My Books

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Friendly Angel Reminders

In a semi-weird moment this morning, I felt a connection to the angel on top of our Christmas tree. (If you keep reading after that opening sentence, I have a special love for you.)  In the quiet of the morning I  looked into the living room and just at that moment, the blinking light hiding inside her flowing white dress blinked-- and it felt like she waved at me.

Yes, dear angel. I see you! I remember the story, the blessed reason for the season. I can almost hear you and your friends singing, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." Your voices ring out above the bleating of the shepherd's sheep. Your brilliance fills the sky, shepherd's eyes wide with fear, then awe. Did their eyes fill with tears? Did they high-five one another as you faded into the night sky? Was there bickering about what they'd seen or simple worship as they herded their sheep?

Caught in the busyness of the season, I need an angel's wave from time to time to remind me of the reason I celebrate this holy holiday. There is joy, peace, wonder, in this life if you keep your focus on the One who came as a baby, born to save. He is here, the greatest gift ever given. Open your heart as you would a present. Let Him in. Experience His great love for you this Christmas.

May the rich blessings of Christmas fill you with His love.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

5 Tips if Your Child Wants to Volunteer

When my daughter, Ashley, was 12, we went to a guinea pig rescue to get her a new pet. Who knew such a place even existed? Apparently lots of people change their minds about having small pets and they need a place to take them, which is where the rescue steps in.

 Lisa, the owner, ran the rescue from her home and had wall-to-wall cages in her living room. Ashley was awestruck. Lisa asked her if she'd like to hold a few guinea pigs before she left. Yes! Then Lisa mentioned she could always use an extra hand to hold and help bathe guinea pigs or clean their cages. She told Ashley if she ever wanted to come over as a volunteer she'd love to have her.

That short visit was the catalyst for almost six years of Ashley being a volunteer. From the guinea pig rescue, she moved on to a different small animal rescue called This Little Piggy. It was a perfect opportunity for her animal-loving heart. She could put in volunteer hours around her own schedule and it fulfilled her desire to be with animals without bringing more into our home, which made me happy! She learned a lot about how to care for animals and earned credentials and references she can use on her resume.

About two months ago, Ashley's volunteer work turned into her first paying job. This Little Piggy has evolved into Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo and Ashley is their first paid employee. Though it has been operating as a mobile petting zoo for birthday parties and school visits, the onsite grand opening will be held Nov. 30- Dec. 1 (Thanksgiving weekend).

Might your child be interested in volunteering?
If so, here are five tips to consider. You never know what doors it may open for him.
  1. Figure out what your child is passionate about. Music? Art? Animals? Sports? Organizing? Nature? Science? The possibilities are practically endless.
  2. Look for organizations specializing in that area of interest.
  3. Visit the organization's website to see if they use volunteers. If so, what are the age limits? Do they require a certain number of hours per week or month? We found that many of the animal-related places accept volunteers only if they are over the age of 18. 
  4. Visit the volunteer site and meet the people your child will volunteer with. If you're uncomfortable with them in any way, they're not the right fit for you and your child. 
  5. Be willing to volunteer with your child if he's nervous doing it alone the first few times.
Volunteer work teaches responsibility, work ethic, gives your child a purpose beyond himself, and educates in an area in which he's already interested. It also lets him try out a job to see if he likes it. 

Has your child volunteered? What did he do? What were the benefits? Were there any negatives about the experience? Looking forward to hearing from you!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

5 Things I Don't Love About Halloween

So yesterday I blogged about 5 Things I Love About Halloween.  Today, I'll tell you 5 things I don't like about it. Here goes.

1. Pagan history - The history of Halloween is rather dark, but also somewhat uncertain. Some say it came from Celtic harvest festivals where they gathered food and supplies for the winter. Then the Celts mimicked evil spirits by dressing in costume to scare the dead from coming back and causing havoc, such as sickness or crop failure. But as one astute reader commented yesterday, one can also view it more positively as All Souls Day, followed on November 1 by All Saints Day, when you remember lost loved ones. Sort of a Memorial Day, if you will. You can read about Halloween history here.
2. Teenagers trick-or-treating - I think it's cute when costumed little ones come trick-or-treating. But when the kids are as big as I am, not so much. I still give them candy, but personally, I'd like to see parents tell kids they're too old to go trick-or-treating when they start high school. That's just me. They can still have costume parties, or hand out candy at the door, or any other fun Halloween activities. But when kids get that old, they're not all that cute anymore. Instead, they often tend to be greedy, showing up with pillowcases already loaded with candy, no parental guidance, and an attitude of entitlement. Which takes me to the next thing I don't like about Halloween.
3. Greedy kids/parents - Children who come to the door all cute and dressed up melt my heart—until they grab the candy and run without so much as a thank you. And the parents waiting don't always make them come back and say thank you, either. They're missing out on a wonderful teaching moment.
4. Scary decorations - Why do people have to have bloody, scary, moving decorations in their yards these days? Developmentally, children under the age of five have a hard time knowing what's real and what's not. Let's not traumatize kids. Let's keep Halloween about jack-o-lanterns, orange and black, candy, costumes, fall, etc. (Stepping off soapbox now...).
5. Inappropriate costumes - I honestly cannot for the life of me figure out how some parents justify the horrific or sexy costumes they put on their little darlings. (I know, I sound like an old judgmental bat!) Believe me, when they're sixteen and asking to wear the same thing, it's going to be hard to explain logically why it was okay when they were five, but not now. Let kids be kids. Don't make them into some gruesome or sex-charged character. They're only little for such a short time. Use the time wisely and dress them up as cute as you can, while you can! 

So there you have it. My Halloween gripe list. Now I promise to shut up and go eat some candy. :)

What do you see as the pros and cons, likes and dislikes about Halloween? How do you deal with them? 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

5 Things I Love About Halloween

Halloween has become a somewhat controversial holiday. As a matter of fact, some readers are probably bristling right now because I just called it a holiday. I have mixed emotions about it. I know Halloween's background is dark. But I also know that as a kid, its history didn't matter to me and that certainly wasn't what it meant to me. So today and tomorrow, I'm going to post 5 reasons to love or not love (sorry, but hate seems a little strong) about Halloween. Today's all about loving it! So here are my top 5 reasons to love Halloween.

1. Candy - Who doesn't like this? Whether you should or shouldn't eat it is beside the point.
2. Families doing things together - Parents enjoy seeing their kids looking so darned cute and showing them off to the neighborhood. And families spending time together doing something fun is always a plus in my book.
3. Outreach opportunity - Halloween provides a chance for churches to draw people in for fall festivals and hope. It's also a natural, informal chance for individuals to distribute some Good News with their candy.
4. Neighbors interacting - I don't know about you, but I know only a very small fraction of my neighbors. But on Halloween I see neighbors outside chatting, oohing and ahhing over each other's children, and genuinely getting to know one another. It's an opportunity to build relationships and build a community feeling.
5. Imaginations at work - Coming up with costumes allows children to get creative. It pulls them out of video games, gets them outdoors, and stimulates their imaginations as they become whoever they're dressed as. Our kids' best costumes happened when we had the least money and the kids had to "make something up" out of what they had. Great life training, if you ask me. What's not to love about that?
So, there you have it. Halloween isn't all bad! There's plenty to love about it.

What about you? Do you celebrate Halloween and, if so, how? What do you love about Halloween?


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One Topic I'll Never Blog About

I've blogged on a lot of parenting topics. I made plenty of mistakes as I raised my three kids but I did a lot of things right, too. I've also learned a lot from watching my daughter parent her seven children—she’s a far better parent than I ever was. But there's one thing I will never blog about because I never mastered it as a parent and I'm no better at it as a grandma—teaching children to go to sleep on their own. The picture below is of me walking my grandson, Solomon, to sleep.

Sleeping issues are often a parent's top frustration because it affects them the following day (read weeks, months, years) as sleep deprivation sets in. So why couldn't I figure out how to teach my kids good sleep habits? Two reasons. I love rocking babies to sleep and I couldn't stand to hear them cry.
Seriously, is there anything sweeter than holding a child as he drifts off, that soft little body snuggled tight against yours? Or providing the warm childhood comfort of being held, feeling loved, cherished, and safe? Nothing else even comes close. So if my child wanted to rock with me, you can bet the answer was always yes, even if it meant it took twice (or three or four times) as long to get them to bed. Even if they woke when I laid them down and we had to start all over again. I simply couldn't resist that cozy snuggle time.
And all the advice about letting your baby cry himself to sleep? I simply couldn't do it. Still can't. Honestly, it breaks my heart. I simply cannot, will not, do it. I know. I'm a bad mom. But I was so good in so many other ways.
When my baby cried, my natural instinct was to comfort her by picking her up. Believe me, I tried to resist that urge. I really did! I'd pat her tiny back, coo to her, maybe even sing a lullaby. But if she still cried, I had to pick up the sweet thing. I had to!
Here's the thing. My children are now ages 31, 28, and 19. And every one of them sleeps through the night. They're wonderful people and I'm so proud of the adults they've become. I have terrific relationships with all three of my kiddos and miracle of miracles, I didn't scar them too terribly with my occasional lapses in parental judgment. So my advice to you regarding sleep issues or any other issues you face as a parent?
Follow your heart, your gut, your instinct. You've got this. Your children will turn out fine as long as you do your very best and love them beyond reason. I know you already do. At least most of the time. And in my experience that is enough.
What's your toughest issue as a parent? I can't wait to hear from you.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

An "Unproductive" Mom's Daily Goal

I remember when my daughter was a toddler and I was going to a five-day writers conference in another state. My sweet husband took a week of vacation from work to be home with her and our two school-aged children. He looked forward to it and even made a list of projects he would work on during his week off. We talked on the phone every day I was gone and toward the end of the week, I asked him how his projects were coming. I could almost see him throw his hands up in exasperation. "I can't get anything done! Here I had a whole week off and I haven't been able to finish one project!" I totally understood. Caring for a home and children leaves little time for anything else.

Being a mom is tough work that often leaves you feeling unproductive. Sometimes it's all you can do to put one foot in front of the other. My oldest daughter, Jessica, is a stay-at-home mother of six children, aged three months to twelve years. She has little time to feel productive at anything other than taking care of the children and meeting their needs. She also home schools her three school-aged kids. Remarkably, she is happy, content, and peaceful in all the activity that constantly swirls around her.

I recently overheard a mom of three asking my daughter for her phone number. This mom said she often felt like she never accomplished anything in a day. She sounded a bit defeated and frustrated. "How do you do it? I never get anything done!" She needed someone to talk to at times when she felt overwhelmed.

Jessica's response surprised me. She smiled compassionately, then said,."I don't get anything done either. But one day I asked Kevin a question that changed my perspective. I asked him, ‘If I could do only one thing every day that would make you happy, what would it be?’” His answer? "I'd like it if you could get dressed every day." Her face lit up just reliving that moment. She looked that frustrated mom right in the eye, smiled brightly, and said, "I could do that!" 

So every day, she gets dressed. She was quick to point out that it may not be until fifteen minutes before her husband gets home from work, but he sees her in real clothes every day. If she accomplishes that, then she has been productive. It gave her a whole new perspective. Doing that one little task makes her feel victorious instead of like a failure. She doesn't have to worry that she's disappointing Kevin, because she did the one thing that matters most to him.

If you feel unproductive as a mom, ask your man what one thing you could do every day that would make him happy. You may be surprised at what he considers important. And it may take a load of stress off your shoulders. Post the answers you get to that important question in the comments below. It will be interesting to see what matters most to our husbands. 

In the meantime, keep on keeping on. You're doing the most important job in the world. Your house may be a mess and you may feel like a walking zombie at times, but what you do matters. When you're loving and caring for your kids, you're doing the most productive thing in this season of your life. Don't sell yourself short. Your productivity will be evident when your children grow into happy, responsible adults. And it will be worth every sacrifice and unproductive feeling you have today.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

How to Host and Amazing Race Event

My husband and I are Amazing Race fans. We also teach the young adult Sunday school class at our church. We thought it would be fun to combine these two things and put on an Amazing Race event for our class. It was such a hit that our youth leaders have asked us to help them plan one for the teens. After church, I separately overheard a nine-year-old boy and a sixty-something woman  say they thought we should do one for them, too! Really, such an event could be done for any age group, young or old, and can be hosted as an event, birthday party, or any other fun gathering.

Here are the steps we took in planning our event:
  1. Set your date and time period. We planned to make ours last from 8:00 a.m to 8:00 p.m. Turns out our racers blew through the challenges so quickly they were done by 3:00! However, setting.the times gives you a framework to work within.
  2. Brainstorm challenges your teams can do. We had teams of two just like on the show. Challenges can be physical, mental, or a combination of both. Because this was a church event, we made some of ours service-oriented, like doing chores for some of our elderly members' homes and making bracelets for Shoebox Ministries.
  3. Select locations to put clue boxes and get permission from businesses, homeowners, or whoever, to place a box on their property. We made our own clue boxes out of shoeboxes by covering them with red and yellow duct tape and mounting on wooden stands. On some, I added paper fasteners to the lid and front side of the box. I wound a rubber band around the paper fastener on the box. Then I stretched the rubber band up and over the paper fastener on the lid to keep it closed (see photo).  
  4. Make up a schedule of where your racers will go to find clue boxes and perform challenges. Give a copy of the schedule to those helping with challenges so they'll know roughly when to expect the racers.
  5. Write clues to lead racers to clue boxes and challenges and print them on 4" X 6" postcards Make sure these clues include words or phrases racers can find in an Internet search to help them find where they're supposed to go. For instance, one of our clues was, "Go to 'where the pets go' closest to the church. Matthew 4:19" Googling "where the pets go" led them to the Petco a half mile from our church. The verse clued them to look in the fish department for the clue box. One of the challenge clue cards read, "Take one plate of cookies to the church Paiute widow. Do chores for her as instructed when you get there. (Choose who will do this challenge.)" This led them to my 80-year-old mom's house on Paiute Street who had a list of chores.waiting for them when they arrived.
  6. Establish checkpoint locations for teams to find out where they stand in the race. We had two such checkpoints and used local landmarks as our locations. Racers had to figure out clues to find these also.
  7. Establish your rules up front. We allowed racers to use their smart phones to research clues. We only let one member of each team to do each challenge and required them to choose which team member would do each challenge before they knew the details of what they'd be doing. Other rules included the same player can't do more than two consecutive challenges, racers had one hour to complete a challenge and if they couldn't complete it in that time, they were give a ten minute penalty, but could move on to the next challenge. Make whatever rules you feel are appropriate for your group. Print out the rules and give a copy to each team the day of the race.
  8. Locate drivers and videographers for each team. We thought it would be safer if racers weren't driving themselves around. And we definitely wanted to capture the race on video.  We used teens as our videographers and their parent or grandparent as the driver. The videographers acted as witnesses that racers completed challenges by the person who chose to do it, that they were done correctly, and within one hour.
  9. Decide if you'll give prizes to the winners and if so, what they'll be.
  10. Make up a list of things racers will need to bring with them. Money? Church directory? Water? Cleaning supplies? Smart phone? Give the list to your racers a week before the race.
  11. The day of the race, take your clue boxes to their locations before the race begins. We made the mistake of having only the first couple of boxes in place, figuring we could put the rest out after the race began. Turns out the racers did the challenges way faster than we imagined and sometimes beat us to the next clue station before we had the clue box out! We had trouble staying ahead of them.
Some of the benefits of hosting an Amazing Race event are that it is a great team builder, and brings different generations together in one fun event. If you have questions about details of how to pull off an Amazing Race event, or if you'd like a free copy of our rules, e-mail me at And if you'd like to see more pictures of our Amazing Race event, check them out on my Facebook page at While you're there, I'd be honored if you'd "like" my page.  You can also Google "The Amazing Race" for challenge ideas.

 I hope you have as much fun at your event as we did!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bible Reading - Book vs. Electronic

I'm a reader. I love reading books in any format, whether the good old paper version or an electronic version on my smartphone or Nook. I find I'm reading more and more electronically, including my devotions. I have a Bible reading plan I chose at and read it at my computer each morning.

When it comes to reading my Bible in a class or church service, however, I've learned that I prefer reading from my marked up Bible rather than an electronic version. I navigate it faster and easier and I like the feel of the Good Book in my hands, its thin pages rustling between my fingers. That's probably because that's how I grew up and learned to use the Bible.

But what about today's generation that sometimes learns to read their Bibles via electronics? I've got mixed emotions about this. On one hand, I want kids to use a regular paper version of the Bible so they can learn the order of the books and how to find each one. I want them to know the Old Testament from the New Testament. Will they learn those foundational things when they simply touch which book and chapter they want to read on their device? How will they  be able to find Bible passages should they be unable use their electronics? Or does that even matter anymore?

My own personal preference is that they learn the books of the Bible when they're young, before they have electronics to depend on. Then when they get electronic devices, they'll already know the basics of the Bible, so it won't matter so much that they're not using the old paper version.

I'm interested in other people's opinion on this. Should kids learn the books of the Bible anymore or is that outdated in today's world? Shouldn't we just be glad when we see them reading their Bibles in any form? Let's talk about this! Leave your opinion in the comments below.