really need is us, the parents.  So it was a pleasant surprise when the chance for a mommy/daughter date dropped into our laps this afternoon.  There is a long list of other things I could have done with that time, but I’m sure everyone would agree that this was a much more worthy investment.

a flashback moment

Last night Brent had a meeting in our home with a couple from church.  Their older children quickly paired up with our kids to play.  But their little one-year-old toddler needed a little more supervision, so he and I got to hang out together for awhile.  He wanted in on the meeting and was becoming a bit of a distraction, so I decided to take him outside for a walk.  And that’s when the flashback moment hit me.  There I was, hand in hand with a little toddler, walking on the sidewalk, and enjoying the summer breeze.  As we started down the street, my memory immediately went back 10 years when I was doing this exact same thing.  It was such a vivid memory of where our lives were a decade ago.  I got a little teary from the nostalgia of it all.  Ten years ago, we had just moved from Texas to Minnesota for Brent’s new job.  (At that point, we still thought he was going to be a church choir director for the rest of his life.  Ha!)  That summer, we lived in a little one-bedroom apartment, just Brent, me, and our little one-year-old Emma.  We moved with only one car, so there were many days when Emma and I were home without access to a car.  That meant we took walks, a lot of walks!  We walked to the playground.  We walked to the the laundry room.  We walked to the garbage dumpster.  We walked around the parking lot.  We walked around the block.  I realize it was an inconvenience to be without a car, but I really did enjoy all of those walks with Emma toddling beside me, just a I enjoyed my walk with my little friend yesterday.  Those slow-down moments are precious.  And my flashback reminds how much they stick with us through the years.

It’s amazing the think about all that has happened in our lives since that summer a decade ago.  There have been a lot of changes:  different houses, different cars, more children, and a different job in a different state.  I’m thankful to be married to a man that sees all of these changes as part of the adventure of following the Lord’s leading in our lives.  And I must admit that I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store for us and our children over the next ten years.  Hopefully, we’ll some more slow-down moments along the way.