My Books

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Expectations

by Linda Carlblom
It was my daughter's fourth Christmas. She was a little over three years old and I was excited to see if she would remember anything of what we'd taught her about Christmas the year before. I carefully took the manger people out of their tissue paper cocoons where they'd been sleeping for the past year.
"Do you remember whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas?" I asked her.
Her dark eyes sparkled with Christmas wonder. "Yes!" She clapped chubby hands.
My heart filled. She knew. She knew! "Whose birthday is it?" I prodded as I lay the Christ-child in the manger scene.
"Baby Santa!" she squealed.

Well, not exactly the response I'd hoped for, but she was young. :) There was still time for her to learn the true meaning of Christmas.

Is this season falling short of your expectations? Not to worry. Jesus isn't limited to the holiday season. He's there for you in the highs and lows of life. He's there to sing over you in your moments of glory. He'll dry your tears when you're tired and frustrated. He's ready to soothe those rough relationships that rub you raw during holiday gatherings. He'll give you rest in a chaotic, over-scheduled world. Slow down. Take a deep breath. Breathe in his peace, exhale your worry. God is near and He sent His Son for you on that silent night.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bratitude or Gratitude? by Linda McQuinn Carlblom

We're only a week away from Thanksgiving and everyone's talking about being thankful. It's a good practice, but one we sometimes don't let filter down to our kids. Let's face it--kids can be kinda selfish. Without some intentional guidance they can turn into downright brats. I hate that word! I never called my kids brats and never let anyone else say that about them either. How dare they! But truth is, they sometimes were.
And so am I.
And so are you.
So how do we avoid being brats, whatever our age?
Thankfulness. Gratitude. Living with appreciation for the people in our lives. Even the ones who are tough to tolerate. They teach us patience. Even those less fortunate. They teach us compassion. And especially those we love. They teach us joy.

How can we pass this grateful living on to our children? By pointing out blessings.

"Look at that cute old couple holding hands."
"I'm so thankful for this cold ice cream cone on this hot day."
"That sunshine feels glorious."
"Look how beautiful those flowers are."
"Seeing those kids riding their bikes through the puddles makes me feel happy."
"Look how kind that man is to his dog."
"Thank you for taking your plate to the sink."

Statements like these train your child's eye to see the good in the world. It cultivates appreciation. It transforms bratitude to gratitude. And it makes the world a nicer place for us all.

So go ahead. Start looking for blessings and feel your thankfulness overflow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

To Halloween or Not to Halloween?

There are a lot of folks these days that don't celebrate Halloween. Frankly, I get it, and I'm not a huge fan myself. For me, it's not so much about religious convictions as it is that I don't like the idea of mixing scary stuff and kids. I also don't like how sexy some of the costumes have gotten, even for kids.

The idea of any costume, friendly or scary, is frightening for some children. If yours is one of them, here are a few tips for handling Halloween.

1. Respect your child's fear by staying a safe distance from costumed people.
2. Don't laugh at their fear, no matter how silly it may seem to you.
3. Offer comfort and reassurance.
4. Remind them it's only pretend, but they still don't have to like it.
5. Avoid places with people in costumes.

Some of these may seem extreme to you. But your child is probably only going to have these fears while he's young enough to be unable to distinguish what's real vs. what's pretend. Usually, by school age, kids can tell the difference. Is it really worth scaring your child just for a party or event you want to attend? For me, the answer is no. I can put off going to these Halloween events until he's old enough to not be traumatized by them.

So that's my take on Halloween, costumes, and scaring kids. I'd go for a nicer, less edgy alternative every time, even if my kids aren't scared. How about you? How do you plan to do Halloween this year? Will they dress up? Will you? Will you go trick-or-treating? Attend an alternative event at a school or church? Or aren't you doing anything for Halloween?  I can't wait to hear from you!

Monday, October 3, 2011

5 Ways to Tell if Your Child is Ready to Accept Jesus

I'm a firm believer that God works in the hearts of children just as much as he works in the hearts of adults. And I believe a child can choose to follow Jesus and mean it for life. I also think children are capable of making this important decision on thier own and should never be pressured, guilted or coerced into it.

That said, parents are their children's primary teachers and they have a responsibility to share Christ with their kids. Hopefully, this will lead them to accept Jesus as their Savior. But how can you tell if your child is ready to take such a huge spiritual step? How can you be sure he isn't doing it because his friend is? How do you know he didn't get pressured into it at church or camp? These are valid questions and concerns. Naturally, you'll want to make sure your child understands your church's teachings before she takes that important decision to ask Jesus into her heart. But beyond that, here are some things to help you figure it out.

Your child is probably ready if:
1. He exhibits a love for Jesus and growing closer to Him. This might be demonstrated by his enthusiasm for going to church, having devotions at home (with or without you), and if he has a prayer life.
2. He asks questions about spiritual matters and/or looks at the world from a spiritual perspective. Does he see a sunset and say, "Look what God did?" Does he readily turn to God when he needs help? Does he wonder where God is when he sees sadness in the world? These are examples of seeing the world from a spiritual perspective.
3. He wants to share his faith with his friends. Inviting kids to join him at church or special church activities shows he's excited about his relationship with Jesus and wants others to experience it too. Or maybe he's one who prays for his friends. That's another way to include his friends in his faith.
4. He understands what commitment is. Accepting Christ is a pretty awesome lifelong commitment and your child needs to understand what's involved. A commitment is something you don't change your mind about. It is something to be taken seriously. It means, in this case, that you'll love Jesus and live for Him forever.
5. You reassure him about his fears and concerns. Your child may be ready emotionally and spiritually, but he may have fears about doing it. When I was a child, accepting Jesus also meant being baptized, but I was afraid of being dunked in the water. Today, accepting Jesus starts with a prayer of repentance and commitment. Baptism may not follow for a few years. But a child sometimes has fears that hold him back from praying that life-changing prayer. He may fear ridicule from his family or friends, or he may be afraid of what accepting Jesus will mean in his life. He may be afraid he'll fail as a Christian. Your reassurance of whatever fears or concerns he may have will smooth the decision-making process for him.

I encourage you to talk to your child at least once a year about this important step. Make it a part of your casual conversation. Let him know you'll support him whenever he's ready to give his life to Jesus and that you trust his judgment to do it when God tells him it's time. Seeing your child grow in his faith is one of the sweetest things you'll get to experience as a parent. And when he finally takes the step of accepting Jesus, it's time to celebrate!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mommy, Phone Home

From everything you hear in the media, you'd think dads are the only parents who go AWOL. Articles abound about absent dads, deadbeat dads, and kids who don't even know who their dads are. It's a prevalent problem.

But there's a flipside. There are also MIA moms. Their kids are longing for an emotional connection that only comes from that special mommy-child relationship. I saw it firsthand recently when a six-year-old asked me to pray for her mom to "get better so she can call me." This little girl lives with her daddy, who is a very good parent, and her grandparents, who dote on her. But that doesn't fill the gap left by an absent mommy.

What to do? No one can soothe that lack in a child's life. No one, that is, but God. Our job as adults in their lives is to point these children to Him. Love on them like He would. Let them know how special they are. Take time to listen, encourage and laugh with them. Help their dads when they need a hand. Give them emotional and prayer support.

Do you know a child who is missing his or her mom? Whatever the reason for mom's absence, let's try to lighten these kids'  loads. What will you do?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Simple Help

One of my favorite sights every morning as I drive my daughter to school is a dad who lives on the corner of my street. I don't know him or his family. But before I'd even seen them, I saw their license plate "MA2TWNS" and I knew something about them. They had twins.

Later, I'd see them loading matching infant car seats into their SUV, so I knew they were tiny twins. Now the sight I enjoy so much every day is the dad caring for his babies. I think they're both girls. One morning I saw him looking oh, so tired. A baby probably about 2-3 months old was draped over his arm. He bounced softly as he walked. I guessed she'd been awake most the night and they were still trying to get her to sleep. I admired his gentleness in spite of his fatigue. I respected that he was giving the mom a break of sorts, even though she still had one baby at home. He looked like he'd been drug through baby hell.

Lately, Twin Daddy pushes a double stroller in the mornings while it's still cool. We live in Arizona and though the calendar says "fall," our thermometers still read triple digits by afternoon. But the mornings are nice, in the 70s. What a blessing to see a dad so involved in the care of his children. And I'm sure the mom appreciates a few minutes of peace and quiet, too. His simple, loving act of getting the kids out of the house must speak volumes to her each day.

I'm blessed with a husband like that, even though our kids are almost all grown. He understood that I needed time alone, caring for no one but myself from time to time. He'd take the kids out for ice cream or some event and give me guilt-free "permission" to stay home instead of making me feel I had to go along to everything. He still does this for me!

When I was a single mom, my dad would come over on Sunday mornings (which were always chaotic!) and simply put the kids' shoes on them for me while I touched up my makeup, or gathered our Bibles. Such a simple act made a huge difference in my morning.

How about you? Is there one simple act someone does for you that eases your parenting load? Is there something you do to help someone else? Let's share how we can help parents in simple, practical ways.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Child's Grief

It's been a sad week. A lady in my church was killed by her husband. He is now in jail. She was a devoted grandma who sometimes brought her 6th grade granddaughter to church. Being the children's minister at my church, I wanted to reach out to this child in her grief, but wasn't quite sure what was appropriate given the circumstances and the fact that I didnt' know her mother well.

I called her mom to say I was praying for them and that I was hoping to touch base with her daughter. When the girl came to the phone, here's how our conversation went.

Me: I wanted to tell you how sorry I was to hear about your grandma and to see how you're doing.
Her: I'm doing OK. I'm just playing the Wii.
Me: I hope I didn't mess up your win. *smile*
Her: You didn't.
Me: If you ever need anyone to talk to or anything I'm here for you. You know I love you, right?
Her: Yeah. I already wrote you a letter. We mailed it today.
Me: Great. I'll watch for it to come. I'll let you get back to your game, but let me know if you need anything, OK?
Her: OK.

It was short and sweet. Nothing terribly special or profound. But it told her I cared and that she wasn't alone in this difficult time.

Her letter arrived today. It expressed her disappointment at not being able to go to church camp (her grandma died the day it was to  begin) and her fear that she might have to miss VBS also. She said she and her mom broke into tears when they heard the news about her grandma. But she wisely said, "My mom and I just need to stick together in this."

There's nothing I can do other than show her I care. Children grieve differently than adults, but they definitely grieve. Allowing them to do it in whatever way they need to is the best thing we can do for them. If they want to continue their regular activities, let them. If they need to pull back for a while, that's OK. Listen to them and respect their feelings, just as we hope people will respect ours in times of grief.

Have you ever had to comfort a grieving child? What did you do? What do you wish you'd done differently? Maybe you were once a grieving child yourself. What memories do you have of that time? What helped and what didn't? Let's talk about children and grief. Maybe our collective insights will help us be more effective in helping the children we love.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Traveling with Kids

I remember it well--my sister and I trying to go down the skinny little airplane aisle each carrying a baby,  diaper bags and purses. Our bags hopelessly caught on every row of seats we tried to pass. We laughed hysterically. I wouldn't have been surprised to see people looking for the emergency exits.

But what else could we do? With an infant and a toddler, we needed all that stuff. I needed toys to entertain my two-year-old for the next three hours in a tiny, confined space and of course she'd need some snacks. My sister needed bottles and diapers for her baby.

Then there have been the road trips on which my family has gone. We love road trips even though the car turns into a traveling dump. But the fun we have and the memories we make are worth every spill and mess. I think the most important thing to do when traveling with kids is to go prepared for anything. Take along more entertainment options than you think you'll need. I always got new coloring and activity books and a few new (inexpensive) toys or games for the trip. I didn't bring any of the new stuff out until they got totally bored with the old stuff. And take fun snacks along. Kids are always hungry! Have you tried listening to audio books? I haven't yet, but I hear they can be lifesavers on long trips.

Since it's summer vacation time, let's share vacationing tips. Do you prefer road trips or flying with your family? What things do you do or take to entertain your kiddos? What's the ideal length of vacation for your family? What fabulous family-friendly vacation spots have you found? Happy vacationing!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Separate Vacations

This summer, my husband and I are taking a couple of separate vacations. In twenty years I can count the times on one hand that we've done this. But as I write this, he's hiking in Yosemite National Park with a friend. I opted out because of having too many other commitments and needing a quiet weekend at home. While he's gone, my teen daughter and I are having some special time together.

Next month, I'm going to visit my best friend in another state and he'll be home with Ashley. I feel like this is good to do once in a while for all our relationships. It's nice to miss each other sometimes. And it's nice to have quality time with your kids in your own way.

Do you and your someone special ever take vacations apart? How do you manage child care arrangements, juggling schedules, planning ahead, etc. when one of you is gone?

And if you're a single parent, do you ever vacation without your kids? What arrangements are needed to do so? What benefits or detriments do find in vacationing separately? Maybe we'll all get some new ideas in how to manage things or avoid issues when we're gone!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Doggy Personalities

At my house we're looking for a new dog. As some of you know, we had to put our sweet little chihuahua, Kisses, pictured above, down a couple months ago due to a liver disease. Broke our hearts. But now we're ready for a new dog. Probably a puppy.

I've never been a pet person. I didn't have many pets growing up. But I'm the mother of Ashley, the pet princess, who would love a pet of every kind if we'd only let her. So who am I to deny the way God made her? So we have had pets. Lots of them, but not too many at one time, thank you.

Today, we'll go look at our first potential new family member. We have two places to go see them. Both are chihuahua puppies. She really would prefer a big dog, but I say only a small dog in the house while she lives with me.

All these boundaries have much to do with our personalities. What about you? Do you have pets? What kinds? What boundaries do you draw with your pets? Can they get on the furniture? Can they eat people food? Drink from the toilet? Are they outside pets? How much do the kids take care of them? Let's talk pets!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Respect Your Kids

What? You may be thinking I got that backwards. After all, aren't kids supposed to respect their parents? Well, sure. But think about it. We usually teach core values by modeling them to our kids. If we want them to be honest, we don't steal or lie, right? Should it be any different with respect?

I hate it when I hear parents berating their children. I don't mean disciplining them. I mean talking to them in a tone that screams, "You're so stupid!" or "You're hopeless!" You know the tone I mean. As a matter of fact, I've heard it coming from my own mouth! I'm a parent of a teen now and sometimes I even hear that tone coming from her when she talks to me. Ouch. I know she learned that somewhere and I'm not willing to say where right here in public!

So let's make an effort to speak respectfully to our kids starting today. If we all did it, maybe more kids would learn respect and we could change the world! Or at the very least you'd have a happier home life with your kids.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lighten Up!

When's the last time you had a good laugh with your kids? Sometimes I become such a serious parent that I forget the joy of the job. When I lighten up a bit and laugh when I might have frowned or yelled, it's unbelievable how much better I feel. It's like a weight comes off the whole family and we can enjoy each other again. So try it. Feel like letting someone have it? Surprise them and laugh. Then watch relief spread over their face and enjoy the moment.